Category: pastry

A pie for the ages: bourbon sweet potato pumpkin pie!

I’m publishing this pie today, because I wanted to give you time to make it for Thanksgiving. I purposely didn’t post it too early, and I specifically waited until this date. I wanted to give you enough time to really absorb what you’re seeing. Then get up, go out to the store & get the ingredients you need to make this, then come home & plan to do so on/by Thursday. I felt it had to be done this way. So I’m giving you a few days, and I expect you all to make it. You must. Seriously.

It’s THAT good.

Don’t believe me?

Bourbon sweet potato pumpkin pie, anyone?

It’s the pie to end all pies.

It’s a pie for the ages!

Bourbon. Sweet potato. Pumpkin. With toasted meringue. Toasted bourbon meringue, that is.

Sweet potato pumpkin pie with bourbon! And more bourbon in the meringue.

Say word.

A motherflippin’ bourbon sweet potato pumpkin pie with toasted bourbon meringue! 

When I told Jay of my plans to make it, his jaw dropped open. And he doesn’t even really like pumpkin anything! I knew I was on to something. Although, in hindsight, it might have just been the mention of bourbon. Either way, I combined a few different recipes for a few different pies & came up with this: the holy grail of autumn piedom.

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Independence Day pastries.

Every heart beats true for the red, white & blue. Happy 4th of July!

When our founding father’s made the blueprints for America, I don’t think they had any idea that this time of year would turn into such a circus. Don’t get me wrong- I’ve got nothin’ against a good party. I love to grill up some hot dogs & burgers & have a cold beer. I love the colors red, white & blue. I love seeing everyone (or almost everyone) flying the flag. I have nothing against the 4th of July in it’s current incarnation. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty great.

I just hope that it’s not reduced to nothing but another excuse to get drunk & stupid for most people. Like I said- I have nothing against a good time. But there’s more to the day than a reason to get plastered & blow an arm off. This is a historical day, an important day for Americans. On July 2, 1776, the Congress voted to approve the resolution of independence from Great Britain. From this, Congress turned their attention to the Declaration of Independence, one of the most important documents (if not the most important) in American history. The document explains the decision for leaving Britain’s rule, becoming 13 independent states that formed a new nation, The United States of America. The date on the Declaration itself was July 4th, which was the date the official wording was approved, so because of that, we celebrate on the 4th. But whichever day it is, it’s important. It should mean something.

For me, it’s not just a reason to party. I never take a minute of my existence for granted, not just that I’m healthy, etc… but that I live in a country which- for all it’s many faults- is pretty damn awesome. But to be honest? Holidays for me are always a(nother) excuse to bake. And as a matter of fact, my mother’s birthday happens to be tomorrow, so it’s kind of a double celebration, which means double the desserts. Which calls for some easy mini pastries for the 4th.

Easy little fruit-filled pastries for the 4th of July! #4thofjuly #independenceday

I’ve made homemade PopTarts before, and I’ve made tons of hand-pies or mini-pies. So I thought that it’d be fun to make some patriotic-themed ones for the 4th. It’s a simple, hand held dessert that bakes up pretty quickly and makes use of fresh fruits. I know, it doesn’t seem simple. There are a lot of steps involved, but in all honesty they’re easy steps! However- you can also use canned pie filling to make them, as well as frozen pie crust. One small can of pie filling and two frozen pie crusts will probably give you around a dozen of these, maybe less.

And you don’t just have to use the blueberry filling. Make strawberry, cherry, blackberry… whatever you want! Or a few of each.

Patriotic blueberry-filled mini pastries. Also known as red, white & BLUEberry pastries! #4thofjuly #independenceday

Why stars? Well because of the stars & stripes of course! The American flag is commonly referred to as the “stars & stripes”, obviously because of the fact that it contains both. The stars are known as the “Union field”, meaning the stars represent the States of the Union. The union field is a blue square, so it was only right I use blueberries in the pies. Right?

If I’m being totally honest, though, I really just wanted to say they were “red, white & BLUEberry.” I’m corny like that.

INDEPENDENCE DAY FRUIT-FILLED MINI PASTRIES

Ingredients:

Pastry dough:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (to brush on pastry)

Blueberry filling:

  • 1 pint blueberries (2 cups)
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water

Directions:

  1. Make the dough:
    1. To make the crust, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work in the butter until it is the size of peas and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it. Whisk together the egg and milk and add to the dough. Mix together with a fork until everything is evenly moistened. Knead briefly on a floured surface, if necessary, until the dough comes together.
    2. Divide the dough in half. (At this point you can wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.) If you refrigerate the dough, let it come to room temperature for about 15 minutes before rolling out.
  2. Make the filling:
    1. Combine blueberries with cup sugar in pan. Simmer on low heat until sugar is melted and mixture is very liquid; about 5 minutes. Combine cornstarch and water in bowl, then add to pan with blueberries. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to full boil and is clear and thick. Pour hot mixture into large bowl & same as with the cherries, cool until room temp.
  3. Roll the dough out. Roll out one piece of dough to about 1/8-inch thick, in a 9″ by 9″ square, or as close you can get to that. Using a sharp knife, pastry wheel or bench scraper, trim the dough so you have even smooth edges. Add those scraps to a scrap pile- we’ll deal with them later.
  4. Cut the sheet of dough into 6 squares/rectangles/squarangles/whatever shape you can. On half of the squares, cut a star shape out of the middle; these are going to be the “tops” of your pastries. Save the stars!
  5. Using a spatula, transfer the “bottom” squares to a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Brush the lightly beaten egg on each of the rectangles. Spoon a tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, leaving about a 1/2-inch of space around the edges. DON’T OVER FILL THEM. One at a time, place a second rectangle of dough on top of the nine assembled ones. Using your fingers, press around the seams of the dough to make sure they are sealed. Press the tines of a fork around the edges of the rectangles.
  6. Now, if you want to, you can add the cut out stars, attaching them with some of that beaten egg, to the tops of some pastries. Offset them on the cutout, or put them next to it, etc, then brush that too with the egg. If you’re not using the stars, dust them with cinnamon sugar along with the scraps mentioned above, and bake them on another cookie sheet until golden. INSTANT SNACKS.
  7. Repeat #’s 4 & 5 with the other half of your dough, if you wish. If not, the dough will keep in a fridge for a few days.
  8. Refrigerate the pans with the finished pastries (you don’t need to cover them) for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350° degrees F. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool slightly before serving. Store pastries in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Independence day mini fruit pies! Better than those popular toastier pastries & great with vanilla ice cream. #4thofjuly #independenceday

If you wanted to add a white icing to the top, you could. Or ice the stars white with little red sprinkles. Cuteness.

So, here’s the deal: I’d suggest using the above as a guideline, because I never get the right amount of pastries. EVER. I never measure right, and I always end up with more or less than I’m supposed to. And mine are never perfectly shaped- they’re always wonky & uneven. But that’s okay! Who cares!? The important thing is that they’re DELICIOUS.

And they are. They’re particularly amazing to eat around the firepit, with a bowl of vanilla ice cream (or cherry!), while watching the fireworks.

Happy Independence Day!

Delicious little pastries filled with blueberry (or cherry, or strawberry). #4thofjuly #independenceday

 

Maple + pumpkin + bourbon = happiness!

Yeah, you read that right. Motherjumpin’ MAPLE PUMPKIN. And do you know what the maple & pumpkin have done with themselves in this particular instance? They’ve put themselves into little maple pumpkin pastries, or pasties. And yes- it looks as good as it sounds. And it’s all really easy!

See, it all started like this: I had a load of pumpkin in my freezer that I had to use up before Christmas kicks in & everything becomes peppermint-y and not so much pumpkin-y. But I was stumped. Cupcakes, been there done that. Bread? That, too. However, randomly, while looking for something else, I found something that gave me an idea: orange ramekins. I know, you’re thinking, “What do ramekins have to do with anything?” Well, see, I had forgotten all about them. I bought them last year and never used them. I shoved them in a cabinet and forgot all about ‘em. But when I saw them this year I immediately thought of pumpkins… and I was originally going to come up with a pumpkin spice pudding, or a pumpkin-y bread pudding. But then… to add to my excitement over having ideas again… I saw this.

How the hell was I supposed to ignore a recipe that has both pumpkin and maple in the title?

However, while custard tastes delicious, it doesn’t look all that delicious, especially pumpkin custard. Pumpkin custard resembles something wonky that babies do when sick. It tastes amazing, but does not photograph well; unless of course, you’re working for Bon Appétit & have professional lighting & backdrops & such at your disposal. I do not. I live in a house, not a photography studio. My life is not ruled by food photography. I do not have professional lights & reflectors set up just so my custard photographs well. So I made the custard, and it was eaten up super quickly, but the photos left a lot to be desired. And that’s when I decided to hell with it. I’m going back to an old standby- mini pies.

Or pasties.

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Are they an “old standby” at this point? I don’t know, but somewhere between my Nutella pop-tarts and my mini-apple pies, I came to love the portable pie. And it became a fall-back for me when regular pies hate me, or, apparently, when custard doesn’t look appetizing. I had all this pumpkin left & I didn’t want to do a pumpkin pie, ’cause that’s boring. So I made little pies. This time, though, they look more like pastries, or pasties, more so than miniature pies… so I’ll just dub them maple pumpkin pasties (Harry Potter, anyone?). You can call them mini pies, or pumpkin pop-tarts, or pumpkin littles, or whatever cutesy name you like. They’re pie crust, cut into circles, filled with a maple pumpkin filling, folded over, brushed with egg… and then baked. When done, they’re a hand-held heavenly little cluster of amazeballsness. Or a pasty.

And before you go off thinking I’m talking about those little items strippers use, get your minds out of the gutter:

A pasty (play /ˈpæsti/, Cornish: Hogen; Pasti), (sometimes known as a pastie or British pasty in the United States)[1] is a baked pastry associated in particular with Cornwall in Great Britain. It is made by placing uncooked filling on a flat pastry circle and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. After baking, the result is a raised semicircular end-product.

The traditional Cornish pasty, which has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in Europe,[2] is filled with beef, sliced or diced potato, swede (also known as a yellow turnip or rutabaga – referred to in Cornwall as turnip) and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper, and is baked. Today, the pasty is the food most associated with Cornwall, it is regarded as the national dish, and it accounts for 6% of the Cornish food economy. Pasties with many different fillings are made; some shops specialise in selling all sorts of pasties.

The origins of the pasty are unclear, though there are many references to them throughout historical documents and fiction. The pasty is now popular world-wide due to the spread of Cornish miners, and variations can be found in Australia, the United States, Mexico and elsewhere.

-Wikipedia

So a pasty is just like a hand-held pie. Cute, easy, convenient,  and so much better than a regular ol’ pumpkin pie, especially with the addition of maple. But you might be wondering where the bourbon comes in. That part is the perfect example of how I can’t leave well enough alone. I thought some bourbon whipped cream (thanks for the excellent idea, Tanglewood Baked Goods) would be amazing with this. And I was right. As usual (kidding). But seriously, the bourbon whipped cream really gives it something. It elevates it, makes it more grown-up.

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 MAPLE PUMPKIN PASTIES (adapted extremely generously from a recipe by Joy the Baker & from these)

Ingredients:

  • 1 double pie crust recipe of your choice; made, chilled, rolled out to 1/4″ thickness & ready to cut
  • 3/4 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • cinnamon sugar (just mix together 2 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon in a little bowl), optional (I didn’t do it)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  2. Prepare the filling: whisk together in a small saucepan the pumpkin puree, maple syrup and spices, then, on medium-low heat, heat the mixture just until it’s fragrant. Remove from the heat. Add the egg & flour, whisking quickly. Set aside in the fridge to cool.
  3. Cut your pie crust into whatever shapes you want. I used fairly large circles that I then folded over in half to create half moons/crescents. You can also do rectangles, or do squares and fold them over in half to make little triangles, or make smaller circles and use two to mimic a teeny pie (like thus). Do as thou wilt, just know the bigger the shape, the less pasties you’ll get.
  4. Make sure you poke holes or slice little cuts in the top half of the dough; meaning whether it’s folded over or it’s a separate piece of dough, it has to have airholes to release moisture, gases & heat. You don’t want these little ones bursting open in your oven after all your hard work. Assemble your pasties by spooning the filling in, sealing them, and creating a crust with a floured fork. DON’T OVER-FILL THEM! They most definitely will burst open if you do. I definitely got a little over-zealous & had a few messes to clean up.
  5.  Place them on the baking sheet, leaving some space in between. Let them breathe! If this takes you a while and you notice that the dough is getting super soft, chill the pasties you already have made until it’s time to bake them. It’ll help them keep their shape.
  6. Brush the pasties with either a whole egg beaten, or just egg white, to create a nice brown crust. sprinkle with some cinnamon sugar, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with bourbon whipped cream.

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 I know, they’re so messy. I don’t even know why none of my mini-pies ever come out even. I just can’t do anything 100% perfect, it always looks a little off and uneven. As a matter of fact, I gave up measuring my dough with rulers & shit, because it just never works out! But whatever they look like, I don’t care, they taste good. Isn’t that what’s important, anyway? It isn’t important how perfect they look, or how beautifully they’re shaped. What matters is if they’re edible, delicious, and if people love eating them.

And that, my friends, is exactly the case with these.

You can use any size cookie cutter you want, or you can make a larger calzone-sized pasty by using a cereal bowl as your shape. It all depends on what you plan on doing with them or how you want to serve ‘em.

BOURBON WHIPPED CREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons good quality bourbon

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the three ingredients together with the whisk attachment until they’re thickened. Check the taste, add more sugar or bourbon as needed, by the 1/4 teaspoon.
  2. Continue beating until the whipped cream is the proper thickness, but don’t whip too much… you’ll get bourbon butter!

You can also save the whipped cream overnight, but you’ll definitely have to re-whip it before you eat it again. It kind of re-softens and loses it’s whipped character the longer it sits. Remember- this is fresh whipped cream, not store-bought. There are no preservatives! It has to be re-whipped after it sits for any lengthy period of time. Also, just as an FYI- this would work with any liquor of the following: brandy, bourbon, whiskey, and vodka. Which wouldn’t really give it much of a flavor, unless you used flavored vodka. Which might be interesting.

Major thanks to both my orange ramekins & that maple pumpkin custard recipe (which really is delicious, and I highly recommend it) for inspiring me to create these. Maple & pumpkin, & bourbon. Nom nom. Although… I do think it might be time for me to make a full-size pie again. Soon.

And I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving! I can’t believe it’s only 3 days away. Time is flying…

The ‘I-don’t-like-pears’ honeyed pear tarts.

Nor’easter Athena, or Winter Storm Athena, hit New York, New Jersey & Connecticut this past week. She was supposed to be rain/slushy mix with high winds for the city & surrounding areas with light snow further inland leading to deeper snow at the far interior; she ended up being around 6 inches of snow for the city. Seriously. First a hurricane… or should I say, “superstorm;” the likes of which we’ve never seen before. And then a goddamn snowstorm. I don’t know. I give up.

Now you tell me there’s nothing crazy going on with climate change.

Ugh. I hate snow. This photo was taken at around 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, before an additional 4+ inches was loaded on. The worst part, though, is that there are families- incuding people I know- living without power & heat. Some of them even in damaged or compromised homes or apartments, tarps on the roof or broken doors & windows. And it snowed. On top of everything else! Did I mention I hate snow?

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Speaking of things I hate, pears & I don’t mix. I might have told you before… I just don’t like pears. I’ve tried. I really tried to like them. They’re so cute!

And they look so similar to apples, and have such a similar skin & flesh texture, that I try really hard to enjoy them. But ultimately I don’t, and I just have to accept that. I’ll never be a fan of ginger pear white tea, I’ll never like pear tarts and I’ll never, ever like eating one straight. However, I’m a sucker for fresh produce… pears and apples look so pretty together!

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But you have to know your audience. So when you’re making a dinner for people who do like pears, and you had some pears sitting around that you had bought for a great price, despite not liking them… then you come up with a dessert featuring those pears. Preferably a quick & simple dessert that doesn’t require a lot of work. Something rustic-looking, something rough around the edges, and something that I can throw together in five minutes.

So this is what I came up with. Sugared & honeyed pear tarts.

I thought of those quick & easy stone fruit galettes I made over the summer, and decided if it worked for peaches & plums, it’d work for pears too. And of course, despite it being extremely easy, and lacking an in-depth explanation… I thought I’d share it with you.

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It’s simple, really. Practically makes itself. The longest part is peeling the pears.

Get some frozen puff pastry* and take it out to thaw. Get your pears, wash ‘em and peel ‘em. Then cut them in half, and cut out the bottom core and scrape out the inside seed/core part of each. A melon baller can make this easy, but a small teaspoon works too. Remember- each pear makes 2 tarts. It’s cool to leave the stems on like I did, but you can also remove them if you want. Set the pears aside. Prepare a baking sheet by covering it with a sheet of parchment paper. Then take your thawed puff pastry and cut it into rectangles, sizing them so that the pear halves fit just right. Brush each piece with a little honey, then place your pears on top. Brush the pears with honey, and bake at 375° degrees F until the pastry is “puffed” around the pears and golden brown, about 20-30 minutes.

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Remove the tarts from the oven, then let them cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet. Remove from the sheet and plate them. Drizzle with honey, sift some powdered sugar on top, and serve with whipped cream or ice cream while still warm.

Bam. Easy fall dessert.

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Alternately, you can hollow the insides of the pears out even more and put some goat cheese or mascarpone cheese in the middle before placing them on the pastry, to make a kind of filling. Maybe add some sliced almonds, too. You can also drizzle it with melted chocolate or homemade caramel instead of honey. I like the sugar sprinkled over the top… it’s like snow.

You can use pretty much any fruit, and this is a dessert that can be made any time of year. Like I said, I did it before with sliced plums & peaches; you can also use apples. Of course it’s pear season now, but I think you still might be able to get some plums, and some apples, so use what you like. You can also cut the pastry into a pear shape, and decorate it with a puff pastry leaf at the top, to make it fancier. Or slice the pear from the bottom almost all the way to the top, cutting it into six or seven slices leaving the stem part intact, and then fan it out slightly over the puff pastry. And you can basically use any kind of pear you want, because you’re not cutting them up too much, they won’t turn to mush. If you decide to use apples, then you have to use a good baking apple (Gala, Golden Delicious, Rome, etc). But with pears, it shouldn’t matter much, so use whatever ones you like that are in season: Anjou (Red or Green), Bartletts (Red or Green; although I think they’re gone by now), Bosc, Concorde, or Forelle. I can’t really remember what mine were.

I told you, I don’t like pears.

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*You can most definitely use homemade puff pastry as well. I’m just not one for attacking people or coming down on them for not using local fruit & organic unbleached whole wheat pastry flour or for using frozen short-cuts now & then. Life is hard enough, don’t make it more complicated than it is. Pastry should be fun & delicious- not snobby enough to make you feel like you want to cry. Make it however you like! No judgment here.

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Go nuts for Nutella with the easiest desserts EVER.

Okay, what I’m giving you today is quite possibly the easiest dessert duo EVER. Hands down. You don’t even have to DO ANYTHING. Minimal effort, minimal cost, minimal actions can get you two adorable & delectable little last-minute desserts. What are they? “Nutella Purses” and “Nutella Tarts”, both made using Nutella (duh) and Pillsbury® products. And no, I did not get compensation for these.

Everyone who knows me knows I love Nutella so this really shouldn’t be a surprise. Back in October I made apple-dumplings-or-pockets-or-my-version-of-a-quick-strudel-type thingies using Pillsbury Crescent rolls, and they were a big hit. I was brainstorming ever since about what to do next- savory? More sweet? Chocolate? I finally decided at about midnight (yes, midnight) a few weeks ago I’d use up the remainder of my Nutella and make some little 5-minute desserts using the two packages of giant crescent rolls & Grands! biscuits in my fridge (in case you’re wondering, the ‘Flaky Layers Butter Tastin” kind).

Those are the Nutella Purses. How good do those look? They tasted even better…  not to rub it in or anything. Hah. So here’s how you make ‘em.

NUTELLA PURSES

Ingredients:

  • 1 roll of Pillsbury (or store brand) crescent rolls (preferably the large ones, 8 in a package)
  • 1 jar of Nutella
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • sugar for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper & preheat oven to 350 F (or whatever it says on the package). Open crescent dough and combine triangles together to form squarangles (or a kind of square + rectangle hybrid) by patting and squeezing dough together on the seam. Gently roll it or pat it out a bit so it’s flat and evenly one piece (if it makes it easier, space-wise, you can do this assembly on the cookie sheet so it’s already there and ready to bake).
  2. Put a tablespoon to a tablespoon and a half of Nutella in the middle of the squarangle. Draw the corners of the dough up, folding and pinching it together to make a little pouch, leaving a small opening in the center. Using a pastry brush, brush tops and sides with egg and sprinkle with sugar.
  3. Place on cookie sheet using flat metal cookie spatula, if it isn’t already on it. Bake until dough is golden brown and firm enough to not collapse; mine took about 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, but again, bake according to package directions. Remove and allow to cool for at least 5-10 minutes before eating. They’re best warm but are decent when at room temperature, and they can be reheated easily.

Okay so those are super easy, right? I know. Ridiculously easy. Brainless, even. The Nutella Tarts take a bit more effort, but are worth it. I’m actually not even going to write up another recipe, because that first one was just silly. The ingredients are basically the same, except instead of crescent rolls, you’re gonna use biscuits. First what you’re going to do, is open the package and place the biscuits on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, only 4 to a sheet unless your cookie sheets are the larger ones. Using a glass, mold them into “shells” by pressing the glass into the middle of each. I used the Grands biscuits, they come 8 to a package & they’re pretty giant.

Like so.

….

Then, brush the outsides with the beaten egg using a pastry brush. Sprinkle sugar on them, and fill each with 2 teaspoons of Nutella. Then pop ‘em in the oven for oh, let’s say 15-17 minutes or until golden brown (or according to package directions). Forreals. That’s ALL. Wanna see how they look done? Do ya? Huh? HUH?

Okay.

Here you go…

With just confectioner’s sugar, top, and whipped cream. Either way it’s DEEEEE-lish!

They were like little filled donuts of delightfulness! Perfect. And really, the only time they took was the time to cook, and they take NO expertise at all, so even the worst baker can pull these off. And talk about cheap! Basically it’s just an awesome dessert idea, great to make at the last minute, and super quick to pull together. And impressive looking! I’ve used Pillsbury biscuits before to make doughnuts, and that was pretty amazing. But these were just to die for. You can use anything you want as a garnish, but if you want to use homemade whipped cream…

HOMEMADE WHIPPED CREAM

Get this:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

And then do:

  1. Whip the cream until almost stiff.
  2. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until the cream holds peaks, but isn’t too stiff. Voila!

The best part of all of these is that the fillings can be totally customized. You can make a chocolate filling, chocolate peanut butter, white chocolate, raspberry, blueberry, even peanut butter & jelly! Seriously anything. And on the flip side, you can make the fillings savory too- shrimp with shredded cabbage & hoisin sauce, chicken with a mushroom & wine sauce, mozzarella cheese/tomato/basil, provolone & spinach, salsa & cheese… whatever! Just make sure you pre-cook all the meats if you decide to go that route, the few minutes in the oven won’t do it… and obviously, skip the sugar-sprinkling if you’re doing the savory thing. But they can be adapted to accommodate just about anything. Make them as savory appetizers, light dinner or a quick dessert. If you’re interested in the apple ones I made in the fall, you can find ‘em here. You can, of course, use the generic store brand biscuits or crescents, by all means. My cooking times are of course for the Pillsbury brand items I listed above. If you buy another brand or another style, they may differ, so be aware.

Before I go, it’s Jay’s sister Jen’s 23rd birthday tomorrow, so… happy birthday Jen! *noisemakers go off & confetti falls from the ceiling* I hope it’s a great one!

Ra-ra-rugelach.

Thank you all for your kind words & sympathy. While I’m back posting recipes, they’re recipes I had made and written up last week before my uncle’s passing. So my heart still hurts, and of course none of us are “over it”…  but yes, I’m “back” to posting. My uncle loved to cook and loved desserts, even though he was on a strict diet, so he wouldn’t want me to stop posting or hold off on anything. So here’s a new delicious recipe I want to share with you all, and I also really wanted to share the photos of my friend John’s beautiful little baby girl, Angelina, in her Cupcake Rehab bib. So freakin’ cute!

Look at her, all ready to beat someone with her whisk! Or make cupcakes, whatever!

If you want cuteness like that, and by cuteness I mean the bib not the baby- I don’t think John is willing to share her… then you can go to my Cupcake Rehab webstore and buy stuff. I have an assload of things for sale from hoodies to bibs (duh) to coffee mugs to dog bowls! Seriously. Buy some stuff, take pictures, and send me the pics. I’ll add ‘em to the C.R.my page & you’ll be (quasi-) famous. But I can’t promise it’ll make you as cute as Angelina.

Back to the eats. What’s fair is fair, and while it’s Easter time for Christians, it’s Passover for the Jewish people. Each holiday & religion hold to their own traditional foods & desserts, as do the specific ethnicities and races within each religion, just as they hold to the traditions of the religions themselves. I myself am neither Christian nor Jew, but I certainly don’t discriminate against delicious food items. I embrace them all!

Hamentashen is more traditional around this time of year, but honestly, since when have I been traditional? Actually that’s not true, I’m very old-fashioned. At any rate, I don’t happen to like hamentashen at all, so rugelach it is!

Rugelach is one of my absolute favorite “cookies.” I like the chocolate ones, and I like the filling to have a touch of cinnamon. I also like the cinnamon sugar. I’m not into the fruit filled version. I used to love the ones from the 2nd Avenue Deli… Jay used to work right near it, but that was before the two of us got together (unfortunately). And back when my dad was still working, he’d randomly pick up a bunch in a 2nd Avenue Deli tin and I’d eat all the chocolate. Once he got them as a gift for someone, and I finagled it open, ate two chocolate ones and resealed it. Shh, don’t tell.

Rugelach aren’t difficult to make. It’s similar to rolling a croissant, or a chocolate croissant. This particular dough is made with cream cheese, although there are many different varieties.

Rugelach (Yiddish: רוגעלך) (other spellings: rugelakh, rugulach, rugalach, ruggalach, rogelach (all plural), rugalah, rugala (singular)) is a Jewish pastry of Ashkenazic origin.

Traditional rugelach are made in the form of a crescent by rolling a triangle of dough around a filling.[1][2] Some sources state that the rugelach and the French croissant share a common Viennese ancestor, crescent-shaped pastries commemorating the lifting of the Turkish siege in 1793[3] (this could be a reference to the Battle of Vienna in 1683). This appears to be an urban legend however, as both the rugelach and its supposed ancestor (the Kipfel or Kipferl) pre-date the Early Modern era, and the croissant in its modern form did not originate earlier than the 19th century (see viennoiserie).

An alternative form is constructed much like a strudel or nut roll, but unlike those, the rolled dough and filling is cut into slices before baking.[4]

The name is Yiddish, the Jewish language of eastern Europe. The ach ending (ך) indicates plural, while the el (ל) can be a diminutive, as, for example, shtetlekh (שטעטלעך, villages) is the plural of shtetl (שטעטל, village), the diminutive of shtot (שטאָט, town). In this case, the root means something like “twist” so the translation would be “little twists,” a reference to the shape of this cookie.[3] In this context, note that rog (ראָג) means corner in Yiddish,[5] so it is possible that a more accurate translation would be “little corners.”

Alternatively, some assert that the root is rugel, meaning royal, possibly a reference to the taste.[6] This explanation is in conflict with Yiddish usage, where the word keniglich (קעניגליךּ) is the dominant word meaning royal.[7]

Finally, in modern Hebrew, they are known as roglìt (רוֹגְלִית), a postbiblical Hebrew word meaning “trailing vines”.[8] The Yiddish word ruglach probably came first. The modern Hebrew is probably a neologism, chosen for its similarity to the Yiddish and its descriptive meaning.

Rugelach can be made with sour cream or cream cheese[1][2][3] doughs, but there are also pareve variants with no dairy ingredients,[9] so that it can be eaten with or after a meat meal and still be kosher. Cream cheese doughs are the most recent, probably American innovations, while yeast leavened[9][10] and sour cream doughs[11][12] are much older.

The different fillings can include raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, chocolate, marzipan, poppy seed, or fruit preserves which are rolled up inside.

I’ve been wanting to make rugelach for a long time. I sort of combined 4 or 5 recipes I found to make one of my own. I think it turned out fantastic! Except one word of advice: if you don’t have a stand mixer, this dough is not going to happen for you. It’s so thick that it slowed Lola down and she made all kinds of “Rrrrrr” noises. But she can handle it. And there’s no way you can mix it by hand, you need to cream the butter and cream cheese together and even using a hand mixer isn’t gonna work out well for that. You know how cream cheese is… many a mixer has broken under it’s wrath.

Chocolate rugelach

CHOCOLATE RUGELACH

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup melted bittersweet chocolate, cooled but still “liquidy”
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions:

  1. Beat softened butter and cream cheese in large bowl on medium speed of mixer until blended and smooth. Gradually add flour and ¼ cup sugar and vanilla, beating on low speed until well blended. Divide dough into 3 equal parts; wrap individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate anywhere from 1 to 4 hours or until firm enough to roll.
  2. Heat oven to 375°F. On lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough into 9-inch circle (keep remaining dough in refrigerator). Cut circle into 12 wedges. Place about 1 teaspoon melted chocolate at wide end of each wedge; spread about three-fourths of the way up wedge. Stir together 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon and cocoa powder; sprinkle over melted chocolate, sprinkle over melted chocolate. Starting at wide end, roll toward the point. Place cookies, point sides down, about 1 inch apart on a sheet of parchment paper covering an ungreased cookie sheet. Brush with beaten egg.
  3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining dough and filling.
Cinnamon sugar rugelach

The dough I made is a sweet dough, if you’d like a not-sweet version just remove the sugar and vanilla. If you’d like to add a little something extra, sprinkle with some sugar after brushing the dough with the beaten egg. Other options for fillings are apricot (1 cup apricot preserves plus ¾ cup chopped walnuts), cinnamon sugar (4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, ½ cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon) or raspberry-raisin (1 cup of raspberry jam and ½ cup raisins).  Or you can be totally rebellious and come up with your own filling!

(Psst… wanna know a sweet shortcut to the chocolate filling? Bosco chocolate syrup plus a sprinkling of cinnamon. Trust me, it works and it’s delicious. Just don’t use too much syrup, you’ll end up with a gooey mess.)

To me, they’re perfectly sweet, not too sweet, plus the cream cheese adds a little something special. I devoured way more  in one sitting than I should’ve. A little basket of these is a perfect hostess gift.

Homemade Nutella “pop tarts.”

I’m not Italian. Of the many Eastern & Western European & other nationalities I am, Italian is not one of them. It’s practically the only one I’m missing. But I’ve hung out with enough Italians, & eaten with enough Italians, including one of my uncles (by marriage) to know a lot about Italia. I’ve probably watched more RAI and eaten just as much cannoli as the average Italian-American. I also went to Catholic school which, in true stereo-typical form, had an equal population of Irish-American and Italian-American students (not to say there weren’t plenty of other nationalities & ethnicities represented as well), and I was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph… so I know things like who St. Joseph is, & when his feast day is, even if I don’t believe in that stuff. And by that stuff I mean religious mumbo-jumbo, not that there was once a dude named Joseph. I know there are lots of those. I mean I know at least 6 myself!

In Sicily, where St. Joseph is regarded by many as their Patron Saint, and many Italian-American communities, thanks are given to St. Joseph (“San Giuseppe” in Italian) for preventing a famine in Sicily during the Middle Ages. According to legend, there was a severe drought at the time, and the people prayed for their patron saint to bring them rain. They promised that if he answered their prayers, they would prepare a large feast to honor him. The rain did come, and the people of Sicily prepared a large banquet for their patron saint. The fava bean was the crop which saved the population from starvation and is a traditional part of St. Joseph’s Day altars and traditions. Giving food to the needy is a St. Joseph’s Day custom. In some communities it is traditional to wear red clothing and eat a Sicilian pastry known as a zeppola on St. Joseph’s Day.[6][7] Sweets are popular because St. Joseph is the patron saint of pastry chefs.[8]

Upon a typical St. Joseph’s Day altar, people place flowers, limes, candles, wine, fava beans, specially prepared cakes, breads, and cookies (as well as other meatless dishes), and zeppole. Foods are traditionally served containing bread crumbs to represent saw dust since St. Joseph was a carpenter. Because the feast occurs during Lent, traditionally no meat was allowed on the celebration table. The altar usually has three tiers, to represent the trinity.[7][9]

Some villages like Belmonte Mezzagno used to burn wood and logs in squares on the day before St.Joseph, as thanksgiving to the Saint. This is called “A Vampa di San Giuseppe” (the Saint Joseph’s bonfire).[7]

In Italy March 19 is also Father’s Day.

Saint Joseph’s Day is also celebrated in other American communities with high proportions of Italians such as New York City; Kansas City, MO; Buffalo; Chicago;[8][10] Gloucester, Mass.; and Providence, Rhode Island, where observance (which takes place just after Saint Patrick’s Day) often is expressed through “the wearing of the red”, i.e., wearing red clothing or accessories similar to the wearing of green on Saint Patrick’s Day. The observance of St Joseph’s Day (and wearing of red) by Italian Americans communities which are also home to significant Irish American communities can take on the overtone of a challenge by the Italian Americans to the power and relevance of those Irish communities and Saint Patrick’s Day.[11]

Yeah, I’m fairly sure that photo I created there will offend someone. Eh. I do what I can. I never said this website was endorsed by the Vatican.

Anyway I’m far from religious (obviously), but I do remember from my Catholic high school/junior high school days that St. Joseph’s Day is sort of the equivalent of St. Patricks’ Day, except without the green beer & excessive drinking, but with the addition of pastries. Which I can totally get down with. I also remember my Italian friends sort of complaining that St. Joe’s Day was overlooked in favor of the *cough*more fun*cough* St. Patrick’s Day. Although let’s not forget that St. Patrick was Anglo-Roman, which is technically “Italian”… since you could say the Romans were the first Italians. But at any rate, for these purposes, let’s go with the general populations idea of polarizing the “holidays”, causing ethnic divides and of course, slander. I do love to start trouble, you know. *wink*

Anyway in turn, since fair is fair, I figured one saint deserves as much as another. Since I did a lot for good ol’ St. Patty, I decided to make something for ol’ St. Joe using my absolute favorite Italian import- Nutella. And what did I decide to make with Nutella? Homemade pop-tarts, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen!

I’m not sure if Pop-Tarts are a universal concept, so I’ll do a quick explanation courtesy of Wikipedia:

Pop-Tarts is a brand of rectangular, pre-baked toaster pastries made by the Kellogg Company. Pop-Tarts have a sugary filling sealed inside two layers of rectangular, thin pastry crust. Some varieties are frosted. Although sold pre-cooked, they are designed to be warmed inside a toaster. They are usually sold in pairs inside foil packages, and do not require refrigeration.

Popular flavors include chocolate, apple, frosted blueberry, frosted strawberry, frosted brown sugar cinnamon, cherry, and s’mores.

Pop-Tarts are Kellogg’s most popular brand to date in the United States, with millions of Pop-Tarts sold each year.[1] They are distributed mainly in the United States, but also in Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Pop-Tarts were discontinued in Australia in 2005 and are now found only in import stores.[2]

Before I get all crazy-preachy about making this recipe I will state: I do like Pop-Tarts®. I do. The s’mores kind are my favorite, and admittedly, I’ve only ever had those or the chocolate, but I can say that for what they are they’re good. And heated up, they’re better. I’m not 100% anti this stuff. But that said, who would (or could) turn down a homemade “toaster pastry” with a flaky, buttery, pastry crust if they had the choice? Probably not many. However I just needed to say that I do enjoy those store-bought, preservative-filled, chemical-laden little boxes of “pastry.” What can I say? I’m a child of the ’80′s. Crucify me… (sorry, bad joke).

HOMEMADE POP-TART CRUST

Yield: 9 pop-tarts

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (to brush on pastry)

Directions:

  1. To make the crust, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, work in the butter until it is the size of peas and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it. Whisk together the egg and milk and add to the dough. Mix together with a fork until everything is evenly moistened. Knead briefly on a floured surface, if necessary, until the dough comes together.
  2. Divide the dough in half. (At this point you can wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.) If you refrigerate the dough, let it come to room temperature for about 15 minutes before rolling out. Roll out one piece of dough to about 1/8-inch thick, in a 9½ by 12½ rectangle. Using a sharp knife, pastry wheel or bench scraper, trim the rectangle to 9×12 inches. Cut the sheet of dough into nine 3×4 rectangles. Using a spatula, transfer the rectangles to a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Brush the lightly beaten egg on each of the rectangles. Spoon a tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, leaving a ½-inch of space around the edges.
  3. Roll out and cut the second piece of dough in the exact same manner as you did the first. One at a time, place a second rectangle of dough on top of the nine assembled ones. Using your fingers, press around the seams of the dough to make sure they are sealed. Press the tines of a fork around the edges of the rectangles. Prick the tops of the rectangles in multiple spots to allow steam to escape.
  4. Refrigerate the pan with the pastries (you don’t need to cover them) for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool slightly before serving. Store pastries in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

I made my dough the afternoon before, divided it and let it chill until the next afternoon (because I ended up being to tired to make them once evening came). I found that to be the best bet, as the dough was totally chilled and easy to work with and this way I didn’t get impatient and take it out too soon. As far as the filling, like I said, I used straight Nutella. But if you go to the Smitten Kitchen, you’ll find the ingredients for strawberry jam filling and cinnamon/brown sugar filling. And anything is possible! Marshmallow Fluff would be awesome mixed with Nutella /chocolate ganache. I made mine two different sizes, some small and some regular pop-tart size. I felt like for some people the full size ones would be too much.

I can’t tell you how much of a HUGE hit these were. This was my second time making them, the first time being last month, and they were so enjoyed that I decided to do a repeat performance. I still haven’t gone past the Nutella filling, mainly because I don’t like fruit fillings and the Nutella is just so easy… but when the weather gets warmer I think a few fruit ones will have to be made for family; I know my father & mother are big jam people. And by that I mean fruit jam, not musical jams. Although they like those too… who doesn’t like a good, loud jam?

Also, the King Arthur Flour website’s version of these little “toaster pastries” has a great idea for those leftover dough scraps:

Sprinkle the dough trimmings with cinnamon-sugar; these have nothing to do with your toaster pastries, but it’s a shame to discard them, and they make a wonderful snack. While the tarts are chilling, bake these trimmings for 13 to 15 minutes, till they’re golden brown.

At this point there’s nothing left to say except: DO IT. I’m battling a wicked nasty flu and they even made me feel (slightly) better. DO IT. NOW. And if you’re a Nutella freak like I am, I’ve got other recipes using it you might wanna take a peek at.