Christmas Baking

January 4, 2010

2009 was my family’s first real Christmas in a long time.  I don’t know why, but one year my parents decided not to get a tree and fuss over Christmas.  Well, this made me very sad.  Firstly, because Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday; I just love the music, gift giving and general spirit.  Second, because my birthday is on the 23rd of December and the celebration on Christmas itself is like a birthday present to me.  Third, well I wasn’t getting very many presents!  Anyways, my family hasn’t had a really traditional Christmas in quite some time, so I was pretty ecstatic when I learned we were getting a tree and hosting a Christmas dinner party.

Of coarse, I made dessert.  I had a request for a sugar-less dessert because of a health condition, so I came up with a seasonal fruit galette adapted from Martha Stewart.

I used a combination of organic pears, persimmons and apples, about three cups.  I mixed this in a bowl with 1 tablespoon on cornstarch, two teaspoons of lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt.

I put the filling in the center of a 14 inch round pie crust, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border, and then I folded the crust over the sides.  I mixed an egg yolk and a tablespoon of cream and brushed the edges so it would bake up with a nice golden/brown color.  The only sugar I used was a small handful to dust the edges of the crust.

I baked the galette for about 1 hour until the juiced in the center were bubbling (activating the cornstarch)   and the crust was golden brown.  I dotted the top with a bit of organic strawberry jam.

This was so delicious.  No one could believe that I didn’t add any sugar to the recipe.  It was the consumed within minutes after I put the dessert out.

Next, I made Martha Steward’s Sweet Potato Cupcakes.  These were great!  The cupcakes were soft, delicious and moist.  But perhaps next time I will use an actual frosting instead of her suggested toasted marshmallow and nut topping, even though I love using a propane torch to toast the marshmallows!  I never use the broiler, a torch is so much more fun.

Here is the recipe:

Double click the recipe to enlarge.

I whipped up some decadent chocolate toffee shortbread too.  Everybody loved this.  The recipe makes a 9×13 inch pan so I had a lot to keep and give away as gifts.  You really should make this, super easy and so good!  I’ll do another post with more pictures where I leave the recipe.

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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I am thankful for the pie

December 10, 2009

Have I really waited until December 9th to post my thanksgiving recipes!?

Sorry. I’m lame. busy, busy school.  Today I had three projects and a paper due.  I stayed up until 2:30 am  last night and fell asleep on the couch, only to wake up to my dad at 7:15 am with 20 minutes to spare before I had to leave the house.  Mad rush down to the gas station, I grab a cup of coffee, wait out in the unusually frigid 30 degree morning air, jump into my carpool, head to the city and make it into my first period with a minute to spare.

I have to make a hip joint for anatomy class.

I have to make a surrealist art object and write a paper explaining it en Francais.

I have an essay due on the Dubliners by James Joyce for my AP english class.

I have to document and present my science research project and attend a three hour seminar after school.

Every spare moment of the day I’m scrambling to put together the next project. fml.  But I got it all done. yay me. and attended the painfully long science research seminar for my eighth period class. wooot. So now I’m home and have a whole lot of time to bake and relax. WRONG.  I have a whole lot of time to begin the rat-race cycle once again. Two english essay final exams on Friday to be prepared and much, much, much, much more to do.  But enough about my lameness.  Let’s get to my delicious Thanksgiving shall we?

I am so blessed and thankful.

I have an amazing, wonderful family.

I am thankful for my health

I am thankful for laughter

I am thankful for my friends

I am thankful for music

I am thankful I am able go to such an amazing school!

I am also thankful for this pie.

Delicious, rich bittersweet chocolate nestled in a creamy filling bursting with buttery toasted pecans on a  heavenly, flaky crust.  This was my rich chocolate pecan pie.  Twas good… to say the least.  We took the leftovers back home from our friends house and my mom ate it for breakfast.

I also baked up some NY Time CCC dough I had in the freezer and made a delicious tasting, but pathetic looking apple tart (noticed it is not pictured), but the recipe is amazing. I’ve bloged about it before.

The dinner was scrumptious of coarse: turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beens, carrots, cranberry sauce, dressing/stuffing,layered salad and the most delcious honey/ bbq ham I have ever tasted.

The layered salad was pretty awesome too.  Just put together in layers in the serving dish and tossed up all together right before serving.  It’s almost like a coleslaw; creamy with lettuce, tomato, peas, onions, bacon and more.  I usually like really simplistic, healthy foods, but it’s thanksgiving; I guess we are all looking for something a bit more indulgent.

Other desserts (NOT baked by me) were these chewy ginger and sugar/ shortbread type cookies as well as this other pretty apple pie.  We also had a great pumpkin pie. (not pictured)

Try this awesome chocolate pecan pie out.  I got it from Annie’s Eats, she has such a terrific blog.  I followed this recipe to the T but used a pre-made gluten free pie crust for the sake of time.  I posted the crust recipe anyways. Enjoy for you holiday baking!

Double Chocolate Pecan Pie

Ingredients:
For the crust:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut into medium cubes (about 16 pieces)
3 tbsp. ice cold water

For the filling:
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
½ cup corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped into small pieces
3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Directions:
To make the crust, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix briefly to combine.  Add the cubes of butter to the bowl and mix on low speed until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal and the largest chunks of butter are not much larger than peas.  Add the water to the bowl and mix on low speed just until the dough comes together.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until chilled.

On a lightly-floured work surface, roll the pie dough out into a 12-inch round.  Transfer the round to a 9-inch pie plate by rolling the dough around the rolling pin and unrolling it over the pie pan.  Trim the edges as necessary and create a fluted pattern using a finger to make the indentations.  Freeze the dough-lined pie plate until firm and very cold, about 30 minutes.

Adjust an oven rack to lower middle position and heat the oven to 375° F.  Remove the dough-lined plate from the freezer, press a sheet of foil inside the pie shell and fill with ceramic baking beads.  Bake about 30 minutes, until the dough looks dry and light in color.  Carefully remove the foil and weights.  Continue baking the crust 5-6 minutes more, until light golden brown.

While the pie crust is baking, make the filling.  Melt the butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Remove the bowl from the double boiler but maintain the simmering water.  Stir in the sugar and salt with a wooden spoon until the butter is absorbed.  Beat in the eggs, corn syrup and vanilla.  Return the bowl to the double boiler and heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is shiny and hot to the touch, about 130° F on an instant-read thermometer.  Remove from the heat and stir in the pecans.

As soon as the pie shell comes out of the oven, lower the oven temperature to 275° F.  Pour the filling into the pie shell.  Scatter the chopped chocolate pieces over the filling and press into the filling with the back of a spoon.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven about 50-60 minutes, until the pie looks set but slightly soft, like gelatin, when gently pressed with the back of a spoon.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 4 hours.