Christmas Tree: Eggnog Cookies with Chai Latte Glaze

I can’t keep making excuses…but I’ll try! I have been busy with work, my house, my dogs unexpected surgery, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, work, work, and work. I have been in the kitchen, quite a bit actually, I just haven’t been keeping my notes, or taking pictures – I’m sorry!

Thank you to those who sent emails checking in, I hope you tried out the “free” recipes I shared.

In any case, it’s the holidays, both my cameras are charging – and I’m keeping my notebook on the counter.

Today I was working on edible gifts for my neighbors…Spanish peaches poached in Pinot Noir and spices..an easy one for you folks. Then there’s the tricky one, the only tricky part is stacking…you’ll see. I used this set of molds.

 Eggnog Cookies with Chai Glaze – 20 Snowflake Christmas Trees
1 cup unsalted butter, diced
2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon spiced rum
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
3 1/2 cups flour (plus more for rolling)
Chai Glaze recipe below

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, confectioner sugar and corn syrup until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. On low speed, add the rum, nutmeg, baking powder and salt. Scrape down the bowl again.

Add the egg and water to the butter mixture, and mix to combine. Add the flour and beat at a med-low speed until smooth.

Divide dough in half, shape into a flat rectangle, wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll the dough 1/6-inch thick and cut into snowflake shapes with a cutter. (My method was 2 of each large mold = 4 cookies, 1 of each medium mold = 2 cookies, 2 of the smallest mold = 2 cookies – your stack will have 8 cookies) Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets. Large snowflakes took 7 minutes of baking time – and med/small cookies took 6 minutes. Bake until lightly browned on the edges. Remove from the oven, let cool a few minutes, transfer to cookie rack to cool completely and frost.

Chai Latte Glaze – plenty for stacks

1 1/8 cups confectioner sugar (extra for dusting)
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons chai latte

Combine confection sugar, honey and chai latte. Mix until smooth. Using an icing spatula, you dab a bit of the glaze on the 2nd to largest cookie, and stack on top of the largest…repeat until you get to the smallest cookie. You should have 8 cookies stacked into a tree.

To decorate, using a fork, dip into chai latte glaze and drizzle over the tree. Top with sprinkles if desired. Dust with powdered sugar.

Serve with coffee, or package up and deliver to friends and neighbors.

Happy Christmas!

Bon Appetit!

Happy Cooking!

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Roquefort Spread

Hello Summer!

I’m sorry I’ve been MIA for a while, our house isn’t quite done, and I’ve always got at least 1 contractor buzzing around. And somehow we skipped Spring and went straight into Summer, so I wanted to share a fun app we put together for a night on the patio with a bottle of chilled white wine.

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Roquefort Spread – 24 crostinis
Olive oil
2 onions, minced
Freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup walnuts
8 oz Roquefort, crumbled
6 oz crème fraîche
Baguette, sliced

 

Crostinis + Walnuts:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place sliced baguette rounds on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil, season with freshly ground white pepper. Bake 8 minutes or until golden brown, remove from oven and set aside while working on the walnuts. Spread walnuts on a separate baking sheet, bake 5 minutes, stir, and bake another 5 minutes, remove from oven and set aside to cool. Continue with remaining recipe.

Roquefort Spread:
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add onion, cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and transparent, about 15 minutes. Uncover and stir occasionally until caramelized, about 25 minutes. Season with freshly ground white pepper, transfer onion to a bowl and cool.

Coarsely chop cooled toasted walnuts.

Combine Roquefort, crème fraîche, caramelized onion and chopped walnuts. Mix to combine and season to taste with freshly ground white pepper

Serve with a cheese knife and crostini. (It’s also excellent on celery hearts!)

Happy Cooking! Bon Appetit!

Ratatouille Vol-Au-Vents

I wanted to serve ratatouille in an hors d’oeuvres type fashion, and I think I have it down however I believe the next step is going to be to slice the zucchini and squash thinner, and fan them out once roasted – according to John though, I definitely have the concept and flavor down. We will be serving the vol-au-vents at our annual Christmas party.

Be sure to purchase similarly sized squash and zucchini.

Ratatouille Vol-Au-Vents – 20 servings
1 zucchini, thinly sliced rounds
1 summer squash, thinly slice roundsDSCN1630
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 onion, diced
2 tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 sheet Puff Pastry, chilled
1 egg, lightly whisked
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

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Prepare a baking sheet with parchment. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut 20 rounds (or more) using a 2 1/4 inch-diameter fluted pastry cutter, then using a 2 inch-diameter press two-thirds of the way through each round, leaving 1/4 inch edge (the picture to the side is an example). Place on prepared baking sheet, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Prepare vegetables.

In a large bowl combine zucchini, summer squash, thyme leaves, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix to coat. Prepare an 8×8 baking pan, alternating between zucchini and squash overlap the slices until pan is full. Bake for 30 minutes, or until vegetables have softened and slightly browned. Meanwhile prepare a very quick soffrito.

Over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saute pan. Add onions, and lower heat to soften. Meanwhile blanch 2 tomatoes, peel skin and discard, chop tomatoes. Once the onions have softened, add tomatoes, and cook down for about 30 minutes, until there is no longer any juice in the pan and tomatoes have broken down. Add garlic, and red pepper flakes to taste, combine and remove from heat.

Once vegetables and soffrito have cooled, turn oven temperate to 425 degrees.

Top center of the puff pastry rounds (stay within the 2 inch ring) with cooled 1/2 teasppon soffrito, lay a slice of zucchini and squash on top of soffrito. Sprinkle with Parmesan, and repeat on the other rounds. Brush exposed pastry with eggwash, and bake for 12 minutes until golden.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

TIP: You can prepare every step, and prior to brushing the pastry with eggwash, place the baking sheet in the freezer, freeze overnight, then stack and store in an airtight container in the freezer. To defrost, place in the refrigerator overnight, and continue with the steps by brushing with eggwash, etc.

Happy Cooking! Bon Appetit!

Tarte au Tomates

My lovely neighbors have this incredible garden (*jealous*) and they have been sharing plenty of it! With the gorgeous tomatoes they brought over this week, I made one of John’s favorites – a tomato tart. It’s simple and flavorful. I even got to share some with my neighbors who asked for the recipe…so I thought I should share.

You can use any kind of hard salty cheese, typically I’ll use pecorino, Parmesan, gruyere..comte..I could go on.

Tomato tart (Tarte au tomates) – 4 main course servings/ 16 appetizersIMG_0558
1 sheet of packaged puff pastry
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup finely grated hard/salty cheese
4 sprigs of thyme
3-4 tomatoes, different varieties, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Optional: greens and red onion salad

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lightly salt tomato slices and allow to sit while preparing pastry, they’ll release quite a bit of water.

Roll out your puff pastry on a floured surface to a 10in X 13in rectangle. Place on prepared baking sheet. Spread with mustard, leaving a 1.5cm border. Scatter with cheese, thyme leaves from 3 sprigs (discard stems), then layer the tomato slices on top, slightly overlapping – season to taste with freshly ground pepper. Fold in pastry edges to form a border, lay fourth sprig of thyme on the center and drizzle tomatoes lightly with olive oil. Increase temperature to 425 degrees F and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven, use leaves from garnish thyme to sprinkle over tart, discard the stem.

Optional:
A typical way to serve is to dress lettuce leaves and red onion or shallot with a light dressing: champagne vinegar (1 teaspoon) + olive oil (2 teaspoons)

Serve hot or at room temperature, slice tart into 4 or 16, garnish each slice with a few lightly dressed greens and onions.

Bon appetit! Happy cooking!

Pork Belly Gyros

Now that we’ve finally moved, and things are settling – I’m back in the kitchen. I made these gyros for our first dinner party, along with a mezza platter, Greek salad, roasted herb potatoes, and way too much other food.

It’s an easy-ish recipe, count about 1 lb of pork belly per 2 people. I also suggest setting a bowl of extra tzatziki on the table, it seemed my guest preferred to drizzle more sauce on the gyros.

Pork Belly Gyros – 8 servings
4 lbs boneless, skinless pork belly
4 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons dried marjoram
1 tablesoon oregano
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoons za’atar
4 shallots, sliced 1⁄4″ thick
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sumac
Shredded romaine lettuce
2-3 tomatoes, cored and sliced
4 9″ pocket pitas, halved
Tzatziki

Heat oven to 275 degrees F.

Place pork belly on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Combine the following in a bowl garlic powder, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, cumin, and za’atar. Rub dry spice mixture on pork belly. Roast for 40 minutes.

Increase the temperature to 375 degrees F; roast 40 minutes more. Let cool; slice into 1⁄2″ strips. Heat an 8″ cast-iron skillet over high heat, sear individual slices to crisp the fat.

To assemble the gyro, stuff pita with pork belly, cucumber, tomato and romaine – drizzle with tzatziki and serve.

Happy Cooking! Bon appetit!

I apologize for the lack of photo – our friends decided to assemble their own gyros, and I wasn’t fast enough with my camera. I’ll be sure to add a photo at a later time, when I make these again!

Nutella & Halva Babka

Have you tried Halva? In Mediterranean culture, it’s served after dinner as a sweet and nutty treat! It’s made from sesame paste and pistachios. It pairs really well with Nutella, and so I thought how fun could this combination be in a babka. I served this sliced, with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on the side..it was delightful.

You may notice I’m using disposable bread pans…almost all my baking goods were packed – and John refused to dig for them. They worked out well though, and no clean up.

Nutella & Halve Babka – 2 1 lb loaves
For the dough:
1 cup water, warmed to 115°
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
4 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed and softened, plus more for greasing
For the filling + syrup:
2/3 cup Nutella
2 cups crumbled pistachio halvah
1/3 cup water
6 tablespoons granulated sugar

Combine water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar in a large measuring cup, let sit about 10 minutes. Add the flour and salt to the bowl in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook; set aside. Add 1/2 cup sugar and eggs to yeast mixture and whisk to combine. Turn the stand mixer onto a low speed, and slowly pour in the yeast-egg mixture. Increase the speed to medium, adding butter, 2 pieces at a time, until a smooth dough forms. Place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Grease two 9″ x 5″ loaf pans; set aside. Divide dough into 2 balls; working with 1 ball of dough at a time and on a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12″ x 10″ rectangle, about 1⁄8″ thick. Use an offset spatula to spread half the Nutella on the dough, leaving a 3⁄4-inch border all around. Sprinkle half of the halvah over the top.

Starting at one of the short ends, roll dough up tightly; slice dough in half lengthwise using a serrated knife (gently saw), leaving 1⁄2″ of dough connected at the top. Twist the strands together and pinch at the end to seal.

Carefully place the dough in prepared pan; repeat with remaining dough and filling. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm area until doubled in size, 45 minutes more. Repeat the process to make the second loaf.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake babkas on the middle rack of the oven, rotating halfway through, until golden and cooked through, 45-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

While the cakes are in the oven, make the syrup. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Cook until the sugar dissolves, then remove the pan from the heat. As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, brush them liberally with the syrup.

Let the loaves cool for about 30 minutes, then remove them from the pans to cool completely to cool on a wire rack.

Happy Cooking! Bon Appetit!

Osso Buco Pies

Happy Christmas!

This year I went with something a little different for Christmas Eve dinner, it would certainly be delightful on any cool night, but we thought it was something special. If you don’t have a New Year menu planned, and expect guests this would be the perfect dish – not only can you make it earlier in the day, plate it, and refrigerate so you just need to pop it in the oven for 30 minutes – you can make it 2 weeks ahead and freeze it.

My butcher didn’t have spare bones to make veal stock, so I cheated! And boy am I glad for it – Knorr makes an excellent veal bouillon that worked in a pinch, if anything the flavor was more intense which is perfect for this dish.

Osso Buco Pies – 4 servings
Filling:
4 thick veal shanks, tied with kitchen string to keep meat attached to the bone
2 tablespoons olive oil Plain flour, for dusting
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups dry white wine (Chardonnay)
4 cups veal stock
10 ounces white button mushrooms, thickly sliced
4 shallots, thinly sliced
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 thyme sprigs
Pie Pastry:
12 ounces flour
3 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks), diced
1/3 cup iced water

For the osso buco filling, preheat oven to 285 degrees F. Season the shanks to taste, lightly dust with flour and shake off the excess. Heat the oil in a wide/deep saute pan over medium-high heat, add shanks to pan and brown well all over (about 6-8 minutes), then set aside. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up the little bits, then add the stock, mushrooms, shallots, garlic and thyme. Return the osso buco to the saute pan, season to taste, cover and braise in the oven, turning meat halfway through cooking, until the meat is fork tender, about 3-3 1/2 hours. Cool osso buco in the braising liquid, skim off fat that rises to top and discard thyme.

For buttery pastry dough, pulse flour, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse just until butter forms pea-sized pieces , then continue to pulse while adding iced water until clumps of dough form, adding more water 1 tbsp at a time if necessary. Transfer to a work surface, bring dough together and divide into 4 equal pieces and shape into discs. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to rest. Dough will keep refrigerated for a day, or frozen for a month.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Divide the braising liquid and mushrooms among 4 deep, baking dishes (about 2.5 inches deep, by 5 inches wide). Remove string from shanks and place a shank in each dish.

Roll out each dough disc to a 6.5 inch round on a floured work surface and cut a hole in the centre (I used the end of my pastry tips). Lightly brush rims of dishes with eggwash, place a pastry round over each, with hole in dough over bone. Press pastry edges to seal and brush tops with eggwash. Place on a baking tray and bake until pastry is deep golden and filling is bubbling (30-35 minutes). Cool pies briefly on a wire rack, then serve.

Happy Cooking! Bon Appetit!