Cranberry Snowdrift Bars

091

I hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving itself was good since we weren’t cooking, but when we attempted some new recipes for just our immediate family yesterday, none of them turned out that well. The rolls were a little dense and not very flavorful, the pumpkin pie was very mediocre, and our oven started smoking while the apple pie was baking, infusing the pie with a horribly chemical-y smoke taste. It was truly awful. Kitchen failures are always disappointing because they are such a waste of both time and ingredients.

098

Luckily, though, we did have a success: these cranberry bars. They have a basic shortbread base and are topped with a layer of cranberry sauce and meringue. It’s a great way to use up any leftover cranberry sauce in your fridge. We’d recommend using a slightly sweeter sauce for this recipe since it’s dessert and the shortbread isn’t very sweet. Homemade sauce really makes these stand out!

Cranberry Snowdrift Bars

Makes 12-16 bars

Recipe from Jane’s Sweets and Baking Journal

Ingredients:

For the crust:

1 1/4 cups All Purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

For the topping:

1 cup cranberry sauce (make sure it’s on  the thick side)

2 egg whites at room temperature

1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

For the crust:

Grease an 8×8-inch baking pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter until light and creamy. Gradually add in the sugar, beating on high speed, until the mixture is very light and fluffy. Add the vanilla. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture on low speed. Gradually add the remaining flour until blended, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as needed. Press the dough into the prepared pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until dry to the touch (the edges should be slightly golden brown). Let cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes.

For the filling:

Spread the cranberry sauce evenly over the prepared crust.

Place the egg whites into the clean bowl of a stand mixer. Whip on high speed with the whisk attachment until foamy. Add the cream of tarter and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Beat in the vanilla. Spread the meringue evenly over the cranberry sauce. Swirl it with the back of a spoon to make peaks in the meringue.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until the meringue is light golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares and enjoy!

Poached Pear and Almond Tart

peartart

Happy Thanksgiving! We are finally getting around to posting a recipe suitable for Thanksgiving- after everyone has already planned their menus. Oh well! As we’ve said before, we don’t cook for holidays in advance just so that we can blog before the holiday (mostly because we are at school all day, have homework all night, and are busy on the weekends).

But anyway, we did make this tart, and it is quite elegant. The pears are poached in a mixture of honey, white wine, vanilla bean, and some water. They take on a delicate and sophisticated flavor. The crust has almonds in it and is quite easy to put together (and it’s a press-in-the-pan crust), and the frangipane filling (a sort of cross between cake and custard, flavored with almonds) is quite simple as well. All the components are pretty easy, and this makes for a rather unorthodox dessert to have on the Thanksgiving table that is a welcome change of pace!

peartart2

Poached Pear and Almond Frangipane Tart

Serves 10

Recipe From Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts

Ingredients:

For the pears:

1 cup dry white wine

3 cups water

1/4 cup honey

1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped

5 ripe (but still somewhat firm) Bartlett or Comice pears

For the crust:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus 1 tablespoon melted and cooled for the pan

3/4 cup whole blanched almonds

3 tablespoons sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

For the filling:

3 tablespoons sliced blanched almonds

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons almond flour or very finely ground blanched almonds

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk, beaten

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

Directions:

For the pears:

Bring the wine, water, honey, and vanilla-bean seeds and pod to a simmer in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut a round of parchment paper the same diameter as the saucepan. Peel the pears and halve lengthwise. Use a small spoon or melon baller to scoop out cores, seeds, and stems. Trim the fibrous strip from the center with a paring knife.

Gently lower the pears into the pot. Place the parchment round directly on pears to keep them submerged (which will help prevent them from turning brown).

Cook until a paring knife slides easily into pears, meeting slight resistance. This will be about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool in liquid for 30 minutes. Transfer the pears to a large bowl and cover with cooking liquid. Cool completely (you can speed this up by putting them in the fridge).

For the crust:

Brush either a 10-inch round tart pan or an 11×8-inch tart pan with the melted butter.

Pulse the whole almonds and 1 tablespoon of sugar in the food processor until the almonds are finely ground. Add the remaining 1/2 cup butter and process until combined. Add the flour, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, the salt, and the almond extract and pulse until combined.

Press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake crust until light golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool.

For the filling:

Spread the sliced almonds in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and toast in the oven, tossing occasionally until golden, about 10 minutes. Alternately, toast them in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of sugar, the salt, flour, almond flour, and baking powder. Whisk in the eggs and yolk, the butter, and the milk until well combined. Pour filling into the crust.

Blot the pear halves lightly with paper towels to remove excess syrup. Arrange halves, cut side down, over filling, packing the fruit somewhat close together. Sprinkle the tops of the pears with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Sprinkle toasted almonds over the tart. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake until the filling is puffed and golden brown, 60 to 70 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Unmold just before serving. Enjoy!

Note: you will probably have extra pear halves unless your pears are really, really small. Also, this would probably be delicious with a layer of raspberry or pear jam underneath the frangipane layer.

Strawberry Cake

strawberrycake1

Hi, everyone! We’re sorry about the week off from posting-we were very busy this past week with activities and homework, so we ran out of time to post. But we have some great recipes for you this week, including this cake:

Our 18th birthday was on Thursday! The only wild and crazy thing we plan on doing to celebrate is register to vote, which isn’t actually crazy-it’s sensible (unless, of course, we register as the opposite political party our parents belong to, which we are not planning on doing anyway!). I guess you could call making this cake somewhat crazy, since it is sweet, buttery, delicious, and not conducive to good health.

strawberrycake2

This cake does have some artificial strawberry flavoring in it from Jell-O along with strawberry puree (we used organic, to, uh, balance out the food coloring). We usually like making things without any preservatives, but we made an exception for this cake. Naturally colored/flavored strawberry cake is wonderful, but you can’t get the bold flavor and color without some artificial additives. For a cake this good, it is worth it!

We found a bag of mixed ice cream-flavored jelly beans at The Fresh Market and used, per Sweetapolita’s instructions, the strawberry ones to decorate. They add a fun touch to the cake.

strawberrycake4

Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Frosting

Recipe adapted very slightly from Sweetapolita

Makes 1 3-layer 8-inch cake

Ingredients

For the cake:

1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar

1 (85 g) package strawberry Jell-O

1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, softened

4 eggs at room temperature

3 cups (300 g) sifted cake flour

1 tablespoon (15 g) baking powder

3/4 teaspoon (5 g) salt

1 cup (240 ml) whole milk, at room temperature

1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract

1/4 cup (60 ml) strawberry puree made from frozen strawberries (thaw the berries first so that the puree isn’t icy)

For the frosting:

3 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (375 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

4 cups sifted (500 g) powdered sugar, sifted

1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 ml) vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

4-5 tablespoons (45 ml) strawberry puree

For garnish:

Lightly sweetened whipped cream

Strawberry jelly beans

Directions

For the cake: 

Puree a couple handfuls of thawed frozen strawberries until completely smooth. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter, line with parchment, and flour three round 8-inch pans.

In a measuring cup, combine the milk, 1/4 cup of the strawberry puree, and the vanilla. Sift and whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, Jell-O, and sugar. Beat for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each adddition and scraping the bowl with a spatula.

Alternate adding the wet and dry ingredients, starting with flour (3 flour additions, 2 milk additions). Scrape bowl in between additions. Do not overmix.

Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared pans and bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes, rotating and testing after 20. Let the cakes cool briefly in pans, and then allow to cool fully on a wire rack.

For the frosting:

Beat the butter in the stand mixer with the paddle attachment for 8 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat for 1 minute on medium speed. Mix on high for 6 minutes. Beat in strawberry puree. Frost cake layers as desired, garnishing with whipped cream and jelly beans. Slice and serve. Enjoy!

Note: Refrigerate the cake if you’re not using it within a few hours. It will also slice more nicely after it has been chilled. 

Coconut Chocolate Chip Blondies

coconutblondies2

You might remember that we posted blondies on here before. These are a slightly more jazzed-up version, with a whole cup of coconut in the dough. They are perfectly chewy and delicious, and topped with a chocolate drizzle and packed with chocolate chips, they are fantastic. Next time we may try toasting the coconut for the topping…we think that would be delicious! Also, we might stir in some toffee bits as well to heighten the caramel flavor from the brown sugar.

P.S. Sorry for the really short post- we have both been quite busy with homework and school activities. But these are good so I guess they don’t need too much explaining!

coconutblondies

Coconut Chocolate Chip Brownies

Recipe from Annie’s Eats and Brown-Eyed Baker, originally from About.com

Makes 1 8×8 in. pan

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, or 4 ounces of chocolate chips

For topping:
1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips/chunks
1/2 teaspoon butter
Sweetened shredded coconut

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour an 8- by 8-inch square baking dish.  In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.  In another mixing bowl combine the melted butter and brown sugar and beat until well combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg, and mix until combined.  Mix in the vanilla extract until well blended.  Add in the dry ingredients and mix just until they have been incorporated into the mixture.

Add the shredded coconut and chocolate chunks to the bowl, and fold in with a spatula until evenly distributed.  Transfer the batter to the prepared baking dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until set in the center but still soft.

To make the drizzle, combine the chocolate chunks and butter in a small pan and melt until smooth.  Transfer the melted chocolate to a plastic bag with a very tiny piece of the corner cut off and drizzle over the bars.  Sprinkle with additional shredded coconut before the chocolate sets (try toasting it and let us know how it is!).  Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars. Enjoy!

Black Bean Burgers

blackbeanburger

The burger that you are looking at here is a black bean burger that is just as delicious as a regular beef burger, guaranteed (unless you dislike meat- if so, then you’ll find that this one is way better!). Leah and I agree that it is silly to try to make vegetarian foods that clearly contain no meat taste like meat- tofurkey and chicken-free nuggets are conceptually kind of strange. Why pretend that tofu/soybeans are like meat? Instead, embrace foods that are naturally vegetarian!

These burgers taste nothing like their meat counterparts, but they still have plenty of flavor. They are also extremely quick to prepare, and are very nutritious. Topped with roasted red pepper, onion, and Havarti cheese, these are a great alternative for you and your vegetarian friends (and really anyone) who are searching for hearty and delicious meals.

Black Bean Burgers

Recipe from Annie’s Eats, originally from The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

Makes 6 Burgers
Ingredients

3/4 cup panko
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 minced shallot

To top/for serving:

Lettuce

Onion

Roasted red peppers

Sliced Havarti cheese

Burger Buns

Directions

Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Combine the panko with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil.  Add the mixture to the skillet and toast the panko, stirring regularly, until light golden brown and toasted.  Let cool to room temperature.

Place 2½ cups of the beans in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher  until mostly smooth.  In a smaller bowl, combine the eggs, 1 tablespoon of the oil, cumin, salt and cayenne with a whisk.  Add the egg mixture, toasted panko, the remaining 1/2 cup beans, bell pepper, cilantro and shallot to the bowl with the mashed beans.  Stir together until combined.

Divide the mixture into 6 portions, about 1/2 cup each.  Lightly pack into patties of desired thickness. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Carefully lay half of the patties in the skillet and cook until browned on both sides for a total time of 8-10 minutes. As the patties approach being fully cooked, top with slices of the cheese so that they can melt.  Transfer the cooked burgers to a plate and keep in a warm place and repeat the cooking process with the remaining oil and bean patties. Serve warm on buns with lettuce, onion, and sliced roasted red peppers. Enjoy!

Brioche Burger Buns

1889

I’m of the opinion that really great sandwiches are all about the bread. Floppy, flavorless bread is a sure way to ruin a delicious sandwich. Maybe that’s just me, though, because I usually like the bread more than the
sandwich fillings. I also think that great burgers need to start with a delicious bun. There’s a burger place near my house, and while I don’t really like the burgers themselves (too greasy), the bun is delicious. It has a shiny exterior, is slightly chewy, and is buttery. I’ve been wishing I could make that bun at home for a while.

1887

Now, these burger buns aren’t really that much like those buns, but they are delicious nonetheless. They are perfectly fluffy, but sturdy enough for a hearty burger. They also have a slightly sweet, buttery flavor that is irresistible. Also, they taste just as delicious spread with butter as they do with a burger on them. We’ve made them several times now, and they are a million times better than any bun that you could find at the grocery store. You should make them sometime soon, and we promise that they will make any burger taste better! Check back on Wednesday for a great vegetarian burger to put on these buns.

Brioche Burger Buns

Recipe from Annie’s Eats, who adapted it from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from the New York Times

Makes 8 buns (or 10 smaller ones)

Ingredients:

For the burgers:

3 tbsp. warm milk

1 cup warm water

2 tsp. instant yeast

2½ tbsp. sugar

1½ tsp. salt

1 large egg

3 cups bread flour

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2½ tbsp. softened unsalted butter

For the egg wash:

1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water

To top: Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc

Directions:

Place the milk, water, yeast, sugar, salt and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer .  Mix briefly with the paddle attachment.  Add the flours to the bowl, and mix until combined.  Add the butter.  Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed for about 6-8 minutes.  The dough will be pretty sticky, but that’s the secret to light and fluffy buns.

Transfer the dough to a large, well-oiled bowl and turn several times to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 1-2 hours or until doubled.

Line two medium baking sheets (or one large one) with parchment paper. Divide the risen dough into 8 pieces, either with a sharp knife or a dough scraper. Roll each piece into a ball and place on the baking sheets. Cover the buns with greased plastic wrap and let rise again until nearly doubled, another 1-2 hours.

Meanwhile, place a 9×13-inch pan of water on your oven’s lowest rack. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the risen buns with the egg wash, and sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds as desired. Bake the buns for 15 minutes, until golden brown. Rotate the pans halfway through. Let cool briefly on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack. Enjoy!

Smoky Chorizo Hash with Fried Eggs

hash1

I am convinced that one of the perfect foods is a potato hash with some delicious mix-ins. You might recall the asparagus and bacon hash we made a while ago, but I must say that this hash better. First off, you have chorizo (which you really can’t go wrong with), and then you have potatoes, onions, spices, red peppers, and a crispy fried egg on top! This is a hearty and delicious meal that is ideal when you (like me) have a cold and need something spicy to be able to taste anything

Smoky Chorizo Hash with Fried Eggs

Serves 4

Recipe from Smells Like Home

Ingredients:

For the chorizo hash:

3 medium red potatoes

8 oz fresh chorizo, casings removed (see note above)

2 tsp + 2 tbsp canola oil, divided

½ red pepper, diced (about ¾ cup)

½ medium onion, diced

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained*

For the eggs:

2 tbsp unsalted butter

4-8 eggs (depending on whether you want 1 or 2 per person)

Directions:

Wash and dry the potatoes and prick them several times with a fork. Microwave them on high for 3 minutes. Let cool briefly, then dice them into ½-inch pieces.

In a large cast iron skillet, break up the chorizo with a wide spatula and brown over medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Add oil if the chorizo sticks. Note: we used pre-cooked chorizo that we diced. If you use this too, just cook it for a couple of minutes to heat and brown it.  Remove the chorizo from the skillet with a slotted spoon and keep warm in a covered bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and the butter in the skillet. Add the potatoes, oregano, paprika, cayenne, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, turning every 3 to 4 minutes. Add the peppers and onions, adding up to an extra 1 tablespoon oil if needed. Cook the until the peppers and onions have softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and black beans and cook until the beans have warmed through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat to low to keep the hash warm while you fry the eggs.

Melt half of the butter a large non-stick pan and fry the eggs until they are done to your liking. Serve hot on top of the hash. Enjoy!

*Note: we were out of black beans, so we skipped them. We think that they would be delicious in the hash, though, so we kept them in the directions.