Archive for ‘Sweets’

March 19, 2012

Making Hazelnut “Cotton Candy”

I stumbled across Hazelnut “Cotton Candy” by accident. It was a result of a total experiment before my friend’s wedding. And it’s a good thing it went well, because if it had gone wrong, over 150 people would have known about it.

 

I’ve been known among my friends to make chocolate truffles. I have made upwards of 300+ for a few weddings. The first times I made them they included four different kinds with tempered chocolate coatings. However, last summer for a hot Willamette Valley vineyard wedding (say that five times fast!), my friend and I decided that simple would be better. Many of her guests were coming from out of town, and she wanted to spotlight Oregon’s bounty. What better way than to have a hazelnut dessert?

 

 

We decided on making a hazelnut center with a chopped hazelnut coating. I took it a step further and candied the hazelnuts, then ground them in a food processor. I had no idea what I was doing, but when I tasted it I jumped up and down with glee (if you know me, you know I did this, and then looked around sheepishly to see if anyone in the empty house noticed). It took me a second, and then I realized it: these hazelnuts had the texture of fluffy cotton candy with a sweet nutty flavor. Perfect!

 

 

The truffles were delicious, despite the 90-degree melting heat.  Since then I’ve also used this “cotton candy” for coating a Frankfurter Kranz (see above), and I’m sure it would be delicious sprinkled on custards and topping berries. Or, you could just eat it plain with a spoon when nobody’s looking. Not that I’ve done that before…

Hazelnut “Cotton Candy”

1 cup hazelnuts, whole
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup sugar

1. Preheat an oven to 350F and roast the hazelnuts for about ten minutes, until golden. Let cool, then rub in a kitchen towel to remove any loose skins.

2. Prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with parchment paper. Set aside.

3. While the nuts are roasting, in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and sugar on medium-low heat. If you have not made caramel before, keep it on the low side of heat. The sugar will begin to melt, then parts will start to brown. Do not stir it. At some point, you will have some whole sugar grains, melted clear sugar liquid, and caramelized brown liquid. Pick the pan up and rotate it gently to make sure the brown liquid doesn’t burn, but still don’t stir it. Be zen, and let the whole thing just melt out. If it looks like it will burn, immediately take it off the heat and let it cool.  If it burns, start over.

4. When the sugar has completely melted and becomes a nice light-brown color (careful, it will go from perfect to burned in milliseconds!), add the hazelnuts. Stir quickly to coat as much of the hazelnuts as possible, then turn out onto the prepared cookie sheet. Let cool. It will be one big, ugly, almost unmanageable, and incredibly hot chunk at this point. That is okay, just be careful not to burn yourself. Do not touch it until it’s cooled for at least fifteen minutes!

5. When cool, break up the hazelnuts with your hands (carefully, the caramel can be sharp), and toss them into a food processor. Whir until you get a fine powder. It will keep for several days in an air tight container. If it becomes hard, break it up and then process it again, or use it in larger chunks (delicious for breakfast with cheerios or other unsweetened cereal). If you prefer larger chunks, just don’t process it as long.

November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner: Pumpkin Pie

Growing up, my dad was always the pie baker in our house.  He was also the pie-pusher.  No, I don’t meant to say he insisted we all eat pie (though we all did eat it heartily).  He encouraged everyone make pie.  People are so afraid of pie crust, and yes it is daunting, but he would always smile and say “If I can do it, you can too.  I have the perfect recipe for you, with a secret ingredient.”

You know what that secret ingredient is?  Sour cream.

 

Yup! Sour cream.  It helps to make the crust flakier while still making it manageable to roll out. He is also always quick to give credit where credit is due.  This recipe comes from Edith Norton, who contributed it to the congregation cookbook, “Our Cup Runneth Over,” of the First United Methodist Church in Schenectady, New York.

And what about the filling?  Well, the filling is from my lovely grandmother, Grace, and it’s quite simply the best pumpkin pie recipe I know.  But, I’m biased by nostalgia so don’t take it from me – make it and tell me what you think!

With this recipe, you will not know when to stop making pies – pretty soon you’ll be making peach pie with a lattice top like I did for the first time this summer.  And you know what?  You’ll succeed.  Because this pie crust really is “Easy as Pie.”

Easy as Pie Crust

3 cups flour
2 sticks (= 1 cup) butter (the original recipe calls for margarine, I prefer butter)
6 tablespoons vegetable shortening (e.g., Crisco) (not oil)
at least 1/2 cup sour cream
Cut the fat into the flour using a fork until you have circa pea sized little pieces of mix. Add the sour cream. If you add too much sour cream, you end up with a sticky glob, so go on the low side to start with.

Cut the dough into two equal pieces and place a piece on a floured surface. Roll out and place the crust into your pie pan and crimp the edges how you like. You can use both halves in one pie (one for the bottom crust, one for a top crust for cherry or apple pies), or you can use the recipe to make two pies with just a bottom crust (recommended for this pumpkin pie recipe).

This dough can be frozen for at least 1 – 2 months or stored in refrigerator for 3 – 4 days.

 

Pumpkin Pie/Custard Mix

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees

Mix Dry Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice (If you’re in Germany: this isn’t a spice I could find there when I lived there, so I used Spekulatius seasoning, which though a blend of spices tasted just as delicious)
1/4 tsp salt

Mix Wet Ingredients:

2 cups pumpkin (canned is fine; fresh winter squash works just as well
as fresh pumpkin)
2 slightly beaten eggs
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract (or lemon juice)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tall can (about 1 2/3 cups) evaporated milk
1/2 cup of water (if you cook your own pumpkin and it is dry, use up to a full cup of water.  I’ve found half a cup is more than enough for canned pumpkin)

Combine the two mixtures and pour into prepared pie crust and bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit then 35 – 50 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

 

I hope you get lots of candy, especially large Reeses Pieces Peanut Butter cups.  They’re the best. Unless you like apples or nuts or other healthy stuff.  Then I hope you get lots of those.

Stay tuned for a big announcement tomorrow!

 

July 1, 2008

Summertime

Update 7/3/08: I have a recipe in this post now!  I figured it’s plenty time to post a recipe.  Click on “Read More” and scroll to the bottom.  Happy jam making! ~K

Sunday morning I woke up full of energy. Some of it was nervous energy, some of it was excitement. The first thing I did was sneak out of bed and peak out the window. I wasn’t an eager child looking for snow on Christmas Day, I was impatient to find out if the predicted thunder storms had already begun. Rain would ruin everything, and if my plans failed, I would have nothing to do all day long. For a week I had been looking forward to spending the day up in Ipswich picking strawberries and going to the beach with David and our friend, Andrew.

April 9, 2008

Libraries and Chocolate

The other day I was exploring the Cambridge neighborhoods I work in, mainly trying to find Formaggio Kitchen and a fish shop next to it. David, who isn’t a big fan of fish, wasn’t going to be home and I wanted to prepare a tilapia for dinner. On my way back to the T stop, I stumbled upon some buildings that looked similar in architecture to some dorms at Smith College, my alma mater. I knew I was close to Harvard, and when I inspected one of the signs more closely I smiled (I may have even uttered an “Oh!” out loud, but only the birds can tell you if I did or not). On a white background in clear lettering stood “Radcliffe” and underneath it “Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America.”

I’d heard about the Schlesinger Library, the only of Harvard’s many libraries that is open to the public. It houses many documents on women, and is famous for its cookbook collections. They archive all of Julia Child’s personal papers, as well as her own library of cookbooks. They also have Marilyn Monroe’s cookbooks (I’ve heard it’s quite a small collection), among many other collections of both famous and pedestrian women.