Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Happy Holidays!

I hope you had as lovely a Thanksgiving Holiday as I have and that you are well on your way to enjoying the upcoming marathon of celebrations that marks whatever winter holidays you celebrate! 

I know I'm extremely late in posting for Thanksgiving, but I wanted to share with you anyway.  This year, we celebrated the holiday at the home of my eldest niece and her husband.  It was the first time my husband and I made it to their lovely home and we enjoyed the visit very much.  Our family tends to do holiday meals pot-luck style since we all love to cook and enjoy being able to contribute something to the meal.  Our assignment was salad and pecan pie. 

The salad was a yummy blend of mixed herbs, mixed baby greens and romaine with shaved shallots, dried cranberries, chopped apple, candied pecans and blue cheese topped with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.  It was crunchy, tart, sweet and tangy - everyone loved it! 

The pecan pie was this recipe I found on Pinterest for Utterly Deadly Pecan Pie.  We topped it with bourbon whipped cream.  I will never go back to "regular" pecan pie after having this.  I have always loved pecan pie, but have never been able to eat more than a sliver (sometimes not even that much)!  I'll admit that Thanksgiving night, I was way to full of turkey and all the trimmings to eat a whole piece of anything, but I did manage to eat half of a respectable piece of this pie as well as half a piece of apple-apricot pie that my nieces' mother-in-law brought.  My husband, decidedly not a fan of pecan pie managed to polish off my piece (and enjoyed it very much).  Another non-pecan-pie-fan also managed to finish off someone elses' piece of pie and I successfully managed a WHOLE piece the following night! 

What makes this particular pecan pie so different you ask?  Well, let me tell you - it's a much drier pie than your traditional pecan pie.  It doesn't have that layer made up of mostly corn syrup that tends to be gooey and rich and which is one of the main turn-offs for pecan pie haters.  This pie is crunchy and just sweet enough without being gooey.  It's the perfect compliment to an enormous dollop of whipped cream (I like a little pie with my whipped cream, thank you very much!)!  This version is also made in a cast iron skillet, something I felt was particularly genius.  Yes, it made the pie very rustic (but then, my husband and I are very rustic people), but it also made the crust nice and flaky, not a bit mushy or soft and it made it uber-simple to make since there was no fuss about crimping, fluting or otherwise fancy-fying the edge!

Since then, I have been baking up a storm - with and without family to help.  For starters, a bunch of my family came over and we made Scalile.  Scalile are a traditional Italian Christmas cookie that my family has made for as long as I can remember.  They are wonderful little pieces of what is, essentially, noodle dough, rolled thin, twisted into a charming, bow-like shape and deep-fried - a process which creates delightful little crevices for the honey that they are then dipped into as the final stroke of deliciousness!  It's a whole family affair to make these little gems and an event sure to take us all down memory lane whenever we are able to accomplish it!  If you are interested in the recipe, you can find it at the Carbone Family Recipe blog.

In the past couple of days I have made more of the wonderful, gooey Ghirardelli Chocolate Truffle Cookies with Sea Salt that I shared in a previous post as well as Traditional Thumbprints, the Chocolate-Salted-Caramel Thumbprints that I also made last year and Italian Wedding Cookies - which are the same basic cookie as Russian Tea Cakes or Mexican Wedding Cookies, but made with pine-nuts instead of pecans or walnuts.  They are all delicious and festive.

In the picture above, starting in the upper left-hand corner and going clockwise are: Scalili, Chocolate-Salted-Caramel Thumbprints, Italian Wedding Cookies and Traditional Thumbprints.

I don't know what the holiday season would be without all this baking.  I love making these special little treats and sharing them with neighbors, friends, coworkers and family and we have already managed to mail a couple of "care-packages" to family members who are too far away to enjoy them otherwise. 

What makes your holiday complete? 

Raspberry Vinaigrette

1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely grated
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a jar with a lid and shake. 

NOTE: If you store this in the refrigerator, the oil will solidify, so either store it at room temperature until you are ready to use it or set it out on the counter about 30 minutes prior to serving.

Thumbprints - adapted from Betty Crocker's Cookbook (1972 edition)

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg, separated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts (I use walnuts, but pecans are good too)
Mint Jelly
Currant Jelly

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream together butter, shortening and sugar.  Add egg yolk, vanilla and salt.  Add flour and mix in until dough holds together.  Shape teaspoons full into small, 1-inch balls. 

Beat egg white with a few drops of water until foamy.  Dip each ball into egg white, then roll in nuts to coat.  Place on baking sheets, 12 to a sheet.  Press thumb (or the tip of the handle of a wooden spoon) deeply into the center of each dough ball.  Bake about 10 minutes, or until light brown.  Remove to wire racks to cool. 

Spoon a couple tablespoons of jelly into a microwave safe bowl or cup.  Heat in microwave on high about 30 seconds, until it has a smooth consistency.  Fill thumbprints with jelly and allow to set. 

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Pine Nut Wedding Cookies - from the Best of fine Cooking Party Food (special appetizer issue 2010) Note: I just call these Italian Wedding Cookies

2 cups pine nuts, toasted (I have used as little as 1 cup in the past and they always come out tasty anyway)
2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt (I use Kosher salt)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioner's (aka: powdered) sugar

In a food processor, pulse the pine nuts and 1 cup of the flour until finely ground.  Add the remaining flour and salt and pulse to blend.  (I do this process with a mini food processor, in tiny batches, then mix the remaining flour and salt into the ground mixture in a larger mixing bowl). 

In a separate bowl (or mixer), cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and mix until combined.  Gradually add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill one hour. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Line baking sheets with parchment or spray with non-stick spray. 

Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls (I used my smallest cookie scoop).  Arrange on cookie sheets 12 to a sheet.  Bake until cookies are golden brown around the edges and light golden on top, approx 19-21 minutes (in my oven on the convection setting, it took only 17 minutes, so I recommend checking them after 15 minutes).  Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool until they have firmed up a bit and cool enough to handle, 5-10 minutes. 

Put powdered sugar in a small bowl and roll cookies in sugar, a few at a time, to coat.  Return to racks to finish cooling.  Store in airtight containers at room temperature.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

1 comment:

  1. looks so yummy!

    check out my blog if you get a chance!