Over the weekend, Brian gave me one of my Christmas gifts early. He ordered all of the premium channels for the house. I sat in front of the television for a good hour and a half on Saturday, wrapping gifts and watching Girls. And then spent Sunday wondering why it took me so long to realize that Girls is one of the best shows I’ve seen, ever.
I always hate when I get wrapped up in the hype of something so I’m glad that it took me this long to come around. But the show is hilarious. It shows those awkward moments that happen in real life that everyone hates. And also, Hannah Horvath is gross but I still love her, because she’s real. Either way, this show is great.
And these cupcakes, cranberry stuffed cupcakes, they’re also great. I used a little leftover cranberry sauce for the center of the cupcakes and then toss a bit in with the buttercream as well. It was definitely a home run. I took them into work and they were promptly devoured. I even convinced my cranberry-hating co-worker to try one. So needless to say, they’re pretty good.
There’s still time to make these for Christmas. However, let the record show these babies would make an excellent New Year’s treat. The sugared cranberries on top are not only tasty but also stunning to look at. So whip some up for your next party. Enjoy!
The glaze recipe can be found here. Sugared cranberries can be found here.
There are certain items, both in every day life and in the kitchen, that need a good splurge. For example, a great mascara is something to spend a few extra pennies on. Your lashes will never achieve their full potential with Covergirl. You need to hit up Sephora, grab something better quality and really revel in your long and luscious lashes. Or boots. I’ve had a few different pairs of boots and none have lasted as well or been nearly as comfortable as the ones I splurged on.
The same can be said for lots of items in the kitchen. Vanilla extract will do but the caviar from a real vanilla bean just adds something special. And let me tell you about why you need to spend the few extra bucks and buy a good quality ice cream/cookie scoop. It will save you so much time, so much money and so much hassle. And jam. If you are using your jam for more than just a little schmear on an English muffin, you really need to spend the extra pennies and get the good stuff.
I knew when I made these jam thumbprints that I needed good quality jam, since it’s really the highlight of the cookie. The cookie itself is a simple shortbread style treat that gets coated in walnuts for a little extra pizzazz. The shining star, however, is the jam. It gets plunked down in the center of the cookie and then baked to an almost caramelized perfection. If you use crappy jam or jelly, it will be clear immediately. The taste is different, the texture doesn’t come out quite right and the cookie will not be what it could be had you splurged.
And if we’re going there and talking good quality jam, we have to talk about Bonne Maman. It’s the cat’s pajamas, if you ask me. I used wild blueberry and raspberry preserves in these cookies but really, the wild blueberry stole the show. I’m now using it on just about everything. Bonne Maman is in the grocery store next to the rest of the jams and jellies so be sure to pick up a jar in any flavor, they’re all delicious.
Note: A lot of specialty stores, such as Homegoods or even a local garden center that carries local products, usually have lots of different jams and jellies. I was actually aiming for a champagne blueberry but it was gone this year.
Any time there is a holiday that includes extended periods of time away from work, I disconnect. I never used to but lately, I’ve been ignoring emails, missing phone calls and basically using my phone to Google recipes and DIY craft projects. It’s liberating, being away from all the technology that can bog you down these days. I mean, not to sound old-fashioned but there was a time when I would have to physically sit down at the computer to check email. Now, it can be really hard to disconnect and be unreachable by those you don’t want reaching you.
While I’m on these disconnecting technology-free stay cations, I end up cooking a storm. It just happens. This time around, there was an entire Thanksgiving feast, of course. But also, cranberry vodka, cranberry chocolate cupcakes, cranberry scones, Snickerdoodles, Nutella cookies, chocolate chip cookies, jam thumb prints, cocktails, cinnamon rolls and countless other small treats and nibbles here and there. I won’t talk about the take-out burgers, sushi and soups. Just thinking about them adds about 15 pounds to my ass and gut and that’s not a pretty site.
Either way, you’ve most likely still got some cranberries lingering around after making your own cranberry sauce (you made your own, right? It’s way better than canned). And if you do, you should make this cranberry curd. I sandwiched some between lemon shortbread cookies. I also spooned a little over ice cream, baked some into a tart and ate it from the jar. It’s sweet but with a little bit of tart from the cranberries. It is also thick and luxurious and rich. You need to have it in your life because, well, why the heck not? It’s an easy way to transition the cranberry hater over to the dark side of cranberry infatuation. The sweetness makes it easy to love. Give it a whirl for yourself!
In a saucepan, combine cranberries and water over medium heat. Cook until the cranberries pop, about five to ten minutes.
Pass the berries through a strainer and press well, extracting all the liquid. Pour the puree back into the sauce pan, allow to cool for five minutes.
Whisk together sugar, egg yolks and egg until they are a light yellow. Add the egg mixture back to the pan and whisk until a bit creamy, about one minute. Place back over the heat and whisk continuously until a thick custard forms. It should coat the back of the spoon after 8 to 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in butter a cube at a time until fully melted.
Transfer to a jar or bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place the plastic wrap directly against the curd to avoid a skin layering on top. Chill for at least one hour.
Ok. It is officially Thanksgiving week. Go time. If you haven’t officially finalized your menu, you are pretty much screwed.
Maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. But really, it is crunch time for sure. This week is a good time to start your prep work, your shopping and your cleaning. Also, think about dessert. Everyone loves dessert, right?
These salted caramel apple mini pies make a great choice for Thanksgiving. See, they’re mini. So after the huge meal, you won’t feel as guilty when eating this dessert. Calories don’t count when something is mini, right? And this pie has just the right amount of tart apple, salty caramel and sweet, flaky pie crust. It makes an excellent holiday choice!
Salted caramel apple mini pies are the perfect blend of tart and sweet.
For pie crust:
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes, kept very cold
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
8 to 10 Tbsp. ice water
For pie filling:
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced into thin slivers
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. white sugar
4 Tbsp. salted caramel sauce
juice of ½ Meyer lemon
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt. Pulse a few times to mix well. Add in the butter and pulse 6 to 8 times until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add in water, a tablespoon at a time, and pulse after each addition. The mixture will start to come together. Once it comes together, turn it on a floured surface.
Use your hands to knead it a bit, then form it into a round disc. Cover the disc with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.
Combine all of the pie filling ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
To assemble the pies:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Separate the pie crust in half and place the second half back in the fridge. On a floured surface, lay out your pie crust.
Roll it out until it is about ¼” thick. Cut it into fourths.
Take each fourth and lay them gently into the pie tins. Press the crust into the tin, covering it completely. Use a fork and gently poke holes into the bottom of the crust.
Fill each pie with filling until the slightly overflow. Take the second pie crust out of the fridge. Roll it until it is ¼” thick.
Now, you have options. You can cut the crusts into fourths and place the crust on top, using a fork to crump the ends. You can also attempt a lattice crust.
To make a lattice crust, simply cut the pie crust into strips. Layer one set of strips onto the top of the pie in a horizontal manner. Take another set of strips and lay them in a vertical manner, forming a basket weave.
If you choose to place the crust on top simply, cut a small hole or leaf shape into the top for venting. Place the pies in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
Lately, I’ve been semi-obsessed with coffee. Let the record show, however, that I don’t drink plain coffee. I think plain coffee tastes like dirt. I want mine loaded with some sort of fancy creamer, extract or syrup to give it a great flavor. Peppermint mocha, pumpkin spice, hazelnut. All ok in my book. So often, you can find me grabbing expensive coffee creamers by the dozen at the grocery store.
A new favorite is vanilla heat. I grabbed it out of curiosity and then quickly decided I loved it and it was my new favorite. It’s sweet with a nice back hint of heat and spice. I do, however, hate spending the money on creamers. Really, I’d go broke. So I played around some and came up with my very own version of vanilla heat coffee creamer. And let me brag for a second here: I nailed this one. It tastes exactly like the stuff from the bottle. Maybe even a bit better!
Obviously, this is meant to have a nice kick of spicy flavor to it. Should you be a fan of more mild flavors, just adjust the amount of cayenne pepper you’re adding. I used an entire teaspoon but tested slowly, adding 1/4 teaspoon at a time to get a real sense of just how hot it would be.