Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pecan Tassies

Pecan Tassies are a little family favorite that I have been making as long as I can remember. But I'm pretty sure that's only because I got tricked into it.

These cookies are delishous "mini" pecan pies. They are bit sized and always requested. However they kinda take forever to make...

Once the dough is made you have to press it into the tins. You have to have the 'right' thickness; too thin and the cookies will break with the weight of the filling, too thick and the crust will push all of the filling out. So you just have to practice and take your time. Growing up I got a lot of practice around Christmas. It was always a busy time and somehow I got the job of making these each year. Now with all the practice I can turn them out pretty fast.

The memories of all those years comes back with each tin that gets pressed out and each smell of the baking almond crust and pacan filling. I smile every time I make these... even if they do take an entire night.

Pecan Tassies
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cup flour

1 egg, beaten
1/3 c. sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 c. dark corn syrup
1 scant tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 c. chopped pecans

For the tarts cream the sugar and butter together. Add egg and extract, blend well. Stir in flour slowly. Wrap in plastic and let chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Spray Sandbakkelse pastry tins with non-stick spray. Take a small amount of dough and press into bottom and sides of the time with thumbs. The dough must be thin about 1/16 in.

Melt the butter for the filling in a medium bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Fill the tarts 2/3 full and place the tins on a cookie sheet. Bake 25 minutes at 350 until the edges are slightly brown. Let cool in tins for about minutes. Remove from tins onto a cooling rack.

Can serve warm or cold. Store in a air tight container for up to one week. Can freeze and thaw.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cookies, the Christmas Currency

The holiday season always brings out the baker in me. I tend to bake things that don't really require measuring, but when I came across this recipe I decided to try it for a cookie exchange I had coming up. Normally I would make Pecan Tassies, a family favorite, this year I decided to mix it up a bit. Although I've already been told that I have to make Tassies this week, cause it just aint Christmas without a big batch of mini pecan pies taunting you each day...

I'm a sucker for orange and chocolate flavored deserts, but this quickly became a runner up in the chocolate combination. Since this called for peppermint I decided to add some coloring to go along with the flavor. Altough red and green or even red and white (if you used white chocolate) would be just as cute.

What I liked best about this recipe was that I could make the dough ahead of time. I mixed up, rolled out, and spiraled up the 'log' on Thursday and baked the cookies on Saturday morning. It was a really nice change of pace from the normal all day cooking-fest that I usually have. I think they are better cooled, so make sure to let them rest before serving.

Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheels
3 c. Flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1 egg yolk
1 tsp peppermint extract
3-6 drop green food coloring
3 oz unsweetned chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
Soften butter in a large bowl. Add sugar and whip till frothy. Add milk and egg. Slowly add in the baking powder, salt, and flour until mixed. Divide the batter into two parts. To one add the yolk, peppermint extract and food coloring. Fold by hand to combine. To the second half add melted chocolate and vanilla extract. Wrap each half and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll out halves into rectangle shaped sheets. Place the green half onto of the white and roll length-wise creating a long log. Wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hrs or days.
Remove and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for 12 minutes. Let cool and store in air tight container for up to 1 week.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A lot like Christmas

Oh yes, it's begining to look a lot like Christmas around our house. The stockings have been hung, the snow is falling, the tree in a box has been opened and the pine scented candle lit. Now ofcourse I would love to have a real tree, but our holiday schedule and the stay at home puppy just does not allow that.

The synthetic tree does have it's advantages. If that akward shapped ornament just won't fit between the branches, well bend the wires a little bit and now it does. Clean up is also a breeze. There aren't any annoying little needles laying around poking your slipperless feet. We still get to put lights up and hang all the decorations.

Christmas decorations we are not short on. Most of which I will admit are stolen from my mother. This year when I pulled out the boxes I was very surprised to realize how many there were. Each box brings a smile and a little excitment when it gets opened.

The Christmas house collection by Dept 56 is always fun for us to set up. The little elf houses have so much detail and cuteness that we just sit and stare at them, listing out our favorite peices. The new bookshelf that we had installed is a perfect place to showcase them.

The little pupy Madison wasn't quite sure what she thought of all the new items or the moving of all the furniture around. Like other dogs she believes that anything under 3 ft belongs to her and should not be meddled with.
She should enjoy the decorations. I've been collecting different Reindeer items now that we have a house to set up. Historically Finnish Lapphunds were bred to hunt and herd reindeer, but somehow they are just less interesting than the real deal.
The antique sleigh bells are slightly more fun since they make a fun noise and so do I when she noses them.

Now the next thing to make the holidays even closer are all the cookie exchanges.... bring on the sugar rush.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thanksgiving Take Two

Now that we've wrapped up our Thanksgiving traveling I can spend time to post about the fantastic foods we were served in Chicago. The Thursday meal was a classic delishous serving complete with turkey, chestnut sausage stuffing, mashed and sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. It was a wonderful trip and a great chance to spend time with family and friends.

A classic favorite my in-laws introduced me to was Spinach Turkey Pie made from the leftovers. The rich flavors mix into the perfect texture and it's a complete change from the standard turkey leftovers that you are most likey to have.

It was an instant hit with me and every Thanksgiving we are there I look forward to scarfing down at least half a pie pan of it. My father inlaw makes it with great care and presicion, usually letting me eat all I want...

Tart Shell

2 c. flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, cut into pats
1 large egg yolk
3 tbsp water

Place the flour, salt, butter and egg yolk in a food processor with a blade and pulse 10 times or until mixture resembles corn meal.
Add the water and pulse just until the dough begins to form a ball, about 8 times. Do not overprocess.
Form mixture into a ball. Divide dough in half and shape each into 5-inch discs. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Turkey, Spinach and Ricotta Tourte

1/2 c. parsley leaves
2 oz Parmesan cheese
1 medium onion, quartered
1 large clove garlic
1 lb spinach
1/4 c. water
10 oz Turkey meat
salt and pepper
2 tblsp butter
4 oz bacon, cut into 1/4 inch peices
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c. ricotta cheese - about 12 oz
1/4 c. heavy cream
Tart Shell
1 large egg lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water for glaze

Mix parsley and cheese in a food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl. Chop garlic in processor. Add onion and pulse with garlic until finely chopped. Reserve.

Cook spinach in the water until just wilted. Drain and squeeze dry. Coarsely chop the spinach and reserve.
Heat turkey meat in a pan and season with salt and pepper. Reserve.

Melt 1 tbsp butter in a large skillet. Add bacon and cook till brown. Remove bacon draining off any fat. Add to parsley-parm mixture.
In the same pan cook the onion-garlic mixture until soft and slightly brown. Stir in the remaining butter and spinach. Cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Add to parsley-parm mixture.

Process the eggs, ricotta and cream. Add to the above mixture. Fold in the diced turkey. Taste seasonings and adjust.

On a lightly floured surface roll half the Tart Shell dough into a 13-inch circle or until it fits your tart pan size. Place in tart pan and press against the sides. Spoon in the turkey mixutre. Roll out the remaining dough and place over the mixture. Moisten the edges of the top and bottom crusts and gently press together. Crimp the edges over forming a seal. Lightly brush the top with egg-water glaze. Cut a 1/2 inch circle in the center of the top crust.

Bake the tourte on a baking sheet in a 425 degree pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and continue to bake for 1 hour. Cover tart loosely with foil if it starts to brown too much. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Serve in wedges.