Fig and Cashew Babka

I was going to do a whole month of cookies but this Fig and Cashew Babka is just too good not to share. I got the idea of this flavor combination from Worcester bakery BirchTree Bread Company. They’re this awesome restaurant that’s located in Crompton Place. If you’ve never been there, do yourself a favor and go. There are so many cool shops there, it’s a perfect spot for some retail therapy.

Anyway, I digress…BirchTree has this amazing scone that was made with fig and cashews. It was so good that my son who’s a notoriously picky eater preceded to eat all of mine. But I don’t blame him, the sweetness from the figs was a perfect pairing with the cashews. In my recipe I use salted cashews because I can never get enough of a salty and sweet combination. I also decided that this flavor pairing would be awesome in a babka and holy crap I was so right. Even the first one that I made (that I burned) was really tasty. This is a perfect breakfast bread, really tasty with a nice cup of tea.

A word to the wise, these babkas are a two day affair, be sure to make these when you have time to be at home.


Fig and Cashew Babka

Makes 6 mini loaves

Ingredients

Dough

5 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 1/4 teaspoons rapid rise yeast

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup of sugar

3 large eggs

1/4 cup of water

4 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

16 tablespoons butter (soften but still cool)

Filling

10 ounces fig spread

8 ounces cashews

Glaze

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

sugar

Directions

For the dough: In a medium bowl, whisk together 4 1/2 cups of the flour and the yeast; set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together the sour cream, granulated sugar, eggs, water, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour mixture (do not stir in) and, using the dough hook, knead the mixture on low speed until the ingredients are evenly combined, about 3 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough becomes smooth, about 8 minutes longer, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. (The dough will be very wet.)

With the mixer running on medium-low, slowly add the butter, 1 piece at a time, waiting about 15 seconds between additions. After the butter has been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue to knead the dough on medium-low until the dough forms a very soft ball, about 15 minutes longer, adding the remaining 1 cup (5 ounces) flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the dough is no longer wet and it clears the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. (You may not need all the flour; the dough should be very soft and sticky.)

Scrape the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 to 24 hours. (Because of the high butter content, the dough will rise only slightly.)

Turn the cold dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into an 18 by 24-inch rectangle, about 1/16-inch thick, with the long side facing you.  Then microwave fig spread for about a minute, then spread over the dough leaving a 1/2-inch border around the dough. Then sprinkled chopped cashews over the fig spread.  Then taking the long edge and roll into a taut cylinder. Pinch the seam closed to secure.

Cut into 6 equal pieces. Then take a cut piece and cut that piece lengthwise, then take lengthwise cut pieces and twist around each other. Then take the twist and create circle tucking the ends in. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. Place the twisted babka and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  (You will need to use two baking sheets, 3 babka on each.) Let dough rest for 1-2 hours.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Make glaze. Whisk egg and water together with a fork to make an egg wash. Then using a pastry brush brush egg wash over babkas, then sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until they turn brown and internal temperature reaches 190 degrees. Be sure to turn baking sheet half through to ensure an even bake.

Let babkas cool completely and then enjoy.

*Recipe for dough modified from America’s Test Kitchen.

Stained Glass Window Christmas Cookies

Christmas time is here and we are baking up a storm. Right now my favorite thing is to bake is cookies. Cookies make me immediately think of the holidays. I thought it be fun to make ornament cookie this year. I’ve always wanted to make these stained glass cookies. Every year I would see them floating around Pinterest and I would buy all the ingredients and then I would eventually just eat the Jolly Ranchers

But this year I decided that I am actually going to make them and they turned out really great. Next year I may even decorate the whole tree in edible decorations. 

I got the recipe from the Fannie Farmer cookbook for a sugar cookie. Then I bought some snowflake cookie cutters. I was lucky that I found these ones that came in all different sizes. You can use any two, you just want to make sure that one is considerable smaller that the other. I used crush blue Jolly ranchers to fill the center of the cookie, then used a toothpick to fill in the small little corners. You want to be careful not to fill it up to much or they will bleed, you also want to use a pastry brush to brush away any shards of candy off of the top of the cookies. Another helpful tip is to make sure that this cookie dough is chilled for at least an hour, overnight would be better. Also you don’t want to forget to use a piping tip to cut out a hole at the tip of the cookies, this way you’ll be able to string a ribbon through so you can hang them on your tree. 

Stained Glass Window Christmas Cookies

Makes 50 cookies

Ingredients

1 stick of butter

3/4 cup of sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon milk

1 1/4 cup flour

Pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

10 blue Jolly Ranchers, crushed

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter then gradually add the sugar beating until light. Add the egg, vanilla, and milk, and beat thoroughly. Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together, add to the first mixture, and blend well. On a lightly floured surface shape mixture into a disc, then wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour, overnight will be best.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On well floured counter roll out chilled dough  1/8 of an inch thick. Using snowflake cookie cutters cut out snowflakes, then  place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Next take a smaller cookie cutter and cut out the center of a cut out cookie. Then take a piping tip and cut a whole out of the tip of the snowflake. Now fill the cut out center with crushed Jolly Ranchers, use a toothpick to evenly spread the candy and to fill in the corners, if needed use pastry brush to wipe off candy shards.

Bake for 8 to 11 minutes, until edges start to turn golden brown and center has melted and started to bubble. Let cool completely before removing from  cookie sheet. Then use ribbon or kitchen string to hang on tree or simply just eat.

Let me know how this works out for you you. Please tag me in your photos if you post anywhere on social media I would love to see what you made. 

Life as a Maven

Have you ever had an online friend that you met in real life and they turned out to be even better in person? Well that happened to be the case when I finally met fellow blogger Timna Nwokeji. I’ve been following Timna for years on her blog Life as a Maven.  We’ve been meaning to get together for forever and we finally had a chance to get together and explore Worcester. We decided to meet and walk around Kelly Square.

On her blog she talks about travel, fashion, of course food. She is based out of Lowell and she is often found giving tours around town introducing new people to Lowell’s finest cuisines and trust me Lowell has a ton. We have that in common where we love where we live and we discuss the importance of being involved in your community.

Timna moved to Lowell about 12 years ago and can never imagine living anywhere else. “If we (her and her husband) were to move, it would be the next town over,” said Timna. She explains to me how she loves the mix of cultures that make up Lowell, between the Cambodian, Latin, and African communities, as the saying goes: there’s a lot to like about Lowell. However, Lowell has seen better years but it is currently experiencing  a revitalization. Timna started her blog so that people would change their perception about Lowell. Timna now sees the revitalization taking place and feels pride that she took part in that.

 

Lowell like every other cool town before it is facing gentrification. Timna explained to me how there are new boutique apartment buildings being built with a skywalk directly to the train station, and how there are restaurants and shops attached directly to the lobbies. Essentially you could live in Lowell without ever really experiencing it, which to me is the highest sin of gentrification. If you’re going to be the reason why rent goes up, at least experience the neighborhood-all the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

I appreciate how Timna did not shy away from the fact that Lowell has its dodgy areas. She believes everyone who loves Lowell understands that it’s a work in progress. Which lead us to the discussion of how do we revitalize a city without ruining its soul? In Timna’s opinion (quite frankly mine too) people need to get out and vote. “By being involved in the community. By voting, going to community meetings and gatherings.”

She also gives the general advice for people to go out and try new foods from other cultures, to get out of your comfort zone, and to travel.  This is why she blogs about traveling even if it’s just a two-hour drive outside of your town. In her opinion you need to get out of your own town, it helps to gain perspective on life. Her own travels have taught her to find the beauty in every town.

Her upbeat and knowledgeable perspective on life are one of the many reasons why I’m excited to watch her continuing journey as a Maven.

You can catch Timna over at her blog LifeasaMaven.com and you can also sign up for her food tours here. 

The Fay Club

Fitchburg is known to be an unsavory town, a title that I think is unjustly given. The Fay Club is trying to change this perception of Fitchburg one meal at a time. The Fay Club is an upscale members only restaurant that’s proving that you don’t need to be in Boston to have an high end experience. I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with head chef Derek Brooks and we talk about food, family, and what the Fay Club is bringing to the community.

I have always been intrigued by this place. It’s like they’re an open secret right in the middle of downtown Fitchburg. I was always curious, who were these elite people who get to dine in this club? It turns out that they’re people like you and me who just like to eat well. And eat well they shall because the kitchen at The Fay Club is in very good hands. Chef Derek Brooks is now head chef and the food him and his staff are producing feels progressive but familiar, in a way that feels like home.They achieve this by using local ingredients in some new and inventive ways.

When we first met he immediately began to tell me about the building. You could tell he was really proud of where he worked, and he should be, because the place is beautiful. It’s covered in handcrafted wood and there are intricate carvings all over the fireplace mantels, each room feeling more grand than the last. In each room there are different stained glass windows and each window gives its specific room a different vibe.

This building was built in 1884 and with a building this old it’s bound to have its spirits and I ain’t talking about the booze. I guess you can say the building is hauntingly beautiful and it has a long, deep history. There’s a lot of stories about the original owners and all the tragedy that they faced. I will not get into some of the tragedies that happened here because that’s in the past and we are focusing on the present.

Chef Derek served me two separate courses showcasing the variety of selections that’s on their menu. He presented me with an applewood smoked bacon cheeseburger with fries made in house. It was super delicious, the burger being juicy and full of flavor with the smokiness from the bacon helping to enrich the flavor of the burger.

The other dish was a was puff pastry filled with roasted acorn squash and topped with a soft cow’s milk cheese and then garnished with apple slices. It was lying on a bed of arugula and cranberries and tossed in a champagne vinaigrette. That was delicious as well. The acorn squash was super sweet, the pastry was flaky and the combination of textures and flavors gave way to a super tasty course. This dish actually inspired me to cook with acorn squash because this was the first time I’ve ever had it and this dish made me wish I would’ve had it sooner.

As I stuffed my face the chef and I conversed about family, work, and what landed him at the Fay Club. He has a long history with food, starting with his grandmother cooking for him when he was kid. He mentioned how he noticed how well she seasoned all her food and how that simple step made her food better than everyone else’s. He studied culinary arts and then worked at various restaurants even opening his own food truck at one point. After that the opportunity to work at the Fay Club opened up and he took it. The main reason he took the position is because he wanted to see The Fay Club succeed. With this club being a Fitchburg institution he wanted to make sure that it continued to do so while ushering in a new generation of members. Another reason he decided to take over the kitchen here was because the hours are less grueling and his fiancée works there as well. It really is a family affair, besides his fiancée working there he feels as though his kitchen staff is family. Which I can understand because when you’re in the trenches with your staff, after a while they start to feel like family.

But family or not his staff knows that he expects nothing but the best from them and he refuses to cut corners. When I asked who some of his culinary influences were he mentioned Marco Pierre White and how he took a page from his book when it comes to running his kitchen. His staff knows that he expects the best from them and they respect him enough to bring their A game to the kitchen, and it shows.

I would suggest finding a member to this club and beg them to treat you to dinner here. Better yet you should find a member and have them sponsor you to become a member. Then you’ll be able to enjoy this building and the delicious food that this kitchen serves. This experience that I had at The Fay Club definitely confirmed my thoughts that Fitchburg has great things going for it, you just have to know where to look.

Highland Farms

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To be a cook it means to buy and cook meat, and that means we have a choice to make. We can certainly buy the meat that’s available at the supermarket but it’s nice to have the option to buy from local farmers who raise their livestock in the most ethical way possible. That is why I’m so happy that we have Highland Farms right here in Lunenburg. I recently used some of their meat in my meatball recipe and some of their apple butter in some of my other recipes. All of these dishes would be nothing without these great main ingredients, so I was curious to find out more about the people who produce them. I was lucky enough to be able to get in contact with Maureen from Highland Farms and she was gracious enough to take me on a tour of their farm and she let me and my crazy toddler invade her family’s space while she was preparing food for a Growing Places food demonstration about baby food. This is just one of the many things this family does for their community but we will get more into that later.

The folks at Highland Farm pride themselves on raising livestock in the most humane and responsible manner. Even though their livestock will eventually become food, they still treat each one as though they are their pets. This is proven by the way they name each one and know all of their personalities. They know who’s shy and which ones love attention.  You can certainly tell that all of their animals are happy, when I met their newest baby cow Mocha he was bouncing with joy from side to side looking to be pet and loved.

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When I asked about how they feel about these animals meeting their eventual fate, Maureen expressed how they didn’t necessarily feel sad. The one way Maureen says that they make peace with the eventual death of their “pets” is knowing that they are fulfilling their destiny and being used for what they were meant for. One thing that I also appreciate is that their girls fully understood the fate of these animals, which I think is important when you’re a person who eats meat. As someone who consumes meat it’s important you know about the process. It makes you mindful not to waste it because this animal gave its life to become your meal.

Maureen and her husband Jonathan decided to start raising their own food after having concerns about what was being put in their store bought meats. So to ensure that their family was getting the best meat possible they decided to raise it themselves. However, the only financial way possible to do this was to raise enough livestock so that they are able to sell some to the local community as well. They choose to only sell in Lunenburg because they are extremely conscious of their carbon foot print and want to make sure that theirs is small as possible. It also keeps the product more affordable for you the consumer and for the farmer to produce.

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However, while Maureen was explaining some of the finer points of farming and raising livestock, our conversation kept getting interrupted by incoming texts and calls to her cell phone. All of which were donations for the recent fundraiser she helped put together  for Cherry Hill FarmCherry Hill Farm is a local dairy farm who’s iconic red barn just collapsed a few weeks ago. With all the outpouring of love and support for the Macmillan family who owns Cherry Hill farm, our conversation quickly turned to why Lunenburg is such a great place to live.

When I asked Maureen why she loves Lunenburg so much she used the word enchanting and I couldn’t agree more. She went on to explain that the way the people of Lunenburg  come together in times of crisis and in pain but also in joy and celebration really makes this a place where you want to live and raise a family.  You can tell that Maureen has been raised in Lunenburg because of the way she helped organize the fundraiser for  Cherry Hill Farm. Maureen having grown up with this family helped to organize an event at Hollis Hills Farm so that they could rebuild, and in true Lunenburg fashion the whole town came out to support. It seemed almost everyone from town came out to  donate and help whatever way they could. But it’s people like Maureen who live in Lunenburg that make this town so great. All I know is that if she treats her livestock as half as well as she treats her friends, then the meat their family farm produces is the best, most ethically produced meat that I ever had.

If you would like to purchase their meat you can purchase it at the Lunenburg Farmers Market currently being held inside the Dragonfly Cafe on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can also purchase other Highland Farm goods there as well. If you would like to join their CSA it’s best to call directly at 978-790-6436 or if to message them directly through their page on Facebook.

The Blood of Laveau the cocktail

2018_10_26_0755Happy Halloween! This is our absolute favorite holiday around here. I love being able to dress up and be somebody else for the day. Every year I come up with about twenty different costume ideas, but I never end up doing any of them. I always end up being whatever Jameson wants me to be, but this year is a bit different because I actually got a chance to create my own costume. I decided to be Marie Laveau because I love New Orleans and she’s a New Orleans icon. I really wanted to be a powerful woman this year and thought it be great to be Marie because not only was powerful but she was mystical and magical as well.

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It was incredibly easy to pull together this costume, with most of my costume items coming from my own closet or from the thrift store. And once I pulled it together it made me wonder why I hadn’t done it before. So in the spirit of Halloween and easy costumes I decided to make an easy cocktail to go with my easy costume. This drink was inspired by the color red and blood (cue sinister laugh), I added a sugar rim for garnish because why not add to the sugar rush that is Halloween. All you do is shake all the ingredients together and pour it in a sugar rimmed glass. Instead of using lime as the adhesive for the sugar rim I used grenadine so that it would turn the sugar rim red. Can you tell that I have a theme going on with this drink?

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I hope that your Halloween is fun, spooky, and safe.

I would love to hear how this recipe works for you, so be sure to leave me a comment.


The Blood of Laveau

Ingredients

1 ounce vodka

1/2 ounce grenadine

3 ounces pomegranate juice

Granish

1 ounce grenadine

1/4 cup white sugar

Directions

Place ice in a large cup or cocktail shaker, pour vodka, 1/2 once grenadine, and pomegranate juice over the ice. Cover cup or cocktail shaker and shake well.

Pour remaining grenadine in a shallow dish and pour sugar on a separate plate. Take the rim of the glass and dip it in the grenadine, then roll the now grenadine covered rim in the sugar. Make sure to cover the whole rim.

Pour the drink into the garnished glass.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin and Apple Butter tart with Gingersnap Crust.

2018_10_17_0536Pie making  season continues in my house and this week I made a pumpkin and apple butter tart with a gingersnap crust. I went in this direction because I needed to use up the apple butter that I bought from Highland Farms from the Lunenburg Farmers Market the other week. I used apple butter a couple of weeks ago when I made the apple butter hand pies  and still had some leftover. I knew I couldn’t let all that deliciousness got to waste. The spices in the apple butter help boost the warm flavors of this tart, the subtle warmth from the cinnamon and ginger really makes it feel like its the fall season in your mouth.

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I topped the tart off with some Fluff whipped cream, which was really easy to make. All you needed to do was add some fluff to your normal whipped cream making process. It’s really just that simple. I’ll leave you instructions on how I did it just in case you never made whipped cream before.

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The texture to this tart is super creamy and making your own fresh pumpkin pie puree is key and really simple to do. I grew up on pie filling from the can but I take pride knowing that I can make my own, it makes me fill more self sufficient. The way i roasted the pumpkin, I just cut a sugar pumpkin in half, scooped out all of the seeds and roasted it in an oven safe dish (I used my cast iron skillet, you can use anything, I just thought it would make a cool picture) at 400 degrees.  But of course you can use pumpkin puree if you don’t have time to roast and puree your own.

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The most labor intensive part of this recipe is making the crust and it’s really not that bad at all, in fact it’s easier then making and rolling out pie dough. You just have to run through a food processor about a dozen cookies with melted butter, sugar, and some spices until it becomes uniformly ground. Then press it into your 9″ tart pan (you can use a pie dish), you may have some extra gingersnap crumbs all depending on how finely you grind the cookies up. Another warning you might end up with extra filling as well.

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As usual let me know how this recipe worked out for you and leave a comment.


Pumpkin and Apple Butter Tart with Gingersnap Crust

Gingersnap Crust

12 oz gingersnap cookies

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Tart Filling

1 1/2 cups of fresh pumpkin puree or 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree

1/2 cup apple butter

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoon light brown sugar

2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

3 large egg yolk

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Fluff Whipped Cream

1 tablespoon Fluff

1 cup cold heavy cream

Directions

Make the gingersnap crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor, pulse together the gingersnap cookies and brown sugar until you have a coarse crumb. Add the ginger and cinnamon and pulse once or twice to combine. Pour in the melted butter and pulse until combined.

Spoon the crumbs into a un-greased 9-inch tart pans (with removable bottoms) and use your fingers to gently divide the mixture into an even layer on the bottom and sides of the pan. Follow with the flat bottom of a measuring cup or glass to firmly pack the crust into the pan.

Bake for 5-8 minutes, then remove from the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the pumpkin and apple butter filling: Heat the pumpkin, apple butter, sugars, ginger, cinnamon, and salt in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-heat, until the mixture begins to sputter. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until smooth and glossy.

Remove from the heat and slowly stir in the condensed milk, whisking until completely combined. Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, whisking until completely combined after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Pour the filling into the tart shell.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the edges of the filling are just starting to set. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F, and bake for another 25-35 minutes, until the filling is mostly set (the center will still be slightly jiggly). Cover just the crust with aluminum foil or a pie crust shield, as needed, if the crust starts to brown too quickly. The filling may bubble and puff up slightly as it cooks – that’s okay, it will settle as it cools.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 2-3 hours until completely set. The tart filling will continue cooking through residual heat. Place metal stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment in refrigerator while tart cools.

Make Fluff whipped cream. Attach child whisk attachment and in chilled metal bowl, on high speed, whisk together the heavy cream and fluff. Whisk for 2 -3 minutes, until soft peak have formed. Be careful not to over beat or you will end up with butter.  Garnish tart with fresh whipped cream and serve chilled or at room-temperature. Best eaten the day of, but will keep for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

*Recipe modified from an original Fork, Knife, and Swoon recipe. 

Hollis Hills Farm

 

 

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We’ve been really celebrating fall this year in my house. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to take my photography more seriously and fall has so many great photo opportunities or because we keep discovering more great local farms. The one place I knew I definitely wanted to visit this year  was Hollis Hill Farm. There are so many great places to spend a fall afternoon here in Central Mass but Hollis Hills is one the best around. They have everything that makes fall in New England great. They have apple picking, pumpkin patches, also a country store with apple cider, apple cider donuts, and (my absolute favorite) caramel apples with nuts.

 

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But besides just making and stocking everyone’s fall favorites they also have a bar, restaurant, and live music on the weekends. Now I’ll be honest that I haven’t had anything from the restaurant or the bar yet, but everything that I saw come out looked delicious! I’m planning on going there next weekend so I’ll update this post later and let you guys know what I think.

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They also have a beautiful stone fire pit, with lots of activities for the kids. So while you’re relaxing by the fire with a drink in your hand your kids can run around, pet the goats, and play corn hole. I can not wait to go back to do this. The last time we were here my kids loved it so much and were really disappointed when we had to leave, but I needed to get out of there. I had already spent a small fortune on decorative gourds, donuts, cider, and other delicious treats, I couldn’t afford to stay any longer.

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All and all this place is pretty amazing and a perfect place to spend a fall afternoon. The best part is that they always have something cool going on in every season. If you don’t make it there this fall be sure to check them out in the winter when they open the sugar house.

 

Caramel Apple Pecan Tart

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First let me apologize for not writing a blog post last week. My home was in serious disarray and needed to be put back in order. We had a yard sale, room renovation (that’s still a work in progress), and just a general fall clean up around the house and garden. I also wanted to take some time to really focus on creating beautiful photos.

The photography aspect of blogging is something I really fell in love with. It started with me really wanting to capture how delicious my recipes are, then it blossomed in to this sort of obsessions with visual story telling. Now with the beauty of autumn upon us my creativity is bursting at the seems. I’ve been able to capture beautiful moments with my family because of my relentless passion to practice my photography.

Because of this blog my vision for what I want to become has become more clear and I hope that my dreams become a realization. I just wanted to thank all my readers for supporting me.

I also need to thank Lanni Orchards for having the most amazing apples so that I was able to make this delicious tart. I feel so lucky to have this beautiful orchard so close to me right here in Lunenburg. They’re open all year and have delicious baked goods and produce. In fact it’s the same place where I got my rhubarb for my rhubarb tart that I made earlier this year. Which I just realized that I promised a recipe for that and never posted it, oops! Next spring I promise!

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Now back to the food. This tart was inspired by a pear tart that I made last year for Thanksgiving. I got the original recipe from The Pretty Blog, but this blogger no longer has the original recipe on their site and have actually closed down to pursue other endeavors. Which is a shame because the original recipe was amazing! Of course I made a few changes of my own, the first being the crust. The original was made out of a shortbread crust, which was tasty but very fragile. Whenever I make pies or tarts I always want to do something creative for the top crust and the shortbread crust always fell a part, even after I refrigerated it to make it firmer. So instead I opted for my usual pie crust recipe with the addition of cinnamon. The cinnamon is definitely optional and can be left out, however if you do decided to include the cinnamon in your pie crust be careful not to under bake your pie, the cinnamon gives your pie dough a brown hue and can be mistaken for being done.

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Some other notes: Make sure you fully cool the dough and the pie filling before assembling the pie. Especially if you want to make a pretty lattice top like I have pictured here. All I did was braid three strips of the pie crust, then I took the braid and laid alternating pieces of strips and braided pieces across the pie. I use the leaves to cover up where I pressed the strips in to the crust. I also blind baked the bottom crust to make sure that the filling didn’t make it too soggy. Also this tart may leak, make sure you line your baking sheet with parchment paper so that you have an easy clean up. And because of all the cooling time between steps make sure you give yourself plenty of time to make this tart.

Please leave me a comment and let me know how this recipe worked out for you!


 

Caramel Apple Pecan Tart

Dough

Ingredients

Makes 2

6 tablespoons water

4 teaspoons cornstarch

318 grams (2 cups plus 4 tablespoons) all purpose flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

4 teaspoons white sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

20 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled

4 tablespoons sour cream

 

Directions

In two separate small bowls, place three tablespoons of water and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch and whisk together in each bowl.  Place in the freezer and chill for 5 minutes. Mixture should be firm and congealed like jelly.

After cornstarch mixture has chilled, in a food processor combine 159 grams of the flour, 1 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of white sugar, and 1/4 salt. After they are combined add one of the small bowls of the cornstarch mixture and pulse until mixture becomes uniformly ground. Then add 10 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of sour cream and pulse until dough forms around the blade.

On a lightly floured surface turn out dough mixture. Knead together and form a 5 inch disk then wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Repeat steps with remaining ingredients to make the other pie dough.

Blind bake the bottom crust. When dough is ready to bake pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

After dough has chilled, on a clean lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a 12 inch circle. Hang the dough over the rolling pin and transfer to a 9 inch tart pan. Gently ease the dough into the pan by lifting the edges while pressing down into the corners of the pan, then tuck the overhang under itself so the dough is flush with the rim of the pan . Line the crust with heavy duty foil and then fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the weights and bake for another 7 minutes until bottom begins to color.

Cool on wire rack for at least an hour to completely cool.

Filling

1 stick of salted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup whole milk

4 apples, peeled, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon sugar

Directions

In a medium sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat, add brown sugar to the pan and whisk to fully combined. Slowly whisk in milk until fully combined.  Fold in apples and pecans, then off heat add vanilla and salt.

Let filling cool completely. While filling cools, roll out top crust, cut out decorative pieces and place pieces on parchment lined baking sheet, then place in refrigerator while filling cools.

Assemble

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Place cooled tart shell on a parchment lined baking sheet then fill the tart shell with cooled tart filling, then top with decorative pieces. Mix egg and water together to make egg wash, then brush the top of the tart with the egg wash then sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, making sure to rotate half way through, top crust should be golden brown.  Once tart has cooled use an offset spatula to remove the bottom of the pan. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Apple Butter Hand Pies

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It’s officially fall and I’m so excited to be using the oven again. It’s so nice to bake, even though I’m suppose to be giving up carbs and doing this keto diet. I figured it would be a sin to be a food blogger and not doing something with apples. When you are on the Keto diet the apple is really the forbidden fruit, it’s packed with so many carbs you are suppose to absolutely avoid eating. I have so many apple recipe ideas that my Keto diet is just going to have to wait until next month.

I love these little puff pastry delights. They’re so easy and I cheat a lot in this recipe, meaning that I use already made puff pastry and for the filling I use apple butter that I got from Highland Farms. They sell jars of this stuff at the Lunenburg’s Farmers Market. It’s not overly sweet it’s full of warm autumn spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s made from local apples and which are the best, in fact Leominster (the next town over) is the hometown of  Johnny Appleseed, so naturally we have access to the best apples around.  If you’re not from central Mass don’t worry I’m sure your local farmers market will have some apple butter in stock.

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One reason I really love these sweet little treats is because as much as I love apple pie I hate it chunky fruit pies. It’s a texture thing for me. I really love pies and desserts that are smooth, that’s why apple butter is the perfect filling for these little hand pies. With store bought puff pastry and already made apple butter these come together so quick. I just made these for my son for a little after-school pick me up

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Apple Butter Hand-pies

Makes 4

Ingredients

1 puff pastry sheet (thawed)

4 tablespoons Apple butter

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

4 teaspoons of white sugar

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a biscuit cutter (or glass) cut out 8 circles from the pastry sheet. Take one of the circles and spread one tablespoon of apple butter on the circle, take another circle and using a piping tip cut a circle out of the middle, (this is where you can get creative and cut strips for a lattice top or cut out fun shapes) then using a fork crimp the edges.

Mix the egg and water together to create an egg wash. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the hand pies with the egg wash, then sprinkle the tops of each one with 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Bake hand pies 25-30 minutes on lined baking sheet, until edges of pastry are golden brown. Cool on wire rake for at least 30 minutes.

Enjoy!