Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pumpkin Pots de Creme

With all the desserts I bake, you may have wondered why I've never shared a recipe for just plain pumpkin pie, and the reason is, simply, I don't like pumpkin pie.  I'm not sure what it is, exactly, that I don't like, but it just doesn't interest me, so I never eat it at Thanksgiving.  And with all the other tempting desserts to taste during the holiday, I don't see the point in wasting time on pumpkin pie.

However, I do love pumpkin in many other desserts, so in lieu of pumpkin pie, I've created a recipe for Pumpkin Pots de Creme.

These little pots de creme may appear to be rather plain, but the creamy custard is as soft as silk, and each luxurious mouthful melts into a silken pool of pumpkin and spice on your tongue.

The dark chocolate chips add a pleasantly bitter contrast to the sweet custard, and if you'd like even more textural contrast, you could serve the pots de creme with a plateful of buttery shortbread cookies.

For Pumpkin Maple Pots de Creme, substitute 1/4 cup pure maple syrup for the brown sugar.

For Chocolate Pumpkin Pots de Creme, add 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate to the custard, and warm everything in a saucepan over medium-low heat to melt the chocolate before pouring the custard into the ramekins for baking.

Pumpkin Pots de Creme

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • pinch cloves
  • pinch nutmeg
  • dark chocolate chips, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 300, and place four small ramekins or custard cups in a baking dish.

In a bowl, whisk together everything, except the chocolate chips, until smooth.  Divide the custard between the ramekins.  Pour hot water into the baking dish so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins, being careful not to drip any water inside the ramekins.

Bake the custards for 25-30 minutes, until they appear set around the edges but slightly wobbly in the centers.  Place the pan on a wire rack and let cool for one hour, then remove ramekins from the baking dish and chill in the refrigerator for about 4 hours, or overnight.  Garnish with chocolate chips and serve chilled.

Yields 4 servings

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Happy Thanksgiving

Since neither of us have family nearby, we spent Thanksgiving with friends, and I offered to bring the pies.  I made pecan pie, which is always one of my favorites.  Every year, I make it just a little bit differently than before, and this time I added a splash of whiskey to the filling and topped it off with dark chocolate ganache.  It was absolutely fabulous.

We also still had a few jars of jam left from the wedding, so I made mini almond peach tarts which turned out so beautifully, with their sweet peach filling perfumed with almonds, and buttery, flaky crust.

Wherever you spent your Thanksgiving, and whether you shared the day with family, or friends who are like family, I hope it was a cozy and wonderful day.

Pecan Pie with Ganache

all-butter perfect pie crust, 1/2 of recipe

  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons whiskey or bourbon, optional
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 3 ounces cream
  • crushed pecans

Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface then transfer to a deep dish pie pan.  Fold the edges under and crimp them to make them look pretty.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla, salt and whiskey until smooth.  Stir in the pecans and pour the filling into the crust.

Bake the pie at 350 for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 300 and bake for an additional 45 minutes or so, until the filling seems to be set.  During the last 15 minutes of baking, jiggle the pan ever 5 minutes; when it barely wiggles when you shake it, the pie is done.

Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours.

Finely chop the chocolate.  Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium low heat, just until it begins to bubble around the edges.  Remove from the heat and add the chocolate.  Let stand for 3 minutes, stir until smooth, and pour over the pie.  Sprinkle with crushed pecans.  Let cool completely before serving.

Almond Peach Tarts

all-butter perfect pie crust, full recipe
  • 1 cup almond pastry filling (found on the baking aisle of most grocery stores)
  • 1 1/2 cups peach jam (or any flavor jam you like)
  • 1 egg, plus 1 tablespoon water
  • sliced almonds
  • coarse sugar

Working with half the dough at a time, roll out to between 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick.  Use a fluted pastry cutter to cut the dough into 5-inch squares.  Roll out the scraps of dough and cut decorate shapes, such as leaves, pumpkins, acorns and turkeys.

In the center of each square of dough, spoon 1 tablespoon of the almond pastry filling and 1 1/2 tablespoons peach jam.  Fold up the corners of the dough to make a little tart.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water.  Brush each tart with the egg wash, and top with the decorative cutouts, brushing those with egg wash, too.  Sprinkle with the sliced almonds and coarse sugar.

Continue rolling out the dough and making more tarts until you've used up the ingredients - you should be able to make about 12 tarts - divide them between two pans for baking.

Freeze the tarts on the pans for at least 30 minutes, but better for a full hour.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake the frozen tarts for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack, then serve warm or at room temperature.

Yields about 12 tarts

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Honey Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

It was quite a while ago - months, actually - that I made and photographed this ice cream, but I'm a bit behind on writing up a few of my recipes.  At first glance, it seems to be a very simple recipe with only six ingredients, but I've realized after making so many batches of ice cream over the last couple of years, that the least fussy ingredients result in the best ice cream.

The delicate sweetness of raw honey, the richness of the egg yolks and the floral notes of vanilla bean all complement the pure flavor of the cream so beautifully.  The hint of orange liqueur is subtle, and each smooth, creamy spoonful melts deliciously on your tongue.

On a warm July morning when Jamie and I left Paonia,CO to drive back to Denver, we stopped first for an early lunch at a local cafe.  We both ordered sandwiches - tuna salad on crusty bread for me - but we were intrigued by the freshly baked strudels cooling on the counters.  There was peach, and apple, and maybe a few others, but since we had come to Paonia for the Palisade peaches, we had to try the peach strudel.

Thin, flaky, golden brown layers of phyllo dough were filled with pillows of what might have been sweetened cream cheese, topped with soft, juicy peaches spiced with cinnamon, and then a crumbly streusel of some kind that somehow managed to stay crisp in spite of all the sweet juices released by the peaches.

The strudel was the chef's specialty, and he rose early every morning to bake them for the morning diners.  There really are no words to describe just how delectable that peach strudel was, although orgasmic would probably come the closest.

After coming home, our freezer filled with Palisade peaches, Jamie asked me on a weekly basis if I would try making the peach strudel.  And so, I tried to re-create it the best I could, accompanied by the honey ice cream, of course, but my strudel just wasn't the same.  Some recipes are best left a mystery, I think, only to be tasted on a hot summer's day, at a certain little unassuming cafe, in a little town in Colorado wine country.

Honey Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
Combine the cream, milk and vanilla bean seeds in a saucepan.  Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat.

In a bowl, whisk together the honey and egg yolks until smooth.  When the cream starts to steam, gradually whisk a cup of the hot cream into the honey/eggs, then scrape it back into the saucepan.  Cook the custard, whisking constantly, over medium heat, until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the liqueur.  Pour through a mesh strainer to remove any bits of cooked egg.

Cover the custard with plastic wrap, resting right against the surface of the custard, and refrigerate overnight.

Churn the chilled custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, then transfer to a container and freeze until firm, about 4-6 hours.

Yields about 2 quarts

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Friday, November 21, 2014

Curly Girl Wedding: Decorations

For this week's post in my Curly Girl Wedding series, I'm sharing some of my DIY ideas for the decorations I made, as well as my sources for the ones I bought.

With so many beautiful, inspiring photo shoots - whether real or styled - on Pinterest, it's easy to get carried away with ideas for all the things you could do.  So rather than get overwhelmed with projects, I tried to focus on just a few that I knew I could accomplish and would enhance the theme of the wedding and showcase the beautiful venue.  And I started on these projects very early, so nothing was left to the last minute - other than the chalkboard art, I pretty much finished the decorations about three months before the wedding.

Something else that was important to me was that I use items that I could potentially re-use in the future.  I imagine making a baby's quilt out of the napkins, and decorating the nursery with some of the paper flowers and chalkboard easels.  The frame for the escort cards will serve as a beautiful message or photo board in our kitchen or office.  The milk bottle vases will no doubt be used for years to come in our kitchen.

So first, the tables.  I had already made the napkins and homemade jam to sit prettily at each place setting, and I really wanted the tables to be fairly simple, with just those items along with some candles and flowers.

For the candles, I bought very inexpensive, very plain glass votive holders, which I embellished with bits of cream lace hot-glued around the glass and tied with twine or ribbon.  The lace allowed the candlelight to shine softly through, and looked quite romantic.

For the flowers, which a good friend of mine planned and arranged for me, I bought a dozen vintage glass milk bottles on Save-On-Crafts, a fantastic resource for wedding decorations.  And that adorable little flower pot with the painted blue bicycle sitting next to the typewriter - that's from the same website.  I just love that flower pot and I can't wait to find the perfect spot for it in our home.

The flowers for the tables were sweet and simple, just a few sprigs here and there to brighten up the tables.  The milk bottle vases also served double duty to hold the table number cards.  I designed the cards in Excel, each with a table number and a different quote about love from books such as Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights.  After printing the table number cards on brown card stock, cutting the edges and adding a vintage stamp, they were ready to be tied onto the milk bottles with twine.

Next, the lobby.  There was the old typewriter I borrowed from a friend, in which I placed the story of our engagement, which I'd typed up as though it were a chapter from a book.  A coworker of mine had surprised me on my birthday with a pretty watercolor painting of our engagement cake, and I framed that to place on one of the tables.  A vintage metal birdcage from Michaels provided a place for people to drop any cards they might have brought.  I took a map from one of our road trips, wrapped it around a framed canvas, and added little notes for where we first met, where we've traveled around the state, and where Jamie proposed to me.  It's our map of memories.

As far as the escort cards, I'm disappointed that I didn't take the time to take more photos of this project as I put it together, and that there isn't a better photo to show just how cute they looked, since the photo I've included doesn't highlight the finished project very clearly.  But basically, I found a blue/grey painted frame at Home Goods, which I think was intended as a message board of sorts with metal spokes running up and down through the frame.

So first, I took twine and stretched that back and forth across the frame, stapling the twine into place on the back of the frame.  Then, I cut a piece of grey and white striped, heavy duty fabric and stapled that to the back of the frame to cover up all the zig-zagging twine.  Again, Excel came in handy for designing the escort cards, which I printed  onto brown card stock and attached to the twine with tiny clothespins.  So cute!

We were married outside on a stone patio, which overlooked a woods full of beautiful evergreens surrounding the venue, so really, very little needed to be done outside since there was so much natural beauty.  The paper flower garland for the arbor was my only touch outside.  There are tutorials online for making these rolled paper flowers, and they are so easy to make, although a little time-consuming if you make as many as I did.  I made enough flowers to hot-glue onto grey satin ribbon for approximately 16 feet of garland to string across the 6-foot-wide metal arbor, and I just adore how they looked.  The only other thing I added outside was the "love letter box", which I found at Home Goods.  The box holds our wedding vows, as well as sealed love letters to each other to open on a future anniversary.

And not forgetting those cute chalkboard easels, which were also from Save-on-Crafts.  I bought one for the appetizer and dinner menu, and the other for our signature cocktails from our homemade liqueurs.  The chalkboard art and fonts were a little challenging for me, and I washed the boards and started over more than a few times before I was happy with how they looked.  If you search Pinterest for "chalkboard art", you might get discouraged at the amazing talent you'll find, so I decided to just pick a few elements I liked and felt I could replicate, such as a few little swirly designs, simple drawings and a couple of fonts.

There's a website called Dafont, where you can preview your text in thousands of fonts without actually downloading anything, and I used it to create all of my fonts on the chalkboards, simply by typing in a word or phrase into the preview box, studying the font, and then trying to copy it free-hand onto the chalkboard.

Last, but not least the "Just Married" banner I made to hang on the back of the truck for photos.  To make the banner, I cut squares of fabric leftover from the napkins and sewed them onto grey satin ribbon.  Then, with a set of stencils, a brush, and black acrylic paint, I carefully painted the letters onto each square.  After we used the banner for photos, it was hung from the fireplace mantel for the reception.

Everything is now packed away, but once we're in our house, I'm excited to unpack everything, decide what I can use in our house, and maybe sell the rest for another bride-to-be to enjoy at her wedding...

Wedding Photos by Bri Lamkin Photography

Monday, November 17, 2014

Citrus Sour Cream Pie

This pie.  This pie.

It turned out so pretty, admittedly I couldn't stop staring at it.  But the flavors, too, were absolutely delectable.

To start, the graham cracker crust is buttery and salty.  Graham crackers are already inherently sweet, so I don't add sugar to my graham crusts, only butter and salt.  It's delightfully salted.

Then, the filling.  I started by cooking essentially a citrus curd with egg yolks and sugar, freshly squeezed orange, lemon and lime juices, and a good amount of zest.  A little corn starch to thicken it up.

After cooking the citrus curd, cold butter is whisked in while the curd is warm, each piece of butter disappearing in the pale yellow cream.  And then sour cream is added, which adds such a wonderful tangyness to complement the sweet, tart curd.

When the pie is set, it's topped with barely sweetened freshly whipped cream.  I whipped the cream very thick and piped it into swirls - softly whipped cream won't do you any favors on a pie unless you're planning to serve the entire pie immediately, but you'll find that too-softly whipped cream on leftover pie deflates.  So whip it well.

Translucent slices of oranges, lemons and limes garnish the pie so beautifully and simply.

The first piece, never the most perfectly cut piece of any pie, came out a little carelessly, the soft citrus cream spilling over the edges of the crust, reminding me that I had been too impatient to wait for the pie to set fully when I should have waited a few more hours at least.  So be patient, unless you don't mind eating the pie with a spoon.  And really, there's nothing wrong with that.

At first taste, the tartness of the creamy citrus curd begs your attention.  Then, the more subtle richness of the butter and sour cream caresses your tongue, and finally, the crumbly, salted crust seduces you into taking another bite...

Citrus Sour Cream Pie
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • juice and zest of 1 small lemon
  • juice and zest of 1 small lime
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup full-fat sour cream
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • thinly sliced lemons, limes and oranges for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325.  In a pie pan, combine the graham crackers and salt, then drizzle with the melted butter and toss with a fork until moistened.  Press the crumbs firmly against the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Bake for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and corn starch until smooth and lightened in color, about 2 minutes.  Whisk in the citrus fruit juices, zest and vanilla.  Pour into a saucepan.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk for about 7-10 minutes, until the mixture bubbles and thickens into the consistency of warm pudding; boil for 1 minute, continue to whisk until very thick.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the cold butter, one piece at a time, until melted and smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours, then whisk in the sour cream.

Spread the filling into the cooled graham cracker crust.  Cover and chill for at least 4-6 hours, or preferably overnight, until set.

Whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until thick; spread or pipe over the filling and garnish with the citrus fruit slices.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins with Maple Glaze and Peppered Bacon

For a while now, I've thought about baking something with bacon, and while I didn't technically bake with the bacon, I did top something baked with bacon.

These pumpkin chocolate chip muffins with maple glaze and peppered bacon are a perfect pairing of flavors, with the slight bitterness of the chocolate, a sweet drizzle maple glaze that's reminiscent of pancakes, and the crisp, salty bacon.

I made them first for a Halloween party at work, and then again for a party the following weekend with friends, and they were so good, I've been tempted to make them again.  But then, that wouldn't be fair to all the other muffins...

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins with Maple Glaze and Peppered Bacon

pumpkin muffins
  • 1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
maple bacon glaze
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons maple extract
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 6 slices peppered bacon, cut into 24 pieces, cooked until crisp

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a muffin pan with 24 paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, melted butter, milk, eggs and vanilla until smooth.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until moistened.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Divide the batter between the muffin cups, filling them full.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean, then cool on a wire rack while you make the glaze.

In a saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, water, corn syrup and maple extract.  Over medium heat, whisk to dissolve the sugar.  Whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth.

Drizzle the glaze over the warm muffins and immediately top with the bacon; the glaze will set quickly.

Yields 2 dozen muffins

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

Friday, November 14, 2014

Curly Girl Wedding: Homemade Jam for Guest Favors

For this week's post in my Curly Girl Wedding series, I'm sharing my recipes for all the homemade jam I made for the guest favors.  There were so many to choose from... nine flavors to be exact!  There was plum rhubarb with a hint of cloves, roasted peach jalapeno with lavender honey, strawberry rhubarb, red wine chocolate cherry, apricot peach with ginger and nutmeg, sweet cherry, roasted balsamic strawberry jalapeno, red wine seedless raspberry, and cranberry orange.  Oh, my!

If you remember, we drove to Paonia, Colorado for my birthday in July, our third trip to Paonia and always a favorite getaway that's just a few hours away from home.  After a relaxing three days of tasting wine, driving through the countryside, fruit shopping in Palisade and staying at the guest house at the Stone Cottage Cellars vineyard and winery, we reluctantly returned home, the car full of wine for the wedding, and boxes of peaches, apricots, cherries and plums for jam.

The fruit was so perfect, having ripened in the hot Colorado sun and picked when sweetest and juiciest, that I didn't have any time to waste in preparing the fruit.  So I spent a long evening blanching, peeling and pitting all the stone fruits, then weighing them and storing them in the freezer until the weekend, when I would make all the jam.

It took me almost two full days to make and can all that jam, and let me tell you, it was exhausting work.  Preparing the fruit, measuring out all the sugar and spices and labeling everything so I didn't mix up the recipes, sweating over boiling pots of jam, lifting jars out of boiling water while trying not to burn myself, cleaning up sticky messes...  By the end, I was so proud of what I had accomplished, but so, so tired.

The next weekend was the more enjoyable process of making all those little 4-ounce jars look pretty.  To start, I cut circle after circle of fabric, and measured out lengths of twine.  I had found the cutest little rubber stamp that read, "Uniquely Handmade: Limited Edition", which I stamped onto each fabric circle.

I typed the labels, printed them onto white card stock, and glued them onto bits of colored card stock I had saved from various other projects.  I loved that each label was just a little different.

And finally, the jars were finished.  I had only needed 85 jars for the wedding guests, but ended up with 150 decorated jars, so I took the extras to work and sold them for $5 each - they were sold out in a week, and I was thrilled to earn back most of what we had spent on the fruit and supplies.

About a month before the wedding, as we were thinking about details like tables and seating arrangements, I decided I wanted to assign the guest seats, rather than just assign guests to tables and have them sit anywhere, as it was a much better way to keep friends and family together at the tables.  I was perusing one of my favorite websites for party and baking supplies, Shop Sweet Lulu, and saw their adorable plain wooden demitasse spoons.  I thought they would be perfect with the jam, and serve double duty as a place setting.

The shop had so many lovely patterned spoons as well, but the plain ones were the most affordable.  To turn the spoons into place settings, I typed all the guests' names up in typewriter font and printed them onto brown card stock, and Jamie helped me glue the tiny strips of paper onto the spoons.  So simple, but so pretty.

The jam favors were quite the hot commodity at the wedding as people begged and bartered for their favorite flavor.  I even heard rumors of stolen jam, but you can't believe everything you hear...

This photo by Kathleen Rose Photography

This photo by Kathleen Rose Photography

A few tips for making and canning jam...

Homemade Jam Recipes
Note: I only have recipes for 7 out of 9 of the flavors I made.  Sadly, I seem to have lost the recipes I wrote for the Red Wine Seedless Raspberry Jam and the Red Wine Chocolate Cherry Jam.  If I find them later, I will add them to this post.

Apricot Peach Preserves with Ginger and Nutmeg

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Sweet Cherry Preserves

Plum Rhubarb Preserves with a hint of Cloves

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Jalapeno Jam

Cranberry Orange Preserves

Roasted Peach Jalapeno Jam with Lavender Honey