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Archive for November, 2013

And Now for Something Completely Different

In honor of Thanksgiving, I have decided to post a few of my favorite dessert recipes.

I don’t enjoy the baking process as much as I enjoy the results, so I am all about making it as easy as possible. For instance, when making pies, I usually use refrigerated dough or cookie crusts. (However, if you like to make pie crust, this one looks interesting: http://www.americastestkitchen.com/recipes/3919-foolproof-pie-dough ) Dozens of recipes over the years have been discarded because they either did not live up to expectations taste-wise, or I could not tweak the process to simplify it. These recipes have all made the cut. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Pumpkin Pie

There are a few sneaky secret ingredients in this that make it the best pumpkin pie I have ever had. If you are not normally a fan of pumpkin pie, give this one a try anyway. You might just be pleasantly surprised!

1 15 oz can of plain pumpkin puree

½ cup apple butter

3 large eggs, separated

½ cup packed light brown sugar

¼ cup heavy cream

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp fresh grated ginger

½ tsp allspice

pinch of salt

1 9 inch pie crust (either traditional pastry or graham cracker work well)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake the pie crust for 15 minutes. Do NOT prick the pastry. (Pre-bake even if you are using graham cracker crust.)

Using an electric beater, beat egg whites into stiff peaks. Set aside. In another bowl, beat together pumpkin, egg yolks, apple butter, sugar, cream, and spices. Fold egg whites into pumpkin mixture until fully incorporated. Spoon filling into the pie crust and bake for approximately 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If the crust starts to get too dark during baking, cover the edges of the pie with aluminum foil.

Let the pie cool thoroughly before refrigerating. Fresh ginger really makes a difference here, but if you need to use ground ginger, decrease the amount to ½ teaspoon. Also, if anyone in your family is lactose intolerant, the cream can be eliminated without making a really big difference.

Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate and Cranberries

Loaded with goodies, and fantastically yummy!

1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar

1 cup salted butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

2 cups quick-cooking oats

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

12 oz dark chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli 70%)

1 cup craisins

Non-stick cooking spray, or parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla and egg until well incorporated. Then beat in the flour, baking powder, and oatmeal. The cookie dough mixture will be very thick. Lastly, stir in the chocolate chips and craisins by hand.

Drop the dough by rounded heaping teaspoonfuls, about 1 inch apart, onto a cookie sheet that has either been sprayed, or is lined with parchment. Bake for 10-12 minutes. The edges of the cookies will start to turn golden brown when they are done. Let them cool a bit before trying to remove them from the cookie sheet. They will be very soft when they first come out of the oven.

Depending on how large you make them, this recipe yields approximately 3 dozen cookies. Feel free to substitute other dried fruits in place of the cranberries. I’m thinking blueberries or chopped up apricots may be very nice!

Lemon Chess Pie

Super simple to make, delicious to eat!

For those of you not familiar with it, Chess Pie is an old specialty of the Southern United States. It is a custard pie, with a touch of cornmeal, and can be found in many different flavors ranging from plain custard, to lemon, lime, orange, coconut, vanilla, and chocolate. Nobody is sure where the name comes from. Some have said it comes from “chest” – the pantry/cabinet/breadbox it would have been stored in before the invention of refrigerators. Others say that the name comes from misunderstanding the southern drawl – when someone asked what it was, the response was “It’s just (jes) pie”. 🙂

3 large eggs, separated

1 cup buttermilk

3 Tb lemon juice

1 cup granulated (white) sugar

1 tsp grated lemon zest

¼ cup minus 1 Tb all-purpose flour

1 Tb cornmeal

pinch of salt

1 9 inch pie crust

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake the pie crust for 15 minutes. Do NOT prick the pastry.

Using an electric beater, beat egg whites into stiff peaks. Set aside. In another bowl, beat together the remaining ingredients. Fold the egg whites thoroughly into the lemon mixture, and pour into the pie crust. Bake for approximately 35-45 minutes. The top of the pie should be starting to turn golden brown. Let cool thoroughly. Supposedly, this pie can be stored covered on a countertop for 3-4 days without a problem. However, I prefer to refrigerate it.

I have tried this recipe using both traditional pastry pie crust and shortbread cookie crust. Both work well. However, we personally prefer the pastry for this. If you decide to use the cookie crust, pre-bake it for 15 minutes before filling.

This pie can be served warm, but the custard will obviously be a bit softer if you do. Also, it is just as yummy if you substitute lime instead of lemon. And, if you or your family have problems with corn, the cornmeal may be omitted. But then it’s not truly a Chess Pie, just custard pie. 😉

Vegan Apple Coffee Cake

Wonderfully moist, and much lighter than traditional coffee cake!

This cake is vegan, but nobody would honestly know unless you told them. I’ve had non-vegetarian friends sneak back to get second and even third pieces! For a “regular” version, I have the differences noted in parentheses where applicable. It looks like a lot to do, but this recipe comes together pretty quickly once the apples are peeled.

Cake:

3 cups cake flour

2 large apples, peeled and coarsely grated

1 cup granulated (white) sugar

2/3 cup almond milk (2/3 cup milk)

1 cup canola or other vegetable oil

1/2 cup applesauce (2 eggs)

5 tsp baking powder (only 4 tsp baking powder)

1 Tb vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Non-stick cooking spray

You can finely chop the apples instead of grating if you want, but I actually grate mine using my food processor, and it is super quick! Also, all-purpose flour may be substituted for cake flour in a pinch, but will make the cake a bit more dense.

Streusel Topping:

1/2 cup flour – all purpose works fine for this

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup chopped almonds – I buy them already chopped.

1 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup canola oil or coconut oil (1/3 cup softened butter)

Caramel:

Caramel is optional. To make a vegan caramel sauce you would need to cook down:

1 cup full fat coconut milk

1/4 cup water

1 cup sugar

a pinch of salt

vanilla to taste (about 1 tsp)

Or, you could just use store-bought caramel sauce for “regular” cake.

 Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix together all the dry ingredients for the cake in a large bowl, then add in the wet ingredients and the apples. Beat with an electric mixer for about 2-3 minutes. The batter might start out looking a little dry, but don’t add any extra liquid! Just keep mixing. The batter will be quite thick. Spread this into a 9×13″ pan that has been greased or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

 In a separate bowl, mix together the streusel ingredients. You will need to get in there with your hands to mix it. It should look like crumbles, like pea-sized or slightly smaller – not humongous lumps. Sprinkle this mixture over the top of the cake batter. Be generous, and cover the whole thing.

Bake for approximately 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Drizzle caramel over the top of the cake while it’s cooling.

Flour-less Chocolate Torte

Rich, creamy, and tremendously satisfying. A little slice goes a long way!

6 large eggs

18 oz chocolate chips (either dark or semi-sweet)

¾ cup granulated (white) sugar

1 cup unsalted butter

½ cup water

pinch of salt

pinch of cinnamon

Non-stick cooking spray

Cocoa powder or confectioners sugar for dusting

Set a pan of water on your lower oven rack, and preheat the oven to 300°F. The water stays in the oven during the entire baking process.

The following steps can be done using the microwave:

* Completely melt the chocolate. Stir until smooth and set aside.

* Melt the butter and set aside.

* Combine water, sugar and salt. Heat until boiling. Stir to make sure sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Next, it is important to make sure each item below is fully incorporated before moving on to the next step:

* Using an electric beater, beat the butter and cinnamon into the chocolate.

* Beat in the water/sugar mixture.

* Beat in the eggs – one at a time- until fully incorporated.

Pour batter into a 9 inch cake pan that has been generously coated with non-stick cooking spray. Bake on the upper rack of the oven for approximately 45 minutes. When the cake is done, the sides will be pulling away from the pan slightly, but the center will still look wet.

Let the cake cool, then refrigerate overnight. To get the cake out of the pan after refrigerating, dip the pan in hot water for approximately 20-30 seconds.

Dust the top of the cake with cocoa powder or confectioners’ sugar before serving. This cake is best when served only slightly cool or close to room temperature.

Inching Closer to the Goal

Happy November, Everyone!

I know it’s been awhile since I have posted, and it’s well past the projected deadline for getting my pieces done, but that’s okay. I can honestly say that although there have been delays, they have been mostly positive.

The rain and associated humidity eventually cleared up here in North Carolina, so my greenware is finally dry. YAY! I will be transporting everything to the local studio for firing on Friday or Saturday. I have about 35 pieces ready to go, so I am not going to estimate how long it will take me to finish glazing. One of the many things I have learned over the past few months is that my estimations are almost never correct. Too much optimism in the calculations just yet, and not enough realism. Sigh!

I also started a new day job in the beginning of October, so that put a crimp in my productivity. Creativity temporarily came to a screeching halt! No more late nights throwing for me! But now that I have gotten used to working 9 to 5 again, I will be scheduling pockets of time to get good and muddy! Another YAY! It seems strange to have to schedule something I once considered a hobby; that’s one characteristic separating the professional from the amateur, I guess. And a passionate professional is what I aim to be. Someday, pottery WILL be my day job.

Having a non-artistic day job is a bit unpleasant, no matter how much I like the job and my co-workers (and I do!). Most evenings it feels like my poor, neglected pottery wheel is standing in the corner throwing me dirty looks. I feel guilty when I go to bed at night not having to wash clay off my hands first. But in reality, the second paycheck sure is nice. Finances were way tighter than we liked with me staying at home, and it was sort of depressing. Now the bills are being paid on time, and I can set aside a little bit for firing costs. Bills paid, and quicker pottery completion equals a double bonus in my book!

The past several months have been a huge learning experience for me. I’ve gained perspective; learned which of my goals are realistic as they are, and what others need to be reworked. I’ve come to terms with what I am physically capable of completing, and in what time frame. And I am re-learning to prioritize, so my personal life does not fall apart as my professional one grows. Tunnel vision is an unfortunate weakness of mine, and life cannot proceed smoothly if the pots are beautiful, but the clothes are unwashed and cupboard bare. Not that it’s gone that far, but you catch my drift. Balance… I am striving for balance in equal measure with progress.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, balanced, and blessed Thanksgiving! 😉