White Apple Tart

This Thanksgiving, I’ll be making a few additions to my traditional menu.  We’ll be spending Thanksgiving Day with relatives (instead of just having our family of four) and I’ve been tasked with bringing the apple pies.  Since I get bored making multiples of the same recipe, I’ve decided to make a lovely apple tart as one of my offerings.  I had to try out the recipe before the big day, so here’s the recipe that I’ll be making for our Thanksgiving day meal with the cousins… my White Apple Tart.

I found a great recipe for “Sweet Pastry Dough” as well as one for a “Rustic Apple Tart” from Perfect Little Desserts by Nick Malgieri and David Joachim. This cookbook is absolutely mouthwatering and worth purchasing if you’re looking for a dessert cookbook.  Because I always use wine in my recipes, this is where I began when I made both the pastry dough and the tart itself.

I started with the Pastry Dough.  I put 1 cup of flour, 3T sugar, 1/2 t baking powder, and 1/4 t salt into my food processor and I blended the dry ingredients.  I pulsed in 3T butter until the dough looked like wet sand.  I then added 1 egg and 1T cold Sauvignon Blanc (white wine) and ran the processor until the dough came together into a ball.  The dough was a bit wet, so I rolled it up in plastic wrap and popped it into the fridge for a few hours.  NOTE:  I intentionally made this in the morning so I could make the tart later in the afternoon… you can make this dough a few days ahead of time but the tart itself is best if made the day you want to serve it.  

A few hours later, I was ready to make the tart.  I actually had never made a tart before, so I had to purchase a tart pan for this dish.  Thankfully, we had an amazing kitchen store nearby, so that task was easily handled.  I pulled the pastry dough out of the fridge and gave it time to get to room temperature, then preheated the oven to 350 degrees.  I rolled out the dough and then fit it into the pan, using a scraper to take off bits of the crust along the top of the tart pan.  The dough was soft enough that I really only had to push and move around the dough to fit it all into the pan.  It looked lovely. WhiteAppleTart

The next step was to prepare the apples for the tart.  I used 3 large Honeycrisp apples (feel free to use your own favorite type of apples). I cut them in half, removed the core and skin, then sliced each apple into thin slices, across the width from bottom to top. Since there were 3 apples, you’ll use five halves to go around the outside of the tart and then use one half to fill the space in the center.  I’ll try and do a cleaner job of this on my next attempt, but I thought it turned out nicely. I then sprinkled everything with a blend of 2T sugar and 1/2 t ground cinnamon.  Once everything was nicely coated with the cinnamon/sugar mixture, I put the tart on the bottom rack of the preheated oven and cook for 40-45 minutes.  Note:  I think the apples needed a little more cooking time, so I will probably increase cooking time to 55-60 minutes when I next make this tart.  Once the tart was nicely browned and the fruit was bubbly, I removed the tart to a wire rack to allow it to cool a bit before glazing the tart.

While the tart is baking, I needed to make the glaze.  I simmered 1/2 cup apricot preserves mixed with 2T white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc) until it boiled a bit and then strained the glaze into another pan so it was as liquid as possible.  Note: I used a small saute’ pan for the first step, then strained the mixture into a small sauce pan, since I only have one “small saucepan”.  Before glazing the tart, I warmed up the glaze until it was thickened.  I used a brush to dab the glaze all over the tart and make it all look glossy.

Extra Note:  When making this recipe in 2016, I used fig preserves instead of apricot (because that’s what I already had opened in the fridge) as well as a simple dry white wine and the tart was still just as fabulous and delicious.  

When I had to unmold the tart, the easiest way was to use a thick, flat object – like a large-wide can or a squat-sized canister – to allow the outside rim of the tart pan to drop away.  I then put the tart on a large platter… it made for a beautiful presentation.

I hope you’ll consider trying to make this tart sometime.  If you don’t want to use wine in this recipe, you can follow the original recipe and simply use water.  I thought the addition was fun and added a light edge to both the crust and the glaze. Whichever way you choose to make it, it’s worth the try.  I found it to be simple, yet spectacular.  Totally worth the price of an actual tart pan!

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White Cream Puffs

This recipe is one that has been used in my family for as long as I can remember.  As a child, my mom would make these cream puffs for her bridge club nights.  She’d make the cream puffs, cut off the tops and fill them with vanilla ice cream, then frost them with some chocolate before serving them to her honored guests.  Occasionally, we’d be given one of these treats before the ladies arrived and they always looked so incredibly elegant.  What a gift to find out, years later, that this was a simple recipe that I could share with my own guests… and now I get to share that gift with you!WhiteCreamPuffs

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups boiling water (I like to use 2/3 cup water and 1/3 cup white wine)
  • 1/2 cup butter (don’t skimp… butter is the only way to go here)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs

Directions:

  1. In a heavy saucepan, combine the water/wine with the butter and bring to a boil.  Once melted and fully boiling, add the flour/salt at once and stir, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough is smooth.
  2. Remove from heat and add eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition.  Drop by teaspoons onto 2 greased cookie sheets (or baking sheets lined with parchment), shaping dough to peak in center and round out on the bottom.  Place dough 2″ apart.
  3. Bake in preheated 375* oven for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350*  and bake for an additional 25 minutes.  Cool and fill.  Freeze or use immediately.

These cream puffs make a lovely dessert – slice off the top of the puff, fill with softened ice cream and replace the top, then frost with a bit of chocolate.  My Red Fudge Sauce is fabulous with this dessert (as seen in the photo), but you can use whatever sauce you like best.

Another alternative would be to fill the puffs with a small amount of my Nutty Chicken Salad and serve for a fancy luncheon. You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to using these cream puffs!  Enjoy!

Fudgy Brownie Muffins

If you ever have the need for a delicious and simple muffin recipe, this is one to keep on hand.  I have been making (and playing with) this recipe for years and it is one of my absolute favorites.  This version seems a little more sophisticated, but it’s truly one that I make to give to anyone, especially when I have people doing work on my house.

We’re getting a new HVAC system installed in our home today.  We’re not exactly thrilled with the timing, but the original system was installed in 1998, so we knew we were due. Since I knew the workers would be here for much of the day, I thought I would make some muffins to show my appreciation for all the work they’re doing.  I made this recipe in mini-muffin tins so they would be “pop-able”… nothing worse than having to worry about muffin wrappers or holding food between bites if you’re working hard.  I just love the ease of this treat!

fudgybrowniemuffinsNote:  If you saw my post about “chocolate jury gems”, this is a version of the same recipe.

Ingredients:

  • One box chocolate brownie mix (I like to use dark chocolate mix)
  • One can solid pack pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dark chili powder
  • 1/4 cup (2 Tablespoons) red wine.  I used a pinot noir, but any dry red wine works well

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Empty brownie mix into a large bowl and add remaining ingredients.
  • Blend everything together thoroughly until it resembles the photo in the lower left corner of the collage above.
  • Using a small cookie scoop, divide batter into mini muffin tins that have been sprayed with cooking spray.  Note:  this recipe will make about 40 mini-muffins, so you’ll go through two sets of mini muffin pans twice
  • Bake in pre-heated oven for 18 minutes, remove promptly and allow to cool while you scoop the remaining batter into the muffin tins for the second round of cooking.
  • These muffins are delicious warm, room temp, or cool.  They are fabulous for kids (the pumpkin packs a great punch of fiber) and have been a favorite in my family for years.

White Cranberry Bread

I’m really not sure when I got this basic recipe from my sister, but it was the perfect one to use when making a quick bread to give to the guys who are out plowing our neighborhood in today’s snow storm.  I, of course, added a little white wine, but you can certainly omit that if you prefer.  Here’s how to make this delicious quick bread:WhiteCranberryBread (1)

Ingredients:

  • 2 c flour
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2/3 c orange juice
  • 2 T white wine
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3 T melted butter
  • 1/2 c coconut
  • 1 cup craisins (or chopped fresh cranberries)
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • 2 t orange rind, freshly ground is preferred
    • NOTE: original recipe called for 1/3 c pecans and NO chips or seeds)
  • 1/2 confectioners sugar
  • 1 t margarine
  • 1 t almond milk (more, if needed)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350*.  Grease a loaf pan and lightly coat with sugar (I used cinnamon sugar)
  2. In large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In a microwave-safe bowl, melt butter and then mix in orange juice and wine.  In separate bowl mix coconut, craisins, chips, and seeds – toss together with a spoon of flour to prevent clumping.
  3. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and pour in the liquids  Mix well.  Add coconut/craisin mixture and blend everything together until just combined.
  4. Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Blend confectioners sugar, margarine, and milk to make a thin glaze.  Use your best judgement and feel free to use orange juice or wine instead of milk for a different taste, if desired.
  6. Pour glaze over the entire bread while still warm.  Remove from pan when slightly cooled and slice as desired to serve.  Great when warm but equally good cold.

This recipe is quick to put together and looks amazing when cut.  You can leave it as a whole loaf if giving as a gift (we used to do this for teachers) but it’s moist and full of flavor.  Best part, in my opinion, is that it makes the kitchen smell heavenly!

Enjoy this recipe and please, stay safe in this blizzard we’re experiencing on the East Coast!

Starter Recipe: Red, White, and Blue Trifle (with variations)

Desserts can be one of the most fun things to bring to a gathering.  Not only is it the last thing people may have that evening, it’s also an easy way to up the “wow” factor in your contribution to the event.  I adore trying new things that are complicated and take lots of steps, but there are times when all I want is to be able to whip up something simple and quick before hurrying off to a friend’s house.  This is the BEST dessert for such an occasion, IMHO.  I love that you can personalize it any way you choose, you can increase or decrease the calorie count, and you can substitute almost any flavor and still have a really fantastic dessert.  RedWhiteandBlueTrifle

Here are the basic ingredients:

  • cake (I used a store-bought angel food cake, but any type of cake or brownie will work well here)
  • filling (I used 2 store-bought pie fillings, but you could opt for mousse or pudding if you so prefer)
  • wine (you can omit this addition if you like…. again, do what you want!)
  • whipped topping (anything light and airy is wonderful… real whipped cream or whipped topping… your choice)

NOTE: In this specific dessert, I added a few tablespoons of a light, dry Pinot Grigio to each can of pie filling before I began assembling my dessert. For the first layer, I tore half the angel food cake into small pieces and spread them on the bottom of a trifle dish.  I then added one can of strawberry pie filling (to which I had already added the Pinot Grigio) and then spooned an entire small container of light whipped topping and spread it out to the edges. *Make sure to spread each layer to the edge of the dish so they’re easily seen from the side.  For the second layer, I tore the remainder of the angel food cake into small pieces and spread them across the entire dish.  I added one can of blueberry pie filling (which had already been doused with wine) and spooned the second container of whipped topping to cover the dessert.  My final addition was a sprinkling of gold sugar crystals, just for decoration.

My cousin makes this recipe using cherry pie filling and then names it “Cherries in the snow”… it’s my son’s “go-to” dessert when he’s asked to bring something to an event.  I’ve also added vanilla pudding between the pie filling and the whipped topping (or you can add it between the cake and the pie filling).

If you really like chocolate, I would HIGHLY suggest making a brownie trifle:

  • Use red wine in place of the water in a store-bought brownie mix and use that to replace the angel food cake
  • Use chocolate pudding or chocolate mousse in place of the pie fillings
  • Add a bag of toffee bits to each layer, just above the pudding/mousse layer
  • Stick with the basic whipped topping so there’s a lovely white layer in among all the chocolate

Trifle desserts are such fun to make and create.  Use your favorite ingredients and come up with your own favorite flavor combination… you’re only limited by your own imagination!

Aunt Louise’s Blueberry Cream Pie (with wine)

I have to say that this is a recipe that was handed down to me by my mother, from her mother’s sister, so the original recipe did not contain wine.  That being said, it wasn’t hard to add a splash of wine so I could include this delicious pie on my blog. It’s simple, yet elegant… and one that most everyone in our family loves to have as the sweet ending to a meal.  It’s definitely not a “low cal” sort of dessert, but it could be made a bit lighter if you’re inclined to tweak things here and there.  For me, it’ll all about recreating a beloved dessert, so I don’t adjust it too much.BlueberryCreamPie (1)

Ingredients:

  • one small package of cream cheese (I’ve been instructed not to use light or non-fat for this dessert)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 pint heavy whipping cream (again, don’t skimp for calorie sake or the flavor will fall flat)
  • Pie shell – use your favorite, but we found that we like a pastry shell more than a graham cracker crust
  • 1/2 can blueberry pie filling
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of white wine (or use lemon juice if you prefer)

Directions:

  • Cream room temperature cream cheese  and add sugar and vanilla, then beat well
  • In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream just until stiff peaks form
  • Fold the cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream with great care
  • Pour into pie shell.
  • Blend wine into the pie filling and top the pie with the blueberry mixture
  • Refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

This pie has been on our Easter table for years… it’s also a fabulous addition to any picnic or family gathering.  You can substitute fresh fruit for the pie filling if you prefer…. it’s all about making something that your own family will love. Traditional or not, making food for those you love is the whole idea.  Enjoy!

Starter Recipe: Chocolate Fudge “Jury Gems”

As a Starter Recipe, I try to make things easy and simple so that anyone just learning to cook can make the recipe.  This snack food fits the bill, in my opinion.  I was put on a jury recently and wanted to make something to share with my fellow jurors on our final day… this was the food I brought to keep us focused as we concluded our duty.

Ingredients:ChocolateFudgeJuryGems (1)

  • 1 box chocolate fudge brownie mix (or your favorite box mix)
  • 1 can solid pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • Mini chocolate chips (I used about 1/4 cup)
  • Red wine (I used a Pinot Noir, but you could use any dry red wine or even substitute espresso if you prefer)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and spray your cupcake tins with cooking spray.  I used two small cupcake pans (12 small cupcakes in each) and one mini cupcake pan (also with 12 mini cupcakes).
  2. Empty the brownie mix, pumpkin, and chocolate chips into a large mixing bowl.  Pour in a small bit of wine/liquid (start with 1/4 cup) and mix all ingredients together until well incorporated.  If the batter seems too thick, add a bit more wine/liquid.  I like this batter to be fairly thick, but not so thick that the batter could stand alone, like a cookie dough.
  3. Using a cookie scoop, ladle out the dough into the cupcake tins.  I used a medium scoop for the small cupcake tins and a small scoop for the mini cupcake tin.
  4. Sprinkle with decorations, if desired (I used gold sugar) and put the tins into the oven.  I baked the mini cupcakes for 15 minutes and the small cupcakes for 3 minutes longer (18 minutes total).  Use a toothpick to test when making sure the fudge-cupcakes are cooked thoroughly.

These fudge-y cupcakes will get very sticky if served the following day, so be sure to allow them to dry a bit so they don’t actually stick to the fingers of your guests.  I got lots of positive comments on these snacks from my fellow jurors and that solidified the name for me… Jury Gems.  We had three days together and I hope that everyone feels they did their best according to the law, as required.

If you have a chance to make this recipe for your friends, feel free to alter the name a bit… these are delicious, healthy, and surprisingly filling.  Enjoy!