Blueberry Basil Brioche Swirl Bread

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As you can see, I’ve been on a big baking and pastry kick lately. My experience with savory cooking has started to take a back seat to my baking passion these last few months. It is where I got my start, after all. I was a 6-year-old who preferred to bake brownies and cookies than play with toys or run around with the other kids. I was drawn to the beauty, science, and sugar of baking and pastries long before I fell in love with the hot line. And even though I do enjoy my life as a savory chef, part of me wonders where I (and/or my career) would be if I had gone the sweet route instead diving into the world of salt, fire, and skillets. Thankfully no one is forever stuck in the path they initially chose. Thus, I’ve begun to pay more attention to the sweeter side of life lately. Will this new (old) love of sweets and breads become something greater than just some late-night stints in my kitchen after work? Who knows… But until then, there’s brioche swirl bread.

I absolutely LOVE babka. Enriched sweet dough and delectable chocolate wrapped up in a wonderfully entrancing package — what’s not to love? While the original recipe is about as good as it gets, the creative juices have been flowing lately, which has led me to create this tasty new version. And since I’m feeling bogged down by our dreary, early spring weather, I wanted to create a summery twist (see what I did there?) on this swirly classic.

IMG_5560Blueberry Basil Brioche Bread

Ingredients:

Basil Brioche
  • 345 g bread flour
  • 9 g salt
  • 50 g sugar
  • 10 small basil leaves
  • 4 g yeast
  • 78 g whole milk, at room temperature
  • 135 g eggs (about 3), at room temperature
  • 2 g vanilla extract
  • 170 g unsalted butter, soft and cut in small chunks
  • zest from 1 lemon
Blueberry Filling
  • 100 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 7 g blueberry powder*
  • 30 g sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

Egg Wash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. water

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Notes:

*Blueberry powder is available online or in specialty baking/cooking stores. If you don’t have access or the time to hunt this ingredient down, just head to your local grocery store and purchase dehydrated blueberries. Pulse those dried babies in your food processor and voila, blueberry powder! A little goes a long way, so don’t let the cost of the berries deter you. I still have a good amount in my pantry even after I used the 7 grams needed for this recipe.

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A quick note that, yes, this recipe works with weight instead of cups and teaspoons. If you’re as big of a fan of baking as I am, you’ll do well to purchase a kitchen scale. It’s the one and only way to properly (and accurately) bake. For example, one cup of flour that I measure will not yield exactly the same quantity of one cup of flour that you measure. Baking is a science. Even the slightest variance in measurement means the difference between a beautiful loaf of bread and something only the dog would eat. The only way to ensure the perfect bake is to use a scale. So I do apologize to those who don’t have a scale yet, but trust me,  if you run out and buy one now, your breads (and your family) will thank you.

To make the basil brioche dough, start by making the basil sugar. In a food processor, blend the sugar and basil leaves until the basil is finely chopped. Combine the flour, salt, basil sugar, and yeast in a medium bowl.

In a stand mixer, stir to combine the milk, vanilla extract, and eggs. Pour the dry ingredients on top and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Turn the mixer to medium and mix until the gluten develops and the dough comes together (about 5 minutes).

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Continuing on medium speed, add one-third of the butter. Once that butter has been incorporated, add another third of the butter. Wait until it has been completely mixed in, then add the remaining butter. Take the dough out of the bowl and place on a floured surface. Cover with plastic wrap and rest for 1 hour. Don’t worry if the dough seems loose – it’s rich, buttery brioche bread. A light and slightly wet dough means you’ll end up with fluffy bread.

After an hour of resting, transfer the dough to a sheet pan lined with greased parchment paper (to prevent sticking). Wrap the sheet pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 12 hours. The longer you can refrigerate the dough the better the end product will taste. But if you’re like me and cant wait that long, one hour is totally acceptable.

For the blueberry filling, whisk all the ingredients in a bowl until combined.

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Roll out the brioche dough to a rectangle 14 inches by 18 inches, keeping the edges as straight as possible. Spread the blueberry filling on the dough, making sure to cover it completely. Tightly roll up the brioche from the long side of the rectangle. Cut the dough lengthwise almost to the top, leaving 2 inches of uncut dough at the top. Twist the two lengths of dough so the cut side is facing up. Gently press the end together. Carefully transfer the braided loaf into a greased 9×5.5 inch loaf pan with the ends tucked under.

Cover with plastic wrap and let it proof for 1½ to 2 hours until doubled in size. Do not put it in too warm of a spot or the butter will melt out.

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.

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Brush the loaf with egg wash. Bake the loaf for 16 minutes, then lower the temperature to 300ºF and bake for 30 to 35 minutes more, until the loaf is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan until it is cool enough to handle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!

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Basil And Olive Oil Macerated Raspberry Ice Cream

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You guys, life has been buuusssyyyy. Between planning for my family’s upcoming cross-country move, all of the traveling we’ve done recently, work, and a growing (now VERY mobile) 10½ month old daughter, finding kitchen time has been a little bit of a challenge. So as soon as I learned that this past weekend was a free one, you better believe I made time to play in the kitchen! I don’t think I sat down once – it was perfect. And since the markets have now started to shift from winter to spring and summer produce, I took advantage of the fresh warm weather flavors I’ve been craving all winter. And what better way to welcome those warm seasonal vibes than with ice cream?

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I feel like I must preface this recipe with an apology to hardcore ice cream traditionalists. This isn’t your normal vanilla, chocolate, strawberry kinda ice cream. But what can I say? I haven’t played in the kitchen in a while and my creative juices are exploding every where. But with that said, I still think I can convert (or at least tempt) those plain ice cream lovers with this little beauty. Heck, this recipe may surprise even the most experienced ice cream enthusiasts. Basil in ice cream? Trust me. Olive oil macerated raspberries? Yup, you read that correctly. A little bizarre, I know, but definitely the right blend of slightly savory, a little tart, but definitely sweet way to wake up your palate to warm weather flavors.

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Basil and Olive Oil Macerated Raspberry Ice Cream

Yields 3 cups

Ingredients:

Olive Oil Macerated Raspberry Sauce

  • 6 oz fresh raspberries
  • 3 tbsp. fruity olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. sugar

Basil Ice Cream

  • 10 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup heavy cream

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For the macerated raspberry sauce:

Macerate is basically a fancy way of saying soften through marination. When you macerate berries, berries are tossed with a mixture of sugar, acid, and oils and left to sit so that the mixture can soften and break down the cells of the berries, extracting the juices inside and softening the skin. So even though it sounds like a fancy therefore difficult component, it’s actually quite easy. Toss all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl, mix thoroughly, then let sit for 1 hour. After an hour, place all but 2 tbsp of the raspberry mixture in a small sauté pan and cook until the liquid thickens slightly (2-3 minutes). Turn off the heat, add the remaining mixture, and cool until later.

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For the basil ice cream:

Bring milk, basil, ¼ cup sugar, and salt to a low boil in a heavy saucepan, then remove from heat and let basil steep for 30 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and blend until basil is finely ground. In a medium bowl, beat together yolks and remaining ¼ cup sugar with an electric mixer until thick and pale, about 1 minute. Add the milk mixture in a slow stream to the egg-sugar mix, whisking until combined. Pour mixture back into a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture coats back of spoon (175°F).

IMG_5545Do not let boil! Immediately remove from heat and pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl. Let custard cool completely. Stir in cream and pour into ice cream maker (following the ice cream maker manufacturer’s instructions). When the ice cream is set, spoon into an airtight container, alternating with raspberry sauce layers. Place ice cream in the freezer to harden (at least 2 hours). Enjoy!!

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Fudgy Beet Brownies

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As with zucchini bread and carrot cake, these beet brownies are a sweet dessert that are also chock full of a vitamin- and mineral-rich vegetable. They’re super moist, fudgey, and chocolatey brownies, and even the most vegetable-averse among us won’t be able to resist!

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Fudgy Beet Brownies

Yields 12
Ingredients:
  • 9 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ stick unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 8 oz beets, cooked, peeled, and drained*
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-processed**
  • 1/8 tsp salt, optional
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Ingredient notes:
*If you plan to use canned beets for this recipe, you may want to leave out the additional salt. Canned beets contain enough salt needed for this recipe. But if you’re using fresh beet puree, add in the 1/8 tsp as written above.
**Conflicted about using natural vs. Dutch-processed cocoa powder? For this particular recipe, either powder will produce a tasty brownie. The Readers Digest version of cocoa powders goes like this: The difference between both powders begins with the acidity naturally found in chocolate. “Natural” processed cocoa powder retains those acids naturally found in the cocoa bean, leaving you with a more floral, slightly tart chocolate flavor. “Dutch-processed” cocoa beans have been washed in a potassium solution to neutralize their acidity. The result is a more mellow, creamy, deeper chocolate flavor. Both cocoa powders are delicious and in recipes where a leavening agent (baking soda and powder) is not necessary (like this one), the decision to use one vs. the other really just comes down to the baker’s preference. It’s not until when leavening agents are used when these two powders become less interchangeable. But that is for another day and another recipe.
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Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 8×8 baking dish. Purée beets until smooth and set aside. In small bowl, sift together the flours, cocoa, and salt (if using) and set aside. In a saucepan over low heat, melt 6 oz of the chocolate along with the butter and sugar. Remove from heat, pour into large mixing bowl, and cool slightly. Stir beets into the melted chocolate mixture. Mix in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Gently mix the dry ingredients into the wet batter and combine thoroughly. Mix in the remaining 3 oz chocolate pieces. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for 28-30 minutes, until the center is set. Cool completely before cutting. Enjoy!
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Pho

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Has anyone else had a crazy-busy January?? (Raises hand.) Where did the month go? Pink hearts and Valentine’s Day decorations adorn every store already and I’m over here like: “Wasn’t Christmas yesterday??” But despite the exciting schedule my family had this last month, I was able to spend some amazing quality time in the kitchen. Whether it was finding creative recipes for those post-holiday blues, concocting delicious cocktails (ugh politics…at least there are fun drinks with umbrellas to help), or tackling all-time favorite foods that require patience and finesse, my January has been a fun and culinarily-challenging month. And today’s recipe certainly plays to that theme.

From the moment I first tried pho in college, it became one of my favorite foods. There really isn’t anything more comforting than a large, steaming bowl of this Vietnamese aromatic noodle soup. And since California has seen more rainy days lately than I can remember, I knew I had to learn about and conquer this dish so that I could enjoy it without leaving my warm, dry home. And here’s something cool I learned during my pho education: its actually not that difficult to make! Patience, quality ingredients, and a good 24 hours is all that’s really needed to make this popular dish at home. Follow the tips and techniques below and you too will be a pho aficionado!

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Pho

Yields 4 portions
Ingredients:
Broth
  • 3 lbs beef bones, preferably knuckles or marrow*
  • 2 anise seed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1½ tsp whole fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 4-inch piece of ginger, cut in half from top to bottom
  • 1 white onion, cut in half
  • 2½ tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 3-4 quarts water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Serving

  • 2 lbs protein of choice, very thinly sliced (chicken, tri-tip, sirloin, etc. or just veggies)
  • 1 package banh pho noodles (rice noodles)
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly julienned and soaked in cold water for 30 min

Garnishes

  • fresh herbs: Thai basil, cilantro, mint
  • bean sprouts
  • jalapeno slices
  • lime wedges

Notes:

*Beef knuckle and marrow bones are full of collagen which produces a thicker broth and is arguably where the great nutrients and heath properties lie. Plan your shopping trip to the butcher days before your pho day too. Some butchers don’t keep bones around for too long, so if no one scoops them up, they end up getting tossed. The next bones up for sale may not be available for a couple of days.

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The key to great pho is taking special care of each ingredient on its own. So to start, place the onion and ginger halves, face up, on the top rack of a broil pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops are very charred. You can also use a grill to achieve the same results (preferred method, if possible). Set the ginger and onion aside. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the spices until fragrant. Set toasted spices aside.

Place bones in a 5qt stockpot and cover with cold water. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Boil vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes to allow impurities to be released. Drain bones and rinse with warm water, scrubbing any impurities stuck to the bones. Quickly scrub the pot to remove any residue and return bones to the pot. This step is key to clear, beautiful broth. Skip this step and you may have to do a lot more skimming during the cooking process and the end result will be cloudy.

Add your charred onion and ginger, the toasted spices, fish sauce, and sugar to the pot. Over low heat, cook the broth uncovered for at least 10 hours until as long as you’d like! The longer the broth cooks, the more collagen (and flavor!) is extracted from the bones, making your pho more luscious, delicious, and addictive. Keep an eye on the level of the liquid throughout the cooking process and add more water as needed. Also skim any fat pooling at the surface as you go. Don’t stress too much about this step, however. Once you get the broth cooking, just let it do its thing. Your part is done, for now; it’s the ingredients’ time to shine.

Ok, so your broth has been on the stove for many hours, the house smells INCREDIBLE, and you literally can’t handle the anticipation anymore. Now it’s time to finish the dish. Start by straining the bones, onion, ginger, and spices from the broth into a second large stock (or drain into a big enough container, then clean the stock pot and return clear broth to same pot).

To ensure the clearest broth possible you can strain the broth through cheesecloth. Once strained, return broth to a low boil. Cook your pho noodles according to the packaging (cool under cold water until ready to serve). You can quickly (20-30 seconds) blanch the bean sprouts in the noodle water as well.

For the protein portion: all beef and chicken is typically sliced super thin and placed raw in super hot broth. The combination of the two will produce perfectly cooked piece of meat without threat of being over or under done. To ensure this you can do several things:

  1. Ensure the serving bowl is warm before placing the soup inside. A cold bowl will drop the temperature of the broth too fast before the protein has time to cook.
  2. Make sure you’re serving the pho in deep bowls, not shallow salad bowls. A deep bowl will better retain heat.
  3. Bring your broth to a rolling bowl 2-3 minutes before serving to make sure it’s extra hot.
  4. Don’t add the cooled noodles until the meat is cooked. Adding the cold noodles will drop the broth temp before the protein cooks.
  5. If you’re worried about whether the meat will cook in the broth before you devour the whole bowl, you can always blanch the protein in a pot of boiling water for 1-3 minutes.

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Here it is! You’ve waited all night and day, you can see the finish line just around the corner, your mouth has been permanently salivating since you came home from the grocery store…but wait just a few moments more. Don’t forget to prep those garnishes. Customization is one of the best parts of pho. Arrange the prepped garnishes on a plate for the middle of the table so each diner can choose their favorite combinations. I love spicy pho so I add a few more jalapeños. My wife loves the herbs so she drowns 3-4 more leaves in her pho than I do. Its the easiest part of making and the most fun.

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Rosemary and Balsamic Glazed Salmon

img_4888Welp… presents have been unwrapped, stockings are empty, and Santa is probably on his way to Hawaii for some much needed r & r. I don’t know about you but I had a great holiday season – lots of fun time with family, friends, and food. I even competed in a little stollen (traditional German Christmas bread) throw down!

Annnnndd then January 2nd hit and it was back to reality.  I know I wasn’t the only person dragging their feet back to work yesterday. But I will say that I am very excited to get back to playing in the kitchen! Since my diet for the last month has basically consisted of cookies, candy, and holiday treats I thought I’d start my New Year’s week off with one of my favorite salmon recipes. Rosemary and Balsamic Glazed Salmon is super easy, super healthy, and full of flavor. Pair it with some roasted winter squash and lemony-wilted greens and you have the perfect dinner to start your year off right!

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Rosemary and Balsamic Glazed Salmon

Yields 4 portions
 
Ingredients:
  • 4-5 oz  portions of skinless wild salmon*
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, leaves picked off and finely minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 cups of balsamic vinegar
  • pinch of red chili flakes, optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
 
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Preheat oven to 375°F. Place salmon fillets on a greased sheet pan and lightly season with salt and pepper. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add in the garlic and rosemary and sauté for 15 seconds. Stir in the dijon mustard, honey, and optional red chili flakes. Add in the balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil.  Once the vinegar reaches a boil, turn the heat down to medium and simmer the vinegar. Don’t forget to turn on your kitchen fan! The vinegar will give off strong fumes as it cooks. Continue to simmer the balsamic vinegar mixture (stirring constantly to avoid burning) until it reduces in quantity to about ¾ – 1 cup (about 7-10 minutes). The glaze should be slightly thick and syrupy (the mixture with thicken as it cools). Let the glaze cool for 5 minutes. Once cooled, coat the top of each salmon fillet with glaze. Place the glazed salmon fillets in the oven and roast for 7-9 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 139°F. 
 
*Note: Since it isn’t currently salmon season, don’t be afraid to use frozen salmon for this recipe! 
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Peanut Butter Middles

img_4841Since we are smack-dab in the middle of cookie season I had to bring out the big guns: chocolate and peanut butter. This recipe for Peanut Butter Middles has to be one of my all-time favorite holiday cookie recipes. I suppose they can be eaten all year long (and trust me, you will want to make them all year long) but I typically reserve this cookie recipe for my favorite time of year. This cookie platter standout may take a little more elbow grease than others but they are soooo worth the time and effort that go into making them. Just make sure you hide a few for yourself or you may wake up to an empty cookie box in the morning!

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Peanut Butter Middles

Yields 25 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • ½ tsp. basking soda
  • ½ sugar
  • ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • Colored frosting for decorating (optional)
Filling:
  • ¾ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ½ cup sifted powdered sugar
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Preheat oven to 375ºF. In a small bowl, combine the filling ingredients. Roll filling mixture into 25 – 1 inch balls and place on a plate or cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Place the peanut butter balls in the freezer while you prepare the chocolate dough. (This step will make it easier to share the chocolate dough around the peanut butter centers.)
img_4840In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda. In a large mixing bowl, beat brown sugar, sugar, peanut butter, and butter until light and creamy. Add in the vanilla and egg and beat well. Remove the slightly frozen peanut butter balls from the freezer. Using lightly floured hands, shape about 1 tbsp. of chocolate dough around each ball of peanut butter, covering the peanut butter completely. Place cookie balls 2 inches apart on parchment paper or silpat-lined cookie sheet. Flatten each cookie with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar, flattening to about ¼-inch thickness. Bake for 7-9 minutes. Cool completely on a cooling rack before decorating.
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Gingerbread

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’Tis the season for cookies, cookies, and more cookies. And is there a cookie that epitomizes the holiday season more than gingerbread?? Even if it’s not your favorite cookie, you have to admit that it’s difficult to refuse those spicy-sweet treats this time of year. Whether you make gingerbread people or go all out with a gingerbread house, treating your family to a batch of these gingerbread cookies should be a must every December. This recipe has been my family’s go-to since I was a tiny baker. Some of my earliest Christmas memories were spent around the dining table with my sisters and dad as we constructed the tastiest gingerbread house on the block. If you haven’t dedicated an entire December day to Christmas music and gingerbread baking while being elbow-deep in candy decorations, then you’re really missing out. But even if gingerbread house construction is just out of reach this year, you can opt for cookie-cutter gingerbread cookies instead. And dont forget that sturdy royal icing (recipe below)!  

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Gingerbread 

Ingredients

  • 6 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  •  1 tsp. salt
  • 4 tsp. ground ginger
  •  4 tsp. cinnamon
  •  1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  •  1 tsp. ground cloves
  •  1 cup unsalted butter, softened 
  •  1 cup sugar
  •  1 ¼ cup unsulphured molasses
  •  2 eggs
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Preheat oven to 375ºF. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a large mixing bowl on medium speed, beat butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Mix in the molasses and eggs. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Turn mixture onto a lightly floured surface and roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Using either a cookie cutter or a gingerbread house template*, cut out cookies and place on a parchment paper or silat lined cookie sheet. Bake small cookies for 6-10 minutes; bake large cookies for 10-15 minutes. After baking, loosen gingerbread with a spatula to prevent sticking and allow to cool on the tray. After 10 minutes, transfer cookies to cooling rack and cool completely. 
Note: If you’re not going to use your gingerbread dough right away, place dough in an airtight container and refrigerate. Refrigerated dough will keep for a week. Be sure to remove the dough from the fridge 3 hours prior to rolling so it softens. 

Royal Icing

Yields 7 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 cups powdered sugar  plus more if needed 
  • 2 egg whites (about ¼ cup)
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract 
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, salt, and cream of tartar. Set aside. In large bowl of stand mixer combine the egg whites and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form. Add powdered sugar mixture gradually and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated and mixture is shiny. Cover the bowl with a damp towel as you decorate your cookies so that the icing doesn’t dry out.
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*Print your gingerbread house template (there are hundreds available online) before baking your gingerbread house. Cut the gingerbread according to the template, bake, then re-cut using the template again to ensure straight and accurate measurements. This will create the secure framework for the house, safeguarding it against any disappointing collapses. 
 
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Mixed Berry Fruit Leather

img_3536Phew! Anyone else exhausted (and still full) from Thanksgiving? *Raises hand* What a fun-filled, food-coma holiday, though! But if you’re like me, you’ve probably been chowing down on those healthy, crunchy greens and fruit since Sunday. That doesn’t mean we have to give up on our daily sweet treat, however. In an attempt to clear up some kitchen space (before holiday cookie season kicks into high gear) and satisfy her sweet tooth, my wife came up with this delicious recipe for to use up the extra fruit we had lying around. This updated, healthy version for fruit leather takes that childhood classic and combines frozen berries, a little honey, and fresh mint. Super easy, super healthy, and super portable!

Mixed Berry Fruit Leather

Yields 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups frozen berry mix (we used blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 5-6 sprigs mint (about 1/3 cup)
  • juice and zest from 1 lime

Defrost the berries in the refrigerator overnight. Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth. Spread mixture evenly on a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place cookie sheet in a 170°F preheated oven for 7 hours, rotating tray after about 4 hours. The leather is ready to take out of the oven when the texture is firm to the touch, and not sticky. Cool completely. Cut leather in half, roll up, and cut strips. Tie the rolls with kitchen twine. Leather can be stored in an airtight container for about 1 week.

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Whiskey and Browned Butter Pecan Pie

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I may have said it before, but one of the reasons I grew up wanting to be a chef was because of the memory-triggering power of food. One bite of a favorite food and you’re instantly transported to your childhood, your first date with your husband or wife, the first Thanksgiving you ever cooked yourself, and thousands of other memories that warm you up and spread joy with a single bite. If I had to name my favorite memory-triggering food, I would say it must be my dad’s pecan pie. Pecan pie is actually not my favorite dessert nor my favorite pie! But a Thanksgiving without the smell and sight of my dad’s famous pecan pie quietly waiting on the dessert table just wouldn’t feel right. My version of my dad’s masterpiece dessert includes browned butter and whiskey, two ingredients that add a little extra oomph to an already perfect recipe.

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One reason this recipe is sooooo yummy: buttah

Whiskey and Browned Butter Pecan Pie

Yields 1 pie

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • ¼ cup ice water

Filling:

  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup corn syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 2 cups pecan halves, toasted
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. whiskey
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
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Keep an eye on your butter as it browns – don’t let it burn!

With a food processor, combine flour, salt, butter, and sugar and pulse machine until the mixture looks like small pebbles.  Add the ice water slowly until the dough comes together into a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or place in the freezer for 15 minutes. On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a 13-inch circle. Fold dough into quarters and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Unfold dough and trim overhang to about ½ inch. Fold overhang under the edge of pie pan and crimp. Place crust in the freezer for 20 minutes. To par-bake the crust, preheat oven 400°F. Line frozen crust with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes, take the pan out of the oven and remove the pie weights and paper/foil, then let cool before filling. (Note: I prefer to par-bake my pecan pie crusts because the filling is syrupy and thin. Par-baking before you fill the crust will result in a crisp bottom-  a delicious contrast to the soft filling.)

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Lower oven temperature to 350°F. To prepare the filling, start by melting the butter over medium heat. Keep a close eye on the butter as it melts and boils – the goal is to brown the milk fat in the butter (this will take 2-3 minutes). Once the butter starts for brown and smells nutty, immediately stir in the sugar, salt, and corn syrup to stop the butter from burning. Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour the mixture into a separate bowl and cool for 10-15 minutes. Stir in the whiskey, vanilla, and cider vinegar. Beat in each egg, one at a time. Stir in the toasted pecans. Pour mixture into par-baked crust and place in oven for 45-50 minutes, or until center is set (toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle). Cool for 10-15 minutes before serving. Enjoy hot or at room temperature. This pie can be made 2 days in advance.

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Cranberry Chutney

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Raise your hand if you have a soft spot for canned cranberry sauce. I do! But even though my inner child tends to crave the canned stuff every year, I always make sure to have a homemade cranberry component to my Thanksgiving table as well. This particular cranberry chutney recipe acts like more of a condiment rather than a side dish…which I suppose can be the case for all Thanksgiving cranberry sauces anyway. This recipe blends tangy, sweetness, a little spice, and plays well with all of the other delicious flavors on the Thanksgiving table. Serve it hot, cold, on a baked sweet potato with greek yogurt, on top of your turkey, or as its own side dish. 

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Cranberry Chutney

Yields 6 cups
Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp. oil (canola, avocado, vegetable, or butter)
  • ½ red onion, small dice
  • 2 tbsp. freshly peeled and finely grated ginger
  • 1 granny smith apples, small dice
  • peel from 1 orange
  • juice from 1 orange
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1½ cups brown sugar
  • ½ cup currants or dried cranberries
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 2 lbs fresh cranberries
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed and minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
Using a sharp knife, peel the oranges, removing all of the bitter white pith. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add red onion and sauté for 1 minute. Add ginger, apple, orange juice, orange peel, brown sugar, currants, raisins, cranberries, and cinnamon sticks. Cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Add jalapeño, allspice, cloves, and salt. Cook for an additional 10 minutes or until cranberries are soft and sauce is
thick.
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