At our Thanksgiving dinner this year there will be kids. Seventeen kids to be exact. I wanted to make something fun to put on each kid’s plate. Then last night at around midnight it hit me… I could make a Bakerella Cake Pop shaped like a Turkey for each of the children.
Then I got to thinking about how skilled Bakerella is with her hand shaping and how I have never tried hand shaping a cake pop yet. Then I thought about how it might not work too well if I tried dipping the little turkey pops with their drumstick legs. Would they fall off? And let’s just say they did stay intact and actually looked good… could I then, somehow get a bone rammed into the end of each leg without ruining my entire turkey pop? Hmmmm…. then I had an epiphany.
I would simply sculpt each pop out of caramels. So I unwrapped a few, heated them up until they were barely warm and just pliable enough to shape. Then I shaped the caramel around the stick. I added the legs after I made the body and I wrapped them around tiny little Wilton bone sprinkles that I had from Halloween. Voila, and there you have it, folks. A solid caramel turkey pop, on a stick, complete with bones… ready to add a touch of humor and a bit of whimsy to our Thanksgiving table!
I know, I know… it is too late for this post. You have already eaten your Thanksgiving pie. But hey, Christmas is just around the corner. A perfect pie is a fab dessert choice after any dinner and Christmas dinner is no exception! Above is a creamy deep dish pumpkin pie with a nutty streusel top. I made it for our family Thanksgiving dinner today. I will include the recipe below the perfect pie crust recipe, in case you want to file it away for next Thanksgiving. Believe me, you will want to make it next year, it is divine. So here is my Mom’s perfect pie crust recipe. But first, a few tips and tricks for you before you make it.
- The fat doesn’t have to be cold, but I have found that ice water seems to work better.
- Try not to handle the crust much with your hands. Once you cut the fat to the dry ingredients and then add the water… dump it out on the counter. Even if it is crumbly… go ahead, dump it out. Then gently scoop up the crumbly bits and put them into a small round disc shape. Now… don’t ever touch it with your hands again. Only the rolling pin gets to touch it until you are ready to put it into the pie plate that is.
- Use dough bands so you get an even thickness every time. This will ensure that your crust will bake evenly as well as look pretty. The crust should be 1/8 of an inch thick.
- Don’t overdo it with flouring your counter and rolling pin. Add just enough flour so your dough won’t stick. If you are worried about knowing how to tell if you are being overzealous with the flour, try rolling your crust out on a fine dish towel. If you flour the dish towel then, roll your dough on it, all of the excess flour will go into the cloth instead of your dough.
- A large deep dish ceramic pie plate will always look more impressive and give a guest a much larger slice of pie… and cmon who doesn’t want a bigger piece?
- Piercing your crust aka docking with a fork needs to be done excessively. I’m talking all over the entire crust, up the sides, on the bottom, on the fluted edge between the flutes… Everywhere you look on the crust, you should see the little holes from the fork. Why? Well, first it helps prevent your crust from bubbling and shrinking. But make sure you only dock a blind shell… not a pumpkin or double crust pie.
- Pie weights? No need for them if you pierce your crust as suggested above. Also, I feel like it is just one more unnecessary gadget to get lost in a kitchen drawer.
- Always bake your pie on the lower racks in your oven. This ensures that our crust gets completely done at the same time as your filling. Unless you have a fancy schmancy convection oven and in that case, I don’t know what rack to put it on!
Nancy’s Perfect Pie Crust
- 1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 Cup Butter Flavored Crisco
- 1/4 Cup Ice Water
Mix flour and salt together. cut in shortening. Add a bit of ice water at a time until the dough starts to come together but is still crumbly. Roll out using a light dusting of flour on your counter and rolling pin. Lay into pie plate. Trim and crimp edge. Pierce with a fork all over the entire crust. Everywhere. Even the edges… take out all of your holiday stress and frustration. Do it! The more holes the lighter and flakier your crust will be. Bake as directed with your pie. If baking a blind shell to fill later (like for a banana cream pie) Bake at 400 degrees until just starting to get golden on the edges… about 8-10 minutes.
Pumpkin Streusel Pie
- 1 unbaked pastry shell, 9-inch
- 1 can (16 ounces) pumpkin, or 2 cups puree
- 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Pecan Streusel Topping
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/8 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup firm butter (or more you kinda need to eyeball this a bit)
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup macadamia nuts chopped
- 1/2 cup coconut (sweetened flaked shredded)
Heat oven to 400°. In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices, and salt; blend well. Streusel topping: Combine brown sugar and flour; cut in the butter until crumbly. Stir in chopped pecans and coconut. Set aside. Pour pumpkin mixture into the unbaked pastry shell. Place a rack in the middle of your oven and one a step or two higher. You want the pie to fit on either rack because you are going to move it to the top rack at the end of baking. Bake for 15 minutes on middle rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Bake for 25 minutes longer. Next, sprinkle streusel topping over pie. Move to a higher rack and continue baking at 350° for about 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until golden brown and the filling is set. Serve this with cinnamon infused whipped cream and it is amazing! You will be the hit of the party yet again!
And so it was that Christmas was upon us… and so it was that I had kids who don’t like gingerbread. Whose kids are these anyway? They can’t possibly be mine if they don’t like a cookie! In light of this sad and terrible fact, I decided to make a more mild and “kid-friendly” version of gingerbread. One that would be most pleasing to the tongue of a North American child. And so I give you “Butterscotch Gingerbread”. A touch of spice mixed with the sweet flavor of butterscotch, topped with a vanilla bean royal icing. All-in-all the perfect balance. My children wolfed these down like they were the last cookies on earth.
- 1 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 packages (3-1/2 ounces each) cook-and-serve butterscotch pudding mix
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch cardamom
In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs. Combine the flour, pudding mixes, ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, and cardamom; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-in. thickness. I find dough bands extremely helpful at this point. Cut with lightly floured cookie cutters. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets, I lined mine with parchment. Bake at 350° for 6-8 minutes or until firm. Remove to wire racks to cool. Decorate as desired. I used a royal icing recipe and just added 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste to give it a rustic appeal.
Here is a necessary rule to abide by when using oil in a frying pan or wok. Cold oil, cold pan. You see if you put cold oil into a hot pan… you will never know how hot the pan is or when the oil is ready to cook. Your pan may be so hot that your oil smokes immediately.
But, if you put cold oil into a cold pan… then turn on your heat, add a few bits of whatever you are cooking (garlic, onions, etc.) and then, when it starts to make noise and sizzle… The oil is ready! This way it never gets too hot or reaches and unhealthy smoking point. If your oil does smoke, it can make your food taste off-putting. The smoking point marks the beginning of both flavor and nutritional degradation. So try it next time you are making a stir-fry… cold oil, cold pan!
So I recently had the pleasure of judging a Holiday Dessert Contest. It was run by our local gourmet kitchen store and our local newspaper. I really enjoyed the experience, well aside from a sugar headache the next morning. And I have to say, I was surprised by the “best overall” winner. Here is how it all shook out…
When I arrived, I assessed the entries. I was drawn immediately to a beautiful creation. The presentation of this dessert was breathtaking. I always feel like 50% of how something tastes is how it looks before you ever put it into your mouth. If it is tantalizing… I wanna eat it! So naturally, I was smitten with this specific dessert and had it pegged from the beginning as one of the winners.
The first round of scoring was devoted to Presentation and Appearance. After I scored each dish in that category, the tasting began. The tasting was judged on three different criteria. 1-Texture 2-Overall Taste 3-Flavor Balance (The Yin Yang Factor) 4-Creativity/Originality.
I was shocked and amazed! So many of the entries that looked great, were outdone by the delicious tastes and textures of their less attractive counterparts. In the end, I chose 4 winners none of which were the above-mentioned dessert that I was initially drawn to. The winners were an almond puff pastry that was well-made, flaky and simplistically sweet. A traditional Black Forest Cake with unsweetened whipped cream… a great balance of fruit, chocolate, and cream. Apple Pie Parcels… these were so absolutely yummy! They almost won “Best in Show” it really was a close race between these and the big winner. They were salty and sweet, flaky and buttery and they were topped with caramel sauce goodness! I think you will agree that the picture above speaks for itself! The BIG winner, best in the show, most creative, delicious dessert was a Nantucket Cranberry Butter Cake with a light Caramel Butter Sauce. It was topped with sugared cranberries… it was so outstandingly delicious and was truly a Yin Yang dessert. I hope I get the recipe from the winner, Estee Wilson! Congratulations and great job everyone!