Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Brown butter pecan cookies

Butter pecan is taken to the next level in these cookies by taking the regular ol' butter and making it nutty and golden brown butter! Yes, that's right - these cookies are full of rich nuttiness and are a perfect cookie for the holidays or anytime of the year. These cookies were adapted from a chocolate chip cookie recipe that uses melted butter - I just swapped the chocolate for pecans and cooked the butter longer. The result were perfect - chewy, nutty, rich, and delicious. Plus the smell was amazing. I'm really glad I decided to give this idea a try! I always try to make at least one or two new cookies each Christmas, along with the standbys that we have pretty much every year like my Great-grandmother's thumbprint cookies and these rosemary shortbread Christmas trees. What are your favorite cookies you make each year?

This recipe will make about 2-1/2 dozen cookies. I have a feeling that I may need to make another batch of these before Christmas so we have more to share - they are going fast!

Brown butter pecan cookies
1-1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups roughly chopped toasted pecans (plus a few whole ones for topping, if desired)

First you will need to brown the butter. Place the butter in a small heavy-bottomed skillet. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring often. The butter will begin to froth a bit and then the milk solids will begin to fall to the bottom of the pan and start to turn golden. Keep stirring and cooking until the milk solids are a deep brown, but not black - you don't want it to burn and it can happen quickly. The whole process can take about 10 minutes. Once the butter is browned, pour it into a large mixing bowl and let it cool.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. 

Mix together the cooled browned butter and the sugars using a hand mixer or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until well-combined. Mix in the eggs and vanilla and continue to mix, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until combined. Turn the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture. Mix until combined and then mix in the pecans.

Roll the dough in tablespoon-sized balls and place on the baking sheets about 1-inch apart. Gently flatten them slightly and add a whole toasted pecan to the top if desired/needed. 

Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until the bottoms and edges turn golden. The may look slightly underdone, but that is fine - it will help them stay chewy. Let the cookies cool for another couple of minutes on the baking sheets and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Repeat until all the dough is used. 

Store in an air-tight container.

What was I cooking one year ago?: glazed eggnog loaf cake
Two years ago?: honey-cinnamon coconut snowballs
Three?: date-walnut bars
Four?: Pfeffernüsse
5?: candied ginger spice cookies

Monday, December 15, 2014

Smoky garlic, delicata squash, and bacon pizza

It's Week 7 of 12 Weeks of Winter Squash and I can't believe it's taken me this long to feature one of my most favorite winter squash - delicata! I love delicata squash because not only are they delicious, but they are so pretty and very quick cooking. I've been thinking about putting winter squash on a pizza for a while now and finally decided that delicata would be the winner. The sweet, creamy squash pairs so nicely with the salty, smoky, and crispy bacon. To up the smoky deliciousness of the pizza, I used smoked mozzarella.

For my pizza crust, I almost always use this recipe (or this one if I'm in a pinch for time). For this pizza I used the first crust which I find usually makes two pizzas that are about 10-11 inches in diameter (this depends on how much flour your dough takes that day given the humidity, etc.) This recipe is for two pizzas about that size. We make pizzas probably about once a week or every two weeks. We love pizza and now that I've discovered these simple dough recipes, it's so simple to make at home. Plus, you can try out all sorts of toppings and combinations!

Smoky garlic, delicata squash, and bacon pizza
prepared pizza dough
4 large cloves of garlic, pressed (or very finely minced)
about 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 small-medium delicata squash
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 lb. smoked mozzarella cheese, shredded
dried oregano for topping

Prepare your dough/pizzas on parchment paper and you can use it to pick easily them up and on/off the pizza stone (or an upside down baking sheet). To make the best pizza at home, you'll need to crank the oven full force and use the very bottom rack. So if you use a pizza stone, you'll only be able to fit one in the oven at a time (you may be able to fit both if using baking sheets.) Then swap - you can eat the first while the second one bakes.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Halve the delicata squash lengthwise and remove the seeds/strings. Then slice into about 1/4 inch pieces, tossing the stem ends. Place on a baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil and roast in the oven until the squash just starts to become tender and brown, about 6 minutes. Remove and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic with the olive oil and set on the top of your stove to warm up slightly.

Roll out your crust to about 10 inches in diameter on the parchment. Top each pizza with half of the garlic-olive oil mixture, leaving about a half-inch of crust along the edge. Then top with half of the cheese, half of the bacon, half of the red onions, and half of the squash. Sprinkle with a bit of dried oregano.

Place the pizza on the stone and onto the bottom rack of the preheated oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes - until the pizza crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.

What was I cooking one year ago?: chicken, butternut squash, & spinach pasta bake
Two years ago?: dates stuffed with cardamom goat cheese & salted pistachios
Three?: sesame-cranberry cookies
Four?: roasted buttercup squash & apple soup
5?: rosemary shortbread Christmas tree cookies

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hot buttered spiced apple cider with rum

How can it be that this is only the second drink containing alcohol that I've shared on this blog?!? I mean, really? I guess it's mainly because my husband and I are generally boring drinkers - beer, whiskey on the rocks, or the occasional glass of wine. We don't really make a lot of mixed drinks except when he whips up a martini every now and again... However, I think it's time to change that. 

I've been wanting to try a buttered rum or hot toddy or some other warm and festive drink for a while now. This drink is a combination of hot buttered rum and hot spiced apple cider and it's delicious - so perfect for the holidays or any cold evening. A lot of the recipes I read for buttered rum were loaded with butter and brown sugar! My version is lighter on both of those and will make two drinks. The addition of butter is just enough to add a touch of creaminess and froth to the drink. 

I'm sharing this cocktail recipe today in celebration of 5 years of this blog! I never imagined I'd still be blogging about recipes and, even crazier, that I don't see an end in sight - I still have so many recipes I want to make and share! I'm thrilled to have "met" so many fantastic, creative, and inspiring people through this medium. I truly thank all of you who stop by and read, leave comments, share and talk on social media, etc. So this drink is a toast to all of you! Cheers!

Hot buttered spiced apple cider with rum
2 cups apple cider
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
good pinch of ground allspice
dash of ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 oz. (or 3 oz. for a stronger drink) dark rum

Combine all of the ingredients except the rum in a small pot. Place over medium-low heat and warm while whisking vigorously until the mixture just comes to a boil. You want the sugar to be dissolved and the butter to be combined and frothy. Quickly whisk in the rum and remove from the heat. 

Pour into two glasses and top with an extra bit of freshly grated nutmeg. 

What was I cooking one year ago?: sauerkraut two ways 
Two years ago?: celery root & parsnip latkes with horseradish sour cream 
Three?: mixed mushroom ragu with pasta 
Four?: pumpkin risotto 
5?: lemon poppy seed muffins