Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cranberry Fudge Pie

Wanna play Two Truths and a Lie? Okay, here goes:

1) I named my childhood cat Maybelline because it looked like she was wearing eyeliner.
2) I love pie.
3) I've never seen Star Wars.

Think you know which one is the lie?  

Did you guess #3?

If so, please don't judge...because #3 is actually true.  I've lived on this planet for almost 30 years and have never seen Star Wars. It's not that I have anything against Star Wars, I've just never gotten around to it. If you want to invite me over for a Star-Wars specific movie night, I'm free next Friday...

Truth #2 is that I indeed named my childhood cat Maybelline. Maybelline was a special cat, to put it nicely. I think the fact that she was born wearing dark eyeliner was a sign of her evil nature to come. Deep down she was a good cat, though.

That leaves us with the lie being me loving pie.

I don't know what it is specifically that I don't like about pie. There's just something about it that has always demoted it to the bottom of my dessert totem pole.

That said, when it comes to Thanksgiving, you can't argue that pie is the dessert of choice, and this year I wanted to contribute. I've been having a love affair with cranberries lately, and have also been thinking that it's a terrible shame that chocolate doesn't usually have a place on the Thanksgiving menu. So when I came across this Cranberry Fudge Pie on Baking Banter, I knew this was what I would make.

Eating this pie is like, well, not eating pie. It's more like eating a chocolate-cranberry truffle.  Yep.  I think pie - or at least this pie - just moved up on my dessert totem pole.

This pie was very easy to throw together - it's just a graham cracker crust filled with chocolate ganache and pecans, topped with a very basic cranberry sauce.  You even end up with leftover cranberry sauce to eat with your turkey...or to use on a second pie.

Now for another round of Two Truths and a Lie:

1) Cranberry Fudge Pie is my new favorite pie.
2) Number 1 is a lie.
3) I have to go now, so I can eat the last piece of pie.

- Katie

Cranberry Fudge Pie
Adapted slightly from King Arthur Flour
Makes one 9-inch pie (8-10 very rich slices)

For the crust:

  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs*
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • *One cellophane-wrapped packet of graham crackers (11 whole crackers) will yield this amount of crumbs.

For the filling:

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate*
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • *Resist the urge to use bittersweet chocolate; with the acidic tang of the cranberries, it's just too much. 

For the filling:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cranberry juice
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 12-ounce package fresh or frozen cranberries (generous 3 cups)
  • *You'll need about 15 ounces (a scant 1 1/2 cups) topping for the pie. Enjoy the remainder on its own.

1) Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2) To make the crust: Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a food processor or bowl. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9" pie pan.
3) Bake the crust for 7 to 8 minutes, until it's set but not brown. Remove from the oven and cool.
4) To make the filling: Put the chips (or chopped chocolate) and cream in a microwave-safe container, and heat for approximately 90 seconds. Remove from the microwave, and stir until the mixture becomes smooth and dark brown; you're simply making a basic ganache.
5) Spoon the hot ganache into the cooled crust, and sprinkle the nuts on top.
6) Refrigerate the pie for at least 1 hour, probably 2, until the ganache has firmed up.
7) While the pie is chilling, make the topping. Bring the sugar, salt, and cranberry juice to a boil.
8) Stir in the dried cranberries, and simmer for about 5 minutes.
9) Add the fresh or frozen cranberries, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, until some of the berries have burst.
10) Remove the cranberries from the heat, spoon into a bowl, and chill.
11) To finish assembling the pie: Spoon 1 1/2 cups cranberry sauce atop the fudge/nut filling. Chill until ready to serve.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

White Chocolate Pumpkin Fudge

Ok, so I know I posted a pumpkin recipe last week - Aunt M's amazing Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. But it's November, people! I'm in pumpkin paradise!

As the lovely Kate Jackson says on her blog Framed Cooks, this fudge is pretty much "pumpkin nirvana". I couldn't agree more.

In fact, this fudge takes me to such a happy place that I feel inspired to write poetry about it:

Oh, fudge!
Pumpkin fudge!
White chocolate pumpkin fudge!
So gooey and smooth and sweet!
You're all I want to eat.
Your sweetness can't be beat.
I try, but can't retreat
From your flavor most complete.
It draws me from my seat
To eat and eat and eat
And eat and eat and eat
And eat and then repeat.
Oh fudge,
pumpkin fudge,
white chocolate pumpkin fudge!
How glorious a treat!

I find the power of this fudge even more impressive given the fact that in general, I'm not a huge fan of fudge. Moreover, I tend to shy away from any and all things white chocolate. So why do I love white chocolate pumpkin fudge so much?

Well, let's see. We've had our poetry lesson for the day. How about some math?

What do you get when you subtract the fudge and white chocolate from white chocolate pumpkin fudge?

Oh, yeah! Pumpkin! (That was an easy one.)

The P-meister is definitely the key ingredient here. The savoriness of the pumpkin counteracts a bit of the sweetness in the chocolate, sugar, and fluff that come together in just about any fudge recipe. I'm not saying that this fudge isn't sweet - because oh man, it is - but the pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice make the resulting sweet headache more than worth it.

What I also love about this recipe is its color. As you make it, the mixture goes from a milky cream to a bright and frothy orange, then calms down to a silky and smooth pastel baby orange. So pretty, you almost don't want to eat it.

But then you do. And pumpkin paradise is had. You're welcome.

White Chocolate Pumpkin Fudge
Adapted from Recipe Girl via Framed

3 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup melted butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 tbs light corn syrup
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
12 oz package white chocolate morsels
7 oz jar marshmallow crème
1 cup chopped walnuts, plus another 1/2 cup for sprinkling on top
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Line 9″ square pan with aluminum foil. Spray with nonstick spray.

2. Stir together first 6 ingredients in a 3½ quart saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring constantly, about 12 minutes, or until a candy thermometer registers 234° (soft ball stage).

3. Remove from heat and quickly stir in remaining ingredients until well blended.

4. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining walnuts on top and press down slightly. Let stand 2 hours or until completely cool; cut fudge into squares.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

The story of these cookies starts in the fall of 1988.

That was the fall our Uncle S got married and Katie and I got to be flower girls. Is there anything in life a five year-old girl wants more? No sir!

It was a simple wedding - just two attendants, flower girls with wreathes in their hair, and an outdoor reception at the bride's childhood home. Looking back on that day, I remember so many things - the cool breeze in the air, the slightly sticky feel of the bouquet in my hands, and how funny it looked to see my dad and grandpa dressed up in suits. I thought it was one of the most beautiful days of my whole (though as of yet, rather short) life.

Of course, the most important part of that day was what we all gained from it - a new member of the family.

I've looked up to my Aunt M ever since that day - a woman who didn't mind that her husband's best man was a woman; whose family welcomed our family into theirs; and whose own wedding spoke of her overall approach to life - simple, and in its simplicity, beautiful.

Aunt M, for example, makes homemade gift tags for Christmas presents. She serves AMAZING homemade soup and sandwiches at family gatherings. And she's not afraid to speak her mind or ask a question that needs to be asked. These are small, but important things.

It was at a family gathering a few years after Uncle S and Aunt M's wedding that I first "met" Aunt M's pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Now, mind you, it was the chocolate that tempted me, not the pumpkin - autumn squash isn't exactly what a kid looks for in her sweets. But one bite and I was hooked. You might say that on that day, Aunt M and her family of baking women set the bar against which I would someday measure my own baking prowess. Excellence, indeed.


To me, these cake-like cookies say "autumn is here", and "everything is better with chocolate chips", and "you know you can't resist me so just give in and eat me now".

But they also remind me that goodness and beauty are found in simplicity. Like Aunt M and Uncle S's wedding, it's the love you put into it, not the fancy-schmancy-ness that counts. This recipe is one of the simplest I've ever encountered, and the cookies are ready to devour in less than an hour. And devour them you will.

I always say that I get a lot of my baking skills from Aunt M, and even though we're technically not blood relatives, I'm proud to call this a family recipe. You're a lucky man, Uncle S, a mighty lucky man, indeed, and I thank you for bringing such a wonderful person into our lives.

In tribute to you and Aunt M, I shall now eat a pumpkin chocolate chip cookie (or maybe two or three). Join me!


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Family recipe via Aunt M

1 cup pureed pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 teaspoon cream or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 1.5 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

2. Using a mixer on low speed, combine pumpkin, sugar, oil, and egg in a large bowl (or,  just stir with a wooden spoon).
3. Add remaining ingredients except chocolate chips and blend until well combined.

4. Stir in chocolate chips.

5. Spoon heaping tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheets 2.5 inches apart. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until bottoms brown ever so slightly and top doesn't dent when pressed with a knife.

6. Cool cookies on cookie sheet one minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in airtight container up to five days.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Made my day!

Hey all you nice people who read our little blog!  Guess what I found at the supermarket this evening?


Aren't they beautiful?!

If you read yesterday's post, you realize how rare it is to find yellow bananas in NYC supermarkets, or in the very least, how rare it is to find them in mine and Becky's neighborhood supermarket.

But tonight, I entered the produce section and I kid you not, actually did a double take, because the usually lime-green banana table was instead a sweet lemon-yellow. Nope. Make that BANANA-yellow!

I resisted the urge to buy multiple bunches.  But I tell you, it was tough.

What little things made your day today?


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Graham Cracker Banana Raisin Bread

Photo by Uncle Worm
There are many things you can always find in the corner of mine and Becky's kitchen counter: a lemon or two, a stack of Luna Bars (Peppermint for Beck, Oatmeal Raisin for me), miscellaneous chocolate, and probably a bottle cap from Music Man's last beer.
The one thing you'll never find?
Ripe bananas.

In fact, even yellow bananas are a rarity in this house. NYC supermarkets don't sell anything other than neon green ones, and Becky and I love bananas so much, we gobble them up as soon as any bit of yellow pokes through.
But our gobbling up the bananas means we never have any left to toss into super yummy banana recipes. It's a rough life here in the K&B abode.
So you can imagine my elation when while at home in Cali recently, I discovered not one, not two, but FIVE ripe bananas sitting in the fruit bowl!
I was so excited, I actually skipped to the pantry while my imagination went off on some kind of banana baking brainstorm extravaganza. Banana pancakes! Banana nut muffins! Peanut Butter Banana Biscotti! Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies!  
WHAT was I going to make?!
Well, first things first. I grabbed me some Bisquick, whipped up some banana pancakes, and had me a nice breakfast. One banana down.
Next, I called up JW House - would they mind if I baked some Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies? Nope. They sure didn't. Two bananas down.
Two bananas left. Back to the pantry I skipped. And I saw THIS staring at me:
It's a recipe for Banana Raisin Bread on the side of a graham cracker crumbs box. It was obviously speaking directly to me, saying "choose me for your last two bananas! Choose me!"
So I did. I was slightly skeptical at first, because it feels a little weird to use ground-up crackers as an ingredient in bread, but I figured I love graham crackers and I love bananas, so what's not to love about putting them together with some sugar and oil and milk and raisins?
The bread baked up beautifully, with that magnificent crack down the middle that I'm always praying for in my quick breads. It's a sturdy bread, excellent for slicing and toasting, and even more tasty with butter and honey drizzled on top. Everyone in the house kept asking me when we could slice it.
This guy even showed up asking for some:
Do you think I could have just a little?
What if I sit pretty? Huh? Huh? Look how pretty I am!
So the next time you have some ripe bananas on your counter, grab some graham cracker crumbs and work a little graham cracker banana magic. Then please send some to me and Beck, since we seem to lack the self control to buy bananas and NOT eat them before they are ripe enough to bake with. Oh, and Boomerang The Dog would probably like some too. :-)

Graham Cracker Banana Raisin Bread
From the side of the Honey Grahams graham cracker crumb box
Makes 1 loaf (about 16 slices)

1 2/3 c graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 c milk
1/3 c vegetable oil
2 large bananas, mashed (about 1 c)
1 c seedless raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

2. Mix graham cracker crumbs, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl; set aside.

3. Beat eggs, milk and oil in medium bowl with wire whisk until well blended. Stir in bananas.

4. Add to flour mixture; stir until just blended. Stir in raisins. Spoon into greased loaf pan.

5. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely. Cut into 16 slices to serve.