Chocolate Pecan Pie

photo 3There are many reasons to love the holidays: time off from work/school, snowy weather, family gatherings, festive decorations, and food. I’m sure it’s no surprise that my favorite aspect of winter celebrations is the latter on this long list, but I’m prepared to be even more specific. I love, I mean am practically obsessed with, holiday desserts, and pie is on the top of the list.

I recently attended a book signing by Rose Levy Beranbaum where she detailed her latest book, The Baking Bible, practically a Godsend. Hearing her speak was both compelling and inspiring; I simply couldn’t wait to go home and bake. I absolutely recommend buying the book because there are countless tips and tricks for baking lovers, as well as hundreds of pages of detailed recipes and mouth-watering pictures. However, I did a little research and managed to find an online version of one of her most valuable baking formulas: Cream Cheese Crust. While I was used to using either butter or shortening for my pie crusts (and, honestly, have even used a store-bought crust from time), the cream cheese addition in this recipe made for a truly beautiful, flaky crust. I used the Cream Cheese Crust for all of my Turkey Day pies and they were a huge success – not a crumb lasted through the weekend.

photo 2This recipe was a variation of my typical holiday pecan pie; I’ll admit, I was just a tad nervous and anxious about straying from tradition. But my decision was soon vindicated. This scrumptious confection was a huge crowd pleaser among the friends and family at my own Thanksgiving feast. The slightly salty, savory pecans are complimented perfectly by rich and melty chocolate pieces, and the flaked coconut adds an awesome texture to the smooth caramel base of the pie. Serve it warm or cold and topped with a dollup of fresh whipped cream – the perfect way to top off a festive celebration.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

  • Pastry for Single Crust-Pie
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup pecan pieces
  • Whipped cream (optional)

Prepare pastry for single-crust pie. Roll out the crust and gently transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold under extra pastry and crimp the edge. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, add eggs, corn syrup, granulated sugar, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt. Stir to combine.

In pastry shell, layer semisweet chocolate pieces, 1 cup coconut and pecan pieces. Pour egg mixture over all, spreading evenly.

photo 1To prevent over browning, cover edge of pastry shell with foil.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 40 minutes. Remove foil, then continue to bake for 15 to 20 minutes more or until set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and store in refrigerator within 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream.

Namas-tasty!

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Goat Cheese Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Dates

2013-11-27 20.15.22When I am entertaining guests, I like to go all out — appetizers are a must. These are a classic crowd-pleaser that, while relatively simple to make, are so wonderfully complex and rich in flavor. The saltyness of the bacon wrapped around the sweet, chewy date and creamy goat cheese – c’est magnifique! These are also some of my mom’s favorites, so you know they must be good 😉

Goat Cheese Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Dates

  • 16 Medjool Dates (you can get them pre-pitted or whole; I love the ones from Trader Joe’s with the pits still in)
  •  Goats Cheese (simple and plain works well)
  •  8 slices of thick-cut bacon
  •  Toothpicks

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Pit dates by cutting halfway down one side and separating the flaps; simply grab the pit and pull it out with your fingers. Stuff the now-empty center of the date with goat cheese. I find that using my fingers works fine for this step if the goat cheese is still cool and relatively solid. If your cheese is softer, you can also choose to pipe the goat cheese into the date by cutting the corner off the cheese package or putting it in a ziploc baggie, trimming off the corner of the baggie.

After you’ve added the cheese, close up the date (don’t worry if there is some cheese spilling out; in my opinion, the more cheese the better!) Cut bacon slices in half. Wrap each date in half a slice of bacon and secure by skewering all the way through with a toothpick.

Place the dates on a foil lined pan or a broiler pan (the foil makes cleanup a breeze; I can’t stand trying to scrub off baked-on grease). Also, make sure your dates are evenly spaced to ensure even cooking and even browning. Bake for 15 minutes, flipping half-way though. At the 15 minute mark, watch the dates carefully. The exact cooking time depend on the size of your dates and the thickness of your bacon; you will want to cook them until the bacon is slightly crispy on the edges.

2013-11-27 20.14.40Remove from oven and immediately place the dates on a paper towel-lined plate or basket. This will soak up any extra grease and allow the dates to cool. Wait a few minutes before eating, if you can resist! The insides will be quite hot. Feel free to share with friends — or not, the choice is yours. 🙂

Namas-tasty!

White Chocolate Cranberry Holiday Blondies

2013-11-26 23.12.59I mentioned in my last post that I really get a kick out of making treats for friends and family around the holiday season. These little gift-wrapped packages were part of my contribution to the three (I repeat, THREE) Thanksgiving meals I enjoyed with loved ones this year. I included some yummy gingerdoodle cookies, stacked alongside these white chocolate cranberry blondies. I was pretty pleased with how they turned out, and got some great feedback on the goodies!

The blondies have just enough spice and color to make them the perfect addition to any holiday meal or get-together. The texture of the bars is fantastic, with plenty of dried cranberries and white chocolate mixed in, and I personally love the thick cream cheese frosting slathered on top. Enjoy!

White Chocolate Cranberry Holiday Blondies

Adapted from Taste of Home

  • 3/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 6 ounces white chocolate chips

Frosting:

  • 1 package (8 ounces) reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 ounces white chocolate chips, melted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

2013-11-26 23.13.42Preheat oven to 350°. In a microwaveable bowl, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar. Transfer to a large bowl; cool to room temperature. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; gradually add to butter mixture. Stir in cranberries and chopped chocolate (batter will be thick).

Spread into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Bake at 350° for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (do not overbake). Cool on a wire rack.

For frosting, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and orange peel if desired until blended. Gradually add half of the melted white chocolate; beat until blended. Frost brownies. Sprinkle with cranberries. Drizzle with remaining melted white chocolate. Cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator to preserve moisture.

Namas-tasty!

Holiday Gingerdoodles

2013-12-04 10.26.06One of the most enjoyable parts of the holidays for me is gift-giving. I like to think of myself as a little elf distributing packages of holiday cheer 😉 Just kidding. But I really do love spreading joy and love this time of year.

Since baking is my happy place (and also more personal – and less expensive – than more other gifts), I usually like to make festive treats, wrap them up in sweet little packages, and deliver them to friends and family in the area. (I had planned on sending these out to loved ones in other states, as well, until I got to the post office and realized how much it was going to cost to ship all the packages… YIKES! It’s the thought that counts, right?!)

2013-11-26 23.12.42These were my Thanksgiving  gifts this year. Last week I baked up some goodies, downloaded these cute (and free!) printable gift tags from She Wears Many Hats, and dug out my rolls of raffia (perfect for a harvest theme), to assemble little gift bags.

I got some really great feedback on these “gingerdoodles.” I admit, I even tried a few myself. They are pretty awesome! Definitely more festive and flavorful than your typical boring snickerdoodle cookie, these soft, gooey treats are filled with that wholesome molasses flavor. Try making the for a holiday crowd, or just for yourself!

Holiday Gingerdoodles

Adapted from Lauren’s Latest

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Stir in egg, vanilla and molasses. Whip 1-2 minutes or until it turns a light brown color. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix until dry ingredients are just combined.

2013-11-25 10.59.08Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough into a ball and coat in granulated sugar. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes or until outside looks cooked but inside is still soft and gooey. Cool 5 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to cooling rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Namas-tasty!