Dessert


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I think pecans may be my favorite nut.  Sure, cashews may be my favorite just to munch on, and pistachios are the best to eat while sitting around a campfire, but pecans can be transformed into so many wonderful goodies – pies, turtles,  brittle.  Not only are they the perfect baking nut – they are so addictive to eat raw.  My mom used to hide the bags of bulk pecans she would  buy for Christmas baking, because otherwise me, my brother and my father would eat them all before she got around to making them into treats.  But now that I live down south where pecans are omnipresent, there’s no need for pecan hiding.  And this abundance has led to many more opportunities to try different pecan recipes.  The most recent is a recipe for spicy candied pecans, and it has been an unmitigated success.

pecans

Now a caveat – sometimes I have to hide the spicy candied pecans because C loves this recipe so much.  If not hidden, the spicy pecans rarely last a few hours, let alone a day,  so I’ve become adept at making these at the last minute.  Since the recipe only takes a half an hour from start to finish this is not a hardship. In fact this recipe is by far the easiest recipe for candied pecans I’ve seen anywhere and I think it’s the tastiest.

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While I used measuring implements for this recipe,  if you’re good at eyeballing measurements you might want to try that to save on the sticky clean up.  The recipe calls for corn syrup, which whenever I cook with it, manages to get all over my entire kitchen.  You combine the corn syrup with sugar, salt, ground pepper and Tabasco sauce.  I won’t tell you how much Tabasco sauce to put in because it all depends on how spicy you like your pecans – obviously the spicier you like your nuts the more shakes of Tabasco.  I would warn you to taste the sugary mixture as you go – a few too many shakes of the Tabasco bottle and the the mixture could be fiery hot.

unbaked-pecans

After the sugary mixture is the correct spicy temperature, you mix in the pecans.  Don’t worry that the mixture won’t cover the pecans evenly, as the melting process will take care of that in the oven.  I would urge you to cover a baking dish with foil and then spray it with Pam or some other baking spray  –  it will save your sanity by making clean-up easier.  Once the pecans are in the baking pan, they go in the oven.  You stir once or twice to make sure the pecans get all the sugary mixture, but you basically let them bake for 15 minutes.

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Once that 15 minutes is up you have to work fast – use a fork to separate the pecans on another piece of foil sprayed with Pam.  If you dilly-dally you’ll get a big hunk of candied pecans.  Not the worst thing.  I suppose you could treat it like peanut brittle and chop it up – but it’s better if you have individual candied nuts.  Once cool you can store in any covered container –  except the nuts probably won’t last that long if anyone hungry is around the house.   Which is fine – this recipe is so easy you can always make more!

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Spicy Candied Pecans

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 T.  corn syrup
1 1/2 T. sugar
3/4 t.  salt
1/4 t.  (generous) freshly ground black pepper
Tabasco Sauce (to taste)
1 1/2 C. pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line with foil and spray baking sheet with nonstick spray. Combine corn syrup and next 4 ingredients in large bowl. Stir to blend. Add pecans; stir gently to coat. Transfer to baking sheet.

Place large piece of foil on work surface. Bake pecans 5 minutes. Using fork, stir pecans to coat with melted spice mixture. Continue baking until pecans are golden and coating bubbles, about 10 minutes. Transfer to foil. Working quickly, separate nuts with fork. Cool. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

Makes 1 1/2 cups

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So clearly it’s been awhile since our last post.  I have no excuses except  for work, school, life, and a DVR full of West Wings.  And here it is almost Christmas  – that wonderful food-filled holiday – and this blog has been silent.  As an early New Years resolution I resolve to do better – to post more, to take more pictures, to experiment more in the kitchen.  There is holiday baking to be tackled and Dorie Greenspan’s Brownie Bites are the perfect place to start.

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When I was growing up, one of my good friends got a chocolate orange every Christmas.  At the time I was more entranced by the fact that orange would magically split into perfect sections once opened rather than the combination of orange and chocolate.  Truthfully,  I’ve  never been one to like fruit flavors with my chocolate – usually I think it messes up the perfect balance of chocolate.  But chocolate and orange seem to go together around Christmas; when I saw that Dorie’s recipe for Brownie Bites  called for orange zest it seemed to be a sign that this could be a new option to add to the cookie tray.

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The batter was easy to put together.  You just melt the chocolate, brown sugar and butter; once this mixture is off the heat you add vanilla, an egg, some sugary orange zest and flour.  It’s a basic brownie recipe – the thing that makes this cute and Christmasy  is that fact that they are cooked in mini muffin pans.  Once popped out of the pans and cooled, the brownies really do look like buttons.

brownie-bites

But what really makes these special is the white chocolate glaze.  Simply melt white chocolate chips then dip the tops of the brownie buttons in the melted chocolate and twist your wrist as you pull them out.  If you do it right it looks like the brownies have a cute little white hat on – just right for a Christmas cookie tray.

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Brownie Buttons
from “Baking, from my Home to Yours” By Dorie Greenspan

Grated Zest of 1/2 Orange
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/4 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons Flour
Pinch of Salt
1/2 Stick (4 Tablespoons) Unsalted Butter, Cut into 4 Pieces
2 1/2 Ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, Coarsely Chopped
1/3 Cup (Packed) Brown Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Large Egg

For the optional Glaze:
2 Ounces White Chocolate, Finely Chopped

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter two miniature muffin pans, each with a dozen cups, and place them on a baking sheet.

If you’re using the orange zest, combine the zest and sugar in a small bowl, rubbing them between your fingertips to blend: set aside. Whisk together the flour and salt.

Melt the butter, chocolate, and brown sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over very low heat, stirring frequently with a heatproof spatula and keeping an eye on the pan so that nothing overheats or burns. When the mixture is smooth, remove from the heat and cool for a minute or two. Stir the vanilla, egg and the zest into the chocolate mixture. When the mixture is well blended, add the flour and stir only until it is incorporated. You should have a smooth, glossy batter.

Spoon the batter into 16 of the muffin cups, using about a teaspoon of batter to fill each cup 3/4 full. Put 1 teaspoon of water in each empty cup.
Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until the tops of the buttons spring back when touched. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 3 minutes before carefully releasing the buttons. Cool to room temperature on the racks.

To make the glaze: Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Stir constantly and don’t leave the chocolate for even one minute- white chocolate scorches easily. As soon as the chocolate is smooth, remove from the heat.

One by one, dip the tops of the buttons into the chocolate, twirling the buttons so that you get a little swirl at the center of each one and the excess chocolate drips back into the bowl. Refrigerate the buttons for 15 minutes to set the glaze.

It’s funny how a simple lunch time conversation can lead you down a cooking rabbit hole. J and I were having lunch a few weeks ago and we were remembering a simply sublime cornmeal and lemon curd cookie that is made by Marché, one of our favorite East Nashville lunch places. That led us towards contemplating lemon curd, and considering that our planned-for Kitchen Confit Peach Week was on the horizon, we wondered if it was possible to make peach curd. A few simple web searches later and I discovered that apparently a few brave souls had tried peach curd. With the idea stuck in my head I knew I needed to try it – what I was going to do with it once I made it, I was wasn’t quite sure. But I knew eventually I would come up with something.

The recipe I found for peach curd was pretty basic: egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, butter and peach puree. The recipe also called for rosewater. Rosewater is a traditional Middle Eastern ingredient, made from rose petals and distilled water. Now at this point, rosewater did not reside in my cupboards, but I was determined to fix that. I must say, rosewater was surprisingly hard to find from more commercial gourmet sources – Williams Sonoma did not carry it (they suggested driving to Atlanta to find it!) and it was absent from the Whole Foods shelves. Not about to despair, I dropped into the International Market at the Nashville Farmers Market. They carried several varieties of rosewater and I grabbed the one in the prettiest bottle (it was also the cheapest!).

With rosewater in hand, I was ready to begin the curd. I combined the yolks, sugar, peach puree, lemon juice and rosewater. I placed this mixture over a pot of simmering water and I whisked. And whisked. And whisked. You’re supposed to do this until thickened and the mixture did thicken. I just wasn’t sure how much it should thicken. In retrospect, I should have whisked a few more minutes, since after beating in the butter and straining, the curd was a bit runny. I had hoped that the curd would thicken more as it chilled – and it did, a bit – but not as much as I would have liked. But the curd would serve for my purposes… it had become a peach tart.

From this point on, I was kind of winging it. I made a sweet tart dough and blind baked it. Once it was cool I poured in the peach curd. I knew I needed to top the the peach curd with more peaches, but I wasn’t sure if they should be raw or cooked. In the end I decided to poach the peaches in a mixture of sugar, water, brandy and lemon rind. After twenty minutes in this syrup, I took the peaches out, sliced them and then attempted to arrange them in a circular patten on top of the peach curd. And in the end this haphazard dessert was delicious – a bit messy, since the peach curd really should have been a bit thicker – but delicious all the same. Thank goodness for foodie lunch conversations and cooking rabbit holes!

Peach Curd and Poached Peach Tart

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Peach Curd

Recipe from epicurean.com

Ingredients:

4 egg yolks

2/3 c. sugar

1 c. fresh peach puree

Lemon juice to taste, about 1 T.

1/2 t. rosewater to taste, about 1 T.

6 T. butter

Directions:

Beat the yolks, sugar, peach puree, lemon juice, and rosewater. Put mixture over summering water and whisk constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and beat in the butter, a little at a time. Strain well and and chill.

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Sweet Tart Dough

Recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Ingredients;

11/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 stick plus 1 T. (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Directions:

Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses—about 10 seconds each—until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before filling with the peach curd. Refrigerate.

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Poached Peaches

2 c. water

1 1/2 c . sugar

1 c. brandy

Rind of 1 lemon – peeled in thick strips

2-3 peaches – halved and pitted

Bring all the ingredients except the peaches to a boil in a pot large enough to hold the peaches. Add the peaches and simmer for 20 -25 minutes or until tender. Remove from the syrup and slide the peaches out of their skins. Once cool slice the peaces lengthwise and arrange the slices in a circular pattern on top of the peach curd. Chill. To serve, remove the tart from the tart pan and slice.

South Carolina Peaches

It’s summertime in the South and how have I not written about the peaches? I live minutes from South Carolina, which means peaches are everywhere. Peaches constantly line our kitchen counter, and they are usually eaten standing up over the sink so as not to make a mess with all their drippy and delightful juiciness. They’re so good as is that I can never bring myself to cook with them. This is true of most fruit. Why mess with a good thing, I ponder? But as it is Peach Week here at Kitchen Confit, I needed to find a recipe fantastic enough for which to sacrifice a peach.

I love Frank Stitt

We have waxed poetic about how much we love Frank Stitt here at Kitchen Confit. And for good reason. If you haven’t been to Birmingham, Alabama to eat at one of his amazing restaurants then put it on your list of things to do. S and I briefly lived in Birmingham last summer and for six short weeks we ate at one of Chef Stitt’s restaurants as often as possible. Since we’ve left Birmingham, I’ve often turned to Frank Stitt’s cookbook.  Unlike some celebrity chef cookbooks the recipes do work and they are completely unintimidating. I’ve cooked quite a bit from it and have never been anything but pleased with the results.

Peach Crostada

Back to peach week. I’ve already admitted that I don’t really swoon over all things chocolate, so I might as well admit that I don’t really like cake either. I love to bake cakes but I usually find them far too sweet and rich for my liking. Pie is a different story. I quite like pie, but I’m that girl who eats the filling and leaves the pastry. Or at least I used to be that girl. I made the peach crostada thinking the whole time that I probably wasn’t going to love it, but gosh was I wrong.

Warm and Bubbly

I don’t know what I loved the most. The crust was so flavorful and buttery. The peaches retained their lovely peachiness and the crostada was very moist.  It was a snap to make, and thank goodness the dough recipe made enough for two crostadas, as we will definitely be having this again very soon. There I was standing in the kitchen far too late to be eating pie and questioning why I had ever refused to baked with the fresh fruit of summer. The crostada wasn’t a waste of a blushing peach but rather a celebration of their wonderful flavor.

Peach Crostada

Peach Crostada
Excerpted from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table

For the Dough
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1/4 cup ice water

For the filling
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 pounds ripe peaches, pitted, peeled, and sliced into 3/4-inch-thick wedges
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon heavy cream for egg wash
1 tablespoon coarse or granulated sugar for topping

To prepare the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas, about 15 times. With the processor running, add the ice water and process for about 10 seconds; stop the processor before the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of waxed paper, divide the dough in half, and shape into two disks. Wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The dough can be refrigerated for 2 days or frozen up to 2 weeks; if it has been frozen, defrost the dough for 30 minutes at room temperature.)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Roll one disk of dough into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a baking sheet. (Reserve the second disk of dough for another use.)
To prepare the filling, combine the flour and sugar in a small bowl. Blend in butter with two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Place the peaches in the center of the dough circle on the baking sheet and top with the butter-sugar mixture. Begin draping the edges up and over, forming about 3 pleats. Crimp the pleats and press down to seal. Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake the tart for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on a rack.

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