Rice Krispies Snowmen: Treats for Toys

Rice Krispies Snowmen

This post is sponsored by Kellogg’s Rice Krispies. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

I grew up in the mild Pacific Northwest, where snow doesn’t necessarily make an appearance each winter. So when it did snow, it was a huge deal — school would get cancelled for the lightest of dustings, and we’d all bundle up and head outside to make snow angels and build snowmen (largely because there was hot chocolate waiting for us afterwards). My Canadian-born kids, on the other hand, will probably build more snowmen before kindergarten then I did my entire childhood.

But whether you have half an inch or twenty inches of snow outside, you can make these cute Rice Krispies Snowmen! They’re a breeze to whip up (no oven required!) and are a great creative activity for the little ones in your life. This is the second year that I’ve made something for the Kellogg’s Treats for Toys campaign (remember last year’s DIY Christmas Forest?), which donates funds to provide real toys for children in need. If you’re looking for a way to make a difference this season, I encourage you to make your own Treats for Toys, either using this recipe or something from your own imagination! It’s simple: create a toy-inspired Rice Krispies treat, upload it to the Treats for Toys site or social media (using the #treatsfortoys hashtag), and Kellogg’s will donate $20 to the Salvation Army to buy real toys for children in need.

A few notes:

  • These Rice Krispies snowmen are easy to make, but you have to work fast! The cereal mixture is easiest to mold within the first 5-8 minutes, so it definitely helps to have an extra pair of hands — one person can portion out the cereal and the other can shape the portions into balls.
  • Grease your measuring cups and hands well — otherwise you will spend more time scraping sticky marshmallow than making snowmen.
  • Use a skewer or chopstick to make light indents for facial features and arms. This makes it much easier to stick your candies/pretzels in place.

rice krispies balls

snowmen undressed

snowmen couple

Rice Krispies Snowmen

Ingredients

  • 56 g / 1/4 c unsalted butter
  • 250 g marshmallows (I used mini)
  • 168 g / 6 c Rice Krispies cereal
  • Flaked coconut
  • Pretzel rods
  • Assorted candies for decoration (such as mini chocolate chips, gummies, mini candy canes)
  • Melted white chocolate / royal icing / frosting for glue (optional)
  • Measuring cups
  • Cooking spray
  • Parchment paper

Method

  1. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Melt the butter over low heat in a large pot (big enough to hold the Rice Krispies).
  2. When the butter is melted, add the marshmallows, stirring frequently to avoid sticking. When the marshmallows are melted, turn off the heat, add the cereal, and stir with a silicon spatula or wooden spoon to coat evenly.
  3. Using well-greased measuring cups, portion out cereal in a few different sizes (I used 1/4, 1/3, and 1/2 cup measures) onto the prepared sheet pan. When all the cereal is portioned out, use well-greased hands to shape the portions into round balls. Pack firmly but not so hard as to crush the cereal.
  4. Roll each ball in flaked coconut for a snowy effect. Press two or three balls together to form snowmen of various sizes. Use a bit of melted white chocolate / royal icing / frosting for glue, if desired.
  5. Use pretzels and candies to decorate snowmen as desired. Some ideas:
    • Pretzel sticks for arms
    • Mini chocolate chips for eyes and mouths
    • Small orange gummies or candy corn for noses
    • Small round candies for buttons
    • Mini candy canes for skis

Matcha Mint Oreos


Matcha mint Oreos! I’m pretty excited about these cookies, because homemade Oreos have been on my baking bucket list for awhile now. I’ve tried a few different recipes in the past, but none of them really did it for me. But the base recipe for these Oreos comes from Stella Park’s fantastic book, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts, and they are the real deal. Bake a batch of these and your house will smell like an Oreo factory.

For a festive twist, I decided to go with a matcha mint filling, inspired by the perennially popular Candy Cane Joe Joe’s from my favorite grocery store not in Canada (sad face). I added matcha mostly for color, but its earthy flavor also tempers the sweetness from the candy canes.

matcha mint oreos

A few notes:

  • When making the wafers, I find it easiest to roll the dough to the desired thinness right after mixing. Divide the dough in half and roll each half between two sheets of parchment paper. Stick the rolled out dough in the fridge for about half an hour just to firm it up, then cut your rounds. This way, you don’t have to use any extra cocoa powder for rolling and you can use the parchment to line your sheet pans.
  • Make and completely cool your wafers before making the filling, as the filling sets quickly and must be used right after mixing. (The wafers keep really well, so you can definitely make this recipe over a couple of days.)
  • Crush your peppermint candies really finely. Otherwise your piping tip will get clogged when you fill the cookies and it’ll be hard to get your cookies to lie flat. Also, someone could break a tooth.
  • Matcha powders vary quite a bit in potency. I liked how my filling tasted with 1 Tbsp, but if you’re unsure start with less and add more to taste. You can also omit the peppermint extract if you want a more prominent matcha flavor.

Matcha Mint Oreos

Adapted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts | Makes about 20 2-inch sandwich cookies

Ingredients

For the Oreo wafers:

  • One batch of this recipe, cut into 2-inch rounds and completely cooled

For the matcha mint filling:

  • 170g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp pure peppermint extract
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 240g powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp matcha powder
  • 1/3 c finely crushed candy canes or peppermint candies

Method

For the matcha mint filling:

  1. Before making the filling, flip half the chocolate wafers upside down so they can be filled immediately after preparing the filling.
  2. Sift the matcha powder and icing sugar together and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, completely melt butter over medium-low heat. Simmer, stirring with a heat-resistant spatula, while butter hisses and pops; if you notice brown bits forming along the edges, reduce heat to low. Continue cooking and stirring until butter falls silent, then strain into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add the peppermint extract and salt, followed by powdered sugar and matcha. Mix on low to moisten, then increase to medium and beat until creamy and soft, about 5 minutes. If your filling is runny, stick it in the fridge for a few minutes to stiffen slightly (this should only take a few minutes). Stir in the peppermint candies. Transfer to a heavy-duty pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch tip and use immediately.

To assemble:

  • Pipe about a tablespoon of filling onto each upturned wafer, then sandwich with the remaining halves. Gently twist the cookies to evenly distribute the filling. Allow cookies to set for about half an hour before serving. Store leftovers (if there are any) in an airtight container. They keep well at room temperature for about a week. (For longer storage, keep in refrigerator or freezer; serve at room temperature.)

Matcha Mint Oreo stack

Granola Biscotti

Granola biscotti
A couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to receive a copy of Deb Perelman’s new cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites. I’ve been reading Smitten Kitchen for…well, probably about as long as it’s existed. In an internet now overloaded with food blogs (sorry, not sorry) it’s one of the few that I still enjoy reading regularly. Deb’s clear and candid writing style is a breath of fresh air, and her recipes strike that rare balance between “stuff I want to attempt” and “stuff I’ll actually make.” (Her hidden kid pictures are a genius touch as well.) Can you tell I’m a fangirl? OK, moving on now.

While there are plenty of recipes that caught my eye (hello pretzel linzers with salted caramel and chicken and rice, street cart style!), I knew right away that granola biscotti would be the first I’d tackle because 1) we’d just run out of granola, 2) my 2-year old asks for “two cookies, please” most days (yes, he’s very specific about the “two” and no, he doesn’t always get them) and 3) previously mentioned 2-year-old is also obsessed with “helping” in the kitchen. (Recipes with lots of add-ins are perfect for little helpers, because they get to dump lots of things in bowls.) These have been a hit with the big and little people alike, and I can personally vouch that they’re equally good dunked in coffee or dipped in yogurt.

Smitten Kitchen cookbook with biscotti

As Deb notes, these biscotti are very tweakable. I’ve included the recipe here as it appears in the book and my own substitutions in brackets. Also, I think these would make great Christmas cookie gifts — perhaps dunked or drizzled with chocolate. You can make these biscotti ahead of time as they keep very well, always a plus at this time of year.

A couple of notes:

  • While I love butter and never shy away from it in baking, I used grapeseed oil because I prefer the texture of oil-based biscotti (they’re generally crisper and less crumbly than butter-based).
  • I also like my biscotti bakery-style (i.e. long), so I made mine bigger than indicated and got 24 instead of 36.
  • Slicing biscotti can be tricky business. If the logs are either too warm or too cold, they tend to crumble rather than cut. I have the best success when I cut them when they’re still slightly warm and push down (not saw) firmly with a sharp, serrated knife.

Granola biscotti 2

Granola Biscotti

Makes 36 biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for your work surface [I used half spelt flour by weight]
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (130 grams) rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table or fine sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted, or virgin coconut oil, warmed until liquefied [I substituted 64g grapeseed oil]
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated or raw (turbinado) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) light- or dark-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional) [I also added 1/2 tsp almond extract]
  • 1/2 cup (45 grams) thinly sliced almonds [I used whole almonds, roughly chopped]
  • 1/2 cup (40 grams) shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup (about 150 grams) dried fruit of your choice, such as raisins, cranberries, cherries, or chopped dried apricots or figs, or a mix thereof
  • 1 egg white [I omitted this]

Method

  1. Mix the flour, rolled oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk the melted butter and sugars in the bottom of a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients, nuts, coconut, and dried fruit. Expect a stiff batter.
  2. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. On a floured counter, using floured hands roll half the dough into a log a little shy of the length of your baking sheet, 12 to 14 inches. Transfer the dough log to the baking sheet, and pat lightly until it becomes more oval- shaped. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Beat the egg white until foamy, and brush it over logs. Bake the logs for 20 minutes, until they are lightly golden brown and beginning to form cracks.
  4. Let cool almost completely (it’s okay if the centers are still lukewarm), about 1 hour. With a serrated knife, cut the logs on the bias into 1/2-inch-thick slices. They will be crumbly; cut as gently as possible. Transfer the slices back to the parchment-lined baking sheet, and lay flat in a single layer. Bake for another 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. (If you like, you can flip them halfway for more even browning, but you will have good color on them either way.)
  5. Cool the biscotti on the baking sheet, or transfer to a rack.

Note: This recipe should prove very tweakable; you could use cinnamon, or almond extract, add citrus zest, vary the fruits and sweeteners. You could swap half the flour for whole wheat or even oat flour. Or you could add some chocolate chips. Who could blame you?

Do ahead: Biscotti keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, and longer if well wrapped in the freezer.

Excerpted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites. Text and photographs copyright © 2017 Deb Perelman. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Really Good Brownies

brownies from top

A couple of weeks ago I posted a photo of a batch of brownies, and I was flooded with requests for the recipe. I get it — as much as I love tinkering with flavors and techniques, hands down the dessert I crave most often is a good old brownie.

I realize that what constitutes a good brownie varies tremendously from person to person, which is why this is the millionth brownie recipe on the internet. To me, a good brownie is crackly-topped, chewy but tender, and deeply chocolatey. Oh, and well-salted.

brownie in hand

These brownies check all those boxes for me. I still have some tweaks I want to try so I won’t go as far as to call them “perfect,” but for the time being this is the batch to beat.

Without getting too brownie-nerd on you (there’s plenty out there should you wish to delve into that world), here’s a little bit of the rationale behind this recipe:

  • Both butter and oil for a mix of flavor and moisture
  • Both cocoa powder and melted chocolate, the first for a rich chocolate flavor and the second for texture and that crackly top
  • A touch of brown sugar for moisture, flavor, and chew
  • A modest amount of flour to keep things from getting too cakey, but enough so we’re not completely in fudge territory
  • Espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor
  • The eggs and sugar are whipped together to provide structure and also to aid in getting that crackly top
  • Baked in an 8×8 square pan for thick, non-wimpy brownies

brownie cut

This recipe is the result of a lot of tinkering, which is why the measurements are a bit weird. I developed it using gram measurements (I bake by weight 99.9% of the time), but the cup measurements are below as well — just know I haven’t tested them myself.

To great brownies!

Really Good Brownies

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients

  • 85g (6 Tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 75g neutral vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 85g (3 oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I like Callebaut 70%)
  • 100g (3/4 c + 2 tsp) AP flour
  • 57g (2/3 c) Dutch process cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
  • 169g (3/4 c + 1 Tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 56g (1/4 c + 1 tsp) brown sugar
  • scant 1 tsp coarse kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8 square pan with foil and lightly grease.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, oil, and chocolate. Melt over low heat, then set aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa powder.
  3. Combine all ingredients from the sugar through the espresso powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on low briefly to combine, then crank up the speed to medium high and continue whisking until the mixture is thick and pale (about 5 minutes).
  4. Reduce the speed to low and drizzle in the butter-chocolate-oil mixture. Once incorporated, add the flour-cocoa mixture, mixing just to combine. Use a silicone spatula to stir from the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is well-mixed and there are no pockets of unincorporated flour.
  5. Pour into the prepared pan, sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt, and bake until the top is cracked and glossy and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few wet crumbs (not raw brownie batter, but not completely dry), about 25-30 minutes (start checking at 20 minutes — baking these just the right amount of time is critical to getting the right texture!).
  6. Allow brownies to cool completely before slicing. Store leftovers in an airtight container, or freeze for later. (I actually like chilling my brownies in the fridge for an hour before eating — I find this gives them the perfect amount of chew!)

Pear Cranberry Frangipane Tart

pear cranberry frangipane tart

This recipe is part of a Pie Squad Party organized by Nate at Terminatetor Kitchen. Be sure to check out the delicious pies created by fellow bloggers via the links at the bottom of this post!

It’s no secret around here that I love frangipane. I used to think frangipane was some secret ingredient bakeries used to make their pastries and tarts extra fancy. Then I learned that it wasn’t all that fancy — basically just equal parts butter, sugar, eggs, and ground nuts. Plus, it’s really easy to make, which kind of makes me want to put frangipane in everything. (The price of nuts keeps me in check, though.)

This tart is a twist on the classic French pear and almond tart, one of my all time favorite desserts. I’ve added some cranberries for color and tartness, which balances out the buttery richness of the frangipane and the mellow sweetness of the pears. All the elements of this tart can be made in advance and it’s best served at room temperature, making it a great candidate for Thanksgiving dinner or a holiday potluck.

spreading frangipane
pear cranberry frangipane tart unbaked

Pear Cranberry Frangipane Tart

Makes 1 9-inch tart

Ingredients

For the Poached Pears:

  • 150g / 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 100g / 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 4 c water
  • 4 ripe but firm Bosc pears, peeled, halved, and cored
  • Optional poaching spices: One cinnamon stick, 2 teaspoons whole cloves, black peppercorns or allspice berries, one lemon half, one split vanilla bean, 2-3 star anise, 6-8 fresh ginger slices

For the Quick Cranberry Sauce:

  • 8 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/3 c ginger ale (or water, or orange juice if you prefer)
  • 1/3 c maple syrup
  • A few gratings of orange zest

For the Almond Frangipane:

  • 115g / 4 ounces / 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100g / 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 130g / 1 cup almond flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch of salt

To finish:

  • A handful of fresh or frozen cranberries, for garnish
  • Icing sugar or honey, for serving

Method

For the Poached Pears:

  1. Combine the sugar, maple syrup, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve all the sugar.
  2. When the liquid is at a simmer, add the poaching spices and pears. Cover the pears with a round piece of parchment paper with a hole cut in the center. (This keeps the pears submerged in the liquid while still allowing steam to escape.)
  3. Simmer pears for 10-15 minutes, turning ever 5 minutes or so, or until just tender.
  4. Allow pears to cool in the liquid. (Pears can be refrigerated in the poaching liquid for a few days.)

For the Quick Cranberry Sauce:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. When the mixture begins to boil, turn the heat down to medium low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped and the sauce has thickened to your liking (about 5 minutes).
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the orange zest, if using. Taste and adjust sweetness if needed. (The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated up to a week in advance.)

For the Almond Frangipane:

  1. Beat butter and sugar together on high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating the first in thoroughly and scraping down the bowl before adding the second. Mix in the vanilla and salt.
  3. Fold in the almond flour until just combined. (The frangipane can be made ahead and refrigerated a couple days in advance. Bring to room temperature before using.)

To assemble:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spread an even layer of cranberry sauce over the bottom of the tart shell (you won’t need all the sauce — save the rest for accompanying turkey,or for spreading on toast). Spread the frangipane evenly over the sauce.
  2. Arrange the pears on top of the frangipane, pressing them in lightly. You can thinly slice and fan them out as pictured or leave the halves intact — up to you. (Depending on the size of your pears and your mode of decoration, you may not use them all.) Add a few cranberries on top, if desired.
  3. Bake until the frangipane is browned and puffed, about 45 minutes. While the tart is still warm, you can glaze the pears with some of the poaching liquid or some warmed apricot jelly for a bit of shine.
    Serve at room temperature with a dusting of icing sugar or drizzle of honey.

More Pie Squad Creations:

Cloudy Kitchen:
Chocolate Cream pie with whipped peanut butter cream

Cook Til Delicious:
Pear Cranberry Frangipane Tart

DisplacedHousewife:
Five-Spice Cran-Apple Handpies

The Farmer’s Daughter:
Apple Ginger Pie

Harvest and Honey:
Apple Apple Pies

Lyndsey Eden:
Maple Cream Cheese Pear & Pistachio Galette

Salvialimone:
Tarta Tine with White Chocolate Caramelized Pears

TermiNatetor Kitchen:
Brown Butter Chai Pumpkin Pie with Sugared Sage

Topless Baker:
Apple & Blackberry Flower Lattice Pie

The Wood and Spoon:
Chocolate Chess Pie

Veggie Pakoras with Brussels Sprout Slaw

veggie pakora salad

This post was created in partnership with Spice it Up Foods, whose Veggie Pakoras are now available at select Costco stores in Eastern Canada. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

We’re approaching two months with two kids. The transition to becoming a family of four has gone as smoothly as I could have hoped (thank God for grandparents!). But even so, some days it’s…shall we say, challenging getting dinner on the table.

Spice it Up’s vegan and all-natural Veggie Pakoras are perfect for those days when I need a little help whipping up a quick and healthy meal. These crisp and well-spiced baked fritters make tasty snacks on their own, but here I’ve turned them into a light meal with a brussels sprout slaw and a spiced yogurt dressing/dip. The pakoras take about 15 minutes to bake, which conveniently is about as much time as you’ll need to make the salad and dressing!

veggie pakoras

brussels sprout slaw

pakoras and slaw

Veggie Pakoras with Brussels Sprout Slaw and Yogurt Dressing

Serves 4-6 as a light meal

Ingredients

For the brussels sprout slaw:

  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, finely shredded
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely sliced
  • 1/2 c almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 c dried cranberries
  • Cilabtro, for garnish (optional)

For the yogurt dressing:

  • 1 1/2 c plain yogurt, preferably low or full fat
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground tumeric
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • 1 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • Large handful of cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with foil. Place frozen pakoras on the baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until crisp, turning once midway through cooking.
  2. While the pakoras are baking, toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant. Cool slightly, then grind using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients from the yogurt through the ginger. Stir in the cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside 1/2 a cup for dipping.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the slaw ingredients. Toss with the remaining dressing.
  5. To serve, top slaw with hot pakoras and cilantro and serve with reserved dressing on the side as a dipping sauce.

Pumpkin Apple Butter Pie

pumpkin apple butter pie

Today is all about pumpkin, because it’s the 2017 Virtual Pumpkin Party! If you’re not a pumpkin fan or totally over pumpkin spice, hopefully this recipe (and the ton of other creative pumpkin-y recipes hitting the interwebs today) will inspire you to give pumpkin another chance.

When it comes to pie, are you Team Apple or Team Pumpkin? I quick-polled this question on Instagram Stories a couple weeks ago, and it seems that most of my followers are apple pie devotees. I, personally, am a proud member of Team Both. I also believe that a slice of cold pumpkin pie the day after Thanksgiving is one of life’s simple pleasures.

But as a nod to all you apple lovers out there (well, that and the several jars of apple butter in my fridge…), I’ve included apple butter in today’s pumpkin pie recipe. While you could go equal parts pumpkin and apple butter, I prefer a little heavier on the pumpkin, with the apple butter adding a subtle fruity sweetness and another layer of flavor.

Pumpkin pie is pretty easy to make, but here are a few tips to getting it just right:

  1. Don’t overbake! Seriously, turn off the oven when the middle is still a little wobbly. Otherwise it’ll be tough and probably crack when it cools.
  2. Speaking of cracks, the best way to avoid them is to cool it gradually (like you would a cheesecake). I had the best results when I left mine in the turned off oven for a few minutes before cooling at room temperature. That being said, a few cracks aren’t the end of the world and that’s why whipped cream (or, even better, homemade marshmallows or marshmallow meringue) exists.
  3. Use butternut squash instead of pumpkin. Maybe this is a little sacrilegious considering this recipe is for a Virtual Pumpkin Party…but I think butternut squash (or other flavorful winter squashes) taste better than pumpkin in pie. I definitely prefer the texture and color of butternut as well. And hey — if you’re using the canned stuff (which totally works), chances are it’s got some non-pumpkiny squash in there too.
  4. I prefer a cookie crust to a traditional all-butter crust with pumpkin pie because I like the contrast of textures. (However, according to another of my Insta-quick polls, I’m in the minority, heh.) Whichever you prefer, I definitely recommend taking the extra step of pre-baking the crust to prevent sogginess.

Pumpkin Apple Butter Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 9-inch pie crust (either all-butter or cookie-based), pre-baked (optional but recommended)
  • 280g pumpkin (or butternut squash) puree
  • 200g apple butter
  • 130g light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
  • A few turns of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 c heavy cream

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Combine all the ingredients from pumpkin through salt in a food processor and process until smooth (you can also use an immersion blender). Add the cream and eggs and process until just combined.
  2. Scrape the filling into a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until just warm. You don’t want to cook the filling — just heat it through so the custard bakes more quickly and smoothly.
  3. When the filling is warm, pour it into the prepared pie shell. Bake until the edges are set but the middle still wobbles, about 30-40 minutes.
  4. Turn off the oven, crack open the oven door, and let the pie cool for 10 minutes; then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. For the cleanest cuts, refrigerate uncovered before serving. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

This recipe was created as part of the 2017 Virtual Pumpkin Party. Don’t forget to check out the many other fantastic pumpkin recipes created by food bloggers around the world!

Apple Butter Bundt Cake

apple butter bundt cake

I made this little bundt cake for one of our Sunday family dinners. It was a snap to put together — no mixer required! no softening of butter! — and had a lovely soft texture that complemented the warm fall spices. The original recipe called for applesauce, but apple butter worked perfectly as a substitute (as would pumpkin puree, I suspect). The cake also keeps beautifully — I sneaked a piece a few days later and it was still just as moist as the first day. I have a bit of apple butter left, so this is on my re-make list — perhaps sneaking in some whole grain flour and swapping the allspice for cardamom or nutmeg (though the amount of spice here is perfect in my opinion).

apple butter bundt cake slice

Apple Butter Bundt Cake

Adapted from Food 52 | Makes one 6-cup bundt (6-8 servings)

Ingredients:

For the bundt cake:

  • 120g AP flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 65g granulated sugar
  • 65g light brown sugar
  • 180g apple butter
  • 1/3 c vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 Tbsp salted caramel sauce or maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream, plus more if needed

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 6-cup bundt pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour through allspice). In a large bowl, whisk together egg and sugars until light. Whisk in the apple butter, oil, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Using a silicone spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined. Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  4. Cool cake for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Cool cake completely before glazing.
  5. When the cake is cool, prepare the glaze. Combine the cream cheese, salted caramel sauce, and salt in a food processor until smooth. With the processor running, drizzle in the cream. Add cream 1 tsp at a time until desired consistency is achieved. Transfer glaze to a small ziplock bag with the corner snipped off. Pipe the glaze over the cake.

Maple Eclairs

maple eclairs

I’m relatively new to choux. I never had much interest in cream puffs and eclairs, because most of the ones I’d eaten before were just doughy puffs filled with whipped cream and unceremoniously dusted with icing sugar. I’d much prefer a slice of pie or cake, and being lactose-intolerant I’d rather suffer for eating ice cream over whipped cream.

But earlier this year I made choux pastry for the first time and I realized, this is really fun. Maybe I’m a little weird (ok, not maybe), but I find making choux very relaxing. I enjoy watching the dough transform from a curdled mess into a smooth paste and trying to pipe uniform shells. And it’s super satisfying seeing those doughy lines transform into light, airy shells ready to be filled with whatever your heart desires (though my 2-year-old will gladly gobble them up plain).

choux pastry

When the Maple Guild sent me a bottle of their organic bourbon barrel aged maple syrup to try, I thought an eclair would be a fun way to highlight the pure deliciousness of maple. Maple is definitely the star of this dessert, so please use the best quality syrup you can find!

A few notes:

  • The ingredient list and instructions may look long, but you can easily break the work up over a few days. I suggest making the pastry cream and praline first, as those can both be held in the fridge for a few days. Make the choux the day you plan to serve these eclairs.
  • If you’re new to choux pastry, I highly recommend reading this tutorial for choux tips! This is the recipe I’ve had best success using, though I’ve made a couple of changes (salt content and baking temperatures).
  • I typically make pastry cream with whole milk, but because we’re using a liquid sweetener (maple syrup), I’ve used part heavy cream for a thicker final texture. If you use all milk the final product may be a little looser and you’ll need to spoon the cream into the shells rather than pipe it.
  • I really like adding a crunchy element to eclairs (in this case, the praline) to add texture. If you’re pressed for time, I think a sprinkling of crushed pretzels would work well — something with a bit of salt to balance out the sweetness of the maple. If you go the pretzel route, add it right before serving or it’ll get soggy.

filled eclairs

Maple Eclairs

Makes 12 4-inch eclairs

Ingredients

For the Choux Pastry:

  • 75g water
  • 75g milk
  • 75g butter
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g bread flour, sifted
  • 150g eggs (about 3 large), room temperature and lightly beaten
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

For the Maple Pastry Cream:

  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 1/3 c maple syrup
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 25g custard powder (or cornstarch)
  • 25g flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp maple extract (optional)
  • 28g unsalted butter, softened

For the Almond Praline:

  • 150g toasted almonds, chopped
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • Flaky sea salt

For the Maple Cream Cheese Glaze:

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 Tbsp maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cream, plus more if needed

Method:


For the choux pastry:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a ruler to draw twelve 4-inch lines, spaced by about 2 inches, to serve as a piping guide. Flip the parchment over so you don’t get pen/marker on your pastry.
  2. Combine the water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a strong simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the mixture is simmering, remove the pot from the heat and dump the flour in all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula until the flour is completely incorporated.
  3. Return the pot to low heat and continue stirring until the mixture forms a ball and a thin film forms on the bottom of the pot, 1-2 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should read 170F. Immediately transfer dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  4. Mix the dough on low speed for a couple of minutes to release the steam. An instant-read thermometer should read no warmer than 140F (any hotter and you’ll cook the eggs when adding them!). When the dough has cooled sufficiently and with the mixer still on low, add about half of the eggs. Mix until the egg has been completely absorbed, then add more egg about a tablespoon at a time, mixing completely before adding more. When you’ve added most of the egg, check the dough consistency — a finger dragged through it should leave a trough and a peak of dough should form where the finger is lifted. Once the dough passes this test, it’s ready. (You may not need all the egg.)
  5. Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with an open star tip. Pipe the eclairs onto the prepared sheet. Once all the eclairs are piped, dust them with icing sugar.
  6. Bake the eclairs for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 375F and continue baking until the shells are puffed and a deep golden brown — about another 20-30 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet after about 30 minutes total baking time — avoid opening the oven door any sooner, or your shells may collapse. After the shells are finished but still hot, pierce the bottoms with a skewer or paring knife and return to the turned-off oven for 10 minutes to allow the steam to escape and the insides to dry out (prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon). Transfer shells to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before glazing and filling.

For the maple pastry cream:

  1. Combine the milk, cream, and maple syrup in a medium saucepan.
  2. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in a ladleful of the milk mixture.
  3. Bring the milk mixture just to the boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, sift the custard powder and flour over the yolk mixture, and whisk until smooth.
  4. When the milk is just at boiling, remove from the heat. Add a ladleful of the hot milk mixture to the yolks, whisking continuously. Pour the remaining milk mixture into the yolks in a slow, steady stream, continuing to whisk constantly. Once all the milk has been added, transfer the entire mixture back to the saucepan over low heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Continue cooking over low heat for one minute after the mixture starts bubbling, then strain into a clean container. Whisk in the extracts and butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the custard and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold before using.

For the almond praline:

  1. Line a sheet pan with parchment or a Silpat. Have a silicon spatula, your chopped almonds, and flaky sea salt ready to go.
  2. Put the sugar in a heavy saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Cook without stirring (occasionally swirling the pan is fine), until the sugar melts and eventually turns a deep amber color. Once the sugar is caramelized, remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the almonds to coat. Quickly pour the mixture onto the prepared sheet pan and spread it as thinly as possible with your spatula (don’t touch, trust me — it’ll hurt). Immediately sprinkle with a generous amount of flaky sea salt. Allow to cool completely before breaking into pieces, either with a mallet or food processor. Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer; or you can grind the remainder into praline paste.

For the maple cream cheese glaze:

  • Combine the cream cheese, maple syrup, and salt in a food processor and process until smooth. Add cream a teaspoon at a time until the glaze is thick and spreadable.

To assemble the maple eclairs:

  1. Remove the pastry cream from the fridge and whisk to loosen. Transfer the cream to a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip (alternatively, you can just spoon the cream in).
  2. Using a sharp serrated knife, trim off the top third of the eclair shells and set aside. Remove any soft bits from inside the shells. Pipe the cream into the bottom of the shells.
  3. Spread roughly a tablespoon of glaze onto the top of each shell. Place the tops back on the filled shells and garnish with almond praline. Refrigerate until serving — these really are best within a few hours of filling, though if you have to hold them longer wait until the last minute to add the praline.

maple eclairs on plate

Instant Pot Apple Butter

apple butter

Over the past few years, apple picking has become an early fall tradition. It started five years ago as a date activity with my now-husband, and this year the apple farm was one of our brand-new daughter’s first excursions.

apple farm trip

(This was actually our second trip this year; Marcus liked the last trip so much he kept asking to see “apple trees.”)

Besides pies and galettes, I also enjoy making a batch or two of apple butter with our pickings. I far prefer apple butter to applesauce — it’s thick enough to spread on toast and is generally more flavorful. Apple butter is also a handy ingredient to have around for fall baking, as I’m discovering (recipes to come!). Whipping up a batch does take some time, but it’s mostly hands-off and makes your house smell perfectly autumnal — a great rainy day project!

I used our Instant Pot to make this year’s batch. (Not sponsored — we really do love this gadget!) While my method doesn’t save much time on traditional apple butter-making methods, I do think it’s easier and dirties fewer dishes. It’s definitely how I’m making apple butter from here on out!

A few notes:

  • You can use any variety (or varieties) of apples. I used a mix of Macintoshes and Cortlands for this particular batch.
  • Feel free to add different / more spices to your liking. I kept this batch pretty light on spice since I knew I would be using it in some baking recipes.
  • If you don’t have an Instant Pot, you can make this using the stovetop and oven or a slow cooker.
  • If you’re pressed for time, you could use the “saute” setting instead of “slow cook” in step 2 to reduce the puree down (it should take 45-60 minutes), but the butter does tend to splatter and requires more constant stirring / attention.

Instant Pot Apple Butter

Makes about 3 pints

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 lbs apples, cored and quartered (no need to peel)
  • 1/4 c water or apple juice
  • 100-200 g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • A few gratings of fresh nutmeg

Method

  1. Place the apples and water/juice in the Instant Pot and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally. Puree contents using an immersion blender / regular blender / food processor.
  2. Return puree to the Instant Pot. With the lid propped open for steam ventilation, cook — stirring occasionally — on the slow cooker setting until thick and reduced, about 6 hours. Add sugar and spices, adjusting to taste (I used about 3/4 c sugar for a gently sweetened butter).
  3. For smoothest texture, puree contents again. Ladle apple butter into clean, sterile jars. Process in a water bath, if desired, or store in the refrigerator and use within a few weeks. Apple butter can also be frozen.