This post is sponsored by Weight Watchers Canada. Find out more about the WW Freestyle program, which encourages the freedom to eat the foods you love while nudging you towards healthier choices using the SmartPoints system. As always, all ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.
With the holidays fast approaching, we all need a few back-pocket recipes that are good for crowds, easy to prepare, and — most importantly — delightfully delicious. This is one of those recipes for me. Gougeres, or French cheese puffs, are made with the classic pate a choux dough. But instead of filling the puffs with cream or custard, you mix some herbs, cheese, and spices into the dough to make savory little appetizers that go down just right with a glass of wine or a cup of mulled cider. I dare you to eat just one!
A couple of notes:
- If you’ve made pate a choux before — perhaps for eclairs or cream puffs — this recipe should feel very familiar to you. I prefer using bread flour and a mixture of milk and water when making pate a choux. The bread flour gives strength to the dough and helps the gougeres keep their shape better. The mixture of milk and water gives the puffs a more tender chew and flavor, but you can also use all water.
- You can substitute other sharp, hard cheeses (or use a mixture) for the cheddar. Part of the fun of this recipe is making it your own: add some cayenne if you like a little heat, or switch out the scallions for other fresh, chopped herbs of your choice.
- You can make smaller, bite-size gougeres if you prefer (this recipe will probably yield 30 or so). Just keep an eye on them in the oven as they’ll likely be done sooner than these large ones.
Smoked Paprika and Cheddar Gougeres
Makes about 15 large gougeres
- 75g water
- 75g milk
- 75g butter
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp mustard powder
- A few turns of freshly ground black pepper
- 100g bread flour, sifted
- 150g eggs (about 3 large), room temperature and lightly beaten to combine
- 100g grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
- 1/4 c finely chopped scallions
- Preheat the oven to 425F with a rack in the middle and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (I used a 13×18 sheet pan; if yours are smaller you may need two. Bake on the top and bottom racks in the oven).
- Combine the water, milk, butter, sugar, salt, paprika, mustard, and pepper 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Set aside about a quarter of the cheese. Add the remaining 3/4 of the cheese and the scallions to the dough and use a silicone spatula to combine.
- Using a cookie scoop (I used an OXO #40), scoop golf-ball size portions of dough onto the prepared sheet, leaving a couple inches between each. (You can also transfer the mixture to a piping bag pipe out mounds, or use a couple of spoons.) Sprinkle the tops of the gougeres with the reserved cheese.
- Bake the gougeres for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375F and continue baking for another 20-30 minutes, or until the gougeres are browned and feel hollow when you pick one up. Avoid opening the oven for the first 20 minutes of baking or the gougeres may collapse. Cool in a slightly ajar oven for about 10 minutes.
- Gougeres are best served still slightly warm from the oven, though I’ve heard you can recrisp them in the oven for a few minutes. Mine have never lasted long enough to test, though…
Popcorn is one of our family’s favorite snacks, so I’m thrilled to have partnered with Simon Malls to create three easy popcorn recipes perfect for your Oscar’s party or late night snack attack: Sea Salt & Vinegar, Hawaiian Popcorn, and Brown Butter Popcorn Marshmallow Treats.
Head over to the Simon website to snag all three recipes!
This is a recipe near and dear to my heart. I first made biscotti soon after getting married, in our tiny basement kitchen oven. It’s a very simple recipe that can be easily adapted to your preferences. David often brings a batch of them to work for quick breakfasts / snacks (they keep really, really well), and now some of his co-workers come looking for them as well. 😉
I recently made a batch with Marcus for the first time. He loved using a whisk and dumping all the mix-ins in…and, of course, eating the crumbs off the tray.
A few notes:
- The dough should be fairly stiff and you shouldn’t need any additional flour to shape it into logs. If it’s sticky, just pop it in the fridge for a few minutes before shaping.
- The trickiest part of making biscotti is cutting them. I find it’s all about the timing — you want the biscotti logs to be cool enough to handle, but not completely cold or they’ll be more likely to crumble. Twenty minutes after the first bake is usually the sweet spot for me.
- This recipe is very adaptable. My personal favorite flavor combination is below, but as long as you keep the add-ins to ~1 1/2 to 2 cups you should be able to swap in your choice of nuts/fruits/chocolate/seeds and even jazz up the spices if you want.
Makes 3-4 dozen biscotti
- 1/2 c grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
- 3 large eggs, straight from the fridge
- 200g (1 c) granulated sugar
- 1/2 Tbsp almond extract
- 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 400g (3 1/4 c) AP flour (I have swapped out 50% of the flour for sifted whole wheat flour with good results)
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 85g (1/2 c) dark chocolate chips
- 75g (1/2 c) raisins
- 140g (1 c) toasted and chopped almonds
- Handful of flax seeds
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat (if your baking sheets are small, use two).
- In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, sugar, and extracts until smooth. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to gently combine.
- When the dry ingredients are almost fully incorporated, mix in the chocolate chips, raisins, and almonds. Stir just until everything is combined and there are no streaks of flour remaining. If the mixture is sticky, cover the bowl with plastic and chill for ~15 minutes before proceeding.
- Divide the dough into two equal parts. Working with one part at a time, transfer to the prepared baking sheet and pat into logs about 1/2 an inch thick. Leave at least 3 inches between the two logs as they will spread a little.
- Bake until the tops are lightly golden, firm, and beginning to crack – about 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool for about 20-30 minutes, or until the logs are cool enough to handle but still slightly warm.
- Use a large offset spatula to transfer one log at a time to a cutting board. Use a sharp serrated knife to slice each log crosswise into ~1/2″ logs. (I find it easiest to just press down firmly with the knife rather than saw.) Place the cookies back on the baking sheet(s) cut side up and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until lightly toasted. (You can flip the cookies over halfway through baking, but I usually don’t bother.)
- Cool completely on a wire rack (cookies will crisp us as they cool). Serve biscotti with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Leftovers store well for weeks in an airtight container.
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.
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.
Makes 36 biscotti
- 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]
- 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.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
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.
- 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.)
- 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.
Here’s the thing: I don’t mind complicated recipes. Since I break a lot of my baking into multiple days, a long list of directions doesn’t usually put me off. Plus, there’s something really satisfying about seeing larger projects come to life!
But sometimes you just need simple, 30-minutes-no-oven-required back pocket recipes; and this is one of those gems. These are not your back-of-the-box Rice Krispie treats. These are BROWN BUTTER RICE KRISPIE TREATS. But good news, they’re practically just as easy as the original recipe. What makes them special?
- Brown butter. If you’re going to melt the butter anyways, why not take a few extra minutes and brown it for that extra delicious nutty edge? Oh yeah, this also calls for double the butter compared to the original recipe, because you only live once (don’t worry, it’s not so much that they’re greasy).
- More marshmallows. WAY more marshmallows. And some are left unmelted for an extra surprise. Nothing is worse than a dry Rice Krispie Treat.
- Thick, bakery-style pieces. I like my treats tall, so I make them in an 8×8 pan (I do the same thing with brownies). Double the recipe if you’re making this in a 9×13 pan; no thin and wimpy Rice Krispie treats here!
- Salt. One of my pet peeves is under-salted baked goods. Especially when you’ve got all the sweetness from the marshmallows in there — you need a little bit of salt to round out the flavor. You might as well throw a dash of vanilla in there while you’re at it.
OK, enough talking. Here we go!
Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats
Makes 9 – 16 treats, depending on how big you like them
- 113g / 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 425g / 10 cups mini marshmallows, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
- Dash of pure vanilla extract
- 160g / 6 cups crispy rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies (about half a 12-ounce box)
- Line an 8×8 pan with foil. Lightly butter or oil the foil for easy removal. Measure out all your ingredients — this is a quick and simple recipe, but once you start, you do need to move quickly!
- In a large pot over medium-low heat, brown the butter. It will melt, foam, turn clear gold, then finally start browning (and smelling nutty). Stir frequently with a silicon spatula or wooden spoon, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan as needed.
- When the butter has browned, take the pan off the heat and add the salt, vanilla, and 8 cups of marshmallows. Stir constantly until the marshmallows are melted and you have a smooth mixture. If the residual heat from the butter isn’t enough to melt the mallows completely, turn the heat back to low.
- Add the cereal and stir until evenly coated with the marshmallow mixture. Stir in the remaining two cups of mini marshmallows.
- Immediately scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and, using a greased silicon spatula or a piece of greased parchment/wax paper, press it firmly into an even layer. Let cool completely at room temperature before cutting into squares.
- Store in an airtight container and eat within 3 days.
Granola is a bit like banana bread: there are a zillion different recipes out there, and many of them are good. But over time, you find that one recipe that checks all the boxes for you, and it becomes your house standard. This is mine. It’s my favorite because it’s crunchy, has clusters, and isn’t overly sweet. Paired with fresh berries and Greek yogurt, it’s one of my go-to quick breakfasts. But I’ve also been known to eat it by the handful for a mid-afternoon snack and sprinkle it on frozen yogurt for dessert.
The method and base recipe are from Tara O’Brady’s cookbook Seven Spoons. The original recipe calls for candied ginger and cacao nibs, which I omit (they sound delightful but aren’t normally stocked in my pantry). I’ve played around with different nuts and seeds, and the version below is what I typically use. But like most good granola recipes, this one is easily adaptable. Swap the sesame seeds out for flax or chia; use whatever nuts you have in stock; switch up the spices to suit your palate; omit the coconut if it’s not your thing.
Basic Granola Recipe
Adapted from Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady | Makes about 8 1/2 cups
- 60g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 100g (1/2 cup) packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 455g (5 cups) old-fashioned rolled oats
- 140g (1 1/2 cups) nuts, chopped if large (I like a mix of almonds, cashews, and walnuts)
- 65g (3/4 cup) unsweetened flaked coconut
- 35g (1/4 cup) sesame seeds
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 150g (1 cup) dried fruit, chopped if large (I usually use figs and/or raisins)
- 35g (1/4 cup) raw, hulled sunflower seeds
- 70g (1/2 cup) finely chopped candied ginger
- 70g (1/2 cup) raw pepitas
- Raw cacao nibs
- Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C) with racks in the upper and lower thirds.
- In a saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter into the olive oil and maple syrup. Add the brown sugar, water, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring often, until the brown sugar dissolves. Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and set aside to cool.
- In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, grind 2 cups (180 g) of the oats into flour. Transfer this oat flour to a large bowl. Stir in the remaining 3 cups (275 g) whole oats, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the nuts, coconut, seeds, and cinnamon. Pour the butter and sugar mixture over everything and stir to coat. Let stand for about 10 minutes, to give the oats the opportunity to lap up the sugar syrup.
- Line two half sheet pans or standard baking sheets with parchment paper. Using your hands, drop the oat mixture in clumps onto the pans, then bake in the preheated oven until dry, light golden, and evenly toasted, 40 to 50 minutes, gently stirring and turning the granola with a large spatula every 15 minutes or so and rotating the pans once from top to bottom and front to back.
- Remove from the oven and leave the granola on the pans. The granola will continue to crisp as it stands. After 5 minutes, stir in the candied ginger and pepitas (if using). Once the granola has cooled completely, stir in the dried fruit and the cacao nibs (if using).
- Transfer the granola to an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Both my husband and I are food nerds in our own ways. I’m into baking and he’s into meat. (For the past year he’s been curing his own bacon and once you’ve had that, there’s no going back.) The ultimate dream is to collaborate on some from-scratch charcuterie boards — he’ll provide the sausages and cheeses and I’ll do the breads/crackers/dips. We’ll get there eventually. But in the meantime, these tasty little sausage rolls are a team effort that will be showing up on our appetizer tables for the years to come — he made the sausage, and I wrapped them in pastry.
I’ve made sausage rolls in the past using store bought puff pastry and that works perfectly well. But lately I’ve been into making my own rough puff. I use this pastry recipe for the base and simply add 2-4 turns to the process, resting the pastry in the fridge as needed (for me this is typically for 10 minutes after the initial mixing and after the first two turns). For or this savory application, I reduce the sugar to 1 teaspoon.
Also, the filling is very adaptable — skip the apple if you want and add in some sauteed onion and garlic; and feel free to play with the spices. You can also use regular ground pork, seasoned to taste — in this case I would add a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs and an egg to help bind the mixture together.
Pork and Apple Sausage Rolls
Makes 24 two-bite rolls or 40-48 one-bite canapes
- 1 pound puff pastry, thawed (1 store bought box or homemade)
- 1 pound pork sausage, casings removed
- 1 baking apple, peeled and finely diced
- 1 scallion, finely diced
- 4 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1 egg, whisked with 1 tbsp water
- Flaky salt, to finish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Mix sausage, apple, and scallion in a medium bowl.
- In a small bowl, beat egg with 1 tbsp water.
Roll out each sheet of puff pastry into a large square or rectangle (about 12″ x 12″ or 9″ x 13″) and cut each in half (for a total of four pieces).
- Spread a tablespoon of mustard down the center of each rectangle lengthwise.
- Divide the pork mixture into 4 equal parts and arrange on top of the mustard.
- Fold the bottom half of the pastry over the meat.
- Brush the top part of the pastry with egg wash and roll the puff pastry so the seam is facing down. Repeat with the other sheets. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes, or until pastry is firm.
- Cut each roll into the number of pieces desired (I like 6 per roll for a 2-bite snack — top photo or 10-12 for a one-bite canape — lower left photo). If making larger rolls, cut a couple steam vents on top; if making the one-biters, no vent is needed.
Arrange about an inch apart on two parchment-lined baking sheets.
Brush with remaining egg wash, followed by a pinch of flaky salt if desired.
- Bake 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until golden brown and cooked through.
- Serve warm or cold with ketchup and/or mustard.
When I was in college, my closest grocery store was a Whole Foods. This was convenient and dangerous, considering it’s nicknamed Whole Paycheck for a reason and I didn’t have a paycheck. For my bank account and waistline’s sakes I limited myself to one “browsing” trip a week, on Saturday mornings. This “yay, you made it to the weekend!” treat conveniently lined up with the best sample day of the week. See, this is how Whole Foods lures you in. They may be pricey, but they do samples right. Steak? Pie? Artisan bread? French cheese? Check, check, check, and oui.
One of my favorite samples were (are) Raincoast Crisps. If you’ve never tried them, well, maybe don’t because they are addicting. They’re little squares of sweet / salty / nutty / crunchy goodness that supposedly go well with cheese but are perfectly delectable on their own. They also cost a pretty penny for a measly little box.
The good/dangerous news is, you can make your own. It isn’t hard, and at the end you are rewarded with a nice stash of Raincoast Hacks that easily pass as store-bought. (A stack of these would make the perfect hostess or holiday gift!) Note that the whole process takes a bit of time from start to finish (the chilling time is important if you want thin crackers), but can be easily spread over a couple of evenings. When you finish, congratulate yourself on saving money on crackers and use it to buy fancy imported cheese to go with them.
DIY Raincoast Crisps
Makes 8-9 dozen crisps | Adapted from Seven Spoons
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pistachios
- 1/4 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
- 185g / 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 60g / 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark
- 85g / 1/4 cup honey
- 1 cup raisins or coarsely chopped dried figs
- 1/4 cup millet
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup ground flax seed
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme or rosemary, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease two 8-by-4-inch loaf pans or four mini loaf pans (I use these).
- In a nonstick pan over medium heat, lightly toast the nuts and pumpkin seeds. When they are fragrant, transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the buttermilk, brown sugar, and honey and stir until combined. Add the reserved nuts and remaining ingredients and stir until just blended.
- Divide the batter between the prepared pans (roughly 305g per tin for the mini pans). Bake until golden and puffed, about 30 minutes for mini loaf pans or 45 minutes for 8×4 loaf pans. They are finished when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean and the loaves are springy to the touch. Immediately turn the loaves out of their pans to cool completely on a wire rack.
For easiest slicing, chill the loaves. Once they’ve cooled to room temperature, I like to stick them, uncovered, in the fridge for a couple hours and that does the trick nicely. (You can also freeze the loaves whole and slice and bake straight from the freezer. You may need to add a couple minutes to the baking time.) Using a serrated knife, slice the loaves as thinly as you can (I aim for 24-30 slices per mini loaf) and place the slices in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300° F.
- Bake slices for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until crisp and deep golden. If the slices are not quite crisp at this point (but are already deeply colored), turn off the heat and leave in the oven for an extra 10-15 minutes to dry, checking every 5 minutes or so. Cool crisps completely on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container.