Brown Butter & Vanilla Pear Pie with a Leaf Cut-Out Crust

With Thanksgiving next week you may be on the lookout for a new or different pie to make. Today I am bringing you a Brown Butter & Vanilla Pear Pie that I saw in a recent issue of Real Simple magazine that would be a wonderful addition to your dessert table.

I began by browning the butter. To do so, I simply melted a stick of butter in a saucepan stirring it until it was golden and nutty smelling – trust me, it will get a nutty scent. Don’t leave it on the stove too long or your brown butter will turn to burnt butter.

I poured the butter in to a large bowl and added in 5 peeled and chopped Bartlett pears, 2 peeled and chopped Granny Smith apples, flour, vanilla extract, salt and sugar. After giving this a few good stirs to mix it all together I transferred the mixture to a prepared pie dish – I had placed an unbaked piecrust in the dish.

Now it was time to work on the top crust. I’ve been wanting to try a different type of decorative pie crust… A leaf cut-out pie crust. I have made cut-outs before for a pie crust, but, they have been just accent pieces. I had never completely covered the pie with cutouts. What’s nice about this… its fool-proof and looks a lot more difficult than what it is. One thing you do need though is patience! Using leaf design pie crust cutters I cut out a bunch of leaves – I had around 60.

I then arranged them on the top of my pie. I brushed the pie with a beaten egg and sprinkled sugar on it and placed it in the freezer for 15 minutes.

A side note, as I have mentioned before I normally use store bought pie crust – always the Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust. So, for this pie I needed 3 pie crusts; 1 for the bottom and I needed two in order to cut out enough leaves to cover my pie. I decided that next time I make a pie with cut-outs for the crust I am going to cut them out the day before and refrigerate them to save time the day of.

I was concerned that the leaf design wouldn’t hold-up during baking – that it would possibly burn or some of the leave would crack. Thankfully baking the pie on the lowest rack of the oven and at a lower temperature (350 F) prevented that from happening.

This pie is delicious… Not overly sweet and the combination of pears and apples is just perfect!

Brown Butter & Vanilla Pear Pie

Ingredients:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

2 1/2 lbs. (5) pears, peeled, cored and chopped

1 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped

3 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling

Preferred pie crust

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

Lower a rack in the oven to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a medium bowl / skillet, melt the butter over medium heat stirring until golden and nutty smelling. Pour into a large bowl and let cool for a few minutes.

Add the apples, pears, flour, vanilla, salt 1/4 cup sugar to the brown butter and toss.

Roll out your pie crust to 14 inches and line a 9-inch pie plate with it and trim the dough to a 1-inch overhang. Fill the pie crust with the pear apple filling and top the pie with your decided pie crust design. If you plan on just covering the pie with no design, roll the dough out to 12 inches and lay over the filling. Fold the top edge over and tuck under bottom edge; crimp edge as desired. Cut a few vents. Brush the crust with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar and freeze for 15 minutes

Bake on the bottom rack until the juices start bubbling, about 60 to 75 minutes. If you notice that the edges of the pie are browning too quickly cover them with aluminum foil for the remaining baking time.

Let the pie cool for at least 4 hours before slicing.

Recipe from Real Simple Magazine

Christmas Themed Sugar Cookies

It’s Christmas Eve and I am happy to say that all of my Christmas baking is officially done. For my final cookie post before the holiday – check out my Rainbow Cookies and Gingerbread Men from earlier in the week – I am going completely traditional with sugar cookies decorated to reflect the holiday!

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After sifting together cake flour (yes, you read that correctly, cake flour for cookies), baking powder and salt in a large bowl…

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I then mixed together butter and sugar in a separate bowl and then added in an egg and vanilla extract and continued mixing until all of the ingredients were incorporated.

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Next I added in the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 2 additions.

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Once the dough came together I divided it in half and wrapped it in plastic wrap and refrigerated it until it was firm – the recipe stated at least an hour but I left it in the fridge overnight and just let it sit out for a few minutes before rolling it out.

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Whereas the recipe said to roll the dough to about a 1/8-inch thick I found it to be thin to work with and the few cookies that I did manage to cut out at that thinness ended up over-browning when I baked them so I went with the standard 1/4-inch thick.

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I decorated a few of the cut-outs with sanding sugar prior to refrigerating them for 30 minutes before baking them in a 350 F preheated oven.

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After letting the cookies cool it was time to spruce them up with royal icing, sanding sugar and sprinkles.

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These snowflakes were by far my favorite and I must say that the cake flour produced a sugar cookie that was much more delicate than and not as crunchy as your typical sugar cookie. I definitely think this will become my go-to sugar cookie recipe from now on.

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Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

Sugar Cookies

Makes 24 to 36 cookies

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for dusting

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

1. Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt onto a piece of parchment paper or into a medium bowl; set aside. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture in 2 batches until just incorporated. Divide between 2 pieces of plastic wrap; shape into disks. Wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. (The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before rolling.)

2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out the dough on a floured surface, dusting with flour as needed, until about 1/8 inch thick*. Cut out shapes with 2-to-4-inch cookie cutters; arrange 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. (If the dough becomes too soft as you work, return to the refrigerator until firm.) Gather the scraps and refrigerate until firm; reroll once to cut out more cookies. Chill the cutouts 30 minutes.

3. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Bake, switching the pans halfway through, until the cookies are slightly puffed and just golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely before icing.

*I rolled out my cookies 1/4 inch thick.

Gingerbread Men

So, I have a confession to make, prior to making these cookies I had never had a gingerbread cookie. I’m not really sure why that is. Possibly because it’s never been the cookie I reach for when I see a platter of assorted holiday cookies and also I had never tried baking them. This year though I decided to add it to my holiday baking.

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I began these cookies by sifting together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice into a bowl.

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In another bowl I first mixed together melted butter and shortening, light brown sugar and molasses and then added in an egg.

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Next I beat the flour into the molasses mixture.

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Once the dough came together I divided it in half and wrapped it in plastic wrap and patted it down to about 1/2 inch and refrigerated it. While the recipe stated to refrigerate it for at least 2 hours I ended up refrigerating it overnight and just let it sit out for a few minutes before rolling it out.

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Once the dough was soft enough to roll, I rolled it a 1/4 inch thick and began cutting out some gingerbread men.

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After placing them on a parchment lined baking sheet I decorated them with some mini M&M’s and round sprinkles.

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I then placed the cookies in the refrigerator for 15 minutes and then baked them in a 350 F preheated oven for about 10 minutes and then transferred them to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Then the fun began, well, that depends on whether or not you like to decorate cookies. I’m still on the fence about that one. I made a batch of royal icing and gave my Gingerbread cookies some faces and some squiggles!

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So, did I enjoy my first Gingerbread cookie? Well, yes and no. With my first cookie I thought the flavor was an acquired taste. The molasses was really standing out to me, but, the following day I tried another one and I definitely had other sentiments about it. It’s tasty but not something I could have two or three of in one sitting as with other cookies.

Perfect Gingerbread Men

Makes 2 to 3 Dozen Cookies

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon allspice

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon shortening, melted

2/3 cup light brown sugar

3/4 cup molasses

1 egg

Directions:

1. In a bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice; set aside.

2. In another bowl mix together the butter, shortening, sugar and molasses, then beat in the egg. Beat in the flour mixture in two additions. Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic and pat to 1/2 inch thick. Chill 2 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. On a floured surface roll out each piece of dough to 1/4 inch think, dusting with flour if needed. Cut into 3-to-5-inch gingerbread men and arrange 1-inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Brush off the excess flour and chill 15 minutes.

5. Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool, then decorate.

 

Royal Icing

Ingredients:

1 lb. box on confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoons meringue powder

5 tablespoons water

Directions:

Whisk the sugar and meringue powder in a large bowl. Add the water and beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until soft glossy peaks form, adding up to 1 more tablespoon water if necessary. Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel and plastic wrap until ready to use to prevent the icing from drying out.

Rainbow Cookies

Christmas week is finally here and holiday baking is more than likely in high gear for most of you. I know I have quite a few different cookies to bake over the next few days. I was already busy last week trying out some recipes. One of those recipes is actually one that I have tried twice before without much success, but luckily I didn’t strike out with this third attempt. These Rainbow Cookies came out perfect and were well worth the time and numerous steps it took to make them! I’m not sure what exactly led to my success this time, maybe it was the jelly roll pans I used as opposed to the baking dishes or rimmed cookie sheets I used in the past, or me diligently following the recipe exactly as written and reading and re-reading it to make sure I followed it properly or maybe it was just due to sheer patience and dedication. Whichever it was I am just happy to say I finally succeeded in making one of my favorite cookies!

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I began making the batter by mixing together almond paste and sugar until it formed into fine crumbles.

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Next I added in 2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter a few pieces at a time.

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And finally I added in 4 large eggs yolks one at a time.

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In a separate bowl I sifted 2 cups of flour and then sprinkled salt on top.

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I then added the flour to batter and mixed it until it was just combined.

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In another bowl I whisked 4 large egg whites until they were foamy and then slowly added 2 tablespoons of sugar and continued whisking until firm peaks formed.

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Once the egg whites were ready I gently folded them into the batter.

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Next I evenly divided the batter among three bowls and tinted one a deep salmon color, another a bright green color and I left the third uncolored.

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Following that I spread the batter among three prepared (I first sprayed them with baking spray and then lined them with parchment paper) jelly roll pans.

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After baking the layers in a 350 F oven for about 10 minutes I let them cool completely in the pans on wire racks.

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Then it was time to start assembling the cookies… I began by spreading the green layer with a decent amount of seedless raspberry jam.

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Next I slid the uncolored layer onto the raspberry covered green layer and covered it with raspberry preserves as well.

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And finally I slid the salmon color on top.

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After wrapping it with plastic wrap and then covering it with one of the jelly roll pans and a few of my old college textbooks I placed the assembled layers in the refrigerator overnight.

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The following day I unmolded the layers and trimmed them to make straight edges.

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I then melted bittersweet chocolate and poured it over the layers.

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After letting it set for a few minutes I scraped wavy lines into the chocolate with a fork.

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And finally once the chocolate had set a little more I cut the cake into cookies. First by making vertical cuts.

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And then horizontal cuts.

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And then it was time to enjoy all my hard work and these cookies were definitely worth every minute of it!

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Rainbow Cookies

Recipe courtesy Lidia Bastianich for Food Network Magazine

Ingredients:

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened, plus more for the pans

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans

8 ounces almond paste

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs, separated

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Red and green food coloring (gel preferred)

1 15 -ounce jar smooth apricot jam*

Cooking spray

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped

*I used seedless Raspberry Jam

Directions:

You’ll need three 9-by-12-inch jelly roll pans or rimmed baking sheets to make these layered cookies.

Prep the pans: Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour three 9-by-12-inch jelly roll pans or rimmed baking sheets and line with parchment paper.

Make the batter: Combine the almond paste and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until the mixture is in fine crumbles. Beat in 2 1/2 sticks butter, a few pieces at a time, until well combined. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, until smooth.

Sift 2 cups flour onto a sheet of parchment and sprinkle the salt on top; add to the mixer bowl and beat until just combined.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy; while whisking, slowly add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until firm peaks form (or use a hand mixer). Fold about one-third of the egg white mixture into the batter with a rubber spatula, then gently fold in the rest. The batter should be fluffy.

Color the batter: Divide the batter evenly among 3 bowls. Stir enough red food coloring into 1 bowl to make a deep salmon color. Stir enough green food coloring into another bowl to make a medium green color. Leave the third bowl uncolored.

Bake the layers: Transfer the batter to the prepared pans (one pan for each color). Dip an offset spatula in water and spread the batter to the edge of each pan, smoothing the tops. Bake, switching the position of the pans halfway through, until the cakes are cooked through and just beginning to brown around the edges, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely in the pans on wire racks.

Assemble the layers: Spread half of the jam evenly over the green cake layer almost all the way to the edges. Unmold the plain cake layer by inverting it onto another pan or cutting board; peel off the parchment.

Carefully slide the plain layer onto the green layer (use a wide offset spatula to help you, if necessary). Spread the remaining jam on top of the plain layer. Unmold the red cake layer and slide it onto the plain layer.

Cover the cake with plastic wrap and top with one of the empty pans; place several heavy cans on top to weigh down the layers. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Unmold the cake: Remove the cans and plastic wrap. Place a cutting board on top of the cake and flip to unmold it onto the cutting board. Remove the parchment from the top of the green layer.

Trim the cake: Trim the sides with a knife to make straight edges. Spray a wire rack with cooking spray; set the rack over a baking sheet. Carefully slide the cake onto the rack, using a wide offset spatula to help you, if necessary.

Cover in chocolate: Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; pour over the cake. Dip an offset spatula in the hot water and smooth the top and sides. Let set slightly. Scrape wavy lines into the chocolate with a fork; let cool a few more minutes until the chocolate is mostly set but still slightly tacky.

Cut into pieces: Slide the cake back onto the cutting board. Slice crosswise into 6 strips, then cut each strip into 8 rectangular pieces. For clean edges, dip the knife in warm water and wipe it with a cloth between cuts. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

 

 

Cranberry Cupcakes

While everyone is so focused on pumpkin being the “it” flavor of the Fall, another fruit quietly makes its way into the fold – albeit mainly to be a nice accompaniment to your Thanksgiving turkey… the cranberry. Granted most of us don’t (or won’t) eat raw cranberries due to their bitterness, but they are quite tasty when dried, blended into wonderful juice combinations (thanks Ocean Spray!) or made into a sauce (my personal favorite.) So when I came across a recipe for Cranberry Cupcakes  in a recent issue of Food Network Magazine I knew I had to try it.

To begin, I whisked together flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and nutmeg in a bowl and set it aside.

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I then mixed together my wet ingredients. Starting with the sugar and butter, then adding in an egg and vanilla extract.

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Next I added in the flour mixture and mixed it until the two mixtures were just incorporated.

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And finally I added in sour cream, which allows for a denser cupcake. After mixing it with the mixer I gave it a couple of extra stirs with a spatula.

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The batter was the perfect amount for 12 cupcakes.

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I baked them for 20 minutes in a 350F preheated oven and voila…

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Next, I made a small indentation in each of the cupcakes…

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And then added in a few teaspoons of canned cranberry sauce into the indentation. Since the cupcakes are denser there are no concerns about them falling apart due to the liquid of the sauce.

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While they cooled I made a Cranberry Buttercream Frosting.

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Once they cooled completely I piped a 1M Swirl of frosting on each of the cupcakes.

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Final verdict… They’re a keeper! Although next time I’m thinking of trying them with a different fruit, maybe blueberries.

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Cranberry Cupcakes

Makes 12 Cupcakes

For The Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/8 to 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup canned whole-berry cranberry sauce

For The Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup canned whole-berry cranberry sauce

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Dried cranberries, for topping

1. Make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350F and line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

2. Beat the butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until fluffy, about 3 more minutes. Reduce the speed to low; add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the sour cream and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 more minutes.

3. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 22 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle, then gently press the back of a small spoon into the center of each cupcake to make an indentation. Fill each indentation with a few teaspoons of cranberry sauce. Remove the cupcakes to a rack to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, make the frosting. Beat the butter and 1 cup confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to medium low; gradually add the remaining 2 cups confectioners’ sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium high; beat in the cranberry sauce, vanilla and salt until combined. Spread the frosting on the cupcakes and top with dried cranberries.

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