Classic Pumpkin Pie

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

I stepped out of the house this morning and thought: aaaaah. This autumn morning crisp is here to stay. You know what that means. It’s pie season! Where to even begin with such a staple: good ole pumpkin pie. My mom has been making this pie on Thanksgiving Day for as long as I can remember. Subtle pumpkin flavor, not too sweet and even better when topped with a dollop of whipped cream. That slice you see in the photo above was my breakfast yesterday morning. It was perfect! If the thought of making a pie from scratch has you nervous, don’t sweat it. I can honestly say that pumpkin pie is the easiest pie you can make. The filling takes less than 5 minutes and there is only a single crust to make. Leave it to King Arthur Flour to make one of the best crusts I’ve ever tasted. It’s part shortening, part butter, and 100% flaky and delicious! I’ve got some extra tips and tricks below. Happy baking!


Yield: 1 pie, single crust

Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp shortening
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 to 5 Tbsp ice water

Pie Filling Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon + 1/2 tsp ground cloves (or, use 1 and 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Spice Mix)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 (15 oz) can Organic pumpkin
  • 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
  1. For the crust, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the shortening, working it in until the mixture is evenly crumbly.* Add the butter to the flour mixture, and work it in roughly with your fingers, a pastry cutter, or a mixer. Don’t be too thorough; the mixture should be very uneven, with big chunks of butter in among the smaller ones. Add 2 tablespoons of water (must be ice cold!), and toss to combine.
  2. Toss with enough additional water to make a chunky mixture. It should barely hold together when you squeeze a handful, though the remainder may look quite dry. Scoop the mixture out onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper, and flatten it out a bit. Take a spray bottle of water, and spritz the dry parts with the water.**
  3. Using the parchment or waxed paper, fold the dough over on itself — first from one side, then from the other. You’ll find that the dry crumbs are becoming incorporated with the cohesive dough. If there are still dry areas, spritz them with additional water, and fold the dough in on itself again. Keep folding and gathering until just a few dry crumbs remain unincorporated; this should only take a few folds.
  4. Shape the dough into a disk about 1″ thick, and refrigerate it for 30 minutes or longer; this resting period allows the flour to absorb the water, making the dough easier to roll out. When you’re “ready to roll,” remove the dough from the fridge. If the dough has been refrigerated longer than 30 minutes, let it rest at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before rolling, to allow the butter to soften up a bit.***
  5. Roll the dough to the size needed (about 12″ for a 9″ pie). Place it in a pie pan, and refrigerate it while you prepare your filling.
  6. To make the pie filling, mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves (or spice mix) in a small bowl. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour mixture into pie shell.
  7. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F and bake 40-50 minutes more or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours before serving. Serve or refrigerate. Enjoy!

Crust recipe courtesy of King Arthur Flour, www.kingarthurflour.com

Notes:

*Add the shortening 1 Tbsp at a time and mix with pastry blender between additions. The goal is to coat the shortening crumbs with the flour. You’re just trying to cut the shortening into the flour, which is why a pastry cutter is best for this! Do the same with the butter, adding and mixing 1 Tbsp at a time. A little trick for the butter: freeze the 5 Tbsp of butter for 5-10 minutes and then grate with a cheese grater. This cuts the butter into smaller pieces, making it much easier to incorporate into the flour.

**My grandmother taught me to roll out dough between 2 layers of plastic wrap. I have had best success with this method. Also, be cautious of adding too much water. You only need enough to get dough to stick together. If you add more than necessary it will be too sticky to roll out. You can always add a tiny bit more flour to combat that, but be careful! It’s a balance between not too dry and not too wet. Stick to the recipe measurements for best results. This is something that will get easier to eye and feel with practice.

***You don’t have to refrigerate. Feel free to roll out the dough immediately.

2Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Double Chocolate Mocha Cookies

7Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Think of these as tiny bursts of chocolate-y heaven with just a hint of espresso. These are sure to satisfy any chocolate-lover, coffee-addict’s sweet tooth! The addition of the cinnamon and espresso powder adds a complexity in flavor that you’ll taste. Layers of sweet chocolate, semi-sweet, and cocoa powder pretty much make this a triple-whammy. I imagine these being great for after dinner dessert with coffee or as a sweet surprise for a friend. I’m sending my little brother away at college a batch of these in the mail. The best part: these are super quick to make. You’re done in a half hour!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon espresso powder, optional, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional*
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or King Arthur All-Purpose Cocoa
  • 1 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 cups chips: cappuccino, cinnamon, chocolate, or a mixture
  • *Use ground cinnamon if you like the cinnamon/chocolate combination, but aren’t using cinnamon chips.
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment. Combine the butter, sugars, baking soda, salt, espresso powder, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Beat until the mixture is smooth. Add the egg and vanilla, and again beat until thoroughly combined. The mixture will look a bit grainy; that’s OK. 
  2. Beat in the cocoa. Add the flour, beating slowly to combine. Add the chips, mixing until they’re well-distributed.
  3. Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. A teaspoon scoop works very well here. If the dough begins to stick, simply dip the scoop in cold water. Space the cookies at least 1″ apart.
  4. Bake the cookies for 7 to 8 minutes; the cookies should seem barely done. If you attempt to pick an oven-hot cookie off the baking sheet, it’ll fall apart. Allow the cookies to cool right on the baking sheet. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of King Arthur Flour, www.kingarthurflour.com

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Country Style Apple Galette

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

I have always loved how pretty a galette looks. To me, it’s like half a pie. Or maybe its an open-face pie. However you see it, its a fun alternative to a traditional apple pie. And don’t feel limited to just apples, either. Think about trying this with peaches when in season, figs, a mix of berries or even vegetables for a savory version. Any way you slice it, this pastry is versatile enough to be either a starter or a dessert. My favorite part about this style is that it is great looking in freeform. No need for perfection here. I want to see those organic shapes! Rectangular, circular or something in between. There’s nothing interesting about perfection, right? I mentioned last week when I made apple butter (recipe below) that I was given an obscene amount of apples and thought: how in the world am I going to use all of these? Well, this galette took the last of them. There are about 5 small/medium sized apples layered in here. Apple season is at is peak in New York right now. Take a weekend trip to your local farm and bag up some apples! Don’t forget about the pumpkins… they’re on my farm stand shopping list next week. Get ready, October is just around the corner!


Yield: 8 servings — Total Time: 1 hr 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) plus 2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup ice water (must be very cold!)
  • 4-5 Golden delicious or other sweet apple (Gala, Macintosh)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp honey (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  1. In a food processor, combine the flour with the sugar, salt and butter and process for about 5 seconds. I like to add the butter in a little at a time and process after each time. You just want to coat the butter in the flour, not mix it in. Sprinkle the ice water a little at a time over the flour mixture and process until the pastry just begins to come together, about 10 seconds; you should still be able to see small pieces of butter in it. Transfer the pastry to a work surface, gather it together and pat into a disk. Wrap the pastry in plastic or wax paper and refrigerate until chilled. (You can also roll out the pastry and use it right away.)
  2. Peel, halve and core the apples and slice them crosswise 1/4 inch thick. Set aside the larger center slices and coarsely chop the end slices and any broken ones; about half of the slices should be chopped. Mix in the cinnamon and sugar.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to a 12-by-14-inch rectangle or circle and transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. Spread the chopped apples over the pastry to within 1 inch of the edge. Drizzle the honey over the chopped apples. Decoratively arrange the apple slices on top in concentric circles or in slightly overlapping rows. Dot the top of the apples with the pieces of butter. Fold the pastry edge up and over the apples to create a 1-inch border. Spray the crust with coconut oil or brush with egg wash so it gets nice and golden brown.
  4. Bake the galette for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is nicely browned and crisp and all of the apples are tender. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the galette cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine, www.foodandwine.com, Recipes from Essential Pépin by Jacques Pépin.

2Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Apple Butter

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

I was given 3 (that’s right, 3) HUGE bags of apples last week. All I can think about is how many different ways I can use them up. Pies, pastries, sliced over salads… but then I found this recipe for apple butter. What is it, you ask? No butter involved. Just a rendered down, made purely with apples, sweet spread. Use atop muffins, a slice of bread, croissants, you name it! I’m going to have to keep trying this out. This batch seemed to resemble the consistency of apple sauce rather than butter. But, foolishly I burned the first batch I made so I was extra careful about keeping the heat low (see notes below). But consistency and taste are totally up to you. I pureed it for a smoother butter. But apple chunks are also welcome. I also felt it was sweet enough without much added sugar, so I only used a little. These were homegrown Macintosh apples from the north shore, Long Island. Cooking these apples on your stovetop is going to bring the sweetest smell to your entire kitchen. It was heavenly! I wafted my nose over it several times. Just like sniffing the filling of a gorgeous apple pie. Go to your nearest farm, shop local and get picking!


Yield: About 1 full mason jars worth — Hands-on time: 55 mins — Total Time: 1 hour, 50 mins

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs crisp and sweet apples, such as Gala, Honeycrisp, or Macintosh, peeled
  • 1 cup apple cidar
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar, divided*
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  1. Cut apples in to 1 inch pieces. Bring apples, cider, and 1/2 cup sugar to a rolling boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Once it begins to bubble, reduce heat to medium low. Cover, leaving lid slightly ajar. Cook for 20 minutes, or until apples are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated; stir every 5 minutes.
  2. Process cooked apple mixture in a blender or food processer until smooth. Return mixture to Dutch oven and stir in cinnamon, cloves and remaining 1 cup sugar*. Bring to a boil over high heat. Be very careful not to burn, watch and stir frequently. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered and stirring often, 15 minutes or until thickened. Cool about 45 minutes. Spoon into airtight containers such as mason jars. Refrigerate up to 2 months ore freeze up to 6 months. Enjoy!

*Instead of 1 cup, I only added 1/4 cup. Why add more than you need to, right? The apples are naturally sweet.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living, www.southernliving.com

2Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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Autumn Honey Nut Brittle

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This autumnal brittle: so shiny and colorful! This is what drew me to this recipe. I’ve also been trying to get more protein into my diet. A variety of nuts are a great way to do that. And, you don’t have to feel guilty eating candy with all this good stuff mixed in! Cranberries and pumpkin seeds make this extra fall-ish. This was my first time making any kind of brittle or hard candy. One thing I learned is how important the heat of the sugar mixture is. Read my tips below and give it a whirl! Throughout the day you’ll break and crack the whole sheet till it’s gone.

Yield: 10-12 servings


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  1. Heat the sugar, honey, water and salt in a large pot over a low-medium flame. Stir every five minutes or so. The mixture will begin to foam and bubble as it heats. Using a candy thermometer, continue to heat the mixture until it reaches a temperature of 310 degrees Fahrenheit*. This is very important because this is the temperature at which sugar hardens into a rock-like state after it cools. It can take up to an hour for the mixture to reach that high of a temperature, so be patient!
  2. While the sugar mixture is boiling, place a sheet of parchment paper on top of a shallow sheet pan, about 9″x13″ and grease the parchment paper. Set aside. After the sugar mixture reaches 310 degrees turn off the heat and allow to cool to 302 degrees, then immediately stir in the butter, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries until they’re coated evenly in the mixture.
  3. Immediately pour the mixture onto the parchment paper and spread it out into a large rectangle using a rubber spatula. Try to keep the surface relatively even and about 1 inch in height. Place the pan in the refrigerator and allow the brittle to cool for one hour. Once it has finished cooling, remove the sheet of brittle from the parchment paper and break the brittle into pieces using a meat tenderizer or clean hammer. Arrange the pieces on a serving platter and serve. Store excess brittle in a cool dry place. Enjoy!

Notes:

*If you don’t have a candy thermometer (I did not), you can use the cold water method. All you’ll need is a bowl of cold water (the colder the better, ice water works great). While the sugar mixture is cooking, periodically drop a small spoonful of the sugar mixture into the bowl of cold water. Immerse your hand in the water, try to form the sugar into a ball, and bring it out of the water. The shape and texture of the resulting sugar blob will tell you the approximate temperature of your candy. In this case, we want “hard crack,” 300-310 degrees F. This means that when the sugar blob hits the cold water, the syrup forms brittle threads and easily cracks and snaps. It will solidify and form stands of hard threads. If you are interested in making other types of candy like fudge or caramels, consult a candy temperature chart.

Recipe adapted from Eva Kosmas Flores, www.adventures-in-cooking.com

3Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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Avocado Hummus

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Think about it: here you have the best of hummus and guacamole in a single dish! Creamy avocado adds a little something extra to the already crowd-pleasing hummus. This is the perfect afternoon snack or party starter. I warmed up some fresh naan for this and dug right in!


Yields: About 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 oz) can chick peas, well drained
  • 2 medium ripe avocados, cored and peeled (13 oz before cored and peeled)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for serving if desired
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp tahini
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • Red pepper flakes, for topping
  • cilantro leaves, for topping (optional)
  1. Pulse chick peas, olive oil, tahini, lime juice, and garlic in a food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add cumin and avocados and pulse mixture until smooth and creamy, about 1 – 2 minutes longer.
  2. Serve topped with more olive oil if desired and sprinkle with cilantro and red pepper flakes. Serve with naan, pita chips or tortilla chips.

Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Cooking Classy.

Crostini with Gruyere and Fig Spread

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For as long as I can remember I have had a fancy (and often times, pricey) palette. I like to think of it as appreciation for the finer things in life. I.e., filet mignon, shrimp cocktail, lobster tail, good sushi, cheese and wine… the list goes on! Something about the thought of a salty, savory gruyere cheese with this sweet fig spread made my mouth tingle. This would be darling as an appetizer for an upcoming holiday party as we enter the cooler months. So classy, delicate and the flavor packs a punch. My suggestion would be to serve with a Sauvignon Blanc, pairing nicely with the fig flavor or Riesling (my personal favorite) which plays so well with the blue cheese crumble. Get a little fancy and wow your guests with this tasty Hors d’oeuvre!


Yields: approx. 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 12 French baguette slices cut about ¼” thick
  • 1½ cups grated gruyere cheese
  • ¼ cup blue cheese crumbles
  • ⅓ cup fig spread*
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons honey

*I used Dalmatia Dried Fig Spread – Traditional (8.5 ounce) — it is out of this world delicious. You can find it in the specialty cheese section of Whole Foods.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread baguette slices on a baking sheet fitted with parchment paper. I like to cut my baguette on a bias for more surface area for all the good stuff on top. It also looks pretty!
  2. Top baguette slices with grated cheese, then a teaspoon or so of fig spread, then blue cheese crumbles. I would be generous with the gruyere and lighter on the blue cheese. Depending on your taste, the blue cheese may be too strong and overpower the gruyere. Bake in oven for 5-7 minutes or until cheese has melted and edges of the baguettes are golden. Remove from oven and drizzle with honey and top with rosemary leaves.

That’s it… so simple yet so sophisticated!

Recipe adapted from www.foodiecrush.com

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Everyone on earth loves pizza. It’s a fact of life. Especially where I live in New York. You don’t have to go far to enjoy a slice of heaven. Of course, with something so delicious comes great responsibility. There’s nothing worse than the one-too-many slices feeling that is all too familiar. If you want to try something so much lighter and healthier, look no further! A pizza made with a cauliflower crust. Whoever invented this, I take my hat off to him or her. Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables because it is so delicious and versatile. Sometimes I just dump the florets on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and bake. The smell and char when them come out is wonderful! Give this pizza a try. I think it’s a perfect Saturday snack or meal in itself, topped with mushrooms or black olives. Dig in!


Yield: 1 9-12″ pizza, depending on pan size — Total time: 25 minutes

Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 head of fresh cauliflower, shredded (2 cups)
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Pizza Toppings:

  • marinara sauce, organic jarred
  • mozzarella cheese
  • shaved parmigiano reggiano
  • toppings of choice
  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Remove the leaves and stems from cauliflower. Shred the cauliflower in bunches using a cheese grater. You will need about 2 cups (for a 8-9″ pan) or more like 3 cups (for a 12″ pan).
  2. Add grated cauliflower to a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 7-8 minutes. Mix heated cauliflower with egg, cheese, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Take this mixture and press into the bottom of a pan or cast iron skillet that has been sprayed well with cooking spray. Really spray it well, you don’t want the crust to stick! Even spray the top of crust once it is in the pan so that the edges don’t stick. Don’t worry if it looks like a thin later– it will fluff up a bit while cooking.
  3. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. You want it to get pretty golden so you know it’s nice and crispy. Remove pizza from oven. While you get prepare your toppings, set the oven to Broil. Spread a thin layer of marinara over the crust and sprinkle mozzarella cheese and parmigiano over the sauce. Add whatever toppings your heart desires!
  4. Broil pizza for 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown and cheese starts to bubble. Enjoy!

Café Style Raspberry Muffins

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

I cannot say enough about these raspberry muffins. The best part is: my picky husband LOVES them. I mean loves them. To the point where I am not allowed to share them with family or friends. When I make a batch, they stay in the kitchen for him. He’ll get 7 days worth of breakfast out of it! This recipe is my favorite muffin recipe because of the baking instructions. Starting out at a higher temp gets them to rise quickly, for high-top bakery style– then the temperature is lowered to finish baking. And I absolutely love the idea of lining the tin in parchment paper squares. Beautiful presentation and no mess. These pop right out with ease. Say good morning to one of these beauties with a little butter or cream cheese!!


Yield: 6-12 large muffins depending on size

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or regular whole milk)
  • ½ cup melted coconut oil (or vegetable/canola oil)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and ¼ cup fresh raspberries
  • coarse sugar (or cane sugar)
  1. Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray jumbo muffin pan with non-stick spray or prepare 6″x6″ square sheets of parchment paper liners. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, gently toss together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Mix until all dry ingredients are just combined. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until combined. Mix in milk, oil, and vanilla extract. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix everything together by hand until just combined. Do not over mix! Over mixing leads to tough, dry muffins. Gently mix until all the flour is off the bottom of the bowl and no big pockets of flour remain. The batter will be thick and a little lumpy. Very gently fold in raspberries to avoid them from leaking their color. GENTLE!
  4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins (or liners) filling all the way to the top. To avoid crushing the raspberries, I filled the cups with my hands gently. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. This touch adds that bakery feel! Bake at 425F degrees for 5 minutes. After the 5 minutes, keep the muffins in the oven and reduce temperature to 375F and continue to bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are lightly golden. I have had best luck baking 6 muffins at a time for 20 minutes. I have a gas oven. Use a toothpick to test– they are done when it comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Eat immediately! Store muffins at room temperature in an airtight container for about 5-7 days. Enjoy!

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