Maple Sugar Cookies

3Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Sugar cookies! Sweet and chewy. Throw in a little maple and you’ve got a twist on a true Christmas classic. My little brother raved about these over the weekend. I don’t think anyone loves sugar more than he does. Sweet tooth people unite!! My favorite part about this recipe is the maple glaze on top. It adds a little something extra and looks gorgeous on a Christmas table. Who’s getting ready to bake up a storm? Merry Christmas, everyone!

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All Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco


Yield: 20 cookies — Prep time: 20-30 minutes — Cook time: 12-14 minutes

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
    1/2 cup shortening
    1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    1/4 cup packed brown sugar
    1/4 cup pure maple syrup
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1/8 tsp. salt
    3 egg yolks
    1/2 tsp. vanilla
    1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

Maple Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or milk
    1/4 cup butter, melted
    3 tbs. pure maple syrup
    2 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, beat butter and shortening in a stand mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the granulated sugars, maple syrup, baking soda and salt. Beat on medium for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Beat in flour.
  3. Shape dough into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place 3 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. This is important as you don’t want your cookies to spread and touch each other! Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. The tops will look soft.
  4. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Remove and finish cooling on a wire rack. The centers of cookies will dip as they cool. Drizzle with maple icing.

To make maple glaze: Stir together 1/4 cup heavy cream or milk with 1/4 cup melted butter and 3 tablespoons of pure maple syrup. Whisk in 2 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar to make icing drizzling consistency. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens.

Mulled Hot Apple Riesling

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

For years, my family has taken an annual trip to a farm on the East end of Long Island. I close my eyes: the October air is crisp on my face. Corn mazes, hay rides, and apple trees await plucking from all sides. Children laugh with their siblings as they run though the pumpkin patch. Mom and Dad pull their youngest in a wagon and search for a pumpkin without flaw for their doorstep. The warm, inviting scent of roasted corn in butter, turkey legs and apple cider fill the air. This is my happy place.

After an hour or so of brisk fall fun, all I can think about is sinking my teeth into a roasted ear of corn and sipping on a cup of hot cider. There’s no better feeling than warming the chill in your bones with a hot, soothing drink. I adapted this version of a mulled cider with the addition of my favorite white wine and a little brandy. I imagine this to be just the ticket for pre-dinner on Thanksgiving Day. It’s smooth and warm all the way down. The Riesling and apple cider is mulled with rich cardamom and allspice. A “mulled” drink is one that has been heated with a combination of spices (typically cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg in addition to a fruit like apple or orange peel). Heated low and slow over your burner for an hour or two, all those beautiful spices infuse themselves into the drink. Of course, you can still mull the apple cider as follows without the alcohol for a kid-friendly version. Served hot or cold, this cocktail is a guaranteed Autumn winner! Garnish with a single thin apple slice and cinnamon stick (you’ll impress all your friends). Happy drink making!

Serves: 6 — Hands on time: 10-15 minutes — Cook time: 1 – 3 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 (750 ml) bottle of Riesling (crisp, dry, sweet: perfect! I like Clean Slate Riesling from Germany at under $10)
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 Tablespoon good maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup wildflower honey
  • 1 small piece of fresh ginger, sliced (about 1 Tablespoon)
  • 10 whole allspice
  • 8 whole cardamom pods
  • 1/2 cup apple brandy (I used Calvados)
  • Apple slices and cinnamon sticks for garnish
  1. In a large pot, combine Riesling, apple cider, maple and honey. Add ginger slices, allspice and cardamom to the pot. Cover and cook on low-heat for 3 hours or medium heat for 1 hour (I think low and slow works best, if you have the time. If using medium-high heat, make sure you do not boil).
  2. Stir in brandy. Pour into 6 cocktail glasses (each should hold about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup) and garnish with apple slices and cinnamon sticks. Serve hot for my preference! If not serving hot, refrigerate and try serving on the rocks. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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Photo 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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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Autumn Honey Nut Brittle

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Pear Upside-Down Cake

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

It’s the first day of Autumn! I am overjoyed!!! I’m ready for all things apple, pear and pumpkin. This upside-down pear cake looked so pretty in Bon Appetit Magazine. It has a caramelized top (or bottom, depending on how you look at it) with pear slices on top, and a very light, not too sweet cake beneath. It was perfectly breakfast appropriate on this Autumn Equinox. Get out there and enjoy the cool fall breeze!

Ingredients:

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided, plus more
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons coarse yellow cornmeal or polenta
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 medium pears (about 1 pound) (I used Bartlett pears.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter pan; line bottom with a parchment-paper round. Whisk four, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Stir 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high. Boil syrup without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until sugar turns dark amber, 8–10 minutes. Remove pan from heat; add 1 tablespoon butter (caramel will bubble vigorously) and whisk until smooth. Pour caramel into prepared cake pan and swirl to coat bottom.
  2. Peel, halve, and core the pears. Place flat on a work surface and cut lengthwise into 1/8″-thick slices. Layer slices over caramel, flat side down, overlapping as needed.
  3. Mix remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 8 tablespoon butter, and vanilla in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add yolks one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping bowl. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  4. Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites on low speed in a medium bowl until frothy. Increase the speed to medium and continue to beat until whites form soft peaks. Fold about 1/4 of the whites into cake batter. Add in remaining whites; gently fold just to blend. Pour batter over pears in pan; smooth top.
  5. Bake cake, rotating pan halfway through, until top is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with a few small moist crumbs attached, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Run a thin knife around the inside of pan to release cake. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
  6. Invert cake onto a plate; remove parchment paper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe courtesy of Karen DeMasco on www.bonappetit.com

2Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco