Chocolate Dipped Ginger Snaps + 5 Ginger Cookie Links

After training for and completing my third marathon, my words and stories are struggling to emerge.  Heart to head to hand, muddled pathways and tired bones continue two weeks after crossing the finish line.  So, I bake a simple and delicious cookie to share with you…and wait for my words to return, the exhaustion to pass.  Until then, enjoy this cookie with others and a glass of cold milk.

Chocolate Dipped Ginger Snaps

A soft-baked gingersnap cookie, covered in raw sugar and dipped in semi-sweet chocolate. 

Recipe barely adapted from Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

Makes about 24 cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 + 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 stick + 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg, at room temperature

1/2 cup raw sugar

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted (I used Guittard chocolate chips.)

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.  Set aside.  Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment beat the butter until light and fluffy.  Add the sugar and continue mixing, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice.  Next, add the vanilla extract, molasses, and egg.  Beat until combined.  Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients.  Continue mixing on low-speed until just combined.

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  While the oven is preheating, chill the dough.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Pour raw sugar into a bowl.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop the cookie dough into rounded balls.   Dip cookie dough balls into raw sugar, covering completely and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Using the palm of your hand, flatten the dough slightly, until the ball looks like a 2-inch circle.  Bake until set, about 10 minutes, one cookie sheet at a time.  Allow cookies to cool for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  While the cookies cool, melt the chocolate.  Once the cookies are cooled completely, dip half of the cookie into the melted chocolate.  Allow the cookies to set completely before packaging.  Enjoy!

5 Ginger Cookie Links

Ginger infused caramel and bittersweet chocolate come together in this delightful chocolate caramel cookie.  Head to I am Baker for the recipe.

Looking for an easy, go to cookie for the holidays?  Head to Not Without Salt for a brown butter ginger cookie with mascarpone cream.  This recipe is now on my must-try list!

Bon Appetempt’s ginger cookies with chocolate and dried apricots is a cookie that cannot be missed this holiday season!

If you are a fan of white chocolate, check out Cooking Classy’s white chocolate dipped ginger cookies.

Prefer crispy gingersnap cookies over soft?  Head to A Thought For Food for Brian’s recipe.

Chocolate Stout Tart + 5 Unique Beer Dessert Recipes

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He would say their love story began with a mutual affection for good beer and dessert.  She wouldn’t deny him that bit of nostalgia…most days.  [Lately her moods changed with the tide, the phases of the moon, the direction of the wind.]

She would say their love story began with a conversation, his kindness evident with every word spilling from his sweet mouth. [ His sense of humor, intelligence, opinions, though less appreciated today, fused her soul to his many years ago.]

And what would they say now?  The moon is in the waning Gibbous phase, the tide is low, the winds wild.  A tempestuous phase in their many years together.  Both will agree something was lost along the way. A persistent trickle, not a gash, slowly absorbing into their everyday.  Yet, despite arriving at this volatile juncture they remain in awe of all that followed since their love story began.  So tonight, when the house is quiet, the day almost done, they will split a beer, nibble on some chocolate, and each wonder silently: what’s next in our love story?

Chocolate Stout Tart

tart dough recipe adapted from David Lebovitz

chocolate stout filling adapted from Ambrosia Baking

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for Tart Dough:
1 cup + 5 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

8 tablespoons or 1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cubed

1 large egg

Ingredients for chocolate stout filling:

1- 11 ounce bottle of Guinness, reduced to 1/4 cup

1 + 1/4 cups heavy cream

9 ounces of dark chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon of vanilla

a generous pinch of kosher salt

Fresh whipped cream and crushed pretzels for topping

Directions:

Using a food processor fitted with a blade attachment mix the flour, salt and sugar until combined.  Add the butter and pulse until the butter is pea-size.  Next add the egg and continue to pulse until the dough comes together and is smooth.  Remove dough from food processor and shape it into a disk.  Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes up to overnight.

Flour a clean surface and roll the dough until it is about a 13 inch circle.  Transfer dough to a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Press the dough firmly into the tart pan and in the corners of the pan.  Trim any excess by running the side of a knife around the top of the tart.  Hold onto any scraps for patching.  If there are any holes in your tart, use the excess dough to patch them.  Prick the dough five times with a fork.  Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

When ready to bake the tart shell, pre-heat your oven to 400F.  Line the frozen tart with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake until the tart is golden brown about 25 minutes but check after 15 minutes.   Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Next make the chocolate stout filling.

Pour Guinness into a small pan and bring to a simmer.  Reduce to about 1/4 cup.  Remove from the heat and set aside.  Grab a second sauce pan and heat the cream until it just begins to simmer.  Using a medium bowl, add chopped chocolate, vanilla extract, salt and 3 tablespoons of reduced Guinness.  Remove simmering cream from the heat and pour over the chocolate mixture.  Let it stand for 5 minutes, then whisk until completely blended and very smooth.  Pour the chocolate ganache into the cooled tart shell .  Spread evenly using a spatula.  Refrigerate for at least two hours or until the ganache has completely set.  Just before serving, top the tart with fresh whipped cream and crushed pretzels.  The tart is best the day it is made but will last up to two days in air-tight container in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!

5 Unique Beer Desserts You Must Check Out!

Beer + Brownies = Tasty Beer Brownies!  How Sweet It Is has the recipe for you.

If you are a fan of IPAs check out the Beeroness’ recipe for IPA Lemon Bars.  I am intrigued!  While you are there check out her recipe for beer doughnuts with IPA lemon curd.  Again, intrigued!

Don’t wait until the next holiday season to make Food 52’s gingerbread bundt cake with chocolate glaze.  Seize the day or rather the cake.

Gimme Some Oven’s honey beer bread looks like the perfect vehicle for a generous smear of salted butter.  Yum!

 

 

Baileys Butterscotch Pudding Pie + 5 Unique Pudding Pie Links

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She drove home from the hospital in silence, headlights of passing cars illuminating her briefly before disappearing into the night.  If she hadn’t been alone, one might have noticed the smeared mascara underneath her tired, blue eyes.  Or maybe they would have noticed her wrinkled blue scrubs, a bit of blood splatter on the right leg from a man, or rather, a boy she attempted to save just hours before.

[“Please don’t let me die!” He pleaded while grabbing her shirt, yanking her stethoscope.  She, now, a metaphysical lifeline to a boy nearly gone.  When his grip on her softened, she removed his hand from her shirtsleeve and placed it across his heart.  Stupid kid, she thought.  Look what you have done.  No, she wasn’t cold, but removed.  After all, how could one carry the pain of so many? Damn near impossible.  She had tried.]

The headlights of her station wagon grazed the moonlit snow as pulled into the driveway of her picturesque, yet, modest colonial standing dark and peaceful at midnight.

[Tonight the kids would be asleep.  And her husband?  Passed out in their loveless bed, entangled in the sheets, snoring, farting, reeking of beer.  At least he was in bed.  A welcome change, really, to the nights when he chose to pass out on the living room floor among the toys that were never picked up and the dog hair that blew around the matted carpet like tumbleweeds.]

She sat in her car inside their cluttered garage (bikes, broken toys, Costco bags of toilet paper and paper towels, trash cans permeating the bitter night air) and thought briefly about not going inside.  Is that really an option?  Of course not.

The house-keys slid easily into the lock, reminding her she was home.  She placed her jacket on the overcrowded coat hat rack, someday I’ll organize this, and walked into the kitchen.  Dirty dishes were piled high in the sink, dried ketchup smears decorated their kitchen island, beer cans acted as cairns, marking where his latest, desperate internal battle took place. 

[She sighed.  12:15 AM .  Instead of tackling the mess in the kitchen and the one sleeping in her bed, she would have a drink, ring in the new year with a cold glass of Baileys. ]

The family dog slept curled up against the over-stuffed, milk stained Lazy Boy chair.  She lowered herself into the chair, careful not to wake the dog or spill her drink.  [Did it matter?]  She muted the TV , watched the lovers and strangers in Times Square kiss, desirous for an imagined fresh start.  She understood that craving.

The blue glow from the TV lit her scrubs just enough for the blood splatter to reappear. She rubbed a single finger across it.  The blood soaked in and dry now.  [For a moment she thought of licking  her finger.  A single lick of his blood: water, salt, red and white blood cells, microscopic bits of him dissolving on her tongue and living for as long as she lived.]  She held the glass to her mouth, let the ice cubes hit her lips and took a long sip of the creamy, sweet Baileys.  This year she would save the only life she could save: her own.

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Baileys Butterscotch Pudding Pie

pudding recipe adapted from Aida Mollenkamp’s Keys to the Kitchen

chocolate wafer crust adapted from Williams Sonoma

Serves 6

Ingredients for Pudding:

5 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup of water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups of milk (not fat-free)

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2-3 tablespoons Baileys Irish Crème

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

whipped cream for topping (optional)

chocolate shavings or crushed chocolate wafer cookies for topping (optional)

Directions:

Grab a medium bowl and whisk the egg yolks and cornstarch until well combined.  Set aside.

Add the brown sugar, salt, and water to a medium saucepan placing the pan over medium-low heat.  Stir until the sugar dissolves and begins to bubble.

Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, without stirring, until the mixture becomes thick and dark, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add the milk and heavy cream.  (Be careful! It will bubble.)  Whisk until all butterscotch bits at the bottom of the pan dissolve.

Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil.  Do not step away, the mixture could boil over!  Once it reaches a rapid boil, decrease the heat and slowly pour half of the butterscotch mixture to the egg yolks, whisking well to combine.  Now add the custard to the remaining half of the butterscotch mixture.

Whisk over medium heat until the custards just begins to gently boil and coats the back of your spoon, about 3 minutes. ( The custard is ready when it coats the back of spoon.  To be sure, draw your finger across the back of the spoon.  Your finger should leave a mark through the custard and not run back together.)  Remove from the heat.  Add butter, Baileys and vanilla.  Stir until butter is completely melted and the custard is smooth.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve.  Pour custard into a bowl and chill, uncovered, until very cold and pudding like, about 4 hours.   I chilled it overnight.  Transfer to air-tight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

The pudding can be made two days ahead.

Chocolate Wafer Crust

Ingredients:

1 + 1/4 cups crushed chocolate wafers

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon sugar

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.

Place chocolate wafer cookies in a Ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin until they resemble crumbs.

Stir together cookie crumbs, melted butter and sugar in a bowl until the crumbs are moist.  Pat mixture firmly and evenly into a 9 inch pie pan.  Be sure to cover both the bottom and sides of the pan.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Cool completely before filling.

Crust will last, unfilled, for several days well covered and at room temperature.

Assembly!

Add pudding to pie crust, filling it to the top.  (You will have leftover pudding.)  Top with fresh whipped cream, shaved chocolate and/or cookie crumbs.  Chill until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

**Add the pudding to the crust no more than a day before serving it.  The crust will start to get soggy after a couple of days**

5 Unique Pudding Pie Links

Looking for a unexpected spice in your life?  Head to A Cozy Kitchen and make green chili chocolate pudding pie.  Sounds weird but I bet it is delicious.  Embrace the weird.

Vegans rejoice! Ambitious Kitchen has a recipe for vegan chocolate avocado pie that sounds amazing!

A fudgey layer of chocolate pudding covers a sweet chocolate cookie crust and is topped with a light and airy vanilla pudding.  Intrigued? Want the recipe?  Head to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe for the recipe.

Butterscotch pudding meets cheesecake and makes this amazing pie by Bake or Break. Check it out!

Dreaming of peach season in January?  Check out my peach ricotta pudding cream pie recipe.  Swap out the fresh peaches for frozen and you’ll have a bit of summer in January.

Double Chocolate Tahini Cookies + 5 Tahini Dessert Recipes

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“Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation.  The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.”   
David Whyte Everything is Waiting for You

 

She knows me.  All of the beautiful, funny, ugly parts of me.  She sees my life now, not as the whole picture, but a small piece of the story.  A friendship like that is a lifeline when the world seems unrelenting.  So, it would seem shocking to think I almost didn’t answer her call the other afternoon.

Cut the rope and let me drift out to sea.  No!  She screams.  You drift away and we are both lost.  

I stared at my phone, picked up on the fifth ring.  A quiet “hi” and “how are you, Kel?” Twenty-three years of her voice, a “hi”, a simple question; she is as comforting to me as anything I have ever known.  Words came, trickling, one after another to her, an inlet discovered just in time.

My son’s recent Autism diagnosis had muted my words, left my mind torpid, my heart divided. Relief and sadness intertwined, choking my voice.  I needed space, a dark cave, time.  And she knew all of this because she fights the same beast, she wears the same albatross around her neck.  Though our conversation was brief, I felt better than I had in months.  Something in me cracked, revealing a sliver of light.  And then.  Gratitude and love followed, marching ferociously back, surrounding me.  [You are not alone!  You. Are. Not. Alone!]  If I were a religious woman I may have fallen on my knees, given thanks to him/her for the blessing of this friendship.  But I am not.  Instead, I picked my kids up from school, made a batch of cookies and poured myself a glass of wine.

Double Chocolate Tahini Cookies

Savory tahini replaces peanut butter and pairs perfectly with chocolate in this traditional cookie recipe

recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s peanut butter cookies

Makes 3 dozen (using a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop)

Ingredients:

1 + 1/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup light roasted tahini,  at room temperature (be sure to mix in the oil well before measuring)

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tablespoon of milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (or semi-sweet)

raw sugar and festive decorations for sprinkling, optional but adds a yummy crunch

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside. Slowly, melt the 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips on the stove top or in the microwave.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or an electric mixer, beat the butter and tahini until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Add sugar and dark brown sugar.  Beat until fluffy, about 3 more minutes.  Add the milk and vanilla extract.  Add melted chocolate.  Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is well incorporated.  Add the flour and mix until well combined.  Lastly, stir in the dark chocolate chips.

Place raw sugar and/or decorative sprinkles on a plate.  Using a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop, place cookie balls in sugar, roll around and cover completely.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Gently, make a cross-hatch pattern with a fork on each cookie or lightly press on the cookies with an off-set spatula.  ( I used an offset spatula.)

Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes.  Be sure not to over bake! The cookies may look under baked, but as long as they are puffed and just set at the edges you are all set!  Allow the cookies to cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  Cookies will last in an air-tight container, at room temperature, for 2 days.  Enjoy!

5 Tahini Dessert Recipe You Must Check Out!

Molly Yeh’s chocolate tahini cake with rosemary buttercream is stunning and sounds delicious.  Check it out here!

Chocolate tahini cake two ways, curious?  The Brick Kitchen has the recipe for you.

Tis’ the season for cookies so add something new to your Christmas cookie plater this year with NYT’s salted tahini chocolate chip cookies and A Cozy Kitchen’s tahini concord grape thumbprint cookies.

If quick breads are your go to when it comes to holiday baking, check out my recipe for tahini chocolate chip banana bread.  It is delicious!

Chocolate Dipped Rosemary Butter Cookies + 5 Can’t Miss Holiday Cookie Links

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Do you know 2am?  I’m guessing, yes.  You see the pitch-dark shadows, you hear creaking pipes.  Nearby deep,heavy breaths attempt to lull you to…sleep.  And yet.  One side proves as uncomfortable as the other, stomach, back, side again.  Round and round you go. Thoughts simultaneously occur, then evaporate into the cool night air, as if never thought.

Do not believe everything you tell  yourself late at night.  [Who said this?]   But, you do.  And then you carry them around with like a small child, tending to their needs.  They don’t need you. The people in this house/home, they need you.  

So, you drag your weary body out of bed, walk around a bit, looking for answers in another room.  [Cold floor meets warm feet, shocking you from the bottom to the top, leaving goosebumps on your bare arms.  Shiver followed by a longing for the bed that provides no respite.]  Answers are not found.

What’s the alternative?  Return.  Try again.  This time…

The god awful bed you curse at 2:37am welcomes you back like desperate lover.  You give in, conceding, this time, because a bit of comfort and rest is better than none at all.

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Chocolate Dipped Rosemary Butter Cookies

A savory, sweet, even floral cookie with a crunchy exterior meets chocolate and falls in love.  Cookie conceived at 2am.

Makes about 2 dozen

Butter Cookie Recipe adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients:

2 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 sticks or 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature ( I used Plugra Butter)

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 + 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

1 egg white

4 tablespoon raw sugar

festive sprinkles for decorating, optional

2 inch round cookie cutter, optional

Directions:

Using a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or an electric mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy.  Add sugar and continue to beat for about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom once or twice.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined.

Slowly add the flour, beating until the dough just comes together.

Place the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap and press into a 8 inch circle.  Chill the dough for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 375F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.  Place chilled cookie dough on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper.  Lightly flour rolling-pin and roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick.

Using a 2 inch round cookie cutter, cut out cookies and place on prepared baking sheets. (If cookies become difficult to cut out, freeze dough for 15 minutes, then proceed.)  Brush cookies with egg white and sprinkle with raw sugar.  Bake until puffed and golden brown at the edges, about  10-12 minutes.   Allow to cool on pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling,  gently melt chocolate chips on the stove-top or in the microwave.

Once cookies are cool, dip in melted chocolate and place on a wire rack set inside a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Add festive sprinkles to chocolate, if desired.  Enjoy!

*Cookies will last up to 5 days.  Store in an air-tight container at room temperature.*

5 Can’t Miss Cookie Links for the Holidays

If you are a fan on linzer cookies, head to The Whole Bite for a chocolate linzer cookie recipe with dulce de leche.   I love this twist on a classic!

Still craving all things pumpkin?  Satisfy your craving with a batch of pumpkin cookies with brown sugar frosting.  Head to Creme de la Crumb for the recipe.

Crackle cookies are always a hit the holiday cookie swap.  Check out She Wears Many Hats double chocolate crackle cookie recipe.  Yum!

Have you ever tried an alfajore cookie?  I have the recipe for you.

This is a chocolaty twist on my favorite holiday cookie.  Check out the recipe here.

Twix Bars with a Twist + 5 DIY Sweet Treat Links

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Halloween night I will walk our leaf covered sidewalks [crunch, shuffle, crunch…God I love that sound] with a warrior, Robin Hood and a jovial [fingers crossed, two is tough] ghost. Cold little hands resting in my hand, momentarily, before breaking free in a frantic scamper for more candy.  A warrior, headstrong and fierce will lead the way, while brave Robin Hood and a charming ghost shuffle along.

Robin Hood’s Epi-pens stored in one coat-pocket while a bag of “trade” candy sits in the other pocket…waiting.  Please no ER trips, not tonight.

Charleston Chews, Tootsie Rolls, Swedish Fish, Twizzlers, filling their orange plastic pumpkin buckets, while I hand off Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Snickers to Bubba quickly, efficiently, much like a bomb squad taking care of a situation before someone gets hurt.

Our boy, our prince of thieves, safe for now. 

House after house, we will trek along, until the air is just too chilly, our feet weary, the sugar high becoming a low.  When we reach our front door, the candy basket we left out will be nearly empty.  Robin Hood will steal the remaining safe candy, as he should.  With a tired ghost resting against him, snuggled in his neck, sticky cheeks touching coarse stubble, Bubba will open the front door.  The heat from the house will escape out the front door, warming our cold faces, reminding us we are home.  Safe.  Happy.

Happy Halloween.

Twix Bars with a Twist

A shortbread cookie topped with caramel, Sunbutter and a dark chocolate glaze

adapted from Not Without Salt’s Homemade Twix Bars

Makes 12 large bars or 24 small bars

Ingredients for shortbread:

1 stick + 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/4 sugar

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350F.  Spray 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a bit of an overhang.  (This will make it easier to remove the bars later.)

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Slowly add the flour and salt.  Mix until the dough comes together.  The dough will be crumbly but should hold together when pressed in between your fingers.

Press the dough evenly into the prepared baking pan.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Rotate pan and bake for another 12 minutes or until the shortbread is golden brown.  Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Next prepare the Sunbutter layer.

Ingredients for the Sunbutter layer:

1 cup, all natural, no sugar added Sunbutter

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

4 + 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter

Directions: 

Place Sunbutter, sugar and butter in a medium size bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon until completely smooth.  Set aside.

Now prepare the caramel.

Ingredients for caramel:

2 cups sugar

3/4 light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Sea Salt for sprinkling

Directions:

Combine sugar, corn syrup, water and lemon juice in a large saucepan.  Using your hand or a pastry brush, wipe down any sugar crystals on the side of the pan with water.  Over medium-high heat bring the mixture to a boil.  Again wipe down any stray sugar crystals.  Do not stir the caramel from this point on.  The mixture will bubble vigorously.  When the syrup begins to turn golden brown, insert a candy thermometer.  When it reaches 300F, remove the pan from the heat.  Allow to rest for 1 minute.  Add heavy cream and stir until smooth, then whisk in the condensed milk.  Next, add the salt.  Whisk until smooth.

Return the pan to the heat and stir constantly until the caramel reaches 240F.  Remove from heat and pour over cooled shortbread.  Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.  Place in the refrigerator and allow to set for 2 hours.  While the caramel layer sets prepare the chocolate glaze.

Ingredients for chocolate glaze:

6 ounces of dark chocolate- chocolate chips are fine

3 tablespoons of butter

Directions:

Slowly, melt the butter and the chocolate in the microwave.  (I checked it every 20 seconds.)  Stir well until completely melted and smooth.

Spread Sunbutter mixture evenly over caramel  layer.  Pour the melted chocolate over the Sunbutter layer.  Smooth with an offset spatula.  Decorate with holiday sprinkles, if desired.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.  They are easiest to cut when cold.  Cut into squares, big or small and serve.  Enjoy!

**If taking to a party, cut into squares when cold.  Store in an air-tight container in between layers of parchment paper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.**

5 DIY Sweet Treat Links

If you love chocolate turtles check out Creme de la Crumb’s 3 ingredient caramel cashew clusters.  My mouth is watering!

One of my favorite sweet treats is chocolate covered almonds.  Sally’s Baking Addiction has a recipe for sea salt dark chocolate almond clusters that is now on my  must make soon list.

Love truffles?  Make your own!  Head to Alexandra’s Kitchen for her boozy Grand Marnier chocolate truffles recipe.

Screw moderation.  Make  I Am Baker’s Halloween saltine toffee candy and eat every last bite.  You deserve it!

Dealing with nut-allergies?  We are too.  I feel your anxiety especially around Halloween. Head to The Kitchn  and check out 5 nut-free Halloween treats that are sure to make your kids smile.

Apple Pear Pie with Oat Streusel + 5 Unique Fall Pie Links

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My mother was prettiest in the fall: her milky white skin, blue-gray eyes, auburn hair, easy smile and perfect profile more beautiful in the diminishing autumn light competing (unbeknownst to her) with the glory of the burgundy, yellow and copper leaves, both awe-inspiring and short-lived.  Like the leaves, the best part of her shown brightest before the dreary winter settled in.  She understood this cycle of her life, allowed it, succumbed to it.

And so, as a child, I breathed her in, filled my lungs with her happiness and carried it with me through the long, intense winters, wet springs and steamy summers.

I love fall, she said with her hands wrapped loosely around the steering wheel of our blue Ford Taurus station wagon, her long fingers and perfectly manicured nails dancing to a song on the radio.  The car window cracked a few inches allowing the crisp air to rush in and mix with her perfume.  (Mama’s best smell.)

Me too, Mama!  Her three ducklings cheered almost in unison, eagerly anticipating caramel apples covered in peanuts, bulbous pumpkins and warm cider.

She smiled, briefly checking herself in the rear-view mirror.  

What are you looking at Mama?  You haven’t disappeared…not yet.

The mother I clung to like a barnacle adhered to the hull of a ship, returned year after year, fall after fall, until she didn’t.  It wasn’t sad.  She made a choice.  Maybe we had outgrown her or she us.  The weight of a divorce, three children growing away from her too fast, a life she wasn’t sure how to repair.  And if I were to ponder why, why, why, the answer would still baffle me.  It is easy to choose happiness when you are not unhappy.

Occasionally, I see glimpses of the mama I remember in the mother I have now: an easy smile when we celebrate my older son’s October birthday as he delights in her perfect birthday gift (Air War Battle Drones! Cool, Mimi!); decorating paper bag Halloween lanterns for our front porch with our girl, happily accepting a sticky kiss from our chubby pumpkin costumed toddler.  I store these memories of her, hold on to the glimpses of happiness I see today, if only to retrieve them when winter comes again.

Apple Pear Pie with Oat Streusel            

Apple and pears, lightly sweetened and baked to perfection topped with a buttery, crunchy oat streusel 

recipe adapted from Epicurious

Pie Crust recipe adapted from Nothing In The House

Serves 8

Ingredients for filling:

3 pounds Cortland apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces

2 lbs pears (I used Bartlett)

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

good pinch of kosher salt

Ingredients for pie crust:

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 + 1/2 sticks very cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 large egg, cold, lightly beaten

1/4 cup ice-water

1/2 tablespoon cold apple cider vinegar

Oat Topping:

3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 dark brown sugar, packed

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon allspice

7 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

1/2 cup old fashion oats

Directions for crust:

*Pre-heat your oven to 400F*

Grab a large mixing bowl and whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Add the butter chunks and mix with your fingertips making sure pea-size chunks of butter remain.   Using a small bowl, whisk together the cold egg, water and vinegar.  Add the liquid to the flour/butter mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.  It should be a bit shaggy.  Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour before rolling out.  The longer you let it chill, the better.

When ready to bake, lightly flour a piece of parchment and place dough on paper.  Cover with another piece of parchment paper and roll to a 12 inch round.  Remove parchment paper and press crust gently into pie dish.  Turn dough overhang under and crimp the edges.  Chill in the fridge until ready to use.

Directions for the filling:

Toss all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl.  Set aside and prepare the topping.

For the topping:

Blend the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, allspice in a food processor.  Add the butter and pulse until a dough forms that resembles wet sand.  Add oats and pulse briefly.

Stir the filling and add it to the prepared pie crust.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the pie.  Place pie on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (to catch spills.)  Bake until top is golden brown, about 40 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 350F and bake for another 50-60 minutes.  *If the top is browning too quickly, cover pie loosely with foil.*  Cool pie on a wire rack for at least an hour before serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature as is or with scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!

*Pie will last loosely covered in foil at room temperature for a few days.*

5 Unique Fall Pie Links

Apples and fall go hand in hand, but why not switch things up and focus on pears for a bit? Head to Joy the Baker for her bourbon pear crumble pie.  I can’t wait to try this!

Looking for a twist on pumpkin pie?  Head to Love and Olive Oil for a s’mores pumpkin pie recipe that sure to make everyone smile.  Also, check out my pumpkin pie bars.  Pie in bar form = easy serving to guests.  Insert fist pump here.

Bruleed butternut squash pie.  Are you curious?  Me too.  Head to Lemon Fire Brigade for the recipe.  And while you are there check out caramel apple blackberry pie.