Winter Fruit Crisp

Have you ever read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? In case you haven't, it's a pretty incredible memoir of a year the famous writer and her family spent living on the land doing everything from farming to slaughtering animals to baking bread daily. While some have a love-hate relationship with it (read the reviews. People can be brutal!), I actually learned a ton about what is in season when and how to maximize seasonal produce. The book is filled with recipes and while this is not one of them (although there is probably something similar), the seasonality and of-the-land qualities of the book inspired me to make a winter fruit crisp. Well, that book and the fact that our Aunt Camille sent us a gorgeous box of red apples and pears from Harry & David last week. Thanks, Aunt Camille!

I am certainly not the first person to combine apples, pears and cranberries. I'm pretty sure my culinary heroes have all done it. But, this simple rendition with a little cardamom for warmth and rich vanilla ice cream to balance it all out is a happy, tummy-warming treat perfect for an evening by the fire. It travels pretty well, too, if you'd like to take it to a family holiday meal or a party. This little gem passes my ultimate holiday dessert litmus test: it tastes even better as breakfast the next day.

It's the holidays. I'm feeling warm and fuzzy all over. Posting this makes me think that perhaps one of you will bake it for your family and they'll have the warm fuzzies, too. Because, really, this season is all about connection, love and light. All of which I wish to you.



Winter Fruit Crisp
The Winter Fruit:
3 red apples, peeled, cored and sliced
3 green apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 firm but ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 C cranberries, washed and dried
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C flour
3 T fresh orange juice
2 T sugar
1 t orange zest
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t cardamom

The Crisp:
1 C flour
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 t kosher salt
3/4 C oats
12 T unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a medium casserole dish (mine is about 9"x11"). 

Prepare the fruit. Here's what you do - put everything into a bowl and gently toss until the fruit is coated in the sugar and flour.

Make the crisp. Pour the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and whisk until blended. Cut the butter into the dry mixture until the butter bits are pea-sized and fairly well incorporated.

Pour the fruit into your casserole dish and sprinkle the crisp mixture over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Remove, let cool for 20-30 minutes and serve warm with, of course, vanilla ice cream. Or, if you can find it, use cinnamon ice cream. I'll be thinking of you as the warm crisp and cool ice cream hit your mouth and fill it with wonder. Enjoy!!!!

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread

Happy Holidays to you!

It's my very favorite time of year: cookie exchange season! Normally, I make a molasses ginger spice cookie, but I was feeling very chocolate, so I turned to Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery Cookbook where I discovered the most delectable recipe for chocolate shortbread (and then modified it, because, well, I am me). From there, I went wild with ganache, peppermint sticks, you know, whatever I could find! Let's chat more later, but for now, here are some delicious, soft, chocolatey treats to enjoy!



Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread

The Shortbread
1-3/4 C plus 1-1/2 T flour
1 C plus 1-1/2 T cocoa (use fine quality like Valrhona if you can)
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
8 oz. unsalted butter
2 t kosher salt
3/4 C plus 1 T sugar

The Ganache
4 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
2 T butter
1 T cream

2-3 peppermint sticks, crushed

Make the cookie dough. Whisk the dry ingredients together and set aside.

Cream the butter until light, about one minute. Add the salt and then the sugar and cream together another 2 minutes, until fluffy.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter in 2 additions, scraping the bowl between additions. Roll the dough into a ball and then flatten it out to make a disc. Refrigerate 1-24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325. Roll out your dough to about 1/8" thick and, using cookie cutter shapes, cut out your cookies. In this case, I refrigerated the dough in logs and simply sliced them, but shapes are SO much prettier!

Bake in batches, about 15 minutes per batch. 

Let cool.

Make the ganache. Melt the butter in a high-density saucepan on very low heat. Add the cream and heat until hot, but not boiling. Add the chocolate and let sit one minute. Stir until fully blended.

If you haven't already, crush your peppermint sticks (or candy canes) by placing them into a plastic baggie and either rolling over them with a rolling pin or just hitting them against your counters or floors until they're in tiny pieces.

Spread each cooled cookie with ganache and immediately sprinkle peppermint candy dust over them. Let them set about 20 minutes (at least) and up to 2 days. Serve with hot tea or, if you're really feeling decadent, hot cocoa. Merry, merry!

Buttermilk Doughnuts

Does anyone else feel like the world is spinning extra fast this holiday season?

Nothing gets me grounded like creating a kitchen project that fills the house with warm, toasty, sweet scents and, of course, fills our bellies with the comfort and nurturing one can only get from homemade goods. Thank goodness, then, for my doughnut-loving nephew and his birthday a few weeks ago. Just as the holiday season was kicking off, we were celebrating this young man turning thirteen and knocking us out with his sharp wit and grown-up sense of himself. For example, when pressed to complete his very first tackle football season (his dad was an all-star footballer in high school and the kid got his aptitude), he looked me right in the eye and said, "Auntie, I'm the person who wants to help people up, not knock them down." That shut me right up. He followed that up with a firm, but gentle man sentence: "I'm not willing to play". Oh, where does the time go???

Rather than cake, I wanted to make the nephew his favorite treat: doughnuts. His favorite are chocolate, mine are buttermilk. Today, we'll talk buttermilk and later this month, I'll post the chocolate.

While I most definitely consider myself an expert doughnut eater, I'm not an expert doughnut maker. Honestly, I have a healthy fear of hot, bubbling oil and am always quite anxiety-ridden over how long to leave things in there. Like, I look at it and it seems done, but is it really? And if it's uncooked on the inside, I can fry it again, but that makes for an oily texture and pretty disgusting flavor. Essentially, unless I fry things perfectly, I've wasted the ingredients, the oil and my (very precious) time.

I sought out an expert doughnut maker and discovered Elinor Klivans who happens to have written a cook book called "Donuts". She gives all the technical advice I needed to execute perfectly fried, delicious doughs and offers tons of suggestions on prettifying them, too. For this recipe, we're keeping it simple, which is always my favorite place to start.

Before beginning, you'll need a few pieces of special equipment if, like me, you don't own a deep fryer:
1. an 8+ quart stock pot
2. a candy thermometer
3. a doughnut cutter

Buttermilk Doughnuts with Cinnamon Sugar