Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pecan Tartlets - Variation

It may seem silly to do a completely different post on a variation of a recipe that was posted yesterday. There are just so many photos that I wanted to do this differently. I'm not going to be including ingredients in this post so if you want to know how to make this tartlet variation, check the Pecan Tartlets post first.

I made 3 dozen pecan tartlets and decided that I didn't want to make any more. However, I had enough dough and filling to make at least six more tartlets so I had to come up with something to use up what was left. My dear hubby helped me. This variation is what we came up with. We can't think of any good names for it though. Suggestions?

I actually really enjoyed this little variation. It tasted so yummy and had a less sweet flavor than the tartlets themselves. It also looked so pretty!

Roll out pastry dough in a circle to be between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Place on a greased cookie sheet and roll the edges up to create a barrier. Be sure your barrier is between 1/4 and 1/2 inch high and that it is rolled tightly so it won't come undone.
Sprinkle chopped pecans on the crust. I also used up a few walnuts I had leftover from making Lemon Tea Cakes.

Pour some corn syrup mixture over the nuts.
This is why that barrier is so important. You don't want your syrup leaking out and making a mess all over your pan. Actually, forget the mess you'd get on your pan. Let's talk about how sad it would be to end up with a pastry with nuts and no syrup! That would be a sad day indeed. You really want it to stay on top of the pastry. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Serve cut into triangles.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pecan Tartlets

You know me, I love pecan pie. It is my all-time favorite pie. You've heard that already. But because it's my favorite, when I saw the recipe for these Pecan Tartlets, I just knew I had to make them. And I'm so glad I did! They are so yummy and you pretty much can't go wrong with them! I will say that they are a bit time consuming, cutting out all the little circles of dough and forming all the tartlets. I don't think it would have taken me as long if I had more mini muffin tins, but since I only have one it took me a while.  However, they are so yummy and very worth it. I'm so glad I made them {and glad I gave most of them away or else I would have eaten them all!}.
Also, check back tomorrow for a little something different I did with my leftover tartlet makings.

Pecan Tartlets
Time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Makes: 3 1/2 dozen tartlets

You will need a mini muffin tin

For the pastry:
6 oz. cream cheese {I used 1/3 fat cream cheese and it worked really well}
1 c. butter
2 c. flour
1/8 t. salt
Place cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl and beat until creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add flour and salt and beat until dough comes together and forms a ball.

For the pecan filling:
2 eggs
2/3 c. corn syrup
2/3 c. sugar
2 t. flour
2 T. butter, melted
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. chopped pecans
Combine all ingredients, except pecans, and beat or whisk until combined. Reserve pecans for assembling the tartlets.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out dough about an 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. I prefer my dough to be a little thinner but if you like a thicker crust, a 1/4 inch would be perfect, too. If your dough is excessively sticky or too soft, refrigerate for 15-20 minutes before rolling out. This helps give it a firmness.
Another trickI have is to handle the pastry dough as little as possible. Mix it up, roll it out, cut the circles. Gently combine the scraps from that batch then roll it out again. In other words, you don't have to get it perfectly in a ball the second time before you roll it out again. The less you handle your pastry, the more flaky and soft it will be when it's baked. However, don't let my "handle with care" tip scare you away from making these yourself. This is probably the easiest pastry dough I've ever made in my life.
{Because I only have one mini muffin pan, my pastry dough was sitting on the counter between batches. If you find that it begins to get too warm in your kitchen, the dough will soften and get stickier, thereby making it more difficult to handle. This is when the fridge trick will be especially helpful. Put your dough in the fridge while one batch is baking. When that batch is finished baking, you can take them out of the oven, put the tartlets on cooling racks then pull out the dough from the fridge and make more circles. This also helps give your pan time to cool down so you can make more tartlets without having to use a hot pan.}
Using a 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter or glass, cut out circles. Press into mini muffin tins, going all the way up the sides of the cups. I used my knuckle to press the dough into the baking cups {I have long nails so using my fingers didn't work for me}. I also found that a bottle cap from my baby's bottles worked really well.
Using my knuckle to press the pastry into the baking cup.
Your pastry should look like this.
Sprinkle a generous teaspoon full of pecan pieces into the bottom of each tartlet. 
You can use a teaspoon to spoon the pecans into the pastry...
. . . or do like me and just dump some pecans in there until you have the amount you want.

Spoon about 1 1/2 t. of the syrup on top of the pecans, covering the pecans and filling at least 3/4 of each tartlet.
I found that a teaspoon was about enough.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden brown and filling is set. Note that the filling won't appear to be very set right when you pull it out. You can jiggle the pan a little to see if the filling moves a lot. It is seems like it mostly there, they are probably done. Your best judge at this point will be the pastry dough. It should be lightly golden.
Note: these are super sticky.


Variation: The pastry dough can also be filled with your favorite jam before baking. Bake as directed above and sprinkle with powdered sugar after the tartlets have cooled.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Oatmeal Wafers

These oatmeal wafers are super yummy! They are a different kind of cookie. my Farmor {she's Swedish - I think I've mentioned her before} says these are authentic Swedish oatmeal cookies. They are crunchy with the perfect amount of spice. They are also easy to make. So if you want to try a different kind of cookie that's crunchy and uber yummy, these are for you. :D

Oatmeal Wafers
Known in Swedish as Havreflarn
Recipe from Grace Lindquist via my Farmor

½ cup butter or margarine
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup oatmeal
2 Tbsp. sifted flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 egg

Melt butter; remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Mix until blended. Butter cookie sheet generously and dust with flour. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet, 3 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 1 minutes before removing quickly with sharp knife. Cool. For more decorative effect place cookie immediately on handle of wooden spoon. Make one pan at a time.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


This is a traditional dessert found in the Mediterranean. Actually, it is kind of an interesting thing, if you look it up. All over the Middle East, countries will claim it as their own, asserting that other countries stole the recipe or that their country improved it. You can click HERE to see a history of this fantastic, crunchy, sweet dessert. There are also apparently many different recipes. This particular recipe is Greek. Which seems appropriate since phyllo dough (the most important ingredient!) is also Greek. Or at least the word "phyllo" is Greek. 

Anyway, I saw some Baklava in a food catalog and decided it looked really good. I didn't really want to pay the price to try it through the company, so I looked up a recipe and made my own. I'm glad I did. I thought this stuff was wonderful! I took it to a family Thanksgiving party and everyone who tried it liked it. It's a little more labor intensive but that doesn't mean it's hard to make. It's actually super easy, it just takes time. However, I think it's well worth the time!

Recipe from allrecipes
18 servings or 3 dozen squares

Filling and dough:
1 (16 oz) package phyllo dough {this dough can be found in the frozen section of your grocery store - look near pie dough}
1 pound chopped nuts {I used walnuts though I think pecans would be even yummier!}
1 cup butter, melted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x13 pan.
Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut off about two or three inches from one end so it will fit into your pan. 
I know this is probably the worst picture ever known to man. Or at least it's pretty close. {I have no idea why it turned like that. Sorry.} And the blue tint makes it even worse. I know. But I wanted to demonstrate just how thin phyllo dough really is. "Phyllo" is "named after the Greek word for leaf', being 'thin as a leaf'" {see above link}. Really, I would go with paper. This dough is paper thin.
Cover phyllo with dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan; using a pastry brush, butter throroughly. Butter the dough sheets carefully. Since they are so thin it can be easy to tear them if you aren't careful. Repeat until you have 8 sheets of layered dough.
You can see that my phyllo dough is climbin up the sides of my pan a little. I didn't experience any problems with this and actually liked the little extra dough it provided. You can, however, trim the dough to fit your pan exactly if that's what you want.

Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top of phyllo dough layers.

Top with two sheets of dough, butter those sheets, then add more nuts. Continue layering in this manner until you feel the pan is full enough or you run out of nuts {which is what happened to me}. Just be careful not to use all your dough. You need 6-8 sheets for the top and final layer. Also, buttering the dough sheets after you start layering in the nuts can be a challenge. I found it easiest to get my pastry brush really buttery and then pat the butter onto the sheets. This kept the dough from tearing but enabled me to butter it thoroughly.

Cover the last layer of nuts with two sheets of phyllo dough and butter them. Then add two more sheets and layer as in the beginning until it is 6-8 sheets deep. On the final set of two sheets, be sure to butter well. That will help make that top layer nice and crispy!
Using a sharp knife that has been well buttered, cut into square or diamond shapes {I found squares easiest and they go further}. Be sure to cut all the way to the bottom of the pan. Bake for about 40-50 minutes or until Baklava is golden and crisp. My Baklava was definitely done after 40 minutes so be sure to check it at the lowest baking time.

Make the sauce while the baklava is baking.
Boil sugar and water until sugar is dissolved and incorporated. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. The Baklava will be completely drenched in this honey liquid. Don't be alarmed. You did, in fact, do everything you were supposed to! The honey sauce will thicken as the Baklava and sauce cool and the nuts and dough will soak it up.
Let cool.

For a pretty touch, serve the sqaures in cupcake baking cups.
Leave it uncovered or it will get soggy.
Baklava freezes well. Just put individual pieces in a good freezer container and pop into the fridge. Pull it out a couple hours before serving and allow to thaw on the counter top.
Enjoy the crispy, honey goodness!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Orange Bursts

These are very yummy, very subtly citrus-y cookies. I think they are perfect holiday cookies. The slight orange flavor is enticing and fresh

Orange Bursts
Recipe from Guittard White Vanilla Chips
Makes: 4 dozen 3-inch cookies

2 ½ cups unsifted all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla*
1 Tbsp finely grated orange zest
1-2 cups Guittard Choc-Au-Lait Vanilla Milk Chips {I used about one cup and I thought the ratio was perfect}

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
In large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture until combined. Stir in orange zest and chips.
Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake about 10 minutes or until golden around edges. Cool for several minutes on sheets before transferring to rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Substitute: lemon zest for orange to make lemon bursts.

*Note: If you want more orange {or lemon, depending on which you are doing} flavor, you could substitute the vanilla extract for orange or lemon extract.

~from Guittard vanilla milk chips bag

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pecan Pie

I loooovvvee pecan pie. It is my all-time favorite pie and a necessary food tradition at Thanksgiving and Christmas. If there were fifty other types of pie, I would still choose this one. Because it's the best one. Honest. It's a good thing it's pretty much a once-a-year pie because I could eat several slices of it every time I sit down. Heck, I could eat several slices of it while I'm standing. And not feel guilty. {At least not right away ;) !} If you like pecan pie, you'll love this recipe. It is rich and fantastic and turns out every single time. My mom has been baking it for years. She got this cookbook from an old ward {or something like that} and has never felt the need to find another recipe because this one is perfect. Enjoy your pie!

Pecan Pie
Recipe from Irene Westernfelder in Treasure Chest of Tested Recipes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Start to Finish: 1 hour 20 minutes
Makes: 1 Pecan Pie

1/3 cup shortening
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup milk
3 eggs
½ tsp. salt
1 cup corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
Unbaked pie shell
Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs and mix well; then add all remaining ingredients except pecans. Make sure everything is mixed well. Add pecans last and stir in. Pour into unbaked pie shell. 
These are the unbaked pies. They look a little sloobery {I just made that word up...} and they can potentially make a mess. See how full they are? They need to be just that full. Trust me. You don't want to skimp on pecan pie filling. But since they are so full, I recommend baking them on cookie sheets so the mess doesn't end up on the bottom of your oven. If you really want to avoid a mess, put on tinfoil on the bottom of the cookie sheet, then place your pie on top of that. You'll be glad.
Bake in preheated oven to 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Finish baking at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. The pie is done if it is set and not jiggly {or sloobery!} anymore. If the top of the pie starts to brown too quickly but the pie is not done, lightly cover with tinfoil until it is finished baking.
Serve with homemade whipping cream. Or don't. It's fantastic by itself.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lemon Tea Cakes

I recently bought a book titled "Betty Crocker Cookies: 100 Favorite Recipes" {the link is the closest thing I've found to what I have}. I bought it at Barnes and Noble in their bargain books section for about $7.00. I was so excited! For some reason, this book has me excited about cookies and baking and I have already been through the book twice and I'm itching to make so many things from it! One of the recipes I've made already is Russian Tea Cakes {also known as Mexican Wedding Cookies} - though I actually made lemon because I was in the mood for a bit of citrus flavor. They are so yummy! They were pretty easy to make, though a little bit time-consuming, just because you have to crush the lemon drops and roll the cookies in powdered sugar. However they are worth it!  These cookies are best within about three days of making them . . . and I love them just a tad warm. Yum!

Lemon Tea Cakes
Recipe from Betty Crocker
Prep time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Start to Finish: 1 hour 35 minutes
Makes: about 4 dozen cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts - I used walnuts, and chopped them up nice and fine in my food processor
1/2 - 1 cup crushed lemon drops, divided - I think I used about 3/4 cups of drops

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Crush the lemon drops in a food processor or blender. Lemon drops are really hard and I will warn you, crushing the drops by either method is very loud. Earplugs are seriously recommended! I found that my food processor was considerably quieter than my blender - my baby really hated my blender! What I found easiest was crushing them first in my food processor, then putting the larger chunks in a plastic baggie, putting the plastic baggie between a towel and then breaking those chunks into smaller chunks using using a rolling pin. Unless your food processor is better than mine. Then it might just crush them all in one try.
In large bowl, beat butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the lemon extract with an electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with a spoon until creamy and fluffy. Mix the grated lemon rind with the flour. Add flour mixture and salt to the butter mixture. Stir in nuts and 1/4 cup crushed lemon drops.
Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into 1-inch balls. On un-greased cookie sheet, place balls about 2 inches apart.
Bake 7-9 minutes or until set but not brown. In small bowl, place addition powdered sugar. Immediately remove cookies from cookie sheet; roll in powdered sugar; wait 10 minutes, then roll in reserved crushed lemon drops. Cool completely on cooling rack, about 30 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar again.

Russian Tea Cakes
Substitute vanilla extract for the lemon and omit the grated lemon rind and crushed lemon drops. Everything else as directed.

Chocolate Filled Russian Tea Cakes
Use all same dough ingredients as Russian tea cakes, adding milk chocolate stars, chocolate chips or chopped pieces of chocolate candy. When dough is made, shape tablespoonfuls of dough around chocolate stars and form into 1-inch balls. Bake 12-14 minutes, or until bottoms start to brown. While baking make sugar coating: 1 cup powdered sugar; 1 Tbsp red sugar; 1 Tbsp. green sugar. When cookies are baked, roll into the sugar coating mixture. Reroll, if desired.

Peppermint Tea Cakes
Crust 3/4 cup hard peppermint candies in food processor or blender. Stir in 1/4 cup of the crushed candies with the flour; reserve remaining candy. Bake as directed. Immediately roll baked cookies in powdered sugar; wait 10 minutes, then roll in reserved crushed candy. Reroll, if desired. 

Cinnamon Tea Cakes
Add 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon to the cookie dough, at the same stage as adding the flour and salt. Bake as directed above. When baked, roll cookies in a mixture of 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. Reroll, if desired. 


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