Monday, May 25, 2009

Sour Cherry Pie with Pistachio Crumble

This week's recipe for Sweet Melissa Sundays was chosen by Michelle of Flourchild. I was really excited about this recipe because I absolutely love cherry pie. If I had to pick a favorite pie, I think cherry would be it. And its a perfect dessert for Memorial Day weekend.

We love to make pies in my family! There are always pies at the holidays- pumpkin and mincemeat at Thanksgiving and Christmas, lemon meringue and coconut cream at Easter, and cherry and blueberry pies for any patriotic holiday. And of course my husbands favorites, apple and banana cream, can go any time of the year.

I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to making the crust. My mom and I have used my grandmother's recipe for years with the same flaky result every time, so I chose to stick with my own recipe for the crust. It uses shortening instead of butter and my mom taught me to cut it in using two butter knives. It is a bit of a chore, but it works! I promised my mom I wouldn't divulge the recipe, but one of our secrets is to roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap so you do not have to worry about it sticking to the rolling pin or the counter. It also makes it really easy to transfer the dough into the pie plate.

The filling was simple enough. I added a little cinnamon and a dash of almond extract. Unfortunately, I have not been able to try the pie yet because I am bringing it to a party this evening. However, it smelled wonderful in the oven! I am anxious to try the crumb topping, and even though I think the pistachios will taste wonderful, I would like to try making the recipe with almonds or walnuts next time.

Thanks Michelle for picking this recipe. It seems like a great spin on a favorite classic. If you would like the recipe, you can find it on Michelle's site.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Princess Cookies

Now that my grandmother has passed, one thing I will always treasure is our experience in the kitchen. My grandfather owned his own business and his office was in the basement of their house. Everyday, my grandmother would make a full lunch for all the employees including dessert. I will always remember her standing at the counter icing the cake before everyone came up for lunch. I loved it that she would let my sister and me help.

Now that I have my own kids, I try to involve them as much as possible whenever I cook. I love the fact that my three year old will stop playing whenever I have the mixer on and ask if she can pull a chair over and help. There are certain things I quickly learned while baking with her, namely patience and not caring about a mess!

This past Christmas, my mom gave my daughter a set of princess cookie cutters from Williams Sonoma. To me, they are quite possibly the greatest gift she could have gotten as we have spent many an afternoon together since cutting out cookies and decorating them together. I always make sure I have an ample supply of sprinkles and parchment paper on hand as the more sprinkles the better (not so easy to clean up without the parchment paper). The first time my husband saw the cookies she decorated, he kind of looked at me wondering whether I was expecting him to eat them (see the picture below and you will understand). But he saw how excited she was about her cookies so he did, and with a smile on his face.

Whether you have kids to make these cookies with or not, I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do. They have a nice buttery flavor and are crisp without being crumbly. And don't worry, only so many of the sprinkles can actually stick to the cookie when they are done baking, so just let the kids have fun!

Sugar Cookie Dough
from Williams Sonoma

1 Cup Unsalted Butter
3/4 Cup Sugar
3 Egg Yolks*
1 1/2 t Vanilla
2 1/2 Cups Flour
1 t Baking Powder
1/2 t Salt

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Add the flour mixture and continue mixing until well combined.

Divide the dough into four equal sections and form into a ball. Flatten each ball of dough into a disc and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least two hours (best overnight).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (otherwise butter the cookie sheet).

Roll out each disc to 1/4 inch thickness. Use your cookie cutters to cut out your cookies. Place on the tray. When I decorate with sprinkles, I normally brush the cookie with a little egg white to help them stick. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
*Save the egg whites to brush on the cookies before decorating with sprinkles or to make royal icing.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Guiness Gingerbread

This is my first week with Sweet Melissa Sundays and I'm very excited to be baking with the group. This week's recipe was chosen by Katie of Katie's Cakes. I have to admit that I was somewhat skeptical about a dessert that called for Guiness and white pepper, but this experience is all about trying things I may not normally choose myself. The recipe pleasantly surprised me. The flavor is somewhat different than any gingerbread I have made in the past, but I guess that is part of what makes it so good.

The recipe was easy enough once I finally got started. I don't normally buy the beer in the house so imagine my surprise when I found out the store my husband sent me to only sells beer by the case. I had my seven month old in tow and she was getting hungry, so I didn't really have time to shop around. We don't drink Guiness, but luckily my dad does. Otherwise I would be making a lot of gingerbread! As it is I doubled the recipe so I could use up the rest of the bottle.

The gingerbread is definitely best served warm as the recipe suggests. However, instead of serving it with plain whipped cream, I tried a recipe my mom had for an orange whipped cream. She had made it to serve with her own gingerbread recipe a couple months ago and it was really delicious. Again, its not something I would have thought to pair together, but the flavors work really well with each other.

Thanks Katie for encouranging me to try something I probably would have passed up! You can find the recipe on her website. You can get the recipe for the orange whipped cream here.

Orange Whipped Cream

1 Egg
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 t Orange Peel
1 t Lemon Peel
2 T Lemon Juice
1 Cup Heavy Cream

In a small saucepan combine the egg, sugar, orange peel, lemon peel, and lemon juice. Whisk until combined. Place the saucepan over medium low heat and stir constantly until the mixture has thickened (about 5-10 minutes). I cooked mine until it just started to bubble. Set the mixture aside and let it cool.

Once the citrus mixture has cooled, whip the heavy cream. Once the cream is whipped to form soft peaks, fold in the citrus mixture.

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