Category Archives: Holiday

Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers

Turkey and pie may take all the Thanksgiving glory, but I’m on a mission to nab a tiny bit of it for holiday cheese plates. You know, the stuff you snack on while you make…everything else. They’re frequently overlooked or taken for granted, which is a shame because the holiday cheese plate says something about the person who made it. Specifically, that they like cheese.

While there is nothing wrong with just putting out cheese and crackers, I’ve made it a point over these last several Thanksgivings to turn my cheese plate game up to 11. These twists, shortbreads and slumping blocks of feta aren’t difficult or overly flashy—nobody has time for that on the fourth Thursday in November!—but they sure are delicious. Here is a definitive list of your favorite cheesy food blogger’s favorite cheesy appetizers.Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers Rosemary-Parmesan Cheese Straws

These flaky homemade cheese straws are the perfect thing to serve alongside an assortment of cheeses and fresh fruit. They’re perfumed with rosemary, have a little funk from grated Parmesan, can be prepped ahead (!), and they’re absolutely gorgeous.
Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions

Baked Brie is a classic holiday party treat, and it couldn’t be simpler to make. Just wrap a wheel of brie in puff pastry and bake until golden and gooey—that’s it! This version has added sweetness and depth from caramelized onions and a smear of dijon mustard. Yum!Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers
Spicy Cheddar Shortbread

These shortbread are like Cheez-Its all glowed up. They’ve got a rich cheddar flavor with hits of spicy cayenne and black pepper, and are outrageously good. Serve them by themselves or pair with a tart apple for a bright, rich finish.Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers
Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates

I made a whole Christmas dinner for my family last year, including a porchetta, but this easy appetizer stole the show. An entire block of feta is painted with olive oil and honey before being baked until soft and slumping, then broiled to a golden finish. While Baked Feta would be delicious served on its own with water crackers, you’d be remiss to skip the sweet & savory Sautéed Dates. They’re chewy, caramelized, and get finished with a a good hit of coarse salt before being piled on the Baked Feta and fully devoured.Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers
Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil

This year’s cheese plate offering is low-brow and high-brow and completely delicious. Two sheets of flaky rough puff pastry are sandwiched together with southern pimento cheese, gently twisted into a sun shape (“soleil”) and baked until bubbly and golden. While everything else on this list works well as part of a cheese plate, this Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil *is* the cheese plate.

Have you made any of these or any of my other cheesy appetizers? What’s your favorite thing to put on a holiday cheese plate? Let me know in the comments or on social media!Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers

Brownie Pie

Brownie PieI first had Brownie Pie at an Easter brunch almost twenty years ago, but I’m here to tell you to make it for Thanksgiving. Yes! You may not realize it with everything going on, but Turkey Day is twenty days out. Twenty days! I started off the festive foods with Wednesday’s Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil, and now we’re on to the first of my usual three pies and one of my favorite sides ever…but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m here to talk about Brownie Pie, so let’s get to it!Brownie PieBrownie Pie? Like brownies *in* a pie? You better believe it. We’re talking dense, chewy, fudgy, crackly-topped brownies baked up in a flaky all-butter crust. This is a perfect food, people!Brownie PieNow, Brownie Pie not quite as simple as baking brownie batter in a pie crust…but it almost is. You just have to partially blind-bake (bake without filling) the pie crust first, lest your bottom crust stay raw. Don’t worry, it’s not as terrifying as it sounds.Brownie PieBrownie PieTo partially blind-bake, begin by rolling out your dough, then fit and crimp it in a pie plate like you normally would. Next, give it a good chill before lining it with parchment, filling it up with your weights of choice (pie weights, dried beans, rice) and baking for 20 minutes. Then simply lift the parchment and weights out of the crust, dock it with a fork and bake for another 10 minutes, until it starts to brown.Brownie PieBrownie PieAfter that—which, again, is much less of an ordeal than it sounds—it’s as simple as pouring the brownie batter into the crust and baking it off. I used my trusty Cocoa Brownies recipe with a bit more salt and 2/3 cup of chocolate chips for a little extra zazz. If you have another brownie recipe or box mix that you like, feel free to use it! Make sure that it makes enough for an 8” or 9” square pan—you don’t want to overfill your pie plate or worse, have to clean your oven floor.Brownie PieBrownie Pie’s final bake is 30-35 minutes. Ideally, you should let it cool completely for the cleanest slices, but I don’t want to be that person who tells you not to eat warm brownies, so you decide when to slice your pie. Follow your heart and all that. Whatever you do though, don’t skip the vanilla ice cream and chocolate shell.Brownie Pie

Brownie Pie
makes one 9-inch pie

1/2 recipe All-Butter Pie Dough or other good single crust recipe
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
2 large eggs, cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided

For serving (optional):
vanilla ice cream
whipped cream
chocolate shell
chocolate syrup

On a floured surface, roll out pie dough to a 12″ diameter. Fit into a deep 9-inch pie plate and trim the overhang to 1/2-inch. Crimp the edges and freeze for 30 minutes or refrigerate for an hour.

Place an oven rack in the lowest position. Preheat oven to 350F.

Remove pie crust from the freezer. Prick the bottom several times with the tines of a fork. Line frozen crust with a big piece of parchment. Fill the center with pie weights (or dried beans or rice).

Place the prepared pie crust on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until pie crust has “set” and is starting to turn golden in places, but is far from done. Use parchment to lift out pie weights. Dock (prick) crust all over with a fork. Return crust to the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the brownie batter. In a small pot over medium-low heat, melt butter, granulated and brown sugars, and cocoa powder together, stirring frequently, until a thick, grainy mixture forms. Remove from heat and let mixture cool 5-7 minutes.

Add vanilla and eggs to the pot, and stir/whisk to combine. Add flour and salt and stir/whisk to combine. Fold in 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips. Pour batter into par-baked crust and spread to the edges. Scatter remaining 2 tablespoons chocolate chips over the top and press lightly to adhere.

Bake pie 30-35 minutes, until filling is set and crust is golden. Let cool completely on a rack.

Slice and serve with desired toppings. Cover leftovers and keep at room temperature for up to two days. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Brownie PieBrownie Pie

Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil

Hello from the recent past! I’m writing this post ahead of Election Day, so I have no idea what fresh hell is going on in this country upon publishing, nor am I going to address it. This blog has no political views of its own, but you can guess which side I’m on.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilI had a very difficult time deciding what to post today. The election has zapped any creative energy I had left, and just…what do I want to talk about post-Election Day? Do I go straight into pie? Thanksgiving sides? Not post a recipe and tell everyone to make one big cookie everyday until we know the actual results? Disappear without a trace for two months and re-emerge only after January 20th of next year? They all seem like good options.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilInstead though, I’m going with Pimento Cheese: straight-up cheesy, spicy, sweet, tangy, mayo-bound southern comfort food. While it’s normally served with crackers or celery or on a sandwich, today I’m wrapping it up in two circles of puff pastry, slicing and twisting it so it looks like the sun (“soleil”), and baking until good and flaky with multiple textures of melted cheese. Yesssss.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilWhile Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil sounds fancy, it’s really quite simple, as most things made with puff pastry are. As usual, I went with easy from-scratch rough puff pastry here, but the frozen stuff works too. If you’re going the rough puff route, I find it much easier to make the two sheets separately than I do to make one big one and divide it.Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil No matter which dough you use, roll your sheets out about as big as you can (mine were 12×14”) and cut out two 12-inch circles. Top one with a batch of homemade pimento cheese, then seal the edges together with a swipe of water.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilPimento Cheese Tarte SoleilPimento Cheese Tarte SoleilNext up, create the soleil (sun shape). Place a 2.5-3 inch cutter or vessel in the center of your pastry circles, then use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the edges into sixteen rays. Twist them up for beauty reasons, then brush the whole tarte with egg wash and bake until golden all over.Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil
When I started working on this recipe, I had some concern that I’d open the oven after 35 minutes to find pimento cheese melted and burnt everywhere, but those fears were unfounded. The pimento cheese gets bubbly on top, gooey in the center, and a little crisp on the bottom.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilThis tarte, y’all. This. Tarte. I love that it’s both low brow and high brow–“Pull-aparts, but make it fashion.” It’s a guaranteed showstopper, and one of those things that’s good warm or at room temperature (or cold, honestly), as most flaky, cheesy things are. I had zero trouble putting away a quarter of it after this little photoshoot.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilPimento Cheese Tarte SoleilI usually post something to be a part of a Thanksgiving cheese plate, but this fancy finger food? It *is* the cheese plate. No need for crackers or bread or anything else, except maybe a sliced apple and a glass of something festive. And since Thanksgiving is but once a year, know that this would also be welcome in a game day spread. Heck, you could even just make one, slice up some raw vegetables and call it dinner any old time. Basically, it’s appropriate for any pimento cheese and puff pastry-eating occasion, including eating your feelings while waiting for things to sort themselves out, which is the exact route I will be taking.Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil

Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil
makes one tarte

Rough Puff Pastry (makes 2 sheets):
2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, divided
10 ounces (20 tablespoons) unsalted European-style butter, very cold, cut into small pieces, divided
1/2 cup water or milk, very cold, divided

Pimento Cheese:
8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 4 ounce jar pimientos or roasted red peppers
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons mayonnaise

Egg wash:
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

If you do not wish to make the Rough Puff Pastry, you may use two sheets of frozen all-butter puff pastry that you have thawed according to package directions. Begin the recipe at “Make the pimento cheese.”

Make the first sheet of rough puff pastry. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Pour in 1/4 cup of cold water or milk and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Turn dough out onto surface, and use your hands to pat it into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough into an 8×10″ rectangle. Fold dough in thirds, and give it one quarter turn. Roll into an 8×10″ rectangle again, fold, and turn. Repeat rolling, folding, and turning until it has been done six times total. Wrap folded dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours.

Make the second sheet of rough puff pastry. Repeat the mixing, rolling, folding and chilling process with remaining 1 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) butter, and 1/4 cup cold water and milk.

Make the pimento cheese. Grate the cheese on the large-holed side of a box grater. Transfer to a small mixing bowl.

Drain the pimientos and blot with paper towels. Mince pimentos and transfer to the mixing bowl. Add black pepper and mayonnaise. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold it all together—it will seem dry, but should hold together.

Make the tart. Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed half-sheet pan with parchment.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Unfold one sheet of dough. Roll out to at least 12×14-inch rectangle, or a bit larger. Place a 12 inch round item (I used the lip of a large mixing bowl) on top. Use a thin, flexible knife to cut out a circle. Refrigerate. Repeat rolling and cutting process with the second sheet of dough.

Place one circle of dough on prepared pan. Drop spoonfuls of pimento cheese over the dough and spread to cover, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all the way around. Dab or brush some water along exposed dough, then place the second circle of dough over the top. Press edges together all the way around.

Place a light 2.5-3-inch object on the center of your tart (I used a biscuit cutter). Leaving the area covered by the object alone, use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice the pastry into quarters, then eighths, then sixteenths. Remove the round object to see that your tart looks like a sun.

Taking one “ray” (strip of dough) at a time, gently twist it a few times. Repeat with all “rays.” If the dough becomes soft or sticky at any point in the assembly process, refrigerate the entire tart for 15 minutes.

Make egg wash. Combine egg and water in a small bowl and whisk together with a fork. Use a pastry brush to paint egg wash over the entire tarte.

Bake tarte for 35-40 minutes, until completely golden. Let cool 10 minutes before carefully removing to a serving plate.

Serve immediately. This tarte is best warm or room temperature, but leftovers may be wrapped tightly with foil and stored in the refrigerator for a day or two. Reheat in the oven for best results.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilPimento Cheese Tarte Soleil

Easy Gluten-Free Ice Cream Sandwiches

Easy Gluten-Free Ice Cream SandwichesWhen I posted Flourless Chocolate Cookies a couple months ago, my first thought was “these would be perfect for ice cream sandwiches.” Short story shorter, I was right.

Like all the best ice cream sandwich cookies, Flourless Chocolate Cookies are fairly flat and aren’t too hard or too soft. They also have this lovely, crinkly brownie-like quality, and are super easy to make and naturally gluten-free. Like I said, perfect.Easy Gluten-Free Ice Cream Sandwiches These cookies are on the sweeter side (confectioner’s sugar provides a lot of the structure), so I added a teaspoon of granulated espresso to the recipe to keep them from being cloying with ice cream. I also cut the size of the cookies in half for a dozen medium cookies instead of six large ones.

The assembly process begins by matching cookies, meaning determining which are the most compatible shapes. Mine all turned out fairly round, but there are always a couple that are a little oblong. Easy Gluten-Free Ice Cream SandwichesNext up, you’ll need to freeze the cookies for about 30 minutes. This helps the ice cream to stay on the solid side and the cookies from getting too soft during assembly. This step is not strictly necessary, but it is good insurance against ice cream sandwich frustration.Easy Gluten-Free Ice Cream SandwichesEasy Gluten-Free Ice Cream SandwichesRegarding ice cream, use whatever flavor you want. I went with a mid-level nationwide brand’s vanilla here and it was fine—good, even—but I will go higher quality next time. Oh, and I’ll probably go with mint chocolate chip because it’s my favorite. The point is to use what you love and not settle for less. Cookies are an important part of ice cream sandwiches, but ice cream is the *most* important part.

There are many ways of getting ice cream into ice cream sandwiches—slicing it, pressing it into molds, etc.—but I like to use the very easy and imprecise method of measuring out roughly 1/4 cup (1 small scoop) and lightly smashing it on a cookie.Easy Gluten-Free Ice Cream SandwichesEasy Gluten-Free Ice Cream SandwichesEasy Gluten-Free Ice Cream SandwichesFreeze the sandwiches before rolling them in your sprinkles of choice or chopped nuts or mini chocolate chips or candy bar pieces or crushed Oreos. Again, use what you love and don’t settle for less. <—good life advice? Easy Gluten-Free Ice Cream SandwichesThe last step is to freeze your ice cream sandwiches again for several hours or up to a day before digging in. Yes, you can eat them right after assembly, but the ice cream squidges out the sides and then you’re just eating two cookies with a translucent smear of ice cream and a weird smattering of sprinkles and then licking ice cream off a salad plate like a wild animal.

Maybe that’s just me.Easy Gluten-Free Ice Cream SandwichesAnyway, freezing the completed ice cream sandwiches for a few hours allows the ice cream to adhere to the cookies so that the sandwiches become single entities. That’s something I really care about with my ice cream sandwiches. Considering how much I loathe the patriarchy, I sure do love to be able to eat things in a ladylike manner.Easy Gluten-Free Ice Cream SandwichesI assure you, they’re worth the lengthy freezer time. The cookies never fully freeze, instead softening a tiny bit and getting extra chewy. And then there’s the ice cream and crunchy sprinkles. Like I said, perfect.Easy Gluten-Free Ice Cream Sandwiches

Easy Gluten-Free Ice Cream Sandwiches
makes 6 medium-large ice cream sandwiches

For cookies:
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder (natural or dutch processed)
1 teaspoon granulated espresso
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 large egg whites, room temperature

For assembly:
1 1/2-2 cups (about a pint) ice cream of choice
sprinkles of choice, optional
chopped nuts, optional
chopped candy bars, optional
crushed cookies, optional
miniature chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 325F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together confectioners sugar, cocoa powder, espresso granules and salt. Add egg whites and whisk until smooth, glossy and a bit thick. If it seems dry during mixing, just keep going—it will get smooth. Let batter rest for 10 minutes–it will thicken slightly.

Drop batter in 1 tablespoon increments on the prepared baking sheet, making sure to leave them at least 3 inches apart. Bake 11-12 minutes, until puffed and crackly.

Let cool completely on their pan on a rack. Carefully peel parchment away from each cookie to release.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Place cooled cookies on the prepared pan and freeze for 30 minutes.

Assemble the ice cream sandwiches. Match cookies by shape and size so that you have six pairs. Turn 6 cookies upside down. Place 1/4-1/3 cup ice cream (roughly 1 small scoop) on each upside down cookie and use the back of the scoop to lightly smash it so that there’s a small perimeter (1/4-1/2 inch) of bare cookie all the way around. Top with one of the bare cookies. Smash down lightly with the heel of your hand to adhere. Freeze for 1 hour.

Place sprinkles (or other toppings of choice) in a shallow bowl(s). Working with one ice cream sandwich at a time, dip the edge into the sprinkles and carefully rotate the sandwich until the entire perimeter is covered. Use a clean finger to brush off any toppings stuck to the cookies. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.

Ice cream sandwiches may be enjoyed immediately, but will not stay intact. For the most “stable” results, freeze for 4 hours before serving. For longer storage, double-wrap each ice cream sandwich in plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to a month.Easy Gluten-Free Ice Cream SandwichesEasy Gluten-Free Ice Cream SandwichesEasy Gluten-Free Ice Cream Sandwiches

Blueberry Lemon Bundt Cake

Blueberry Lemon Bundt CakeThere is just something about bundt cakes. They’re one of my absolute favorite things to bake—they’re low-maintenance crowd pleasers *and* I get to feel like the queen of the universe every time I get one to release cleanly from the pan. That kind of glory is hard to come by these days.Blueberry Lemon Bundt CakeThis Blueberry Lemon Bundt Cake is utterly spectacular, if I do say so myself. Lemon-scented and studded with a bevy of blueberries, it’s the perfect summertime cake. Oh, and it’s gorgeous too.Blueberry Lemon Bundt CakeThe base is a sour cream spin on my favorite bundt cake formula. While that cake batter is rich and delicious, it’s not quite thick enough to suspend whole blueberries, leaving them all to sink to the bottom of the pan/top of the baked cake. The final product still tastes right, but if you’re going to make a blueberry cake, you want the blueberries strewn throughout, ya know?

By swapping the usual milk for sour cream, the batter becomes just thick enough to support the blueberries, and you also get a super velvety crumb out of the deal. #score The blueberries are also given support via a light dusting of dry ingredients before being folded into the batter. This “trick” allows a little bit of the leavener to react directly against the blueberries, helping them to stay buoyant instead of sinking.Blueberry Lemon Bundt CakeAs for the lemon portion of this Blueberry Lemon Bundt Cake, it’s as simple as rubbing zest into sugar to release those good lemony oils and finishing the cake with a simple lemon icing. Easy peasy.Blueberry Lemon Bundt CakeBlueberry Lemon Bundt Cake is perfect for any summer occasion, including the Fourth of July. There’s no melting frosting or chocolate to worry about, and just about everyone loves the combination of blueberries and lemon.Blueberry Lemon Bundt CakeI know a lot of us aren’t having or attending gatherings large enough to finish this cake in one go, so feel free to halve it and put it in a loaf pan. I, however, have never seen leftover cake as a problem.Blueberry Lemon Bundt Cake

Blueberry Lemon Bundt Cake
makes one 10-cup capacity bundt

Cake:
2 cups granulated sugar
zest of 1 medium lemon
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 pint fresh blueberries (about 12 ounces)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 16 pieces
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature

Icing:
1 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 325F. Heavily grease a bundt pan with softened butter (or shortening) and dust with flour. Set aside.

Make the cake. Combine sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and use your fingertips to rub them together. Set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to mix on the lowest setting for 20 seconds.

Remove 1/4 cup of the flour mixture to a small mixing bowl. Add blueberries and toss together. Set aside.

Add butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream to the flour mixture. Use an electric mixer to mix on low for 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes. Batter will be thick.

Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold floured blueberries (including any unincorporated flour) into batter.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth the top with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Tap full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake 65-75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in several places comes out clean.

Let cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a thin, flexible knife around all exposed edges. Invert cake onto a cooling rack and let cake cool completely. Cake may be made up to a day in advance; it will keep double-wrapped in plastic wrap.

Make the icing. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together confectioners sugar, lemon juice and salt. Mixture should be very thick, but pourable. If it’s too thick, add more lemon juice by the teaspoon up to 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon); if it’s too thin, add more confectioners sugar in 2 tablespoon increments. Pour over cake. Let sit for 20 minutes to set. Move cake to a serving plate before slicing and serving.

Leftover cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to two days or in the refrigerator for up to five.Blueberry Lemon Bundt CakeBlueberry Lemon Bundt CakeBlueberry Lemon Bundt Cake