Apple Shortbread Bars

Apple Shortbread BarsEvery year, I get so concentrated on making pumpkin treats that I nearly forget the other flavors of fall! That’s really a shame—what’s fall without maple, pear, sweet potato, and even grape?! I have recipes highlighting each of those flavors (and even more pumpkin things!) on the docket between now and Thanksgiving, but today, I’m all about apples.

Specifically, these Apple Shortbread Bars 🍎🍎🍎

Apple Shortbread BarsThese bars are an autumnal twist on a sweet cherry treat I made this past summer. They’re basically apple pie for people who don’t have the time and energy to make apple pie…like me right now.

Apple Shortbread BarsWhile I love the process of making pie (and eating pie, duh), I rarely have the time to do so. Between making and chilling the dough, preparing the filling, baking, and cooling, pie can easily be a 4+ hour commitment. Unless it’s a holiday, or I’ve somehow curbed my procrastination 😬😬, that simply isn’t going to happen.

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Bars are very mid-week-pie-craving-friendly. From peeling and dicing the apples…

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Barsto stirring them into a perfectly-spiced filling…

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Barsto making an easy four-ingredient brown sugar shortbread…

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Barsto assembling and baking…

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Barsto cooling, and slicing…

Apple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread BarsApple Shortbread Barsthese bars take just a couple of hours.

Apple Shortbread BarsYep, that’s how you get your homemade apple pie fix on a Wednesday.Apple Shortbread Bars

Apple Shortbread Bars
makes one 9-inch pan, about 9-16 bars

Filling:
2 large baking apples,* peeled and 1/2-inch diced (about 3 cups of apple chunks)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes

Place oven racks in top and bottom positions. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on two sides. Grease foil with butter. Set aside.

Make apple filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine diced apples and apple cider vinegar. Fold in light brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and cornstarch. Set aside while you make the shortbread.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, light brown sugar, and salt. Add cold butter. Use your fingertips to rub butter into flour until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture for topping.

Pour remaining shortbread mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using your hand to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Spoon apples over the top, leaving behind any excess liquid.

For the topping, use your fingers to pinch together small portions of the reserved shortbread mixture. Scatter them over the top of the apple layer.

Bake bars on the bottom rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Move bars to the top rack and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes, until browned. Tent with foil if anything begins to brown too quickly. Let bars cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature.

Use foil overhang to remove bars to a cutting board. Carefully peel off foil. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice into squares. Serve.

Leftover Apple Shortbread Bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to four. They will soften over time.

Note:

I like to use two different varieties of apple for a more complex flavor. For these bars, I used a tart Granny Smith and a sweet Honeycrisp.

Five-Ingredient Salted Marzipan Truffles {Accidentally Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Five-Ingredient Salted Marzipan Truffles {Accidentally Vegan & Gluten-Free}Christmas is just nine days away, y’all, and the spirit is real. We have a HUGE real tree in the living room, I have a six-foot fake tree in my bedroom, and my workspace has been adorned with a garland and my beloved Snoopy lights ❤️💚🎄💚❤️

It is freezing cold and I still have tons to do before I hop a flight to Texas on Tuesday, but I am totally loving every minute. Even the all-nighter I pulled earlier this month. (I subsequently learned that 31 is waaaaay too old to pull an all-nighter.)

On Wednesday, I posted an Iced Sugar Cookie recipe that is super time-consuming. Totally worth the effort, but still. The time I allocated for long, intricate recipes has now officially come and gone. So today, let’s take it easy. Not that easy means plain or boring. Oh, no. Today, it means a no-bake, five-ingredient, accidentally vegan, gluten-free recipe that is still classy, decadent, and perfect for gifting and entertaining. I’m talking about Salted Marzipan Truffles, y’all!

Five-Ingredient Salted Marzipan Truffles {Accidentally Vegan & Gluten-Free}I’m no chocolatier, but I have to say that these truffles kind of make me look like one. Packaged marzipan (in the baking aisle) is scooped by the 1/2 tablespoon, rolled into balls, dipped in chocolate, and sprinkled with finishing salt. When you bite into one of these truffles, the flavor comes in three waves:

  1. Deep, dark chocolate flavor.
  2. A salty punch.
  3. Sweet, almond-y marzipan. Yes.

Five-Ingredient Salted Marzipan Truffles {Accidentally Vegan & Gluten-Free}If, like me, you are not much of a candy-maker, working with melted chocolate can be intimidating. I have never successfully tempered chocolate (or even tried, really). Nine days before Christmas is *not* the time for me to try to master a new skill. Nope.

So, I take a little shortcut. I melt chopped dark chocolate in the microwave and stir in two secret ingredients. First, 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil. Since coconut oil solidifies at 76F, this will allow our chocolate to harden more easily than if it were left to its own devices. If you don’t like coconut, don’t worry! This tiny amount of oil does not change the flavor of the chocolate. If you really don’t want to use it, feel free to sub non-hydrogenated shortening.

The second secret ingredient? Corn syrup. Just 1 teaspoon adds gloss to our chocolate, leaving just a bit of sheen on the matte surface of the finished truffles. The corn syrup you see in stores is NOT the same as high-fructose corn syrup, but if you don’t wish to use it, you may sub in 1 teaspoon of Lyle’s Golden Syrup or mild honey (if you’re not vegan).

Five-Ingredient Salted Marzipan Truffles {Accidentally Vegan & Gluten-Free}Five-Ingredient Salted Marzipan Truffles {Accidentally Vegan & Gluten-Free}Five-Ingredient Salted Marzipan Truffles {Accidentally Vegan & Gluten-Free}The dipping chocolate will be shiny, smooth, and luxurious. Working with one ball of marzipan at a time, drop it into the melted chocolate. Move it around with a fork to coat. Briefly drain it by scraping the tines of the fork on the edge of the bowl, and gently roll it onto the wax paper. Then, sprinkle on a pinch of finishing salt. That’s the whole process. Repeat it approximately 23-24 more times before freezing all the truffles for fifteen minutes.

That is literally the entire recipe. If you’re a fast roller and dipper, you can go from ingredients to truffles in 45 minutes or less. I have every intention of putting these out at a holiday party I’m catering tonight, but I also think they’d make adorable gifts packed into decorative Chinese takeout boxes.Five-Ingredient Salted Marzipan Truffles {Accidentally Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Five-Ingredient Salted Marzipan Truffles {Accidentally Vegan & Gluten-Free}
makes about 2 dozen truffles

1 11-ounce can marzipan*
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped*
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons large-flake finishing salt (I use Trader Joe’s Cypriot Pyramid Salt)

Special Equipment:
microwave-safe bowl (or double boiler)
wax paper
baking sheet or plate (must fit in freezer)

Line a baking sheet with wax paper.

Scoop marzipan by the 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons), roll into balls, and set on prepared pan.

Place chopped dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir with a fork. Add coconut oil. Continue to microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Stir in corn syrup.

To dip, drop one ball of marzipan into the melted chocolate. Use a fork to coat marzipan in chocolate. Drain briefly by scraping the tines of the fork on the edge of the bowl. Use the fork to gently lay the truffle on the prepared pan. Immediately top with a pinch of finishing salt. Continue this process until all truffles are coated and salted.

Place baking sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes, until chocolate has solidified. Serve.

Truffles will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Re-salt as necessary by lightly moistening the tops with water and sprinkling with salt. Allow to dry before serving.

Notes:

1. If you are vegan, make sure the ingredients on the marzipan do not include egg whites.
2. If you are vegan, make sure your chocolate is certified vegan.

Blueberry Compote

 For all the things I love about baking, the time commitment is not one of them. It’s rare that I make anything that can be done and ready to serve in under 90 minutes. I pride myself on my patience, but sometimes the idea that a batch of cookies is going to take four hours is enough to make me insane. 

Enter this Blueberry Compote. It only has four ingredients, involves almost no actual work, and takes 20 minutes start-to-finish. And oh, is it good–burst blueberries in a not-too-sweet lemon-scented syrup. It’s just begging to be stirred into yogurt or poured over pancakes or ice cream. It’s a sauce that can be used on any breakfast or dessert item you can imagine. 

 This is my kind of mid-week recipe–the kind that goes from “just” ingredients to absolute magic in almost no time at all. Simmer a cup of water and a little sugar together until it thickens slightly and becomes a thin syrup. Fold in two pounds of fresh blueberries and simmer a few more minutes until they start to burst. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the juice and zest of a lemon. Ladle it into a jar, and you’re done. Seriously. That’s it. 

Blueberry Compote works almost anywhere you can think to use it. It would be divine with cheesecake or waffles, but it’s also healthy enough to eat with yogurt for a quick weekday breakfast. Oh, and it is absolutely amazing with angel food cake, pound cake, or the Vanilla Bean Ricotta Cake I’m posting later this week! Stay tuned… 

 Blueberry Compote
makes about one quart

1 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 lbs fresh blueberries
juice and zest of 1 lemon

In a large saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 7 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir occasionally to keep crystals from forming.

Add blueberries and let simmer 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in lemon juice and zest. Cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Easy Scratch Chocolate Croissants

 I love a good complicated cooking project. My idea of the perfect day? Making a full Thanksgiving dinner by myself.

Yeah, I’m a little crazy.

But not crazy enough to attempt croissants from scratch…yet. The dough itself isn’t complicated, but there’s a ton of folding, and then there’s a process where butter is laminated into the dough. I’m sure I’ll get around to making the real deal someday, but for now I’m taking the easy way out.

I’m certainly not going to skimp on flavor though. No way! These chocolate croissants are buttery, flaky, and bursting with chocolate! And they take just two hours start-to-finish. 

Easy Scratch Chocolate Croissants are super simple. The dough is what’s called a “rough puff“–homemade puff pastry with all the difficulty taken out. It only has four ingredients, takes just minutes to put together, and is just as good (if not better) than the all-butter puff pastry you find in the freezer aisle. Plus, there’s some serious pride in being able to say “Oh, yeah. I made the pastry.” Trust me–when you say that, people look at you like you’re Julia Child. What they don’t know is that it’s really no trouble at all.

Basically, rough puff pastry is like making pie dough or biscuits–cold butter is cut into dry ingredients before liquid is added. After everything is stirred together, a shaggy dough forms. Be careful to keep everything cold; the butter must stay solid until it reaches the oven, or the dough will be tough instead of flaky and layered.

A word on ingredients. Don’t be tempted to use regular store-brand butter here–the dough needs the extra fat content found in European or cultured butters. Plus, this recipe has so few ingredients that quality really matters. American-style butter is delicious, but if you’ve ever had European butter, you know how insanely rich and luxurious it is. When it’s used in pastry, that richness translates into some seriously amazing breakfast. So, don’t use just any butter you have in your fridge–go for the really good stuff. I like Kerrygold, Lurpak, and President. Enough about butter! Back to the rough puff. Once you have your shaggy dough, turn it out onto a very well-floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle that measures roughly 8×10″. Take one of the short sides and fold it so that the edge of the dough meets the center, like folding a piece of paper to fit in an envelope. Fold the other short side of the dough over the top–again, just like folding paper for an envelope. Turn the folded dough one quarter-turn. Roll it back into an 8×10″ rectangle, then fold and turn again. Repeat this until you have done it six times total. This will create unbelievably flaky pastry with visible layers!

Wrap your folded dough in plastic wrap, and chill it for at least an hour. This dough may be chilled up to 48 hours, or frozen! If you choose to freeze it, just thaw it in the fridge overnight before using it.

When you are ready to make croissants, unwrap your folded dough and place it on a very well-floured surface. Unfold the dough and use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out to a 12×18″ rectangle. Slice the dough into eight small triangles, each with two long sides.  
Take each triangle and place a bit of chopped dark chocolate near the short side. Use your fingertips to roll the short side over the chocolate, continuing to roll toward the point where the long sides meet. Shape the ends in any way you choose, and pinch any gaps together. If the dough gets warm or sticky at any point in this process, chill it briefly before continuing. 

  Place your croissants on a lined baking sheet, and brush each one with egg wash. Place the pan in a 425F oven and close the door. Immediately turn the oven down to 400F and bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden. Then, prepare for buttery, flaky, chocolaty heaven. Oh my word.

I know that seems like a lot of steps, but this really is a simple recipe. There are only six ingredients, and you can have warm, homemade chocolate croissants on your table in about two hours! All that’s left to do is sit back with a cup of coffee or tea and pretend you’re in Paris 😊 

 Easy Scratch Chocolate Croissants
makes 8 small croissants

Rough Puff Pastry:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
5 ounces unsalted European-style butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup water or milk, very cold

For Croissants:
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 large egg, room temperature

Make the pastry. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Pour in 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 square. 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.

Preheat oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Unfold dough. Roll into a 12×18″ rectangle. Use a sharp knife or pizza wheel to cut dough into quarters. Slice each quarter diagonally so that you have eight triangles with two long sides and one short side. Place roughly 1 tablespoon chopped dark chocolate near the short side of each triangle. Use your fingers to roll the short side toward the pointed end where the two long sides meet. If there are any gaps, squeeze them together with your fingers. Repeat with all triangles.*

Place croissants at least 2-inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Whisk egg with a fork. Use a pastry brush to paint each croissant with egg. Place full pan in oven. Immediately turn temperature down to 400F. Bake 12-15 minutes, until puffed and golden. Let cool five minutes before serving.

Croissants are best the day they are made, but will keep in a covered container at room temperature for up to 48 hours. 

Note:

Easy Scratch Chocolate Croissants may be frozen at this point. To do so, place croissants on a lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Once completely frozen, place croissants in a freezer bag for up to one month. When you are ready to bake, there is no need to thaw. Follow the instructions as written, adding a minute or two to the baking time. 

Olive Oil Marinated Broccoli

 Let’s take a sugar break. It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on the real food side of things, and I’ve honestly overdone it with all the treats lately. But who can blame me? There were Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Oreo Buttercream to be had! I don’t care to admit how many I ate in three days…

It was seven. I ate seven cupcakes in three days 😁

So, let’s eat some broccoli. Really good, crunchy broccoli coated in a salty, spicy, garlicky marinade. 

This recipe is a riff on a side dish that an old boyfriend’s dad used to make all the time. We had dinner with his parents every Sunday, and while everything they served was good (I still dream about the arroz con pollo), the marinated broccoli was always my favorite. And while that boyfriend didn’t last, my obsession with this side dish has continued for years.

Yes, I get psyched up over vegetables. His dad also made the best peach pie I’ve ever had, but that’s a story for another day. 

 This broccoli is super easy and so good it’s ridiculous. There’s hardly any cooking involved. All you have to do is warm up some olive oil with garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes, and then pour it over a ton of broccoli florets. Toss it all together, cover it in plastic wrap, and let it sit for 2-4 hours at room temperature. That’s it–barely even a recipe. The broccoli softens just slightly and its raw bitterness fades as it soaks in all the salty, spicy goodness from the marinade. 

This recipe makes a lot. Like 8-10 servings a lot. But that means your vegetable side is done for at least two days, depending on how many you are feeding. Also, like soup and stew, the longer this sits, the better it will be. It’s great on day one, but the leftovers are *amazing.* The broccoli pictured only sat for two hours, and it was good, but when I went back for more later that night it was truly fantastic. 

Marinated broccoli is great with chicken, pork, fish, beef, tofu, mac and cheese…it literally goes well with any main you can imagine. I’ve been known to eat a giant pile of it with a hunk of bread and some cheese and call it dinner.

This is the kind of side dish that will make you want to eat your vegetables. I made some for my nine year-old friend last week and she went back for seconds. Of broccoli. Her main dish that night was pizza, so that’s practically a miracle.

Olive Oil Marinated Broccoli is a great side for weeknight dinners, and is great in packed lunches. I’ve served it at casual dinner parties and am planning to bring it to picnics in Prospect Park all summer long! Add this to your list of easy side dishes–it’ll be a favorite in no time! 

 Olive Oil Marinated Broccoli
makes 8-10 servings*

8 cups broccoli florets (about 5-6 crowns), raw*
2 cups extra virgin olive oil*
10 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced in half
1-1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Place broccoli florets in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Place olive oil, garlic, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes in a small pot. Heat over medium-high heat just until the oil starts to bubble and the garlic begins to sizzle. Remove pot from heat. Pour oil mixture over the broccoli, using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to scrape any remaining spices from the bottom of the pot into the bowl. Use a large spoon to coat the broccoli in the oil mixture. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit 2-8 hours at room temperature, tossing occasionally.

Use a slotted spoon to serve. Broccoli is best served at room temperature.

Cover and refrigerate leftovers in marinade for up to four days, bringing them back to room temperature before serving.

Notes:

1. This recipe halves easily, should you like to make a smaller amount.

2. If you aren’t into mostly-raw broccoli, you may blanch it in boiling water for one minute, and then shock it in ice water to stop the cooking. Proceed with marinating as written.

3. Yes, 2 cups is a lot of olive oil, but it really does require this much. Serving this broccoli with a slotted spoon helps to leave a lot of it behind.