Tag Archives: thanksgiving

Pear Pastry Braid

Pear Pastry BraidIt’s almost time for pie. Almost.

Yes, I know it’s November now, but I can’t just switch from Popcorn Balls to Pumpkin Pie on a dime. And truthfully, I’ve been concentrating too hard on the World Series and anticipating the new Scorsese film this week to fully get down to business with Thanksgiving. Rest assured though that the pies are coming. Sides, too! But first, this Pear Pastry Braid.Pear Pastry BraidI mean, do you see this beautiful thing? Is it brunch food? Is it dessert? I don’t know. I don’t make the rules. I just make the pastry.Pear Pastry BraidAnd oh, is this a good one. Pear Pastry Braid is super buttery and filled with tender pears that have been tossed with ginger, lemon, and a few tablespoons of sugar. Yum!Pear Pastry BraidDon’t let these glamour shots deceive you–it’s surprisingly easy to make. Simply roll out a sheet of rough puff pastry (or the frozen thawed all-butter stuff), make a bunch of diagonal cuts down both long sides and fill the center with sliced pear filling.Pear Pastry BraidPear Pastry BraidAlternating sides, carefully cover the filling with overlapping strips of dough, producing a braid-like appearance. Give it a brush of egg wash and a sprinkle of sugar, and then let it bake til golden.Pear Pastry BraidSounds like a lot, but the time from when you start peeling pears to when you pull the finished pastry out of the oven is less than an hour. It can be sliced and served warm too, meaning that you don’t have to plan crazy far in advance (especially if you already have the pastry dough in the fridge). There’s so much planning around food this time of year that it’s kind of nice to have something you can make when the mood strikes or when someone says they’re going to pop by.Pear Pastry BraidYou know what else is nice? Eating a slice of sweet, flaky Pear Pastry Braid in your pajamas on a Saturday morning. Or a Saturday night. Or both.

What?! I don’t make the rules. I just make the pastry.Pear Pastry Braid

Pear Pastry Braid
makes 1 braid, about 6 servings

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

Pear Filling:
4 medium firm-ripe pears
5 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

Make Rough Puff 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 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 pear filling. Peel the pears with a vegetable peeler. Working with one pear at a time, use a large, sharp chef’s knife to trim off both ends. Slice down through the stem end to halve the pear lengthwise. Use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds. Slice the pear as thinly as you can.

Place sliced pear pieces in a medium mixing bowl. Toss with 4 tablespoons sugar, ground ginger, salt, and lemon juice. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a half-sheet baking pan with parchment paper.

Assemble the pastry braid. Flour a rolling pin. Unfold dough on the prepared pan. Roll dough out to 12×16-inch rectangle. Orient the pan/rectangle so that the side nearest you is a short side.

Carefully dust the edge of a sharp knife with flour. Cut off two small corners of dough on the edge furthest from you. Leaving a 4×16-inch space in the center for the filling, cut 1-inch diagonal strips strips down both sides of the pastry, as pictured in the post.

Fill the pastry braid. Leaving 1/2-inch of space at each short end, mound pear filling along the center (intact) section of dough. Make sure to leave any accumulated liquid behind in the bowl. Dot filling with butter.

“Braid” the dough. Starting at the edge furthest from you, take a strip of dough and carefully lay it across the filling. Then grab a strip of dough from the right side and carefully lay it over the filling so that it is overlapping the first strip. Continue doing this, alternating left and right until you reach the end of the braid. Fold the short edges up slightly to seal.

Make the egg wash. Combine egg and water in a small bowl and whisk together with a fork.

Paint egg wash over all exposed pastry. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake pastry braid for 25-30 minutes, or until pastry is golden and pears are tender.

Let pastry braid cool on its pan on a rack. When you can handle it (I could at 30 minutes, although it was still warm), very carefully slip your hands palm-side-up under the pastry and quickly lift it onto a large cutting board or serving tray. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice it into pieces. Serve immediately.

Pear Pastry Braid is best the day it is made.

Note:

You may use frozen all-butter puff pastry instead. Thaw according to package directions and begin the recipe at the paragraph that begins “Make the pear filling.”Pear Pastry BraidPear Pastry BraidPear Pastry Braid

Cheesecake Swirled Pumpkin Bread

Cheesecake Swirled Pumpkin BreadHas anyone else’s week been five years long? Mine started with two babkas, three layer cakes and a Rosh Hashanah dinner, continued with some early morning construction in my apartment, and was followed up with a neck-ache and a midweek heatwave.Cheesecake Swirled Pumpkin BreadThe good news is that NYC weather is finally starting to get with the autumnal program (I am so tired of summer clothes) and that my only plans for this weekend are to take my visiting godparents out for lunch and watch postseason baseball. Then two more work days before going on vacation next Wednesday—it can’t get here soon enough! But more on that later. For now, let’s talk about Cheesecake Swirled Pumpkin Bread.Cheesecake Swirled Pumpkin BreadCheesecake. Swirled. Pumpkin. Bread.

Perfectly spiced pumpkin bread with a tunnel of creamy cheesecake running through it.

The easy autumnal quickbread/loaf cake/whatever of my dreams. Call me “basic” all you want. This stuff is delicious.Cheesecake Swirled Pumpkin BreadCheesecake Swirled Pumpkin Bread begins with a half-recipe of my Pumpkin Bundt Cake. I went back and forth trying to determine if I should call this a pumpkin cake or a pumpkin bread, eventually determining that my Pumpkin Bundt batter is what many bakers would use for a pumpkin quickbread and ohmygawdthisexplanationissodull.

Anyway, the batter is from a cake recipe, but it’s baked in a loaf pan and I’m calling it a quickbread, okay? Okay.Cheesecake Swirled Pumpkin BreadCheesecake Swirled Pumpkin BreadCheesecake Swirled Pumpkin BreadCheesecake Swirled Pumpkin BreadTo assemble, you’ll need the pumpkin batter and a small batch of cheesecake—don’t worry, they’re both easy to make. Set aside a cup of the pumpkin batter and put the rest in your loaf pan. Top it with the cheesecake, followed by the remaining batter. Swirl it all with a thin knife or skewer before baking for the better part of an hour. The bread will be puffed when it comes out of the oven, but sink a bit as it cools. This is just the cheesecake buckling a bit—not a bad thing.Cheesecake Swirled Pumpkin BreadThis bread needs to be cooled at room temperature and then chilled in the refrigerator, making it an ideal make-ahead treat. Don’t rush to serve this. Pumpkin is a flavor that blooms over time and nobody loves room temperature (or warm 😬) cheesecake. Good things come to those who wait.

This is a very good thing.Cheesecake Swirled Pumpkin Bread

Cheesecake Swirled Pumpkin Bread
makes one 9×5-inch loaf, about 10-12 servings

Cheesecake:
8 ounces (1 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pumpkin Batter:
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)
1 cup pure pumpkin purée (I like Libby’s)

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on the two long sides for ease of removal. Grease again. Set aside.

Make the cheesecake. In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in sugar, followed by egg and vanilla. Set aside.

Make the pumpkin batter. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs until frothy (about 1 minute). Whisk in light brown and granulated sugars followed by oil, vanilla, and pumpkin purée. Add dry ingredients in two installments, mixing just until combined. Set aside 1 cup of batter.

Pour remaining batter into prepared pan and smooth with a spatula or wooden spoon. Dollop cheesecake over the top and smooth again. Spoon reserved batter over the top and smooth again. Use a skewer or long, thin knife to swirl the batter a bit.

Tap the full pan on the counter 5 times to release any large air bubbles. Bake 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in a few spots comes out with just a few moist crumbs (not soupy batter).

Let cake cool completely in the pan on a rack. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight, until chilled through. Run a small, thin knife around the edge of the pan and use the parchment overhang to lift out the bread. Discard parchment. Slice and serve.

Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.Cheesecake Swirled Pumpkin BreadCheesecake Swirled Pumpkin BreadCheesecake Swirled Pumpkin Bread

Apple Cider Cranberry Sauce

Apple Cider Cranberry SauceMy mother makes the best cranberry sauce in the world, but that’s not the recipe I’m sharing today.* Sorry to disappoint.

*Just kidding! I wrote her original recipe in the notes at the end. It’s a Thanksgiving two-fer 🙂 Apple Cider Cranberry SauceI have a good reason for holding out on you. My mom’s cranberry sauce is made with a large amount of brandy, which gets cooked off over the course of an hour in the oven. As I have mentioned previously though, I cannot safely consume alcohol, and therefore do not keep it around, even for cooking.

Since I quit drinking five and a half years ago, cranberry sauce is one of the only dishes that I have really missed. I’ve found work-arounds or substitutes for all sorts of other recipes, but I just couldn’t find one that hit all the same buttons as my mom’s.Apple Cider Cranberry SauceIn case you’re wondering, those buttons include:

  • It’s gotta be whole berry. No weird can-shaped cranberry jello here.
  • It can’t have more than three ingredients. I’ve had cranberry sauces with nuts and spices and other fruits and all sorts of other silliness, and all of it was completely unnecessary.
  • It shouldn’t have any citrus. Orange and cranberry are complementary flavors, but I can’t stand them together in cranberry sauce. This is more of a personal preference than anything, but I mean, this is my personal food blog.
  • It can’t be too sweet. I hate when cranberries are so over-sweetened that their natural tartness is completely masked.
  • It has to be easy. Like ridiculously easy. So low-maintenance, it’s silly. And if it can be made more than a day ahead, that’s ideal.
  • If nothing else, it must be so delicious that I want to eat it every time I spot the jar in the fridge.

Apple Cider Cranberry SauceApple Cider Cranberry SauceIt’s taken a few years and many sauces with unrecognizable berries, too much sugar, flavors I didn’t care for, and a lot of feeling sorry for myself, but I’ve finally made a cranberry sauce that hits all those buttons. And the missing ingredient was looking at me the whole time in the form of a seasonal fridge staple: apple cider. It has flavor, but not enough to overwhelm the cranberries, and it’s sweet without being saccharine. Perfection.Apple Cider Cranberry SauceApple Cider Cranberry SauceThis sauce comes together over the course of an hour in the oven. It gets stirred twice, but needs no help otherwise.Apple Cider Cranberry SauceThe result is soft, bursting berries that slump into a sweet, sticky sauce. It’s just divine. As is the fact that it can be made today and nuked in the microwave just before you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, it’s probably even better that way. Love that.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers.Apple Cider Cranberry Sauce

Want more cranberries? See here and here. For more apple cider, see here and here.

Apple Cider Cranberry Sauce*
makes about 3 cups

2 12-ounce bags whole cranberries
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine all ingredients in a 9×13-inch casserole dish and stir together. Bake 60 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes.

Remove sauce from oven. Cool for a few minutes before transferring to a serving dish. Serve.

Cranberry sauce may be made up to two days in advance; it reheats well in the microwave.

Note:

If you want to try my mom’s cranberry sauce, swap the cider for brandy and double the sugar. Everything else is the same.
Apple Cider Cranberry SauceApple Cider Cranberry SauceApple Cider Cranberry Sauce

Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions

Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsIf you go back and look at the order of recipes on this blog, you can clearly see my train of culinary thought. Last week, I posted three pies back-to-back. Last month, I posted a cake per week. Earlier in the year, I was making doughnuts right and left. I can’t help that my inspiration is so obviously linear.Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsThis week, I’m caramelizing everything. On Wednesday, it was Brussels sprouts. Today, it’s onions. But they’re not just any old caramelized onions. Nope. These are nestled with a wheel of brie, wrapped in buttery pastry, and baked into a puffy, golden appetizer worthy of any Thanksgiving spread!Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked brie is always a holiday hit—what’s not to love about the combination of melty cheese and flaky pastry?!—but I am all about the sweet addition of caramelized onions here. They’re cooked low and slow until they’re soft, sweet, and deeply browned. I like to add some minced garlic and fresh rosemary (it’s another thing I’m into right now) at the end of cooking, just for a little dimension.Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized OnionsAfter the onions cool, it’s time to assemble the baked brie. Roll out a sheet of puff pastry (I use rough puff, but the frozen all-butter stuff works too) and pile the onions on top.Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsSmear a little dijon on one side of a wheel of brie and place it on top of the onions. The mustard flavor isn’t too pronounced here, but it’s sharpness helps offset the richness of the cheese and pastry.Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized OnionsWrap everything up tight, give it an egg wash glaze, and decorate with some little pastry leaves, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into.Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBake the brie until the pastry puffs and turns golden. Wait a few minutes before serving it with seasonal fruit and the crackers you made your roommate go get from the overpriced cell-phone-dead-zone grocery store behind your building (and you didn’t even complain when he came back with some weird flavor instead of plain because you’re an adult and someone did you a favor)…Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions…um, what was that? Oops. Back to baked brie.Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized OnionsYou’re going to love this brie, y’all! It’s rich and buttery, and oozes in the best possible way. One bite of this melty, cheesy, salty-sweet treat is worth every second it takes to cook those onions, I promise. I know all your holiday guests will agree.Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions
Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions
makes one 5-inch (13.4 ounce) baked brie

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

Caramelized Onions:
2 medium sweet onions, sliced into thin half-moons
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

For Assembly:
1 5-inch (13.4 ounce) wheel of brie
1-2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

For Serving:
seasonal fruit
bread or crackers

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 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.

Caramelize the onions. Melt butter in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they reduce in volume and are deeply browned (but not burnt!). Add garlic and minced rosemary and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Do not rush this process. Set aside to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

Assemble the baked brie. Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Unfold dough. Roll dough out to 9×12-inch rectangle. Slice off a 2×9-inch strip and refrigerate it for later. Place onions in a 6-inch circle in the center of the remaining dough.

Spread mustard on one side of the brie. Place the brie, mustard-side-down, on top of onions. Fold pastry over the top, leaving no exposed cheese. Place wrapped brie, smoother-side-up, on prepared pan. Refrigerate.

Make an egg wash. In a small bowl, combine egg and water. Whisk with a fork until smooth.

Remove reserved strip of dough from the refrigerator. Use a knife or decorative cookie cutters to cut decorative pieces, if desired.

Remove brie from the refrigerator. Paint with egg wash. Top with decorative pieces and paint with more egg wash. Bake brie for 25-30 minutes, or until puffed and golden.

Let cool for at least 15 minutes before removing to a serving platter. Serve with fruit, bread, or crackers, if desired.

Baked brie is best on the day it’s made, but may be wrapped tightly in the refrigerator for a few days.
Baked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized OnionsBaked Brie with Caramelized Onions

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Caramelized Brussels SproutsI don’t spend much time writing about vegetables, seeing as this is a baking blog and all.Caramelized Brussels SproutsBut the truth is that I eat a lot of vegetables. A lot. Gotta balance out all the baked goods somehow, you know?

Let’s not discuss how many times I’ve had pie and salad for lunch over the last three weeks. #bakerproblemsCaramelized Brussels SproutsThese Caramelized Brussels Sprouts are one of my fall/winter favorites. They’re basically your standard roasted brussels sprouts with the volume turned up. Plus, they’re super easy to make and have this sweet-salty-herby-spicy thing going on that makes them totally irresistible. Like, good luck getting them from the pan to the table without eating half the batch. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Caramelized Brussels SproutsI make Caramelized Brussels Sprouts for regular weeknights all the time, but they’re also great for dinner parties and holidays. I made them for Christmas dinner last year and they were a huge hit with my whole family! I can’t help but think they’d make a great Thanksgiving side dish, too.Caramelized Brussels SproutsCaramelized Brussels Sprouts are very simple to make. Start by trimming the brussels sprouts and removing any banged-up outer leaves. There’s no need to slice them in half—minimal prep is the name of the game!Caramelized Brussels SproutsPut the sprouts on a baking sheet and toss ‘em with fresh rosemary, red pepper flakes, salt, a little sugar, and olive oil.Caramelized Brussels SproutsRoast the brussels sprouts for 40 minutes, giving the pan a good shake every 15 minutes. The resulting sprouts will have deeply browned (but not burnt!), crispy exteriors and buttery-soft centers.Caramelized Brussels SproutsRemember that “sweet-salty-herby-spicy” thing? Well, add “crispy-buttery.”Caramelized Brussels SproutsAnd maybe “-things-dreams-are-made-of.”
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts
makes 6-8 servings

2 pounds whole raw Brussels sprouts, trimmed & kept whole
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, based on your preference
1/2-3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, based on your preference

Preheat oven to 400F.

Combine all ingredients on a dry rimmed baking sheet and toss together with clean hands. Spread coated brussels sprouts into one layer.

Roast 40 minutes, tossing every 15 minutes. Brussels Sprouts are ready when the exteriors are deeply browned (but not burnt) and the centers are tender. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts are best the day they are made, but may be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.Caramelized Brussels SproutsCaramelized Brussels SproutsCaramelized Brussels Sprouts