Tag Archives: Cinnamon

Challah Pear Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce

I first read about Confituras’ Salty Caramel Pear Butter in one of my favorite Austin food blogs, Local Savour.  I knew right away that I wanted to use it to make Christmas cookies, and last Wednesday I bought a jar of pear butter from Stephanie herself just for that purpose.  Well.  Sort of.  I never actually made it to the cookies because as soon as I sampled a little of the pear butter, I ended up eating half the jar.

I still needed to make something for dessert that night, so I came up with this challah pear pudding with salty caramel sauce.  For the recipe I used cinnamon challah from  UT’s Challah for Hunger, incorporating into the dessert flavors from Confituras’ Salty Caramel Pear Butter.

Wowza, what a great idea!  This bread pudding is easy to prepare, indulgent, and fancy enough for serving at a holiday dinner where you want to impress. And while I made my own salty caramel sauce, topping the dessert with Confituras’ Salty Caramel Pear Butter is just as tasty. (I know, since that’s what happened to the other half of my cookie-making jar.)  A recipe of this bread pudding along with a few 8 oz. jars of pear butter would make a creative and delectable holiday hostess gift.

Challah Pear Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce (Serves 8 )
Bread Pudding:
1, one-pound loaf cinnamon or plain challah bread*
3 ripe pears
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (omit if using cinnamon challah)

Salted Caramel Sauce:
1 cup white sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon salt
OR top pudding with 8 oz. Confituras Salted Caramel Pear Butter

Prepare bread pudding: Preheat oven to 325 degrees and butter a 2-quart baking dish.  Cut challah bread into 1-inch slices, the cut those slices into 1 inch cubes.  Set aside.  Core and dice pears (no need to peel them) and set aside.  Heat butter, brown sugar and white sugar in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave for 90 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds with a wooden spoon to keep mixture from scorching.  Carefully pour mixture into a large mixing bowl and whisk in milk.  Add eggs, nutmeg and cinnamon, whisking until mixture is well combined.  Add challah and fold together with a rubber spatula until bread cubes are coated.

Pour 1/3 of the pears into the prepared baking dish and cover with 1/2 the bread mixture.  Repeat, and top the casserole with the remaining 1/3 of the pears.  Use the rubber spatula to smoosh down the pudding so that it sits in an even layer in the dish.  Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for an hour in preheated oven, or until pudding springs back. Remove foil in last 10 minutes of baking so that the top of the bread pudding is golden brown.

To make salted caramel sauce:  cook 1 cup white sugar in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.  It will take about 8 minutes of frequent stirring for the granulated sugar to transform into an amber-colored caramel.  At that point, remove the pan from heat.  Slowly add one cup heavy cream to the melted sugar, stirring constantly.  (Mixture will bubble and foam; this is good.) Add butter and salt, stirring until caramel is thickened and a little glossy.

Here’s how the sugar looks during the transformation from granulated white stuff to amber-colored caramel:

Top the finished bread pudding with caramel sauce and serve warm.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

*I’ve mentioned UT Challah for Hunger on my blog before, and they are one of my favorite local food sources. The group of UT students sells regular, cinnamon, and chocolate chip challahs for just $5 every Wednesday on the west mall of campus, with proceeds benefiting Darfur. Unfortunately, this past week was the students’ last time to bake for the year, and they won’t be back in action until late January. (In the meantime, you can get your challah fix on Fridays at Upper Crust Bakery in the Rosedale neighborhood.)

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Thanksgiving: Butternut Squash Kugel


This kugel is my answer to that icky-sticky sweet potato casserole that is so popular in some Thanksgiving circles.  I prefer this dish mainly because it does not have marshmallow cream along the top. However, there are other advantages: this kugel has a firmer texture than sweet potato casserole, it is much easier to prepare, and it’s healthier.

I adapted this recipe from one published on Allrecipes.com, using fresh squash puree instead of frozen cubes, substituting wheat flour for all-purpose, and reducing the sugar.  On Thursday I plan to serve this as a side dish during the main meal, garnished with fresh sage chiffonade.  I’ll cut the cinnamon in that version of the recipe down to one teaspoon sprinkled on top.

Butternut Squash Kugel (serves 4-6)
1 cup butternut squash puree
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 medium eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon, divided

Need help preparing the squash puree? Step-by-step instructions are here.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 6×9 inch pan with butter, vegetable oil, or cooking spray. In a medium mixing bowl, combine squash puree, eggs, milk, flour, sugar, melted butter and about half the cinnamon. Stir until well combined.  Pour mixture into prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes, until kugel is firm and golden brown.  Serve warm or at room temperature. I really like this cold for breakfast the next day, too.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Thanksgiving: Mini Apple Persimmon Pies (Vegan)

This weekend was one of the few times my “real” job intersected with my food blog.  I had the distinct pleasure of making a few dishes for a Thanksgiving potluck hosted by one of my colleagues.  He hosted the party in honor of a visiting saxophone quartet from Helsinki, Finland.  This meal was the quartet’s first-ever American Thanksgiving, and I made a sweet potato pie and these adorable apple persimmon pies to share with our visiting friends.

I originally planned to make a large, double crust American apple pie. However, I just couldn’t resist the persimmons at the farmer’s market last weekend, so into the filling they went! Since this recipe was still in the testing process, I elected to make mini pies instead of one big one so that I could sample the finished product before the potluck. I’m happy to say the little pies were a big hit at the party.  The leaf-shaped top crust looked very sweet on the buffet, and the intense flavors of the pie filling worked better in small bites than they would have in a big pie slice.  After dinner, the quartet gave an impromptu performance in front of the potluck dessert spread. You can see that my mini pies were in good company: besides the musicians, there are seven pies, a noodle kugel, two kinds of vegan cupcakes, and two kinds of whipped cream around the dining room table!

Below are step by step instructions for making the mini pies.   I filled them with apple persimmon compote but any compote, jelly or jam, or prepared pie filling would work.  I do not recommend using raw fruit filling for mini pies; in the test batches I made, raw fruit cooked a little unevenly in the small pie crusts.  Also, keep in mind that the fruit pieces for this recipe need to be very small.  Any large chunks of fruit that extend above the pastry crust tend to dry out and burn.

Mini Apple Persimmon Pies (makes 36 mini pies)

Crust:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup very cold vegetable shortening
8 tablespoons ice water

Filling:
4 Fuyu persimmons
3 apples
1/4 c. butter or vegan margarine
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger (about a 1 inch section)
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice, apple juice, or rum

First, prepare pie crust. I have the best luck making vegan pie crust in the food processor. In the food processor, pulse flour and very cold shortening until shortening pieces are about the size of walnuts.  Add ice water one tablespoon at a time, pulsing in the processor, until dough comes together in a ball.  Once dough holds its shape, remove from the processor bowl and store, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge for up to a week or frozen for up to one month.  If you freeze dough, allow to thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before proceeding with recipe.

To prepare pie filling: peel, core, and dice apples and persimmons. Saute fruit in a large skillet in vegan margarine for about 5 minutes until fruit starts to soften. Add grated ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, allspice and black pepper, brown sugar, and orange juice to skillet. Cover and cook over medium heat for half an hour, stirring occasionally. Allow filling to come to room temperature before assembling pies, or better yet, store it in the fridge for up to a week. (This recipe is a good make-ahead choice for Thanksgiving.)

Finally, it’s time to assemble the mini pies. You’ll need a rolling pin, pastry brush, bench scraper, mini muffin tins, 2 1/4 inch biscuit cutter or a drinking glass with that diameter, and mini cookie cutters in the shape of your choice. (I used leaf shaped cutters.) All these supplies are available in Austin at All in One Bake Shop.

Prepare your workstation by gathering all these supplies, plus a small dish with all purpose flour for rolling and another with a few tablespoons of melted vegan margarine.  Next, divide the pie crust dough into two parts.  Rewrap one piece of dough in the plastic and put it back in the fridge. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Finally, were’ ready to do this thing!! There are five basic steps to assembling these mini pies:

  1. On a floured surface, roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness.
  2. Cut 36 bottom crusts with a 2 1/4 inch biscuit cutter or glass and put the crusts in a mini muffin tin.  Use your fingers to push the crusts firmly into the bottom edges of the muffin cups. As necessary, gather up crust scraps, smoosh them together and reroll them.
  3. Fill the mini pies with 1/2 tablespoon filling each.
  4. Cut out the top crusts with a mini cookie cutter and smoosh them onto the top of the pies. Use the bench scraper as necessary to move the delicate dough shapes without stretching them.
  5. Brush each mini pie with melted vegan margarine.
  6. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until crust is lightly brown. Cool in the mini muffin tins for 10 minutes before using a thin-bladed knife to gently lift each pie out of the tin to finish cooling. Do not store in an airtight container until completely cool; pies will get soggy otherwise.

These mini pies stayed fresh overnight on my kitchen counter and tasted great at room temperature at the potluck.  No need to garnish with whipped cream, etc.  Since each pie is so tiny, it’s best as a stand-alone dessert. For easy potluck transport, place cooled pies back into muffin tins and transfer to a serving platter at the event.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

*Thanks to Nathan Russell Photography for taking pictures of the finished mini pies and for loaning me the tripod and light kit I used to capture the step-by-step images.

Apple Persimmon Compote

Persimmons and apples are a natural duet;  the spicy sweetness of the persimmon is complemented by the apple’s tart flavor, and the flesh of both fruits are similar enough that they cook at the same speed.  I originally conceptualized this apple-persimmon pairing as a filling for mini pies, but it has lots of other delicious uses.

Image by Nathan Russell

Traditionally, compotes are served as a dessert, either chilled or warmed and garnished with whipped cream.  However, you’re selling the dish short if you limit it to just desserts!  Here’s are some ideas for how to use this recipe in your meal plans:

  • Breakfast: as a topping for oatmeal or other hot cereal
  • Breakfast: in a parfait with yogurt and granola
  • Breakfast: with cottage cheese or Greek yogurt
  • Breakfast: over pancakes or waffles or in crepes
  • Snack: instead of applesauce
  • Snack: as a dip for cinnamon sugar pita chips
  • Lunch: with cream cheese in a sandwich
  • Lunch: with roast turkey and Dijon mustard in a sandwich
  • Lunch: with goat cheese in a quesadilla or Panini
  • Dinner: as an appetizer, baked in Phylo dough with a round of brie
  • Dinner: heated over top of baked pork chops, chicken, or turkey
  • Dinner: over top of a baked sweet potato
  • Dessert: over ice cream or whipped cream
  • Dessert: in mini pies (the flavor is too strong for big pies)
  • Dessert: as filling in a pastry braid or sweet rolls
  • Dessert: as a filling for a spice cake with cream cheese icing

Preparing this compote is quick and easy.  The most difficult part of the process is identifying which kind of persimmon you’re working with, and then peeling and coring fruit.  There are two kinds of persimmons: Fuyu and Hachiya.  Hachiya persimmons are heart-shaped, with pointy bottoms.  Fuyus have flatter bottoms and look more like tomatoes.  This recipe calls for the firm-fleshed Fuyus.  However, you could substitute the pulp of very ripe Hachiyas if that’s what you have on hand.  Here are detailed instructions for ripening and cooking with Hachiya persimmons.  Below are instructions for coring and peeling apples and Fuyu persimmons.

Here’s the full recipe.  It doubles or triples well if you’re looking to feed a crowd, and the finished compote will last about a week in a tupperware in the fridge.

Apple Persimmon Compote (yields 2 cups)

4 Fuyu persimmons
3 apples
1/4 c. butter or vegan margarine
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger (about a 1 inch section)
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice, apple juice, or rum

Peel, core, and dice persimmons and apples.  Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet and saute fruit for about 5 minutes, until it starts to soften and give off a little liquid.  Meanwhile, grate ginger and measure out cinnamon, vanilla, allspice, ground pepper, brown sugar, and rum.  Add all ingredients to the skillet, cover and continue to cook over medium heat for about half an hour, until the fruit reaches desired tenderness.  Stir occasionally and add a little water if necessary to keep compote from drying out. (Shouldn’t be a problem if your skillet’s covered, but burned brown sugar and fruit is no fun to clean up later!) Serve creatively and enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and also appears on their blog, “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

the flesh of both fruits is similar enough that they are easy to cook together, and

Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato Pie

Making a Thanksgiving with all local produce is a noble goal, but I was pretty bummed when I discovered there are no organic pumpkin growers in Central Texas. Yes, there are occasional rumbo squash and ornamental pumpkins at the farmer’s market, but those are pretty pricy and there’s no guarantee to get one for the big turkey day.  Luckily, sweet potatoes are readily available from lots of local growers this time of year, and they make an excellent substitute for pumpkin in many recipes.

Sweet potato pie is a popular Southern dessert in its own right, and it has been a popular dish in America since colonial times. According to Lynne Olver’s fantastic Food Timeline, recipes for sweet potato pie have been published in American cookbooks since the 18th century! Interesting tidbit: pumpkin pie recipes appear in America about 50 years earlier than sweet potato dishes, since sweet potatoes as we know them likely came to the southern colonies on slave and other trade ships from West Africa.

Besides being an interesting conversation piece, this sweet potato pie is an easy and inexpensive addition to my Thanksgiving potluck menu.  It sets up a little firmer than pumpkin pie, so it travels well and retains its lovely, creamy texture at room temperature. This recipe also uses regular skim milk (or whatever kind your family likes), so there’s no need purchase special processed canned milk. Another plus, since sweet potatoes keep well (store in a cool, dark pantry), you can stockpile them from regular CSA deliveries in advance of the big day, cutting down a bit on special Thanksgiving food purchases. To save a little work on Thanksgiving day, I’m making the pie crust ahead of time and storing it in plastic wrap in the freezer.  Before making the pie, I’ll let the crust thaw in the fridge for a day or two and proceed as usual.*

Sweet Potato Pie
Crust:

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup very cold shortening or butter
3 tablespoons ice water
Filling:
1 large sweet potato (about 2 cups, mashed)
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
juice of half a lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Prepare pie crust: mix flour and salt in a small bowl.  Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender, two butter knives or your fingers, until mixture is crumbly and blended. (The largest pieces of butter should be about the size of green peas, completely coated in flour. In my crust, below, the butter pieces were too big and it was a little tricky to work with.)  Add ice water one tablespoon at a time, continuing to blend dough with a fork, until dough consistency is even. It’s okay if it’s a little crumbly at this point. Form dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. The dough keeps will keep in the fridge up to 48 hours, and in the freezer for about a month.

After dough is chilled, roll it out on a floured surface until it is large enough to cover your pie plate.  Transfer the rolled dough to the plate by rolling it up on the rolling pin and unrolling it over the plate.  Use your fingers to smooth the dough into the plate, the trim away excess dough with scissors or a sharp knife.  Press the tines of a fork along the edge of the crust to make a pretty pattern in the dough and secure the edge of the crust to the pan.

Prepare filling: Wash sweet potato and pull out any strings from the peel. Poke holes in sweet potato with a fork. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, until potato is tender.  Wait for potato to cool. (I popped the whole cooked potato in the fridge overnight before making the pie the next day. It turned out fine.) Set butter out in a mixing bowl to come to room temperature. Use your fingers to peel skin from cooled potato, and add peeled potato to the mixing bowl.  Use an electric mixer to cream the potato and butter. (My mixer is a little weeny, so I had to use a fork at first to get the potato mushed enough for the mixer to handle.) Add one at a time: white sugar, brown sugar, milk, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla and spices, making sure to mix the pie filling well between each addition.  Once the filling is smooth, pour it into the prepared crust. Set the pie plate on a cookie sheet, and bake in preheated oven for 55 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  The pie filling will puff up like a souffle while the pie is cooking, but don’t worry– it comes down and firms up just fine! Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold, preferably with whipped cream and cinnamon.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

* A note about my pie crust.  You can see in the pictures above that when I made this pie crust, the dough was hideous. There were some large, uneven chunks of butter and a few patchy bits of flour.  I was convinced I’d ruined the whole thing. Well. I decided to use it anyway and the crust turned out fine. Flaky and delicious and better than those perfect-looking store bought crusts. If, like me, you are a little scared to tackle a homemade pie crust: Have faith! You can do it! Don’t give up! And when in doubt, go ahead and use that ugly homemade crust. There will be sweet potato filling to cover it up, anyways.

Cincinnati-Style Chili

I feel a little blasphemous writing about Midwestern chili on a blog titled “The Austin Gastronomist.”  Chili is the state dish of Texas after all!  Texans are rightly pround of their chili, but we could learn a thing or two from the adventurous Cincinnatians, who traditionally season their chili with cinnamon and cocoa powder.  This dish combines those sweet flavors with spicy peppers and smoky chili powder in a thick, hearty stew.

Cincinnatti-Style Chili
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion
2 bell peppers
1 jalapeno pepper
1 Serrano pepper
1 pound venison, bison, or beef chop
1/4 cup apple juice
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
pinch salt
1 tablespoon cornmeal

Chop onion and, wearing rubber gloves, seed and rib all peppers. Chop the bell peppers and mince the jalapeno and Serrano peppers. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat and add onions & peppers.  Stir occasionally and cook for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender and start to caramelize (turn brown in places).  Meanwhile, chop meat into bite sized pieces.  Add meat to caramelized veggies and cook for about 2 minutes, until meat begins to brown.  Add chili powder, paprika, cumin, cocoa powder, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne and salt to the pot, stirring to distribute; then pour in the apple juice and water.  Bring liquid to a boil, then turn heat to low.  Simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.  Before serving, whisk in cornmeal to thicken chili.  Plate over mashed sweet potatoes, cornmeal mush, or serve traditional Cincinnatti style over spaghetti.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Although this chili was inspired by the Midwest, I  stayed true to my Texas roots by serving it over jalapeno cornmeal mush.  Next time I make this, I’m planning to take a cue from my friend Hilah and do it vegan by substituting mushrooms and beans for the meat.