Tag Archives: Sugar

Tangerine Shortbread

In a pinch for a last-minute hostess gift or holiday bake sale offering?  These zesty shortbread cookies come together in less than 40 minutes and have just four ingredients: flour, butter, sugar, and the Oasis Gardens tangerines from this week’s local box.

Don’t let the simple ingredients fool you; these Christmas cookies taste fancier than the recipe lets on.  They have the golden color and tender texture of traditional shortbread cookies, but the tangerine zest in the dough gives the finished cookies a fresh flavor. You can use the zest of any citrus fruits you have on hand, though I prefer the mild sweetness of tangerine.

Tangerine Shortbread (makes about 30, 1×3 inch cookies)
2 tablespoons tangerine zest
1 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour

Making these cookies is a cinch.  The first step is to use the fine side of a box grater or microplane to zest the tangerines.  The chef in this video is demonstrating with a lemon, but the zesting process is the same for all citrus:

After you finish zesting the tangerines, pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with baking parchment. Next, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the tangerine zest in the food processor. Pulse until the zest and sugar are combined.  If you have a stand mixer, use it to mix the zesty sugar and butter until creamy.  Then add two cups all-purpose flour and mix at low speed until just combined. The dough will be very thick and crumbly.  If you don’t have a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar in the food processor. Then, move the mixture to a separate mixing bowl and work in the flour by hand. (I did this both ways and needed to add about a tablespoon of water along with the flour to hold the dough together when I was working it by hand. The cookies turned out about the same both ways.)

Once dough is combined, pat it or roll it into an even, half-inch thick rectangle. Use a bench scraper or knife to cut the dough into whatever shape you like. (N.B. Go for easy shapes like diamonds, rectangles, or squares with this recipe. Since the dough is crumbly, it will not cooperate with foo foo snowflakes or round shapes. You also want to avoid re-rolling it since that will result in tough cookies.)

Gently move the cookies to your cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the bottom edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before eating.  These cookies keep for up to ten days at room temperature in an airtight container, and they freeze well, too.

Click here for the printable version of this recipe.

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


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.)

Austin Beer Week: Bootlegger Cupcakes

I was a little skeptical when I first considered cooking with Indy’s Bootlegger Brown Ale because, truthfully, its deep caramel flavors in are too heavy for me to drink.  I DO love Independence Brewing Co.’s use of local art on their labels, however, so I really wanted to feature this brew, with the label design created by Austin muralists Blue Genie Art Industries.

These cupcakes pair dark beer and dark cocoa, creating a rich moist cake without a heavy beer flavor.  In fact, the caramel in the Bootlegger Ale enhances the chocolate. Yum!  For the cake I used Dave Lieberman’s Chocolate Stout Cupcake recipe, originally published on the Food Network Website, substituting Bootlegger Ale for Guinness.  And instead of using Lieberman’s cream-cheese based frosting, I opted for a lighter whipped buttercream recipe I saw on Pioneer Woman a few months ago.  This recipe yields 24 delicious cupcakes, with just enough frosting to cover each one.

Bootlegger Brown Cupcakes with Ale Frosting
Cake batter:
3/4 cup dark chocolate, unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 bottle Bootlegger Brown Ale, minus 2 tablespoons (reserve for frosting)
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream

2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons Bootlegger Brown Ale
1/2 cup sugar (not powdered sugar, just plain white sugar)
1/2 cup butter

Cupcake method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Open beer and set aside a few tablespoons for frosting.  Prepare a 24-muffin tin with paper liners or butter and flour.  Sift together cocoa powder, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Remove from heat and whisk in beer.  Add eggs one at a time, beating completely after each one.  Whisk in sour cream and vanilla until liquid ingredients are thoroughly combined and smooth.  Pour liquid ingredients into the large mixing bowl with dry ingredients. Stir gently until dry and liquid ingredients are just combined. Do not overmix. Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way with batter, dividing batter evenly between 24 cups.  Bake in preheated oven for 22 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in one of the cupcakes comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the muffin tin before transferring cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting method:  Whisk together flour and milk in a small saucepan.  Heat on medium, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes.  Mixture will thicken as it cooks; you’ll know it’s done when it is the same consistency as brownie batter.  Turn off heat and whisk in beer until mixture is smooth.  Allow mixture to come to room temperature before continuing.  I was in a hurry, so I set the whole pan in a few inches of ice water in the sink to speed things up.  It was cool in about 4 minutes.

Using an electric mixer with beater attachments, beat together butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy.  Add the cooled flour mixture and beat on medium high for about two minutes, until the frosting has the consistency of whipped cream. Taste a little tiny bit. It will taste so good that you’ll want to eat the whole thing!  Don’t do that.  Instead, spread frosting on cooled cupcakes and enjoy!!

Happy belated birthday, Andy!!!

Canary Melon Ice Cream

Canary melon is a large, bright-yellow melon w...

Image via Wikipedia

Last week we got a Canary Melon in our local box.  Honestly I had never heard of Canary Melon before, and I was sort of hoping we’d get arugula instead so I could just avoid it altogether.  Canary Melon sounds terrible, like a fruit made out of birds or a big sweet egg.

Luckily my first instincts about the Canary Melon were way off base.  In actuality this little, slightly lumpy melon is like a cross between a canteloupe and a honeydew melon.  It has canary yellow skin and bright white, firm flesh. As soon as I tasted the canary melon I knew I wanted to make something cold with it in celebration of the end of summer here in Austin.

The musky sweet flavor of the melon lends itself beautifully to this simple ice cream.  I adapted a strawberry ice cream recipe from the instruction manual that came with my Cuisinart ice cream machine, but you could really use any vanilla ice cream base and get a good result.

This recipe turned out terrific, but it is very rich.  Next time I think I’ll try making tart Canary Melon frozen yogurt, so I can indulge with a little less guilt.

Canary Melon Ice Cream (makes 1-1/2 quarts, or about 10 servings)
1 cold Canary Melon, seeded and chopped*
1 c. sugar, divided
2 Tbs. lemon or lime juice
1 c. milk
2 c. heavy cream

Seed and chop the canary melon. Remove skin. Puree melon chunks in a food processor; add 1/4 cup sugar and lemon juice to food processor and pulse until sugar is dissolved. Strain melon puree through a mesh sieve, reserving one cup of liquid & melon pulp.  In the same food processor (no need to rinse the bowl), combine milk and granulated sugar. Process for about 2 minutes until sugar is dissolved.

Turn ice cream machine on, pour milk mixture, cream, and one cup of melon juice through ingredient spout.  Let mix until thickened, about 30 minutes.  Add the melon pulp to the ice cream in the last five minutes of mixing.

*I saved time by cutting the canary melon as soon as it ripened and storing the prepared melon in an airtight container in the freezer for about a week.  I pureed it straight out of the freezer and everything tasted terrific.

Wild Grapes!

Hey y’all! I took a little break from blogging since work has been so crazy the last few weeks.  Now that the clouds have parted a bit, it feels good to be back!

I didn’t take a break from cooking.  Rami and I have been plugging along through our Greenling produce, and we found some great recipes in the past couple of weeks.  There haven’t been too many exotic additions to our Greenling local box lately; lots of peaches, beans, summer staples.  This week we did get some wild grapes, though! I never imagined that I would eat locally grown, wild Texas grapes.  The grapes came in a pint container and looked like small, red grapes you might find in the supermarket.  However, they were in smaller clumps than grocery store grapes, mostly 2-3 pieces per clump.  They were incredibly tart and a little musky tasting, with seeds and thicker skin than I am used to. I considered slicing them up in a chicken salad, but ultimately decided a sweeter preparation would be best.  So, Rami and I made this delicious wild grape granita!

Wild Grape Granita
1/2 lb. wild, red Texas grapes
1/4 c. sugar*
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. white wine
juice of 1/2 lemon

Take grapes off stems and rinse. Puree grapes in blender and let sit for 20 minutes to rest.  Meanwhile, prepare a simple syrup by bringing the water and sugar to a boil, stirring constantly.  Strain grapes so skins and seeds are removed from the liquid. Add cooled simple syrup, wine, and lemon juice to grape liquids. Pour into a glass 9×11 pan and freeze.  Stir mixture every 45 minutes with a fork until it’s slushy. Granita will keep for 2 days in the freezer (if it lasts that l0ng). Serves 2-3.

*We used a 1/4 cup sugar because our grapes were really, really tart.  Adjust to taste, particularly if you’re using sweet, store bought grapes in place of the wild ones.