Nori Biscuits

Recently I was preparing dinner when I thought it might be nice to have some extra nibbles to snack on beforehand– nothing complicated, just something savory and quick to throw together. I thought about cheesy biscuits, but that seemed boring– going through my pantry, I spotted a jar of furikake seasoning– a combination of roasted seaweed, sesame seeds, and (in this case) bonito flakes– and was struck with the idea of a savory seaweed biscuit!

Since I was short on time I decided to go with the easiest and quickest biscuit recipe ever– one where you add heavy cream to flour with a little leavening, and that’s it. No grated/cubed butter, no buttermilk (or milk with vinegar), just three ingredients (four if you count salt) that are mixed up by hand in minutes. The resulting biscuits are always tender and surprisingly buttery in flavor despite the complete absence of actual butter.

I decided to add some pulverized bits of regular nori– the roasted seaweed sheets you wrap sushi in– for additional umami flavor, and it really added a nice savoriness and depth to the biscuits. Overall, the hot biscuits were a perfect addition to my evening meal, particular when smeared with a homemade scallion cream cheese that freshened them up just a tiny bit.

I will say that for me, furikake and nori are pantry staples, but even if you don’t ordinarily use them in your cooking I would highly recommend getting them– not only for this recipe, which I will totally be adding to my recipe box, but for sprinkling on other things. Omelettes, rice, and pasta are all great with furikake seasoning– give it a try!

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Apple Pie Cake

So last fall we went apple picking. And you know what happens when you pick apples– you eat a bunch the first week, then the remaining apples just languish in the bag until you can find something to do with them. And since we had a lot of apples, several of them languished for quite a while…

I finally decided that it was time to use up the last few apples, so I went in search of a suitable recipe that I hadn’t tried before– and found this one! It’s apparently a copycat of an apple pie they serve at Disneyworld, and it’s pretty tasty! You start with a pie crust, then fill it with pre-steamed apples (to avoid them getting too juicy during baking) and a thick cake batter. It turns out beautifully golden-brown on top, and the addition of a layer of powdered sugar gives it just the right amount of extra sweetness.

Personally, I cut a corner and used a refrigerated pie crust, but you can make your own if you prefer. I find that using pre-made crusts gets you a thinner layer of crust, which I like in this recipe– too thick and it might end up stodgy-seeming with the extra cake batter in there as well.

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Updated Christmas Wreath

A long time ago, my aunt made me a lovely Christmas wreath to hang on my front door. Sadly, over the years I haven’t taken the best care of it, and it’s gotten more bedraggled than I’d like. Since we moved to a new house I’ve been excited to decorate for the holidays, and updating the wreath was first on my list!

I wasn’t going to waste a perfectly good artificial wreath, but I did strip off all of the decorations and replace them with new gold and red berries, a whole 10-yard spool of red/green/gold plaid ribbon, and just for fun an adorable little owl. Isn’t he cute?

It was a fun project that only took an evening– the hardest part was getting the ribbon to lie just so when all I had to work with was a stapler and some extra twists of floral wire I scavenged from the original wreath. For the record, stapling the ribbon to make little dips/ripples (which I then tucked into the greenery and wired down) was the key to keeping it looking lush and not too stiff.

Chocolate Pudding Pie

You know, sometimes the classics are just the best. I do love making fabulous, multi-component desserts– both for the challenge and the layers of flavor and texture– but every now and then it’s great to go back to basics. Especially when you’re running around frantically to cook your first solo Thanksgiving dinner and you JUST need something good for dessert and your family insists that they HATE pumpkin pie and can’t agree on whether to have apple pie or custard pie and and you’re ready to commit the heresy of getting STORE-BOUGHT just to get it over with–

Ahem.

In any event, we eventually decided on this pie, and boy is it a keeper. As is so frequently the case, it’s from the incomparable Deb at Smitten Kitchen, and having had my first slice I’m fairly sure I could make one of these every week and never get tired of it. The cornstarch pudding is simple to put together and practically foolproof– a for flavor, it’s perfectly rich, not too sweet, and light enough to not weigh you down, even after a holiday dinner. I even used a pre-made crust and it still turned out fantastically… though homemade whipped cream is a must here, I have to insist on it.

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Holiday Ornaments for 2020

This year I had two ideas for Christmas ornaments (to go on our FINALLY full-sized tree after a decade of tabletop trees)– an ornament depicting our newly-purchased house, and one depicting the insanity that has been 2020.

I’m actually very proud of the house ornament– I took a photo of our house, plotted it out on graph paper, and built it using layers of cardstock, cut to size with my rotary paper cutter (best way to get tiny strips in the right dimensions), and ordinary Elmer’s glue. There are a few issues with proportion– the door should be taller and the windows aren’t quite right– but it’s recognizable as our home and looks great on the tree!

The second ornament was a quickie– I just bought a basic wood cutout and set it on fire. Can’t get simpler or more appropriate than that…

Cranberry Gingersnap Pie

First off, my apologies for the 3-month delay since my last post. Between moving to a new house, dropping my laptop (!) and having to get a new one, and now the holiday season, it’s just been impossible to find time to blog! BUT, I haven’t stopped with the projects, so now I’ve got a backlog of posts to clear– you’ve been warned!

So it’s pie season, and it’s cranberry season, which are pretty much the same thing. Right?

Since my family members aren’t huge fans of cooked fruit (something about the texture?), I decided to join the legions of bakers apparently making cranberry curd pie this year– I was inspired by my friends at The Pie Project (they made a different pie every week for a *whole year*!) to make this one, which features a gingersnap-walnut crust and a tangy layer of cranberry curd that’s perfectly puckery. I couln’t help gilding the lily a bit, so I added a fluffy wreath of meringue and some sugared cranberries– I think the meringue adds a nice contrast, while the cranberries are mostly decorative but still tasty.

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Tres Leches Cake

I can’t believe it’s been years since I first made this cake– I fell in love with it the first time I made it, but like so many recipes, I forgot about it while immersed in the search for new ones! In any event, a tres leches cake is a simple sponge cake that’s soaked in “three milks”– evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and regular milk– to make it ultra-moist despite the lack of fat in the cake itself.

The cake is a basic sponge without any butter or oil in it– just egg yolks for fat, with egg whites and some baking powder for extra lift. Amazingly, despite the large quantities of liquid poured over the cake after baking, it doesn’t get soggy, per se– it’s full of moisture, but the spongy texture of the cake keeps it from softening into mush. Instead, it’s just rich and refreshing all at once, somehow. Topping it with extra whipped cream and just a whisper of cinnamon is just gilding the lily…

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Multilayered Peanut Butter/Chocolate Cheesecake

PBchoc-cheesecakeAs you may have noticed, every year for my husband’s birthday I try out another recipe featuring peanut butter and chocolate– his favorite flavor combination! This year is no exception! Not content with a simple cake with frosting, I decided to go in a slightly different direction and make a chocolate-peanut-butter cheesecake– but not just any cheesecake! A layered cheesecake, with a chocolate wafer crust and a shiny ganache glaze, adapted from my favorite food blogger, Deb at Smitten Kitchen.

Granted, her recipe was a chocolate/coffee cheesecake, but it was simple to adapt by replacing the espresso with a few tablespoons of peanut butter, making for rich and decadent dessert. Annoyingly, my layers tended to separate at one or two spots when sliced– I’m betting my filling was just slightly overbaked, making it too dry to adhere easily– but the finished cake was still very impressive, and very delicious! Warning: the cake looks small on a serving platter, but even very thin slices can be tough to finish due to their richness!

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Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

tomato-sauce

Ever since I first made this sauce I’ve been a huge, HUGE fan. The recipe is seemingly everywhere and it’s so simple, so perfect, so delicious you just want to eat more and more of it… it’s Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce With Butter and Onion. Three ingredients (not including salt, but that hardly counts), but they come together in a way that defies explanation. The butter adds so much richness to the tomatoes, and the onion in the background just adds to the overall roundness and balance of the sauce. It’s my very favorite tomato sauce, and it comes together with pantry ingredients in under an hour.

Seriously, I beg you to try it the next time you want a weeknight treat. How to make it?

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Chocolate-Orange Hazelnut Entremet

Having made one fancy entremet, I was eager to try another one– this time, I decided to forego the silicone mold and restrict myself to a plain round shape, which would hopefully lend itself well to a dark chocolate mirror glaze. Finding myself with an extra jar of marmalade, I thought I’d combine it with dark chocolate and some chocolate-hazelnut spread.

This entremet has a base layer of chocolate brownie (cakey, not fudgy, to keep the dessert from being too dense), a thin layer of Nutella-coated cornflakes (a substitute for feutilline), and a layer of orange marmalade, all encased in a chocolate-hazelnut mousse and covered in chocolate mirror glaze. I decorated with some candied orange slices, chocolate ganache truffles, and some edible paint made from gold luster dust and vodka.

The finished dessert was excellent– the mousse was light yet rich, the cornflakes added some much-appreciated crunch (though the chilled nutella was slightly hard to cut through– next time I might add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to soften it a bit), and the marmalade was a nice contrast in flavor. And of course, it was one of the most gorgeous desserts I’ve ever made, so there’s that…

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