A Christmas Candy

Peanut Butter Cups

As soon as we pulled up to the small, humble abode of my great grandmother’s house in Lacassine, Louisiana for Christmastime, I leaped out of my parent’s car and onto the gravel driveway. I imagined the crunch sound that the rocks made underfoot was the sound snow. Crunch, crunch, crunch, all the way to the front door.

Opening the screen door to the covered patio, I immediately and unsuccessfully bobbed and weaved to avoid terrifying chitchat and fuchsia lipstick “kisses” on my cheek. Let me tell you these “kisses” could not be erased even with the application of paint thinner. Smiling politely and enduring what seemed like cruel and unusual punishment to a seven year old, I slowly made my way to the threshold of her kitchen.

The smell of mothballs and yeast invited me into the room where chipped countertops, worn linoleum, and shiny cast iron skillets sang the praises of many memories made in this home. To the left of the kitchen was a wee room, and in this room were a deep freezer and a tiny, white refrigerator, which stood about the same height as my great grandmother. If you were to jump on top of said deep freezer onto the fridge, you would find a stash, a stash of Great Grandma Domingue’s coveted peanut butter rolls. These candies were about the size of a slightly squished silver dollar and had the texture and taste of the inside of a Reese’s peanut butter cup. Mmmmmm….

I grabbed as many peanut butter rolls as my fists would allow and slunk to the back of the house with my loot. There was only a slight tinge of fear and guilt for my swipe, but this was only because I failed to mention in the back room of my great grandmother’s house was a giant rug with a weaving of Jesus’s intense gaze penetrating my very being. Reverently, I finished my heap of treats and skipped away to the rest of the festivities with traces of peanut butter on my palms, fuchsia stains on my cheeks, the knowledge that when it comes to how many peanut butter rolls I ate during Christmas, well, that’s between me and the Lord.

As homage to my great grandmother’s memory and her beloved peanut butter rolls, these peanut butter cups reveal themselves for the holidays donning milk chocolate and are meticulously made by hand.

Peanut Butter Cups

Recipe: Adapted from One Good Thing by Jillee

Makes about 50 mini peanut butter cups

1 2-pound bag of milk chocolate chips

1 16-ounce jar of Jif Natural Creamy Peanut Butter

1 ½ cups of powdered sugar

4 tablespoons of butter, melted

Cooking Spray

Coat mini cupcake papers evenly with cooking spray.

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between intervals, until the chocolate has completely melted. Spoon 1 teaspoon of chocolate in the bottom of each cupcake paper. Coax the chocolate up the sides with your finger, making sure all of the sides are coated. Place the chocolate filled cupcake liners in the fridge to set for about 5-10 minutes.

Combine peanut butter, powdered sugar and butter in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat until thoroughly combined. Place the filling in a gallon Ziploc bag, pushing the filling to one side of the bag and snipping the end of the bag.

Take the set chocolate covered liners out the fridge and fill each cupcake liner with a teaspoon of the peanut butter filling. Dip your finger in water and gently push the filling down into the chocolate lined cupcake papers. Fill the liners with the rest of the melted chocolate until each mini cupcake liner is completely covered. Set in the fridge for 30 minutes to set completely. Enjoy!

The Case of the Missing Pecans

Holidays without pecan pie is a sin, but holidays in Louisiana without pecan pie… you might as well slap yo grandma! Well, to be more accurate, my grannie would probably give me a quick slap on the behind if her beloved dessert were to be forgotten. Whether she is aware or not, Grannie is a nibbler. Complaining of being too full at meals, she wonders why she is never hungry. One holiday evening while making pecan pies, I solved the mystery.  After toasting the pecans in the oven, I allowed them to cool on a cookie sheet on the counter. I created the batter and went to add the final ingredient, toasted pecans. Just as I turned around, I realized that many of the pecans were missing! I was left with one clue, a bouncing head of white hair scurrying out of the kitchen! It was Grannie! This didn’t surprise me a bit because pecan pie was always one of her favorite desserts. Now at meals whenever Grannie says she feels too full to take another bite, I just sit and smile while knowing full well that she nibbled right through her appetite. I’ve allowed the charade to continue for many years. Nowadays when I make pecan pies, I have two piles of pecans, one for the actual dessert and the other for the bouncing nibbler I affectionately refer to as Grannie.

Recipe: Makes 1 11-inch tart

Pie Crust:

2 ½ cups of flour

1 teaspoon of salt

3 tablespoons of sugar

1 stick of butter, cold and cut up into cubes

½ cup of shortening, cut up in small pieces

6-12 tablespoons of ice cold water

1 egg, slightly beaten

In a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and shortening to the flour mixture. Pulse to combine all of the ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Add the cold water, tablespoon-by-tablespoon, pulsing in between tablespoons. Add water until the dough comes together. The dough should not be sticky or crumbly. Divide dough in half and shape into 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

*Note: This recipe only uses 1 disk of pie dough. You can freeze the other for later use.

Filling:

3 eggs

½ cup of brown sugar

¾ sup of light corn syrup

3 tablespoons of butter, melted

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 cups of toasted pecan halves

Combine eggs and brown sugar in a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment. Once the ingredients are incorporated. Beat in corn syrup and slowly add the butter and vanilla extract. Beat until all of the ingredients are well blended. Stir in the toasted pecans.

To Assemble:

Preheat oven to 350o

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough until 12-inches in diameter. Gently place the dough into the tart pan. Cut off the excess dough. Let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, place the filling into prepared tart shell. Bake for about 50 minutes or until the crust has become golden brown and the filling has set (if the crust gets too brown, tent the tart with foil.) Let cool for at least an hour before unmolding from tart pan.

It’s the Great Apple Pie

I never liked apple pie. This will not be a post about how my grandmother made pie and how I sat at her knee while she taught me how to perfectly peel an apple. Honestly, I cannot remember ANYONE in my family that made apple pie. And anytime we were out, I opted for the pecan, pumpkin or lemon meringue pie, never the apple.

I was a willful child. I didn’t like apples naturally (unless covered in sugar.) Therefore, I never ate apple pie. EVER. But then, as I began to grow and mature, I started to figure out why I didn’t like certain foods. When it came to apple pie, I hated the crunchy texture of the apples and the mixture itself was too sweet. So, I made an apple pie for apple-pie-haters like myself and have been able to win every single one of them over. Cooking down the apples before baking creates a silky, buttery texture, and pairing the filling with a salted caramel forms a lovely balance between sweet and salty (which I adore.) So this apple pie, I can honestly say is the best apple pie in the world (or at least in mine!)

 

Recipe: Makes 1 8-inch Caramel Apple Pie

For the Filling:

3 golden delicious apples

3 honey crisp apples

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons of flour

1 teaspoon of apple pie spice

1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon

1/3 cup of raw sugar

1/4 stick of butter

Peel, core and slice apples. Put apples in a large bowl with lemon juice to prevent browning. Add flour, apple pie spice and cinnamon to bowl. Mix to combine. In a large pan, melt butter and sugar in pan. Add apples to the pan. Cook down on medium heat for about 25 minutes. Let cool before handling.

Salted Caramel:

1 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of water

1 stick of butter

1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 teaspoon of fine sea salt

Combine sugar and water over low heat until dissolved. Add butter and bring heat up to medium. Bring to boil. Keep an eye on the pot! Whenever the liquid turns amber, take it off the heat and add the cream and vanilla. It will splatter a lot so stand back. Keep stirring until smooth. Bring back to low heat and add salt. Let cool for a few minutes.

For the Pie Crust:

2 ½ cups of flour

1 teaspoon of salt

3 tablespoons of sugar

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 stick of butter, cold and cut up into cubes

½ cup of shortening, cut up in small pieces

6-12 tablespoons of ice cold water

1 egg, slightly beaten

In a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and shortening to the flour mixture. Pulse to combine all of the ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Add the cold water, tablespoon-by-tablespoon, pulsing in between tablespoons. Seriously, pulse. You don’t want the heat from the motor interfering with the consistency of the dough. Add water until the dough comes together into a ball. The dough should not be sticky or crumbly. Divide dough in half and shape into 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

To Assemble:

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon of raw cane sugar

Preheat oven to 4000

Take one of the prepared piecrusts from the fridge and roll out piecrust out onto a lightly floured surface until about 9-inches in diameter. Place the dough into an 8-inch pie plate. Place ½ of the prepared filling into the pie plate as well and top the filling with half of the caramel. Continue with the rest of the apple filling and caramel sauce. Roll out the second disk of dough and place it on top of the pie. Crimp the edges of the 2 piecrusts together. Create a slit on the top of the crust to allow the steam to escape. Brush the top of the dough with the beaten egg and sprinkle with raw cane sugar.

Place in a 4000 oven for 20 minutes, then rotate the pie and decrease the temperature to 3750 for another 20-25 minutes (or until the top is golden brown.) Let cool for a few moments to allow the filling to set. Enjoy!

Sugar & Spice Makes Everything Nice

 

Shopping days for a child can be compared to wondering aimlessly through a desert. Waiting for my mom to checkout at the JCPenney register felt like an eternity. I began to hate the words “department store” at a young age. Long aisles of clothes felt like waves trying to engulf me, yet enticed my mother to “just try on a few things.” Store after store, foot after foot, my tummy began to growl and my feet began to hurt. A sea of people drew me closer and closer to my mother’s side, and finally, I just held her hand and closed my eyes.

Looking back, that probably seemed quite odd to the passer-byers, but I didn’t notice. I knew what I was doing. I knew that just around the corner was heaven, well heaven to a tired 5 year old. With my eyes firmly shut, hand securely wrapped around my mother’s, I began to inhale the most wonderful smell in the world. Cinnamon and sugar filled my little sniffer. I squeezed Mom’s hand tighter and began to jump up and down shouting, “Cinnamon sugar pretzels, cinnamon sugar pretzels!” My aching feet were no longer achy, and my tummy began feeling instantly better. My patience was about to be rewarded in the form of a soft, warm, pillow-like pretzel that had face-planted into a shallow pool of cinnamon-sugary goodness. I was content. I was happy. I was the poster child for Auntie Anne’s pretzels. I left the little kiosk with one hand still snugly wrapped around my mom’s, a soft pretzel in the other, and a smile on my face.

This recipe brought me back to my go-to mall treat, and as I opened the oven door to take these little darlings out, I inhaled, closed my eyes, and magically, in that one moment, I was 5 again. These babies are that powerful.

Recipe: Makes 8 pretzels

1 cup of milk

1 package of yeast

¼ cup of sugar

4 tablespoons of butter, melted, divided

1 tablespoon of salt

3 cups of all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons of cinnamon

½ cup of sugar

Heat milk just until it comes to a simmer. Add sugar. Stir until all of the sugar has dissolved in the milk. The milk should be warm after the incorporation of the sugar, not hot to the touch. If the milk is too hot, let cool for a few moments before adding the yeast. Once the milk is warm, add the yeast and let sit for 5-10 minutes. The yeast will puff up and become frothy. Add the yeast mixture to a mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Add 2 tablespoons of melted butter to the mixture and salt. Combine on low speed. Add 2 cups of flour. Combine until almost completely incorporated. Then add the remaining 1 cup of flour. The dough will start to gather around the hook after a few minutes of mixing. Drop the dough into a medium sized bowl greased with butter. Let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Once the dough has risen once, punch down and form into 8 equal pieces. Gently roll each piece into a rope about 12 inches long. Shape the dough into a “U” shape. Then bring the ends, one at a time, to the base of the “U” to form the traditional pretzel shape. Continue with the rest of the dough. Place onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Let rise again for another 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 3500

 Combine cinnamon and sugar in a small, shallow bowl.

Brush tops of dough with butter and sprinkle tops with the cinnamon and sugar. Bake pretzels for 18-20 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Brush the tops with more butter and rub in cinnamon and sugar. Enjoy!

 

 

It’s a Caramel World in the Autumn

Time changes with the leaves. As I watched the first leaf of autumn tumble and weave through the wind from the security of its resting place, I could not help but stand in pure wonder. For this moment, this one moment, this spray has the stage. It has grown strong, withstanding the earth’s beating and here it is, giving itself up for the season, for the beautiful display that surrounds me. It dances, slowly weaving and tumbling. And for that one moment, this ruby and amber specked leaf has the floor. It is gently swept to the ground, left to be the first to fall, and soon to be joined by many others. It’s whole existence ends with a whisper. But oh, what a sweet whisper.

These caramels remind me of the untold leaves that scatter through the grass on an autumn day, russet and elegant. Even the sound of the bubbling sugar cooking away reminds me of stepping onto crisp, fallen leaves. So as you unwrap one of these treasures, listen to the crackling of the paper and let it remind you of the marvel of leaves crunching under your feet. Hear that? Oh, what a sweet whisper.

“In God, every end is converted into a new means”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recipe: Adapted from How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten

Makes 16 pieces

1 ½ cups of sugar

¼ cup of water

¼ cup of light corn syrup

1 cup of heavy whipping cream

5 tablespoons of butter

1 teaspoon of flaky sea salt (or 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt), plus more for sprinkling

1 teaspoon of vanilla

In a square, 8-inch baking pan, line with parchment paper that hangs over the edge by at least 2 inches (this will act as your handle to get the caramels out the of the pan.) Brush the bottoms and side of the pan with vegetable oil. Set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan, combine sugar, water, and corn syrup. Boil on medium-high heat until the sugar turns amber. Never stir the sugar at this stage, just swirl the pan. If you end up stirring, the sugar will crystallize.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat cream, butter and salt until the mixture simmers. Set aside.

Whenever the sugar mixture browns, take it off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture. Be careful because the mixture will bubble up rapidly! Add the vanilla and stir. Put the mixture back onto a medium heat and cook the caramel until a candy thermometer hits 245-2480 (firm ball stage.) Take off heat and pour into the prepared parchment lined baking dish. Let the caramel set in the fridge for an hour or two until completely cooled.

Once set, take the caramel out of the square pan and cut in half. Roll each half lengthwise (jellyroll style) into an 8-inch rope. Cut the rope in half and continue cutting each piece in half until there are 8 equal pieces. Repeat with the other rope. Sprinkle the tops of the caramel with fine sea salt. Wrap each piece with a 4×5 inch piece of parchment paper and keep in fridge until ready to enjoy!

Friday Night’s Alright for Football

Friday nights in October were spent in chilly, silver bleachers of the Barbe Buccaneer’s football stadium in Lake Charles, Louisiana. At a young age, I adored these nights. Not because I enjoyed football, or even understood the game to be honest. It was the idea of everyone being together, cheering for the same team, and consuming vast amounts of food while watching others exercise.

I had never seen so many people consume so many peanuts at one time. As the stress of the game grew, or the heat of many in-crowd “conversations” (some like to call them insults) progressed, the peanut shells went flying. The burnt red skins along with the tan shells looked like tiny autumn leaves floating in the air. This was the closest I ever got to fall foliage in Louisiana.

So, there I would sit in the crowd, attempting to fit into the madness. I rested on the bleachers with a fist full of peanuts, trying desperately to crack them between my fingers like the rest of the seasoned adults. Finally, I did what kids do best. I used my God-given tools and cracked the shells with my teeth. And there, lying in my fingers was my prize. Happily continuing with my method, I became not only a spectator of this sport but a partaker as I downed an entire empty Coca-Cola cup filled with peanuts. The game was going into overtime, whatever that means, whenever I noticed that all of the peanut skins were not floating like the others. They were sticking to the shirt of the man sitting directly in front of me. My head began to fill up with ways to remove the peanut remnants without being caught. Suddenly, there was a gust of wind and I began to attempt to blow at the stranger’s shirt at the same time, hoping that no one would notice. Ineffective. Then, everyone started to stand up and cheer in unison. This was my chance. With both hands, I tenaciously started patting the back of the peanut- covered stranger. He turned around and just smiled at me with two thumbs up. I returned the gesture just in time to see a lovely scene of autumnal foliage flying around between us. Success.

This recipe takes me back to those chilly Friday nights, eating copious amounts of peanuts and loving every minute.

Recipe: Makes 1 Quart

2 cup of heavy whipping cream

½ cup of peanuts, plus extra for garnish if using, lightly toasted and chopped

6 egg yolks

½ cup of sugar

In a small saucepan, heat the cream and peanuts together until it begins to simmer. Turn off heat and allow the peanuts to steep in the cream for a few minutes. Strain mixture and discard peanuts. In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk egg yolks and sugar together until the mixture has become pale yellow in color and thick. With the mixer still on low, slowly pour in cream. Whisk until all of the ingredients are combined. In a double boiler (or a pot of simmering water fitted with a larger bowl on top) stir the mixture together until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Put the ice cream base in the fridge until fully chilled, about 2 hours.

In an ice cream maker, freeze the cream according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a freeze safe container and allow to become fully frozen for another 2 hours or so. Garnish with toasted peanuts if desired

The Giving Pear Tree & Me

When I was a tot, there was a special place I would go to like clockwork whenever autumn would arrive. There, sitting on the edge of our property, was a pear tree waiting morning after morning for me like the most reliable of companions. Its leaves began to give way to the season and break with the breeze, like linking chains being severed to count down till the days of winter. The jackets of the fruit reflected the season with pale shades of buttery green and deep hues of burgundy. Its skin, vulnerable and speckled, much like the freckles on my nose. Imperfect perfection.

But I was not the only member of the family that adored these little gems. The dirt around the base of the tree was littered with partially eaten fruit and the finger pointed to one direction, our Dalmatian, Penny. She was quite fond of pears as well. Playing fetch with pears and Penny was fruitless because she devoured the little autumnal nuggets and ne’er returned.

In these mornings, I beat her to the giving tree, but in a matter of moments, I could hear her panting and whining over the fact I had hoarded all of the ripened fruit. In my thickest Cajun accent I would yell, “Noooo Penny, these are myyyy pears!” She sat beside me quietly, licking my sticky fingers while sweet nectar dribbled from my chin. After my feast, I got up, patted the auburn leaves off my denim shorts and put my arm around the trunk of the tree as a farewell gesture, thanking it for the adoring autumn pear.

Recipe: Inspired by Minimally Invasive & Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 8

Roasted Pears:

4 Pears

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

2 tablespoons of water

1 tablespoon of sugar

2 tablespoons of butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 3750

Cut pears in half lengthwise and core center. Place the pear halves cut side up onto a baking dish. Pour the lemon juice and water into the dish, sprinkle with sugar and dot the tops of the pears with butter. Place in the oven for 30 minutes. Flip the pears over and bake for another 30 minutes. You will know when they are ready whenever you can pierce the pear with a knife with no resistance.

Spiced Cream:

2 cups of heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 teaspoon of cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling

½ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

2 tablespoons of sugar

Combine all ingredients in a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk all ingredients together until stiff peaks form. Transfer the cream to the fridge until ready to use.

To Plate:

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

2 tablespoons of honey

Place cream at the bottom of the serving dish. Place 1 pear half per person onto plate. Sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with honey.

Spiced Cream & Warm Thoughts

Long days begin to shorten once again. Earth cools and the leaves begin the burn with various shades of amber. Frigid air stings at my nose, not a painful prick, but an invigorating bite. An awakening of the soul, of something new to come.

A season of warmth, not of stifling temperatures, but of soothing comfort.  Here is to flushed cheeks, snug, cozy deer sweaters, your grandma’s warm apple pie, hot chocolate billowing with marshmallows and fireplaces calmly crackling in the background. Let us cast off the busyness of the summer and embrace the joyous tranquility that comes as the gift of autumn.

This spiced ice cream is like a perfect fall day: chilly and frosty but speckled with cinnamon and nutmeg that warms the heart. So go ahead, bring out the scarves, stock up on tea and break out the plaid. It’s here. It’s autumn.

“Behold the old is gone, the new has come”-2 Corinthians 5:17

Recipe: Makes 1 Quart

6 egg yolks

½ cup of brown sugar

2 cups of heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

1 tablespoon of cinnamon

In a small saucepan, heat the whipping cream and spices to a simmer. While the cream is coming up to a simmer, whisk the yolks and sugar together until thick. While continuously whisking, slowly pour the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture. Once all of the ingredients are incorporated, transfer to a double boiler (or a bowl over a pot of simmering water) and stir continuously until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 8 minutes.) Let the mixture cool in the refrigerator until fully chilled. Transfer the base to an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a container and let ice cream set completely for at least 2 more hours.

Blackberry Pie and Grandma’s Secret Weapon

In Louisiana, one of the most requested desserts in our family is blackberry pie. My grandmother has made her blackberry sweet dough pie since before I can remember. Many people have tried to learn her recipe and many people have failed with blackberry stains on the ceiling to prove it. Grandma cooks with no recipes. She makes bread dough without measurements, cooks without timers, and bakes without a measuring cup in sight. So whenever asked to make a blackberry pie at my house, I thought it was my perfect opportunity to watch and replicate her delicious dessert.

There is one other component that I forgot to mention. My grandfather. Since his retirement, Grandma has taught him the culinary ropes of making roux, smothering okra, and slow roasting a rump. He has become the Goose to her Maverick, the butter to her bread, and they are adorable to watch in the kitchen together. So adorable in fact that before I knew it, I had missed the first steps in making the pie. Grandma had already begun simmering the berries in their own juices. Only the sweet voice of my grandmother apologizing that she used the entire box cornstarch broke the memorization of watching them working together, while beaming and completely covered in flour. I smiled politely and told her to use whatever she needed, and she happily returned to her pot of berries, beating them together as if they has cursed and needed a fine spanking. “See how thick it gets,” she said to me while lifting up her spoon with the black mash clinging to it for dear life, “That’s when you know it’s ready.”

The next step: piecrust. Grandma has one of the best kitchen tools around: reliable, strong and sturdy. It’s Grandpa. In making the crust, it’s his job to stir and stir and stir the mixture until Grandma declares its doneness. I watched both of them roll out the dough and agree on the thickness. Grandma put the dough into the pie plate like mosaic tiles. She looked up at me and said, “It’s not the kind of pie that matters if it looks perfect.” A true statement for any Southern dish.

Then came the lattice topping. This was the only time where Grandma and Grandpa had a difference of opinion. He was in charge of topping off the pies with dough, until Grandma walked in. “No, no, that’s too much dough on top,” she sweetly stated. He turned around and looked at me, “I like the crust the best. It’s my favorite part. But Grandma likes the filling.” And I watched him, calmly sipping his black coffee and smiling, while watching Grandma take off the extra pieces of latticework. All of a sudden, I noticed that the first pie (out of the two her “recipe” made) was already in the oven, baking happily with “too much” dough. Everyone was happy with the pies, the filling lovers and the crust eaters. I never got her recipe, but this is my own. And don’t worry if it doesn’t turn out looking perfect, that’s ok. It’s not the kind of pie that matters about that sort of thing.

Recipe: Makes 1 8-inch pie

Pie Crust:

2 ½ cups of flour

1 teaspoon of salt

3 tablespoons of sugar

1 stick of butter, cold and cut up into cubes

½ cup of shortening, cut up in small pieces

6-12 tablespoons of ice cold water

1 egg, slightly beaten

In a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and shortening to the flour mixture. Pulse to combine all of the ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Add the cold water, tablespoon-by-tablespoon, pulsing in between tablespoons. Seriously, pulse. You don’t want the heat from the motor interfering with the consistency of the dough. Add water until the dough comes together into a ball. The dough should not be sticky or crumbly. Divide dough in half and shape into 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Filling:

3 cups of fresh blackberries

1 cup of sugar

1 lemon, juiced

3 tablespoons of cornstarch

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients and stir together. Let the berries simmer for about 30 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

*Note: Depending on the sweetness of the berries, you may need to adjust the sugar. Berries picked at the peak of season tend to be sweeter than the more tart ones supplied year round.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 350o

On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 disk of dough until 9 or so inches in diameter. Gently place the dough into the pie plate and crimp edges. Place in fridge for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, place the cooled filling into the prepared pie plate. Roll out the other disk of dough and cut into ½- inch to 1- inch strips. Place strips horizontally onto the pie. Start placing strips one-by-one vertically, lifting every other strip to create a lattice pattern. Brush 1 slightly beaten egg gently onto exposed piecrust. Place the pie onto a cookie sheet and place in oven for 25 minutes. Rotate and let bake for another 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

 

 

 

 

Black Cherry Almond Ice Cream

Maraschino cherries have always been a staple in our household. Whether to add to a frigid glass of Coke for a cherry Cola or to a Sprite for a Shirley Temple, we always carried these little neon red gems.  It wasn’t until later in life that I discovered “real” cherries. I was first introduced to these tiny wonders on a grocery shopping venture with my mother. There was a little resemblance to the bottled, dyed cherries that I had come to love and cherish. The stems were woody green and the bodies were solid instead of squidgy. At first, I believed that the dark cherries were not as dazzling, but I skeptically allowed my mother to place them in the grocery basket with the rest of the produce, where I could keep an eye on them. Upon arriving home, I still had not made up my mind about this unfamiliar fruit, but curiosity got the better of me and I filled up a wooden bowl with these strangers and decided to give them a try.

First, I pulled out the stem of the fruit. Staring at this minute, unblemished fruit, I realized that it looked just like a petite heart. How adorable!

After admiring the cherry for a few moments, I decided to take a bite. My teeth split right through the garnet flesh and were quickly interrupted by what felt like a rock. It was then that I decided that all “real” cherries should come with a warning label. Oh, it was like a plum or a peach, but just smaller.

Weaving around the pit and spitting it out into the wood bowl, I was finally able to experience my very first black cherry. Crimson flesh gave off a subtle sweet flavor, while biting into the skin left with a distinct tartness. Before I knew it, my wooden bowl was looking a little sad with just leftover stems and pits that had been spat out of my little mouth. With a content tummy, I nestled down around my bare bowl and dozed off for a nap. I can imagine my mother’s face as I drifted off into sleep. It was probably a look of deep satisfaction. Because at that young age, I was completely unaware of my mom’s secret, natural sleepy time weapon, melatonin*.

*Cherries are packed with melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain that helps with insomnia, jet lag and a myriad of other diseases and disorders. In other words, mom knew that these tangy orbs would make me SLEEPY!

Recipe: Makes 1 Quart

5 egg yolks

½ cup of sugar

2 cups of heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon of almond extract

½ cup of dark cherries, pitted and cut into small chunks

In a small saucepan, heat the whipping cream and almond extract to a simmer. While the cream is coming up to a simmer, whisk the yolks and sugar together until thick and pale yellow. While continuously whisking, slowly pour the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture. Once all of the ingredients are incorporated, transfer to a double boiler (or a bowl over a pot of simmering water) and stir continuously until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Let the mixture cool in the refrigerator until fully chilled. Transfer the base to an ice cream machine and begin to freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the cream has thickened in the ice cream maker, add the cherries. Continue churning the cream until the machine stops. Transfer to a container and let ice cream set completely for at least 2 more hours.