Praline Pecan Tartlets

Image

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve made it over 1 year smoke free. After nearly 30 years of being a smoker, I finally kicked that habit. Those of you that have stopped smoking know this and the smart people out there that never picked up the nasty habit might not, but like others my metabolism went in the toilet when I quit. I ate no more than when I smoked but weight just piled on. I went from my smoking weight of 195 to 225 before I managed to peel off 20 pounds this past summer. Still, the battle of the gut is a constant struggle with me. Working in the food industry, I am surrounded by it 12 hours a day, everywhere I turn! A lead cook will want me to try some sauce (made with butter and whipping cream of course), or my baker will prepare some new treat that I can’t resist tasting, so I’m always interested in bite-sized desserts and treats. These tasty little morsels allow those of us that can quickly consume 1000 calories in a matter of minutes, to enjoy the deliciousness of something decadent and still keep our daily caloric counts in check.

A slice of a common pecan pie like you’d make at Thanksgiving averages about 500 calories (that’s if you slice your pie into 12 servings). If you’ve purchased your pecan pie that number can double, as most thaw-and-serve pies have crusts made with lard.These tasty little phyllo cups have 75 calories each, so you can limit your intake and not feel so guilty. The crispness of the baked phyllo cup with the sweetness of the praline filing and the toasted pecan is just delectable. These are perfect for a party, tea, reception, shower or just to keep in a Rubbermaid container around the holidays. They make great treats for gift giving, especially when pared with some homemade cookies, and they are extremely simple to make. Give them a try and I’m sure you’ll love adding these to your holiday baking repertoire.

For every 15 phyllo cups (available in the frozen pastry section of most any supermarket), you will need:

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp+1tsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey (you can slightly adjust the flavor to your taste depending on the type of honey you use but I personally just get regular amber honey when I make these tartlets)
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract (sometimes I substitute 1/4 tsp Jack Daniels whiskey in place of the vanilla, especially around Christmas)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the pecans and mix well. Fold in the chopped pecans. Arrange phyllo cups on a baking sheet, then spoon mixture into the phyllo cups (a heaping teaspoon is a good size to fill the cups). Any extra filling can be evenly distributed between your phyllo cups.

Bake in a 350F preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until the filling sets, the pecans begin to brown the the phyllo cups brown around the edges. Transfer baked cups to a cooling rack and begin your next batch. Be sure to cool these tartlets completely on a cooling rack. If you cool them on a pan or plate they will become soggy on the bottom and you loose that wonderful crunchiness of the phyllo pastry. Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 7.13.15 AM

German Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars

german-chocolate-pecan-bars-sl-l

 

Even after making numerous pecan pies for Thanksgiving, I’ve still got plenty of pecans left from this year’s crop produced by the big tree out back. With that in mind, I ran across a recipe in a recent Southern Living magazine for pecan pie bars and decided to give it a try. Like most every recipe I find, my end result varies a little because I’ll add a little of this or a dash of that; anything I think will improve the end result.

These are delicious! If you’re looking for something different to take to a party or give as a gift this year, give these tasty bars a try!

  • 3 cups pecan halves and pieces
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup cold unsalted sweet cream butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup good quality bourbon (I used Knob Creek)
  • 3 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut

First, preheat your oven to 350F. Arrange the pecans in a single layer on a sheet pan and cook for 8-10 minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

Line the bottom and sides of a 9″x13″ pyrex dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil, leaving 2-3 inches on each side to extend over the sides of the pan. Lightly grease the foil (I just spray with Pam).

In a food processor, pulse the flour, powdered sugar, cold cubed butter and cocoa 5-6 times, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a pastry blender tool or even your hands. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of your glass dish.

Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the crust with the chocolate morsels. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack (about 30 minutes).

While the crust is cooling, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, bourbon and the eggs until smooth. Stir in the coconut and toasted pecans and spoon mixture into the cooled crust.

Bake at 325F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour), then chill for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Lift the baked bars from the pan using the aluminum foil sides as a handle. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into bars. Peel off the foil and enjoy!

No Fail Creole Style Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

Today I was asked for the basic bread pudding recipe I make, so I figured it best if I simply shared the recipe with everyone. As I’ve said before, I make a lot of bread pudding in the cafe and I have several variations to keep the customers excited, but this recipe is for simple, straightforward New Orleans bread pudding with whiskey cream sauce. Feel free to experiment with ingredients. Sometimes I leave out the raisins and instead use dried cranberries and sliced almonds. Sometimes I use blueberries and some orange marmalade. I’ve been known to make banana pecan and at times, coffee-chocolate, but the basic recipe remains the same.

 

 

 

  • 1 loaf French bread or 12 large croissants, cubed
  • 1 quart half & half
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • 3 tbsp melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs with the half & half. Add the bread and fold to combine ingredients, then add the brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and raisins. Mix well. Coat a 9″x13″ glass baking dish with PAM. Pour the bread pudding mixture into the dish and drizzle the top with the melted butter. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the center is set but still moist. If bread starts to get too brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Whiskey Cream Sauce

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1/4 cup quality bourbon (or rum)

Mix the butter and sugar in a double-boiler until very hot and sugar is well dissolved. In your left hand (or right if you’re left handed), slowly pour the egg and cream into the butter/sugar mixture while whisking very fast with your opposite hand. This is essentially a quicker way to “temper” the eggs so they don’t curdle. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Mixture will slightly thicken as it cools. Just before serving, whisk in the bourbon (or rum).

To serve, plate up the bread pudding and drizzle with the whiskey sauce.

Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding

One thing my customers are always saying is that I make some of the best bread pudding they’ve ever eaten. I have several variations on bread pudding and try to make a pan about once a week. Blueberry, chocolate, orange-cranberry, traditional… I make whatever based on what I’ve got in the coolers and pantry.

Recently we had some croissants that were turning stale and I needed to use them. Since I’m not a true “baker”, I’ll usually look online for a recipe idea and then take off on it, because I hate following a recipe. This recipe started the same way, but because I’ve had a bumper crop of pecans from the home tree this year, I’m also looking at ways to use them in my fall cooking. This recipe can be made as a dessert or as a breakfast/brunch bread pudding. If you’re making it for the later, simply mix it up and refrigerate overnight, then bake off when you wake up.

 

  • 10 cups cubed, day-old croissants (about 5 large croissants)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups pure canned pumpkin
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 cups half & half
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted pecans

In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs, sugars, salt and vanilla extract. Fold in the pumpkin, then add the half & half and milk. Add the cubed croissants and toss well to incorporate. The mixture should be slightly soupy and if needed, add a little more milk.

Pour mixture into a greased 9″x13″ glass baking dish. Top with pecan halves. Bake at 350 for approximately an hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out with no liquid on it. Cool on a wire rack. Best served warm but not hot! (If the pecans start to get too brown during baking, cover lightly with aluminum foil)

For a breakfast/brunch serving, simply top with pure maple syrup. If you’re serving as a dessert, mix 1 box of powdered sugar with 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice and top by dipping a wire whisk into the sugar glaze and lightly shaking it over the surface.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Here’s my recipe for a true Southern style pecan pie. The bourbon is optional, but it really brings out the flavor in this pie. Give it a try if you love pecans!

 

  • 6 tbsp unsalted sweet cream butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup dark brown corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp Wild Turkey or Jack Daniels (or whatever you’ve got around the house)
  • 2 cups pecan halves or pieces, divided
  • 1 9″ unbaked pie shell

Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add the vanilla extract, salt, corn syrup and bourbon.

Arrange half the pecans on the bottom of the unbaked pie shell. Pour the batter over the pecans and top with the remaining pecans. Bake in a 350F oven for about 1 hour.

Be careful to watch the pie as it bakes. If the pecans begin to get too brown, lightly cover the pie with aluminum foil.

 

 

Orange Cinnamon Rolls

If you can’t tell from my posts, I’ve been on a sweet kick lately. I guess that happens after you pass 40. This is a really simple recipe for making “almost homemade” cinnamon rolls. I love orange cinnamon rolls so I added orange zest to the rolls and orange juice to the icing, but if you prefer a more traditional cinnamon roll, leave the zest out of the roll and replace the orange juice in the icing with milk. The hardest part of making these is finding the frozen bread dough. You’ll have to check a real grocery store; I don’t think Walmart has frozen bread dough but I could be wrong.

 

Roll dough:

  • 1 1# loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Icing:

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 14-in. square. Spread butter over dough. In a small bowl, combine the pecans, sugar, brown sugar, orange peel and cinnamon. Sprinkle over dough.

Roll up jelly-roll style; pinch seams to seal. Cut into 1/2-in. slices. Place cut side down in two greased 9-in. round baking pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Bake at 350° for 14-16 minutes or until golden brown. Combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, vanilla and enough orange juice to achieve desired consistency; drizzle over warm rolls. Yield: about 2 dozen.

Glorious Morning Scratch Muffins

 

For the past few years, we have served a variety of fresh baked muffins at work and my customers have grown accustomed to a nice hot muffin. Like many foodservice establishments, we cheated. Our muffins were fresh baked, but not fresh made. We bought muffin batter that you “scooped and baked” to save time (and labor costs). Customers loved them, so it was a win-win situation.

Things changed when I switched companies recently. I had the same customers looking for their usual breakfast muffins, but our new grocery supplier offered a “less than favorable” alternative for muffin batter. My customers have not been happy, so I promised them I would make some scratch muffin batter this weekend to serve this coming week in the cafe.

Since baking is not my thing (I love to cook but I DESPISE following recipes), I had to scour magazines and internet recipes to try and find something I felt was comparable to what my customers are expecting tomorrow morning. This recipe is a tweak; I started with a basic muffin recipe and made it my own. They turned out delicious, so I thought I’d share with you this extremely easy recipe for making homemade muffins. You can use this recipe for for a variety of muffins by substituting the flavorful ingredients. In fact, I used the basic part of this recipe (as noted below) to create 5 varieties of muffins for breakfast tomorrow (Glorious Morning, Chocolate Chip, Blueberry, Banana Nut and Cranberry-Orange-Almond). I’m sharing the whole recipe for the Glorious Morning muffins which are by far my biggest seller, but noting where you can substitute to make other varieties.

There’s no need to buy muffin mix in a bag or box when most all these ingredients can be found in most of your pantries! Give them a shot! The good thing is, you can mix them up on Friday evening and refrigerate the batter. Then scoop into your muffin tins and bake Saturday morning!

Basic Muffin Batter:

  • 1 8oz container of sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the sour cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla and mix for 30 seconds. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, soda and cinnamon and mix to incorporate (I use a wire whisk to mix dry ingredients). Add the dry ingredients to the wet in the mixer and run on low just long enough to incorporate into a batter. That’s your basic muffin mix.

For Glorious Morning Muffins:

To the batter add 1 peeled and diced Granny Smith apple, 1/4 cup minced carrots (I use shredded carrots and pulse them in the food processor), 1 tbsp orange marmalade, 1/4 cup shredded coconut, 1/2 cup chopped pecans or almonds, 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries

If you wanted to make blueberry, to the batter add some fresh or thawed, frozen blueberries and add the orange marmalade.

For cranberry-orange-almond, use dried cranberries, sliced almonds and orange marmalade.

For banana nut, I use crushed pecans and 2 overly ripe bananas, smashed up with your hands or run through the food processor.

For chocolate chip, just add chocolate chip morsels straight from the bag.

Scoop muffin mix into a 12 muffin tin pan or 6 jumbo muffin pan. Bake at 325F for 18-25 minutes (depending on the size, less time for smaller muffins, more for larger) or until brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Italian Chocolate Spice Cookies

These cookies are my favorite! I don’t have a “recently prepared” photo to show them off but I found this stock photo that’s pretty close to the finished cookie. These cookies almost remind me of gingerbread but they are better. As soon as I make a batch, I’ll post a better picture. This recipe was written in my great grandmother’s (Fortunata Vizzina Schilleci) hand.

  • 2 pounds all purpose flour (4 cups)
  • 1 pound of sugar (2 cups)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp each, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, allspice
  • 6 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3/4 pound Shortening (1 1/2 cups + 3 tbsp)
  • 1 pint milk, heated
  • 1 cup raisins (no color specified)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • juice from 2 fresh squeezed oranges

Melt the shortening; add the warm milk, then the sugar. Sift all remaining dry ingredients together and then add the pecans and raisins. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and stir well. Let dough rest for 10 minutes. Pinch off in a small ball the size of large marbles, place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Combine the powdered sugar and orange juice in a bowl. Once cookies have cooled, dip each cookie into the sugar glaze so that it covers the top 1/2 of the cookie. Let cookies dry completely. Icing will set like glaze on a cooled doughnut.

Makes 60-75 cookies.

Cream Cheese Christmas Cookies

This has to be one of the easiest Christmas cookie recipes ever! They are delicious though, which makes it that much better that they are so easy to make.

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 3oz package of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • Candied cherries or toasted pecan halves for garnish
  • Dusting of powdered sugar (optional)

Cream the butter and cream cheese; slowly add the sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk. Add the flour and vanilla, mixing well with a large spoon. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Shape the dough into 1″ balls with your hands, and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Gently press a candied cherry half (red or green, or mix them up) or a toasted pecan half into the top of each cookie. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cookie won’t take on much color on top, but will be golden brown on the bottom. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. If desired, sprinkle cookies with powdered sugar.

Bourbon Fruitcake Cookies

I’ll admit it, I think fruitcake is just plain disgusting, but fruitcake cookies are a whole different ballgame. These cookies have “just enough cake” to hold all the ingredients together. Be prepared.. mixing these cookies takes a strong arm because of the thickness of your “dough” but they are well worth the effort. This is also a “pricey” recipe to run out and gather ingredients for, so I usually start buying the ingredients as fall approaches and stores start stocking holiday baking supplies. I highly recommend trying this recipe if you have the time, or the desire. You can always give tins of fresh baked cookies as gifts to your friends and they are ideal hostess presents for any Christmas parties you attend.

  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup strong bourbon (I use 101 proof Wild Turkey)
  • 6 slices candied pineapple, chopped
  • 1 cup candied red cherries, chopped
  • 1 cup candied green cherries, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped dates
  • 1-15oz package of golden raisins
  • 7 cups chopped pecans

Combine the butter and sugar, mixing well. Add the eggs and beat well. Combine all dry ingredients; add the butter/sugar mixture to the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk and mixing well after each addition. Stir in the bourbon, fruit and the nuts and mix well to incorporate. Drop heaping teaspoons onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 300F for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Makes approximately 5 dozen cookies.