Thursday, December 20, 2012

Scrumptious Orange Bites

Scrumptious orange bites are an easy to make cookie that is great for cookie exchanges and/or bake sales where you need to make a few dozen or more cookies quickly.  They are especially pretty when frosted, and would be a fun thing to make with your kids help - as they do not require a lot of precision.  They are also easily hand-mixed (another benefit), as the butter is melted and cooled...and the rest of the ingredients added to in.  The addition of carmel chips makes them especially decadent!  Enjoy!

Makes almost 4 dozen

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 cups chopped pitted dates (I prefer to buy mine whole and chop them)
1 cup packed light brown sugar (these cookies are somewhat sweet; sugar could probably be reduced to 1/2 cup)
2 tsp grated orange zest
1 cup orange juice (plus 1-2 TBS more if making glaze)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups butterscotch chips
2 cups pecans, chopped
1-2 cups powdered sugar, for dusting or glaze

Heat oven to 375 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda together in a bowl.  Set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Turn heat off when melted, and stir in dates, brown sugar, orange zest, and orange juice.  Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl and let cool to room temperature.  Once cool, stir in eggs, butterscotch chips, and pecans.  Then, add flour mixture.  Mix with a wooden spoon until combined.

Drop generous tablespoon-size portions onto the prepared cookie sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart.  Bake about 10 minutes, until the edges are brown and the cookies are soft and puffy looking (do not over-bake).  Remove from the oven and let rest on the cookie sheet for a few minutes until cool enough to handle without falling apart.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Lightly dust cookies with powdered sugar just before serving or glaze/frost them with 2 cups powdered sugar and 4 TBS orange juice.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Boursin-stuffed Mushrooms

1 package (10 oz.) mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots or onions
1/4 cup unseasoned dry breadcrumbs
1 package (5.2 oz.)
Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove and chop mushroom stems. In 12-inch skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat and cook mushroom stems and onions, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until tender. In medium bowl, pour mushroom mixture over breadcrumbs. Stir in Boursin, parsley, salt and pepper. Evenly spoon mushroom mixture into mushroom caps; arrange on baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and golden.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Best Buckeyes (Peanut Butter Balls) Ever!

Makes 60 Pieces

My husband went to a potluck at his office several years ago and had one of these amazing buckeyes.  He pestered the woman he worked with for six months to give him the recipe.  She finally gave him the ingredients but no instructions on how to make them (I think this was her way of getting my husband to stop pestering her without giving away her entire "secret" and "famous" recipe).  I've tweaked these a bit over the years and now use a scale to measure the ingredients by weight, as peanut butter is especially sticky to measure into a measuring cup and then scoop out; by weighing, I can just set the mixer bowl on the scale, zero it out, and skip all the measuring cups (savings time, hassle, and clean-up).  These make great Christmas candy!

I've put the measurements in cups as well, however, for those of you who are old school and don't yet have a digital kitchen scale!

What sets these buckeyes apart from any other I've tried is the little bit of "crunch" that is created by the crushed-up graham crackers; most people won't be able to put their finger on what exactly this "secret" crunchy ingredient is, but it makes them absolutely remarkable.

These are a bit "time consuming" to make, as it is best to give them time to refrigerate and then freeze, so the peanut butter will firm up - and you may need to stop periodically and put the tray of "in progress" buckeyes back in the fridge or freezer for a bit, so they don't become too warm!  My recommendation is to make them over a 24 hour period; start them the day before...put them in the fridge (wrapped in plastic) to firm up the peanut butter mix overnight...scoop them and roll them by hand into balls in the afternoon the next day...freeze them...and then, in the evening, enrobe them in chocolate and put them back in the freezer for  a bit so the chocolate can harden completely before putting them into a tupperware container and freezing them until needed.  I like, however, that this is a project I can start and then walk away from...and then restart when I have a bit more time.

Once removed from the freezer, the buckeyes will soften quickly, so it is best to arrange them decoratively on a tray immediately (before they begin to thaw) when you are ready to serve them.  They will defrost in about 25-30 minutes, depending on the temperature of the room.


20 oz smooth peanut butter (I like Skippy brand) - or approximately 2 cups
8   oz powdered sugar - or approximately 2 cups
5   oz graham crackers, crushed - or approximately 9 sheets
6   tbs unsalted butter, melted
24 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like Nestle brand) - or approximately 4 cups
2   tbs vegetable shortening (unflavored)


In the bowl of a kitchen aid mixer, measure peanut butter, powdered sugar, graham crackers, and butter.  Using the paddle attachment, mix until combined (the mixture will resemble cookie dough).  Unhook the paddle attachment and leave it in the bowl; it's easier to scrape the paddle with the cookie scoop once the dough is firm!  Wrap the bowl in plastic, and refrigerate the mixture for several hours until it is chilled and firm.

Once chilled, line a large baking sheet with wax paper, and using a small stainless steel cookie scoop (about 1.25 inches in diameter), scoop out uniform portions of peanut butter and quickly roll with your hands to shape into a smooth ball (approximately 1" in diameter).  Place immediately on a wax lined cookie sheet.  (The recipe will make approximately 60 balls).  Place the cookie sheet, uncovered, in the freezer for an hour, until the balls are frozen.

About 30 minutes before you remove the balls from the freezer, place a medium size bowl over a pot with about 2 inches of gently simmering water; be sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Add the chocolate chips and shortening, and stir occasionally with a rubber spatula until smooth.  When the chocolate is melted, remove the balls from the freezer and using two small forks, drop each ball individually in the chocolate and cover the peanut butter completely.  Roll the ball onto one fork and use the other fork to remove any excess chocolate from the top, sides, and bottom.  Take extra care to scrap the underside of the work to push away excess chocolate that may be hanging from the bottom.  Return the ball immediately to the wax paper lined baking sheet.

Notes about enrobing in chocolate: excess chocolate on the bottom of the fork may form a large "puddle" under your buckeye that will make them less attractive once they're chilled!  Also, as you are working, if the peanut butter becomes too soft or the chocolate becomes to hard to effectively work with, return the balls to the freezer and the chocolate to the simmering water for a few minutes; it is better to be patient and take a few breaks or the balls will become misshapen!

When you are finished enrobing the candy in chocolate, place the baking sheet, uncovered, back in the freezer for about 1 hour, until the buckeyes are completely frozen.  Then, stack them loosely into a container that can be frozen and has an airtight lid (like a pyrex dish with a lid).

About 30 minutes before serving, remove them from the freezer and place the buckeyes decoratively on your serving piece; do not let them defrost first, as they will become soft and stick together.

These buckeyes give Reese's Peanut Butter Cups a run for their money!  So, enjoy responsibly!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Crispy Duck

I went to the U.K. with a friend in 2012, and months before we made our journey across the pond, she had ordered "Peking Duck" a few times at Chinese restaurants here in the U.S.  The ducks, although ordered with great enthusiasm, were not what she considered to be true "Crispy Duck," and she was ultimately disappointed with each.  When we flew to Liverpool, we ate "Crispy Duck" twice during our 10-days together, and it was delicious and somewhat different than what we had had in the U.S. (the meat is a little drier and crispier than Peking Duck).  I was determined, when I returned home to Texas, to make a "Crispy Duck" for her!  With a little research and planning, I figured it out!  Here is the recipe/technique using my Turkey Fryer to fry a whole duck (being a naturalized Texan, y'all know I had to find a way to use my Turkey Fryer for this recipe - and because it was the weekend after Thanksgiving, it was a great way to find "another use" for the expensive peanut oil that was still good and in the fryer a few days after we fried our Thanksgiving turkey in it).

Serves 4-6


1   4-5 pound fresh (or frozen and thawed) duck (the Peking variety is best, as it is less fatty)
     Chinese Five Spice Powder (approximately 2 TBS)
     Peanut Oil (enough for deep frying according to your Turkey Fryer manufacturer's instructions)
     Corn Starch (enough to lightly dust the outside the duck - approximately 2/3 cup)

3   small bunches scallions or green onions, white and light green parts only, medium matchstick cut
3   medium cucumbers, peeled and large matchstick cut
25 mini chinese steamed buns / baozi (I buy these frozen at H-Mart)
     Hoisin Sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand), diluted with a little water and sesame oil
     Plum Sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand)
     Chiu Chow Chili Oil (Lee Kum Kee brand)

Fit an 11" stainless steel steamer basket into the bottom of a large pot, and add about an inch or so of water (just so it is just below the bottom of the basket).  Rinse the duck, add it to the pot breast side down.  Sprinkle the back with salt, pepper, and Chinese Five Spice Powder (rub in if needed), then flip breast side up and sprinkle with the same (salt, pepper, and Chinese Five Spice Powder).  Bring water to a simmer over medium-low heat, cover the pot with a lid, and steam the duck for two hours over simmering water.  During this time, keep an eye on the liquid and add more water if necessary to the pot (do not let the water evaporate).

I generally prepare all the accompaniments except the steamed buns toward the end of the steaming time; holding the scallions and cucumbers in separate ice water baths until just before serving (where I drain them and quickly serve them still crisp and cool).

Remove the duck from the pot and let cool on a tray or platter for about 20 minutes.  Reserve the duck fat that has accumulated in the pot of water for another use, like duck fried french fries!  I use a fat separator for this.  During this time, turn on your turkey fryer and bring the temperature to 325 degrees.

Once the duck has cooled enough to handle (it will still be very warm), tear open a large paper bag, and place the duck in the middle breast side down.  Sprinkle the back generously with cornstarch, then flip, and sprinkle the breast.  Rub gently with your hands if needed to evenly coat the bird.

Fry the duck for 15 minutes at 325 degrees (according to the turkey fryer manufacturer's instructions).  Remove carefully and place somewhere to drain (I have an option on my fryer to hang the frying basket on the side of the frying pot, above the oil).  Make sure you turn off the turkey fryer!

Let the duck rest for about 20 minutes, then carve, removing the whole breast and leg (including the thigh) off the bird.  Debone the leg and thigh.  Finally, slice all pieces into thin strips.  Place on warmed platter and tent loosely with foil until served.

At the last minute, I prepare the steamed buns by placing a piece of parchment paper on a large plate, arranging about 12-14 mini buns on the plate, sprinkling them lightly with water, wrapping the plate with saran wrap (make sure the plastic is sealed underneath to hold in the steam) and microwaving the buns until hot - about 2-3 minutes.  Leave the plastic wrap on the plate and open it when everyone is at the table and ready to eat!

To eat, slice open a steamed bun and spread a generous amount of prepared Hoisin or Plum sauce on the top and bottom of the bun.  Add a slice or two of duck meat and then top with a few matchsticks of cucumber and scallions.  If you prefer a little heat, drizzle some spicy Chiu Chow Chili Oil inside too.  Press the top and bottom of the bun together and consume like you would a slider.

This recipe is great served with Janice Cole's Gingered Carrot Rice with Shiitake Mushrooms (recipe also on the blog).  I also like to serve it with steamed baby bok choy, which I typically wash, put wet into a non-stick skillet, steam (lid on) over medium heat for a few minutes, and then continue cooking (lid off) until liquid in the bottom of the pan has evaporated.  Just before serving, I dress it with a dash of sesame oil and sriracha sauce.

The plate of crispy duck, festive rice, and bok choy with a few extra cucumbers are pictured to the right.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gingered Carrot Rice with Shiitake Mushrooms

From Janice Cole

2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. minced shallots
1 tsp. ginger - fresh
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup long-grain rice
2 cups water
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4-6 oz. shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup green onions

In a large saucepan, saute shallots, garlic and ginger in butter until soft. Add rice and stir until all the grains are coated with butter. Add water, carrots, salt and pepper and mix. Cover and bring to a boil and simmer for 12 minutes. Add the shiitake mushrooms evenly over the rice. Do not stir, but cover and cook 5 - 7 minutes, until rice is tender. Stir in green onions and serve.

Serves 6.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Maple Pecans

Adapted from Food and Wine

These nuts are an addictive combination of sweet, spicy and sticky-crunchy.

  1. 4 cups pecans
  2. 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  3. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  4. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  5. 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper Maple Pecans
  6. 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  7. 1 large egg white, at room temperature
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the pecans on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast until they are fragrant, about 10 minutes. Let the pecans cool. Lower the oven temperature to 250°.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the pecans with the maple syrup, butter, salt, cayenne and black pepper. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Add the egg white to the pecans and toss well.
  3. Spread the pecans on the lined baking sheets in a single layer. Bake for 40 minutes, until the nuts are golden brown. Sprinkle with additional kosher salt. Immediately loosen the pecans from the paper with a spatula. Let cool completely on the baking sheets before serving.
The nuts can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes 4 cups.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Raita (Yogurt Sauce)

Makes 1 cup

The raita is best made with whole-milk yogurt.  I use the Brown Cow brand with a cream top, and I scoop off most of the cream and use it in the sauce.


1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced (fresh mint can be substituted)
1 medium garlic clove, minced (or pressed through garlic press, about 1 teaspoon)
kosher salt - to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.  Season with salt to taste, and set aside for 15 minutes to let the flavors meld.  The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 day (re-season before serving if needed).

Note:  This sauce goes nicely with the Tandoori Lamb and Hot and Sour Eggplant recipes.

Hot and Sour Chinese Eggplant

Makes 4 servings

This dish requires a little extra planning, as the eggplant needs to be salted (a process that takes about an hour and a half) to take away any bitterness, but the recipe is super easy to make.  And, the advance preparation makes it an ideal "make-ahead" dish, as the eggplant can be prepared hours in advance and then cooked quickly just before it is needed.  This recipe is absolutely delicious and is a versatile side dish that could easily pair with variety of ethnic menus!


2 medium-size eggplants (about 2 lbs)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon white sugar
1 medium (or 2 very small) jalapeno pepper, chopped
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ tsp sriracha (to taste)
1 teaspoon salt, (plus extra for salting eggplant in Step 1)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil


1. Cut off and discard stem and bottom end of each eggplant and peel with a vegetable peeler. Cut into 1-inch cubes. Place the eggplant a large colander over a bowl, and sprinkle generously with salt (~2-3 tablespoons). Toss to coat all the pieces. Let eggplant stand for at least 1½ hours (preferably for 2 to 3 hours), stirring it a couple of times.

2. Rinse the eggplant under cold, running water, rubbing the pieces lightly in your hands. Shake colander to drain, and then using your palms, press the eggplant in the colander firmly to squeeze out any excess water! (At this point, the eggplant can be refrigerated up to 3 hours before cooking.)

3. In a small jar , add the soy sauce, red wine vinegar, sugar, jalapeno pepper, cornstarch sesame oil, and sriracha. Put the lid on the jar and shake to combine.

4. In a heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium high heat until it shimmers. Fry the eggplant until it is tender and begins to brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Pour in the sauce, and cook for another minute or two, until the sauce is thick and the eggplant is evenly coated. Adjust seasonings and serve immediately!

Note: This side dish is excellent when paired with steamed rice. It also goes well with the Tandoori Lamb recipe!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Kalamata Olive, Sun-dried tomato, and Feta Bread

A friend of mine, who is a great baker, sent me this recipe that she adapted from a clipping that she cut out of the Chicago Tribune in 1994. She's getting ready to move and discovered it when cleaning out her files. She had kept it for 15 years but never tried it (just how many of us have recipes lying around for decades that we've never tried?) The recipe from the clipping was from The Bread Book by Betsy Oppenneer.
I just made half of the recipe but I was really sorry that I didn't make the full batch because this is such a delicious bread with a lot of interesting flavors, a nice soft crust, and a powerful aroma that was even present upon opening the loaf up the next morning. It made my whole kitchen smell like a bakery.
400 g water
14 g instant yeast
625 g bread flour (I used KA--you might need a little more flour depending on how wet your olives and tomatoes are)
42 g dried milk powder
18 g sugar
7 g salt
1 egg, beaten
180 g pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half or thirds (I used a drained 6.5 oz. jar of TJs)
8 oz. julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained (can use reconstituted dry pack if you prefer; I used an 8.5 oz. of TJs julienned sun-dried tomatoes)
25 g chopped fresh parsley (fresh basil would also be delicious)
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Egg wash
Combine water, yeast, flour, dry milk, sugar, egg, and salt in mixer bowl. Mix with paddle just to combine. Add in tomatoes, olives and parsley at the end being careful not to break them up too much.
Let dough rest 15 minutes in covered mixer bowl. Turn out onto lightly floured counter and knead a few turn to form a ball. Place in oiled covered container and let rest another 15 minutes. Do a stretch and fold. Return dough to bowl. Wait another 15 minutes and do a 2nd stretch and fold.
Return to covered bowl and let rise until double (about an 1 1/2 hours--I can't remember exactly how long this took).
Divide dough into two equally sized balls and roll each out into a cylinder about 12" long and 1/4" thick. Sprinkle each rectangle with half the feta, and then cut the rectangle in half length-wise.
Roll up each strip of dough tightly to form a long cylinder, and then roll each cylinder back and forth until each is 24" long. Braid two cylinders together and then coil them to form a round loaf.
Place each loaf on parchment, spray lightly with pan-spray, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let proof until almost double, about one hour.
Place oven stone on rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375º F.
Just before baking, brush loaves with egg wash. Bake directly on stone for about 35 minutes until center reaches 190º F.
Makes two round loaves (can also be baked in loaf pans).

It also makes great toast. I had it for breakfast and lunch!

Homemade Pot Sticker Dough

I tried those pot stickers featured on Wild Yeast blog. I was amazed how incredible easy they were to make and roll out. This was my first time and I noticed they were a little chewy where they were sealed. I think this was because I didn't roll them out quite thin enough, but the chewiness could have also come from my choice of flour (see below). I sprinkled them with a little cornstarch to prevent sticking. I will never used purchased won ton wrappers for pot stickers again!

2 cups (250 g) AP flour (I used KA AP but next time I will use a softer flour, e.g., Guisto's Baker's Choice)
1/2 cup (113 g) warmish water
Put flour in food processor. Pour in water and run until combined. Form dough into a ball and divide into 4 sections. Roll each section out into a log and cut into about 10 pieces. Flatten each disk into a round and roll out with a pin until you have a round that is about 3 1/2 to 4 inches. Cover unused dough logs to prevent drying out.
I used Hugh Carpenter's Santa Barbara Pot Stickers recipe for the filling. I doubled the sauce recipe per batch and ended up with extra filling mixture. I'm going to make some more today and freeze them.

Vodka Pie Crust

From Cook's IllustratedFOR ONE 9-INCH SINGLE-CRUST PIE

Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor—do not substitute. This dough will be moister and more supple than most standard pie doughs and will require more flour to roll out (up to 1/4 cup).

  1. Ingredients:

    1 ¼ cup unbleached flour (6 ¼ oz.)
    ½ teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon sugar
    6 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼ inch slices
    ¼ cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pieces
    2 Tablespoons vodka, cold


    1. Process 3/4 cups flour, salt, and sugar together in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 10 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
  2. 2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten dough into 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
  3. 3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to ¼ cup) work surface to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave overhanging dough in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
  4. 4. Trim overhang to ½ inch beyond lip of pie plate. Fold overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Flute dough or press the tines of a fork against dough to flatten it against rim of pie plate. Refrigerate dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.
  1. 5. Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with foil, and fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate plate, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes additional minutes until crust is golden brown and crisp.

Fresh Cherry Pie

I spray my working surface with pan-spray and then sprinkled it with flour. This proofs to be an excellent surface for rolling out pie dough. (I got this tip from Debbie Wink, who, I think, read about it in Shirley Corrihers' BakeWise.)

I also used their Vodka Pie Crust recipe.


The amount of sugar and tapioca you use is relative, depending on the fruit’s quality and your taste. If you prefer a less sweet pie or if the fruit is especially sweet, use the lower sugar amount. If you like your pie juices fairly thick, or if the fruit is really juicy, then opt for the higher amount of tapioca. If you are using frozen fruit, measure it frozen, but let it thaw before filling the pie. If not, you run the risk of partially cooked fruit and undissolved tapioca. If using sour cherries instead of sweet, increase sugar to 1 cup and tapioca to 4 tablespoons.


  • Pie Dough  
  • 2 1/4cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1teaspoon table salt
  • 2tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 11tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 7tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 1/3cup water, chilled with ice, increasing up to 3/8 cup, if needed
  • Cherry Filling  
  • 6cups sweet cherries (pitted), or 6 cups pitted frozen cherries
  • 3/4cup granulated sugar
  • 1small lemon, zested to yield 1 teaspoon zest and juiced to yield 2 teaspoons juice
  • 1/8teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8teaspoon almond extract
  • 1tablespoon brandy
  • 3–4tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 2tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces


  1. 1. Mix flour, salt, and sugar in food processor fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture, tossing to coat butter with a little flour. Cut butter into flour with five 1-second pulses. Add shortening and continue to cut it in until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal with butter bits no larger than small peas, about four more 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl.
  2. 2. Sprinkle all but 1 tablespoon of the ice water over mixture. With blade of rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon of remaining ice water if dough does not come together. Divide dough into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten each into 4-inch-wide disk. Dust lightly with flour, wrap separately in plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
  3. 3. Remove dough from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature to soften slightly, about 10 minutes. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss fruit with sugar, lemon juice and zest, spices, almond extract, brandy, and tapioca; let stand for 15 minutes.
  4. 4. Roll larger dough disk on lightly floured surface into 12-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer and fit dough into 9-inch Pyrex pie pan, leaving dough that overhangs the lip in place. Turn fruit mixture, including juices, into pie shell. Scatter butter pieces over fruit. Refrigerate until ready to top with remaining dough.
  5. 5. Roll smaller disk on lightly floured surface into 10-inch circle. Lay over fruit. Trim top and bottom dough edges to 1/2-inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute dough in your own fashion, or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits at right angles on dough top to allow steam to escape. If pie dough is very soft, place in freezer for 10 minutes before baking.
  6. 6. Place pie on baking sheet; bake until top crust is golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer.
  7. 7. Transfer pie to wire rack; let cool to almost room temperature so juices have time to thicken, from 1 to 2 hours.

Norm's Semi-flat Onion Rolls

My interpretation of Norm's formula and method:
The onion mixture:
Rehydrate 1/3 cup dried, minced onions in about 1 1/2 cups of boiling water. When the onions have absorbed all the water that they can, drain them (I pressed them with a spoon when they were in the strainer to make sure I got most of the water out), and add a little salt (I added 1/2 teaspoon kosher), 1 tablespoon of canola oil (I forgot to add the oil so I just dapped a little on the top of each roll before baking them), and 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds to the mixture. Refrigerate until ready to use. Norms says that you have to used dried onions to get the authentic taste of these rolls.
The roll dough:
21 g sugar
7 g malt syrup (I used 14 g by accident because I was pouring from the bottle and it got away from me)
7 g salt
21 g egg, beaten
21 g vegetable oil
454 g bread flour
227 g water
7 g instant yeast
Place all ingredients in the bowl of your mixer and mix with the paddle until everything is incorporated, about 1 minute. Let dough rest 5 minutes to hydrate. Change paddle to dough hook and knead on speed 2 for 10 minutes until dough is quite smooth. Norm cautions that this is a very stiff dough and that you should keep an eye on your mixer so that you don't overheat it. I think this dough might knead very well in a food processor; of course it would probably only require a couple of minutes of kneading.
Place dough in a bowl, cover and let rise until double, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Gently deflate dough and cut into 2 to 4 ounce pieces (I used 3 ounce pieces for my rolls), form pieces into balls, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, dump the onion mixture onto a lipped cookie sheet and spread it out.
When the 10 minutes are up, pick up the relaxed dough balls, turn them over onto the onion mixture, and press them flat with the palm of your hand. You want to balls to be flattened to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch.
Place the rolls onion side up on a baking sheet, and preheat your oven to 450º.
Cover the onion rolls lightly with plastic wrap and let fully proof, about 1 hour. Just before they are ready to go into the oven, press down in the center of each roll with your thumb to make an indentation.
Bake for about 20 minutes on the middle oven rack until nicely brown and crisp, spritzing them with water once a minute during the first 5 minutes of baking and rotating the pan 180º after the first 10 minutes. Watch them closely near the end of the 20 minutes because they can burn fast--I caught mine just in time. (Next time I make these I might try 425º for 25 minutes.)

Makes 9 three-ounce rolls

Texas Sheet Cake

From Cook's Country Best Potluck Suppers
Serves 24
Toast the pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  • 2cups flour
  • 2cups sugar
  • 1/2teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2teaspoon salt
  • 2large eggs plus 2 yolks
  • 2teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4cup sour cream
  • 8ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4cup water
  • 1/2cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I used Droste)
Chocolate Icing
  • 8tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2cup heavy cream
  • 1/2cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I used Droste)
  • 1tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 3cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1cup toasted pecans, chopped
  • 1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 18- by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Whisk eggs and yolks, vanilla, and sour cream in another bowl until smooth.
  • 2. Heat chocolate, butter, oil, water, and cocoa in large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk chocolate mixture into flour mixture until incorporated. Whisk egg mixture into batter, then pour into prepared baking pan. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to wire rack.
  • 3. For the icing: About 5 minutes before cake is done, heat butter, cream, cocoa, and corn syrup in large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Off heat, whisk in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Spread warm icing evenly over hot cake and sprinkle with pecans. Let cake cool to room temperature on wire rack, about 1 hour, then refrigerate until icing is set, about 1 hour longer. (Cake can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.) Cut into 3-inch squares. Serve.


    • The key to perfectly moist Texas sheet cake is to let the warm icing soak into the hot cake. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pour the warm icing over the cake and use a spatula to spread the icing to the edges of the cake. This creates the signature fudgy layer between the icing and the cake.

Kid's Favorite Shepherd's Pie

From Cook's Country Best Lost Suppers


1 tablespoon olive oil
2 celery ribs, chopped fine
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 1/2 pounds 85-percent lean ground beef
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 3/4 cups low-sodium beef broth
2 cups fresh corn, sliced off the cob (you can substitute frozen, thawed corn)

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced 3/4-inch thick
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sour cream (I like Daisy brand because it doesn't have any additives)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and heat oven to 375 F.

Filling: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add celery, onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add beef, increase heat to medium-high and cook, breaking up any large clumps with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink and beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in flour and tomato paste and cook until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute. Stir in the broth, scraping up any browned bits.

Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently until the mixture is thick, but still saucy, 15 to 20 minutes. Off the heat, stir in corn and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour filling into a broiler-safe 2-quart casserole dish.

Topping: While the filling cooks, bring the potatoes and 2 quarts of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan and cook until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and return the potatoes to the saucepan. Stir over low heat until thoroughly dried, 1 to 2 minutes.

Mash the potatoes until smooth, then gently fold in the cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper until the potatoes are thick and creamy.

Spread potatoes in an even layer over the filling, making sure to spread them to the very edge of the dish. This will help prevent the filling from bubbling out of the pan. Just in case, place the casserole dish on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until the filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil the potato topping until it is golden brown on top, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4 to 6.

King's Ranch Casserole

Adapted from 
King Ranch Casserole

Serves 6 to 8
If you can't find Ro-Tel tomatoes, substitute one 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes and one 4-ounce can chopped green chiles. Cojack is a creamy blend of Colby and Monterey Jack cheeses. We like its tangy flavor, but milder Jack cheese can be used in its place.
  • 1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 450 degrees. Lay tortillas on two baking sheets, lightly coat both sides with cooking spray, and bake until slightly crisp and browned, about 12 minutes. Cool slightly, then break into bite-sized pieces. Using potholders, adjust top oven rack to middle position.
  • 2. Heat butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook onions, chiles, and cumin until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until most of liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add cream and broth, bring to simmer, and cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in chicken and poach until just no longer pink, about 10 minutes (try to use small evenly-sized pieces and don't cook too long because they will continue to cook in the oven. Remove chicken to a plate, cool, and shed with a fork. Off heat, add cilantro and cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Add shredded chicken and season with salt and pepper.
  • 3. Scatter half of tortilla pieces in 13 by 9-inch baking dish set over rimmed baking sheet. Spoon half of filling evenly over tortillas. Scatter remaining tortillas over filling, then top with remaining filling.
  • 4. Bake until filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle Fritos evenly over top and bake until Fritos are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool casserole 10 minutes. Serve.
  • Make Ahead: The casserole can be assembled through step 3 and refrigerated for up to 1 day. When ready to serve, cover casserole with foil and bake until filling is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove foil, top with Fritos, and proceed with rest of step 4 as directed.
    Carl Roettele opened a small canning plant in Elsa, Texas, in the early 1940s. By the 1950s, his blend of tomatoes, green chiles, and spices had become popular throughout the state and beyond. His spicy, tangy tomatoes are used in countless local recipes, including King Ranch casserole and a mixture of Velveeta and Ro-Tel tomatoes known locally as Ro-Tel dip (chile con queso, to the rest of the country).

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