<1> Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
Serves 8; Prep time: 20 minutes; Total time: 1 hour
Sweetened whipped cream is the perfect accompaniment to this slightly spicy dessert.
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 3/4 cups cranberries
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1. Preheat oven to 350°, with rack in center. Rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan with 2 tablespoons butter. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar with the cinnamon and allspice. Sprinkle mixture evenly over bottom of pan; arrange cranberries in a single layer on top.
2. With an electric mixer, cream remaining 6 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until well combined. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, until well combined.
3. Spoon batter over cranberries in pan, and smooth top. Place pan on a baking sheet; bake cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake; invert onto a rimmed platter.
Note: The topping is made by simply baking cranberries placed in a layer over sugar and spices at the bottom of the pan. As the cake bakes, the sugar caramelizes, forming a rich syrup.
<2> Butter Pecan Cookies
Makes 12; Prep time: 15 minutes; Total time: 30 minutes
These delicate, buttery cookies, which get their crunchy texture from toasted pecans and a sugar coating, practically melt in you mouth.
3/4 cup pecans
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for coating
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1. Preheat oven to 350°. On a baking sheet, toast pecans until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Let cool completely; finely chop.
2. With an electric mixer, cream butter and 1/3 cup sugar until light, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla, salt, and flour, scraping down sides of bowl, just until dough comes together. Fold in pecans.
3. Separate dough into 12 pieces; squeeze dough to shape into balls. Roll in sugar. Place, 3 inches apart, on a baking sheet. Gently flatten with the bottom of a glass (reshape sides if necessary). Sprinkle with sugar.
4. Bake until golden brown, rotating sheet halfway through, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with more sugar. Cool cookies on a wire rack.
<3> Crepe Sucree Beggar's Purses
Makes 16 to 24 six-inch crêpes
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk, plus more for thinning, if necessary
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil
Sauce au Chocolat (optional), for serving
Raspberry Coulis (optional), for serving
Crème Anglaise (optional), for serving
Fresh raspberries and strawberries (optional), for serving
1. To make the crêpes: Place the flour in a bowl, and add the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and 1/2 cup of the milk. Whisk slowly until a smooth batter forms. Add remaining 1 cup milk, and whisk to combine. Cover, and refrigerate batter for 30 minutes or overnight. Just before using, whisk in melted butter.
2. Heat a 6-inch crêpe pan, either well seasoned or with a nonstick surface, over medium heat. The pan is ready when a drop of water dances on the hot surface. Hold pan in one hand, tilting it slightly. Using a small ladle, pour about 2 tablespoons batter into pan where sides and bottom meet. Turn pan in a circular motion to spread batter evenly. The amount of batter used should just coat bottom of pan. Any excess should be poured back into bowl.
3. Cook the crêpe until edges begin to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip, and cook 10 to 15 seconds more. Slide onto a plate. The surface of the crêpe should be medium brown in color. (If, after cooking two crêpes, the color is too dark or too light, adjust heat accordingly. At the same point, if the crêpes are too thick, thin batter with milk.) Repeat with remaining batter, stacking crêpes on top of one another until all the batter is used. Allow crêpes to cool.
4. To make lemon-zest strips: Using a channel knife and working from top to bottom, remove long strips from lemons. Try to keep the strips as intact as possible to yield about three 4-inch-long strips from each lemon. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add lemon strips, and blanch for 30 seconds. Remove, and pat dry.
5. To make the purses: Place a crêpe on a clean work surface. Fill with about 1 tablespoon crème pâtissière. Gather edges of crêpe up and around filling, creating a “beggar’s purse.” Tie purse closed with lemon-zest strip. Repeat with remaining crêpes, crème pâtissière, and lemon zest strips. If desired, reserve a few crêpes to fill with berries when plating.
6. To serve, arrange purses on plates. Decorate plates with sauce au chocolate, raspberry coulis, or crème anglaise, if desired, and berries. An unfilled crêpe, if using, can be folded and filled with diced berries.
Note: The batter can also be prepared in a blender: Place the ingredients in the jar of a blender, then turn it on and off quickly. Scrape down flour from sides, and blend again until smooth.
<4> Apple Currant Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen
The abundance of spices in these cookies gives them a longer shelf life, making them a good cookie-jar staple.
1 cup apple cider
1 cup currants
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups dark-brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup Apple Butter
1 large egg, room temperature
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3 to 4 crisp and tart cooking apples, such as Ida Red or Empire
Granulated sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat nonstick baking mat. Heat cider in a small saucepan to a simmer. Place currants in a bowl; pour warm cider over them. Let plump at least 10 minutes.
2. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. On low speed, add apple butter, and beat until well blended. Add egg, and continue beating until well blended. The mixture will look slightly curdled, but it will pull together when you add the dry ingredients.
4. Add the dry ingredients, beating until just combined. Drain currants, discarding cider. Mix in currants and oats until just combined. Using the largest holes on a box grater, shred 1 of the apples directly into the dough, rotating to avoid seeds and core. Stir well to combine.
5. Using a 1-ounce scoop, scoop out six cookies about 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheet. Core 2 to 3 apples, and, using a Japanese mandoline or a sharp knife, slice thinly. Place a thinly sliced apple ring on top of each cookie. (Repeat with the fourth apple if needed.) Sprinkle the top of each with a pinch of sugar, if desired. Bake in the heated oven until dark brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter.
<5> Potato Gnocchi with Wild Mushroom Sauce
Potato gnocchi can take on just about any sauce, such as a light tomato-basil sauce, or simply butter and sage.
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms, such as cremini, hedgehog, shiitake, or oyster
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup minced shallots (about 2 large)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup Homemade Chicken Stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon white truffle oil, optional
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram leaves
1. Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil. Remove stems from shiitake mushrooms, and trim stems of others. Cut all the mushrooms into 1/4-inch slices, and set aside.
2. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add shallots, and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Raise heat to medium high, add mushrooms and thyme sprigs, and cook until mushrooms begin to brown on the edges, about 4 minutes. Remove thyme, add chicken stock, and reduce to 1 tablespoon, about 30 seconds. Add cream, salt, and pepper, cooking until cream thickens slightly, about 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Drop precooked gnocchi into the pot of boiling water, and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. (If gnocchi are prepared in advance but not yet cooked, boil them as described in Step 4 of the Potato Gnocchi recipe.) Lift gnocchi out of the water with a slotted spoon or skimmer, and transfer to the mushroom sauce, stirring until evenly coated; cook for about 1 to 2 minutes. Divide among six plates, drizzle with truffle oil (if using), and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and marjoram leaves. Serve immediately.