by Beth Brown, Kitchen Store Specialist

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One of my favorite holiday memories from my childhood is baking pies the night before Thanksgiving. I would “help” my mom in the kitchen, staying up later than normal to finish baking the delicious pies for the feast the next day.

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There was always a bit of pie dough leftover, and my mom would cut it up into triangles, shake cinnamon sugar over the top, and bake them up for delicious treat before bed. Piecrust cookies became my favorite part of the pie-baking ritual.

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For this dessert shop recipe, we took piecrust cookies a few steps further to make them even more special and delicious, elevating them into much more than a leftover treat - these are tasty enough to take center stage! Especially when served with a pumpkin cream cheese frosting dip.

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When baking up these tasty leaf-shaped goodies, the KitchenAid food processor was an essential tool, and made the process quick and easy. (Nothing is better for holiday cooking than recipes that look complicated but are actually really simple!)

Beth's No Fail Pie Crust

3 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour

1 1/2 tsp Salt

1 1/2 tsp Sugar

1 1/2 Cups (3 sticks) Unsalted Butter

1/2-3/4 Cup Ice Cold Water

In a food processor, measure the flour, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into cubes and add to flour.

Pulse only enough to create a crumb mixture.

img_8807Slowly add cold water until the mixture begins to stick together when pressed between your fingers.

img_8810Separate into four blocks, refrigerate extra as you work with one. Turn dough out onto a floured Silpat and roll to 1/4 inch thickness. Onto this, sprinkle a portion of the following:

¼ Cup pecans, finely chopped and toasted

¼ cup dried cranberries, finely chopped

1-2 Tbs fresh orange zest

2 tsp sugar (optional)

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You can either cover half the rolled out dough and fold the remaining half over, or apply a second sheet of rolled dough to cover the first.

img_8818Roll a second time to press the two sheets together to reveal the ingredients inside and reach desired thickness.

img_8822Use festive cutters to cut cookie shapes from the dough, or shape for hand pies or to fit your pie plate, depending on desired use for crust.

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Take it to a whole new level by leaving out the optional sugar, adding fresh herbs and using this crust for left-over Turkey & Stuffing hand pies with gravy dip - or as the crust for a next-day turkey pot pie!

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Cookie Press Butter Cookies are a classic at Holiday time, and now with OXO's Fall Disc Collection, they can be made and shared as early as Halloween! Because this dough holds its shape so well through the baking process, Miss Beth suggests adding decorations before baking so that sprinkles and sparkle sugars stick even when packaged. Also, remember to use just a baking sheet without any spray, grease or silicone baking mat so that the pressed cookies will stick slightly to the surface and release from the plate of the press with clean lines and distinct pattern. This chart from OXO shows the finished product created by each disc in the collection.

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Butter Cookies *
Yield: About 12 dozen cookies
Ingredients
• 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
at room temperature • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup sugar • 4 cups all-purpose flour
• ½ teaspoon salt
Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar and salt. Beat until light and
fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time, continuously beating.
3. Gradually add flour, beating until well incorporated.
4. Place dough in cookie press with desired disk. Press dough out onto an ungreased baking sheet.
5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges.
Rotate baking sheet halfway through baking time.

*Recipe provided by longtime OXO friend, Fraya Berg

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Strawberry yogurt ice cream popsicles with mint over steel tray background. Top view

Making yogurt at home is an exciting process and allows you to use only the ingredients you want. And now that the Cuisipro yogurt maker is collapsible for easy storage, the excuse of bulky equipment is out the kitchen window! Once you realize how simple it can be to make your own yogurt, especially the part about using the batch you've made to start another, you can virtually be making it everyday! With all that delicious dairy around, here's a simple recipe that makes a cool, refreshing dessert of your creation, and once again, you get to decide what goes in, so you can make them as sweet or tart as you like, with whatever berries you find in season. Imagine a Hatcher's Pass Blueberry version, or one full of your bumper crop of backyard raspberries - either way they'll make a special, healthy treat to share on the porch in the Midnight Sun!

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Ingredients:

1 C homemade yogurt

2 T Alaska Wildflower Honey

3 C strawberries

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With a strawberry huller, remove stems and wash berries. Reserve one cup of the largest berries to cut into thick slices, tip to base. With the small bowl in place, puree the other 2 cups of berries in a food processor with one tablespoon of honey until smooth.

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Stir up yogurt and remaining tablespoon honey to get a smooth, pourable thickness (if your yogurt is more set, you may need to add a bit of milk to reach a good texture). Place one or two slices of strawberry in each popsicle basin, pressing to edge. Fill basins 3/4 full with yogurt mixture and top off with pureed berries, or alternate for varied pops - even layers for stripes! Cover and insert sticks. Freeze until solid, at least  6 hours or overnight.

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Ingredients:

2 cups sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon Blue Cattle Truck Pure Mexican Vanilla
1 teaspoon Red Velvet Baking Emulsion

Directions:
Prepare a straight sided baking pan with parchment strips that extend up and over the sides of the pan and secure with bulldog clips. Spray with Vegalene baking spray; set aside.

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Combine all ingredients, except vanilla and emulsion, in heavy 4-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 15-20 minutes or until butter is melted and mixture comes to a boil.

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Continue cooking without stirring for an additional 25-30 minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 244° or firm ball stage. (Your thermometer is a key tool here! We love the Maverick Digital model because it has the candy stages preprogrammed - so there's no guess work, ensuring your caramels won't be too soft, or pull teeth!)

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Remove pan from heat; quickly stir in vanilla and Red Velvet emulsion. Pour into prepared pan without scraping the bottom as caramel can scorch. Cool completely, preferably overnight.

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Once caramel is cooled, lift from pan and use a bench scraper, also sprayed with Vegalene, to cut into even cubes.

IMG_0578The cubes should hold their shape at room temperature to be ready for dipping.
Melt Callebaut white chocolate in the small double boiler insert over boiling water. Remove from water and stir until smooth.

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Using the chocolate dipping tools, dip each square to coat and set on a silpat lined baking sheet or parchment.

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Before chocolate sets, apply holly berry and snowflake sprinkles to each chocolate along with light sprinklings of Pure Alaska Sea Salt pyramids and/ or edible glitter. Molded chocolate shapes like pine cones or snowflakes also make nice toppings as well as adding other chocolate flavors to the finished candy.

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Once cooled, remove from silpat and package using chocolate paper cups and gift boxes.

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While chocolate is still warm, you can set the caramel on a chocolate transfer sheet. Once it cools the pattern will peel off the sheet with the chocolate, leaving a lovely design on the surface it contacts.

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Using clean cotton gloves to handle finished chocolates keeps them fingerprint free.         IMG_0609            IMG_0621

adapted from Aunt Emily's Soft Caramels recipe

 

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With the help of the digital candy thermometer, and Hazel, our favorite (adorable) nut grinder, a little bit of edible glitter, this toffee was incredibly easy and oh-so-pretty.

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One essential tool to the success of the toffe is a candy thermometer to insure that the toffee has that perfect, melt-in-your mouth crunch, without breaking your teeth!

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We scored our toffee while it was still malleable, which made for a more even break so that we could vary our toppings without crossover.

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The bench scraper was the ideal tool for the task, and we also used it to chop up the toffee into giftable pieces.

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The AK Pure Sitka Flake Sea Salt pyramids were a delicious - an dazzling - addition to one of our toffee flavors.

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And for the finishing touch - cellophane bags and baker’s twine make this an easy, elegant, and delicious holiday gift for friends and neighbors... if you can keep yourself from eating it all!

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Toasted Flake Coconut, Almonds and AK Pure Sea Salt.
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Cranberry and Pistachio

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Toasted Hazelnut and Edible Glitter.

Ingredients:

1 C butter
1 C sugar
2 Tbls water
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Top with:
8oz bittersweet Callebaut Chocolate
and your choice of:
Pistachios, shelled and chopped coarse
Sweetened Dried Cranberries
Hazelnuts, toasted and finely chopped
Gold Edible Glitter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Toast the whole hazelnuts on a baking sheet until just browned. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Use Hazel Nut Grinder to chop. Repeat with almonds.

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Line a second baking sheet with a silpat mat.
In a sauce pan cook the butter, sugar, water and salt over medium heat until the temperature reaches 305 degrees- or hard crack stage- on your digital candy thermometer. Stir occasionally and when the mixture turns golden brown, immediately remove the pan from heat.

IMG_0472Quickly stir in the vanilla extract and pour the mixture onto the silpat lined baking sheet, beginning in the center and working lengthwise, allowing it to spread evenly to edges.

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Cool at room temperature for 45 minutes.
Temper chocolate in a double boiler. We love this little one because it keeps the chocolate surface area down and with the clip and handle, it sits on any pot.

IMG_4248Spread the chocolate over the cooled toffee and sprinkle with nuts and or other toppings, pressing lightly to set the bits into chocolate layer.

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Let cool for an additional hour, or until the chocolate is set.
Break toffee into pieces and wrap to share.

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Adapted from ghirardelli.com

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As a fruity alternative to your daily pumpkin-spiced hot beverage, a nice warm sip of fresh juiced apple cider takes the chill off of any autumn day- especially with a pair of donut holes for dunking!

And before we get to that, we wanted to clear up a common question about the difference between apple juice and apple cider. It turns out that apple cider is essentially unfiltered apple juice- hence the opaque appearance versus the clear apple juice you can buy at the store that has been both filtered and pasteurized to extend shelf life. So, if we're being technical, if you're juicing apples, your getting apple cider - which can be served cold or warmed with spices.

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For our cider, we used our Omega Vert slow juicer (which presses the juice from the apples using an auger and screen process) and a collection of our favorite apple varieties including crisp greens and sweet reds. This can be made up to 24 hours prior to serving if stored in the fridge in a covered vessel.

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Now donut holes are usually just the bite size bonus you get when cutting the center from a traditional raised donut, but using a portion scoop and chilled quick dough gives you a nice sized ball that is just as easily eaten in one or two dunkable bites. We wanted to make sure we had enough to share, so we doubled the batch and used a smaller scoop, and believe me, there were more than plenty to go around! They do puff up a bit in the fryer, so depending on the size you want, plan for some expansion.

If you don't have a fryer, you can use a pan on the stove top, or you could just bite the bullet and get one of these!

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This particular T-fal fryer is our favorite because it's so easy to clean. Once the oil has cooled you just drain it out the bottom into the reservoir and all the sediment stays in the basin where it can be wiped out. Also, the basket and element are removable so that if need be- you can really scrub the unit for storage.

Pumpkin Donut Holes with Cinnamon & Sugar

recipe adapted from everydaydishes.com

Ingredients:
1 ¼ C flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ C granulated sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large egg
¼ C buttermilk
½ C pumpkin puree
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
oil for frying
coating:

1 tsp cinnamon
¾ sugar

In a medium bowl, stir together dry ingredients less the sugar. Set aside. In the bowl of a KitchenAid Mixer, cream sugar & butter until smooth. Add egg and beat until incorporated. Reduce speed and stir in buttermilk, pumpkin and vanilla just until combined. Gradually add dry ingredients until a smooth batter forms - do not over mix! Cover batter and refrigerate 1 hour until firm.

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Heat T-fal fryer to 350 degrees.

Using a medium to small portion scoop, carefully drop batter into oil. Do not overcrowd. Allow balls to fry about 1 min or until dough begins to brown, roll each one over to equally brown other side.

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Carefully remove finished balls from oil with a spider and place on a paper towel lined plate for excess oil to drain off. Put cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and toss to combine. Add warm donut holes and roll to coat.

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Skewer 2-3 donut holes and use to garnish fresh juiced apple cider.

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Apple Cider:
Juice of 3 apples, any variety
Warm in a small pan on the cooktop to just below a boil with a cinnamon stick and whole cloves.

 

Fall is here - in fact, it's almost gone. It's getting cooler outside and the desire to 'treat' ourselves to something warm and delicious is palpable. It's time for baking sweets, for passing along treasured recipes and for trying new ones. Time to turn on the oven and share something special, something made by you in your own kitchen. It's time for what we call our Dessert Shop Demos and we've officially kicked off this treat season with our first Dessert Shop recipe: Cinnamon Pumpkin Pull Apart Bunt.

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Because it's now mid-October, we feel compelled to start eating all things pumpkin, so we swapped the traditional filling of our favorite cinnamon roll recipe for Petersen's Family Pantry Pumpkin Butter sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Then to make the presentation extra special - something you'd want to bring to your holiday table to share with guests - we opted to bake it in a bundt topped with rich melty cream cheese frosting. The result is a stunning loaf that could be casually pulled apart and dunked in a frosting pool, or delicately sliced and served as an after dinner companion to warm cider or hot cocoa. Anyway you decide to share it, it's an ooey-gooey treat that is definitely worth trying!

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Get the printable recipe here: Pumpkin Pull Apart Bundt

Ingredients: For the Dough
1 1/2 C water
2 Tbs yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 eggs
1/3 C oil
1/3 C honey
2 tsp salt
4-5 C flour
For Filling:
¼ C Petersen Pantry Pumpkin Butter
3 Tbs brown sugar (or more depending on how gooey you like your rolls)
1 tsp ground cinnamon

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Proof yeast with 1 1/2 C warm water and 1 tsp sugar.

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In the bowl of your KitchenAid mixer with dough hook attached, stir together egg, oil, honey and salt.

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(Tip: Measure oil first, and then the honey so they honey doesn't stick to your measuring cup)

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Stir in yeast mixture. Slowly add flour, one cup at a time until all is incorporated and dough forms a ball in the bowl.

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Let rise, covered, until double in size (about 1 hour).

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Roll dough into a rectangular shape.

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Spread pumpkin butter evenly over the dough.

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Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over the pumpkin butter.

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Roll lengthwise, cut into one inch sections and arrange in a well greased bundt pan. We used Nordic Ware's Anniversary Pan which has plenty of room and just enough shape for the dough to fill into as it rises.

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Let raise untill double in size (about 30-45 minutes). Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

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Top with Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 cubes butter, softened
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1 8 oz block cream cheese, room temp.
1 tsp Blue Cattle Truck Pure Mexican Vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice

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Cream butter and cream cheese together. Add powdered sugar and beat for 12 minutes. Add liquid flavors and beat for another 1-2 minutes. Spread over warm bundt and serve on a cake plate.

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You'll notice two different loaves pictured here, one from our Anchorage Store, (where we used extra brown sugar) and the second from our Wasilla Store, which rose quite a bit fuller and lent itself to an easier 'pull apart' than the first that we chose to serve sliced, revealing the lovely layers of pumpkin and cinnamon marbeling. We love being able to see those delicious swirls!

Join us each Friday through Christmas for another sweet recipe from the 'Dessert Shop'.

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DSC_0543 By Beth Brown, Kitchen Store Specialist

I am a huge proponent of ice cream makers. Homemade ice cream is the absolute best! Here’s the trouble: what if you don’t have an ice cream maker, or maybe don’t have room in your freezer for one? Well, if you’re on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen oodles of pins boasting “no churn” style ice cream, which seems to magically appear in beautiful loaf pans.

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We got sucked in, and decided to see what the hype was about. Well, it turns out that not only is no-churn ice cream delicious, it’s easy, and honestly does feel a little like magic.

I looked at several different recipes, and all of them had the same base: two cups of heavy cream and one 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk. That was it.

From there, you can add pretty much anything you want. Knowing the cloyingly sweet taste of sweetened condensed milk, I was highly skeptical how the finished product would taste. But we had to try it!

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We decided to split our first batch into three, and use mini loaf pans for each flavor (because MINI LOAF PANS!). Our second batch was chocolate, and we did a full batch of that (because CHOCOLATE). Here’s what we did:

First, we split the condensed milk evenly into three small bowls.

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Next, we whipped the cream until it made stiff peaks, using the KitchenAid Artisan mixer. While the cream was whipping, we mixed a pinch of salt into each bowl.

DSC_0336For our three flavors, we used Monin syrups—Desert Pear, Passion Fruit, and Salted Caramel. We used about 3 tablespoons of each flavor. (I added an extra half teaspoon of salt to the salted caramel ice cream.)

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Once the cream was whipped up, we divvied it out evenly into the three condensed milk mixtures, and folded them gently together, starting with one small dollop to break up the thickness of the condensed milk mixture, adding more until they were mixed with a uniform color and consistancy.

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After that, we just poured each flavor into a mini loaf pan, covered the tops with parchment paper, and put them in the freezer. We waited overnight to try them, but they should be frozen hard enough after 4-6 hours.

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For the chocolate ice cream, we decided to whip our cream in the Vitamix! It was fun and quick to use the blender, which made short work of the cream.

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For the condensed milk mixture, we added a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of vanilla, and half a cup of dark cocoa powder.

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Once the cream was ready, we did the same technique as before, folding the two mixtures together, placing in a chilled loaf pan, covering with parchment, and letting it hard freeze. Easy, right?

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The next day, we tried the finished product, and we were not disappointed!

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The ice cream froze nicely, and had a delightfully creamy texture, and scooped perfectly into our cones.

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Blueberry AK Pure Sea Salt makes a decadent topping to any scoop, like our salted caramel or even the dark chocolate.

Our four flavors looked beautiful together, and would be perfect for an ice cream party. This is one Pinterest idea that was definitely not a “Pinterest Fail!”

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Try it at home, with any one of our delicious Monin syrup flavors for easy ice cream, with or without the ice cream maker.

 

 

By Cheryl Shaffer, Chef Instructor

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July – what a terrific month!  We start off with Canada Day on the 1st., celebrating with our wonderful neighbors to the North and East, then zip right into our own Independence Day celebrations on the 4th.  Throughout the month we gather   families and friends for reunions, church picnics, fairs, vacations, camping trips, weekend getaways, and don’t forget, great fishing. Shucks, with almost round the clock sunshine we have oodles of time over our lower 48 friends to enjoy the weather, the scenery and life in general.  It’s a non-stop go time, or chill and relax atmosphere, depending on how you want to roll.
For a simple, inexpensive recipe for summer fun, how about whipping up some elephant ears, just like you’d find at the fair, but without the oversized price tag, and you control the portion size, so you can enjoy a treat without it being a total diet buster.  The elephant ears can be made at the counter and savored warm or allowed to cool to room temperature, packed in a picnic hamper and eaten on the go.  I honestly can’t say whether or not they would be as delicious on the second day, as I’ve never had them last that long.

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To make the elephant ears, you’re going to want to assemble the following ingredients and utensils:
2 Tablespoons instant yeast  (we use the Saf Instant Yeast)
1 cup warm water
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
3 Tablespoons butter
4 cups flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
vegetable oil for frying
oil or Vegalene cooking spray for the proofing bowl and plastic wrap
topping:   1 cup powdered / confectioner’s sugar
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
OR
Any of the delicious Allen & Petersen sweet sauces or jams or fresh fruit.

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I used our Zojirushi round fryer, but you could also use the T-Fal Deep Fryer, or a heavy frying pan, like the All Clad or Lodge frying pans, to fry the desserts on the stove top.  Now from experience, it’s easier to monitor your frying temperature using an electric frying appliance than stove top, even with a thermometer.  Remember, you want to keep your oil temperature at 350’F, to ensure even frying and to keep oil from burning or if too cool, being absorbed into your food.

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Now for the recipe:I used our Bosch mixer to mix and knead the dough, but you can just as easily use the Kitchen Aid stand mixer or mix and knead your dough by hand, which is a great muscle workout for your arms. (And should net you a second dessert because of the calories you burned off!).  Pour the warm water into the bottom of your mixing bowl and sprinkle the sugar and yeast over the top of the water.  Give it a stir, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes to ensure that the yeast is working.  (It should begin to bubble and release that wonderful yeast aroma.)

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In a small, microwave safe bowl, pour 1 cup of milk and heat it until the milk is warm, about 1 minute.  Add the butter and salt to the warm milk to soften the butter.

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Add four cups of flour and the ½ teaspoon cinnamon to the yeast / water / sugar mixture and then add the milk / butter and salt mixture, and mix.

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If using a mixer, with the dough hook, mix about 5 minutes on low.  The dough should come together into a ball and start getting more elastic.

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Spray a medium sized bowl with vegetable spray, or lightly grease it with oil, and place the dough ball inside.  Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with the non-stick spray and cover the top of the bowl.

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Set the bowl into a warm area for about 1 hour, or into a proofing oven for about 30 minutes, and allow the dough to double in size.

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When the dough is doubled in size, heat your vegetable oil to 350’F.

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Prepare a cutting board or area that you can roll out your elephant ears.  I used confectioner’s / powdered sugar instead of flour for my non-stick medium, so that my dough would not become tough.

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Pour out your dough onto the rolling surface and separate it into about 15 balls of dough.(Pinch off pieces or roll the dough into a log and slice it into 12-15 pieces.)

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Using your fingers or a small rolling pin, gently pat or roll the dough balls into 1/8” rounds.

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Carefully slip them into the hot oil, being careful to not crowd the pan, so that they will cook evenly and not drop your oil temperature.The dough should sizzle and brown around the edges in just a couple of minutes, then flip with a pair of tongs and allow them to brown on the second side.

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When the dough is nicely golden brown, remove from the oil with the tongs and allow the excess oil to drain back into the pan.  Place on a plate covered with paper towels to drain and begin cooling.

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Using a sifter or shaker, shake a nice “snowfall” of powdered / confectioner’s sugar over the top of the elephant ear or shake on some of the sugar / cinnamon mixture.  You can also leave the cooked dough plain and use a dessert sauce or jam spooned over the top.  I think they would be delightful served with fresh fruit and whipped cream instead of a traditional shortbread biscuit.  The dessert is great served warm, but even cooled to room temperature, this recipe is delicious and yields a doughnut-like pastry that holds up to being served cool later, if you wanted to transport it to a picnic or hold it for dinner later in the day.  I doubled the recipe and made half of dough for a demonstration, refrigerated what I didn’t fry the first day, (being sure to cover it with plastic wrap), then brought the dough to room temperature and fried it the next day with great results.

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Whether you enjoy the elephant ears the fresh, hot out of the oil, or cooled to be enjoyed later, I think the sweet, yeasty flavor and aroma is going to delight your senses and become a new favorite go-to recipe for celebrating summer in all it’s glory.  Who says you have to wait for the fair to treat yourself?  I’m thinking that the sunrise hike tomorrow deserves a couple of elephant ears, wrapped in foil, with some juicy, ripe peaches, to greet the morning from the top of the trail.  Join me?

By Cheryl Shaffer, Chef Instructor

 

Hi Food Friends;

How many of us associate memories in our lives with a particular food? Hands up- yes, I see the wheels turning and the corners of your mouth turning up as the ghost of a memory crosses your mind. We all have the ability to close our eyes and allow the whiff of a special holiday meal immediately take us back in time. Perhaps a meal with all of the extended family gathered round the table, a special place you’d get together for a Friday night after school and work are done for the week, Sunday dinners, Monday meatloaf, a visit to Grandma’s kitchen for cookies. For my kids in the later part of their high school years, when times were tight for us, we’d splurge and sit around the table at the sandwich shop at the local gas station, sharing a meal and laughing, catching up on each other’s lives. The location rarely mattered, only that we were together. The cohesive theme through all of the times is the figurative bread we broke together, sharing good food and of ourselves. Moments in time, gone in a flash, but brought back in an instant with the wafting of the scent of fresh bread on the air as you drive past a bakery; the memory of a great pie when a pizza delivery car zooms past you in traffic; the taste of a cookie sample, fresh from the oven when you visit our store.

The neat thing about memories and food, at least for me, is that you don’t have to have an exact replica of the original in order to invoke the memory flood. The smell of yeast alone, not yet combined with sugars, flour, eggs and butter, is enough to lead me to more than half a dozen wonderful visions of family and friends from the past, and the love poured into so many diverse recipes. People who live on only within my heart, people I see regularly, and even those from the realm of books and movies, who touched my life so profoundly- even though perhaps they never took a breath of air- their impact on my life is real to me. One sniff and the floodgates open, the smiles begin.

Today I want to share a recipe I cobbled together from the memories of times I shared cooking with my Mom.

 

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To begin with the tarts, you’ll want to get your shell crust ready first because it requires chilling time in the refrigerator or the freezer. I tripled the recipe in order to make enough shells. These measurements are for a TRIPLED recipe.

 

Tart Shells:

3 ¾ cups all purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon table salt

3 tablespoons sugar

18 tablespoons cold butter – cut it into small pieces

¾ cup vegetable shortening, chilled, cut into small pieces

6 tablespoons vodka – to keep the crust tender and flaky

6 tablespoons iced water

In a large chilled bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt together. Using a pastry tool, cut in the butter and shortening, until all of the flour is coated, and you have small pebbles of dough. You can also do this in a food processor, just use the pulse feature, short bursts, until everything is incorporated, but not over done. Be careful that you don’t over mix because you risk making the gluten fibers too strong with the flour and over heating the butter / shortening will keep the crust from staying tender and flaky. Remember: we’re making a pastry crust, not bread, so we don’t want to overwork our dough.

Next add the vodka and water, and using a non-stick spatula, you’ll want to fold the dough over on itself, and press down. Your dough is going to be super sticky, not like a regular pie crust dough. Have your tart shell mold ready, and put about 2 tablespoons of dough into each mold, or just enough to be able to use a pie tamper to press the dough into the mold and up the sides. Continue until all of your shells are formed. Cover the molds with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator or freezer while you are making the filling.

It’s important not to skip this step because you want your tarts to be cold before you put them into a hot oven, so that the heat will cause the butter / shortening and alcohol to rapidly expand and puff out the flour, trapping little pockets of air, giving you an extra light crust.

Here are a few alternative recipes that make equally delicious crust:

This is my friend, Sybil Robertson's Pastry Recipe.  I would double it, to use for the apple tarts:
4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup lard
1 cup Crisco
1 egg, slightly beaten, in a cup
2 tsp. vinegar
water
Combine dry ingredients and blend in shortening with a pastry blender.  Fill cup with beaten egg, vinegar, and with cold water and mix into the dry ingredients with a fork.  Mold slightly and chill.  Roll out as desired.
And- if you prefer not to use lard, here is a third choice:
2 1/4 cup Crisco shortening (butter flavor)
5 cups flour
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vinegar
cold water
In a bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Blend with a pastry blender until it forms pea sized balls.  Beat egg in a one cup measuring cup.  Add vinegar and fill the cup with cold water.  Pour over the flour mixture and blend to form a ball.  Chill 1-2 hours (or until it can easily be rolled out).
** DO NOT KNEAD TOO MUCH - or the crust will become tough.
This recipe will yield 4-5 pie crusts, depending on pan size, or enough dough to use all the caramel apple filling for tarts.

Now that your tart duty is out of the way, it’s time to get down to the truly fun part of the dessert: making the caramel apple filling. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

 

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Caramel Apple Filling:

6-8  apples, peeled, cored and sliced uniformly, approximately ¼” thick

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 stick butter, divided

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. fresh grated nutmeg (fresh grated tastes so much better than already ground in a jar – you’ll appreciate the flavor and fragrance)

½ tsp. ground ginger

1 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup heavy cream

Wash, core and peel your apples, a variety if you have them, choosing some that aren’t too sweet. I would not recommend Red Delicious, as they don’t hold up well with cooking.

In a large saute pan, (I used a 14” Swiss Diamond for non-stick and ease of clean up), melt half of the butter over medium high heat and add the apple slices. Sprinkle the spices and brown sugar over top and allow them to cook until the apples are softened and the sauce is starting to thicken. This might take about 20 minutes, depending upon how firm your apples were to start.

 

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Once the apples are softened, add the cream and vanilla extract. Now this is the tricky part. You’re going to want your sauce to not be too thin, and be able to set-up in the tart shell like a pie. A lot depends on how your apples cook down. If the sauce appears too thin, you can add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch mixed in 1 tablespoon of cold heavy cream. Add the mixture to the apples while stirring. This step is going to take a couple of minutes, as the cream / cornstarch is brought up to temperature, but should thicken up beautifully.

Once you have your caramel apple mixture cooked, to let it cool for about 20 minutes. Preheat your oven for 350’F. Pull the tart shells out of the refrigerator or freezer, and spoon the cooled mixture into the tarts, about ¾ from the top. Bake in the oven until the tarts are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool and remove from the tart mold. These are great served with ice cream or a little bit of heavy cream poured over the top, with a light grating of nutmeg. Enjoy!

 

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