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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Cookies/Cake/Pastry

PASSOVER: Danny Macaroons

Passover is around the corner, and macaroons are on the menu. The soft, coconut cookies are a delight year-round, but especially appreciated by Passover observers. Made of shredded coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and egg whites—without the flour or leavening that are verboten during this holiday—they happily replace other baked sweets. (They’re gluten-free, too.)

Dan Cohen of Danny’s Macaroons and author of The Macaroon Bible, is one of the country’s—and probably the world’s—great macaroon makers. Beyond his grandmother’s plain and chocolate dipped, he’s brought macaroons into the new flavor age.

The cookies are made with kosher ingredients, but are not kosher for Passover. Still, those who observe the spirit of the law if not the letter of it, will enjoy every bite.

DANNY MACAROON FLAVORS

Just take a look at these choices:

 

the-macaroon-bible-230

Get the book and bake your own! Photo courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

  • Amarena Cherry, topped with an semi-candied cherry
  • Baileys McRoons
  • Bourbon
  • Black Chocolate Stout
  • Chocolate Almond
  • Chocolate Banana Nut
  • Chocolate Caramel
  • Chocolate Dipped
  • Chocolate Malted
  • Guava
  • Jamstand Surprise with spicy raspberry jalapeño jam
  • Maple Pecan Pie
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly
  • Plain Coconut
  • Red Velvet
  • Rice Pudding
  • Spiced Pumpkin
  • Stoopid, coconut macaroons are filled with potato chips, pretzels and pieces of Butterfinger, then drizzled with dark chocolate (how this relates to stupid, we can’t say)
  •  
    Get yours at DannyMacaroons.com.

     

    box-danny-macaroons-southportgrocery-230

    How many flavors do we want? All of them!
    Photo courtesy Southport Grocery.

     

    THE HISTORY OF MACAROONS

    “Macaroon” means different things to different people. To some, it’s a big ball of coconut, to others, a delicate, airy meringue. Both are delicious and neither is made with flour, making them options for gluten-free observers and for the Jewish holiday of Passover.

    The first macaroons were almond meringue cookies similar to today’s Amaretti di Saronno, with a crisp crust and a soft interior. They were made from egg whites and almond paste.

    Macaroons traveled to France in 1533 with the pastry chefs of Catherine de Medici, wife of King Henri II. Two Benedictine nuns, Sister Marguerite and Sister Marie-Elisabeth, seeking asylum in the town of Nancy during the French Revolution (1789-1799), paid for their housing by baking and selling the macaroon cookies, and thus became known as the “Macaroon Sisters” (the French word is macaron, pronounced mah-kah-RONE).

    Italian Jews adopted the cookie because it has no flour or leavening, the agent that raises and lightens a baked good, such as baking powder and baking soda (instead, macaroons are leavened by egg whites).

     

    The recipe was introduced to other European Jews and became popular for Passover as well as a year-round sweet.Over time, coconut was added to the ground almonds in Jewish macaroons, and, in certain recipes, completely replaced them.

    Coconut macaroons are more prevalent in the U.S. and the U.K.—and they’re a lot easier to make and transport than the fragile almond meringues that became the norm in France.

    Here’s more macaroon history.

      

    Comments

    PASSOVER: Flourless Persian Pistachio Cake

    This recipe comes via Chef Jennifer Abadi and Zabar’s. The aromatic, citrus notes of cardamom add flair to a simple cake.

    Preparation time is one hour; the cake yields eight to ten servings.

    RECIPE: FLOURLESS PERSIAN PISTACHIO CAKE
    WITH CARDAMOM SYRUP

    Ingredients

    Dry Ingredients

  • 2 cups shelled, unsalted pistachios
  • 1 cup matzoh meal
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground cardamom
  •  
    Wet Ingredients

  • 3 extra large eggs (or 4 large eggs), lightly beaten
  • ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • ½ cup water
  •  

    flourlesss-persian-pistachio-cake-jenniferAbadi-zabars-230

    Ground nuts replace flour in cakes for Passover. Photo courtesy Zabar’s.

     
    For Decoration

  • 3 tablespoons shelled, unsalted pistachios, as decoration
  •  

    cardamom-pods-farmgirlgourmet-230

    Cardamom pods. Photo courtesy Heather
    Scholten | Farmgirl Gourmet.

      For Cardamom-Sugar Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • Few pinches black pepper
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 4 crushed cardamom pods
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F.

    2. POUR pistachios into a food processor and pulse until they become a fine meal-like consistency, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the matzoh meal and pulse together an additional minute.

    3. POUR ground pistachio mixture into a medium size bowl and combine with remaining dry ingredients.

    4. ADD the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well.

     

    5. POUR the batter into a greased 8- or 9-inch square baking pan and sprinkle with whole pistachios. Bake on the middle rack for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and center of cake is soft but not wet (cake should still be fairly moist). Meanwhile, prepare the syrup.

    6. COMBINE the sugar, salt, pepper, and water in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to a bubbling simmer over medium heat. Add the ground cardamom and cardamom pods, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (the liquid will thicken slightly). Remove from heat.

    7. REMOVE cake from oven and cool 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into squares and serve at room temperature sprinkled with the cardamom-sugar syrup.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Cake Pops & Cake Balls

    baby-cakes-pop-maker-230sq

    Baby Cakes cake pop maker. Photo courtesy Baby Cakes.

     

    If you’ve never made cake pops but would like to if it were easy, the Babycakes Pop Maker is a fool-proof, inexpensive appliance that make round balls of cake.

    The original cake pops recipe involves baking a cake, crumbling it into a large pan, adding frosting to stick the crumbs together, and then forming cake balls with your hands.

    The Baby Cakes cake pop maker delivers a similar result with less effort. Simply pour 2 tablespoons of cake or brownie batter into each hole, close the lid and bake for about 7 minutes. Dip the cake balls into melted chocolate or other flavor or peanut butter chips, or sprinkle with powdered sugar.

    You don’t even need sticks: Eat the cake balls like doughnut holes. You can inject a filling—jam, chocolate sauce, custard or pudding—into the balls with the injector tool provided.

     
    The machine can also be used to make wonderful baked hushpuppies and potato balls (which you can make on a slow day and freeze), and bread balls, like cornbread.

    One box of mix makes 4 dozen balls.

    Make cake balls for an Easter treat, an anytime sweet, and a last-minute treat if someone drops by for coffee. By the time you brew the coffee, the cake balls can be ready. With Baby Cakes, it’s always party time.

    It’s also a fun gift for teens and tweens, who can make cake pops and cake balls for their friends.

    And, you can make “cake” in hot summer months without turning on the oven.

     

    The cake pop maker, which bakes 12 cake balls at a time, is $25.20 on Amazon.com. It includes:

  • 75 cake pop sticks and a filling injector
  • Recipes, a plastic cake pop stand and a fork tool for removing the balls without tearing them.
  •  
    You can buy a more elaborate cake pops serving tray for parties, and this much more glamorous cake pop tower.

    BAKING TIPS

  • Let the cake mix sit in the bowl for a few minutes, so it can start to rise.
  • Even though the baking plates are nonstick, lightly grease/spray the pan before adding the batter.
  • It may take a couple of tries to learn how high to fill the cups before baking in order to achieve perfection.
  • Be sure the lid is closed straight (or the balls can come out lopsided).
  • Save the styrofoam packing to hold cake pops as you dip them. Just make holes with an ice pick.
  •  

    175-best-babycakes-cake-pops-230

    Treat yourself to a recipe book like this one for decorating inspiration.

     

    There are several cake pops recipe books that show many ways to decorate cake pops—even if you’re not particularly dextrous.

    Then, you’re set for many hours of food fun.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: April Fool—It Isn’t Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese

    We’re cooking up some food fun for tomorrow, April Fool’s Day. This year, it’s trompe-l’oeil food.

    Trompe-l’oeil (pronounced trump LOY), French for “deceive the eye”, is an art technique that creates the optical illusion that a piece of two-dimensional art exists in three dimensions. You may have seen some amazing sidewalk art that fools you into thinking you’re about to step into a hole, a pool, etc.

    We’re adapting the “deceive the eye” reference to “food trompe-l’oeil”—food that looks like one thing but is actually another. Serve this “grilled cheese and tomato soup” dish, which is actually orange pound cake and strawberry soup.

    Thanks to Zulka Morena sugar for the recipes and fun idea. If you’ve got a great palate or simply preferred less processed sugar, try it. The top-quality sugar is minimally processed and never refined. You can taste the difference!

     

    strawberry-soup-orange-pound-cake-zulkasugar-230

    April Fool’s food: Standing in for tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich are strawberry soup and pound cake. Photo courtesy Zulka Sugar.

     

    RECIPE: ORANGE POUND CAKE

    Ingredients

    For The Pound Cake

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  •  
    For the Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract or juice
  • 2-5 drops natural orange food color
  •  

    zulka-morena-cane-sugar-2-230

    Zulka makes less processed, better tasting
    sugar. Photo courtesy Zulka Sugar.

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a standard loaf pan.

    2. CREAM together in a medium bowl the butter, sugar and orange zest until fluffy. Add the eggs in 3 parts, combining well after each addition. In a separate small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture until just combined. Add the sour cream and orange juice and mix well.

    3. POUR into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top, and bake for 1 hour or longer, until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean. If the top starts to brown too much before the cake is done, tent with a piece of foil.

    4. REMOVE from oven; cool in pan for 10 minutes then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

    5. MIX the frosting ingredients together until well combined. Add more food color as needed to reach desired color.

    6. ASSEMBLE: Slice the pound cake into 1/2 inch slices. Spread a small amount of butter on one side and grill on a griddle or skillet until toasted looking, being careful not to burn. Let cool completely. Repeat with remaining slices. Once all are cool, cut them each in half to make the two halves of each “sandwich.” Spread about a tablespoon of frosting on a non-toasted side of the cake, spreading some to the edges to make it look like melted cheese, and then top with the other half. Repeat with remaining slices.

     

    RECIPE: CHILLED STRAWBERRY SOUP

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 2 pounds strawberries, stems removed and hulled
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 1-1/2 cups plain or vanilla yogurt
  • Optional: yellow food color
  • Optional garnishes: 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream, fresh basil leaves
  •  
    Preparation

    1. DICE the strawberries, sprinkle the sugar over the top and let sit for 15 minutes. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. Let chill completely. If you want the color to be more orange, like tomato soup, add a few drops of yellow food color.

    2. DIVIDE among 6 bowls. Drizzle a little heavy cream over the top and garnish with basil leaves.

    APRIL FOOL’S DAY HISTORY

    The origin of April Fools’ Day, sometimes called All Fools’ Day, is obscure. The most accepted explanation traces it to 16th century France.

    Until 1564, the Julian calendar, which observed the beginning of the New Year in April, was in use. According to The Oxford Companion to the Year, King Charles IX then declared that France would begin using the Gregorian calendar, which shifted New Year’s Day to January 1st.

    Some people continued to use the Julian Calendar, and were mocked as fools. They were invited to bogus parties, sent on a fool’s errand (looking for things that don’t exist) and other pranks.

    The French call April 1st Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish. French children sometimes tape a picture of a fish on the back of their schoolmates, crying “Poisson d’Avril” when the prank is discovered.

    What a fish has to do with April Fool’s Day is not clear. But in the name of a kinder, gentler world, we propose eliminating this holiday. (Source: Wikipedia)

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: DoubleTree Chocolate Chip Cookies

    The clever media relations people at DoubleTree by Hilton know just how to get a busy writer to take time from the editorial calendar* and apportion it to them.

    Because you’ve got to love people who send you delicious chocolate chip cookies. In thanks, you’ve got to write about them. So here goes:

    DoubleTree guests know that a warm chocolate chip cookie will be waiting for them on arrival. In its 25 year history, more than 300 million cookies have been handed out at DoubleTree by Hilton hotels around the world.

    The popular cookies are also sold in the hotel gift shops and online

    Three and a half inches in diameter, in a soft and chewy style, the cookies have no nuts but a hint of cinnamon. It’s a nice touch that we must remember to try the next time we bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

    Each cookie is approximately two full ounces, filled with an average of 20 chocolate chips. More than 580,000 pounds of chocolate chips are used each year in the 21 million cookies given out.

     

    doubletree-chocolate-chip-cookie-230

    Cookie care: Send some to a loved one. Photo courtesy DoubleTree by Hilton.

     
    Cookie Care

    DoubleTree has donated more than one million cookies to communities where it operates hotels: to doctors and nurses, homeless shelters and orphanages, food banks and firefighters.

    If you’re a Hilton Honors member, you can enter the Cookie Care sweepstakes on Facebook to win cookies for yourself and the person(s) you’ll share them with. Not an Honors member? You can sign up via the Facebook page.

    Coming soon, the cookie dough will be available for sale online, so those who have become very fond of the cookies don’t need to check into the hotel in order to have a warm one.

    Now for the burning question: Why can’t airlines serve these cookies in First Class instead of the thanks-but-no-thanks oil-based, butterless cookies they serve?

     
    *Publications chart their schedule of articles on an “editorial calendar,” a calendar which shows what will be published every day (or, for weekly and monthly periodicals, every week/month).

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cookies & Cream Cheesecake

    Some might think that we publish too many cheesecake recipes. But when cheesecake is one’s favorite comfort food, how many is too many?

    Plus, we need to get our last licks: “Cheesecake season” concludes at the end of spring. The dense cream cheese cheesecake we favor is too heavy for summer. So this may be our last recipe until fall.

    The recipe is from Lauryn Cohen, a.k.a. Bella Baker. Says Lauryn:

    “This is easily the best cheesecake I’ve ever made: a chocolate wafer cookie crust, a rich and creamy cheesecake layer, crushed Oreo cookies mixed into the silky batter and topped with a drizzle of chocolate ganache, chocolate whipped cream and more Oreo cookies.”

    We made it for National Oreo Day, March 6th.

    RECIPE: COOKIES & CREAM CHEESECAKE

    Ingredients

    For The Crust

  • 1-1/2 cups finely crushed chocolate wafer cookies (reserve one cookie for garnish)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  •  

    Cookies & Cream cheesecake: a fusion of two favorites. Photo courtesy Bella Baker.

     

    For The Filling

  • 3 eight-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature (Lauryn used two packaged of reduced fat and one package of regular; we used three packages of full fat organic cream cheese)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup 2% milk
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 15 mini Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped for the batter
  •  

    Save a chocolate wafer cookie to decorate
    the center. Photo courtesy Bella Baker.

     

    TOPPINGS

    For The Chocolate Ganache

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
  •  
    For The Chocolate Whipped Cream

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Approximately 25 mini Oreo cookies
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 325°F. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

    2. MIX melted butter with Oreo crumbs and sugar and press into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 5 minutes and set aside.

    3. BEAT cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high until fluffy, making sure that there are no clumps. Slowly add sugar and continue beating cream cheese until mixed well. Add eggs one at a time and continue to beat until blended. Add the vanilla, salt and milk; beat until smooth and creamy. Add the flour and beat until batter is satiny smooth. Stir in the coarsely chopped Oreo cookies with a spoon.

    4. POUR cream cheese mixture into the pan and bake for one hour and 15 minutes. After that time, turn oven off and keep oven door slightly open. Let the cheesecake stay in the oven for one hour. Remove from the oven and let cool enough to place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

    5. MAKE the ganache: Place heavy cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Place chopped chocolate in a medium sized bowl. Once heavy cream has reached boiling pour half the heavy cream over the chopped chocolate. Let sit for 30 seconds, then gently stir chocolate and cream together with a rubber spatula in a figure eight motion. Pour remaining heavy cream over chocolate and continue to gently stir. Add butter, one piece at a time, until ingredients are fully incorporated and the ganache is smooth and glossy.

    6. MAKE the chocolate whipped cream: Beat heavy cream on high speed for about 2-3 minutes. Once mixture has started to thicken, add add cocoa powder and sugar and continue beaten until whipped cream mixture has formed.

    7. GARNISH the chilled cake. Drizzle chocolate ganache over the top of the cake, in the grid pattern shown in the photo or in your own artistic interpretation. Pipe the chocolate whipped cream in mounds around the rim of the cake and in the center. Place one mini Oreo in each mound of whipped cream, and a chocolate wafer cookie in the center.

    While this recipe may seem over the top to some, you’ll note that it’s a relatively flat cake—torte-like, not like the often-found three-inch-high/four-inch-high New York cheesecake.

    So a slice is an indulgence, but not a jumbo indulgence.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Decorate With Sixlets

    Recently a friend gave us a cache of Sixlets left over from Halloween. She didn’t want to keep them for next Halloween, and figured we could “do something for THE NIBBLE” with them.

    So we started to decorate desserts.

    None of our efforts looked as good as the examples on Sixlets’ Facebok Page, so take a look and get inspired.

    Sixlets are a boon for easy cake and cupcake decorating.

  • They’re perfectly round hard-coated chocolate candies like M&Ms, but less cloying* and less “commercial.” (M&M’s have their place, and it isn’t everywhere.)
  • They’re available in every color you could want, like jelly beans, but are smaller and easier to work with.
  • They’re larger than colored dragées, and are much more pleasant to eat.
  • They’re sold in individual colors plus seasonal mixes (autumn, Christmas, Halloween, etc.).
  •  

    sixlets-argyle-cake-hellocupcake-230

    You don’t have to be this painstaking, but it sure is impressive. Argyle Candy Cake by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, authors of Hello, Cupcake!

     

    sixlets_pastel_sixlets-230

    Get ready for Easter: You can buy pastel
    Sixlets in bulk online. Photo courtesy Sixlets.

     

    Sixlets are made by Sweetworks, a Toronto-based company. You may know them in individual packages from the candy stand, but they are available in bulk for serious decorating: in 1, 2, 5 and 10 pound bags.

    The line is certified kosher (OU-dairy) and is gluten-free.

    We used them:

  • To cover the sides of frosted cakes
  • To cover the exposed sides of whoopie pies
  • As cupcake toppings
  • Layered in a parfait
  •  
    We’re planning ahead for a red, white and blue “flag cake” for Independence Day.

     
    Now it’s your turn!

    *Unlike the super-sugary M&M’s chocolate centers, the centers of Sixlets are made from a mix of cocoa and carob, giving them a kind of “malted chocolate” taste.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Walkers’s Scottie Dog Shortbread & Mini Scottie Dogs

    Recently Walkers Shortbread unveiled the newest addition to their beloved Scottie Dog collection: Mini Scottie Dog Shortbread cookies.

    The pure-butter Mini Scottie “puppies” are made from 100% natural ingredients. They’re a treat for kids and adults.

    The Mini Scottie Dogs are available for purchase online at USWalkersShortbread.com and at select specialty retailers nationwide.

    For extra fun, serve an assortment of “moms” (the regular size shortbread Scotties) and “puppies.”

  • Enjoy them as a snack with coffee, tea or milk (still we love milk and cookies).
  • Serve as a garnish with a scoop of ice cream.
  • Insert into the tops of cupcakes.
  • Use a whole “litter” and “parents” to decorate cakes.
  •  
    How else would you have fun with them?

     

    scotties-reg-mini-kalviste-230

    Moms, Dad and “pups,” the new Walkers Shortbread minis. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Leprechaun Gingerbread Men

    irish-gingerbread-men-grandmasmolassesFB-230

    Leprechaun gingerbread men. Photo courtesy
    Grandma’s Molasses and Brown Eyed Baker.

     

    Alas, leprechauns don’t deliver treats on St. Patrick’s Day (they could take a tip from the Easter Bunny). You’ll have to bake your own leprechaun gingerbread men.

    Make your own gingerbread cookie recipe or use this one from Brown Eyed Baker for Grandma’s Molasses:

    RECIPE: GINGERBREAD MEN

    Ingredients For 30 Cookies

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon. baking soda
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 12
    pieces and softened slightly
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  •  
    PREPARATION

    1. USE a food processor fitted with steel blade. In the workbowl process flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and baking soda until combined, about 10 seconds.

    2. SCATTER butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is sandy and resembles very fine meal, about 15 seconds. With machine running, gradually add molasses and milk; process until dough is evenly moistened and forms soft mass, about 10 seconds. (Alternatively, in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and baking soda at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and add butter pieces; mix at medium-low speed until mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1½ minutes. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, gradually add molasses and milk; mix until dough is evenly moistened, about 20 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds.)

    3. SCRAPE dough onto work surface; divide in half. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll ¼-inch thick between two large sheets of parchment paper. Leaving dough sandwiched between parchment layers, stack on cookie sheet and freeze until firm, 15 to 20 minutes. (Alternatively, refrigerate dough 2 hours or overnight.)

    4. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

    5. REMOVE one dough sheet from freezer; place on work surface. Peel off top parchment sheet and lay it back in place. Flip dough over; peel off and discard second parchment layer. Cut dough into gingerbread people or round cookies, transferring shapes to parchment-line cookie sheets with a wide metal spatula, spacing them ¾-inch apart. Repeat with remaining dough until cookie sheets are full.

    6. BAKE cookies until set in centers and dough barely retains imprint when touched very gently with fingertip, 8 to 11 minutes, rotating cookie sheet from front to back halfway through baking time. Do not overbake. Cool cookies on sheets 2 minutes, then remove with wide metal spatula to wire rack; cool to room temperature.

    7. GATHER scraps; repeat rolling, cutting and baking in steps 3 and 5. Repeat with remaining dough until all dough is used.

    6. DECORATE with royal icing once cookies are cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

     
    ROYAL ICING RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 4 egg whites, beaten
  • Optional: food color (for gingerbread, green and yellow)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SIFT together sugar and cream of tartar.

    2. BEAT in 4 beaten egg whites with an electric mixer. Beat for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape.

    3. TINT with food color as desired.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: A Caramel Popcorn Pie For National Pi Day

    caramel-corn-pie-kaminsky-230

    Caramel custard popcorn pie with a caramel
    corn topping. Who can resist? Photo ©
    Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

    March 14 is National Pi Day: 3.14 (get it?). And this is a very special National Pie Day: It’s 3.14. (actually, 3.14159265359, so next year will be the full-on Pi Day, 3.14.15). The next “double pi day” won’t be until March 14, 2114. So celebrate double pi day while you can.

    Food enthusiasts have co-opted the day as “pie” day—any excuse for a piece of pie! (And for this special year, two pieces of pie.)

    One of our favorite bakers, Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog, developed this terrific fusion: caramel corn atop caramel custard pie.

    “For all the love that popcorn wins as a standalone snack,” says Hannah, “it strikes me as a huge failure of creativity that there aren’t more attempts at popcorn cupcakes, popcorn cookies or popcorn pies.

    “Luckily, with a bit of custard and caramel, this is a problem we can fix. In this pie, notes of burnt sugar compliment a buttery undertone, accented with a good pinch of salt. If you’re craving popcorn, it might be a wise idea to think inside the crust.”

    A tip from Hannah: The caramel corn topping takes a bit longer to bake than the pie itself, so your best bet is to prepare it in advance. Preheat the oven to 225°F and line a jellyroll pan with a piece of parchment paper or a Silpat.

     
    Note that you will be making two four-cup batches of caramel corn: one for the custard pie filling and one for the topping (and extra snacking).
     
    RECIPE: HANNAH KAMINSKY’S CARAMEL CORN PIE

    Ingredients For 8 To 12 Servings

    For The Crunchy Caramel Corn Topping

  • 4 cups freshly popped popcorn (from about 1/4 cup kernels—popping instructions below)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon light agave nectar (or 1-1/3 tablespoons sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  •  
    For The Caramel Corn Pie Filling

  • 4 cups freshly popped popcorn (from about 1/4 cup kernels—popping instructions below)
  • 2-1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon whole flaxseeds, ground
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  •  
    Plus

  • 1 unbaked pie crust
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the caramel corn (see popping tips below.) Then place the first four cups of popped corn in a large bowl near the stove.

    2. COMBINE the brown sugar, butter, agave and salt in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cook at a vigorous bubble while stirring continuously for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the baking soda. It will foam and bubble angrily, but don’t just stand around and watch it: Make haste and pour the mixture all over the popcorn. Toss to coat each and every kernel, and spread the syrupy corn out in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.

    3. BAKE for about 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. It will become perfectly crisp once cool, so despite the tempting aroma, resist the urge to take a bite until it reaches room temperature.

    4. REMOVE the popcorn from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 325°F.

    5. MAKE the custard filling by combining the second measure of popped corn with the milk in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and turn off the heat. Let sit for 1 hour for the corn to soften and infuse into the liquid.

     

    popcorn-kernels-trio-230

    Sure, you could use pre-popped caramel corn. But for the freshest flavor, pop your own. Photo of heirloom popcorn kernels by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

     
    6. TRANSFER the popcorn milk to a blender or food processor and thoroughly purée. Process at least 5 full minutes at high speed to break down the kernels as much as possible, longer if necessary. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing to get all the liquid out. Discard the solids.

    7. POUR the popcorn milk back into the medium saucepan and vigorously whisk in all the remaining ingredients for the filling. When perfectly smooth, turn on the heat to medium and bring to a boil while stirring continuously, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent the mixture from burning. Once the mixture has thickened to the point that the bottom of the pan remains visible when you stir—without the filling immediately flowing back over the surface—turn off the heat and quickly transfer the filling to the unbaked pie shell.

    8. BAKE until the custard is set and browned on top, about 45-50 minutes. The center should still be a bit jiggly when tapped, much like a cheesecake. Let cool completely and top with a generous mound of the crunchy caramel corn topping before serving at room temperature.
     
    CORN POPPING INSTRUCTIONS

    1. PLACE the popcorn kernels in a medium-size brown paper bag. If you’re not sure if the bag is big enough, err on the side of caution and pop the corn in two separate batches. Use cellophane or masking tape to seal the bag shut, and put it in the microwave.

    2. SELECT the “popcorn” setting if available, or set the timer for 3½ minutes at full power.

    3. LISTEN carefully: When the popping slows to about once every 3 seconds, remove the bag. Open it very carefully, making sure your hands and face are out of the way—the steam can be quite hot. Sift out any unpopped kernels.

      

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