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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake Pie

I. Love. Pumpkin. Pie. In fact, let’s be honest: I love pumpkin anything. But pumpkin pie is the very pinnacle of all pumpkin desserts as far as I’m concerned. I used to make a traditional pumpkin pie every year, but last year I went in a different direction, rolling out a brand-new type of pie, and haven’t looked back since. This new pie, the Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake Pie, is my definitive holiday pie. It is like three desserts wrapped into one, and although it might sound busy, this pie has the most wonderful blending of flavors that results in my favorite Thanksgiving dessert.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

This year, I decided to add some desserts to my Thanksgiving repertoire, and after spying this eye-appealing recipe on the Williams-Sonoma site, I decided to try my hand at a cranberry upside down cake. So with a few ideas taken from a similar recipe from Martha, I concocted my own version of this recipe that combined what I felt were the best elements of both, plus some additional mods from moi.

But before we get to that, let’s talk cranberries!

Honey Cornbread Muffins

I love multiple iterations of a holiday. You know, when you celebrate the same holiday several times in a given season? Take Thanksgiving, for example. I just celebrated it (with friends) last week, and I’ll be celebrating it again (with family) next week. In my family, because of everyone’s schedules and obligations, it isn’t unusual to celebrate Christmas, and then “Second Christmas” and occasionally “Third Christmas.” As an avid baker and budding chef, I relish the multiple opportunities to not only make the staples that people expect year after year, but also to change things up a bit or try out new recipes. Multiple holiday celebrations are like gigantic experiments where I can field test different creations.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hazelnut Truffles (aka Nutella Balls)

I’ve actually mentioned nut butter balls before, in one of my very first posts, when I was mulling over potential ideas for wedding favors. I briefly described a basic general process for making candy balls from any nut butter (I have seen peanut, almond, cashew and macadamia nut in Wegman’s). Since I made Nutella balls this past weekend for a party, I thought now would be a great time to go back for a recap, especially since I tweaked the recipe a bit for a richer truffle.

Nutella is a kind of gianduia, that is, a chocolate paste containing about 30% hazelnuts. The generic name comes from Gianduja, a marionette featured heavily in the Italian Carnival (the festival season immediately preceding Lent).  Gianduja the puppet (whose name literally means something like ”John the pottering man”) is portrayed as the archetypal provincial Piedmontese character, honest, loyal, with a love of good wine and pretty girls. Typically wearing a tricorne hat and brown coat trimmed in red, Gianduja is the official “King of the Carnival” in Turin, the capital of Piedmont. Gianduja the chocolate was also an invention of Turin, by the chocolate company Caffarel in 1853 (Caffarel, incidentally, still exists and is now a subsidiary of Lindt). In 1946, Pietro Ferrero, also of Piedmont, formulated a solid block of “Pasta Gianduja” for retail, followed closely by a soft “Supercrema” version in 1951. In 1964, Supercrema got a new formulation and name: Nutella; and today there are nearly 200,000 tons of it produced every year!