Monthly Archives: December 2008

Pine Nut Rosemary Shortbread

I only have one cookie cutter. It’s shaped like a dog bone. I bought it for a book club function — we bring foods that can be linked back to the book; this time it was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night and I was going to make dog-bone cookies. And then I didn’t.

So, when I was overtaken by the impulse to make Pine Nut Rosemary Shortbread, I realized they were going to be dog-bone shaped.

Or so I thought.

It’s no wonder I was drawn to this recipe. Rosemary? Sugar? It was going to be like the Barefoot Contessa’s Rosemary Cashews, but in cookie form. What could be better? And, there is no doubt, this recipe was a winner.

The stars of the show

But it wasn’t without its problems. Shortbread and I don’t get along. Once again, the dough absolutely shattered into pea-sized bits when I added the flour. I squished it into a ball and then two flat disks before putting it in the fridge, but when it came to rolling it out, it was a no go. Instead, I squished it back into logs and sliced it. I definitely liked the thicker slices better and would not hesitate to make them again this way. But, next time, I will take my mum’s advice and let the butter get so warm it’s almost sloppy before attempting this recipe. Apparently, I am too impatient when it comes to letting the butter get to room temperature and it was likely too cold when I started.

So, there were no dog-bone shaped shortbread cookies. Perhaps next time. Or perhaps not. It doesn’t matter, frankly, what shape these are, just as long as they get made.

This recipe comes from Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks. I’ve made a few changes, namely doubling the rosemary and using all-purpose flour. I am considering making this next time with brown sugar, just to see what that would be like.

Chopped ingredients for shortbread

Butter and lemon zest

Chilled dough

Sliced and ready

Pine Nut Rosemary Shortbread

Pine Nut Rosemary Shortbread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (seriously)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted and loosely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Mix flour and salt in a small bowl, using whisk to combine.

Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar and lemon zest, then beat again. Add flour mixture, nuts and rosemary and mix until the dough goes just past the crumbly stage and begins to clump together (Heidi’s words, not mine, obviously, because mine never got past this stage). Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and knead once or twice to bring it together. Divide into two balls and flatted into disks about one inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes. My way: squish into logs about one inch in diameter. Roll in plastic wrap and then refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment. If you went with the log method, slice into 1/4 inch rounds and place on baking sheet. (Some of mine were thicker than this and I liked them better.)  If you have a disk, roll out on lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters and place on baking sheet. Either way, bake for about 10 minutes or until slightly golden.

Key Lime Pie

Any Dexter fans out there?

Season Three has turned out to be even more intense than the previous two — something I didn’t think the writers could do. But after the episode where … WARNING, possible spoilers and a little bit of profanity ahead for anyone not keeping up with this season … Camilla asks Dexter to find her the perfect piece of key lime pie, I found myself wanting a taste of that myself.

Camilla: You know, Dexter, my whole life I’ve been searching for…

Dexter: The meaning of life.

Camilla: The perfect key lime pie. And what do I get when I’m about to croak? Fucking pie crust, Reddywhip and green Jell-o

End spoilers and profanity.

So, the research began. And, after flipping through pages of recipes, it became clear there were two things that made a key lime pie authentic: key limes and no dairy. (My understanding is that this pie was born at a time when there was no real refrigeration in the Florida Keys, which is why canned condensed milk is used.)

As usual, this adventure was not without its disasters, er, learning experiences.

One valuable lesson: just because a can doesn’t have an expiry date doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a shelf life.

I was all excited that I already owned a couple of cans of sweetened condensed milk. (Side rant: Why are the cans in Canada 300-milliletres and the U.S. ones come in 14 ounces? That means I need to use one full can and most of another, but am left with some, which really bugs me. We share a border, why can’t we share can sizes? Also, on that note, a lot of recipes that come from the States simply say “one can of sweetened condensed milk” so I had to find out exactly how much that was. Yes, yes, I could have mathematically figured out how to use up both cans, but that was going to be a lot of fractions. Not that I don’t love math, I just don’t want to do it all the time. Okay, moving on.) And I was excited that they had no expiry dates.

And then I opened them.

They had gone golden coloured, looking a bit like they were turning themselves into dulce de leche. A little googling indicated they were safe still to eat, but one person posted in a forum that they probably shouldn’t be used for something like Key Lime Pie, which should come out a very pale, creamy yellow colour. So, it was off to the grocery store for two more cans. Thinking about it later, it occurred to me that I actually had no idea when I bought those first two cans. Yikes.

Key limes. Teeny, tiny limes. Full of teeny, tiny amounts of juice. They weren’t hard to find — most grocery stores around here have mesh bags of them amongst the Persian limes and lemons — nor were they hard to squeeze. But it took about 16 of them to get all the juice the recipe called for.

Key Limes

So, I could have made one big pie (in my still relatively new pie dish), but then I was out shopping and spied baby tart tins. Oh yeah, have to have those. First, who doesn’t love individual desserts? Second, they were just so darn cute. And they were on sale. There, three very fine reasons to purchase more bakeware.

The tarts ended up a bit shallow for all that filling, so I threw the rest of the mixture into a ramekin and just baked it off. That was a pretty tasty dessert too.

I cut it close, but had them ready to go for Sunday when I and my Dexter-watching friends dined on them while watching the next episode.

And I get what Camilla was searching for.

Zesty limes

Key Lime massacre

The filling

Pie shells

Little pies pre-oven

Key Lime Pie

I kind of combined a couple of recipes here, and this is what I ended up with.

Key Lime Pie

  • 15 graham crackers, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 4 large eggs, yolks only
  • 1 3/4 cups sweetened condensed milk (14-ounce can)
  • 12 key limes, juiced (1/2 cup fresh lime juice; it took 16 limes for me)
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest

Preheat oven to 350

Beat egg yolks with a mixer until they lighten in colour and thicken. Add the zest and beat again. Add the juice and condensed milk, then thoroughly mix and let sit for 30 minutes as the mixture thickens.

Mix the crackers in a food processor until they are crumbs. Add sugar, then turn on processor and slowly pour in melted butter. Press into a nine-inch pie dish or tart pan and push up the sides slightly. Bake for 12 minutes until the pie shell is golden.

Pour mixture into the pie shell, and bake for 15 minutes. (Less if you are doing smaller, individual servings.) The centre should jiggle slightly when the pan is shaken.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before putting in the fridge. Let cool for another three hours before serving. Serve with whipped cream if desired. (I liked it with the whipped cream, even if it isn’t traditional, because it cuts the richness of the pie.)

Apple Crisp

Somewhere in the pit of my storage room is a blue binder with Cook Book written in scraggly, child’s printing — possibly in silver crayon. There are a handful of pages of three-hole punched, lined paper inside and a series of dividers labelled with things like “dinner” and “dessert.” And on one of those pages is a recipe for Apple Crisp. For some reason I can even remember misspelling the recipe title and then making a doodle out of the error so the A in Apple was a little house with a chimney. Because, you know, that’s the kind of stuff I remember.

Apple Crisp was not necessarily a staple in my house growing up, but it is a dessert that conjures up memories of home and family. (For the record, we did have a fair share of this homey dessert.) There is comfort in the smell of cinnamon and apple cooking together in the oven, in the taste of the golden crumbly topping and the soft, sweet apples underneath, and the intermingling of hot dessert and cold vanilla ice cream. It’s no wonder I view it as the security blanket of desserts.

It’s equally no wonder that when I find myself with a plethora of apples that there is only one recipe I turn to.

Apples

It’s relatively fast, doesn’t take much prep and offers up the best kind of aromatherapy — a house that smells of apples and cinnamon.

I’m sure most people peel their apples first, so you get nothing by smooth apple goodness when you bite into a spoonful of crisp. But I am:

a) lazy

b) aware that there are many good nutrients in the peel

(The answer is A.)

So, I just cut chunks of apple off the core and then slice into uniformly sized pieces before dumping them all into the pie dish where I then toss them with the spices and sugar.

I found several recipes online where the cinnamon and nutmeg were designated for the topping, but that makes no sense to me. I want to flavour the apples and let the simplicity of the brown sugar-oat topping to stand on its own.

Spiced Apples

Apple Crisp before baking

Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 6 cups sliced apples
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375. Slice the apples and toss with white sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg before pouring into pie dish (or a casserole dish works just as well). In separate bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, salt and rolled oats. Cut butter into flour mixture with pastry blender or two knives until mixture is crumbly. Pour over apple mixture. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until topping is golden and juices are bubbling up at the edges.