SHF : Rustic Apple-Cranberry Tart

It feels like it's been ages since I've actually been on time enough to do a Sugar High Friday event. Usually it can be summed up to bad timing - or, well, forgetfulness. *shrug*

This month's theme is the holidays is hosted by Cherrapeno, a blog I've just recently discovered and drooled over. ;)

After a disastrous attempt at a Nutella flourless cake on Wednesday night, I wanted something fruity. On a whim, I wound up at the Ocean Spray website, thinking, hey, at the very least, maybe I'll find a coupon for Craisins. I wound up finding this (alas, no coupons), and was thrilled to see that it could be easily put together on Thursday afternoon.

I would love to tell you lovely folks that I made my own crust. But I won't lie. Pie dough is still very intimidating, and I'll conquer that... when I get there. :) While I love the combination of the sweet apples and the tart cranberries, this is easily adjustable to any fruit combination you'd like.

1 9-inch pie crust (store-bought or homemade)
21 ounces apple pie filling
1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen, chopped
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 400F. Place pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate.

Combine the apples, cranberries, and cinnamon, mixing well. Spoon into pie crust. Fold eges of pastry over fruit, pleating so that crust lies relatively flat. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 400F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F, and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until fruit is bubbly and crust is golden. Let cool a bit before serving. Makes about 8 servings.

Devil's Food Cupcakes (Christmas style)

Yay! I survived! ;)

I hope everyone reading had a fantabulous holiday, despite any mad rushing around or last-minute baking.

We had a relatively quiet Christmas. My aunt and uncle came over. Food was delicious, loud conversations ensued. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation was on all day on AMC. No matter how many times I see it, when the squirrel jumps out, I'm busting up with laughter.

The present-opening part held two good surprises for me. I've spoken in the past of wanting to get one of those vhs-to-dvd recorders, to preserve all the home movies and dance recitals and such; Dave got me one, which was a really, really big surprise. Secondly, between four gift cards, I've got about a hundred dollars worth to Barnes & Noble. :D

It's the end of the year, which means my annual 'end of the year' book. The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, is my FAVORITE book. I've lost count how many times I've read it over the past ten years. In order to, well, make my own tradition, I decided to read it but once a year. I'm quite confident that I'll finish it before midnight on the 31st; currently on page 363, out of 876. Slightly worried, yes, but I'm still posting this before it's a week old - woohoo! ;)

Anyways, I first made these about a year and a half ago? I wanted something simple and chocolatey. And who doesn't love cupcakes? :)

(Sorry, Mel, the duck didn't fully make this picture. But Stitch did!) ;)

½ cup boiling water
6 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup flour
½ + 1/8 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt

½ cup butter, softened
10 Tbsp. brown sugar
6 Tbsp. sugar
2 eggs

In a bowl, whisk boiling water into cocoa until smooth. Add in milk and vanilla; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a small bowl, sift flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in batches, alternating with cocoa mixture; beginning and ending with the flour. Fill liners about halfway full.

Bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Chocolate Ganache:
½ cup heavy cream
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chunks
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup

Heat the cream until boiling, then pour over chocolate, stirring to melt, adding the corn syrup. Dip each cupcake into ganache upside down to get a good coating on it.


Cheddar Scones

See, this is what happens when it's a snow day - Kristen actually posts in the blog. ;)

There's about 20 inches of the white stuff out there right now. I think snow days were much more fun as a kid. As an adult, you find yourself thinking about how much more work there'll be to do tomorrow. But as a kid, all that mattered was getting out there, building a snow slide, and staying out there for as long as your parents would let you.

Now I often refer to snow as that "dirty four-letter 's' word."

Sure, it's pretty and all - when you don't have to go out in it. We saw one plow come through - probably around 4am. This afternoon, an ambulance got stuck at the top of the street. A second one was called in, and had to back down the hill in order to get the woman to the hospital. Because one plow doing ONE trip up the street just doesn't cut it. I will get ranty if I continue on the subject of my city's obvious bias towards the downtown area and the section where the mayor lives. Hmph.

Alright, onto the scones! These are my very first ever homemade scones. My friend Steve isn't a huge fan of sweets, but is a big cheese fan. So, I offered. And it was... an experience. My dad played sous chef and cut more butter for me, and turned the water on when my hands were a big floury-buttery mess. I had visions of how Paula Deen must feel on a regular basis. ;)

Overall, for a first time, because of course I tried one, not bad. Next time? More cheese. And some cheese on the top of all of them. I found the basic recipe on AllRecipes, but altered it a bit as I went. So the recipe below is what I wound up doing.

2 cups self-rising flour
3 Tbsp. butter, cold, cut into small pieces
Pinch of salt
½ cup shredded cheese
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Sift flour and salt. Rub butter into flour lightly, until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Stir in cheese. Make a well in the center, and pour in milk, reserving 1 tablespoon. Mix until just combined.

Knead lightly and briefly on a floured surface. Press to make a 1-inch thick round. Cut into wedges (or whatever shape happens to be easiest, in my case). Brush lightly with reserved milk. Sprinkle a bit of cheese onto the top.

Bake at 425F for 10-20 minutes, or until light brown. Let cool briefly on wire rack. Serve warm or at room-temperature.

Minty Mint Chip Brownies

This past Tuesday was round one of the annual Christmas Baking Extravaganza. I've learned over the years that it's best to space it out a bit. Do the mailables first, then locals, then Christmas desserts. It's working, for the most part.

Three out of the five mailables were all things that I've done before. Which definitely made it a bit easier. The biggest problem? Four things needed an 8" pan. Of which I own two. That was fun. :P (Solved by doubling one recipe and then stowing the first dish in the fridge to cool faster)

This one is a slightly altered recipe from one previous this year. Amelia's my twin, and when faced with uncertainty on a baked good, I suggested something minty. Thus, minty brownies.

The batter both tastes and smells delicious. Earlier in the month, I found that Nestle put out some semi-sweet chocolate and mint chips - not swirled, though. But they're pretty enough in the dark chocolate batter. I had the tiniest smidgen of one and really enjoyed the flavor, and promises were made to my dad that more would be made, in order to keep him away from these. (That sentence seems awfully disjointed.)

The picture was a last minute one, right before it was put into the box. And that is my 'tiny' (6') tree in the background. :)

½ cup butter
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. peppermint extract
3/4 cup flour
1-1½ cups mint and chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease an 8-inch baking dish.

Melt butter and chocolate. Gradually beat into sugar. Add eggs and peppermint. Gradually add flour, beating until well combined. Stir in chips. Spread in prepared pan.

Bake at 325F for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack before cutting into bars. Makes about 16.