Pecan Chews with Small Batch Bourbon

Season’s Greetings! Feliz Navidad! Merry Yule! Joyeux Noël!

Whatever it is you are celebrating this winter, I’m pretty sure it is an occasion where family and friends and cookies are involved.

Pecan Chews with Small Batch Bourbon~ Erin's DC Kitchen

I love doing traditional Christmas cookies this time of year. I’ve already posted some of my family favorites which I make literally every year, here and here and here. Um, what is there not to love about adorable little holly wreaths laced with marshmallow creme? Or buttery, flakey little cookies sandwiched with a whipped frosting tinted holiday colors? Nothing, that’s what.

But, my dear husband requested something “new and interesting”. I promptly informed him I would be making the traditional cookies as I always do, but suggested he pick out a recipe or two from my Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies special issue magazine and I would make it for him.

Pecan Chews with Small Batch Bourbon~ Erin's DC Kitchen

He zeroed in on these delightfully chewy, nutty and very grown-up cookies. These drop cookies come with an extra boost of holiday cheer from a key ingredient– small-batch bourbon. Not only are they yums, but small scale distilleries are all the rage right now (God, is that saying even used anymore? Apparently yes, and by me) so these cookies are a perfect gift for the boozy trendsetter in your life.

Okay, to the recipe!

Pecan Chews with Small Batch Bourbon

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • scant 1/4 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
  • 1/2 cup butter, soft
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup small batch bourbon, we used Four Roses
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped toasted pecans*

Combine flour, salt, spices and 1 cup of the chopped pecans in a bowl, set aside. In a small saucepan, warm the molasses and butter over low heat, stirring often until the butter is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool, then stir in the bourbon. I highly recommend not adding the bourbon when the mixture is too hot, it is will immediately cook off the alcohol. Take your time to let it cool, and you will be rewarded with a finished product that actually tastes a little boozy. 🙂

Next, whisk the brown sugar into the molasses-bourbon mixture and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Stir the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and chill the dough for 1 hour or more. The dough needs to be nicely chilled because it is too soft otherwise which makes rolling the dough into balls difficult.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Using a tablespoon size scoop of dough, roll it between your hands to shape a ball, then roll the ball into the remaining 2 cups of chopped pecans. Here is a picture of the pre-baked balls.

Pecan Chews with Small Batch Bourbon

Place on a baking sheet, allowing a little room between the cookies to spread. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes– cookies are done when the edges are browned and they have flattened out. The center may look slightly undone, but it is fine as long as the edges are browned. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack, as the warm cookies are very floppy. As the cookies cool completely, they will firm up, but still stay deliciously chewy inside.

*Note: To toast pecans, spread whole pecans in a single layer onto a cookie sheet and bake in 350° oven for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Once the nuts smell fragrant, take them out of the oven, the oils in the nuts allow them to scorch quickly.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Enjoy!

– Erin

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Fall Round-up: 5 Tastes of the Season (Cinnamon Ice Cream, anyone?)

Happy Fall! This past weekend (Sept. 21st) marked the official start of fall and I’m loving it. The chill in the morning when I walk to the bus stop is the best! 🙂 Plus, I got to bust out the fall boots. I’m not normally one to jump on trend bandwagons, but I have to say I really want some  knee-high cable knit socks to wear under those boots to up the cozy-factor. (Sounds cute right?)

Anyway, I know you don’t come here for fashion commentary. This post is a round-up of fall recipes I’ve put on the blog before, but deserve to get more attention now that I have (slightly) more readers. You newbies might have missed out on these classics!!

For my birthday a couple weekends ago I went apple picking with my in-laws at Stribling Orchard in Virginia. The day was lovely, the apples were plentiful, and the ensuing pie was delicious. I canned four quarts of applesauce, which used up most of the haul, but also made a pie and am working out an apple crumb bar recipe that will hopefully be posted soon!

In the meantime, enjoy the tastes of the season with these 5 recipes!

Homemade Chunky Applesauce

Homemade Chunky Applesauce

Apple Cider Cake (ridiculously appley)

Apple Cider Cake ~ Erin's DC Kitchen

Cinnamon Ice Cream (what else should go on that pie?!)

Cinnamon Ice Cream~ Erin's DC Kitchen

Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake ~ Erin's DC Kitchen

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup ~ Erin's DC Kitchen

Oh heck, here is a bonus one! Sweet potatoes shouldn’t be forgotten this time of year! 🙂

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Candied Bacon

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Candied Bacon ~ Erin's DC Kichen

Fresh Peach Cobbler

Hey.

Guess what?

We went peach picking. 🙂

You should know what that means by now, right? Get ready for peach posts.

Fresh Peach Cobbler~ Erin's DC Kitchen

I love this dessert and it is my favorite way to use peaches, even more than pie. No offense to pie.

Fresh Peach Cobbler ~ Erin's DC Kitchen

This cobbler showcases the natural sweetness of the peach, which is complimented by the addition of warm cinnamon and almond extract. Go light on the extract, it can be a strong flavor and there is no need to overwhelm the peaches.

Fresh Peach Cobbler ~ Erin's DC Kitchen

I know making this dessert requires turning on the oven, which during summer, is counter intuitive. But! It is worth it. The light, spongy dumplings are so yummy, but then when you top it with French vanilla ice cream. Ohhhh my. It is just so creamy and sweet and fresh and fruity and tastes like a party in your mouth. Just try it. It’s simple and worth it!

Fresh Peach Cobbler

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 TBL cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • scant 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 5 cups sliced peaches
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat flour
  • 1 TBL sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 TBL cold butter
  • 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400°. Peel and slice your peaches. (TIP: Cut an X into each peach, then plunge into boiling water for 60 seconds, this helps the skin slip off). In a large saucepan, combine peaches, 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, lime juice and almond extract. Stir until peaches are coated. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until boiling, bubbling and thickening, about 5 minutes. Pour into an ungreased 2 qt. baking dish and set in the oven to keep warm while you make the dumpling dough.

In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Cut in the three TBL butter. I slice the three TBL into small pieces, then use my hands to rub the butter into the flour mixture. Do this until it resembles fine crumbs (finer than when making a pie crust). Stir in the milk, then dollop the dough over the cobbler. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until dumplings are golden brown. Serve warm, with French vanilla ice cream!!

Enjoy!

– Erin

Just cause, isn't this a pretty picture?

Just cause, isn’t this a pretty picture?

Spiffed-Up Blueberry Muffins

Hi dear readers, it’s my last blueberry post.

Whole-Grain Blueberry Muffins~ Erin's DC Kitchen

Spiffed-up blueberry muffins! So, what’s spiffed up about them?

Spiffed-Up Blueberry Muffins~ Erin's DC Kitchen

Well, the addition of whole grain flour of course. Why that? Read on friends.

My mom would crank out classic blueberry muffins every summer after we went picking. I always got excited about them, but didn’t love them (sorry mom).  I could not put my finger on the exact reason why I didn’t enjoy the muffins as much as I should have until I read a recipe from Nigel Slater. He pointed out that some muffins have a metallic taste which is due to the leavening agent. He recommended spelt flour to get rid of that flavor.

Whole-Grain Blueberry Muffins ~ Erin's DC Kitchen

I didn’t have any spelt on hand, so I improvised, natch. Whole wheat worked just as well, and yielded delicious, moist and chewy muffins. The whole wheat provides a nutty flavor that masks the leavening but compliments the gentle sweetness of the blueberries.

Spiffed-Up Blueberry Muffins ~ Erin's DC Kitchen

Spiffed-Up Blueberry Muffins (adapted from Nigel Slater)

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbl soft butter
  • scant 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • scant 1/2 cup milk 
  • 1 1/2 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 375°.  Line a muffin tin with 12 baking cups. Mix together the flours, baking powder and soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, mix to combine, then the vanilla extract. Alternate adding in the flour mixture and the milk, until the ingredients are gently combined. Fold in blueberries. Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cups. Slater suggests sprinkling with oats and demerara sugar for visual effect, but I skipped it. 🙂

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until skewers come out mostly clean when muffins are pricked. Remove from baking tins and let cool on a rack.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Strawberry Rhubarb (or Green Apple) Pie

My cousin just posted pictures of loads of beautiful rhubarb jam on Facebook. I’m jealous. I haven’t made any jam yet this year, BUT– I made a pie.

Quick story, when my Dad was a kid he was told  rhubarb pie was “green apple pie”. Apparently he must not have liked the idea of rhubarb, so my Grandma convinced him otherwise by changing the name. Green apples are tart, but I think the resemblance stops there!  Anyways, the name stuck and we still joking call this pie “green apple”.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie ~ Erin's DC Kitchen

I love the crimson color of the rhubarb. It really is a feast for the eyes.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie~ Erin's DC Kitchen

What’s that you say? The crust does look amazeballs, thanks! 😉

The tartness of the rhubarb in this pie is tempered with soft sweetness from strawberries and majorly complimented by an unexpected addition– almond extract. It provides a fuller, richer taste I think. I was comparing recipes before I started baking, and Richard Sax’s Classic Home Desserts has a recipe for sour cherry and rhubarb pie that seemed fabulous. That’s where I got the idea of adding almond extract.

Rhubarb season will end soon, once it starts to heat up, so if you want to try this recipe out hurry down to your local farmers market (or garden) and pick some up soon!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

  • 3 1/2 cups diced rhubarb (about 4 large stalks)
  • 1 quart strawberries, sliced
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp (scant) cinnamon

For the double crust

  • 2 1/4 cups flour (I did the 1/4 cup wheat, the rest white)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup Crisco shortening
  • 8 tbl ice cold water or milk

Preparing the crust: In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Measure out the shortening and dollop it across the flour mixture (don’t dump it in one lump). Using a pastry blender, cut the shortening into the flour until it is course. Pile more than half of the flour mixture to one side of the bowl. Measure out a tablespoon of cold water and sprinkle it over the smaller pile of flour and fluff it with a fork to work the water through. As the mixture forms into dough, move it aside. Continue sprinkling a tablespoon of water onto a small pile of flour and fluffing it with the fork, moving aside the dough that forms. You may or may not use all 8 tbl of water. This process becomes easier the more you do it, trust me, and you get a feel for the dough. Divide the final lump of dough into two equal parts and roll them out into circles. Put one circle into the pie plate and add your filling, then put the top crust on. You need 1 inch or more of excess dough to roll under to make the edge. Anything over that you can cut off. Use your thumb and pointer finger to pinch together a pretty edge.

Preparing the pie:

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a large bowl, toss the fruit with the sugar, cinnamon and part of the flour. Let stand while you prepare the crust. Once the crust is ready, stir in the almond extract and the remainder of the flour. Toss to coat. Spoon filling into the pie crust. If there is a ton of excess juice, don’t pour it all into the crust, just some of it.  With a sharp knife, cut a slit into the top of the pie (or a design if you’re ambitious) to let steam out.

Bake for 30 minutes.  Bake an additional 20 to 30 minutes, but cover the crust with a crust protector or foil. Pie is done when the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly and steaming (peek into the center slit).

Let cool fully before cutting into, or else the filling will spill out everywhere and you’ll be sad about it.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes have more vitamin A, beta carotene and fiber than regular white potatoes.  Also, my Grandma used to serve them for her and Grandpa, who had diabetes, because it doesn’t spike blood sugar as intensely as a starchy white potato.

This was tonight’s dinner. Yum. My favorite veg, mixed with my favorite starch mixed with my favorite pork product, topped with cheese. What is not to like?

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

I was feeling pretty happy, thinking how this looks so pretty with all the colors, and I’m so excited to eat it– and then I realized, I wanted to take a picture.

I haven’t been interested in taking pics lately, or even blogging. Not sure why. Food has been thrown together. I haven’t been feeling inspired to bake.

The one time two weeks ago I made peanut butter brownies with a pretzel crust, the light was so bad and nothing looked pretty on camera I just got pissed off and gave up.

So I grabbed my camera and got ready for taking pics of my sweet dinner. But then, the negative voice. It creeped in. It said nobody cares about a dumb pseudo recipe for loaded sweet potatoes. Stop!

Well, I hesitated but decided to capitalize on my moment of inspiration and take the pictures anyways.  Screw you negative voice.

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

I’m glad I did. They look fine. It was easy. I was inspired to write this post. And now, after a month away from blogging, I’m back and it doesn’t feel weird. For those of you reading, thanks. I did miss you.

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 3 pieces bacon
  • 1 small broccoli crown
  • handful of shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 400°. Wash and prick the sweet potatoes all over and then bake for 1 hour. During last 20 minutes of baking, cut the broccoli into small florets and steam for 12 minutes. Cook the bacon until crispy, drain, and chop into pieces. Set aside. When the potatoes are done, remove from oven and slice down the middle, squeeze both ends to pop it open. Stuff the cooked broccoli inside, top with cheese and bacon. Return to the oven for 3 minutes or so, until cheese is melted.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Twice Baked Potatoes

Urgh. I know it is too hot to turn the oven on to make these (in the DC area anyway), but I’ve been needing to post this since Easter, so this is happening people!

Twice Baked Potatoes

These are tasty, the sour cream makes the inner pocket of mashed potato creamy and tangy. The cheese on top is gooey and makes these look homey and inviting.

Twice Baked Potatoes

These are a perfect side dish for a special occasion, or, make a main course out of them by piling steamed veggies on top. Plus, you can make these ahead and keep in the fridge so you can socialize with guests or have a ready-to-go weeknight meal.

Baffled by how to make these without ruining the skins? Don’t get overexcited trying to scoop out all the inner potato flesh. Leaving some potato inside helps maintain the structural integrity of the potato skin. I know, it almost feels like a challenge to see just how much you can get out to turn into the delightful filling– but all it takes is one aggressive scoop with a spoon and you’ve taken a chunk out of the skin.

Structurally Sound!

Structurally Sound!

Not being too aggressive is also important during the stuffing phase. Forcing to much filling in can split the skin, just pile some extra on top like I did!

Twice Baked Potatoes

  • 8 medium baking potatoes
  • 2 cups shredded colby jack cheese plus more for topping
  • 1  tbl Old Bay seasoning, plus more for topping (taste as you go, add more if you like)*
  • 1 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt if you want to ‘healthy’ it up, but taste will be altered)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2/3 c milk (give or take depending on thickness of mixture)

Preheat oven to 400°. Wash the potatoes and prick with a fork. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake until easily poked with a knife, about 50 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool so potatoes are easier to handle.  If you get impatient, fold a couple paper towels together and use that to hold the potatoes.

Meanwhile, dice the onion and cook just until tender and slightly translucent in the 1 stick butter. Save and set aside. Once cooled enough, cut a medium-sized diamond shape out of the top of the potato skin, peel off, revealing a hole large enough to fit a small spoon into. Start scooping out the potato flesh into a large bowl, reserving the whole skins for later.

Once you’ve cleaned out the potatoes, pour the onions and butter, milk, sour cream, and cheese into the bowl and mix well with electric beaters to get the chunks out and render the mixture smooth. Add in the Old Bay and some salt and pepper to taste. Stir to incorporate.

Now, stuff the mixture back into the potato skins. You may have some leftover, just pile it on top of the potatoes or eat it!! Top each potato with a sprinkle of Old Bay and more cheese.

If baking immediately: Preheat oven to 350° and bake the potatoes on a lined baking sheet for 25 minutes until the cheese is melted and potatoes are hot.

If baking the next day: Place the potatoes onto a lined baking sheet and wrap tightly all over with cling wrap. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. Remove from fridge 30 minutes prior to baking to allow potatoes to come to room temperature. Bake in 350° oven for 25-30 minutes until cheese melts and potatoes are hot.

*Note: if you are refrigerating these overnight, the taste of the Old Bay will intensify over time and you don’t need as much.

Enjoy!

– Erin