Maple Bacon Cheesecake

So…I’m not back.  Don’t count on this being a regular thing.  But I gotta write this one down for easy sharing, so here we go.

Work had a “Masterchef” cook-off as a united way fundraiser (coworkers bought tickets to get to sample and vote) and the secret ingredient was bacon.  I volunteered so fast I almost hurt myself.  I knew there would be stiff competition.  I knew I had to pull out all the stops.  So I asked my friends for suggestions and one of them was a link to one of those candied bacon/cracker things.   But what caught my eye on that site was a link at the bottom for something called Maple Bacon Cheesecake.  I clicked through and saw that the crust was made of bacon (MAD GENIUS) and my eyes lit up.  so there we go.    LINK TO MAD GENIUS INSPIRATION

Oh…btw, I WON.  OF COURSE.  BECAUSE MAPLE BACON CHEESECAKE.  (please excuse my terrible phone picture.  impromptu blog post here people)


I wasn’t totally sold on the sheer quantity of bacon in the crust, and frankly, I just really like graham crackers.  And I wanted maple IN the cheesecake.  Also I made it in an 9×13 Pyrex because it had to be bite sized for ~30 people. So I roughly doubled the recipe, modified the crust and replaced ~1/2 cup of the sugar with maple syrup.

So here we go.

AWARD WINNING Maple Bacon Cheesecake

Crust –

  • 1 lb of bacon, cooked till barely crisp (2 lbs)
  • 2 packs of graham crackers (1-1.5 packs)
  • enough bacon fat for it to hold together

whizzed in food processor and then pressed into parchment lined pan. I’d go with 2 lbs of bacon and probably 1.5 pack of crackers next time. And maybe some more fat – it was a bit crumbly.

Filling –

  • 5.5 blocks of cream cheese
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5c sugar
  • .5 c maple syrup
  • a splash of bacon fat because why not.

I whizzed that in the food processor since I already had it out to make the crust – and I think that’s why it came out SO FREAKIN’ CREAMY. It’s mixed to DEATH but without incorporating so much air like the stand mixer. I like the dense new york style normally, but this uber-creamy version went over pretty damn well.

Baked at 450 for about 10 minutes then 250 till just barely starting to set in the middle. Still jiggly, just not liquid anymore. (that part is important.  don’t over cook) Chill.  Lift out with paper and cut.  Wipe knife down with hot wet cloth between cuts if you want it to be pretty.

Then topped it with shards of Candied Bacon.

(to make maple candied bacon -use thick cut bacon, lay out on a wire rack on a sheet pan, brush with maple syrup and sprinkle with brown sugar, bake at 450 for 10-15 min, flip, brush and sprinkle, bake till crispy)

Made 40 mini servings. (that’s a cupcake wrapper for scale in the photo.)

One Year Later

So…yes, my blog fell by the wayside.  Not that I haven’t been cooking for the past year.  I have!  We made new sausage recipes.  We brewed beer.  I helped my sister throw a kickin’ taco fiesta 1st birthday party for my niece.  Much food was had.  I even took pictures of some of it. 
But…my pictures started to annoy me more and more.  I hate posting pictures of food that does not look delicious.  So I’d procrastinate posting, thinking that maybe I’d make it again and take a better picture.  That rarely happens.

But mostly I just ran out of free time.  Last April I took a big fat professional licensing exam.  I spent every single weekend in February and March studying for that darn thing.  And then once it was over…well…then we did this:

used to be a closet, weird wide wallway and office

and then this happened to our front yard

lots of new 2x4s!

gray paint samples on foam board = genuis

this used to be two bathrooms

once upon a time I slept in here.  now it just houses two bathroom vanities and other fixtures

this is what my upstairs bathrooms look like right now

That doesn’t look like much when condensed into a couple of pictures, but we’ve been working on the house for almost a year now.  It’s been fun, but hectic and it eats into my free time in a big way. 

But the good news is…we’re nearing the finish line.  Kinda!  It’s a long-ass tunnel we’re in, but I can see the light now.  It’s a tiny pinpoint of light.  But it’s there.  So if anybody is still out there, still reading this blog – don’t delete me yet!  I have a good excuse I swear!  And I have a new camera.  So once this hurdle is over with I will be back with one less excuse not to blog.  gimme till…July?  🙂

Smoked Oyster & Shrimp Alfredo

This Valentines day had no advance planning.   We don’t usually do anything special, but we’ll take any excuse to make an indulgent dinner.  Mister and I had thrown around some ideas by email while we were at work, but nothing was really sounding great.  We were both leaning seafood though, and when we got home and found the dregs of a bag of frozen shrimp that was nearing freezer burn we decided that a deeply unhealthy, creamy, dreamy shrimp alfredo pasta was in our future, but I still wasn’t excited.  And then Mister pulled the trump card out of the pantry – a can of smoked oysters.

Ah, oysters, the food of love.  Natures aphrodisiac.  Yeah….ugly little suckers though, aren’t they?  The shells are quite pretty, but take them out of there and you are left with what are essentially the ocean’s snot balls.  (wonderful delicious snot balls)  Smoke them, and they turn into the least appetizing looking things I have ever put in my mouth.  But give them a saute and put them in your mouth anyway, because they are delicious.*  Smokey, briny, firm but tender, they add a really special twist to an otherwise standard seafood dish.   Just eat them with your eyes closed.  Look it’s romantic already!

Smoked Oyster and Shrimp Alfredo

  • ~1/4-1/2  lb medium sized shell on shrimp.  (I’m guessing here on quantity, I was finishing off a bag of frozen shrimp and I think I had about a dozen of them.  Exactness does not matter for this one.)
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • ½ large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can smoked oysters
  • black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • ¼ cup white wine (I actually used champagne.  It was open!)
  • ~3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan (freshly grated parm is very fluffy. I don’t pack it in at all when I measure it, so if you are smashing it down, or using non-freshly grated cheese, reduce it to more like 1 cup or even less.  Add, taste and add more if needed. I don’t recommend the green can here, but feel free to try it and tell me how it turns out)
  • ¾ lb long pasta of choice (we used thin spaghetti because that’s what we had. Any long noodle works)
  • salt if needed
  • Optional: fresh parsley.  I was sad we didn’t have any, it would have been the perfect finishing touch.

Shell the shrimp and put the shells in a small saucepan with about ½ cup of water.  Simmer the shells till they turn pink and then turn off the heat and let it sit while you prep everything else.   Set the naked shrimps aside.  Set a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a deep sided skillet, and add the onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are starting to get nice and brown.  Add the garlic and cook another minute or two.  Add the oysters, including all the oil from the can.  Saute for a minute, mixing very gently to avoid breaking up the oysters.  Add a good coating of black pepper.

Push the onion-oyster mixture to the side of the pan and sprinkle the flour over the remaining butter.  Mix the flour and butter well and cook briefly to get rid of the raw flour taste, but don’t let it brown.  Pour in the wine, followed  by the strained shrimp-shell-stock (I just poured it through my wire mesh strainer straight into the skillet).  Whisk, whisk to incorporate the flour-butter paste into the liquid.  It might be lumpy at first.  Just keep the heat on medium and keep on whisking.  It will come together after a few minutes.

Now would probably be a good time to get your pasta into the hopefully boiling water.

Once you have the flour incorporated into the stock+wine, reduce the heat to medium low and mix the onions and oysters in from their lonely side of the pan.  Gently stir it all together, and start adding the cream.  Just add a generous splash at a time and mix it in.  Keep adding until it looks good to you.  We went pretty creamy, but if you were trying to be a little less indulgent you could use less cream, or use half-and-half .   Add the cheese and mix well.   Drop in the shrimp and let them cook, stirring occasionally until they are pink all over.  This will only take a few minutes.   Taste for seasoning and add salt and more pepper if needed.  Between the cheese and the oysters ours didn’t need any additional salt.

By this point the pasta should be done.  You want it just shy of al dente – transfer it into the pan with the sauce, reserving some of the pasta water if needed to thin the sauce out a bit.  Mix it all around to get all the pasta nicely coated, and let it cook for another minute and then remove it from the heat.   Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley if you’ve got it.  And serve.

And then if you’re like us, go sit on the couch and eat your creamy smokey briny pasta with glasses of champagne while watching How I Met Your Mother.  Mmm…now that’s romance.

*The saute part is mandatory.  I won’t eat them straight from the can…the texture is weird at room temp, but it fixes itself when they are heated.  I like them on toast, with some caramelized onions and maybe some ricotta cheese.

Ok…to counter-balance pasta sauce that has to simmer all day and Danish braids that look like they require a degree in basket weaving to construct I give you a 15 minute recipe that only has a handful of ingredients – and one of those ingredients can be pretty much any meat you can think of.

I love leftovers.  People who throw away perfectly good food mystify me.  You look at your dinner leftovers and see half a serving of pork or turkey, I see a whole 2nd meal!   There are two tricks being deployed on this particular recipe, both of which can be used in a lot of other ways to help use up leftovers that aren’t quite a full meal.

1. Use a small amount of strongly spiced meat (sausage, smoked anything, bits of roasted whatever) as a flavoring agent for a big mess of otherwise bland food (rice, potatoes, polenta, etc).  this is pretty easy…cook blandish food, mix in tasty meaty bits.  Cook additionally as needed.  Enjoy.

2. If you like it, then you put a fried egg on it.  (Wha-oh-oh-oh-oh-ooh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)*  All sorts of foods can get stretched by adding a fried egg.  Because really…those lentils/roasted potatoes/noodles were good to begin with, but they’ll be better with the yolk of a fried egg oozing over them.  Look, there an entire blog dedicated to putting an egg on it!  If you don’t like your yolks dippy…well, this isn’t for you.  But then you are clearly a philistine.  ;-p

Pulled Pork Hash

Serves 2 piggies or 3 not-so-piggies

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 of a large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 redskin potatoes, diced (or yukon or 1 big russet or whatever kind of potato you like)
  • 1 cup pulled pork (or any other shredded, or diced meat.  Leftover corned beef would make this the hash we’re all used to, but with no resemblance to that dog food looking stuff in a can)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • hot sauce (optional)
  • eggs (1-2 per serving as desired)

In a large skillet (I highly recommend cast iron.  Just go buy one already), melt your butter over medium-high heat and add the diced onions.  Saute till they start to soften and turn translucent.

Add the potatoes and turn down the heat to medium-low and cover.  Let them cook till they are fork tender, stirring occasionally.

Once your ‘taters are cooked give everything a really good salting and a good amount of freshly ground pepper.  (no amounts…sorry.  Add a little and taste.  Repeat)  Use your spatula to give your potato a bit of a smashing so you have squished pieces mixed in with not-squished chunks.

Add garlic powder, and a few sprinkles of hot sauce.  Feel free to reduce the garlic and leave out the hot sauce or add any other condiment that sounds good with your meat.  I used tabasco chipotle sauce to add to the smoky flavor of the pulled pork.

Now add the meat and give a good stir to distribute it evenly.  Now pat everything down in an even layer and crank the heat back up to medium high and let it cook without touching it until the bottom is nice and crispy.

Stir everything up and repeat 2 or 3 times until there are crispy parts scattered throughout.  Then pat it down into an even layer one final time and let the bottom get extra crispy.

While the final crisping is happening fry up your eggs (over easy, or sunny side up, whatever you like).

Plate your hash and slide the egg out of the pan right on top.

Might not be the prettiest food ever, but it’s damn good.

You might notice my fried egg looks a little overcooked.  That’s because it is.  Eggs are my Achilles heel.  I can make pie crust and a killer lump free gravy and all kinds of supposedly difficult foods, but I can’t fry a damn egg.   Eh…nobody’s perfect.

*I’ve never gotten the original version of that Beyoncé song stuck in my head, but then I saw this video and now I’ve had that version stuck in my head for days.   Awesome.

‘Mater Sauce with Meats

My sister is a good cook, but she generally doesn’t make much meat.  Whenever she comes over for dinner, or I offer to cook at her house her immediate request is for “meats!”  Especially when she was pregnant, all she wanted was meat.  Preferably meat cooked by me or Mister.  So when I spent a weekend at her house late in her pregnancy stocking up her freezer, of course one of her first requests (besides empanadas) was Meats!

I wanted to make something that would work as a family dinners, but would also be a reasonable quick meal for her when her husband wasn’t home.  Lil’ Sis isn’t leftover adverse, and she LOOOVES noodles, so spaghetti sauce seemed like the obvious  choice (with meat, of course).  This recipe makes a ton of sauce.  It’s definitely a simmer all day kind of recipe, but it doesn’t require much baby sitting, and at the end of the day you’re rewarded with  freezer full of  delicious hearty meals for nights where you can’t be bothered to do anything besides boil some noodles.  (And maybe throw together some salad. Balanced meals are your friend.)

‘Mater Sauce with Meats

Makes about 10 cups of sauce.

  • A #10 can of crushed tomatoes (or 4 regular big cans)
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 2 mild Italian sausages, casing removed
  • 2 diced medium yellow onions
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1.5 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan

In a large pot (~8 qts), over medium high heat, crumble the ground beef and sausage and brown well.  It doesn’t have to be fully cooked, but get lots of browned surfaces on there.  Remove the meat and set aside.  Pour out the  grease, leaving 1-2 Tbsp in the pot.

Saute the onion and garlic in the meat grease until softened and starting to brown.

Sprinkle in the salt, peppers, and herbs and mix well.  Pour in the red wine and stir, scraping the bottom of the pot to dissolve all the brown meaty goodness.  Let cook till the pot is nearly dry again.  Add the meat back in.

Carefully, because it will want to splatter all over the place, pour in the crushed tomatoes.  If for some reason you don’t get a kick out of buying the giant cans like I do, you can feel free to use 3-4 normal sized (i.e. 28 oz) cans.  But seriously how fun it is to have a can this big?

Regular sized diced tomato can provided for size reference only.  Also outing myself for using totally unfancy canned tomato products.

Stir well, bring to a simmer and let it just bubble away over low heat for several hours.  I think ours was going for about 6 hours.  It will darken in color and reduce slightly.  Also it will look like the surface of a bubbling pool of magma.

Add the grated Parmesan and mix in well.  Let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes and taste to adjust seasoning if needed.

Remove from heat and let it cool down a bit and then package for the freezer.

(if you want to get an A in food safety, use an ice bath to cool it quickly)

I like to use gallon ziplock freezer bags, and lay them flat to freeze.  They stack  neatly  and thaw much faster than a big block of sauce.  I put about 2.5 cups of sauce in each bag, squeeze out the air and then seal them up and lay them on a cookie sheet to freeze.  (insurance in case of leaks)

Alternately – cook up about 5 pounds of pasta and proceed to feed a small army.

Note: If you don’t have all day for simmering, add a small can of tomato paste before the red wine.  Let it cook for a minute or two before adding the red wine and then proceed as written.  You can reduce the simmering time to ~2 hours.


Vanilla Ice Cream


I may have mentioned that i have a little problem with kitchen gadgets.  I own many of them.  We have an entire closet that is pretty much dedicated to cooking tools (hey, some of them take up a lot of room!  Canning pot, stock pot, sausage stuffer, etc.) but I don’t feel like it’s excessive because I actually use all of them.  Except for one…my ice cream maker.  I’ve had it for 2 years, but there was never enough room in the freezer to actually use it.  It’s the type with a bowl full of some sort of liquid that has to be pre-frozen for about a day in order to operate.  (the kitchenaid attachment actually) That’s a lot of freezer real estate to give up, and despite owning two fridges I could never make it work.

But no longer!  This year my beloved husband bought me a freezer for Christmas.   The second the we plugged it in I gleefully placed my ice cream maker bowl on the top shelf.

Vanilla ice cream seemed like the classic first choice.  I love custard ice cream, and I happen to have a healthy supply of vanilla beans thanks to a online bulk purchase.

So of course I went to David Lebovitz for the recipe.  He is pretty much the expert on ice cream, and he doesn’t disappoint with this one.  Creamy, rich without tasting eggy, and not-to-sweet with a deep vanilla flavor.  Definitely a recipe worth keeping around.  Now I just need somebody to buy me a copy of The Perfect Scoop for my birthday so I can try more of his recipes.

Vanilla Ice Cream adapted  from David Lebovitz

  • 1 c. milk (David calls for whole.  I had skim.  I used skim with a big splash of cream.  Worked)
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 3/4 c. white sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the milk, salt and sugar in a saucepan and warm over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, untill the sugar dissolves.

Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise with a paring knife, and scrape the insides into the mik.  Add the (now empty) pod to the milk, cover with a lid and turn off the heat.

Let the pod steap in the warm milk for about an hour.  I was in a hurry, so I think mine was only in there for about 40 minutes.  It’s still tasty.

Remove the vanilla pod** and reheat the milk over medium low heat till steaming.

Put the heavy cream in a medium sized bowl, and set that bowl in an ice bath.  (if you have lots of time you can probably skip the ice bath.  I used it because I needed my ice cream fast)

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks to combine.  While wisking contantly, pour at least half of the hot milk into the yolks in a slow stream.

Pour the yolk+milk mix back into the saucepan and cook gently, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken.

Strain the custard into the heavy cream and mix to combine.  Stir the mixture in the ice bath until it is cool, stir in the vanilla extract, and then chill until very cold.

Several hours, or even overnight in the fridge is recommended for the chilling, but again, I was on a deadline (dinner party in 2 hours) so I put the whole bowl, still in it’s ice bath, in my lovely new freezer.  I checked on it and stirred every 10-15 minutes and it was completely cold after about an hour.  I don’t care how you do it, but the mixture must be COLD, not just cool, or else you risk thawing your ice cream maker bowl before the ice cream has a chance to freeze (or melting your salted ice if you are really old school).  If you are a fancy pants with a ice cream maker that has a compressor unit this might not be as big of a deal for you, but no reason to make the machine work harder than it has to.  Pretty sure starting with a cold base is supposed to help the texture too.  So yeah, just chill it.

Follow your ice cream maker’s instructions from here on out to turn this delicious liquid into ice cream.

**rinse and dry the spent pod and stick it in a jar with some sugar.  The vanilla scent/flavor will infuse the sugar and then you can use it on all kinds of things.  I like it in coffee.

I have more kitchen tools than anybody should ever possibly need, and yet every year when Mister makes my Christmas list for his parents he manages to come up with something else that I’ve been ogling.  This year, among other things (ravioli mold!  Yay!) they got me something that I didn’t even know existed.

I had mentioned to Mister during one of our many discussions on the details of our someday house that I wanted a dedicated baking center with an inset marble counter for rolling out butter doughs.   So imagine my surprise when on Christmas I was handed an extremely heavy box containing this:

A marble pastry board!  My in-laws ROCK!  I didn’t know you could just plop a piece of marble on top of your counter and go to town.  Seems obvious now, but apparently I’d missed that page in the Williams-Sonoma catalog.  Dreams of puff pastry and croissants started dancing through my head.  I’ve made puff pastry before, but the only available place to roll out dough in my kitchen (Just say no to tile counters!) happens to be the cheap laminate right above my dishwasher.  Which means that I can’t wash dishes while my dough is chilling and resting since it’ll make the counter hot.  Very annoying.  But now the problem is solved!  I can put my pastry board on top of the tile on my island, and it provides a wonderfully smooth, cold place to roll delicate buttery layers to my hearts content.

So I ran to my Google reader and searched for “flaky goodness”.  (yes really…these are the kinds of search terms I use when I need inspiration) and the very first result was this delicious looking Spiced Apple Danish Braid from Annie’s Eats. I had starred it when I first read it, and it’s obvious why:  Fruit, cream cheese, flaky layers, beautiful presentation…what’s not to love?

I did make some changes though.  I’ve got a ton of homemade jam hanging around (future posts, I promise) so I wanted to see if I could use that as the filling.  I also wanted to eliminate the multiple glazes, to cut down on the sweetness and work a tad.  And it worked!   I also stretched out the resting/chilling over several days, not really intentionally, but everything seemed to come out just dandy anyway.  This makes the recipe really flexible with timing, even though it has a lot of steps.  Perfect for prepping ahead of time and just assembling in the morning when you have overnight guests or friends coming over for brunch or breakfast.

I don’t have pictures of the actual process – so if you need a visual explanation of how this comes together I highly recommend checking out Annie’s blog.  I’ll be as clear as I can though.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish Braid

For the dough:

  • 1.5 cups flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1.5  tsp. yeast (instant or active dry.  See instructions.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup milk (Annie calls for whole.  I only had skim, so I added a splash of cream)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 12 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

For the filling:

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temp
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp milk
  • 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1 cup blueberry jam (or any flavor that you like.  Use one with lots of fruity chunks though)

For the glaze:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 4 Tbsp demerara sugar (or turbinado, muscavado, “raw” or decorative sanding sugar.  Anything with nice big crystals)

If you are using active dry yeast:  Warm the milk slightly.  (I like to nuke it in my glass measuring cup for ~15 seconds.  Test it like you would a baby’s bottle.  If feels hot, it’s too hot.  You want just warm.)   Mix in a sprinkle of the ¼ c. of sugar and then scatter the yeast over the top.   Let sit for 5 minutes, or until frothy.

If you are using instant yeast, skip the above.

Combine 1¼ cups of the flour in the bowl of your mixer with the (remaining) sugar, and salt, milk+yeast combo (or just milk and yeast separately if using instant) and egg.  Mix with the paddle attachment till just combined, then switch to the dough hook and knead until a smooth ball of dough forms, about 7-8 minutes.  (The dough will be sticky but it should be mostly clearing the sides of the bowl even if it’s still sticking to the bottom.  If not, add the remaining ¼ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed.)
Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and with floured hands pat it into a square.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

Now…this part is totally cheating.  It worked though.
In a clean mixer bowl, combine the chunks of cold butter with one tablespoon of flour.  Toss lightly to combine, and then mix ON LOW with the paddle attachment until the flour is incorporated.  You do not want to whip the butter at all, or let it get very mushy.  Just smash in the flour.  Scrape the butter+flour paste out of the bowl onto a piece of plastic wrap and using the plastic to help you, form it into a 5” square of even thickness.  Wrap it well and chill for at least 1 hour.

Roll out the dough to a 9” square on a well floured and cool work surface.  (i.e. not your counter directly above a running dishwasher).   Place the square of butter (unwrapped) diagonally on the square of dough and wrap the corners of dough into the center to cover the butter.  (like I said…check out Annie’s blog for photo instructions)  Pinch the seams together, and then press your rolling pin into the dough starting in the center and working toward the outside to get everything a little more workable.  Gently roll the dough out into an 11” square, flouring as needed to stop it from sticking.  (all rolling from here on out should be gentle.  This is not pizza dough.  Have a light hand.)

Fold the square of dough into thirds toward the center, like a business letter.  (i.e. fold the top third down over the middle.  Fold the bottom third up over the top.)  Turn the dough 90 degrees, roll it back out and fold again.  This is two “turns”.    Wrap the dough well in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours.  Then repeat this process.  (roll out, fold, turn.  Roll out, fold, chill)

This final chilling period should be at least 4 hours, but I left mine for 2 days.  It was fine.  Just wrap it really well so it doesn’t dry out.

When it’s almost done chilling, make the filling.
Combine the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice and milk in a mixer and beat beat beat till light and fluffy.  Scrape down and beat some more.

On a well floured piece of parchment paper, roll the dough out to a 14” square.   Smear the cream cheese evenly over the center third.  Spread the jam evenly over the cream cheese.  Don’t worry about making it pretty, you won’t see it, just get it on there.

So now you have a square of dough with a long rectangle of naked dough on the left and right sides, and filling in the middle.   With a pizza cutter or a knife cut the naked dough into ~ 3/4” strips diagonally in opposite directions.  The left side should be cut heading down and the to the left, and the right side cut heading down and to the right.  You are essentially cutting a dough fringe for the center filling section.   Does this make any sense?  Just go look at the pictures…

Fold the strips over the center, alternating sides, to achieve the braided look.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm spot to proof for 30 minutes.  It won’t rise much, but will look a little puffy.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while it’s proofing.

After it’s done proofing, combine an egg with 1 Tbsp of milk and beat well.  Brush the danish gently with the egg-milk wash.  Sprinkle liberally with sugar and transfer to a baking sheet.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, turning the sheet halfway through.

Let cool to  room temp and slice to serve.  Mmmm…flaky goodness indeed.

On another note:
Yes – I’ve been MIA.  Sorry!  I have resolved to get back into regular blogging.  You wouldn’t believe the backlog of I’ve got.   There are just  folders and folders of crappy pictures of delicious food to share.   You can’t wait, right?

Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!  I’ve been slacking on the blogging lately, but I have an  totally lame extremely reasonable excuse – I’ve lost my recipe for beef empanadas.  I was going to follow up my chicken empanada recipe with one for completely inauthentic and excellent beef empanadas, but my raggedy, grease-covered recipe card is missing.   I’ve been so annoyed with myself for misplacing it that I’ve avoided the blog because the half finished draft of the beef empanada post was just pissing me off all over again.  So…my overly emotional response to losing a recipe aside…I’ve been cooking up a storm and have lots of other recipes to share so I’m going to get back into the swing of blogging regularly and just figure out the beef empanadas later.

This year we went to thanksgiving with my mother-in-law’s family.  When the giant planning emails started making the rounds I noticed that sweet potatoes were missing from the prospective menu.  So I volunteered to make them, and after a lot of deliberation, decided to make a standard glazed sweet potato, but to dial down the sweetness a bit.  I love sweet potatoes in any form, but the ooey-gooeyness can be a bit cloying on a plate piled high with other rich foods.  So enter these glazed sweet potatoes that definitely fit in that traditional sweet-sweet potato category, but with some citrus and a touch of booze to cut the sugar.

Several people told me that they aren’t generally a fan of Thanksgiving sweet potatoes because they are too sweet, but that these were good.  Most of them got eaten, so it seems that they weren’t just being nice about it.  I loved them, but I’m a sucker for sweet potatoes so I can’t trust my own judgment.  I would reduce the amount of zest I used though, and the recipe below reflects that change.  The only issue is that I didn’t get a picture until the leftovers were packaged up.  So it’s…umm…quite possibly the least appetizing picture you will ever see on this blog.  The recipe is good though!  I promise.  It’s just a little worse for the wear here…

Honey Citrus Bourbon Glazed Sweet Potatoes adapted from Epicurious

  • 5 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 mild honey
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • juice from one orange
  • zest from half of the orange
  • 2 Tbsp bourbon (I used Makers Mark.  Mister tsked over this and told me to use the cheaper stuff next time, but it’s a holiday and it’s two Tablespoons.  Live a little!)
  • 1 tsp salt

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1-2 inch chunks and place in a large mixing bowl.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine remaining ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat over medium high, mixing until melted and combined.  Continue to boil for ~10 minutes until syrupy.

Pour glaze over sweet potato chunks and toss to coat.

Dump sweet potatoes and all the glaze into a 9×13 pan and bake until the sweet potatoes are tender and the glaze is reduced to a thick syrup. (~30 minutes)

Once or twice while cooking use a rubber spatula to gently mix the tater chunks to assure even cooking and glaze distribution.


Chicken & Sausage Empanadas

I have a great love of what I think of as international hot pockets.    A delicious savory filling in a pastry crust  is always a winner in my book, and it seems like every cuisine has one.  Samosas, dumplings, peirogies, pasties…they’re all excellent.

So when I saw this empanada recipe on Smitten Kitchen I immediately added it to the list of potential frozen apps  to bring  to the shore with my family.

I made some changes, mostly switching out the chorizo (which I don’t often have) for Italian sausage (which I do always have), and using hot Hungarian paprika instead of sweet Spanish paprika.  Pretty sure my changes resulted in highly inauthentic empanadas, but they were a huge hit with my family.  There was talk of my quitting my job to open an empanada shack, and there was some skepticism about whether I had really made them myself since I just pulled them out of a plastic bag in the freezer and threw them in the oven.  So yeah, not only is the filling tender and flavorful and the crust flaky and buttery, but they freeze wonderfully.  I make them in giant quadruple batches and freeze them in gallon freezer bags.  Sadly I think I’ll have to hang onto my day job.  They’re good, but they aren’t that good.

Chicken and Sausage Empanadas adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 24 empanadas

  • 2.5 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (or thighs+legs)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper pepper
  • olive oil
  • 3 hot Italian sausages
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp hot paprika
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine*
  • 1/3 cups chopped green  olives (I just use the standard cocktail olives with pimentos.  Pretty sure it’s meant to be the much better non-pimento-ed kind.  Use what you’ve got)

Sprinkle chicken w/ salt and pepper and brown well on both sides in a swirl of olive oil in a deep skillet.   Remove chicken and set aside.

Squeeze sausage out of the casing and brown well in skillet, breaking up into small pieces as it cooks.  Drain off excess fat if needed, you want some still in there, but you don’t want it to be swimming in grease.

Saute the onions and garlic w/ the sausage till the onions are softened.  Add the bay leaf and paprika and cook for another minute. Add olives, broth and wine*, and bring to a boil, deglazing the bottom of the pan.  (i.e. scraping up the yummy brown bits).  Put the chicken pieces back in the pan along with any collected juices and reduce heat to low.   Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes until the chicken is nearly fall off the bone tender.

Pull out the chicken pieces and place them on a (clean) plate and allow them to cool until you can handle them.  While the chicken is cooling, if needed, simmer the remaining stock/wine/onion mixture until the liquid is the consistency of heavy cream.

Remove the skin and pull the meat off the bones in small pieces and mix it back into the broth/onion mixture and allow to cool for ~25 minutes.

Note: *I don’t always have white wine on hand, so sometimes I sub in 1/4 cup dry vermouth and make up the rest of the liquid with extra chicken stock.  You could also just use all chicken stock, but the little bit of alcohol definitely adds something worth having.  Vermouth is a great general sub for white wine because it keeps much much longer than a bottle of wine.  A Tbsp here, a Tbsp there, it’ll last you a long while.  Plus you’ll be ready if any martini drinkers drop by.

The finished filling, it’s not pretty, but trust me, it’s tasty:


  • 4.5 cups flour
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks  butter, frozen
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup ice water
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp paprika*

Combine flour, salt and paprika and mix well.

Place half of the flour mixture in the base of a food processor fitted with a shredding disc**.  Shred the frozen butter.  Dump the frozen butter shreds and flour into the rest of the flour mixture into a large bowl, and break up the butter clumps gently and as quickly as possible.

(You are trying to distribute the butter evenly while heating i t up as little as possible.)

Whisk together the cold eggs, ice water and vinegar, add to the flour/butter mixture and mix until the dough just comes together.  I’m serious about the coldness here.  The colder the liquid the less your butter pieces will melt and the flakier your crust will be.   It will still look dry and a little clumpy. Like this:

Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour, and up to 6 hours.  While it’s chilling the water will distribute itself and the dough will come together.


*I often  make multiple flavors of empanadas in one session to freeze.  I realized that i was going to need a way to tell one flavor from another, so I started adding colorful spices to the dough to color code the different flavors (pink/paprika=chicken, yellow/turmeric=beef, brownish/chili powder = pork).  I decided I liked the hint of flavor it adds, so I do it all the time now even if I’m only making one flavor.

**The shredding blade is not necessary.  It’s my favorite way to make large volumes of pastry crust in short order, but using a hand held pastry cutter, or just two butter knives will work just fine.  You just need to break the butter up into small pieces without letting it melt.


Divide dough into 3 equal pieces.  Work with one piece at a time, and keep the other thirds in the fridge covered with plastic wrap.

Divide each chunk of dough into 8 roughly equal pieces and roll them into balls.  Roll each ball out into a 3″ by 7″  inch oval on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin.

Gently pick up the dough oval and make sure that it’s not sticking anywhere, then place 2 Tbsp filling in the center of the circle and fold the dough in half over the filling to make a half circle.

Seal  the edges of the pocket by folding the bottom edge over the top and pinching well.   Keep the seal close to the filling, but don’t pull it taut.   Press the seal all around with the tines of a floured fork.

And now in photos in case the text description makes no sense (sorry about the nail polish):

At this point if you wish you can freeze the empanadas on a tray till firm and then package in freezer bags or saran wrap and foil. (saran first, then foil)

Bake directly from frozen (or unfrozen)  at 400 degrees for ~20 minutes on a parchment or silpat lined sheet till golden  brown.   Your oven may vary, keep a close eye on them and switch the position of the cookie sheets halfway through baking.  Remember the filling is already cooked, so no worries about undercooked meat.  As soon as the crust is done you are good to go.  They’ll look like this:

The one on top there is actually a beef empanada, with tumeric in the dough – hence the yellow color.

And then if you cut one open it’ll look like this, and you’ll want to cram it into into your mouth as quickly as possible so as not to lose any flaky goodness.  Mmmm…

P.S. Just for funsies – recipes like this can get pretty tedious.  I like working with dough, but when I make a quadruple batch of empanadas (24×4=96) that’s a LOT of rolling and filling and sealing.  So this is how I make it less tedious:

That’s blurry me, on the couch in my sister’s living room, rolling out empanadas on a cutting board on my lap (kinda getting flour everywhere…sorry sis) while watching Harry Potter DVD’s.  So now you know my secret, and you too can engage in couch cooking!  Hopefully you are less messy than I am and/or you have a coffee table without little grooves around the edges to trap the flour when you try to wipe it up.  (sorry again sis!)

(The choice of a blurry picture is intentional…my hair is a fright and I think I’m still wearing my PJ’s.)

Coming Soon: Empanadas

I know I had a couple of requests for the empanada recipe, and I promise it’s coming soon.

I’ve been too busy cooking to blog lately, but I’ll catch up.  😉

Here’s a picture for you in the meantime: