Apricot Pocket Cookies

Apricot Cookies
SCENE ONE: 2:16 a.m. after their eighth date, a couple are entwined on the couch, an empty bottle of wine and two wine glasses are located on a table in front of them. A small bowl of homemade truffles sits between the glasses.

[kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: “It’s late. I should probably go home soon.”

[more kissing, kissing, kissing]

Me: “Do you want to go home…or do you want to sleep here?”

[continued kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: {silence}

Me: “It’s not a trick question.”

[more kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: {silence}

Me: “Okay…I’ll answer for you. You want to go home.”

Him: {silence}

[kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: “I guess I owe you some sort of apology or explanation.”

Oh god, please don’t apologize. That will make me feel like more of a lusty sexual deviant than I already do. And, as far as an explanation, what could you possibly tell me that would make me feel better about getting shot down for sex? I either don’t want to know or – if you have a valid excuse – this situation just became way too complicated for me.

I don’t let him give me an excuse, but I manage to think up a few of my own.

10 reasons he won’t sleep with me:
1) He finds me unattractive
2) He’s transgendered or gay and hasn’t worked up the courage to tell me
3) He has a secret girlfriend and he doesn’t want to “cheat” on her
4) He thinks sex will make me too “attached” [It won’t]
5) He’s bad in bed
6) He thinks I’ll be bad in bed
7) He has an STD
8) He thinks I’ll make him stop sleeping with other people [which is true]
9) I stink [armpit, cooch and breath check!]
10) He has ED or some other medical issue that precludes the horizontal mambo

SCENE TWO: It’s 6:00 p.m. the next evening. The same woman, alone, is curled up on the couch wearing her pj’s. Two cats sleep soundly beside her. On her lap is a platter of these cookies that she is devouring – one by one and without regret. Sometimes – most times, actually – the easiest company is our own.


Apricot Pocket Cookies

  • Servings: 27 cookies
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Ingredients

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup apricot jam
  • ¼ cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar (like Sugar in the Raw)
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

Directions

  1. With an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually add the flour, mixing until just incorporated (don’t overmix).
  2. Remove the dough from the bowl and form it into a 1” thick scare. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.
  3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a rectangle 9” x 12”. Cut the dough lengthwise into 3 strips 9” x 4”. Spread each strip with apricot jam and sprinkle with walnuts. Starting from the long side, roll each strip into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice each log into 1” pieces and place on a parchment or silicon lined baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until golden brown, 22-25 minutes.
  5. To decorate, melt chocolate chips in microwave, stirring every 30 minutes until smooth, about a minute. Drizzle cookies with chocolate and dust with powdered sugar.

 

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Apple Cherry Tart

Apple Cherry Chinese 5-spice Tart
Me:  “What are some of your favorite things to eat?”

Him:  “I dunno, I like lots of things…I think I told you, Chocolate soufflé.”

Me:  “Yeah, but it’s difficult to keep and photograph a soufflé without it collapsing. It’s more of an à la minute dessert. What about nuts? Do you like nuts?”

Him: “Sure, I like nuts. What about a tart – a fruit tart?”

Me: “Hmmm…maybe. I could bake a tart with autumn fruit…”

We had “the talk.” That’s the talk where I explain baking for him doesn’t mean he’s earmarked for fathering my children. A cake doesn’t mean I want him to put a ring on it. Sometimes an éclair is just an éclair. I bake – it’s what I do. I bake for people I like – it makes me happy. It’s the perk of knowing me – don’t overthink it; enjoy it.

I decided on this impressive looking yet relatively simple autumn apple and dried cherry tart flavored with warming Chinese 5-spice – an ideal holiday dessert to provide the wow-factor to any table. Plus, it’s a good classic dessert when baking for a guy for the first time – who doesn’t like apples and buttery pastry?


Apple Cherry Tart

  • Servings: One 9” Tart
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Slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated French Apple Tart. This easy no-roll, no-chill crust is my go-to crust for many types of tarts.

Ingredients

    Crust
  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Filling
  • 4 oz. tart dried cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 10 Golden Delicious apples (about 5 lbs.), peeled and cored
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • ½ cup apricot preserves
  • ¾ teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. To make the crust, adjust 1 oven rack to the lowest position and the second rack about 5” from the broiler element. Heat oven to 350⁰ F. Stir together flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Add melted butter and stir until dough forms. Press dough smoothly and evenly on the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart pan. Place pan on a wire rack set on a baking sheet and bake on lowest rack until golden brown, 30-35 minutes. Set aside.
  2. For the filling, cover the dried cherries with boiling water and soften until ready to use. Cut 5 apples into quarters and each quarter into 4 slices (each apple should yield 16 slices). Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices, and water and stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples begin to turn translucent and slightly pliable, about 5 minutes. Spread apples on a plate in a single layer to cool. Pour any accumulated liquid from the skillet.
  3. While the apples cook, microwave apricot preserves until fluid, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Strain 3 Tablespoons of preserves through a small mesh strainer and set aside for step 7.
  4. Cut remaining apples into ½” cubes. Melt remaining 2 Tablespoons butter in skillet. Add drained cherries, remaining un-strained apricot preserves, cubed apples, Chinese 5-spice and salt to skillet. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples are soft, about 10 minutes. Mash apples to puree with a fork or potato masher. Continue to cook, uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated and puree is reduced to about 2 cups, about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer puree to tart shell and smooth. Arrange apple slices, tightly overlapping in concentric circles with outside curve of slices pointing up (see photo above). Bake tart, still on wire rack in baking sheet, on lowest rack for about 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and heat broiler.
  6. While broiler heats, warm reserved strained preserves in microwave until fluid, about 30 seconds. Brush over apples, avoiding tart crust. Broil tart, checking every 30 seconds, and moving if necessary until apples are caramelized, about 2 minutes total. Let tart cool for 1 ½ hours before removing ring and slicing.

British Egg Custard Tart

British Egg Custard Tart
“This is right up your alley” was all her email said. She included this link. She was right – and I haven’t stopped dreaming of it since.

I’m sidelined by the enormity of it. It’s not easy to buy a business in the UK when you’re not a citizen. Yet, a similar cottage in New England doesn’t hold any appeal. And what would I do with my two “boys?” Sending them across the ocean followed by quarantine is more than their little pampered hearts could take, I’m afraid. What to do with my typical American superfluous “stuff” that couldn’t make the trip? Finally, there’s the brisk and rainy Yorkshire weather – a 66⁰ F. June summer HIGH. Brrrrr!!

And yet, I can’t shake it from my mind.

I’d have to learn to make a proper cuppa – and traditional High Street pastries like this one:


British Egg Custard Tart

Eggnog fans rejoice – all that creamy nutmeg-gy flavor wrapped in a pastry crust. This recipe uses a forgiving pâté sucrée dough rather than brisee which requires cutting in the butter.

Ingredients

  • 3 ¾ oz. butter, softened
  • 1 ½ oz. sugar
  • 1 ½ oz. egg, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 oz. All-purpose flour
  • 6 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 6 oz. whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 3 ¼ oz. sugar
  • Freshly ground nutmeg

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale. Add egg, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together salt and flour and stir into sugar mixture. Flatten dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate about 30 minutes.
  2. Roll the dough on a well-floured surface into a large enough circle to cover the bottom and sides of a 9” tart pan. Ease the dough into the pan, nudging the dough into the sides of the pan. Trim excess dough and return to the refrigerator for about 30 more minutes.
  3. For the filling, warm the heavy whipping cream and milk in a saucepan. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and creamy. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg mixture stirring constantly to avoid scrambling the eggs. Stir well until all sugar has melted. Transfer to a liquid measuring cup for easy pouring.
  4. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Blind bake the pastry for about 30 minutes. Remove the parchment or foil and pie weights and bake for another 10 minutes until bottom of pastry is light brown.
  5. Fill the pastry with custard mixture. The mixture is very runny so I recommend filling as close as possible to the oven to avoid splashes. Grate fresh nutmeg over the top and bake for 30-40 minutes until the edges look set but the center still wobbles. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy slightly warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Ginger Hazelnut Millionaire Bars

Millionaire's Shortbread
Inspired by one of my favorite recipes for Ginger Crunch Slices, these rich bars combine buttery shortbread, spicy ginger-cardamom caramel, creamy bittersweet ganache and sweet-salty hazelnut “croquant.”

I planned on giving them to the new neighbors across the street, but after eating two, decided to keep this batch all for myself.


Ginger Hazelnut Millionaire Bars

More like an exotic candy than a cookie, the combination of butter, heady spices, bittersweet chocolate and hazelnuts create quite a flavor bomb.

Ingredients

    Shortbread
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Caramel
  • 7 Tablespoon butter
  • 4 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoons cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons corn syrup
  • Hazelnut Croquant
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted
  • pinch salt
  • Ganache
  • 4.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions

    Shortbread:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 inch square pan with aluminum foil and butter the foil.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour and salt and beat until the batter just starts to clump together. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan, lightly prick the shortbread with the tines of a fork, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until pale golden in color. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool while you make the caramel.
  3. Caramel:
  4. In a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine caramel ingredients, bring to boil and pour over shortbread. Cool.
  5. Hazelnut Croquant:
  6. While caramel is cooling, heat sugar and water in a small nonstick skillet over high heat, swirling, until sugar dissolves. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, swirling occasionally, until amber, about 4 minutes. Add hazelnuts and stir for 30 seconds to coat.
  7. Pour mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a nonstick baking mat, and immediately spread nuts on sheet and sprinkle with salt. Let cool. Coarsely chop.
  8. Ganache:
  9. Once caramel is cool, place bittersweet chocolate, heavy whipping cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and whisk until completely melted and combined. Pour over caramel and smooth. Sprinkle with hazelnut croquant. Let set for an hour or two, or refrigerate until set. Remove from pan using foil, cut into 16 fingers.

Caramelized Nectarines

Caramelized Nectarines in a white casserole dish
The annual nectarine onslaught has begun again and, in fact, the prolific bounty has already managed to snap two branches with the weight. Harvest time is brief with pounds upon pounds of sweet fruit ready all at once. I want to rescue each juicy orb from Newton’s law, plucking them from the tree before they fall, but each morning I find a dozen plump globes bruised and broken upon the ground, their potential wasted. In my efforts to salvage the masses in the past, I’ve bubbled large caldrons of steamy nectarine jam, resulting in three dozen jars “put up.” One can only eat so much jam, however, and most of it remains languishing in the cupboard. I’ve also undertaken a raft of baked goods, but it’s a losing battle – a recipe requires a pound or two of fruit, while I’m picking a few pounds each DAY. I’ve tried freezing the fruit, but that resulted in mushy brown thawed blobs. I picked the first fat, ripe nectarines this week, preparing them with a drizzle of butter, sprinkle of sugar, and quick broil. I know I can’t save them all, but over the next few weeks, I’m willing to try.


Caramelized Nectarines

  • Servings: 2-4 people
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My nectarines are small.  With larger nectarines, you’ll probably only need two or three to reach the amount needed for this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 10-12 oz. Nectarines, sliced in half and pitted.
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Pinch salt
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar (preferably turbinado, like Sugar in the Raw)
  • Pinch cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler. Place nectarines, cut side up in a small casserole dish. Melt butter in microwave or small saucepan. Add salt and vanilla to butter and stir to combine.
  2. Drizzle butter over nectarine halves, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Broil nectarines about 4” from broiler element for approximately 8 minutes until fruit is bubbling and beginning to brown. Enjoy plain or serve with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.