Tag Archives: fruit

sparkling cranberries

i just love the holiday season. i know, i know, i am a freak of nature according to many, but i just can’t help it. i love the food, the lights, the specialness of it all. as christmas approaches, i start to get a little freaked out that the holidays are winding down. honestly, i have to talk myself down off the ledge, take a deep breath, and enjoy all that is around me.

cranberries are a special holiday treat, mostly because of their seemingly short life-span (in terms of acceptability in using them after christmas anyway). and these cranberries are special. you can serve them as part of a cheese course, on top of a holiday dessert, or just pop ’em in your mouth. we tossed them in our glasses of bubbly, too! they take a little getting used to because they are essential raw and very tart but the sugar seems to tame this somewhat. they are at first sweet, then with a burst of tartness, then sweet again. live a little…try ’em out!

well, i am off to the in-laws for several days to enjoy family and friends for the holiday. i hope you enjoy yours!

sparkling cranberries (makes 2 cups)

adapted from 101 cookbooks

2 cups fresh cranberries

2 cups water

2 cups granulated sugar

plus additional granulated sugar and medium coarse grain sugar for coating

make a simple syrup by heating water and 2 cups sugar in a medium saucepan. bring to a simmer, until sugar is dissolved, then set aside to cool for a bit. pick over cranberries, discard any shriveled or soft berries, rinse in a colander and set aside in a glass bowl. when syrup is still warm, but no longer hot, add to berries. place a small plate on top of berries to be sure they are all submerged. cover with plastic wrap and chill 8 hours or overnight.

drain, reserving syrup for another use, if desired. roll berries a few tablespoons at a time in medium grain sugar. (i used an unbleached medium grain organic sugar sold at costco for this step). dry for a few hours on a cookie sheet. then roll them in the regular granulated sugar for a final dusting. allow to dry for an additional hour or so before handling. the combination of sugars does seem to do a fine job of coating them completely.

these keep chilled for up to a week.


Filed under appetizer, condiment, desserts

apple gallette with blue cheese and walnuts

apple gallette 1a

it may surprise you, considering how many sweet treats i make and write about on this blog, that i consider myself more of a savory than sweet-type person. you heard me right, i really do not have a sweet tooth. gasp, i know. it’s crazy, too because i love to bake cakes, tarts, cookies, et al, but i tend to eat desserts only on special occasions or in lieu of a meal. (insert late afternoon slice of pie and cup o’ joe here). for this month’s let’s lunch challenge, the group has decided  on a ‘fall desserts’ theme, which seems to fit in with the whole dessert-as-meal-replacement plan.

apple gallette 2

this time of year does bring out a bit of the ol’ sugary cravings, i suppose. i tend to go for more earthy, fruit-based concoctions over super-sweet chocolate or frosted ones. but i’m weird that way.  should i even mention that i would take a lemony anything over a chocolate something else?

apple gallette 3

this would be  a good dessert after a nice fall meal or even, dare i say, as an appetizer with a glass of bubbly or red wine. you could even leave out the blue cheese and serve warm with homemade whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

apple gallette 4

apple gallette with blue cheese and walnuts (makes 1 large tart)

adapted from barefoot contessa


2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tbsp sugar

12 tbsp (1 1/2) sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into small dice

1/2 cup ice water


4 granny smith apples

1/2 cup sugar

4 tbsp (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small dice

1/2 cup apple jelly (or a light colored jam, heated and strained)

2 tbsp calvados (this is a fabulous french apple aperitif-get some!)

1/4 cup walnuts chopped

1-2 ounces of quality blue cheese (i used point reyes)

for the pastry, place flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. pulse 2-3 times until well-combined. add the butter and pulse 10-12 times until butter is in small, pea-sized pieces. be sure to use the pulse feature, you do not want to over mix and create a paste. with the motor running, pour the ice water through the shoot until the dough just comes together (you may not use all the water depending on the humidity level and other factors). dump dough onto a floured board and quickly knead into a ball. at this point, i like to press the dough into  a disc the shape of how it will be rolled out, i.e. a round, square, or in this case, a rectangle. wrap in in plastic and chill for at least 1-2 hours.

preheat oven to 400 degrees. line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

roll dough into a rectangle about 10 x 14 inches. trim the edges straight with a pizza cutter or knife. for a more rustic look, you can omit this step – i do not judge. place dough on prepared sheet pan and chill while you are readying the apples.

peel apples and cut through the stem, removing stems and cores with a sharp paring knife or melon baller. slice the apples crosswise into 1/4 inch slices, leaving slices together in order. place slices in diagonal rows on pastry, starting in middle of the tart, then adding adding rows of apples to fill in until pastry is covered. sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup of sugar and dot with the butter. although it appears like a LOT, do not be tempted to cut down the amount of sugar~the tart will be, well, very tart if you do.

bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the apples have brown edges. rotate the pan once during cooking. you may deflate any air bubbles that form by poking them with a small knife. don’t worry if the juices run off and start to burn, this is expected. remove tart from oven. heat jelly and calvados in a small pan and brush mixture on pastry and apples. dot with the blue cheese – use as much as you prefer, but be warned, a little goes a long way. it will gently and beautifully melt into the gallette. loosen tart from paper before cooling so it doesn’t stick. allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

if you love a good fall dessert, check out these fine folk’s take on them , too:


a tiger in the kitchen



slow food chef

free range cookies


Filed under appetizer, desserts

berry hand pies

hand pies-fin blackberry

hand pies-fin strawberry

if there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that berries are my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE fruit. although i do have a soft spot for my childhood favorite, pears , followed closely by the fresh figs that my friend casey (my photog mentor) gives me every summer from her elderly neighbor’s yard. then there’s also ANYTHING citrus-oh gawd, we have these grapefruit grown in south texas called ruby reds–ever heard of them? we used to buy them by the case on the side of the road. the truth is, i wouldn’t be able to pick a favorite fruit, even if threatened with bodily harm. they are all unique jewels provided by mother nature. and we all must’ve done something right in our collective past lives to deserve them.

hand pies-blackberries

this week i had the motherload of berries on hand so they are the jewels of the week. i have been working on a dough for hand pies which, curiously enough, have different crust requirements than for a regular pie. i found a very good one on smitten kitchen, of course. it is light and fluffy, but has a nice flake to the crust. but, most importantly, it holds up to being hand-held, a definite requirement for ‘hand’ pies. don’t be intimidated by all the steps. you can make the dough a day or two ahead (or a month ahead if you’ve got freezer space!) and the refrigeration steps were something i was able to do while doing the laundry–no big deal at all.

hand pies-loaded, not closed

i made a batch of strawberry and one of blackberry. both came out great. i added a tablespoon of corresponding jam to each filling, which assisted in the thickening and sweetness processes. you could use any fruit you wanted, really. except maybe melon. i don’t think that would work at all.

hand pies- fork crimp

berry hand pies-makes 20-22, depending on size

adapted from smitten kitchen and martha stewart

for the pastry:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

16 tbsp COLD unsalted butter (2 sticks, cut into pieces)

1/2 cup sour cream (i use mexican crema because i have a crush on it-the stuff in the tub, not in the bottle)

4 tsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup ice water

For the filling:

2 cups of berries,  diced or sliced on the small side

1 tbsp flour

1-2 tbsp sugar*

2 tbsp blackberry or strawberry jam or preserves

egg wash:

1 egg yolk + 2 tbsp water

coarse or sanding sugar (i used an organic cane sugar–i like the natural color and the crunch!)


*more or less sugar is needed depending on how ripe or sweet your fruit is.


combine flour and salt in the bowl of your  food processor. add butter pieces and pulse gently for the equivalent of about 8-10 seconds. at this point, the recipe usually states to mix something until “it resembles coarse meal”. this always makes me laugh. i know what they mean, but have no idea what ‘coarse meal’ is. let me know if you do. combine sour cream, lemon juice, and ice water in a large measuring cup. with the motor running slowly add the the sour cream mixture into the food processor. do not process for more than about 30 seconds. squeeze a small amount of dough between your fingers. it should not be crumbly but should just  hold together, and not feel too wet. dump onto a counter or cutting board and combine into a dough ball without overworking. divide dough in half and wrap in plastic. flatten into a disk shape and refrigerate for at least an hour. at this point dough can be frozen for up to a month.

remove dough 1 disk at a time and roll out onto a floured surface until it’s about 1/8″ thick. cut into 3-4″ rounds. i did not have a cutter and so used a pint glass. a glass with a thin rim works best. place rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill for about 30 minutes. repeat with remaining dough disk.

at this point, i’d like to mention how much i love my refrigerator. i have never been so pleased or impressed with a single large appliance in all of my adult life. you would not believe how much i can cram into this thing without so much as the smallest reconfiguration or fluctuation of temperature. brace yourself people, it’s a double-wide. entire farm veggie co-op delivery? oh, yeah. super over-sized pizza box? heck, yes. several open bottles of wine, 3 layer or texas sheet cakes, prepared crudite platters or smorgasboards? bring it on. thanksgiving for 15 folks and their 2 turkeys and gravies and casseroles to match? uh, huh. and 2 half sheet pans full of chillin’ hand pies (plus everything else already IN the fridge) you ask? no problema, mis amigos:

fridge-double wide!

meanwhile, prepare your filling. simply combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside. easy, huh?

spoon 1 tbsp filling onto 1 half of each round. brush edge of round with egg wash and fold it in half, pinching edges to enclose the filling inside the dough. gently press edges with the tines of a fork. i love the word ‘tines’. we are almost done-are you hanging in there? place a slit or two in the top of the pies with a small knife, then brush egg wash on top. place pies back in refrigerator for another 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

bake for 20-30 minutes, rotating baking pans half way through baking time. i know the baking time has a large range, but i think you should pull it out of the oven when it reaches whatever your level of golden brown perfection happens to be. mine is evident in the photos above. allow to cool slightly on a cooling rack. and take half of them to your neighbor that you just wave at but have been meaning to talk to for a few years.

warning: the following mess will end up on your baking pan if you do not use parchment to line it. 


hand pies-last


Filed under desserts, fruit