Quince, Walnut & Cheese Palmiers

Years ago, a friend gave me a little jar of quince jam. We enjoyed the flavor but I never really gave it much thought. Recently, I came across quince paste in the grocery store. It looks quite similar to the guava paste I used in numerous recipes previously.

Of course, now its got my interest peaked to find out more about this fruit. It seems it’s a fall fruit that grows in a manner like apples and pears…… but the similarities end there. Quince are completely inedible when raw. Once cooked, they become soft and tender, usually with a nice syrup from the cooking process.

Quince fruit is native to Southwest Asia, Turkey and Iran. Historically, they were used to make marmalade. Quince cheese (also known as quince paste) is a sweet, thick jelly made from the pulp of the quince fruit. It is a common confection in several countries. Because this fruit is very high in pectin, it gels easily. Quince is sweetened with sugar and can be flavored with lemon juice, cinnamon and apple.

Quince paste is sold in squares or blocks, then cut into slices and spread over toasted bread or sandwiches, plain or with cheese. It is often used in filling for pastries or to glaze roasted meats.

I’m going to try it first in these pastries today and then maybe in a meat glaze another day.

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Quince, Walnut & Cheese Palmiers
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Votes: 2
Rating: 4.5
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Instructions
  1. Open puff pastry sheet on parchment paper & roll it out into 10 x 10-inch square. Spread the quince paste over the surface then sprinkle with cheese & walnuts.
  2. With a knife, very lightly score a line width-wise across the middle of the pastry. Starting at one side, roll up jelly-roll style, stopping at the score mark in the middle. Starting at the other side, roll up pastry to score mark.
  3. Wrap the roll in the parchment paper & plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Preheat oven to 400 F. Remove roll & slice into 3/8-inch slices (or larger if you prefer). Place cut side up on a lined baking sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Store in air-tight container.

Spiced Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce

Over forty years ago I tasted my first ‘poached pear’. We were having a beautiful dinner at my sister Loretta’s house. It was a special occasion and she had made poached pears for dessert. They were so elegant and wonderful tasting, I can remember it clearly to this day.

What’s not to love about this match made in culinary heaven. The pears are fruity and light, while the chocolate sauce gives a touch of indulgence not to mention the little surprise tucked in the center.

There is really no set answer to the question of ‘how many ways can you poach a pear’. Of course, the classic way would be in red or white wine, which certainly has eye appeal. But, besides wine, there is always cider, bold and flavorful beers or ales and even espresso.

I decided to go with pear juice, cinnamon, star anise, vanilla and honey. I think the look is gorgeous not to mention the wonderful flavor.

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Spiced Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce
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Rating: 5
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Course dessert
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Pears
  1. Core & peel pears, leaving stems intact. In a small saucepan, combine juice, cinnamon sticks, star anise, honey & vanilla. Add pears; bring to a simmer. Cook, turning pears occasionally, until easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, but not falling apart. The length of time will depend on the ripeness of pears. Remove pears from liquid using a slotted spoon & transfer to a large bowl; drain well.
Filling
  1. In a small dish, combine walnuts, powdered sugar & milk; set aside.
Chocolate Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, combine chocolate, heavy cream & butter. Turn heat to low & melt chocolate, stirring until smooth.
To Serve
  1. Spoon nut mixture into pear cavities. Place on dessert plates; drizzle with chocolate sauce. Serve with ice cream. Garnish with a spring of fresh mint if you wish.

Mini Fruit Crumble Cakes

Crisp or crumble, call it what you like, its just simply good to me. I think, over the years, I have made fruit crumble in just about every flavor and shape possible.

Crumbles became popular in Britain during WWII when crumble topping was an economical alternative to pie due to shortages of pastry ingredients. Other ingredients such as breadcrumbs or oatmeal helped further reduce the use of rationed flour, fat and sugar.

Crumble cakes can be made either sweet or savory. The sweet variety usually will contain fruit topped with a crumbly mixture of butter, flour and sugar. With the savory version, meat, vegetables and a sauce make up the the filling with cheese replacing the sugar in the crumble mix. The crumble is then baked until the topping is crisp. Generally the sweet dessert is served with custard or ice cream and the savory variety with accompanying vegetables.

Fruits that are commonly used in making crumble include apples, blueberries, peaches, rhubarb and plums or a combination of two or more. Due to its simplicity, this dish has remained popular over the years.

The MINI FRUIT CRUMBLE CAKES  I made for today’s blog were made with various kinds of preserves but you can prepare your own fruit for the filling or simply use canned pie filling — your choice!


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Mini Fruit Crumble Cakes

Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, German

Servings


Ingredients

Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, German

Servings


Ingredients

Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

  2. In a large bowl, combine flour & sugar. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly; set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture. To remainder add baking powder, baking soda & nuts.

  3. Beat egg slightly in a small bowl. Stir in yogurt & lemon zest. Add to dry ingredients; stir just until moistened. Spread 2/3 of batter over bottom & part way up sides of 8 - 4" x 3/4" mini tart pans. Spoon pie filling over batter. Drop remaining batter by spoonfuls over filling.

  4. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture; place tart pans on baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until done. Serve warm or cold.

Date Filled Oatmeal Cookies / Mince-Apple Tarts

FILLED OATMEAL COOKIES – The only thing better than an oatmeal cookie is a filled oatmeal cookie, right! It seems they were one of those cookies traditionally baked at Christmas time, probably due to the cost of dates and the time consuming process to make them.

Whenever my mother was doing her Christmas baking, she gradually filled every cookie tin she owned and then started using empty ‘Rodger’s Golden Syrup’ pails to store them in. These pails were good for the purpose because they were airtight. To keep us ‘kids’ from nibbling on them before Christmas had actually arrived, the pails were discretely placed among her jars of canning downstairs. Somehow a pail got missed, so that year we enjoyed some very tasty cookies in about February.

I personally just love dates but Brion, not so much. As an alternative I decided to make half the recipe with Cranberry filling so it would work for both of us.

MINCE-APPLE TARTS – Mince(meat) pies, like Christmas puddings, were originally filled with meat, such as lamb, rather than dried mixed fruit as they are today. The shape was an oval to represent the manager that the baby Jesus slept in, with the tops representing his swaddling clothes.

A custom from the middle ages was that if you eat mince pie on everyday from Christmas until the 5th of January (12 days) you will have happiness for the next 12 months. At one time in the UK, mince pies were a status symbol at Christmas. Having pies like this, made in various shapes, meant you could afford to employ the best pastry cooks.

It seems mincemeat is one of those things that people either really like or they want nothing to do with it. Brion and I always enjoy to have a few (fruit)  mincemeat tarts at Christmas time. Tossing in a bit of apple, walnuts and some extra rum or brandy doesn’t hurt either.

 

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Date Filled Oatmeal Cookies / Mincemeat-Apple Tarts
The hint of citrus in the filled oatmeal cookies elevates them to a whole new level.
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Rating: 5
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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Ingredients
Date Filled Oatmeal Cookies
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Date Filled Oatmeal Cookies
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Date or Cranberry Filled Cookies
  1. In a large bowl, cream margarine & sugar; beat in milk & vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, baking powder & salt; gradually stir into creamed mixture until blended. Cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or longer.
Filling
  1. In a double boiler over medium heat, bring dates (cranberries), sugar, water, juice & zest to a boil; stirring often. Reduce heat to low, cover & simmer, stirring occasionally, until fruit is very soft. Uncover & cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes or until mixture forms a thick paste. Let cool completely.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a floured surface, roll out cookie dough to about 1/8 - 1/4" thickness & cut into 1 1/2 - 2" circles. Place on baking sheet & bake for 12 - 14 minutes or until golden edge is crispy & center is still soft. Transfer immediately to rack & allow to cool completely. Spread filling evenly over smooth side of half of the cookies; sandwich with remaining cookies.
Mince - Apple Tarts (24)
  1. On a floured surface, roll out pastry. Using a 2 1/2" cookie cutter, cut 24 circles. With a canape cutter, cut out 24 various shapes such as stars, trees, bells etc. for the top of tarts. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place shapes on an ungreased baking sheet; sprinkle with sugar. Bake cutouts for a few minutes until light golden. remove from sheet & cool.
  2. Press tart pastry sheels into bottom & up the sides of miniature muffin cups. In a small bowl, combine all filling ingredients. Spoon into tart shells. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until filling is bubbly & crust is light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes; remove from pans. Top each tart with a cutout.
Recipe Notes
  • Due to the fact that the filled cookies will get quite soft after a few days, I like to keep them in the freezer & eat them while they are still slightly frozen.
  • For the tarts, you can either buy frozen tart shells or I do have my favorite pastry recipe posted on the Thanksgiving blog in October 2016.

Thumbprint Cookies

THUMBPRINT or THIMBLE COOKIES – are such a great little cookie with so many variations that they remain among the holiday favorites. Of course it’s not hard to figure out the meaning behind their name. Similar to filled cookies, you can either fill the divot you make in them either before or after you bake them.

Here is a good example of the phrase ‘the same only different’. Four varieties of thumbprint cookies you might want to add to your office cookie exchange list, if they are not already on it.

                                       SPICED PUMPKIN CREAM CHEESE * LEMON BLUEBERRY

                                                             RASPBERRY ANISE * FIG & FLAX

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Thumbprint Cookies
By Christmas cookie standards -- they are pretty healthy, right!
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
(each recipe)
Ingredients
Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies
Cream Cheese Filling
Lemon/Blueberry Thumbprint Cookies OR (Raspberry/Anise)
Fig & Flax Thumbprint Cookies
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
(each recipe)
Ingredients
Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies
Cream Cheese Filling
Lemon/Blueberry Thumbprint Cookies OR (Raspberry/Anise)
Fig & Flax Thumbprint Cookies
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese
  1. In a medium bowl, combine butter with brown & white sugar. Add egg, pumpkin, flour, spices & salt; mixing until a thick dough forms. Preheat oven to 300 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop balls (about 2 tsp size), 1-inch apart from each other. Using your thumb or a sewing thimble, make a divot in the center of each ball. Bake for 25 minutes or until slightly brown. Remove cookies from oven; while hot, deepen any of the divots if needed. Place on cooling rack.
  2. In a small bow, combine cream cheese filling ingredients, mixing well. When cookies are completely cool, spoon a small amount of filling into each of the divots. Top each with a bit of crystallized ginger.
Lemon Blueberry or Raspberry Anise Thumbprint Cookies
  1. In a medium bowl, cream butter & sugar well. Beat in egg yolks & extract. Stir in lemon zest, then fold in flour & salt until fully incorporated & a soft dough forms. Wrap in plastic wrap & chill about an hour. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Form dough into 1-inch balls; roll in hazelnuts & place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Using your thumb or a sewing thimble, make a divot in the center of each ball. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until slightly golden. Remove cookies from oven; while hot, deepen any divots if needed. Place on cooling rack & cool completely before filling centers with preserves.
Fig & Flax Thumbprint Cookies
  1. In a medium bowl, beat butter & 1/4 cup brown sugar with an electric mixer until creamy. Add egg yolk & vanilla; beat until combined. In another bowl, whisk together flour, 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds, cream of tartar, spices & salt. Slowly add flour mixture to the batter & beat on low until just combined, scraping down the sides as needed.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, place the egg white. In a small dish, combine 1/4 remaining brown sugar with 1/4 ground flax seeds. Roll slightly rounded teaspoons of dough into balls. Dip one ball at a time into the egg white & then roll in the sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet; press divots in each ball. Bake about 15-17 minutes or until slightly golden. Remove from oven; check if divots need to be deepened. Place on cooling rack & cool completely.
Recipe Notes
  • With the Blueberry, Raspberry & Fig recipes, you can bake the cookies for about 15 minutes then add the preserves & bake another 3-4 minutes. I find it easier to store or freeze the cookies if I put the preserve in at serving time -- personal preference only.
  • I rolled my spiced pumpkin cookies in gingersnap crumbs just for a little added flavor.
  • Apricot preserves are another good choice for the flax thumbprints and probably easier to find depending where you live.

Sweet Delights

Christmas without making a few candy treats just wouldn’t seem right. Even if its not at the top of your baking list, they are just so handy to have on hand to add to those holiday gift trays. 

There was only one very special candy  treat my mother made at Christmas that I remember. A small group of ‘neighbor’ ladies in our farming community had formed the ‘Willonor Club’. It wasn’t just to gather for coffee and chit chat. They were all very hands on women that enjoyed ‘networking’ about a variety of subjects. Each meeting would be hosted by one the members in her home. They would always have a specific focus to learn or do something new. One of the ladies had learned how to make dipped chocolates with her church group. She, in turn taught the Willonor Club members. Now these were not just your average chocolates. They looked every bit as professional as the ‘Pot of Gold’  brand but tasted so much better. None of this sugary sweetness — just a creamy, not overly sweet center, covered in a milk chocolate. Yum!! I came across the recipe in her little file box, written in her lovely handwriting and there I was, reliving the ‘taste of a memory’ by just reading it.

I decided to limit this candy blog to three, tried and true favorites. They are  KAHLUA BALLS * PUMPKIN CREAM CHEESE TRUFFLES * APRICOT DATE BALLS.  Easy to make, taste great and freeze well — perfect!

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Sweet Delights
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Kahlua Balls
  1. In a large bowl, combine cookie crumbs, walnuts & powdered sugar. Add Kahlua & corn syrup; mix well. Shape into 48 balls & roll in desired toppings such as cocoa powder, fine colored sugar, sprinkles, finely crushed walnuts or oreo crumbs. Chill overnight then either freeze or store in refrigerator in an airtight container.
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles
  1. In a double boiler over medium-low heat, melt the 55 grams of white chocolate. Transfer to a bowl. Add remaining ingredients & beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Cover & chill until solid enough to roll into balls. Once mixture can be formed, roll into 16 balls.
  2. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Chop almonds in almond bark then carefully melt in double boiler. Transfer to a small, deep bowl. Drop a few balls at a time into melted chocolate. Working quickly, spoon chocolate over truffle to coat. Using a small spoon or fork, lift truffle out of chocolate & shake off excess, transfer to prepared sheet. Chill truffles until chocolate is completely set. Place in an airtight container & either freeze or store in refrigerator.
Apricot - Date Balls
  1. In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar, apricots, dates & eggs. Cook over low heat for 6-8 minutes or until mixture pulls away from the sides of saucepan, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & stir in walnuts & vanilla. Allow to cool until mixture can be handled. Line an airtight container with wax paper. Shape apricot/date mixture into 30 balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Place in container & either freeze or store in refrigerator.
Recipe Notes
  • If preferred, use all gingersnap crumbs instead of graham crumbs in the original recipe for Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles.

Fig & Gorgonzola Chicken Breast with Raspberry Glaze

I have always enjoyed incorporating different varieties of cheese into my cooking. Like the saying goes ‘cheese makes it better’. One of the few kinds both Brion and I are not fond of though, is Blue Cheese. Never being able to get past that real strong smell and flavor, it came as a surprise to me when I tasted Gorgonzola and loved it.

During some vacation time we spent on the Monterey Peninsula in California, I noticed in a brochure, an advertisement for a place called Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria. It was in a small beach town called Capitola, about 64 km (40 miles) north of the Monterey Peninsula. We thought we should check it out as it would give us a nice day trip up the coast. The trip turned out to be more than what we expected. 

We arrived at Gayle’s right around noon. The place was bustling with business. It had a massive rotisserie and deli case packed with roasted chicken, slow barbecued ribs, hot entrees, salads and sandwiches. In the bakery cases were desserts that could give any French bakery some pretty stiff competition. I stood there trying to make a lunch choice and decided on a very ordinary looking spinach-Gorgonzola pasta. Wow! It was so good, I wouldn’t dream of ordering anything else in future visits. My love affair with Gorgonzola continues.

That afternoon we explored Capitola with its beautiful beaches and historic and colorful architecture, very reminiscent of a Mediterranean village.

I have seen numerous recipes using Figs & Gorgonzola so I thought I would try a little experimenting and see what I could come up with. Achieving just the right balance of sweet and savory can be tricky sometimes. Here is my adaption of Fig & Gorgonzola Chicken Breasts with Raspberry Glaze.

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Fig & Gorgonzola Chicken Breast with Raspberry Glaze
Chicken breasts go from ordinary to extraordinary!
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Raspberry Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, combine glaze ingredients & set aside.
Chicken
  1. Flatten chicken breasts to an even thickness. In a large, resealable plastic bag, place Fig Balsamic dressing with flattened chicken breasts. Gently massage bag to distribute dressing on all of the breasts. Marinate in the refrigerator for several hours.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cheese, figs, walnuts, bread crumbs, & spices. Cover & set in fridge until ready to stuff chicken breasts.
  3. At baking time, preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a sheet of foil large enough for chicken breasts. Lay breasts on a piece of plastic wrap; divide Gorgonzola filling mixture evenly between them. Gently press filling down slightly. Fold one half of each breast over forming a pocket; secure with a toothpick. With a spatula, place breasts on greased foil in baking pan tucking in any extra filling that might have fallen out. Use any leftover fig marinade to brush over breasts.
  4. Bake, uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 170 F. Place chicken breasts on serving platter. Discard toothpicks. Slightly warm Raspberry Glaze in microwave & drizzle over chicken.

Fresh Fruit Pizza

The quintessential summer BBQ dessert! Fruit pizza is like a giant cookie, covered with luscious cream, layered with colorful fresh fruit, topped with glaze and a drizzle of chocolate, if you please.

If you have been following my blogs, you have probably already noticed, choice is something I’m big on. Fruit pizza is a classic dessert with so many possibilities. I have always enjoyed to start with the original idea of a recipe and see how many ways I can vary it without getting too involved or requiring a lot of extra ingredients and time.

Since CANADA DAY celebrations are right around the corner I thought it was a good time to enjoy Fruit Pizza personalized’Here are some ideas to mix and match to your liking.

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Fresh Fruit Pizza
Personalize not only with ingredient choices but the design as well
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Rating: 5
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Ingredients
Classic Shortbread or Pecan Shortbread Crust
Oatmeal Crust
Frozen Puff Pastry OR Crescent Roll Dough
Cream Cheese Topping
Cool Whip / Custard Topping
Honey - Yogurt Topping
Citrus Glaze
Pineapple Glaze
Fresh Fruit (use whatever fruit you prefer)
Chocolate Drizzle (optional)
Servings
Ingredients
Classic Shortbread or Pecan Shortbread Crust
Oatmeal Crust
Frozen Puff Pastry OR Crescent Roll Dough
Cream Cheese Topping
Cool Whip / Custard Topping
Honey - Yogurt Topping
Citrus Glaze
Pineapple Glaze
Fresh Fruit (use whatever fruit you prefer)
Chocolate Drizzle (optional)
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
For Shortbread & Oatmeal Crusts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 12-inch pizza pan or cookie sheet. In a large bowl, cream butter & sugar until light. Add any flavorings. In another bowl, combine dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon or hand mixer until well blended. Press dough into pan & prick with a fork. Bake 10-15 minutes until golden. Allow to cool completely.
Frozen Puff Pastry
  1. Follow package directions. Cool completely & place on serving tray.
Crescent Roll Dough
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Pinch together crescent roll dough as you press into a 12-inch pizza pan. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp sugar. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden. Cool completely.
Cream Cheese Topping
  1. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, lime juice concentrate & sugar until smooth.
Cool Whip/Custard Topping
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together dry pudding mix & milk for 2 minutes. Fold in Cool Whip.
Honey - Yogurt Topping
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt & honey.
Citrus & Pineapple Glaze
  1. In a small saucepan, combine ingredients. Cook over medium heat until thickens. Remove from heat & cool slightly. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the fruit with glaze. FOR PRESERVE GLAZE: mix preserves with water & brush onto fruit.
TO ASSEMBLE FRUIT PIZZA
  1. Spread topping of choice onto cooled crust & arrange fruit onto. Brush with glaze of choice. Melt chocolate in a bowl over boiling water. Dip a large spoon into chocolate; drizzle, quickly letting the chocolate fall in thin ribbons from the end of the spoon. If chocolate seems to stiff, add a drop of vegetable oil. Let pizza stand until chocolate is firm.