In 1998 I lived in New Mexico for only a short time; 4 months in the dead of summer. I’ll never forget that kind of heat. We are talkin’ 115-120 degree summer weather. The hot dry climate of New Mexico is perfect for pine nut trees as they are drought tolerant. I have a great fondness for New Mexico still, and one of my memories is remembering the pinon trees. There was a trail I used to ride my bike down and along the trail was a cluster of pinon trees. I used to wonder, what does one really do with pine nuts other than using them in pesto? Well, I can tell you they are really good tucked into a tiny tart with honey cream! The Italians have long loved their pine nuts and you will see them used a lot in baking there in cookies. In New Mexico they love their pine nuts and they even impart them into their coffee providing a nutty flavor to the coffee. I have to be honest, I never really got into pine nuts much when it comes to baking, but when I saw this recipe I thought it sounded really good and I was right. I have adapted the recipe slightly but toasting the pine nuts and making tiny tarts instead of a full muffin size which is called for in the originally recipe.
Honey~Cream Pine Nut Tarts
recipe adapted from “Mini Pies” cookbook
yield: ~ 24 mini muffin size tarts
1/4 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup honey
1 tsp. kosher salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 Cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 Cups roasted pine nuts
1 recipe all butter pie dough; click HERE for my “fearless pie crust” recipe
1. In a medium saucepan combine the sugar, honey and salt over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the butter gradually and stir until combined. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
2. Whisk the cream and egg together in a bowl. Slowly whisk this into the honey sugar mixture until combined. Add the vanilla and stir.
3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Roll out the pie crust to about 3/16 inch. Using a 2 1/2 inch fluted cutter cut out rounds and carefully shape into the mini muffin wells. Fill a heaping teaspoon of pine nuts into each pie well and top with about 1 1/2 tsp. of the honey cream mixture until almost full to the brim. Top with a small decorative pie shape if desired. Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the crusts are done. Allow to cool in the muffin tins for about 10 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool.
Have you ever been to Montreal? It’s such a beautiful city. Quite a few years ago I went to a conference there for work. I have to admit; I ditched one of my classes about a quarter way into the lecture after my head was bobbing up and down and I could barely stand myself. I headed out into the street and started zipping into as many shops as I could before I had to be back for my next lecture. One of the things I noticed rather quickly was there are a lot of shops displaying maple syrup. Canadians are really proud of their maple syrup and they should be. It’s top quality. They like to use their maple syrup in a lot of things; not just over pancakes. I came across a store that had maple syrup tastings. What, stop, whoa…maple syrup tastings? that’s right. There is light, darker, darkest; whatever you like. I learned a lot that day about maple syrup. I learned you should never settle for anything but the real thing. These cute little mini cupcakes are topped with maple buttercream. Make sure to use the best you can find.
Butter Pecan Mini Cupcakes
yield: 24 mini cupcakes
recipe: adapted from 200 mini cakes & bakes
1/2 Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 Cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 Cup milk
1 Cup cake flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 Cup finely chopped pecans
whole pecans, toasted, to decorate
1 Cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 Cup confectioners sugar, sifted + more if needed
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
6 Tbsp. real maple syrup
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place a 24 well silicone mini muffin cup liner on a baking sheet. Conversely if you don’t have a silicone muffin pan you can use regular mini muffin pan with paper liners.
2. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and beat until smooth. Add the milk, vanilla and stir. Combine the rest of the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Add the flour mixture and beat to combine. Stir in the chopped pecans.
3. Fill the wells of the mini muffin cups with one Tablespoon of batter. Bake for about 11-12 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool for about 2 minutes and then remove to a wire rack to continue cooling until completely cool.
4. Frost cupcakes [use a start tip if you have one] with Maple butter once cakes are completely cool and top with a whole toasted pecan.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light. Add in the salt and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the maple syrup, beat until smooth. Add any additional confectioners sugar if needed one Tbsp. at a time if buttercream is too soft.
When I was a little girl my Mom used to make this cake. Busy Moms listen up. This is your saving grace when someone tells you need to bring something to a potluck. You can whip this thing out in no time. Two main things are key to this cake; sour cream and an angel food cake pan. Your posse won’t even blink twice over the fact it has no frosting. I’m sure there is probably another name for this cake, but I swear this is what it was always called. I’m not even messin’ with you. For reals. This was my favorite cake growing up. I mean, seriously how bad do you think it could be with a name like that? I’m here to tell you, it is amazing. To this day I am still scratching my head over this cake- how could something so simple be so good? This cake is like a surprise joy ride. It appears as if it were a plain old Chevy but one taste and you know it’s really like a brand new Cadillac. The beauty and wonder of this cake is that it is super moist and has texture. If I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again-I love texture. You know how you dive into the top of a good coffee cake because all the elements of naughty goodness coalesce into one sugar nut mass of love? Yeah, this cake has that same sugar-cinnamon nut flavor but swirls of it fused into a rich yellow moist cake. Go ahead, take it for a spin. You’ll be glad you did.
I found these really pretty paper baking pans in Michael’s by “Celebrate It” and thought they were really pretty. The recipe makes enough for 2 of these 6 inch baking molds or one standard large angel food cake pan.
Yum Yum Cake
1 Cup Finely chopped walnuts
1/4 Cup granulated sugar
1/3 Cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
(Mix together in a small bowl; set aside).
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 Cup) unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 Cup granulated sugar
3 Lg. eggs, room temp
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Cups sifted flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
16 oz. sour cream, room temp
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease an angel food cake pan well or spray with baking spray. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat to combine. Beat in vanilla to combine.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk to combine; set aside.
3. Mix in 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the sugar/butter egg mixture and combine. Continue to alternate mixing with 1/2 of sour cream and dry ingredients making sure to end with dry ingredients.
4. Pour 1/3 of cake batter into the pan, then add a layer of topping and pat down gently. Continue alternating batter and topping mixture like this for 3 times; ending with topping on top of cake. Bake for about 1 hour. Let cool. Do not turn cake upside down to cool.
This year I wanted to try something different instead of making peanut brittle. One of the things I love about marcona almonds is that they have a real meatiness to them and are super crunchy. I like the nuts in my brittle to be crunchy. Ever get a brittle where the nuts are kind of gummy and soft and not that crunchy? These nuts will provide the crunch you are looking for.
Marcona Almond Brittle
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Light Corn Syrup
1/4 Cup water
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 Cup Marcona almonds
2 Tbsp. soft unsalted butter
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
Prepare a cookie sheet pan by greasing it or place a Silpat silicone liner on the sheet pan. Grease a large heat proof spatula with a small amount of butter or a metal spatula.
Measure out the baking soda, butter, and vanilla and place next to the stove for later.
In a heavy 2 quart sauce pan bring to a boil the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt over medium high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved, do not stir the mixture [If the mixture starts to form any sugar crystals on the side of the pan, use a wet pastry brush to wipe the sides of the pan]. With a candy thermometer, bring to a boil without stirring until the mixture reaches 310°. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the almonds, butter, baking soda and stir briskly. Stir in the vanilla. Pour the mixture all at once out onto the sheet pan and using a heat proof or greased spatula, spread the brittle out as much as you can to create an even surface. Let the pan cool on a wire rack until completely cool. Crack into pieces.