chocolate dipped fruitcake cookies

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Is everybody ready for the holidays? It’s been a busy busy season already. So far, I’ve made gingerbread houses at two back-to-back gingerbread parties, and attended one of my favorite annual holiday soirees. As per usual, I’m running a little behind on getting my cards mailed, and I still haven’t figured out what I’ll be baking. I have a feeling things are going to start getting crazy around here in the next couple of days. But it wouldn’t be the holidays if I wasn’t baking and gift making up until the last possible moment. That’s just how I roll.

And it wouldn’t be the holidays without cookies. And this is definitely a holiday cookie.

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I know most people are unenthusiastic about fruitcake. And understandably so. Fruitcake has a bad rap. Growing up, my parents would receive fruitcakes as holiday gifts, which would go uneaten, and eventually get thrown away, year after year. There was just something kind of unappetizing about that brick of pastry dimpled with weird, artificially colored fruit. I couldn’t get into it.

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It wasn’t until my twenties that I came to appreciate fruitcake. One Christmas, my Auntie Pam gave my dad a tiny loaf of homemade fruitcake. And since my very talented auntie (who happens to be one of my personal foodie heroes) made this confection herself, I knew I had to at least have a nibble. The cake was chock full of really good quality dried fruits and nuts, and there wasn’t a bright green cherry in sight. It was superb. I slowly ate the entire loaf all by myself, and totally forgot to share with my dad.

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Though I’ve contemplated making my own fruitcake, I’ve yet to commit to such a project. From what I’ve gathered, it’s a labor intensive endeavor and requires ripening time, which means I would have to start a couple of weeks before Christmas. As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’m not the best at doing things and planning in advance. So when I landed on this recipe for fruitcake cookies, I felt like I had to make them.

chocolate dipped fruitcake cookies

This is a fantastic cookie. It’s a buttery cookie dough studded with dried figs, apricots, raisins, and pecans, so there are a variety of textures and flavors. And because it’s the holidays and I like things just a little on the decadent side, I thought a dip in some melted bittersweet chocolate , or even a drizzle, would make these extra special. Everything is better with chocolate, right?

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chocolate dipped fruitcake cookies

adapted just barely from the barefoot contessa

makes about 5 dozen cookies

1/2 pound dried figs

1/4 pound raisins

2 ounces candied cherries, coarsely chopped

2 ounces dried apricots, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons dry sherry

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

6 ounces chopped pecans

kosher salt

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup superfine sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 extra-large egg

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Snip off the hard stems of the figs with scissors or a small knife and coarsely chop the figs. In a medium bowl, combine the figs, raisins, cherries, apricots, honey, sherry, lemon juice, pecans, and a pinch of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, cloves, superfine sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and mix until incorporated. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt just until combined. Don’t over mix! Add the fruits and nuts, including any liquid in the bowl.

Divide the dough in half and place each half on the long edge of a 12 by 18-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll each half into a log, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch thick, making an 18-inch-long roll. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

With a small, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1/2-inch apart on parchment-lined sheet pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

To temper the chocolate for dipping, bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to very low. Place 8 ounces of the chocolate in a wide, heatproof bowl. Transfer the bowl to the saucepan, being sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate reaches 110° to 112°F on a thermometer. Remove the bowl from the heat and place on a kitchen towel. Add the remaining 4 ounces of chocolate and stir until melted. Let stand, stirring every minute or so, until the chocolate reaches 88°F.

Line a sheet pan with fresh parchment paper. One at a time, dip a cookie in the melted chocolate, letting the chocolate come about half way up the sides of the cookie. Give the cookie a gentle shake to remove the excess chocolate, then carefully place the cookie on the pan. Push each cookie with your finger to move it about 1/8 inch from its position on the pan to dislodge and remove the “foot” the chocolate has formed. Let the cookies stand until the chocolate sets.

If you prefer a less chocolatey cookie, you can drizzle each cookie with melted chocolate rather than dipping.

chocolate fruitcake cookies

bacon bourbon pecan pie

Let’s start November off the right way, shall we? It is the month for indulging, after all.

Bacon. Bourbon. Pecan. Pie. The ultimate of pies.

I first started dreaming of this pie two years ago. I was obsessed with the idea of bacon fat pie crust. At the time, I really thought a sweet-savory sweet potato pie was going to be the answer. It was fine. But not life altering. So I went back to the drawing board the following year, and it went from being a sweet potato pie to a pecan pie, which was the obvious solution. Though it did require a little bit of experimenting (bacon or no bacon in the filling?). But then I found the sweet spot.

Bacon fat pie crust + gooey, crunchy pecan filling = love at first bite. A little bit of bacon fat in the pie crust really makes magic happen; it’s an instant flavor booster and makes for an ultra flakey base. And the pecan filling, spiked with bourbon and maple syrup, gets a subtle hint of savoriness with the addition of finely chopped bacon. And there you have it. Bacon and bourbon dreams really do come true. But you’ve gotta be careful with this sort of pie – it’s highly addictive. You might just end up eating straight from the pie pan if you don’t check yourself. You have my blessing, of course.

bacon bourbon pecan pie

makes 1 9-inch pie, serves 8

bacon bourbon pie crust (from the LA times)

1-1/2 cups (6.4 ounces) flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

3 tablespoons cold bacon grease or shortening, cut into 3 pieces

5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2 -inch cubes

2 tablespoons cold bourbon

2 tablespoons ice water, more as needed

maple bacon pecan filling (heavily adapted from Bon Appetit)

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

4 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups pecan halves

1/2 cup bacon, finely chopped

3 tablespoons bourbon

for the crust:

Whisk together the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add the bacon grease and incorporate using a pastry cutter or fork (the dough will look like moist sand). Cut in the butter just until it is reduced to small, pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the bourbon and water over the mixture, and stir together just until incorporated. Gently press the crumbly mixture together with a large spoon, rubber spatula or the palm of your hand just until it comes together to form a dough. Mold the dough into a disc roughly 6 inches in diameter. Cover the disc tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a round roughly 13 inches in diameter. Place in a 9-inch baking dish, crimping the edges as desired. Freeze the formed shell for 20 to 30 minutes before filling and baking.

for the filling:

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F.

Stir syrup, brown sugar, corn syrup and butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Increase heat and boil 1 minute. Cool to lukewarm, about 45 minutes.

Whisk eggs, vanilla and salt in 4-cup measuring cup to blend. Gradually whisk maple syrup mixture into egg mixture. Stir in the pecan halves, bacon, and bourbon. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie until filling is slightly puffed around edges and center is set, about 55 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack.

Can be prepared 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Cut pie into wedges and serve.

granola!

2011, I like you already! The new year has been full of friends, old and new, laughter, great food and great drinks. I rang in the new year at a spectacular dinner party hosted by the lovely and talented Mr. Anderson. Chocolate mousse, Veuve Clicquot, an amazing view of San Francisco and fireworks – it was an ideal way to start the new year. I really couldn’t have asked for more.

Since we all want to start off the year on the right foot, how about some granola? Every new year, I swear to myself that I’m going to eat healthier. And I know I’m not the only one, which is why I decided a few weeks ago that I would give the gift of good health in the form of homemade granola (along with salted caramels and marshmallows, and a few other sweet things – you can’t deny the people of all the good stuff!).

Why granola? Because it’s healthy! Or maybe wholesome is more fitting. And because a little bag of homemade granola landed on my desk one evening (thanks, Ginger!) and inspired me to make my own. And when poured into jars and tied with some good looking ribbon, it’s practically begging to be given away.

This is my dream granola. It’s full of nuts and dried fruit and toasted coconut and sweetened with brown sugar and maple syrup.  It’s a sweeter granola, which makes it perfect over plain yogurt. I think next time I’ll throw in some candied ginger, maybe some pumpkin seeds. Or dried figs. Mmmmm. The possibilities are endless, sort of like the year to come. Happy New Year, my dears!

homemade granola

adapted loosely from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

makes 1 pound of granola

2 cups rolled oats

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 cup nuts ( I used a combination of walnuts, pecans, almonds, and hazelnuts)

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1 cup dried fruit (I used dried cherries, golden raisins, and chopped dried apricots)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the oats with salt and cinnamon.

In a small bowl, combine maple syrup, brown sugar,  oil and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Pour the syrup mixture into the oats and stir until evenly coated.

Spread the oat mixture evenly onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving a few clumps for texture.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and flip the oats with a metal spatula. Scatter the nuts and coconut over the granola and return to the oven.

Continue to bake for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and flip the mixture again. Return the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and flip the oats one last time.

Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Cool completely. Once, cooled, toss the granola with dried fruit. Store in an airtight container. The granola will keep for 1 week.