Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Treats

I've been having a really good week. I finished my final papers last Thursday, spend Thursday night in a cozy mess of kittens, Friday getting my haircut and napping, and Saturday baking all day in preparation for my holiday party...I may have gone a teensy bit overboard as I made four kinds of cookies, a chocolate tart, pizzas, brussels sprouts, roasted mushrooms, fresh bread and a 2 gallon jar of my Christmas punch (i.e. highly brandied sangria with cloves, cinnamon and cointreau)...But, the payoff was well worth the nearly 12 hours in the kitchen. There really is nothing like cramming all your friends into your house, feeding them, watching your cat be the belle of the ball, and sending everyone home a little bit drunk and a little high on sugar.

I've shared my take on the PPK's double chocolate cookies before...But, for the party I dreamed up these Whole Wheat Maple Sugar Cookies and a Dark Chocolate Tart with Hazelnut Crust to accompany the little chocolate bombs and a batch of PPK "gingervegans." I also made the butternut squash pizza that has become my go to party snack, garam marsala crusted sprouts, and wine roasted mushrooms. The food was a big hit...And given that I made 8 dozen cookies and have less than 2 dozen left...I'd say we all gained about 10 pounds this weekend. Now, to go home, hang with the family and enjoy the slightly balmier weather in Southern California for a few days before coming back to ready myself for all-writing, all the time in January!

Once again, please pardon the pictures. I swear, I need to just hire a food photographer because I cannot keep a digital camera in working order to save my life and the things I make are actually quite pretty!

Whole Wheat Maple Sugar Cookies
1 T ground Flax Seed + 1/4 c Plain unsweetened Hemp milk
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 cup stick of Earth Balance baking shortening
(heaping) 3/4 cup maple sugar
1/2 t vanilla

In a small bowl, whisk the flax seed and hemp milk. Set aside for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together.

In a large bowl, cream the shortening and maple sugar for 5 minutes until fluffy. Add the flax "egg" and vanilla and mix well. 

Using a rubber spatula, work the dry ingredients into the wet. (This will be a little bit of a workout!) At some point you'll want to get your hands in there and knead the dough lightly to help it come together. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out to 1/4" thick on a well floured counter. Use cookie cutters to cut whatever shapes you like...I used a heart because I <3 Maple-anything. Bake the cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet for 6 minutes. Cool completely before frosting if frosting them is your intent. Unfrosted they're slightly savory, frosted they're totally decadent and super-mapley. 

Super Intense Maple Frosting

1.5 c grade B maple syrup
1/2 c non-dairy butter

In a small sauce pan (non-stick!!!) bring the maple syrup to a boil. Boil the syrup very carefully until it reaches the "thread stage." I don't have a candy thermometer, this is about 235 degrees, but you can smell and see when its ready...It will smell like caramel and the bubbles will be thick. The convection currents in the pan will stir the syrup for you, so watch and don't touch. Carefully transfer the hot syrup to a mixing bowl, cover and refrigerate until it is about room temp. When the syrup is cool, cube the non-dairy butter, toss it in the syrup and cream with a hand mixer until the frosting is soft and fluffy. Keep in the fridge until you're ready to frost your cookies.

Dark Chocolate Tart with Hazelnut Crust

16 oz Dairy Free Dark Chocolate, coarsely chopped (I like this one.)
4 T good quality brandy
1 t freshly ground cinnamon
15 oz can coconut milk (not lite!)

1 flax "egg" (1 T ground Flax + 3 T plain unsweetened hemp milk)
2/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skins rubbed off and allowed to cool completely
1 cup all purpose flour
3 T sugar
1 t salt
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, cubed
1 t vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350. In a small food processor, pulse the hazelnuts, salt and sugar until finely ground. Add the flour and pulse to mix. Add the cubed shortening and pulse until the mixture is clumping into fine pea-shaped lumps. Add the vanilla and "egg" and pulse until the dough just comes together. 

Turn the dough out into a 9" fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press it evenly across the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Once the dough has been patted into place, cover the surface of the dough with parchment paper and either weight the crust with pie weights, or use  rice or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the weights and paper and bake for another 10 minutes until the whole crust is golden. If the edges look like they're getting over done, cover them lightly with aluminum foil.

Let the crust cool completely in the pan on a rack.

To make the filling: In a large glass bowl, pour the vanilla and brandy over the chocolate. Bring the coconut milk and vanilla to a boil. Pour the hot coconut milk over the chocolate and let sit for 3 minutes. Then stir slowly with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until the ganache is smooth and shiny. Pour the chocolate into the prepared tart shell, allow to cool completely (at least 3 hours) before refrigerating overnight to set. Serve at room temperature. 

 Savory Squash and Caramelized Onion Pizzas (Makes 2 smallish pizzas)
These are my signature party snacks. Super simple, rather healthy, and always a crowd pleaser.

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 t active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
4 tablespoons dark beer
1 teaspoon maple syrup or agave nectar
2 teaspoons salt
2 T olive oil

Mix the yeast and water in a large bowl. Then add the beer, syrup, salt and olive oil. Stir to combine. Using a fork, work the flour into the liquid until it becomes hard to mix, then use your hands to form it into a large ball. Knead the ball gently on a lightly floured counter, wash the bowl, dry and coat with olive oil. Place the dough back in the bowl and allow to rise for about 2 hours. It should double in size. When the dough is done rising, punch it down on a flour counter and break in half. Form each half into a ball and allow to rest for 10 minutes before rolling and topping.

4 red onions, sliced into thin half moons
1/8 c olive oil + 2 T
1 3lb butternut squash, roasted
6- 8 sage leaves
3 large cloves of garlic
1/2 c chopped walnuts

Heat the 1/8 c of olive oil on LOW HEAT in a large, deep saucepan with a tight fitting lid. When the oil is hot, add the onions and stir to coat. Cover with the lid and stir every 5 or so minutes. It will take about an hour for the onions to properly caramelize. You do not want them to start to brown up immediately as this will result in a charred flavor. 

In the mean time, chop the garlic and sage in a food processor. Scoop the squash in and purée until well mixed. 

When the onions are done, preheat the oven to 450 and prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper and cornmeal if you like to use it. Place the rolled out dough on the sheets and brush 1 T olive oil over each pizza crust, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread about 1 cup of the squash mixture over each pizza crust, garnish generously with onions and walnuts and bake for about 15 minutes until the crust is crisp and the walnuts are well toasted. 


  1. The tart looks stunning and sounds amazing! I love the combination of hazelnuts and chocolate!

  2. Ahhh, seeing all the cookie pictures gave me a sweet tooth. I am going to go and get soe kit kit now.