Archive for September, 2011

Blue Cheese & Pecan Shortbread

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Another delicious use for those coronation/concord grapes. An accessory to them, really.

We’re heading up to Jasper for the weekend, and there’s so much to catch you up on from this week, and last weekend still, but there are too many photos to go through and pack at the same time. So I leave you with these buttery, blue cheesey shortbreads that you can make ahead and keep in the fridge or freezer for such time when you need to slice and bake up a little somthething fancy-ish and delicious. There will be plenty of opportunities in the next few months.

It never hurts to get a little something stashed away now. Unless you’re planning on freezing balls of chocolate chip cookie dough to get ahead of the game – which may be a bad idea for those who, like me, adore frozen balls of chocolate chip cookie dough.

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These are perfect – and super easy to stir together – if you have to bring something somewhere, or if you’re planning a little wine & cheese this weekend. (Even if it’s alone, on the couch, in your slippers. Ahh.)

Pecan & Blue Cheese Shortbread

1/2 cup butter, at room temp
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

Beat the butter and blue cheese until blended (don’t worry about lumps of cheese); add the flour and pecans or walnuts. Shape into a log, wrap in parchment or plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm or freeze for up to 6 months.

To bake, slice 1/4-inch thick and bake on an ungreased baking sheet at 350°F for 10 minutes, or until pale golden around the edges. Makes about 2 dozen.

September 30 2011 | appetizers | 14 Comments »

Concord Grape Jelly, Tarts and Hand Pies

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I love when you have a friend who goes grape picking in the Okanagan and brings you back a box of tight bunches of Coronation grapes, some with twisty vines still attached. If this hasn’t recently happened to you, sorry.

Or… perhaps we should arrange a field trip to the Okanagan?

So I have this box of Coronation grapes – the seedless version of Concords, those dusty indigo blue grapes that pop out of their skins and have far more flavour than the lacklustre green and pale purple ones you see year-round at the grocery store. They’re great for eating, but they also make delicious other things, like cakes and focaccia and chutney and jelly, which is actually a snap to make.

And it tastes surprisingly like the grape jelly of my childhood – not a whole lot more sophisticated.

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To make Grape Jelly: simmer 1 1/2 lb Concord or Coronation grapes with 3 Tbsp. lemon juice for about 10 minutes, until the grapes pop; strain through a sieve and return the grape juice to the pan with 1 cup sugar. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, until the jam reaches 220?F on a candy thermometer. Cool and refrigerate for up to a month.

That’s it. It’s thicker than jelly, but I’m not sure I’d call it jam, as all the solids have been strained out. Preserves, perhaps? I love the purpleness of it, especially when spreading on toast or filling little tartlet cups lined with white cheddar pastry. Seemed like a good idea.

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Concord Grape Jelly Tarts or Hand Pies

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1/4 cup shortening, chilled and cut into pieces
1/2-1 cup grated old white cheddar or 1/4 cup ground hazelnuts or pecans
2-4 Tbsp. ice-cold water

Grape jelly/preserves, for filling

Make the pastry: in a large bowl or the bowl of a food processor, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter, shortening and cheese or hazelnuts and use a fork, pastry blender, wire whisk or the “pulse” motion of the food processor to blend the mixture until it resembles coarse meal, with lumps of fat no bigger than a pea.

Drizzle the minimum amount of water over the mixture and stir until the dough comes together, adding a little more a bit at a time if you need it. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it into a disc, wrap it in plastic and chill for at least half an hour, or freeze for up to 6 months if you want a head start on things.

To fill, roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface about 1/4-inch thick; cut into rounds with a cookie cutter or glass rim. Fit into mini muffin tins, pressing up the sides, and fill with a spoonful of jam, filling it only about halfway. If you like, cut the scraps into little shapes to place on top of the jam.

Alternatively, make little hand pies (aka turnovers) by putting a spoonful of jam in the middle of each round, brushing the edge with a little beaten egg or milk, and folding it over, turnover-style. Press the edge closed with a fork to seal, and poke the top with a fork. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Either way, bake in a preheated 400F oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden. Remove from the pan while still warm. Makes lots.

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September 27 2011 | dessert and preserves | 21 Comments »

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