Piece of Cake

Pecan Pie Truffles

IMG_3882 I'm still in Louisiana--land of plenty pecans! My recent bourbon pecan pie has been such a hit, I decided to take things up a notch with these pecan pie truffles.  These truffles are basically the best part of pecan pie--salted caramel, roasted pecans and bourbon--enrobed in dark chocolate.  They were fairly simple to make, and the variations are endless! You can coat the in dark chocolate, or you can roll them in unsweetened cocoa powder, or make it meta and coat them in more chopped pecans!

making pecan pie truffles

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This portable dessert is perfect for a holiday party, since you can make them in advance and easily transport them. I made these for an annual get together with childhood friends, and I liked them so much that I'm making them for Part Two of my family's Christmas party this evening.  These decadent truffles are also a great gift. Just store them in an air tight container at room temperature, and they will last for a couple of weeks. The recipe below was adapted from NYTFood.

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Pecan Pie Truffles
Author: Vallery
Serves: 28 balls
Ingredients
  • 2 ½ cups pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (from 8 whole graham crackers)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or dark corn syrup
  • ¼ cup whiskey or bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 12 ounces Guittard dark chocolate
Instructions
  1. Stir together chopped pecans, graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and salt until well combined. Add maple syrup, bourbon and vanilla, stirring thoroughly.
  2. Form mixture into walnut-sized balls with your hands, then place on a cookie sheet and freeze for 1 hour.
  3. Melt the chocolate by microwaving it or in the top of a double broiler. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dip the frozen balls into the melted chocolate, then place onto prepared baking sheet. Let sit for 15 minutes or until firm.

pecan pie truffles

Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

making homemade bread pudding with raisinslove bread pudding but had never made it before.  It's just not a part of the many dessert traditions in my family. But, I knew this was something I wanted to try, so we made it for Christmas dinner. I really like bread pudding because it is a rustic, peasant-type dish that uses ingredients (day-old bread) that would typically be discarded.

Making this recipe could really not be simpler, plus no fancy equipment is needed! You simply break up the bread into pieces, but it in the baking dish, then pour a custard of milk, eggs, sugar, and spices over it. Then, bake it. But don't forget the sauce--this dish is best served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or drizzled with a sauce that you can make with rum or  whiskey. The sauce is a tad more complicated than the bread pudding itself--just don't forget the cornstarch (a thickening agent) and gently cook it until it is slightly thick. Also, I kind of hate raisins. So, I baked it without the raisins and then drizzled them on top for everyone else!

bread pudding

bread pudding with rum sauce

bread pudding recipe

Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 12 slices day-old baguette, cut into 3/4-inch
  • cubes
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • WHISKEY SAUCE
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup bourbon, whiskey, OR rum
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking dish. Spread the bread cubes in it.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until well blended. Pour in the milk and whisk until combined. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes. Let stand, pressing down on the bread occasionally, until it is evenly soaked, about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 350°F.
  4. Scatter the raisins evenly over the surface of the soaked bread and press to submerge them. Set the baking dish in a large, shallow roasting pan. Add very hot tap water to the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
  5. Bake the pudding until a knife inserted near the center comes out almost clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  6. PREPARE THE SAUCE
  7. In a 1-quart saucepan set over medium heat, combine the cream, milk, and sugar. Place the cornstarch and half the bourbon in a small mixing bowl and whisk to blend and make a slurry. Pour the slurry into the cream mixture and bring to a boil. Once the sauce begins to boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the salt, and stir in the butter and the remaining bourbon. Serve warm.

homemade bread pudding

Whiskey-Spiked Eggnog

  Homemade Spiked EggnogIf your only experience with eggnog is the store-bought stuff, you're missing out!  Making fresh eggnog is fairly simple. There are only five ingredients--eggs, sugar, milk, cream and nutmeg. The whiskey is of course optional ;)

Day 23: Whiskey-Spiked Eggnog

Difficulty: Piece of Cake!

Eggnog is somewhat of a family tradition that got lost for several decades. Eggnog was a specialty of my grandmother Leona, who is now 98 years old, so my mother grew up drinking eggnog. But by the time the 1990s rolled around, eggnog disappeared from the family holiday spread.

So, in an attempt to revive this lost family tradition, I decided to make a very traditional eggnog recipe. It is rather simple and a fun holiday project to liven a holiday party or Christmas dinner. This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown.

spiked eggnog

Whiskey-Spiked Eggnog
Serves: 6 cups
Ingredients
  • 4 eggs, separated (4 egg yolks + 4 egg whites)
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 pint whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 ounces whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they are pale yellow. Slowly add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Set aside.
  2. In a medium pot, over high heat, combine the milk, heavy cream and nutmeg and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and gradually pour the hot mixture into the egg and sugar mixture, whisking constantly (If you don't whisk it, the milk will cook the eggs and you'll have scrambled eggs!). Then return everything to the pot and cook until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from the heat.
  3. Stir in the whiskey and pour into a pitcher. Place pitcher in the refrigerator and allow it to cool completely.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. With the mixer running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Whisk the egg whites into the chilled eggnog mixture and serve.

 

Sweet Potato Pie + Giveaway (The Lion King on Broadway!)

sweet potato pie I’m reviewing two holiday treats for Days 17 and 18, and one of those treats can be enjoyed guilt-free since it has zero calories! Both of today’s featured treats—Sweet Potato Pie and The Lion King on Broadway—celebrate the talent and innovation of the African diaspora. This sweet potato pie will fill satisfy your appetite, but the Lion King on Broadway will satisfy your soul.  Be sure to scroll to the end of this post to see how you can win TWO tickets to the LION KING on Broadway, Thursday, March 3rd performance at 7pm.

Days 17 and 18: Sweet Potato Pie + The Lion King on Broadway

Difficulty: Entering the giveaway for TWO FREE TICKETS is a piece of cake!

Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet potato pie is a close cousin to the All-American, perennial holiday favorite, pumpkin pie. It uses sweet potatoes, a staple in African cuisine, and was developed by slaves in the southern region of the United States. It is most popular in the South, and is a beloved dessert in “soul food” cuisine.  In fact, sweet potato pie is so good that you may even break out in song.

The Lion King on Broadway

Lion King on Broadway

This musical masterpiece will have you break out into song as well, long after the final curtain has been drawn at Minskoff Theater on Broadway.  This touching and heartwarming musical transports its viewers to the fictional Pride Rock in the very real Serengeti in Tanzania. The costumes are a combination of authentic, traditional Tanzanian and South African garb and masks, combined with artistic engineering innovation to mimic the grace and beauty of gazelles leaping and zebras prancing.

Lion King on Broadway Nala

This musical offers what other Broadway shows don’t because it is a complete spectacle of nostalgic Disney hits like “The Circle of Life,” along with superb dancing, acting, and singing. And as great as the talented performers are, the choreography and use of puppetry in the costumes puts this musical in a league of its own. I first saw this musical in Los Angeles over a decade ago, but seeing it again makes me realize how timeless this classic really is.  Entering this giveaway is simple.  You must do the following two things to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post with your favorite holiday dish (dessert or otherwise!)
  2. Click on the link below and select the first tab.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER -->  a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can win bonus entries by following the directions above. 

The contest ends at 11:59pm, December 28th. The winner will be contacted via email and will have 24 hours to respond to claim the prize!  Good luck!

Me with the talented L. Steven Taylor, who plays Mufasa

Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

oven roasted sweet potatoes I'm switching things up for Day 16 with a savory, non-dessert.  This dish is elegant, yet simple, and it would fit nicely on any holiday table.  I sliced two types of sweet potatoes (one orange variety and one white variety) and roasted them in the oven until they were tender. I used the white variety, which had eggplant-colored skin, because the people selling me the produce insisted that it was the sweeter, superior sweet potato.

Day 16: Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Difficulty: Piece of Cake! 

Sometimes, the best dishes are the simple ones where the freshness of the ingredients can really shine. The only way you'll go wrong is if you undercook or overcook the potatoes. If the potatoes aren't cooked through yet but start to get too brown, just cover them with foil for the remainder of the baking time.

Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes
This recipe works great for regular potatoes as well. Just leave out the maple syrup and add a few sprigs of rosemary when you remove the potatoes from the oven!
Ingredients
  • 4 pounds of sweet potatoes, skinned and sliced thinly (1/8")
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Combine the butter, olive oil, and maple syrup in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until the butter melts, then remove from heat.
  2. Pour half of the mixture inside of your baking dish (9"x9" square pan or 9" round pan)
  3. Arrange the potato slices in the baking dish. Then, pour the remaining mixture evenly over the sliced potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, being careful not to oversalt.
  4. Bake in the middle of the oven until the potatoes are tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

Chocolate-Peppermint Crackle Cookies

stack of chocolate cookies These are the perfect cookies for Santa, or another contender for your holiday Cookie Swap!  These are absolutely easy to make.  I didn't use any fancy equipment--just one pot. I made the entire recipe in that one pot. And it would have been even easier if I had a microwave, because I could have melted the chocolate in the microwave!  The only special ingredient I needed to purchase was mint extract since I had a leftover unsweetened chocolate bar from my yule log cookies.

cookies and milk

 

I brought these to the office for our holiday party, and they were one of the first to go. Plus, the crackle design makes them so unique and a real standout.  I adapted the recipe from SLMag, but it didn't need much tweaking!  If you don't like chocolate and mint together, substitute the mint extract for vanilla extract.  You'll get the same beautiful design and mouthwatering chocolate cookie without the mint flavor.

Roll the dough into balls, roll the balls in powdered sugar to coat.

southern living chocolate crackle cookies

chocolate crinkle cookies

chocolate cookies with powdered sugar

Southern Living Peppermint Chocolate Crackle Cookies

Chocolate-Peppermint Crackle Cookies
Ingredients
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate baking bars, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Melt the chocolate by either microwaving it or putting it in a double-boiler on the stove. If you microwave it, be sure to check it frequently to make sure it doesn't burn. Once melted, stir in the butter and salt until combined. Then, add the granulated sugar, flavoring extract, and two eggs and mix until blended. Stir together flour, cocoa, and baking powder in a small bowl. Stir flour mixture into chocolate mixture until well blended. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and chill 1 hour to 5 days.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, then roll in powdered sugar to coat. Place coated cookies 1 inch apart on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet.
  3. Bake at 350°F for about 10 minutes or until cookies are crackled and have lightly set. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 20 minutes).

bite out of chocolate cookie