Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Best Football You'll Ever Eat

"All right, gang, huddle up!"
"This is the Superbowl, so ya gotta bring your A-game. Johnson, go long for the pass from Brown. Franklin, don't let their guys get within 10 yards of Burton. Smith, stand around and look delectable."

"25, 31, 14....hut, hut, hike!"
"They've got the ball! Go in for the tackle!"
That's right, what's better than watching the Superbowl this Sunday? (Um, everything?) How about eating footballs instead? These adorable and delicious candies have a fudgy peanut butter and chocolate filling, covered in chocolate candy coating and decorated to look like mini footballs.

Apologies to any fans who are appalled at my faux-football terminology and dialogue above. It should be obvious that I know nothing about football--I had to google a picture of a football to know how to decorate them!--but I do know I love eating them.
Recipe under the cut!

Chocolate Footballs
Recipe first appeared on my candy site

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup peanut butter, smooth or chunky (not natural)
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp + 1 tsp milk
8 ounces chocolate candy coating
2 ounces white candy coating

1. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil and set aside for now.

2. Place the peanut butter and softened butter in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (Alternately, you can place them in a large bowl and use a hand mixer.) Mix on medium speed until creamy and well-combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times.

3. Stop the mixer and add the powdered sugar, cocoa, salt, and vanilla. Turn the mixer to low and mix until the peanut butter is well-distributed. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides very well, and mix again on low. At this point the mixture will look very dry and crumbly.

4. Add the milk and mix on low, continuing to mix until the candy moistens and comes together, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. (This may take a few minutes.) Once it has come together, squeeze some of it into a ball in your hands to check the texture. It should hold together smoothly, without cracking or crumbling, but not be too moist. If necessary, add a little more milk, a half-teaspoon at a time, to get a consistency that you can comfortably work with and mold.

5. Using a teaspoon or a small candy scoop, form the candy into 26 balls and place them on the foil baking sheet. Elongate each ball and pinch the ends into points, so that they are football-shaped. The footballs should be approximately 1.5 inches long and 1 inch wide. (You can vary the size to get fewer or more footballs out of the recipe.) Continue until all the candy is formed into footballs. Refrigerate while you prepare the chocolate candy coating.

6. Place the chocolate candy coating into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until melted, stirring after every 45 seconds to prevent overheating. Stir until completely fluid and free of lumps.

7. Using a fork or dipping tools, dip a football into the melted candy coating, submerging it completely. Remove it from the coating and allow excess to drip back into the bowl. Replace the dipped football on the foil-lined baking sheet, and repeat with remaining footballs and candy coating. Return the footballs to the refrigerator to set while you prepare the white candy coating.

8. Place the white candy coating into a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until melted, stirring after every 45 seconds to prevent overheating. Stir until completely fluid and free of lumps. Scrape it into a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip, or a Ziploc bag. Cut a tiny hole in the corner of the bag to pipe the chocolate.

9. Decorate the footballs by drawing white circles around the edges, and laces in the middle of the balls. Allow to set completely. If desired, you can cut the excess pooled chocolate from the base of the footballs to make them look neater. Footballs can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers: There's A Spoom in My Tuile

This post should be about tuiles.

The Daring Bakers challenge this month was to make tuiles: impossibly light, thin cookies that are traditionally shaped like the roof tiles that give them their name. We had our choice of making traditional sweet tuiles, nougatine tuiles, chocolate tuiles, or savory tuiles. Yes, indeed, there are many different types of tuiles, and given that they were the subject of the challenge, a whole post should be devoted to them.

However, what I really want to talk about are spooms.

"Spooms?" you say. "Do you mean "spoons"? Have you developed a hybrid speech-spelling impediment? Do your typing fingers suddenly lisp?"

No, no, doubt not, friends! Spoom I said, and spoom I mean! Are you unfamiliar with the glorious culinary marvel that is a spoom? Don't worry--I was once like you are now. Sad, alone, utterly without the love of a spoom in my life. The condition is not permanent!

I discovered spooms when reading Sherry Yard's book Desserts by the Yard. Her recipe for Strawberry Spooms caught my eye, because the name was so unusual. (When you search the internet for it, even the mighty Google thinks you want spoons instead.) I didn't know what a spoom was, but I knew I had to have one immediately. It didn't hurt that Strawberry Spoom is Sidney Poitier's favorite dessert, a fact I learned because Miss Yard is a notorious name-dropper, which would be annoying if her recipes were not so awesome.

But! I still haven't told you what spooms are! A spoom is, quite simply, a sorbet lightened with meringue. For this recipe I made a homemade strawberry sorbet, flavored with a little orange zest, but I'm sure it could work with any homemade or store-bought sorbet. The addition of the meringue gives the spoom a light, frothy, ethereal texture. Almost the moment you put it into your mouth it is gone, leaving the intense fruity flavor of the sorbet with none of the cold, icy heaviness.

I made this recipe having only a vague idea of what I would get, so it was a happy accident when I discovered that a spoom is the perfect accompaniment to tuiles, because it is so light--it doesn't overwhelm the delicate cookies, and in turn, the cookies give a great crunch to the super-silky dessert.

I know many of you aren't blessed with the winter sunshine LA seems to perpetually enjoy (or in my case, "enjoy": please send rain stat!) but believe me when I say, this is a desssert worth waiting for. Bookmark it, and bust it out at the first barbeque of the season. It's simple, it's fast, it's not much to look at but the beauty is in the simplicity and purity of the ingredients.

And the tuiles? Fine. Cute. Tasty. A great spoom repository. That's all I got on tuiles. Recipe under the cut!
[Obligatory boilerplate:]This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

Tuiles Recipe

Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as a circle or butterfly. Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations.

Bake tuiles in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again.

If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, or cones.

Spoom Recipe
from Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard

1 quart sorbet, softened (I recommend a fruity flavor)
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat them on medium speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar, and increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high. Once your egg whites start to turn opaque, begin adding the sugar slowly, a spoonful at a time. Continue to beat until they form stiff, shiny peaks, 4-5 minutes.

Place the soft sorbet into a large bowl. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the sorbet, mashing it a bit if necessary. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites and fold just until they are all incorporated. Serve immediately, or return the sorbet to the freezer, but serve within two hours so the spoom will still be light and foamy.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread this week! Yesssss! Was I alone in doing the fist-pump over this one? (Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person in the world who actually likes gingerbread cake. Seriously, mention it to people and they kind of grimace at you and mutter things like "sticky" and "molasses bomb." Now I know how the last of the Mohicans felt.)

So, yes, I was psyched. And of course chocolate makes everything better, so the gingerbread-chocolate combo was already whispering sweet nothings in my ear, before it was even in the oven.
My gingerbread cake contained ground ginger and grated fresh ginger. (Actually, frozen ginger. My favorite ginger trick to to freeze it as soon as I buy it. It lasts forever that way, and it's super easy to peel and run down the microplane while frozen! I end up with beautifully shredded ginger snowflakes, as opposed to the stringy fibrous mess I usually get when using fresh.) The recipe also called for stem ginger in syrup, but I didn't make the effort to go to the nearest Asian supermarket, so no ginger hat trick for me.

I thought the ginger flavor was good, but being a big ginger lover, I thought it could have had more, and if I were to make it again, I'd definitely either up the fresh ginger, or seek out the fancy-pants stem ginger.
In addition to having melted and chopped chocolate in the batter, the cake is finished with a chocolate frosting. I actually had a bunch of ganache leftover from another baking project, so I just poured some ganache on top. (Getting rid of leftovers AND slathering a cake in chocolate? Score!) The slices were finished with slivers of candied ginger, which--now that I think about it--would also have been good in the cake. Thanks for the late contribution, brain.

You might have noticed I'm not rhapsodizing on and on about how nice it was to be reunited with gingerbread. The sad truth is, my cake was pretty dry. I was doing approximately 14 other things while I baked this, including other baking projects, updating my ipod, and talking on my notoriously finnicky cell phone that often requires serious feats of gymnastics to keep a signal. Suffice it to say, all of my attention was not directed toward the delicious eats in my oven. So even though it only baked for 38 minutes (the instructions said 40) I am taking the blame on this one for possibly overcooking.

So the flavors were awesome, and the soft luscious layer of ganache on top was literally the icing on the cake, but the too-dry texture prevented me from really loving this cake. Which is actually a bonus, since the diet is still (ostensibly) in full effect. I would definitely give this another go, watching the baking more carefully, and possibly cutting down on the batter to get smaller pieces. My slices did end up a little larger and in charge--hubba hubba!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Surprise! Your Berry Cake Fell!

So, about that genoise recipe. I think I speak for all of us when I say: %$&*@~&$!!!
I made the cake recipe twice, can you believe this was the "good" one?
It seems like everyone had problems with this cake sinking dramatically. Someone on the TWD board wrote Dorie and got a reply stating, basically, that the nature of the cake is to fall a little bit. I don't really buy that. I've made other genoise recipes that don't fall, or that have a tiny dip, but not a huge crater. Sure, they don't crown like other cakes, but they're certainly not meant to implode, either.

These are the changes I made the second time to make the cake more, er, "successful." I omitted the baking powder (many genoise recipes don't have additional leaveners). After beating the eggs to ribbon stage, I removed about a cup and folded the melted butter into this egg mixture. To the remaining eggs, I sifted the flour over in two additions and incorporated very gently with a whisk, then folded in the egg-butter mixture last. This seemed to help with not overmixing, and it made my cake fail less spectacularly.

What really saved the day is the fact that I decided to make a 6" cake, but I made a full batch of batter, so I baked the 6" and a small loaf pan. I was able to use the loaf pan for scraps to cover the top of my cake after it was hollowed out.

I love the idea of this cake. It's a play on a charlotte russe, which has ladyfingers encircling berries and whipped cream. For this cake, the genoise was hollowed out and filled with fresh berries and a mix of cream cheese and whipped cream, then topped with whipped cream and the remaining berries.

I have to say, the fresh raspberries were just about the best part of the cake for me. What's that you say? It's January? But of course fresh raspberries are in season right now! (In Chile.) Outrageously expensive berries aside, it was still worth it because nothing compares to fresh berries.

I used a pint of berries in the 6", which I thought would be enough, since she calls for about a pint for an 8" cake. Turns out I'm a berry glutton, because I thought the cake had way too much cream and not enough berries...and the cake portion itself was a little skimpy. (I'm probably in the minority on this one, though.) And I freely admit that I had a heavy hand when applying the whipped cream, but as you saw previously, I had some flaws to hide!

I only waited an hour between assembly and photographing the cake. (Daylight is still in short supply around here!) The structural integrity of the cake was a little lacking, but when I sliced it the next day, the filling had firmed up a little more and supported the cake slices nicely.

If I were to do it again, I'd use a different cake recipe (or just turn it into a trifle) but the basic flavor components are classic. Genoise grumbling aside, the cake was still great. I mean, it's whipped cream and fresh berries and cake! Can't really complain about that.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Is there anything better than Nutella? I mean, think about it. Chocolate and hazelnuts get together and produce a sweet, smooth, creamy baby, available in a handy jar. In a jar, people. Basically begging to be spread on everything from croissants to pretzels to your fingers. Sick of healthy apples for a snack? A dab of Nutella will fix that right up. Want to get your kids to eat their broccoli? Add Nutella! It goes with everything.

So yes, I have a serious weakness where Nutella is concerned. Even if it is, like 98% trans fats and 1.5% hazelnut goo and .5% sketchy cocoa solids, I still love it and defend it and buy it in wee overpriced jars from the supermarket. That's why, when I saw this recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies on Maria's blog awhile back, I knew I had to make them with the hazelnuts I got from Oh! Nuts.

These cookies were similar to a chcolate-chip cookie dough, with the addition of Nutella, and chopped hazelnuts in lieu of the chocolate chips. I was expecting fireworks when I tasted the dough, but I actually found it a little bland. The hazelnut flavor was barely there, and the chocolate didn't come through at all. (Guess it's the revenge of all those nasty trans fats, and the relatively small amount of Nutella in the dough.) Fortunately I had some hazelnut extract that I was able to add, which really boosted the hazelnut flavor.

The cookies baked up beautifully--crispy on the edges, while still very soft in the centers. The hazelnuts added a nice crunch and a toasty flavor. If I were to do it again, I'd add some semi-sweet chocolate chunks, since these cookies looked chocolatey, but didn't have much chocolate taste. Overall, I thought they were a pretty good cookie, but I don't know if I would have liked them much if I hadn't added the extra hazelnut flavor. I guess I'm still searching for the perfect chocolate-hazelnut cookie...or maybe I should go back to spreading Nutella on every cookie that comes my way...

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Adapted from Giada's Kitchen (recipe courtesy of Two Peas and Their Pod)

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Drop of hazelnut extract (I added this, use if you have it!)
3/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another medium bowl combine the butter, chocolate hazelnut spread, sugar, and brown sugar. Using an electric mixer, cream the ingredients together, about 4 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and drop of hazelnut extract if you are using it and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Add the hazelnuts and stir until just combined.

Using a tablespoon measure, spoon out the cookie dough onto a cookie sheet, spacing the mounds about 4 inches apart. Bake until lightly golden around the edges, about 10 minutes. Use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
**To toast hazelnuts-spread nuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat. Bake for about ten minutes at 350 degrees. Stir them a couple of times while they are baking.**


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Spicy Cornbread Muffins

This post could be subtitled: In Which The Author Suffers A Case of Blog-Writer's Block.

I've put off writing this entry most of today because I can't think of any clever or interesting ways of approaching it. People, I am on a strict New Year's-inspired diet and exercise plan. All of my mental energy is going toward forcing myself not to eat fudge for lunch and convincing myself that plain yogurt with splenda is a delightful "dessert." How can I be expected to write amusingly about food at a time like this? What is wrong with you?!

Also, I think the diet is making me cranky.

But back to real food...
We made Savory Cornbread Muffins this week for TWD, and I was kind of psyched about the choice, simply because it came after much holiday overindulging, and it was a relief to not have to make a five-layered cake or something. Like just about everyone else, I served it with a hearty soup (my famous smoky black-bean soup) and the muffins were a nice complement to the soup.

Being a lifelong Californian, I can claim ignorance as to the intricacies of the Great Cornbread Debate between the North and the South (sugar? bacon grease? cheese? cast iron? who knows?) so I came to this recipe baggage-free. I thought it was a fine recipe, in that it tasted good but not extraordinary, and probably wouldn't supplant my favorite corn bread recipe any time in the near future. To be fair, I usually bake my cornbread in a preheated cast iron skillet so it has those great crunchy edges, and that may have been part of what I was missing.

There were lots of good add-ins in this recipe: green onions, cilantro, jalapeno, yellow bell peppers, and roasted corn kernels. I added a little pepper jack cheese, and increased the amount of spices for an extra kick. I liked the flavor just fine, but thought the bread was a little crumbly and dry for my taste. It was great crumbled over the soup, but a little less exciting when eaten on its own.

Any 30 Rock fans in the house? I think I'll sum up by saying, this was a good cornbread, but not one I'd like to take behind the middle school and get pregnant.

(Hee hee, pregnant cornbread.)


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Pear and Gouda Scones

Recently I was lucky enough to receive some samples from a company called Oh! Nuts. They guessed it...all different kinds of nuts and dried fruit, along with many candies and snack items. (The selection really is amazing, and after a quick browse-through I've discovered about 5374 ingredients I simply must have.) The samples I got were roasted hazelnuts, dried pears, raspberry-flavored dried cherries, and coconut malted milk balls. I've been happily experimenting with my fun new ingredients in some desserts, and I'll be featuring them here over the next week or so.

...but before we get to the recipes, can I please tell you how EPIC the coconut malted milk balls were?

Oh mama, these were dangerous. First of all, they were huge--larger than a quarter, I'd estimate. And secondly, they were absolutely delicious. Nothing like the stale mothballs masquerading as "maltballs" in the grocery store. These were melt-in-your-mouth, double-your-pants-size-in-one-bite good. I had to give a half-eaten bag to my father to get them out of the house.

But I digress.

Back to the fruit and nuts! I first went to town on the dried pears...I had some fabulous gouda with walnut pieces that I wanted to pair with it, so I decided to do scones.

Scones are kind of a treat around our house...we usually like to save our calorie splurges for later in the day, so I don't often do breakfast baking. This recipe might convince me to change my mind! The dried pears added a nice chewiness and sweetness to the scones, that was offset by the sharp gouda and the walnut pieces from the cheese. Add in a flaky, buttery scone base, and what's not to love?

Pear and Gouda Scones
from Chocolate and Zucchini
180 grams (1 1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
A fat pinch of ground piment d'Espelette (substitute any moderately hot ground chili)
3/4 teaspoon fleur de sel (substitute kosher salt)
75 grams (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, diced
85 grams (1 cup) coarsely grated 36-month-old Gouda (substitute another type of aged firm cheese, such as Comté, Parmesan, or Cheddar)
20 grams (3 tablespoons) diced dried pears
100 mL (7 tablespoons) light (15%) cream
1 egg yolk, beaten with a tablespoon fresh water

Makes 9 small pieces.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, piment d'Espelette, and salt. Add the butter and rub it into the dry ingredients with the tips of your fingers or a wire pastry blender, until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add the cheese and pears, and blend with a fork.

Add the cream and mix it in gently with the fork until the dough comes together -- add a tad more cream or ice-cold water if the dough is too dry. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface, gather into a ball, and roll out into a 2-cm-thick (3/4-inch) circle. Cut out circles of dough using a 6-cm (2 1/2-inch) cookie cutter or juice glass and transfer onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about an inch of space between each. Gather the rest of the dough into a ball and repeat the rolling and cutting steps until you've used up all the dough.

Use a pastry brush or the back of a teaspoon to brush the top of the rounds with the egg yolk mixture. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until puffy and golden, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking. Let cool on a rack for a few minutes and serve. The scones will keep for a few days at room temperature, wrapped tightly in foil. Reheat for five minutes in a warm oven before serving.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Pear Almond Tart

Oh, YUM. This week's TWD recipe, a Pear Almond Tart, was chosen by Dorie herself, so I was already planning on saying nice things about it, even if I didn't like it. Fortunately, the tart was fabulous, so I don't even have to lie. Bonus!

This particular tart is pretty common in bakeries--I've made a version of this at most of my bakery jobs in the past. A sweet tart shell is filled with almond cream, topped with sliced poached (or canned) pears, and baked until set. Although canned pears are an option in the recipe, I couldn't bear to use them. I actually got as far as opening the can, but they were just so...shrimpy and pathetic. Like, half the size of normal pear halves! No tart of mine can have limp, stunted pears!

Instead, I poached some fresh pears in a simple syrup, flavored with big chunks of orange. I actually did two batches, and to the second batch, I added big handfuls of blackberries, to give the pears a gorgeous red color. All the extra fruit in the simmering syrup also helped to give the pears a fruitier aroma, which was awesome because my supermarket pears were a little low in the flavor department.

I admit to being initially baffled by the pear slicing-and-arranging instructions. Fortunately the internet schooled me, and I think this is how it's supposed to look. Before reading the tips from other folks, I was planning on slicing the pears and fanning them out over the entire top of the tart, which would have looked okay too. But I do like the look of this design.
The tart was pretty easy to throw together, although it wasn't exactly fast. Between making the dough and almond cream, the dough chilling, then pre-baking, and the poaching of the pears (which took me more like 50 minutes, as opposed to 15) it was definitely a multi-hour project, although the actual work time was probably under an hour.

So how was it? Well, let me put it this way: see that tart slice below? The one that's about 1/5th of the entire 9-inch tart? I ate the whole thing in one go. Standing up. With my bare hands. Right after I took these photos, which I rushed through at the end because I really wanted to taste it. So, yeah. It was okay.

Actually, it was fantastic! The almond flavor in the crust and the cream (helped by a touch of almond extract) was perfectly paired with the light pear (and hint of citrus) flavor of the fruit. The supple fruit, soft cream, crispy crust...yes. Perfection indeed. This is also a good example of a dessert I probably wouldn't have chosen to make myself (because I am so predictably chocolate-focused) but that I enjoyed immensely. So props to Dorie for choosing a great recipe, and double props for writing a great recipe!


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Resolution Breaker Tollhouse Pie

Happy New Year! Have you made your resolutions yet? Do any of them happen to involve healthier eating and/or weight loss? If so, you may want to stop reading now, because this month's Pies With That challenge was all about creating a pie so tempting, it could only be called a resolution breaker.

It didn't take me long to decide what kind of pie I wanted to make. For Christmas I received the Baked cookbook, and after hearing so many good things, I was anxious to try out a recipe. First to catch my eye was Tuscaloosa Tollhouse Pie, described as a cross between a pecan pie and a chocolate chip cookie.
*insert sound of record scratching*
I'm sorry, a pie that is also a cookie? HOW have I not heard about this until now? What other awesome dessert hybrids are on the loose without my knowledge? You had all better enlighten me, stat!

And with that, it was decided. In blatant disregard to my own personal fitness goals, I started my new year by having Tollhouse Pie and homemade Creme Fraiche Ice Cream for breakfast. We justified it by deciding that such a rich dessert was surely a sign of prosperity and happiness for the coming year! That IS how karma works, right?

The pie started out looking pretty homely. I made the pie crust, but it could easily be made using a purchased frozen crust. The recipe doesn't state that it should be parbaked, but since I usually parbake the crust for my pecan pies, I went ahead and did a partial bake. Next time I might omit the step and see how it turns out. The batter itself is like a fairly thick cake batter--midway between a cookie dough and a liquidy pecan pie filling. It baked up puffed and golden brown, and smelled heavenly all during the baking.
Its appearance greatly improved once I cut a slice and topped it with a scoop of the creme fraiche ice cream, still soft from being freshly churned. (I think this is a pie that definitely needs a topping to cut the richness, either ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream.) I used macadamia nuts in place of walnuts, and next time I might throw some shredded coconut in as well, to make a tropical chocolate chip cookie pie.

And HERE is something crazy--just now, as I was typing up the recipe, I realized that I left out 1/2 cup of brown sugar from the pie! That's fully half of the sugar the recipe calls for. This might explain why the filling wasn't as gooey as I would have hoped. (Whoops.) However, it was still a great pie. The consistency was almost exactly like a soft, baked cookie. (And it definitely wasn't lacking for sweetness.) I would like a little more goo, but Jason loved the cookie aspect, because, as he says, "Having a cookie in pie form makes it more socially acceptable to smother it with ice cream!" Well played, sir.

We both agreed that this was a pie worth breaking a resolution for. Wouldn't you agree?

Check out the other sinfully good pies after January 6th on the You Want Pies With That blog. Want to ruin your own weight-loss efforts? Pie and ice cream recipes are below!

Tuscaloosa Tollhouse Pie
from Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

1 pie crust, frozen
1/2 cup AP flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cubed
1 tbsp whiskey (I omitted and added a little vanilla extract)
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (I subbed macadamia nuts)
1.25 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the eggs on high in a mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat until foamy, about 3 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment, and add the flour and sugars. Beat for 2 minutes on high. Scrape down the bowl and add the butter, beating on high until well-combined. Scrape down the bowl and add the whiskey, and beat on high for 1 minute.

Fold the nuts and 1 cup of chocolate chips into the filling. Scrape into the prepared pie shell and smooth into an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips on top. Bake for 40-50 minutes, covering the edges of the crust with foil if it gets too brown. The pie is done when it is puffed and golden brown, and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool before slicing, but this pie is best served warm, so heat slices for 20 seconds in the microwave before serving.

Creme Fraiche Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3/4 cup sugar
6 large egg yolks
1 cup crème fraîche (can sub sour cream with great results)

Place cream in heavy large saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 15 minutes.

Using electric mixer, beat sugar and yolks in large bowl until thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Gradually beat in warm cream mixture. Return mixture to saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on spoon when finger is drawn across, about 6 minutes (do not boil). Remove from heat. Cool 15 minutes. Discard vanilla bean. Whisk in crème fraîche. Cover and chill custard until cold, about 3 hours.

Process custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to covered container. Freeze until firm.