Blueberry Jam Crumble

Blueberry Jam Crumble

Blueberry Jam Crumble

Here’s another way to enjoy your homemade or favorite store-bought jam this summer. Like so many of my favorite homey desserts, this dish is less a recipe than a method of combining a handful of flavorful ingredients.

Toss together about equal parts jam and fresh fruit, in this case blueberry jam and fresh blueberries, drizzle in a bit of lemon juice, and season with a scant pinch of salt. Make my quick Crumble recipe (see the one below) and simply layer the crumble and fruit filling in individual oven-safe jars (I use Weck), bowls, or cups. I like to layer thusly: crumble, fruit, crumble, fruit, crumble, fruit. I then speckle the tops with coarse sugar and bake the crumbles in a 375 oven until they are bubbly, golden brown, and fragrant, about 20 minutes. Serve these fruity crumbles warm or at room temperature.

Crumble

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/2 cup rolled oats (optional)

Pinch of sea salt

Combine all of the ingredients, lightly stirring with a fork, until the mixture is crumbly. Sometimes it will look damp and clumpy, depending on the humidity and brand of flour you’re using. Not to worry. If it does appear too pasty, simply stir in a bit more flour. This crumble can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

“Think Spring!” Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies for Kate's 6th birthday party

Sugar cookies for Kate’s 6th birthday party

Here is another way to decorate my favorite sugar cookies. With yet another blizzard raging outside at the moment, it only seems fitting to put our minds and rolling pins to pretty colorful spring-like confections. I served these particular little cuties just last weekend as favors at Kate’s 6th birthday party.

This is such a useful cookie recipe to keep in your repertoire. After you have prepared and chilled the dough, you can cut and freeze the cookies for up to 1 month, baking them from frozen, or bake them first and then freeze them, again for about the same amount of time.

Although I regularly decorate my cutout cookies with colorful royal icing, I have become quite a fan of rolled fondant. The varieties on the shelves these days in craft and specialty baking stores are better than ever—smooth, easy to work with, and available in a wide variety of colors. Of course, you can simply tint plain white fondant, too, using food color paste.

To adhere cutout fondant pieces to the cookies, brush lightly with water or a combination of water and light corn syrup and press gently onto the cookies. If you wish to do so, you can also go a bit further as I have done here, and add additional elements such as royal icing letters, dots, and flowers.

These cookies will keep fresh in airtight bags at room temperature for up to two weeks.

About 30 three-inch cookies

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon sea salt

Pinch of baking powder

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Rolled fondant

Royal icing

Royal icing flowers (available in craft stores or prepare your own)

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.

Put the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and begin beating on medium speed. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Drop in the egg and add the vanilla and mix just until incorporated. Gradually spoon in the flour, mixing on medium-low speed, just until the dough comes together.

Transfer the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap, bring together to form a disc, and wrap well. Set in the refrigerator to chill and rest, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using about half of the dough at a time, roll on a lightly floured work surface to about ¼ inch thick. Cut into desired shapes and arrange about 1 ½ inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Set in the refrigerator to chill until firm, at least 20 minutes. (The cutouts can also be arranged on a plastic wrap-lined board or baking sheet, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 1 month. When ready to bake, arrange the frozen cutouts on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake as directed below.)

Bake the cookies (depending on the size) until light golden brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool on the baking sheets for several minutes before transferring them to the racks to cool completely.

To make the fondant cutouts, line a flat board or baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly dust a flat work surface with confectioners’ sugar. Using about a palm-size piece of fondant at a time, roll to about 1/16 inch thick. Cut out desired shapes (I use the same size cutter I use for the cookies) and set on the prepared board or baking sheet. You can use them immediately or when they’ve dried a bit. I suggest not waiting too long, though, as it is more challenging to adhere firm fondant to the cookies than when it is pliable.

Decorate further with royal icing and icing flowers, if desired, and set to dry for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Snow Day Honey-Roasted Peanuts (and Peanut Butter)

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Early yesterday morning, the mid-Atlantic unwittingly received remnants of the blizzard much of the mid-West had been battling for most of last week. Thank you for sharing! The snow fell so hard and fast, my family didn’t make it to church, let alone the supermarket. And after spending much of the day trying to keep the children from tearing the house apart and bouncing off the walls, by the afternoon I was in need of a snack. I was craving peanut butter. Not just any peanut butter–honey-roasted peanut butter. I admit I have developed a slight addiction to the freshly-ground nut butters available at Whole Foods. I guess the fact that I had just finished a ¼-pint of the honey-roasted variety is testament to my newest food craving. So, as anyone in need of a very particular sort of sustenance would do, I decided to create my own.

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I perused several recipes online and then settled myself in the kitchen to concoct my own version. As luck would have it, the only honey I had in the pantry was a ¾-full jar of Manuka honey I had purchased at Whole Foods last week. I have been eating this very special New Zealand honey for its healthy and healing attributes (possibly more on that later in another blog), but at $32 a jar, I decided to look further in the cupboard for an alternative. I decided to make use of the agave nectar we use as a daily sweetener. Unlike honey, this syrupy condiment doesn’t require heating to thin it, which saved me a recipe step. In addition, for those interested in a lower glycemic alternative to honey, the nectar might be just the ticket.

Tossed with the honey, a bit of sugar, and a sprinkling of salt, these sweet-salty peanuts required very little time in the kitchen, and the payoff was great, indeed. They really hit the spot on a snowy afternoon. To fully satisfy my craving, I decided to complete the entire task and whizzed some of the nuts in a mini food processor to make peanut butter. It was a success. After a few nibbles, I cared much less about the living room looking like a bomb of miscellaneous puzzles and train parts had hit it. I’m even thinking that in the future, I might not be making as many trips to the machines at Whole Foods as I used to—even when the weather isn’t so challenging.

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Snow Day Honey-Roasted Peanuts (and Peanut Butter)

Makes about 2 cups roasted peanuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss together 8 ounces of peanuts (they can be raw or, even better, already roasted), about 2 tablespoons room temperature agave nectar or honey (warmed first for about 10 seconds in the microwave until smooth and syrupy), about 2 teaspoons of raw or regular granulated sugar, and a light sprinkle of sea salt on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes until fragrant. Remove from the oven and toss, somewhat separating the nuts. Bake until caramelized, another 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set on a large wire rack to cool on the baking sheet. When cool, break the nuts apart as desired. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

To make honey-roasted peanut butter, put as many peanuts as desired in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process until the nuts transform into butter, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl, as necessary. If the peanut butter doesn’t emulsify and become as smooth as you wish, drizzle in a bit of neutral oil, such as canola, until it is the consistency you desire. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Decorative Sugar Ornaments

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Use these Christmas ornaments to decorate cupcakes, cakes, tartlets, or even cookies. Roll fondant to about 1/8 inch thick on a surface lightly dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into desired shapes (these are 1-inch crinkle-edged rounds), brush lightly with a bit of water, and apply store-bought or handcrafted, piped royal icing decorations. Set them aside to dry at room temperature for at least 1 hour before applying them to your confection. They will keep nicely and can be used as needed for your Christmas desserts, stored at room temperature in airtight containers. Try to store them in a single layer, but if necessary, stack them in only as high as 2 layers with a piece of parchment in between.