Crispy Ginger Cookies with Pumpkin Dip

Crispy Ginger Cookies with Pumpkin Dip

Crispy, thin ginger cookies compliment this whipped pumpkin dip. Perfect as a dessert for your Halloween party, the simple-to-make dip is filled with pumpkin and spices then whipping cream beaten to a light and airy texture. If you don’t have time to bake cookies, store purchased thin and crispy ginger cookies will do the “trick.”

Ginger Cookies
¾  cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
¼  cup molasses
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼  teaspoon cardamom
½  teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Using a stand or hand mixer, in a large bowl on medium speed cream the butter and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved into the butter and the mixture is light and fluffy. Add a large egg and mix until combined. Add the molasses and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture a little at a time until a dough forms. Refrigerate for three hours or overnight.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8” thick and cut out cookies with cookie cutters. Transfer to the prepared cookie sheets, place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Makes 36 cookies.

Pumpkin Dip
1 cup canned pure pumpkin puree
⅔ cup packed light brown sugar
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
½  teaspoon ginger
½  teaspoon cinnamon
¼  teaspoon allspice
  teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
½  teaspoon vanilla
¾  cup heavy cream
  teaspoon xathan gum (optional)

In a food processor combine the pumpkin puree, light brown sugar, cream cheese, ginger, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg, cloves, and salt; process until very smooth. Add the heavy cream, vanilla, and xanthan and continue to process until very thick. Transfer to a dip bowl and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve with the ginger cookies.

Apple Slab Pie

Apple Slab Pie

Celebrate National Apple Month with a delicious Apple Slab Pie. Perfect for a crowd, this easy treat is baked on a sheet tray instead of in a pie pan.  Roll out the dough and fill with apples and cinnamon, add a top crust, bake, and finish it with a drizzle of vanilla glaze. We like to serve it with a side of cinnamon swirl gelato.

For the pie crust:
4 cups all-purpose flour, we recommend White Lily
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons sugar
3 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
7 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into small cubes
6-8 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:
4 pounds Granny Smith, and Honey crisp apples
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup cornstarch
3 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt

1 tablespoon milk
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

For the Glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2-4 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Vanilla Gelato or ice cream for serving

Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade; pulse to combine the ingredients. Add the butter and shortening and pulse only until the butter and shortening are cut into the flour, and the butter is the size of peas. Run the machine while adding the ice water, then pulse until the dough gathers together. Scrape all the dough onto a floured work surface and gather it into a large ball with your hands. Cut it in half and pat each half into a thick rectangle shape. Sprinkle each rectangle with a little flour, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.

Peel and core the apples; cut them into 16 thin slices per apple. In a large mixing bowl, combine the apples, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.

When ready to bake:  Roll out one of the rectangles of dough into a thin rectangle about 12×18”. Gently transfer the dough to a parchment lined sheet tray. Spread the apples evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving a 2” edge. Discard any remaining liquid in the bowl.

Remove the remaining rectangle of dough from the fridge and roll it into a large rectangle roughly the size of the other crust. Place over the other crust and crimp the edges.

Place the pie in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour. Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

Brush the top of the pie with the milk and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Place in the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is golden and the center of the pie is bubbling. Remove and cool the pie completely before glazing, about one hour. 

To Make the Glaze:

Add to the confections sugar two tablespoons of milk and the vanilla extract. Whisk to combine. Add only enough additional milk until you get a thick glaze. Drizzle over the cooled pie. Let the glaze set, then cut and serve warm with vanilla gelato or ice cream. Makes 12 servings.

Root Beer Float Brownies

Root Beer Float Brownies

Revive those sweet memories of summer with this root beer float layered treat. Root beer flavored dark chocolate brownies are topped with a rich cream cheese vanilla “ice cream” layer that is topped with chocolate ganache. It’s the perfect way to say goodbye to summer.

2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus more for the pan
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 ounces chopped dark semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon root beer extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder

Cream cheese filling
8 ounces cream cheese
1 ½ teaspoons flour
Pinch salt
¼ cup cream
5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
1 large egg

Chocolate ganache topping
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Line a 9-inch square metal pan with foil and butter the foil. Using a double boiler, melt the butter, unsweetened chocolate, and chocolate together until the mixture is melted and smooth.

Add the granulated sugar to the melted chocolate mixture and combine; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the brown sugar with the eggs then whisk in the root beer extract. Slowly temper the chocolate gradually into the egg mixture until well combined.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Fold in flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until smooth and well combined. The batter should be glossy and shiny. Scrape the brownie batter into the pan and smooth the top. Set aside while you make the cream cheese filling.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, flour, salt, and cream together for 5 minutes. Make sure the mixture is very smooth and fluffy with no lumps. Add the sugar and continue beating until very smooth. Add the extract and beat until well combined. Add the egg and mix until the egg is fully incorporated. Top the brownie layer with the vanilla cream cheese mixture and smooth the top. Place in the oven and bake on center rack for 40-45 minutes or until the cream cheese is lightly brown around the edges and a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool the brownies to room temperature, then cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

To make the ganache topping:
Heat the cream in a saucepan until the mixture begins to steam. Place the chocolate in a bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes then stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Spread evenly over the brownies and refrigerate until set.

S’mores Bars

S’mores Bars

It’s hard to let go of summer, but these rich, gooey, great-tasting s’mores will ease the pain of sweet campfire memories with no fire or sticks needed. All you need are tasty layers of graham crust, gooey dark chocolate brownie center, and a toasted homemade marshmallow topping. To add that toasty flavor, use a kitchen torch or broiler to “toast” the marshmallow.

Graham Cracker Crust
¾ cup melted unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon for the pan
4 cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Line a 9×9” pan with foil allowing extra foil to hang over the sides for easy removal. Butter the foil.

In a large bowl, Stir together the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt until well-combined. Press into the bottom of the pan then bake for 8 minutes, remove, and cool slightly while you make the chocolate center. Drop the oven temperature down to 300˚F.

Chocolate Center
¾ cup unsalted butter
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
¾ cups dark brown sugar, packed
½ cup confectioners sugar
1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ½ tablespoons light corn syrup
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup all-purpose flour

Place the butter with the semi-sweet chocolate in a stainless-steel bowl. In a large saucepan, bring water to a simmer and place the bowl of chocolate and butter over the hot water, being careful not let the bowl touch the water. Stir every few minutes until melted; remove and set aside to slightly cool.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs, egg yolks, brown sugar, confectioners sugar, granulated sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Slowly add the chocolate to the egg mixture in small amounts to temper the chocolate into the eggs. When thoroughly mixed, whisk in the flour. Pour the batter over the graham cracker crust and smooth the top. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour or when small bits still stick to a cake tester when you check for doneness. Remove and cool completely.

Marshmallow Topping
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
3 cups granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Soften gelatin in ¾ cup water, set aside. In a small saucepan combine ¾ cup water with sugar and corn syrup. Bring to a boil and cook to 238˚F on candy thermometer to make a hot syrup. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the gelatin mixture on high while slowly streaming in the hot syrup into the bowl with the gelatin. Then add the salt and extract and beat until stiff peaks form about 15 minutes. Using a greased spatula, spread the marshmallow over the cooled brownies. Cool completely then refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. Remove using the foil and then, using an oiled knife, cut into 36 pieces.

Optional: When ready to serve, place the cut s’mores on a cookie sheet. Use a kitchen torch or place under the broiler to brown the marshmallow top. Makes 16.

Banana Pudding Cheesecake With Banana Meringue cookies

Banana Pudding Cheesecake With Banana Meringue cookies

We can’t imagine summer without banana pudding. So, we took this favorite southern dessert and turned it into a cheesecake topped with banana meringue cookies and crushed vanilla wafers. Creamy, delicious, and loaded with banana flavor, it mimics that perfect southern treat.

1 stick unsalted butter, plus more to grease the pan
3 cups vanilla wafers
3 tablespoons sugar
1 ¼ cups ripe bananas
24 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
2 tablespoons flour
Pinch salt
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons banana extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

½ cup crushed vanilla wafers
banana meringue cookies (recipe below)

Heat the oven to 375˚F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan on the bottom and sides. Add a parchment circle to the bottom of the pan; butter the parchment.

Melt the stick of butter and set aside. Place the vanilla wafers in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the melted butter and sugar; pulse until incorporated. Using a flat-sided measuring cup, press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared springform pan. Place the pan on a sheet tray then into the oven and bake for 9-12 minutes. Remove and cool completely. Place the spring-form pan in the center of 3 large pieces of aluminum foil and wrap the foil up the sides of the pan to make a water-tight seal. The cake will be baked in a water bath, so the idea is to use the foil to keep the water out of the cheesecake. Reduce the oven to 300˚F.

In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse the bananas to a smooth purée. Measure out 1 ¼ cups of the banana.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, flour, salt, and banana purée together for 5 minutes. Make sure the mixture is very smooth and fluffy with no lumps. Add the sugar and continue beating until very smooth. Add the extracts and beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Stop when the final egg is just incorporated. Be careful not to overbeat the eggs into the mixture.

Place the springform pan inside a large roasting pan. Transfer the banana mixture to the springform pan and tap on the counter gently to release any excess air. Fill the roasting pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the springform pan and place in the oven. Bake for 75 minutes. The cheesecake should be only slightly jiggly in the center when done. Turn off oven, open the door for a few minutes to release some heat then allow the cheesecake to cool for 1 hour in the oven. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely. When cooled, cover tightly, and transfer the cheesecake to the refrigerator. Chill for at least an hour or until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, remove the springform, top with banana meringue cookies and more crushed vanilla wafers. Makes 16 servings.

Banana Meringue Cookies
2 egg whites
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 ½ teaspoons banana extract
¾ cup white sugar

Preheat oven to 315˚F. Add pieces of parchment paper to cover two cookie sheets. Beat egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, and banana extract until very firm. Gradually add sugar and beat into the egg white mixture.

Drop or pipe by teaspoonfuls onto the parchment lined sheet trays. Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned. Turn the oven off and leave the cookies in the oven overnight to cool and dry. Makes 20 cookies.

Summer Fruit Tart

Summer Fruit Tart

A summer fruit tart recipe is the best way to use the season’s ripest yield. Topped with a combination of fruits to bring out summer’s sweetness, we like our shortbread crust filled to the brim with Grand Marnier and Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream.

Shortbread Pastry Crust
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
¼ cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg

Pastry Cream
1 ¼ cups whole milk
3 large egg yolks
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
2 teaspoons Grand Marnier, optional

½ cup apricot jam or preserves
3 cups of summer fruit such as raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, plums, pineapple, peaches

To make the shortbread crust: In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the salt. Place the butter in a mixer bowl, add the sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Lightly whisk the egg then add to the butter mixture, beating until just incorporated. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix just until the dough forms into a ball. Dump out on a floured surface and flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, or place in a zip-top bag. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or just until firm.

Lightly butter an 8” or 9” tart pan with a removable bottom or an 8” or 9” tart ring. Roll the dough into an 8” or 9” circle then add to the pan or ring and evenly pat the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the container or pastry ring. Cover with plastic wrap and rest in the refrigerator for a least one hour.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400˚F. Lightly prick bottom and sides of the pastry crust with the tines of a fork and place the tart pan on a baking sheet. Bake the crust for 5 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 350˚F and continue baking the crust for about 15 minutes more or until dry and lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the pastry cream: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the sugar and egg yolks together. Sift the flour and cornstarch together into the egg mixture and mix into a smooth paste.

In a saucepan, add the milk and heat until the liquid starts to foam up. Remove from heat and slowly temper small amounts at a time into the egg mixture, constantly whisking to keep a smooth mixture. Pour the egg mixture into a clean medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until just boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, remove from heat and immediately whisk in the vanilla bean paste and Grand Marnier. Pour into a clean bowl and quickly cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a layer from forming. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until very cold. When ready to use, whisk to remove any lumps that may have formed.

Topping: Heat the apricot jam with one tablespoon of water in a small saucepan over medium heat until liquid. Remove from heat and strain the jam through a fine strainer to remove any fruit lumps.

To Assemble Tart: Be sure to assemble the tart on the day it will be eaten. Remove the tart from the sides of the pan and remove the bottom of the pan, then slide the tart shell on to a platter.

Spread a thin layer of apricot glaze over the bottom and up the sides of the baked tart shell to help prevent the crust from getting soggy. Let the glaze dry for 20 minutes. Spread the pastry cream onto the bottom of the tart shell over the glaze. Arrange the fruit on top and carefully brush a very light coating of fruit glaze on the fruit. Refrigerate until ready, serves 6.