Chocolate Coconut Pecan Joy

After I had bought Halloween candy, my sweetie mentioned how her favorite treat is Almond Joy (of course, not one of the ones I purchased). So we decided to make a homemade version. I used a chocolate macaroon recipe I had in my files (I think it came from Martha Stewart Living) and we made the chocolate bittersweet, the coconut sweetened, switched creme de cacao with the vanilla and added pecan pieces (plus a single semi-sweet morsel for whimsy).

Chocolate Coconut Pecan Joy

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
3 large egg whites
1 teaspoon creme de cacao
Pinch of salt
20 whole pecans

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a double boiler, stir until chocolate is melted, and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine cooled chocolate, cocoa, sugar, coconut, egg whites, vanilla, and salt. Use your hands to mix well, completely combining ingredients.

Dampen hands with very cold water. Form 1 1/2 tablespoons of mixture into a ball and place on prepared baking sheet with a whole pecan on top. Repeat with remaining mixture, placing macaroons 1 inch apart.

Bake until just firm to the touch but still soft in the middle, about 20 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven to a wire rack, and let cool on baking sheet.

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Sweet and Nutty Turkish Cigars

Along with the savory recipes (see previous post), I also made some sweet versions. In some Middle Eastern cultures, these are known as Bride’s Fingers instead of Turkish Cigars. Not a fan of the name but definitely a fan of the finished product. Unlike baclava, which is a mess to make and eat, these are easier all the way around.

By the way, eating syrup and honey is believed to make life sweeter. Not sure what adding the chocolate means, other than chocolate makes everything better.

As mentioned before, cutting the filo sheets in half to form a square and then diagonally to form a triangle is the best way to prep. Use three layers of filo triangles per cigar, and a small amount of filling per cigar yields the best results. The cigars stay intact and the filling doesn’t burst through the center. By not going to the edge with the filling and folding in the edges there meant they looked like cigars without compromising filling integrity. I also found that buttering each filo layer individually was unnecessary. Brushing interior layer near the filling and the top of the cigar after rolling is sufficient.

Sweetly Nutty Cigars

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons orange blossom water
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts (pistachios, pecans, walnuts, almonds or a mix)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter, melted
1 lb filo dough, thawed

In a medium saucepan bring sugar and water to a boil. Stir well and continue to boil for 15 minutes. Bring the temperature up to 220 degrees F. Remove from heat and stir in the honey and orange blossom water. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine nuts, cinnamon and the orange honey syrup in a large bowl.

On a clean work surface roll out the thawed sheets of filo dough. My sheets measured 9×13, so I cut the sheets in half to form squares and then cut each half on the diagonal to form triangles. Start by taking out three pieces of the filo dough. Cover the rest of the dough with a damp kitchen towel (otherwise they will dry out and be impossible to work with).

Place three sheets of filo triangles on a flat work surface. Brush with melted butter. Place about 1 tablespoon of the nut mixture on the fat end of the triangle. Tuck in the edge and roll up like a cigar. Place the rolled pastry seam side down on a baking sheet. Brush the top with melted butter.

Transfer to oven, and bake until crust and nuts are evenly golden, about 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool

Chocolate Cigars

1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 cup chocolate (I used Andes creme de mint baking chips but any kind of chocolate such as white or dark or milk chocolate can be used)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 stick butter, melted

Filo Pastry Sheets, thawed

Coarsely grind pistachios, sugar and chocolate in either a food processor or blender. Set aside.

Thaw the filo sheets as per the package instructions. Place three filo sheet on a clean working surface. Brush with melted butter. (Note: As you are working with one filo sheet at a time, cover the remaining sheets with kitchen towel to prevent drying.)

Cut the sheets in half to form a square and then each half along the diagonal to form triangles. You will have four sets. Place 1 tablespoon of chocolate-nut powder on the fat end of one set. Tuck in the edge and carefully roll the sheet towards the narrow edge. Place on greased baking sheet. Continue until all sets are used and then repeat with another three sheets.

Brush the cigars with melted butter. Bake at 350 degree F for 20 to 30 minutes or until the filo turns golden brown.

Savory Meat and Cheese Filled Turkish Cigars

I made two kinds of savory appetizers from the Middle East as part of Victoria Avilan‘s cookbook project (see my next post for the sweet versions). In Turkey, they are called sigara bourek. I made two savory (one of meat and one of cheese) versions and both were a hit with my tasters.

I did several tests with this recipe and found that a 350°F oven, three layers of cut filo per cigar, and a small amount of filling per cigar yields the best results. The cigars stay intact and the filling doesn’t burst through the center. By not going to the edge with the filling and folding in the edges there meant they looked like cigars without compromising filling integrity. I also found that buttering each filo layer individually was unnecessary. Brushing interior layer near the filling and the top of the cigar after rolling is sufficient.

Meat filled

Sigara Bourek

1 onion, diced
2 lb. ground beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon tumeric
juice of one lemon
1 stick butter, melted
1 lb box filo dough, thawed
Preheat the oven to 350°F

Sauté the onion with the ground beef in olive oil. Add garlic and spices and cook until browned—about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the moisture has completely evaporate. Let it cool down to room temperature. Stir lemon juice into meat mixture.

On a clean work surface roll out the thawed sheets of filo. Using a sharp knife, cut the filo in half to form a square and then diagonally to form triangles, leaving you with four equal-sized triangle shaped sets of dough. Take three triangles and cover the remaining filo with a damp towel. Lay out the triangles on your work surface and brush the top layer with melted butter.

Place one spoonful of the ground beef at the wide base of the dough and, tucking the edges in, roll into cigars. Brush the top of the cigars with melted butter. Continue to fill and roll until filling is used up.
Bake in a greased pan at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve warm or room temperature.

Cheese filled

Turkish Feta Cheese and Olive Rolls

4 ounce feta cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
2 tablespoon pitted kalamata olives
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 stick butter, melted
1 lb filo dough
Pulse together in a food processor the cheeses, egg, onion and olives. Stir in thyme and pepper. Place mixture in the refrigerator until ready to use as it will be easier to form when chilled.

Using three pieces of cut filo dough, place a tablespoon of the cheese mixture on the fat end of the triangle. Fold in both sides of the filo, enclosing the filling and brush with butter. Starting at the filled end, roll up pastry to resemble a cigar. Transfer, seam side down, to a lightly buttered baking sheet.

Make more rolls, leaving 1/2-inch of space between cigars on baking sheet. Brush the top with melted butter. Bake in 350 degree F oven until filo is golden, about 30 minutes.

*Note – I find feta to be a bit strong, so I cut it with whipped cream cheese. If you’re a fan of it straight up, increase feta to 8 ounces and drop the cream cheese.

 

 

Middle Cake from Miryam Levy

Here is another delicious recipe from Miryam Levy. It was missing a few amounts but I had a recipe in my files for a chocolate, date and walnut cake from which I was able to crib. As I’m actually allergic to walnuts, I used pecans but I kept walnuts in the recipe list for authenticity. Also, if you don’t have self rising flour (and what good Southern biscuit maker doesn’t lol), sift together 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Victoria tells me the name “Middle Cake” comes because her family would sit around the table with spoons, eating the middle first, leaving the delicious crusty edges for last. For best results let the cake cool in fridge, but she told me “good luck with that. The smell filling the house is so intoxicating, you can’t stop the lurking kids from eating it hot. Mom threatened to put a lock on the fridge, but it never helped…”

Middle Cake from Miryam Levy

2 tablespoons cognac
1/2 cup raisins
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1 stick butter, softened
4 eggs
1 cup self rising flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9×13 pan and, instead of flouring the pan, dust with a little bit of cocoa and shake to coat the entire interior. Knock out excess cocoa.
Place cognac in a bowl with the raisins and let soak.
Melt chocolate, cocoa, sugar and water over stove, stirring regularly until it becomes creamy. Allow to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, cream the butter. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Alternately add the flour and chocolate mixture, starting with 1/2 cup flour. Mix just until combined, scraping down the bowl at least once. Stir in raisins and all the cognac and the nuts.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan midway through cooking. Bake until a crust has formed on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
For best results let the cake cool in fridge, but I admit I took a spoon to it while it was cooling and it is quite yummy hot.
I sprinkled the top of the pieces I did allow to cool with confectioners sugar.

 

Lemon Lavender Roast Chicken

I was in a general store last month and they had dried lavender amongst other things. I picked up some on a whim, not knowing if I wanted to cook with it or be crafty with it. As the grocery store had chicken thighs on sale, I decided to go ahead and cook with a portion of it.

This roast chicken recipe is very fragrant and flavorful. I think I will cook this again for a romantic occasion. I served it with roasted potatoes tonight that I dunked into the pan juices before serving. Next time, I might use the time while the chicken rests to make a sauce to pour over the chicken and jasmine rice.

Lemon Lavender Roast Chicken

Juice and zest of two lemons (approx 1/3 cup juice)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoons dried lavender
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 3lb whole chicken or 3 lbs of chicken thighs
1 lemon cut into slices

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade and place into a zip top bag with the chicken. Rub well to coat completely and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place chicken in a roasting pan on a rack, skin side up. Squeeze out any remaining marinade from the bag and smear it over the skin. Roast until the internal temperature of the thighs is 165 degrees, about 40 minutes to an hour. After 30 minutes of roasting, place slices of lemon on the chicken.

Garlic Whipped Feta and Corn Galette

I had such fun with the last recipe from Miryam Levy that I was very happy when her daughter, Victoria, let me play with another. This was pretty basic when it came to me with a simple ingredient list – a pound of corn, a container cream cheese, some feta cheese, eggs, flour, baking soda and salt and pepper. The directions were spare, too: mix the ingredients in dough and bake over medium heat. Hmmmm.

As I had pizza on my mind, my mind went immediately to making a galette or crostata. These are flat rustic pies from France or Italy which may be made sweet or savory. Whipping the cream cheese and feta together (with a little garlic) would make a deliciously cheesy filling. All that would be left to do is sprinkle on some sweet corn kernels, fold over the ends and give it an egg wash before baking. It turned out to be very easy and quite tasty – so much so that my niece and her best friend gobbled up three slices a piece!

This is something that I could see being served as an appetizer, as a cheese dish with cocktails or even for the last course of the meal, as the sweetness from the corn is quite satisfying. If you want to increase the richness (not that it needs it!), consider sautéing the corn in a little butter to coat before sprinkling them on the pie.

Garlic Whipped Feta and Corn Galette

1 batch of pie dough (store bought is fine)
4 ounces feta cheese
4 ounces whipped cream cheese
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sweet corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1 egg

Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place feta, cream cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth.

Roll pie dough out to a circle about 1/8″ thick (or just unroll the dough if using store-bought) and lay on a large baking sheet that has been coated with olive oil.

Spread the whipped feta across the surface of the pie dough, leaving about 1/2″ of space around the edges.

Sprinkle corn kernels in an even layer on top of the whipped cheeses and garlic.

Fold the edges of the pie dough up over the edge of the filling and pinch it together to help it keep its shape. Don’t worry about how pretty it is – galettes are supposed to be “rustic!”

In a small dish, whisk egg together with 1 tablespoon of water to form an egg wash.

Use a pastry brush to brush egg wash over the edges of the galette.

Bake at 425 for 20 – 25 minutes or until the dough is lightly browned. Slice and serve immediately.

Chocolate Chip Brownie Cookies

It is that time of the month and I’m craving chocolate. I just had to make these dense and rich cookies. They totally hit the spot!

Chocolate Chip Brownie Cookies


2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cups brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 tablespoons milk
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 1/2 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time. Pour in vanilla. Slowly combine flour mixture alternately with milk. Stir in pecans and morsels.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating cookie sheet midway through baking. Cookies will still look soft. Cool for 2 minutes on pan before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.