Now. Fresh Raspberry and Lemony Cream Tart

I’m in the midst of chaos.

But in reality, I only perceive it as chaos. It’s a wonderfully blessed life I have, and I’m letting myself perceive said chaos and losing sight of what is ahead. I need to focus on simplicity; I need to slow down. I must quit worrying about the future and appreciate today.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34

Fresh Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Tart from Arts and Tarts

I’m currently packing. The answer to the question I had a few weeks ago “how does one pack for five months?” still eludes me. And now I’m down to four nights left, with a mess of things surrounding a few suitcases. And I’m stressing out majorly.

But why? Why stress when the things that I pack do not matter. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, if I just go at it with a different perspective – that it will be okay if I miss something, if I have wrinkly clothes, or if I look completely disheveled in the airport.

Fresh Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Tart from Arts and Tarts

What really matters is taking time to appreciate how blessed I am, and being grateful to the One who has blessed me. I have this opportunity to travel to Hawaii and live with dear friends for five months while taking a few online classes and spending precious time with my friends and godson. I feel spoiled. And all I’ve been doing is stress about just how I’m going to pack for it.

Today as I was throwing clothes into a suitcase and worrying about running out of time, I realized that rather than hurrying to finish, I need to slow down. I need to live this moment too, instead of only looking ahead.

Fresh Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Tart from Arts and Tarts

So, I’m going to soak up these few days I have left in Illinois. I’m going to spend my time with those dear to me and I’m going to drink coffee and I’m going to read. I’m going to pack, yes, but I’m going to be more relaxed about it. Because why stress? Why, when it hides everything good in the days to come. While my countdown will continue because of the tremendous excitement I have for Hawaii, I won’t only see it as a countdown of days till I get out of here, but as how many days I have to enjoy here, in Illinois.

With this in mind, I DO have time to write here, and I DO have time to wander around town doing nothing, and I DO have time to sit in a coffee shop and read, and I DO still have time to spare. Because even if I end up throwing the remaining things I think I need in a bag at midnight the night before I leave, it will all be okay. And this trip will still be good. And a blessed life will go on.  I’m thankful for that, and everything else in my life – the things in the past and in the future and right now, this very second.

Fresh Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Tart from Arts and Tarts

Let’s all take time to appreciate and live in this very moment.

Fresh Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Tart from Arts and Tarts

To complement this reflection I offer a no fuss tart. Simple. Beautiful. Fresh.

Fresh Raspberry and Lemon Cream Cheese Tart

1 prebaked piecrust in tart pan (Recipe for pie crust that I used at bottom of this post)

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup sugar

Juice and Zest of 1 large lemon (or about 2 Tablespoons juice and 1 teaspoon zest)

½ cup heavy whipping cream, cold

2 cups fresh raspberries

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until softened and a bit fluffy. Add vanilla, lemon juice and zest to mixture and stir until combined.

Add heavy cream to a separate bowl. The colder the cream, the easier it will whip. Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer (or a regular whisk), whip the cream until peaks form.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until combined. Spread into chilled tart crust and top with fresh raspberries. Garnish with lemon zest. Best if served chilled and on the same day it’s prepared.

Pie Crust:

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (3/4 cup), cold and cut into small pieces

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup ice water

Combine salt and flour in a medium size bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or fork, until mixture is crumbly. Gradually add ice water until mixture forms into a dough ball. Divide in two, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour. Roll out 1 ball into a circle large enough to fit a standard size tart pan. Place in pan and cut around edges so there is no excess dough. Prick the bottom several times with a fork and bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes, or slightly browned. Remove from oven and allow it to cool completely before filling. This will make two tart shells.

Love, B

Roasted Cherry Ice Cream with Chocolate Ganache Swirl

I have fond memories of the Cherry Festival – my small hometown’s annual carnival – from when I was very young and naïve (which I just might still be, but that’s another story).

Cherry Festival

I remember soaring high through the sky on the Ferris wheel with my dad, who convinced me that the height wouldn’t be scary with him by my side and would be worth going on first so we could check out the rest of the carnival grounds from a high vantage point.

I remember going on the Graviton with my older sister time after time, until feeling so dizzy that we had to stop and go back to normal gravity. That one was scary the first time, as it was like a huge spaceship and our parents didn’t go on it with us, but I went because my all-knowing sister convinced me it was fun. After that it was exhilarating and sickening at the same time.

Roasted Cherry Ice Cream with Chocolate Ganache Swirl

I fondly remember the swings, my absolute favorite. I adored flying through the air with the wind in my hair and my feet dangling above the people below. Sometimes I would pretend to kick them, but mostly, I would just close my eyes and dream wonderful things.

I remember the first and last time someone ever convinced me to go on the zipper – the one that spun upside down. I didn’t fit in the seat and slid up and down, hitting my head, every time the rickety ride spun upside down. Someone else puked. I almost puked. The ground was practically holy to me once I got off the ride. Never again.

Roasted Cherries

I remember the huge slide and racing down next to my friends on potato sacks. We would do this over and over because due to the typically short lines we could race up the steps and race down the slides and race up the steps and race down the slide, over and over again.

I remember the first time I ever went on the tiny dragon roller coaster for kids, which seemed huge at the time. I was convinced that the dragon carts were going to climb off the tracks and carry me away to my demise.

Roasted Cherry Ice Cream with Chocolate Ganache Swirl

I remember spending too much money in order to win a goldfish that would die a week later.

I remember cotton candy and lemon shakeups and funnel cakes. And I remember cherries. Lots of cherry flavored and inspired foods.

Roasted Cherry Ice Cream with Chocolate Ganache Swirl

But as I grew up, the cherry festival became less of an experience and more of a nostalgic thought. I realized the rides were overpriced and less than thrilling, if not nauseating. I also remembered the fish would die in a week, and that the game was a huge scam anyway. Sometime in the midst of childhood and adolescence, the festival lost its magic.

Roasted Cherry Ice Cream with Chocolate Ganache Swirl

However, this year my mom convinced me to sign up for the cherry cookery contest, and again I got excited about our towns cherry fest. And this time it was all about ice cream. I’ve had a bit of an obsession with making ice cream lately, and dreamt up this lovely concoction for the contest. It’s a bit time consuming with having four different components that come together to make only one quart, but the result is very worth it.

Roasted Cherry Ice Cream with Chocolate Ganache Swirl

Roasted Cherry Ice Cream with Chocolate Ganache Swirl

Makes about 1 quart

Roasted Cherries:

2 cups fresh whole cherries, washed and pitted

1 Tablespoon orange juice

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 Teaspoon cornstarch

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine all in an 8 inch round or square baking dish. Roast at 400 for 30-35 minutes, stirring cherries every ten minutes. Let cool.

Cherry Syrup:

½ cup cherries, washed and pitted

¼ cup water

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon cornstarch

Chop cherries into quarters. Combine water and cornstarch in small saucepan, stirring to dissolve. Add sugar and cherries and cook over high heat until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally and slightly mashing cherries, for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Strain out syrup and discard cherry pieces. Set cherry syrup aside to cool.

Chocolate Ganache:

¼ cup heavy cream

1.5 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Microwave or heat cream on stovetop until it comes to a boil. Immediately after it boils remove from heat and add chocolate to cream. Let sit 5 minutes without stirring, then stir until chocolate completely incorporates into cream.

Ice Cream Base:

2 cups plus 1 Tablespoon whole milk

1 Tablespoon plus 1 Teaspoon cornstarch

3 ounces cream cheese

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 ¼ cup heavy cream

2/3 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons light corn syrup

Mix 1 Tablespoon milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl. Set aside. Put cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl and set aside

Combine 2 cups milk, cream, sugar and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan and bring to boil, reduce heat to medium and allow to boil for four to five minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk in cornstarch and milk mixture, then allow to boil for a minute longer or until mixture is slightly thickened.

Add about ½ cup of the hot cream mixture to the bowl with the cream cheese and whisk until completely smooth. Gradually add remaining cream mixture to bowl while whisking to incorporate all

Chill the ice cream base completely, then pour into the frozen canister of an ice cream maker and spin according to manufacturers instructions. (It should take about 30 minutes until the ice cream is thick and creamy).

To Assemble Ice Cream:

After the cream is frozen, swirl the cherry syrup into the ice cream by hand. Do not fully incorporate.

Layer the ice cream into a storage container: Put about ¼ of the ice cream into the bottom, drizzle on a ¼ of the ganache, add ¼ of the roasted cherries, and repeat, ending with a drizzle of ganache and cherries on the top. Freeze until firm and serve.

Roasted Cherry Ice Cream with Chocolate Ganache Swirl

Much love,

B

Because of my momma . . . Flourless Chocolate Cake

Because of my momma…

 Flourless Chocolate Cake from Arts and Tarts

I am the person I am today because of my momma.

Because of her, I see the world the way I do.

I write this blog and create the content because my mom allowed me in the kitchen. She taught me to share. She encouraged me to be me.

I am shy, just like my momma.

I have ten fingers and ten toes, a mind and a soul, because my momma carried me.

I have a curved spine, from my momma’s genes.

 Flourless Chocolate Cake from Arts and Tarts

I trust, and I care, and I love, because my momma has done so for me.

Because of my momma, I talk in silly voices to my dog.

I stand on two feet and walk forward everyday, because my mom inspires me so.

I have hot coffee in a mug between my intertwined fingers every morning, because my momma spoils me.

 Flourless Chocolate Cake from Arts and Tarts

I see lovely flowers all around, because my mom gardens so beautifully.

She shows me how to care by caring so passionately and selflessly for everyone around her.

Because of my mom, I am completely and utterly blessed.

 Flourless Chocolate Cake from Arts and Tarts

I made this cake because of my mommy.

I love her, because she is my perfect and beautiful momma.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

 Flourless Chocolate Cake from Arts and Tarts

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze and Berry Coulis

Cake:

½ cup water

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup granulated sugar

18 (1 oz) squares bittersweet bakers chocolate

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

6 large eggs

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease one 10 inch round spring form pan (or any similar sized pan, I used a heart shaped insert for my springform pan. Baking times may vary though).

In a small saucepan, combine water, salt, and sugar (and optional espresso powder); Stir over medium heat until completely dissolved. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Once melted, pour into the bowl of an electric mixer.

Cut the butter into pieces and slowly add to the chocolate, beating on medium speed. Beat in the hot sugar-water. Slowly beat in eggs, one at a time, until all ingredients are completely combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 300 degrees F for 45-55 minutes. The center will still be slightly jiggly. (Make sure internal temp is 140 degrees F). Chill for several hours, or overnight, to allow cake to cool completely before removing from pan. To remove, gently cut around edges and remove springform ring.

Chocolate Glaze:

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or 6 (1 oz) squares semisweet bakers chocolate

¼ cup butter

3 Tablespoons Berry Coulis (Optional)

Combine chocolate and butter and melt over double boiler. Stir in Berry Coulis once melted. Allow to cool for ten to fifteen minutes, then pour over chilled cake.

Berry Coulis:

2 cups frozen or fresh berries (any variety)

2 Tablespoons Sugar

Juice of half a lemon

Combine all in a small saucepan and cook until berries are soft and have released their juices. Remove from heat and mash the berries well, or process in a food processor. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and discard solids. Mix in 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Use to add to Chocolate Glaze and/or serve drizzled over cake.

 Flourless Chocolate Cake from Arts and Tarts

Almond Butter

My sophomore year in high school I had an infatuation with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. No really, I did.

Or maybe I just did because it was edible, and other food in the high school cafeteria wasn’t so much. Therefore, I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch every single school day that year. Whether or not I actually enjoyed it is debatable. The most unfortunate part of this story though, is that I actually bought the sandwich from the cafeteria, and not a single time did I pack my own lunch. Imagine the possibilities! I could have used white or multigrain, crunchy or creamy, grape or strawberry. But no, I paid a dollar every day for that silly sandwich with white bread, creamy peanut butter, and grape jelly. Oh high school me, how I’m glad that is over.

Almond Butter from Arts and Tarts

Another pbj story: I always imagined the classic sandwich of peanut butter and jelly to be infallible. It never let me down when in need of a quick, tasty lunchtime food. BUT, when I was fourteen I had surgery for my scoliosis and was in the hospital for a week. Hello terrible food. Can I just have a pudding cup, please.

I didn’t have much of an appetite; however, that was not acceptable according to all the people monitoring me, so I was forced to pick a meal. The first few picks were all offensive.  Then, I saw the never failing pbj on the menu and thought, ‘perfect, they can’t mess that one up.‘

Almond Butter from Arts and Tarts

They did.

I have never had worse peanut butter in my life. I think it was actually ground up cardboard with some water added to make it spreadable. Really, it was that bad. Give me the pudding cup NOW.

Regardless of my pbj past, I still enjoy a good peanut butter and jelly erry once in while. I have discovered my new favorite version of the sandwich though, which is a bit more sophisticated than my high school or hospital versions. Multigrain bread (preferably homemade or from a bakery), my momma’s strawberry jam, and stick to the roof of your mouth almond butter. Goodbye peanuts, hellooooo almonds.

But don’t go buy that $8 tiny jar of natural  almond butter at the grocery store. (Well do, if that’s really your only option). What you should do is buy the bag of plain ol’ almonds, pour ‘em in a food processor, and let it go. And go, and go and go, for twenty minutes. And then, magically, you have the best almond butter for the best pbj, or abj, ever. I promise.

Almond Butter

-A few handfuls of almonds

Pour almonds (not roasted or toasted or blanched or anything) into the bowl of a food processor. Turn on high for twenty minutes.

The magic starts happening around ten minutes, and you may think its never going to have enough oils, but it will. You do not need to add any extra oil, as some recipes say. Just let the processor go, scraping down the sides as needed, and breaking up the ball of almond paste that forms. Eventually, around twenty minutes later, the almonds will be ground enough and they will have released enough of their own oils to be considered almond butter.

Notes – The noise from the food processor tends to get annoying; hello headphones. Also, the almond butter probably will get hot. That’s because of all the friction going on in there. It’s totally okay. Also also, I like to add a bit of cinnamon to my butter. I typically use about 2 cups almonds, and when it’s almost done add in about ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Also also also, some people enjoy a bit of salt or some sugar in it.

Almond Butter from Arts and Tarts

Love,

B

Lavender Lemon Cookies and a Literacy Narrative

“Narrative provides a way to speak things otherwise unspeakable, to give voice to that which would otherwise go unheard” –Lynn Briggs and Meg Woolbright

Lavender Lemon Cookies

Writing for Identity

A literacy narrative I wrote for class and felt was significant enough to share.

Lavender Lemon Cookies

I’m six and a quarter years old. My favorite color is purple and I want to be mommy and daddy’s perfect little girl. I cry when I don’t draw the picture exactly how I want it to be. I rip it up and throw it. But it’s okay, because I can go swing in my backyard – Up, down, up down; kicking in, out, in out; soaring through the air, closing my eyes. I am anything I want to be. It’s quiet, I’m alone, and everything is perfect.

Dude, I’m nine. I want to be a sport star, but I’m terrible at hand-eye coordination, and I think I’m disappointing the soccer coach who happens to be my dad. But, I can get good grades – that comes easy to me. Quietly listening in class, I wish to be the bubbly girl next to me who the other students flock to, the girl who always has something to say.

I am the same age as my sister; well, at least for this month until she turns thirteen. I want to be her. She’s only eleven months older than me, so why does she get to be so much cooler? It’s stupid and not fair.  She can play soccer, sing in musicals, and make so many friends. My teacher’s tell me I’m smart, but I just want to be accepted by the twenty-seven people my age that I know.

I’m like fifteen. I want to be pretty. My best friend knows how to fix her blonde hair and make up her face. She has a boyfriend. I want to make people laugh the way she does. I wish I could just quit being so damn shy, why don’t I know what to say?

I’m finally eighteen. I want to be an artist. I want to be the stereotypical art student – the one who does the unexpected, dresses in awesome but unintentional style with beanies and wisps of hair every which way (yet, still looking put together), makes crazy unexpected artworks, and goes to art galleries to chat about avant-garde art with other artists. I change my style accordingly.

Now, my age doesn’t really matter. I don’t want. I am. I don’t need to have some alter ego to compete with the real me. I have an identity. The reality of my entire life has been, and is, the shy girl. I participate in conversation most often by sitting back and listening, contributing through nods, slight smiles, and soft chuckles. I’m conservative and modest; traditional.

Lavender Lemon Cookies

I didn’t realize this until I created a blog. In a class I was taking, Creative Strategies, one of the major projects of the semester was to create a new self – an alter ego, or our “better half”. The assignment was rather vague and obscure with no right or wrong answer. It wasn’t necessarily supposed to be an alter ego, but someone we would be, without any limitations, if we could. Our future self, perhaps. Most of the project was up to us, if we wanted a new name, a new direction, anything. However, we did have to create a profile on a social network to display our new self and provide an artist’s statement, so I chose to create a blog for my character.

Creating this person was hard for me, even though my entire life I had been creating ideal personalities for myself in my imagination. I wanted her to be perfect, to be the artist I desired to be but wasn’t. I began to create a character that portrayed the “artist” I had been trying to emanate.  The more I worked through all the parts of the assignment though; I began to realize the only person I truly wanted to be was myself. That meant combining the conservative and shy “me” that I had tried to hide with the conflicting artist “me.” I worked through the rest of the project, and finally when the presentation came, I used words on the blog to explain that “I did not know the answer” to the assignment. This was extreme for me, because I had always been the student who gave my teachers what they wanted, because I was supposed to, and this answer to my professor’s assignment was definitely not what she wanted. But through my voice on the blog, I could explain, simply put, that I didn’t quite know how to define the real me yet, that there was a battle between my identities going on in need of compromise, and whoever she turned into was who I wanted to be. I fulfilled all the requirements of the assignment, albeit unconventionally, and I still made it my own.

Lavender Lemon Cookies

This blog helped me define an identity for myself that intertwined each aspect of my character; I realized I didn’t need to choose just one thing to identify myself. I felt free to explore my identity. At the same time, I found that through written word I could define myself, explain myself, and have the voice I had so desperately been searching for in order to conquer my shy “self.” My shy speaking voice had somehow become bold – even loud – in written form, on my blog with an audience.

The concept of audience became very important to me. Throughout my development from child to adult, I was desperately seeking to be someone else because I thought I needed an audience. I wanted to be noticed and heard, and the only way I knew how to do that was to somehow get over my shyness so I wished to be someone else, someone less shy. With a blog though, the world was my audience. Anyone who typed in a few search terms could come across my blog and read the words I voiced. I suddenly had a place to put words that I couldn’t find a way to utter aloud, but could write. And these words were being read! This was exhilarating; I felt terrified but so excited at the same time. Here, I found that when my shyness creeps up and takes away the words I want to speak, I could voice them through writing. Blogging was the perfect way to develop this voice because I could write it, formulate my words, be confident, and know that I had an audience.

Lavender Lemon Cookies

This blog was a new step in defining myself, and led to my current blog here, Arts and Tarts, which has become a place where I can and will continue to tell stories, share my baking experiences and recipes, and explore my photography. It’s a place where I can be the different aspects of my identity all at once, where I can mesh the shy with the unconventional, where my conflicting “selfs” can coincide. Because of this, it’s a place where I can completely be and voice myself.

Blogging has given me a voice. It’s an outlet to explore my identity, and continue the journey of defining who I am. Each blog post I write adds a new ingredient or instruction to the recipe that makes me, me.

And here is the newest ingredient,

Lavender Lemon Cookies

Lavender Lemon Cookies

Lavender Sugar Cookie:

1 cup sugar

4 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup butter

½ cup sour cream

½ cup oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ – 1 Tablespoon dried lavender buds*

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. Cream butter and sugars together, add eggs and beat. Add sour cream, oil, and vanilla until combined. Slowly mix in flour, until all combined. Add in lavender buds. Chill dough at least an hour, then use a rolling pin to roll dough out to ¼ inch thick. Cut with cookies cutters. (I cut small 2 inch diameter circles, resulting in a billion tiny cookies). Bake at 350 degrees F for 6-9 minutes, or until just barely browned on edges and top is not longer shiny.  Cool on wire racks.

*Amount of buds depends on preferred taste. Be cautious though, as too much may taste soapy

Lemon Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

2 Tablespoons water

Zest of lemon

Whisk all together. For stronger lemon flavor, replace water with more lemon juice. When cookies have cooled, drizzle or pour over tops and let set out for glaze to dry. Store in airtight container.

 

Always with love,

B

A Side of Blueberry Pie : Blueberry Hand Pies

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My dear friend Candace.

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I haven’t dedicated a blog post to you yet, because well, I just cant quite get the words right. I want this post to be perfect – a good story along with a beautiful and delicious pictures and recipe. And to be frank, I just can’t figure it out. Because no matter how long I think about it, I just cant compare you to a food. Weird, right? Or, is it just weird that I’m trying to find a comparison between you and a pastry or cookie or something. That, my friend, could be my problem.

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You see, the criteria were set too high this time. I needed to find something that was beautiful, but not just in appearance. The flavor had to be beautiful as well, to fit your character and personality. Something that was sophisticated and classy, but also silly and fun. Something strong. Something personal and emotional. Something that doesn’t need to be paired with a cup of coffee, but could be complimented with one. Ya know what I mean?

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And well, I just couldn’t come up with anything, so I decided to write about you to you, and that it was about time I do. So this, my friend, is your letter, with a side of blueberry pie.

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Candace, you’re not just an ordinary friend to me. You changed my life. And I don’t mean to sound all gooey, gushy sweet like an under baked cookie on you, because that can seem totes fake (and  actually make you sick). However, I’m not making this stuff up. When we became friends in sophomore year weight training, the most unlikely of places, I never expected that just a few years later I would be a bridesmaid in your wedding and your child’s godmother.You are the best and closest friend I have ever had, and I know that even though 928 miles separate us, you’re closer to me than ever. I can’t wait until those roles of bridesmaid and godmother are reversed.

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Blueberry Hand Pies

Flaky Butter Pie Crust:

1 cup very cold, unsalted butter

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3-5 Tablespoons ice water

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar and salt together. Cut butter in small cubes and scatter over the flour mixture, coating them with flour. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients, turning the bowl and cutting again repetitively until the mixture resembles floury crumbs. Slowly add the 3 Tablespoons of the ice water and mix just until dough holds together. If necessary, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time,  until the dough comes together. It will still be a bit crumbly.

Divide dough in two parts, press both together until it forms a ball, then form into round disks, about 1 inch thick. Wrap completely in plastic wrap and chill at least two hours.

When almost ready to assemble, make filling.

Blueberry Filling:

3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

¼ cup sugar

1 ½ Tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Pinch of nutmeg (optional)

In a bowl, combine all ingredients and gently mix, carful not to crush the blueberries. Use right away.

Assembly:

Pie crust dough

Blueberry Filling

Extra flour for dusting

1 egg, lightly beaten

Optional sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly flour a clean work surface. Unwrap chilled pie dough and place on floured work surface; flour top of dough lightly. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out until about 1/8 to 1/6 inch thick. Using a sharp knife, pastry wheel, or biscuit or cookie cutter, cut the dough into desired shapes, creating as many cutouts as possible. I used a biscuit cutter to create a top and bottom crust (Some other options are squares, hearts, or a circle and folding in half to create the top and bottom crust resulting in a semicircle). Gather dough scraps, reform into a ball, and repeat the process until all the dough is cut into the desired shapes.

To make pies with  a separate top and bottom piece, add 1 teaspoon to 3 Tablespoons of filling (depending on size) to half of your pie crust cutouts (so, just the bottom pieces). Make sure to leave a ¼ inch border of crust uncovered by filling. Moisten the outer ¼ inch edge of the top and bottom crust with beaten egg, and place the top on the bottom, so the egg edges are together (the egg acts sort of like a glue). Press together to form a seal, and use a fork to crimp the edges.

Arrange pies on baking sheets, spaced about 1 inch apart. Brush with remaining beaten egg and sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Bake pies until the crust is golden, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size of pies. Remove and cool on baking rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Slightly adapted from Handheld Pies

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Peppermint Marshmallows

I will often make something, take pictures, and plan to blog about it, only to put it off for several days (sometimes weeks) and then realize the food I made no longer actually fits the season. Cue in Peppermint Marshmallows – I would probably consume them all year round, but they seem rather Christmas-y. Nonetheless, because its still cold and snowy here in Illinois, I present this peppermint marshmallow goodness, perfect for melting in hot cocoa (or if you’re weird as myself and don’t really care for hot cocoa, black coffee).

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I first discovered how simple (and hysterically messy) marshmallow making is last summer with two dear friends of mine, Allyson and Maddie. We made vanilla bean marshmallows for some delicious s’mores at a cookout, and they were a huge hit.

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Naturally, when hot cocoa season rolled around, we just had to try out a peppermint version.

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My lovely sister Raechel taste-tested and approved.

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Have a blessed new year.

Peppermint Marshmallows

3 packages unflavored gelatin

1 cup cold water, divided

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

¾ to 1 ½ teaspoons peppermint extract

¼ cup powdered sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

Nonstick spray

Red food coloring

Pour ½ cup of the water into the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment and sprinkle gelatin over the surface; set aside.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining ½ cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Over medium high heat and with a candy thermometer attached to the side of the pan, cook the mixture until it reaches 240 degrees F. Immediately remove the pan from the heat once temperature is reached.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once all the syrup has been added, increase the speed to high and continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the peppermint extract during the last minute of whipping, starting with the smaller amount and increasing according to taste and desired strength.

While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans:

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use (you may find that you need a bit extra later, just continue with a 1-1 ratio of powdered sugar and cornstarch).

When whipped, flavored and lukewarm, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan.  Drop about 6 drops of red food coloring around the surface of the marshmallows and use a toothpick or knife to swirl the red into the marshmallows. Dust the top with remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at about 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into desired shapes (a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture works well). Once cut, dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Variation:

For vanilla bean marshmallows, add the scraped seeds from one vanilla bean pod into the sugar mixture before cooking. Later, replace the peppermint extract with vanilla extract. Omit food coloring.

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown

Much love, Bre