My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


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Lovely Lemon Curd

Lemon curd.

Deliciously smooth. Sweet and tangy. The taste of spring in a spread. O.k., I’m waxing a little poetic, here. But lemon curd rocks. It is expensive to buy, but easy and inexpensive to make. So make some! And then eat it with everything: on waffles or shortbread cookies. In yogurt (with or without granola!), with fresh berries. In a cheesecake. With ice cream. On gingerbread. As a cake filling. Then try the same recipe with limes. Or oranges!  These citrus curds would be beautiful additions to your Easter brunches!

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Ingredients:

3 large eggs

1 cup sugar

½ cup lemon juice. I used Meyer lemons here, and needed three lemons

1.4 cup butter, cubed

1 Tablespoon lemon zest

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How to Make It:

In a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Add the butter and the lemon zest and cook, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens. You will see it thicken, and feel it thicken as you stir. Test with a metal spoon: the curd is ready if it coats the back of the spoon. Be careful that you don’t let it boil, or it will curdle.

Pour the curd into a small bowl and let cool slightly before transferring to the refrigerator. Put a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the curd so you don’t get a skin.2019-03-22 10.58.13

Don’t panic if you see little bits of cooked egg white in your curd!  The egg whites coagulate at a lower temperature than the yolks. If this happens, all is not lost! The egg bits won’t affect the flavor of the curd, and you can simply strain them out. Spoon your curd into a strainer over a small bowl and gently press it through. Goodbye, egg whites. If you don’t like the zest in your final curd, this method will strain it out, also.

This makes a soft, spreadable, sweet curd. Use within a week, or freeze!

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Try it on vanilla yogurt! It tastes like a lemon meringue pie! Plus it looks like a fried egg. Which is fun. (For me.)

 

 


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Scrumptious Orange Walnut Granola. Really: Scrumptious.

I know. I know. Scruptious? Granola?

But give me a minute, here, before you click away in disgust.

I’ve never been a granola fan. I’ve always felt there’s nothing quite as dreary as chewing your way through a dentally-challenging bowl of nuts and twigs first thing in morning. I have a weakness for children’s breakfast cereals. Comforting baked goods.

This granola though…dang! It puts store-bought granola to shame. It tastes good. Really good. And it’s not going to chip a molar. In fact…think of it as a deconstructed oatmeal cookie. Use it as a crumble on ice cream. Whatever! But give it a try!

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Ingredients:

Zest of one orange

2 Tablespoons sugar

4 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1 ½ cups walnuts, broken up slightly

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup melted coconut oil

½ cup honey

1 cup dried fruit of your choice: cherries, blueberries, raisins, cranberries, dates…

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How to Make It:

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line a jelly-roll pan or other big, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the orange zest and sugar in a little bowl. Rub the zest into the sugar until it is bright orange and smells amazing.

Break up your walnuts a little bit so you don’t have entire walnut halves going in to the mix, here. I put them in a bag and pushed a rolling pin over them a few times. You don’t want them pulverized or chopped finely, just broken into smaller bite-size pieces.

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In a large bowl, combine the oats, walnuts, salt, cinnamon, and your orange sugar. Stir to combine. Make sure you break up any sugar clumps, so the orange flavor goes all through the mix.

Pour in the coconut oil and honey. Mix well, coating all the oats.

With a spatula, spread the granola onto your baking sheet in an even layer. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally as it bakes, until it turns a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let it cool on a rack. The granola will crisp up nicely as it cools down.

When the granola is cool, add in your dried fruit. I love cherries in this mix. Today I used blueberries and cranberries, because that’s what I had on hand. This granola will keep in an airtight container for a week or two. But don’t be surprised if you eat it all up long before then!

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Big Dark Chocolate Caramel Cookie

Oh yes.

Forget jewelry and roses and expensive dinners. Bake this massive, chewy, delectable cookie for your Valentine and they’ll be yours forever. Or, heck, just make it for yourself. Either way will bring happiness.

Back in the day (we’re talking early ’90s, here) we’d go to the original Old Chicago on Pearl Street in Boulder for free glassware night, a good pizza, and their big warm cookie, straight out of the oven. Those were the glory days before Old Chicago became a chain and their food quality tanked. I still remember that cookie with foodie nostalgia.

But this cookie is better. Bigger. More refined for today’s gourmet cookie palates.  Plus, the recipe is ridiculously simple.

We love a slice warmed up just a little bit alongside some good ice cream, or topped with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Be creative. Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

1 ½ cups flour

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

10 Tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate chips or dark chocolate chips

½ cup toasted walnuts (or pecans)

12 caramel candies

Flaky sea salt (optional)

 

Special Equipment:

A 10-inch cast iron skillet

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How to Make it:

Heat your oven to 375 F.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and the brown sugar together on a medium-high speed until very light-colored and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Add in the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.

Drop your mixer speed and add in the flour mixture until just combined.

Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips.

Butter your cast iron skillet so your cookie doesn’t stick. That would be very sad.

Spoon the dough into the skillet and pat it down evenly.

Push the 12 caramel candies into the dough.

Sprinkle the top with sea salt, if you want.

Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Let it cool. If you can wait that long…

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Pure Heaven: The Best Angel Food Cake

Ever since I was little, angel food cake has been my favorite cake of all. Light, fluffy, just sweet enough, it lends itself to all kinds of toppings. Strawberries macerated in Grand Marnier. Butterscotch sauce. Frosting. Lemon glaze. Yum. In fact, my wedding cakes were angel food with a selection of choose-your-own toppings.

It is cold outside. I’m in need of a little happy-memories comfort food. That, and we now have six chickens and an over-abundance of eggs. Clearly, time for angel food cake.

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Apologies for this photo: We ended up eating the whole cake except for this last little raggedy piece before I remembered to take a picture. (It’s that good.)

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups sugar, divided

1 ½ cups egg whites at room temperature (12-15 eggs, depending on egg size)

1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

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Thanks for the eggs, Babs (blue eggs), Agatha (dark speckled eggs), Jinx, Bubbles, and Fran! And thanks to Roo also, for over-zealous flock protection.

Special Equipment:

10-inch tube pan

Wire whip for your mixer

Cute little chicken egg separator, if you don’t want to get your hands messy. You can find an inexpensive, similar one on Amazon here.

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I usually separate the eggs individually into the small dish before transferring to the measuring cup—just in case I have a yolk break on me. I don’t want to ruin the rest of the whites. And, separate your eggs when they’re cold, then let them stand and come to room temperature for about an hour. They’ll whip better. Those extra egg yolks? Make a pound cake…or hollandaise…or pudding!

How to Make It:

Mix the flour and ½ cup of the sugar in a bowl and set it aside.

Place the egg whites in your mixer bowl. You’re going to use your wire whip attachment to mix, not your regular flat beater.

Gradually turn the mixer to a medium high speed (on my KitchenAid, I go to speed 6) and whip until the egg whites are frothy: not too long, just 30 seconds to a minute.

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Add the cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla. Turn your mixer to high (speed 8 on my mixer) and whip until the egg whites are almost stiff, but not dry. 2-2 ½ minutes, tops.

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Drop to a low speed (speed 2 on my mixer) and gradually add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix for 1 minute. Stop and scrape the bowl with a spatula.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Spoon your flour-sugar mixture ¼ at a time over the egg whites. Fold it in very gently with a spatula, just until blended. Don’t go crazy stirring, here: fold gently. You don’t want to lose your volume.

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Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Take a knife and gently cut through the batter to break up any air pockets.

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Bake at 375 F until the crust is golden brown and cracks are very dry. This takes about 35 minutes. As soon as it is done, remove from oven and invert it onto a bottle. You want to cool it upside down so it doesn’t collapse. Don’t worry! It won’t fall out! (Well, not as long as you didn’t grease the pan.) Cool completely and remove from the pan.

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Eat it plain or go crazy with your toppings! And yes, there’s no photo of me with the whole cake because we ate it before I remembered to photograph it. Next time I make one, which will probably be in a week or so given our crazy egg production, I’ll update with a finished product photo!

 


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A Really Lovely Apple Pie. So What if it’s April?

A cold April rain is pelting the windows in my office-slash-craft room right now. It is dark and peaceful, and I could give in and take a Saturday afternoon nap, but I want something even more comforting: pie.

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Here is an apple pie recipe you’ll turn to again and again, and probably, knowing all you bakers out there, modify it some more yourselves with your own tricks. As it stands, however, this is a beauty of a pie. Your house will smell amazing as it bakes.

Ingredients:

Pie crust for a two-crust pie – use your go-to crust recipe or refrigerated crusts. You really can’t go wrong with this pie.

6 medium apples, peeled and thinly sliced*

¾ cup sugar plus extra for sprinkling

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 Tablespoon unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 egg white

* For heaven’s sake, use your favorite apple: Granny Smith are the traditional go-to baking apples because they add a nice tartness. Lots of folks enjoy McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, or a blend. Go with what you enjoy or what you have on hand. Like the crust, you won’t go wrong. I’ve got Fuji today, which are panned for their juices not thickening enough, but I’m not feeling picky. If you’re entering the county fair, then be picky.

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How to Make It:

Heat your oven to 425 F.

Place your bottom crust into a 9-inch pie plate.

In a large bowl, mix the apples, ¾ cup sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and lemon juice. Do this gently, so you don’t break up your apple slices. Spoon the filling into the bottom crust.

Sprinkle on the cut-up bits of butter.2018-01-27 14.17.11

Cover with your top crust. Trim off any excess and tuck the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust. Pinch it together and flute it. (No woodwinds involved.) Use both hands and pinch and seal the dough with your pointer fingers and thumbs, giving a tiny twist as you go all around the edge of the pie. Check out my Bloody Good Cherry Pie recipe for marginally more details on fluting.

With a sharp knife, cut some slits in the top crust to vent the steam. Or you could use a pie bird, or little cookie cutters and cut shapes out of the crust (before you put it on top of the filling, making sure everything stays cool) to do the same thing.

In a little bowl, whisk the egg white until it is nice and frothy. Brush the egg white over the top of the pie. This will give you a nice shiny finish.

Now, sprinkle sugar gently over the top of the egg white. You’ll end with a sparkly, delicious top.

Step carefully around your mini-Schnauzer who is positioned so she can instantly grab any accidental food-from-the-sky.  She doesn’t look alert.  That’s a deception.  Just wait until you drop something…

Bake your pie for 40 to 45 minutes or until the apples are tender, you can see bubbling through the vents, and the crust is golden brown.

Before this happens, though, you need to check after 15 to 20 minutes of baking and cover the edges of the crust. You can do this with foil, or a pie crust shield. I got these little Norpro 3275 Silicone Pie Crust Shields, 5-Piece for Christmas, and I have to say, they’re the bomb. They’re adjustable to other sizes of pie, go on so easily (WAY easier than foil) and clean up fast. I do recommend them.

Whatever method you use, be sure you cover those edges on the crust, or they will be over-browned by the end of the baking time. And you’ll be sad.

Cool your pie on the cooling rack for at least two hours before serving. If you can wait even longer, believe it or not, that’s better: the filling will set even more and not seep when you cut it. Still, I know: it smells like heaven and you can’t touch it for two hours. Now is a good time for that nap.

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Dark Chocolate Coconut Candies

Looking for a fast, insanely-easy Valentine’s dessert bite?  Try these delectable chocolate coconut candies.  If you are a fan of Mounds bars – or Almond Joys – you will adore these.  They are moist, rich, and incredible and come together in minutes.  Better than those old candy bars, any day! I love these: I think the original recipe came from a long-ago issue of Gourmet. Customize with your own decorations for Valentine’s day.  Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

¾ cup sweetened flaked coconut

¾ cup unsweetened dried coconut

1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Optional tasty/festive garnishes:

Almonds

Sea salt

Red hot cinnamon hearts or other little candies – or try a piece of candied fruit.  Ginger, maybe?

How to Make Them:

Line the bottom and two opposite sides of an 8-inch square metal baking pan with wax paper.  Leave an overhang on both sides.  You’re only using the pan to shape your treats – the wax paper will allow you to pull the whole square out of the pan in one piece.

In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix together the sweetened coconut, the dried coconut and the sweetened condensed milk.  Use a spoon to get everything evenly combined.

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Press the coconut mixture into the pan in a nice, even layer using an offset spatula.  A regular spatula works, too, but the offset is helpful.  I recently got my first offset spatula and it turns out I didn’t know what I’d been missing.  They’re not expensive, either – this one from Amazon was only $5. I put a link down at the bottom for you, if you want.

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Put the coconut mixture, uncovered, into the refrigerator for 5 minutes to chill.

Meanwhile, melt your chocolate until it is smooth. Ideally, use a double-boiler.  A microwave works too. Or a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

Pull your coconut mixture from the fridge and spread the chocolate mixture evenly over the coconut layer.  Here’s where the offset spatula comes in handy again.*

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* Want to fancy things up?  After you spread the chocolate over the coconut, add a sprinkle of sea salt or stud some almonds across half of the chocolate.  Half, because when you cut your candy, half of that chocolate is going to be on the bottom. Put your beautifully-decorated half on top when you sandwich the two pieces together.

Chill in the refrigerator until firm, 5-10 minutes.

Lift the whole square out of the pan and put it on a cutting board.  Cut the square in half with a sharp knife.  Now you have two rectangles.

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Next, make a sandwich. Flip one half of the candy over so the chocolate is on the bottom and the coconut faces up.  Place the other half of the candy with the coconut side down on top of it.  Both coconut sides are in the middle, and chocolate layers are on the top and bottom. Press down lightly. Get rid of the waxed paper.

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Cut into 1-inch squares.  Make sure your knife is cold and clean between cuts.  Chill, covered, until you are ready to serve.

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These keep in the fridge for a week.

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Enjoy! If you want to modify things further, consider melting more chocolate, cutting the plain coconut layer into little rectangles and using a fork to dip and coat them completely.

Oh! Here is the offset spatula on Amazon:  Ateco 1305 Ultra Offset Spatula with 4.25 by .75-Inch Stainless Steel Blade, Plastic Handle, Dishwasher Safe


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Wickedly Delicious Russian Teacakes

I knew it was time to bake when I put on a beloved episode of Hogan’s Heroes and reached for a Russian Teacake. And I didn’t have one. Crushing.

From an early childhood, these two disparate things have gone together and somehow signify the holiday season, taking me back to a comforting time.

I think most people have some version of this cookie in their repertoire under a variety of names – Mexican Wedding Cookies, Pecan Balls – but I’ll share the recipe that my mom passed down. There is a little extra step that makes this one stand out on your cookie tray. Since these are one of my favorite cookies, I always double the recipe. They also freeze beautifully.

I know it is down to the wire for holiday baking, but if you have a little time today, treat yourself to a batch of these. You probably have the ingredients around, and these are a simple cookie to bake. If you don’t get to them for this holiday, don’t worry: you really don’t need an occasion. They’re delicious anytime. Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

¼ cup sugar

½ pound butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups finely chopped pecans

Confectioners’ sugar

How to Make them: 

Preheat your oven to 325 F. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla.

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Add the flour and salt and mix to a soft, smooth dough. Stir in the pecans.

Shape into 1-inch balls by rolling between your hands, and place them 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

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Bake for 25 minutes until the cookies are firm and light brown on the bottom.

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This cookie is nicely light brown on the bottom: this batch is done.

Remove from the cookie sheet and gently roll in the confectioners’ sugar. Cool on wire racks.

Now, here’s the “something special” step: when the cookies are totally cool, roll them a second time in confectioners’ sugar.

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The cookies to the right and bottom middle have been rolled a second time in the powdered sugar…see how much snowier they are than the single-roll cookies!

This leaves them snowy and beautiful! Store in an airtight container or freeze.  Happy Holidays!

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