01 December 2011

Snow-Tipped Sand Tarts - Project Pastry Queen

It is my turn to host Project Pastry Queen this week. Since my pick fell just after Thanksgiving, and I LOVE Christmas cookies, I chose Snow-Tipped Sand Tarts. Living in Texas, this is the closest I will come to a white Christmas!!

This is an easy recipe - only 6 ingredients and no need to let the dough chill. The cookies turned out festive as well as delicious. You will need to use your stand mixer because the dough gets pretty stiff at the end. The hardest thing was chopping up the pistachios. Don't try to chop them in a food processor, they end up too fine. Also, don't use ones that are already shelled - they are too salty and dark from roasting. The pistachios you shell yourself retain their pretty green color. I relied upon one of my favorite kitchen tools: an "Ulu"! This was a gift to us from my husband's parents that they brought back from an Alaskan cruise. Similar to an Italian mezzeluna, it does wonders on herbs & nuts.

The recipe calls for rolling the dough into 2" long, 1/2" logs. After the first batch, I felt they were a bit small. I changed that to 2 1/2" long, 3/4" logs and still ended up with more than 5 dozen cookies. After the cookies have cooled, they are dipped in white chocolate and rolled in chopped pistachios. For optional color, I also chopped up some dried cranberries. Be careful with the white chocolate - it has a very low melting point. The bowl your chocolate is in should not touch the water AND make sure the water is simmering, NOT boiling away madly. Otherwise it will turn into a globby mess!

I wasn't sure if I was going to dust the sand tarts with powdered sugar, but I am glad I did. Here are some before pictures:

These are sure to become a family favorite. I definitely recommend dusting them with powdered sugar. I wasn't sure it would stick after the cookies had cooled, but it did! ENJOY!!

Be sure and check out the other members' version of the Sand Tarts here:

Snow-Tipped Sand Tarts:


2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting (optional)
2 tablespoons almond extract
4 cups all purpose flour
3 cups shelled, coarsely chopped pistachio nuts
8 ounces white chocolate
(I also use 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries)


Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats, or grease generously with butter or cooking spray. Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and the 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar in a large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the almond extract and beat until combined. Stir in the flour until combined. Stir in 2 cups of the pistachios. (I used 1 1/2 cups).

Roll the dough into 2-inch-long, 1/2-inch logs (I did 2 1/2"-long, 3/4" logs) and shape each log into a crescent. Arrange the crescents on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. (They spread minimally.) Bake for 20 minutes, just until light golden brown. Cool the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes before removing from the baking sheet. Transfer to racks to cool completely.

Chop the white chocolate coarsely and place it in a medium bowl set over a saucepan with 2 inches of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate has melted. Dip the end of each cooled cookie in the melted white chocolate and immediately roll the chocolate-covered part in the remaining 1 cup pistachios (and/or chopped, dried cranberries). Place the dipped cookies on waxed paper. Use a small fine-mesh sieve to sprinkle powdered sugar over the portion of the cookies that have not been dipped in chocolate.

The chocolate will harden in about 45 minutes at room temperature or 10 minutes in the refrigerator. The cookies will keep in an airtight container about 4 days.

11 October 2011

Curried Butternut Squash Soup - Project Pastry Queen

I was hesitant about the recipe choice for this week's Project Pastry Queen. Curried Butternut Squash Soup was chosen by Josie at Pink Parsley. Head on over there for the recipe. Given the huge health benefits of butternut squash though, I decided to give it a try.

It is only been in the last 5 years that I have added sweet potatoes to my "Like" column. I never cared for the marshmallow, brown sugar version that is offered up at Thanksgiving. <<UGH>>!!! After I discovered their savory side, I now love them - especially roasted with rosemary and a touch of olive oil. Butternut squash falls into that same category. I haven't been a fan of most recipes I have tried. I'm also not a fan of the curry powder that is called for in the recipe. I thought of leaving it out, but I'm glad I didn't. I omitted the honey and cut the cinnamon in half. Next time I will leave it out and perhaps add in some rosemary.

Like most soups, this recipe is quick and easy to throw together - especially when you buy the squash already peeled and cut into cubes. (I HIGHLY recommend this!)

Like many soups, saute some onions and carrots in olive oil or butter.

Add the cubed squash, russet potato, and the spices.

Add chicken stock, milk and cream (optional). I used less than 1/2 of the cream that was called for, and compensated with extra milk. .

Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes.
I used my immersion blender to puree the soup,
but you could use a regular blender as well.

Serve with a dollop of light sour cream and a sprinkling of paprika.

This was a very tasty soup and I WILL make it again. It was nice that we had a little rain (finally) in Austin over the weekend, so it even seemed like fall - perfect soup weather! Check out the results from the other PPQ members here! Some roasted the squash before making the soup, sounds like something I will try the next time.

09 October 2011

Tuxedo Cake - Project Pastry Queen

Not only is this Tuxedo Cake the reason I found Project Pastry Queen, it is why I bought Rebecca Rather's cookbook "The Pastry Queen" in the first place. Needless to say, I was THRILLED when Shawnda chose this as her selection, you can find the complete recipe and a gorgeous picture at her site. The cake tastes even better than it looks. Unless I am pressed for time, this will be my go to Chocolate Cake from now on . . . so long cake mixes!!

Franklin, my "Tuxedo" cat.
No, he did not get my last piece of cake!!
(Don't ask how long it took to get this photo)

Even though I've owned the cookbook for at least 6 years, I have never made this cake. The picture makes it look like one of those elegant, yet difficult desserts to make. I shouldn't have been intimidated because it was not complicated at all. I chose to make the cake using two 10-inch round cake pans, but it can also be made with three 9-inch pans. The whole thing came together by hand, it was kind of nice not using my stand mixer.

Two sticks of butter are melted in a saucepan, and then water and canola oil are added. Sugar, cocoa powder and flour are sifted together with a whisk. The butter mixture is whisked into the dry ingredients until smooth. 

Eggs are whisked in, one at a time

Whisk in buttermilk, and then add baking soda, salt and vanilla

The batter is then poured into your prepared pans. I saw a post of Shawnda's for Fresh Strawberry Cake. She suggested wrapping the sides of your cake pans with aluminum foil - "it would keep the batter near the edge of the pan cooler for longer so the cake baked more evenly". I've never done this, but decided to give it a try.

I was VERY HAPPY with the way they turned out. Thanks Shawnda!!

The cakes must cool completely, at least 2 hours before frosting. The frosting is made by whipping cream to the soft peak stage and then stirring in the powdered sugar. Once frosted, the cake needs to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour.

The chocolate glaze is made with bittersweet chocolate, whipping cream and something called "Lyle's Golden Syrup". This is imported from Britain, and if you can't find it in your grocery store, here is the link to a substitution. The substitution suggests a combination of light corn syrup and molasses. I found something called "Brer Rabbit Syrup", imported from Britain, ingredients - corn syrup and molasses. GREAT, I thought, but once I tasted the chocolate glaze on the cake, I did not like it. Next time, I will substitute with light corn syrup only!!

Once the glaze has cooled for 10 minutes, slowly pour it over the cake - covering the top and letting it drizzle down the side. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. I made this cake for the Midweek Connections supper at our church, it was a huge hit. I barely had time to rescue a piece to take home with me for a picture.

08 October 2011

2010 Mamma Jamma Ride

It's been awhile since I have posted anything, but it's that time of year - Mamma Jamma time! I have been busy fundraising for my favorite cause. The ride was a week ago, and it was a fabulous day.

If you have read about my own breast cancer story, you might remember how much the Inaugural Mamma Jamma Ride in 2009 meant to me. I will be writing about this year's ride soon, but first I wanted to put up pictures from last year. I've got a lot of posts to catch up on for Project Pastry Queen, and Midweek Connections, amongst others. In the meantime, enjoy what the 2010 Mamma Jamma Ride had to offer. Every rider raised at least $500 to provide services and support for Breast Cancer patients, the ride is their reward!!

Morning dawns at Reunion Ranch. A great day awaits as the
2010 Mamma Jamma Ride is about to begin.

Riders begin to arrive. I love the tire tracks in the dew laden grass.

More bikers gathering, what a beautiful morning!

Leah, myself and Andrea

Thank you David C. Smith, Executive Ride Director, 
for all of your hard work to make this ride happen!

My Hubbie, Mark (# 417), walking his bike over to the starting line

It's almost 8:30, rollout time.
Riders had a choice of 13, 27, 46, 70 & 100 miles.

READY . . .

SET . . .

Those are the wonderful SAG vehicles lined up and ready to support the ride!

430 riders - raised over $400,000 to support Breast Cancer Patients.
Now it's time to enjoy the Texas Hill Country on this tree lined country road!

Heading into the mighty metropolis of Andice, TX.

The sign said "Ride Single File" - riding safely is a Good Thing!

It's hard to get a good picture of the beautiful scenery
while you are pedaling your bike.

MARK . . . WAIT UP!!!

About to go downhill, my favorite thing to do.
Better put the camera away :)

I love this old bridge, just outside of the mighty metropolis of Joppa, TX.

Lunch stop at Joppa, TX

Joppa was Hoppin'

This is my bike - ArVi
I named it after my Dad - ARt and my mom VIrginia.
That way I have them with me whenever I go out for a ride.

Bikes and their saddles patiently waiting for their owners
to mount up and head out on the road again.

Lunch was great - delicious wraps, fruit and OREOS!

The 46 milers on our Gethsemane Lutheran Team.
 Fifteen more miles to go.

I can't believe how green the grass was in 2010 compared to this year.

It was so good to ride with teammates Susan & Jane.
Memories for a lifetime!

Finish line in sight . . .

46 miles - check
A great day spent with good friends - check
Fundraising Goal met - check
Thousands of Breast Cancer patients will have life saving services - PRICELESS

David -ride director, and husband Mark - HEROES!!

Cancer can sometimes give you a gift. These are 2 of my favorites!! We were the top 3 fundraisers for the 2010 Mamma Jamma Ride. It is our passion.

At the Awards Party

When all was said and done with, after fierce competition with my friends Jan and Kerry, I ended up with the Top Fundraiser-Rider Award for 2010. Our team also ended up with the Top Team Fundraiser Per Capita Award. My total for the year was $12,756. Our team ended up raising a little over $20,000. Much would be accomplished in our local Breast Cancer community because of the Mamma Jamma ride. I'm so very proud to be a part of it.

Finally, here is a video that was made of the ride last year, to promote the 2011 Mamma Jamma Ride: