Saturday, December 10, 2011

A spicy sweetness

Well it's Saturday night and I have officially surrendered to the thought of staying in tonight.  And since I now have a whole whack of free time, I figured I may as well attempt to bake something seeing as it is the holidays and all.  I say attempt because I am actually not a baker. In fact, most things I bake end up being huge fails...It is hard for me to accept that baking (unlike cooking) is not as flexible in the ingredient/recipe department...meaning the "pinch of this, little of that, dash of this" philosophy does Not fly. Luckily, my mother is a cooking queen and she gave me these idiot-proof recipes with Very clear instructions. The first thing I made was Spicy Pecans - these are awesome for the holidays, and perfect if you want to give a home-made gift (as the receiver has probably already gotten 10 boxes of cookies). 

3 cups   pecan halves
¼ cup   packed light brown sugar
2 tsp     salt
1 tsp     cayenne pepper
1 tsp     paprika
¾ tsp    ground ginger
¼ cup   pure maple syrup
1 tbsp   water
2 tsp     vegetable oil
½ tsp    finely grated orange zest
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Spread pecan halves in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet, ungreased. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant.
  3. In a bowl, mix together sugar, salt, cayenne, paprika and ginger. Set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, combine syrup, water, oil, and orange zest.  Bring to a boil over low-medium heat without stirring. Add toasted nuts. Reduce heat to low and stir with a wooden spoon for 2-4 minutes or until nuts are completely coated and liquid is absorbed.
  5. Immediately transfer pecans to bowl containing reserved spice mixture and toss until evenly coated.  Spread onto a baking sheet and let cool completely  Transfer to an airtight container, adding any spice mixture that may remain on the baking sheet. 
You CAN change up the quantities of cayenne and ginger, and even add more depending on how spicy you would like your nuts (hehe).  These nuts keep for up to 1 month in a well-sealed container at room temperature.

Next I attempted a Cranberry and Pistachio Shortbread cookie, found in Chatelaine magazine. I am obsessed with shortbread cookies but I think the cranberries and pistachios give an extra flavour so they don't taste like your eating pure butter (which is still awesome, I know). I've attached photos of some of  the steps in this recipe.
Dried cranberries and coarsely chopped pistachios
"Creaming" the butter. Aka mixing the butter with the icing sugar, whilst developing huge bicep muscles.
Add in cranberries and pistachios. More stirring (owww my arm)
Transfer to cooling rack and lightly dust with icing sugar. Ta-da!
These are soooo good! I've already put half the batch in the freezer so they don't get devoured before I get a chance to give them out as gifts.  I know mine don't look exactly like the picture (I was going for a more "authentic" look instead of the flat, round typical cookie...) but meh, it was my first try.

Time for a (few) taste test's and off to bed. 


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