Friday, October 29, 2010

Poached Pears- Eat Your Heart Out This Halloween!

Call me sick, call me weird, you can even call me gross, but don't call me heartless... I have a heart, really, I do. It just happens to be on my plate right now. Yes, another disgusting dish for the #GreatHallowTweet , the fabulous Halloween Bloghop originated and hosted by my friend Renee of Flamingo Musings.

I've always wanted to try poached pears. It seemed like a fabulous way to create inexpensive elegance for guests, with minimal effort. When thinking of ideas for the #GreatHallowTweet, this recipe came to mind when I noticed that ones of the pairs I had resembled a heart shape. I adjusted the recipe to the ingredients I had on hand, resulting in a bloody delicious treat I must say!

Poached "Heart" Pears
adapted from joy of cooking

1 c Merlot wine
1/2 c Grenadine
1 c sugar
2 peeled long strips of fresh lemon peel
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs red food coloring
1 cinnamon stick
6 cloves, whole
3 medium pears

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a 2 qt saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover, simmering for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the stems of the pears and peel, slightly slicing off both the top and bottom of pears. I rounded the top a bit, giving it more of a "heart" shape look.

Add the pears to the saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes. Keep turning the pears in the pan to distribute the flavor and color evenly, until they have reached a rich, deep, red. Remove pears gently from saucepan and let cool.

Remove the remaining cloves, lemon peel, and cinnamon stick. Let the remaining sauce simmer in saucepan until reduced by about 1/3rd (5-10 minutes), watching carefully so as not to burn.

Arrange cooled pears on a serving plate and "splatter" with "bloody" sauce. Serves 3.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Cobweb Meringues and the #GreatHallowTweet Halloween BlogHop

I need a maid. Try as I might, I can't seem to keep up. Everywhere I look in this house, cobwebs seem to be invading every little nook and cranny.

It seems like, just when you get the whole house all spiffed up for the fall festivities, the invasion begins. Subtle at first- a wispy flurry or two- a phenomenon of epic proportions that flocks to my home in herds...

Heee heeee.... herds of edible Cobweb Meringues that is. My fabulous friend Renee over at Flamingo Musings is the creator and Ghostess with the Mostest in charge of the #GreatHallowTweet Bloghop. Just click on any of the links in my right sidebar area that says Halloween Bloghop, and you will be able to hop on over to all of the ghoulishly delicious 18 participating blogs (link visible only if viewing my direct blog link here)!

My little cobwebs are a fabulous treat to make with your little goblins. They don't require much- just 3 egg whites beaten (in a grease free metal bowl) with 1/2 a cup of granulated sugar until stiff.

Fill a medium size pastry bag with the finished meringue, and then snip off the very tip of the bag. Pipe a small circle, followed by a sloppy scalloped circular pattern, and then another larger, scalloped circular pattern, trying to match up the points on each. Then, from the inner circle to just beyond the outer point, make a line. No need to be perfect... remember, our little goblins are never perfect, just ridiculously cute ;) Bake at 250F on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 40 minutes until dry and delicate. Remember, these are freakishly diet friendly, too!

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bread of the Dead

Here in the Southwest, the spooky spirit of Halloween lingers around for a spell as the macabre Mexican celebration of Dia de los Muertos is observed from October 31st through November 2nd. It is believed that during this time, the spirit of the dead return to visit their families who consider it a joyous time. They choose to hide their fears of death and beyond with a mocking, yet respectful, celebration that includes the building of altars and thoughtful preparation of special breads known as Pan de Muerto, or "Bread of the Dead".

I had saved this particular Bread of the Dead recipe from an article I had read in Sunset Magazine about 13 years ago (post without recipe is available in link). While some variations call for anise seed, this one is delicately spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, of which I always keep fresh and grate myself, with the mellow flavor of my own homemade bourbon vanilla. The result is a mildly sweet, subtly spiced, warm, fluffy, loaf of bread that is lovely with a cup of warm cocoa.

Bread of the Dead
adapted from Sunset Magazine

1 pkg yeast
1/4 c warm water
1/3 c milk
1/3 c butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs, beaten, with 1 Tbs reserved for wash
1 Tbs Bourbon vanilla
3-3/4 c flour
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 tsp fresh ground cinnamon
2 Tbs sesame seed

In large bowl add warm water and yeast. Set aside. Cut butter into small cubes and place in small saucepan with milk until just barely melted, but yet you are able to touch without burning. Set aside.

Beat eggs well and add vanilla, milk mixture, sugar and salt. Then add that mixture to the large bowl with yeast mixture. Mix well.

Using 2-1/2 c of the flour, add the nutmeg and cinnamon and combine well. Add the dry flour mixture to the wet yeast mixture and stir well. Add another cup of flour and mix until dough starts to pull away from bowl a bit. Take the remaining flour and sprinkle on a flat surface. Scrape dough onto surface and knead with remaining flour until smooth and no longer sticky. NOTE: The amount of flour you need to add may depend on your method of measurement, and the preciseness of your measuring utensils.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area to rise until doubled, up to 1-1/2 h ours. At that time, uncover bowl and lightly push down dough, letting rest 5 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough to remove any air bubbles that may have formed. Form dough into a circle approximately 8" and place on a well buttered sheet pan. Cover loosely with plastic and let rise again about 30 minutes.

Uncover dough and brush with reserved 1 Tbs of beaten egg. Sprinkle loaf with sesame seeds. Then with a very sharp knife that has been dipped in flour, make a cut into the middle of the dough from one side to the other, about 1/2" deep.

Bake in a 350F oven until crust is caramel in color, about 30-35 minutes, depending on your oven.

The bread is fabulous served warm on its own, or with a touch of whipped cinnamon butter. Enjoy!

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