Pumpkin Spice Hazelnut Churros

Deep-fried desserts are the best and this one is no exception. I embellished the batter for these churros with freshly chopped hazelnuts and rolled the pastries in pumpkin spice sugar.

Pumpkin Spice Hazelnut Churros

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Since I recently learned how to make choux pastry I decided it was time to make some churros. Churros are deep-fried choux pastry and they taste awesome.

As you can see, I divided the batter in half and made two different shapes, balls and strands. For the balls I used a 2-teaspoon scoop and for the strands I used a piping bag with a French tip. The strands are a bit of a trick to make, you have to pipe them into the oil, holding the piping bag with both hands, then quickly grab a small kitchen knife with one hand and cut the batter off at the tip. It sounds complicated but it’s one of those things that you get the hang of quickly after doing it once or twice.

I suggest you eat these guys as an afternoon snack with fresh coffee or a shot or two of espresso.

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Pumpkin Spice Hazelnut Churros Recipe

serves 8

INGREDIENTS:

For the coating:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice

For the batter:

  • vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup bread flour, sifted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped hazelnuts

 

DIRECTIONS:

For the coating:

  1. Mix sugar and pumpkin spice together in a shallow bowl. Set aside.

For the batter:

  1. Fill oil into a Dutch oven until it’s about 5 inches deep. Start to heat it.
  2. While the oil is heating up, add milk, butter, sugar and salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium, then add the sifted flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon.
  4. Cook, continuing to stir, until the dough starts to peel away from the sides of the saucepan.
  5. Transfer the dough to a bowl, then beat on medium speed until it’s cooled down to lukewarm.
  6. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the egg white.
  7. Beat in the hazelnuts.
  8. Fill half of the batter into a piping bag with a French tip.
  9. Wait until the oil has reached 300 degrees F. on a candy thermometer.
  10. Working in batches, carefully pipe short strands of the dough into the oil. (Cut them off with a knife at the tip).
  11. Once they are browned take the churros out with a slotted spoon, briefly set them down on a plate lined with a paper towel, then roll them in or sprinkle them with the sugar/spice mix.
  12. Working in batches, use a 2-teaspoon scoop to drop the remaining batter into the oil in little balls and proceed in the same way as before.

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Food Photography and Styling: Brown goes well with blue so I used my blue metal tray as the surface for this shot. I couldn’t think of any plates or bowls that would have worked for both shapes of churro so I used small pie pans, which also fit with the idea of rolling or sprinkling the pastries with sugar mix. The small coffee glass provided some height in the back and fit color-wise as well and to convey that these guys are a bit of a mess to eat I sprinkled some sugar around the set.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

Pumpkin Spice Hazelnut Churros

Chinese Five-Spice Chocolate Truffles with Crystallized Ginger

I came across a recipe for an Asian 5-spice chocolate cake the other day and was intrigued by the idea. The author, chef Christian Thornton, suggests to serve the cake with ginger whipped cream and I took those concepts and applied them to the chocolate truffles here.

Chocolate Cocoa Truffles with Chinese Five Spice Powder Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

The crystallized ginger bits give you something to bite into and the 5-spice powder (cinnamon, fennel, clove, star anise and white pepper) adds a very, I would say, sophisticated flavor. The anise comes through quite strongly so if you’re not a fan of its licorice-like taste, then I predict you won’t like these truffles. If you do, I think you’ll love them. It’s something special and out of the ordinary and at the same time very easy to make. Enjoy!

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Chinese Five-Spice Chocolate Truffles with Crystallized Ginger Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Ghirardelli 60 percent cacao bittersweet chocolate baking bars)*
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • unsweetened cocoa powder to roll the truffles in

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add cream, butter, spice and salt to a saucepan, bring to a boil and stir until you have a homogeneous mix.
  2. Pour the hot cream mix over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute.
  3. Stir together until everything is well combined and no large chocolate clumps remain. (You may need to heat the mixture over a pot of simmering water to get rid of the last clumps).
  4. Stir in the crystallized ginger.
  5. Cover and put in the fridge for 3 hours.
  6. With a melon baller or a scoop or spoon, scoop out the chocolate and quickly roll into balls with your hands.
  7. Roll each ball in the cocoa powder.
  8. Keep the truffles in the fridge until you serve them and don’t inhale when you bite into them (seriously!).

 

RECIPE NOTES:

*Don’t use chocolate morsels; morsels have stabilizers in them that actually prevent them from melting.

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Food Photography and Styling:I wanted an elegant and sophisticated set for these truffles and went with white crockery and placemats. Both the “floor” and the “wall” are sheets of beadboard that I got from the hardware store some time ago. For some contrast to all the elegance I used my beat-up, antique milk crate upside down as the “table” and I think this mismatch worked well in this particular case here.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/4, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

Pumpkin Spice White Chocolate Mousse Hazelnut Mini Cakes

That’s right, I use pumpkin (pie) spice year–round. It’s one of the best spice blends ever created in my opinion and I think it would be a shame to restrict it to fall season, I love it any time of the year. It’s definitely a winner in these hazelnut mini cakes.

Pumpkin Spice White Chocolate Mousse Hazelnut Mini Cakes Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

A few months ago I posted my recipe for pumpkin spice white chocolate mousse and I knew that it would be a smasher as a frosting on a cake but it took me a while to find the perfect cake for it. This here is it. It’s a hazelnut butter cake (hazelnut and pumpkin spice are a beautiful combination) and I adapted the cake batter recipe from Bon Appetit.

I started with a full-size cake but that didn’t work for the frosting. The mousse is not as firm as, say, a buttercream and just wasn’t able to stand up to all that cake. But mini cakes were a completely different story. I baked them in 4-ounce ramekins, topped them with a few dollops of the mousse and that worked out beautifully. The mousse is similar to whipped cream in texture, complements the cake wonderfully and the proportions are absolutely perfect.

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Pumpkin Spice White Chocolate Mousse Hazelnut Mini Cakes Recipe

serves 8

INGREDIENTS:

For the frosting:

  • 4 ounces white chocolate (I recommend Baker’s Premium White Chocolate Baking Chocolate Bar)*
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin spice

For the cakes:

  • 1/2 cup raw hazelnuts (more for garnish)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs

 

DIRECTIONS:

For the frosting:

  1. Cut the chocolate into small chunks, then put it in a saucepan along with the cream and the pumpkin spice.
  2. Turn on the heat and slowly dissolve the chocolate. Don’t let the cream get too hot, it shouldn’t simmer, it should just be hot enough to melt the chocolate.
  3. Transfer the mix into a bowl and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
  4. Beat the mix with an electric mixer until firm.

For the cakes:

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease eight 4-ounce ramekins and dust with flour.
  3. Process hazelnuts and granulated sugar in a food processor until finely ground.
  4. Whisk the ground nuts with the flour, spice, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  5. Beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
  6. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.
  7. Beat in the dry ingredients.
  8. Fill batter into the ramekins and bake until a toothpick comes out clean (20 to 25 minutes).
  9. Let cool, then turn out.
  10. Pipe the frosting onto the cakes and sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts.

 

RECIPE NOTES:

The cake batter recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit.

*Don’t use chocolate morsels; morsels have stabilizers in them that actually prevent them from melting.

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Food Photography and Styling: I vaguely remembered having these hazelnut-shaped and -colored dried flowers around in a rarely–opened drawer (I got them from Michael’s or Hobby Lobby years ago) and thought they would go well with the actual hazelnuts here. The “tablecloth” is a large linen napkin and the backdrop is the backside of a white marble tile and I think it fit perfectly here. I paid close attention to the rule of thirds and placed the cake topping and the flowers in the little vase on intersection points. The fork was very attention-grabbing when it was closer to the cake so I ended up partially hiding it behind it.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

Chai-Spiced Custard Pear Tart with Toasted Almonds and Salted Caramel

Custard Pear Tart with Salted Caramel

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

I was sipping a chai latte while wandering through the produce section at the grocery store a few weeks ago and the idea for this tart popped into my head when I walked past the pears. Ah, pears. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with them actually. They look beautiful and taste fantastic when they are ripe but have you ever found a ripe pear in the store? Me neither. They are always hard as a rock and give me no indication whatsoever as to how long they might take to become edible. These pears here took nearly two weeks but I admit it was worth the wait, the tart turned out really wonderful.

Here’s how it goes: you start with a regular pie crust and while that’s pre-baking you infuse a cream/milk/sugar mix with my standard chai spices: fresh ginger, cardamom, cloves, a cinnamon stick and black peppercorns. Once that’s done you turn it into a custard by mixing in a few eggs, pour it into the tart shell and then simply lay the sliced pears into it. Slide the tart back in the oven and whip up a caramel sauce to drizzle over it. Chill the tart, then add a few toasted sliced almonds for a bit of crunch and a sprinkle of fleur de sel and voila, that’s it!

Pears

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

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Chai-Spiced Custard Pear Tart with Toasted Almonds and Salted Caramel Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

For the crust:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons shortening
  • 3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons ice water (more if needed)

For the filling:

  • 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 half-inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper corns
  • 3 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 2 ripe Bosc pears
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • toasted sliced almonds
  • caramel sauce (I have a recipe here, just leave out the pumpkin spice)
  • fleur de sel

 

DIRECTIONS:

For the crust:

  1. Whisk flour and salt together in a bowl.
  2. Add the shortening and the butter and cut them in with a pastry cutter until you have the consistency of a meal.
  3. Sprinkle the water over the fat/flour mix and bring the dough together with your hands. (If the dough doesn’t come together, add a little more water, 1 teaspoon at a time).
  4. Form the dough into a disc, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
  5. Roll out the dough and fit into an 8-inch greased tart pan.
  6. Put back in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  7. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. Line the dough with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes.
  10. Remove the weights and the foil and bake for another 20 minutes. While the crust bakes, make the custard.

For the custard:

  1. Add cream, milk, sugar and spices to a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  2. Turn the heat off, cover and let the mix steep for about 30 minutes.
  3. Peel, core and slice the pears. Set aside.
  4. Strain the spices out of the cream mix.
  5. Whisk the egg and the yolks in a bowl, then whisk the cream/spice mix into them.
  6. Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees F.
  7. Fill the custard into the pie shell, lay the pear slices into it and bake until the custard is set (50 minutes or more).
  8. Let the tart cool to room temperature, then drizzle with caramel sauce and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  9. Add the sliced almonds on top and sprinkle with fleur de sel.

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Food Photography and Styling: I was actually going for elegant with this tart but it ended up looking a little more, err, rough around the edges so I went with a dark, rustic scene instead. Since the fruit is completely hidden in this tart I set two raw pears in the back to tell the viewer that this is a pear tart (and I posted a still life of pears as well for good measure). The sauce server and the little salt dish fit with the salted caramel topping and the knife implies that someone is there, about to slice a piece.

Chai-Spiced Custard Pear Tart with Salted Caramel

Coconut Cardamom Macaroons

Coconut Cardamom Macaroons Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

I recently discovered macaroons as a fabulous way to use up leftover egg whites (of which I always seem to have tons). My default had long been meringues but I actually like macaroons much better. They are incredibly easy to make (easier than meringues actually), require only pantry ingredients and taste fantastic. Here I used the basic recipe from Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America but added my own flavorings (cardamom). So if you find yourself with a bucket of egg whites you don’t know what to do with, this is a great option!

P.S.: One egg white weighs about 30 grams, in case you have a bunch and lost count.

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Coconut Cardamom Macaroons Recipe

makes about 15 macaroons

Recipe adapted from Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded or shaved unsweetened coconut
  • 3 egg whites

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Whisk cardamom, 2 tablespoons sugar and flour together in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Add remaining sugar, coconut and egg whites to a bowl and set over a pot of simmering water.
  4. Stirring continuously, heat the mixture until it starts to thicken and turns bubbly (about 3 minutes).
  5. Take the mix off the heat and fold in the cardamom/sugar/flour mix.
  6. Using a 1-tablespoon measuring scoop drop the batter into little heaps onto a parchment-lined large cookie sheet.
  7. Bake until the macaroons are golden-brown (15 to 20 minutes).

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Food Photography and Styling: I eat these little cookies as an afternoon snack with a glass of milk so I went for an afternoon coffee table atmosphere. As usual I lit the set with my strobe (through the doorframe like I did here). The macaroons sitting directly on the plate looked a little naked so I put a few paper doilies underneath them (I keep a package I bought from Wilton around and find that they can come in handy every now and then). The backdrop is a marble tile that I think worked really well with the fabric I used here.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.

Coffee Liqueur Cream Puffs

Who knew cream puffs were so easy to make? Very pretty to look at and very tasty to boot these little beauties are flavored with coffee liqueur inside and out.

Coffee Liqueur Cream Puffs Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Netflix suggested the other day that I watch The Great British Bake Off. I don’t always do what Netflix tells me to but I did in this case and I am glad because this baking reality TV show is awesome. For those of you not familiar with the program, a bunch of amateur bakers enter a several week-long baking competition held in a tent in the beautiful British countryside. They are judged by two accomplished bakers and TV personalities with the (actual and awesome) names Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.

The premise may sound boring but it really isn’t, it’s very entertaining AND educational to boot! Over the course of the season I learned about all kinds of interesting pastries, some that I had vaguely been familiar with and one that I had never ever heard of (hot water crust pastry, which I will come to in a future post).

One of the pastries that caught my attention was pate a choux (pronounced “shoe”), the dough that’s used for eclairs and cream puffs. I had heard of it but never given it enough thought to develop any interest in actually making it until I saw the bake off contestants make mouthwatering eclairs. So I went to my cookbook shelf and dusted off my trusty copy of Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America. It’s a great book and I have no idea why I don’t consult it more often.

I followed the CIA’s cream puff choux pastry recipe to the t and unsurprisingly it worked out beautifully. To get ideas for a filling and glaze I simply took a peak into our liqueur cabinet and didn’t have to look further than the coffee liqueur, one of my favorite dessert ingredients. I mixed it with powdered sugar for the glaze and whipped it into heavy cream for the filling. And that’s it! The preparation of everything is easy and fuss-free and the result delicious and pretty!

cookbook

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Coffee Liqueur Cream Puffs Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

For the pastry:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup bread flour, sifted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 egg white

For the filling:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur (I used Kapali)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

For the glaze:

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons coffee liqueur (I used Kapali)

 

DIRECTIONS:

For the pastry:

  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Add milk, butter, sugar and salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium, then add the sifted flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon.
  5. Cook, continuing to stir, until the dough starts to peel away from the sides of the saucepan.
  6. Transfer the dough to a bowl, then beat on medium speed until it’s cooled down to lukewarm.
  7. Add the eggs, one at a time, then add the egg white.
  8. Fill the dough into a large piping bag with a large, round tip and pipe about 20 dollops onto the baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325 degrees F and continue to bake until the puffs are golden-brown, about another 20 minutes.
  10. Let the puffs cool completely, then slice in half horizontally.

For the filling:

  1. Whip all ingredients to stiff peaks.
  2. Fill into a piping bag and fill into the cream puffs.

For the glaze:

  1. Whisk liqueur with powdered sugar and drizzle over the cream puffs.

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Food Photography and Styling: I wanted to create a relaxed afternoon feel in this photo so lit the photo from the side (with my strobe) to make it look like the cream puffs were sitting next a window with afternoon light coming in at a low angle. To contrast the round shapes of the puffs I set them on a rectangular plate and I thought that worked nicely. The background was a bit empty so I set my small (only about 5 inches high) flask in the back and filled it with milk. I did like the big bubble in the cream of the front puff, I thought it gave it character so I didn’t clone it out. :)

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.

Rum-Spiced Pecan Chocolate Bark

Rum Spiced Pecan Chocolate Bark Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

I’ve got a spinoff recipe from my recent rum-spiced pecan butter and chocolate cookies today and it’s beautifully easy. You start by making a batch of rum-spiced pecans by cooking the chopped nuts in a rum/sugar/butter/cinnamon/cardamom mix and then let them air dry. After that all you have to do is mix them with coconut oil and bittersweet chocolate, spread the mix on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and let it harden in the fridge. Makes a terrific snack along with a glass of milk! :)

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Rum-Spiced Pecan Chocolate Bark Recipe

serves 6

INGREDIENTS:

For the rum-spiced pecans:

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped

For the chocolate bark:

  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped*
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 cup rum-spiced pecans

 

DIRECTIONS:

For the rum-spiced pecans:

  1. Mix granulated sugar, cinnamon and cardamom together in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Set aside.
  3. Add rum, brown sugar and butter to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the pecans, then turn the heat off.
  5. Stir the pecans with a rubber spatula until they are evenly coated and all the liquid has been soaked up by the nuts.
  6. Sprinkle the spice mix over the nuts and stir them around.
  7. Distribute the nuts onto the parchment or wax paper and separate them using a fork.
  8. Let the nuts sit to dry for 3 hours.

For the chocolate bark:

  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set aside.
  2. Add chocolate, coconut oil and rum-spiced pecans to a glass bowl and set over a pot of simmering water.
  3. Once the chocolate starts to melt, stir occasionally until you have a homogeneous mixture.
  4. Pour the chocolate mix onto the aluminum foil and spread into an even layer using a rubber spatula.
  5. Transfer the sheet to the fridge.
  6. Once the bark has hardened completely break it into pieces and serve.

 

RECIPE NOTES:

*Don’t use chocolate morsels; morsels have stabilizers in them that actually prevent them from melting.

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Food Photography and Styling: To me, the edges of the chocolate shards are the most interesting feature of this bark so I wanted to be sure to show them nicely by lighting them dramatically from the side. The bark is sitting on a metal candle plate that I got from the World Market a few years back. I love that plate as a prop because it’s not very reflective and also the perfect size for food photos. I didn’t think the photo needed any additional props because the tower of bark looked quite interesting all by itself. As usual, I used my strobe to light the set.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

Rum-Spiced Pecan Butter and Chocolate Cookies

Rum Spiced Pecan Chocolate Cookie Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

The holidays are over but at least here in Colorado winter is gonna keep going for a few more months and comforting, buttery cookies that complement Irish coffees sipped after dinner will continue to be in need. Which brings me to today’s recipe. It’s a simple vanilla cookie brushed with a chocolate ganache and sprinkled with chopped pecans that are soaked in a rum/sugar/butter/cinnamon/cardamom mix. The cookies are delicate, buttery and crunchy and provide the perfect canvas for the cinnamon and citrusy cardamom as well as the (subtle) rum flavor in the pecans. Happy snowy and cozy winter evenings!

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Rum-Spiced Pecan Butter and Chocolate Cookies Recipe

makes about 40 cookies

INGREDIENTS:

For the spiced pecans:

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped

For the cookies:

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt

For the chocolate dip:

  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped*

 

DIRECTIONS:

For the spiced pecans:

  1. Mix granulated sugar, cinnamon and cardamom together in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Set aside.
  3. Add rum, brown sugar and butter to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the pecans, then turn the heat off.
  5. Stir the pecans with a rubber spatula until they are evenly coated and all the liquid has been soaked up by the nuts.
  6. Sprinkle the spice mix over the nuts and stir them around.
  7. Distribute the nuts onto the parchment or wax paper and separate them using a fork.
  8. Let the nuts sit to dry for 3 hours.

For the cookies:

  1. Beat butter and granulated sugar until well combined and creamy.
  2. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  3. Add the flour and the salt and beat until the dough starts to form clumps.
  4. Gather the dough into a ball with your hands, then flatten into a disc, cut into two pieces, wrap each piece in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  5. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Roll out one of the two disc halves between two sheets of plastic wrap.
  7. Cut out the cookies and bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet until they start to brown (12 to 15 minutes).
  8. While the first batch bakes, roll out the second disc, then bake.
  9. Let the cookies cool completely.

For the chocolate dip:

  1. Add cream and chocolate to a bowl and warm over a pot of simmering water.
  2. Stir until everything is well combined and no chocolate clumps remain.
  3. Brush the chocolate onto the cookies, then sprinkle with the nut mix.

 

RECIPE NOTES:

*Don’t use chocolate morsels; morsels have stabilizers in them that actually prevent them from melting.

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Food Photography and Styling: These winter cookies are meant for after dinner when it’s dark outside so I tried to mimic dinner table light and a general dinner table atmosphere in this photo. I kept everything extremely simple because with any more propping going on in the frame and a less closeup composition the individual components in these cookies were difficult to fully see, they all started to blend together into a mush. As I’m sure you guessed, I used my strobe to light the set.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/8, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.