Monday, November 24, 2014

Salted Caramel Apple Tart

Welcome to Thanksgiving week at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen! Have you seen our Savor the Season page? It's an amazing collection of our seasonal recipes. There's something for every taste.

This recipe started with Williams Sonoma. Yes, it's their fault for putting a fabulous picture of a Salted Caramel Apple Pie in their catalog. It was piled high and gorgeous. I couldn't get it out of my mind. I like apples. I like salted caramel. I like pie! But there wasn't a recipe.

So I went in search of recipes. Most of them are pretty much the same. They make caramel, add salt to it and pour it over the apples in the pie. I liked the idea of salting the caramel separately, so that was how I did it, but I would guess there's not a whole lot of difference.

My searching led me to an online conversation between chefs. Someone complained that the top crust gets too much heat while the bottom doesn't cook. Oh my, the suggestions! Put a tray underneath, put a pre-heated tray underneath, no tray at all, use a black pie pan, use a tray with a rack so there's air flow, and on and on. The interesting thing was that, just like us, they all had ideas and opinions, but there's not one way to do things.

It's like a cave in there!
In the end, though, while the pie was beautiful, it had problems. It didn't particularly taste like salted caramel. It tasted like apple pie. Maybe in a side-by-side taste test one could tell the difference but it wasn't worth all the steps and trouble to make. It also had a hole. America's Test Kitchen wrestled with this issue and recommended their pie crust but said something about it not cutting particularly well.

While I don't think it has to be perfect, I wasn't happy enough with the pie to recommend it for your Thanksgiving dinner.

I moved on. If I wasn't getting the caramel flavor that I sought from pie, maybe a tart would be a better idea. I have to admit that the tart took a lot less time and involved fewer steps, always a good thing.

I used sweet Fuji apples for the tart because that was what they had in my store. I trust Sheila will know what I should have used, but a tour of the countryside in search of apples wasn't on the schedule.

I made the buttery pastry in the food processor and added a dash of vodka to reduce the gluten production when worked and keep the crust soft and flaky. It came together nicely but required an hour of rest in the fridge. There's nothing magic about this particular pastry, so feel free to use your favorite.

Channels of caramel!

When I make this again, I might not bother to make the apples stand up. I suspect you'll get much prettier results if you lay the slices in circles, allowing them to overlap slightly. If you choose to make them stand, like I did, please expect them to lean once they soften through baking. The tart still looks pretty, and I do rather like the channels of caramel. Note that I didn't spread the caramel on the bottom to the edge to reduce the likelihood of it swimming away out of the pan.

In the end, I liked this much, much better than the pie. You can really taste the caramel, and when you get a flake of salt on top – oohlala! Please note that it's quite sweet. After being refrigerated, the caramel firmed up enough for it to cut quite nicely. You can make this a day ahead of time, which I always think is a major plus.

Salted Caramel Apple Tart


1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon vodka
1 large egg

Place dough blade in food processor and add flour, salt, and butter. Pulse until it looks like ground cornmeal, scraping the sides a couple of times. Add vodka, pulse, then add the egg and pulse until it forms a ball. Refrigerate for at least an hour.


1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar

Place all ingredients in a microwave-safe container that can hold at least 2 cups (it will bubble up). Microwave in short bursts from 20 - 50 seconds, stirring each time until it bubbles up and the sugar is dissolved.


5-6 large apples

Peel, core, and slice apples. I sliced each quarter apple into six slices. Don't cut them too thin.

Sugar Topping (Optional)

I wasn't quite sure how this would turn out, so I used this paste on top of it.* Honestly, I think you can skip this step because the caramel adds enough sweetness.

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cups sugar
good pinch salt

Blend together into a lumpy paste.


Malton's shaved salt

A few pinches of salt will be used in the assembly.


Preheat oven to 425. Insert a baking sheet on a rack underneath the middle rack to catch any overflowing juices.

Grease the tart pan, especially the sides so they will release nicely.

Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the dough. Lay it over the tart pan and gently press into place. If something tears, just nip off a bit of the extra dough and press it in place. No one will see it.

Place one layer of apples around the side, overlapping them slightly. Pour about 1/4 cup of the caramel over the pastry in the middle of them and spread with the back of a spoon. Lick spoon and place in dishwasher.

Add the remaining apples in circles, inserting them just a bit between the edges of the apples in the previous row. When it gets too tight to add more apples in circles, place three or four slices in the center together. Go back to the first row and insert more apple slices in any gaps.

Bake at 425 for 20 - 25 minutes. Meanwhile mix the butter and sugar into a paste.*

Remove tart from oven and lower heat to 325. Sprinkle the paste over the tart and return to oven. Bake another 25 - 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

When cool, microwave the remaining caramel 10 - 20 seconds to make it thinner. Drizzle over the cool tart. Sprinkle a generous pinch or two of salt over the top. Loosen the sides gently and remove the outer edge before refrigerating. Refrigerate tart until serving.

If you have a tear or a hole, patch it with a scrap of pastry.

Start at the outside when adding apples.

Spread some caramel on the bottom.

Add the rest of the apples.

The apples will relax as they bake.

It cuts very nicely for serving.

Mmm. Now that tastes like caramel!

Coming December 2nd!

To celebrate, we're each giving away book this week! I'll be giving away the winner's choice of 
In addition, the winner will receive one etched glass Wagtail Mountain mug!

To enter, please leave a comment
 (click on the word COMMENT a few lines below)
 by midnight Wednesday November 26th.
Don't forget to include your email address
 so I can contact you. 
Good luck and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

I hope everyone is enjoying Thanksgiving Week here at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen!

Now, what's Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie, right?  Believe it or not, I didn't like pumpkin pie when I was growing up.  We didn't have it at Thanksgiving because my father didn't like it either.  I don't remember what we had instead...possibly Italian pastries since my father's side of the family is Italian.

This recipe comes from my late mother-in-law, and it was the first pumpkin pie that I actually liked (I've long since been converted to all kinds of pumpkin pies!).  I think she got the recipe off a box of Knox gelatin a couple of decades ago.  It's lighter than traditional pumpkin pie and is very easy to make although you have to allow plenty of time for it to chill during the various steps.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

1 baked 9" pie crust
1 envelope Knox unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup water
3 eggs yolks
1 1/2 cups pumpkin (the plain kind)
3 egg whites
1/4 white sugar

Combine the gelatin, brown sugar, spices, milk, water, egg yolks and pumpkin in the top of a double boiler.  Place over boiling water and heat, stirring occasionally, for approximately 10 minutes until gelatin is melted and mixture is heated through.  Chill until mixture mounds when dropped from a spoon.

Beat egg whites until stiff then beat in white sugar.  Stir into chilled pumpkin mixture and pour into baked pie shell.  Chill until firm (approximately six hours.)  Serve topped with whipped cream if desired.

 Pumpkin, spice, egg mixture

Place over boiling water

Decorate with whipped cream if desired

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Today I am giving away a copy of the latest book in my Gourmet De-Lite series, ICED TO DEATH.

In order to win, leave a comment in the comment section.  Tell us what you are most thankful for this year!

Happy Thanksgiving from me and Reg!

You might also enjoy my Lucille series:

                  Buy Now

Visit my web site or join the fun on Facebook and get all my giveaway alerts!
Stay tuned for information about my Cranberry Cove series which debuts next year!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Brown sugar cranberry sauce with bourbon (if you dare)

By Victoria Abbott aka Mary Jane Maffini

We're all having a great time here in Mystery Lovers Kitchen in the run up to Thanksgiving, even us Canadians!  We are loving the recipes and the good mood.  And because we’ll be feeling thankful all week, we are happy to offer a giveaway – you’ll find the details at the end of our post and we'll announce the winner on Thanksgiving day!  Do come by. 

Our readers have been posting about what they can’t live without on ‘turkey’ days. It’s hard for us to choose because although we love stuffing, cranberry sauce is the one thing we can’t live without when there’s a turkey in the picture. 

We love the punchy flavor and the bright color. We like to make it at home, because it’s just so easy. In a pinch it’s just cranberries, water and sugar, but we prefer to dress that up a bit. And as we are trying to lighten our recipes without diminishing the taste, we have a few tricks up our sleeves. This is a great little recipe and you can add your own favorite flavors. 

Some of you may remember that MJ still has that bottle of bourbon from the Plumcot cake recipe this fall.  We did a test with half our cranberry sauce and a dollop of the bourbon.  We think it tastes great and is probably full of extra vitamins. What? Oh.

We think either version would be great to bring along if you are a guest for Thanksgiving. It’s not hard to make and you can whip it up a week or so ahead.  Put it in a pretty jar or in a little vintage dish that can be a hostess gift –  as this one was for us.  

We'll set our table simply now: something like this from the Chicken with Apples post.
We like the warm fall colors and the glow of candles. 

We often serve cranberry sauce in the glass turkey that was part of every Thanksgiving and Christmas table when MJ was growing up.  We won’t be giving that away! 

Take it away, cranberries …

Brown-Sugar Cranberry Sauce

1 cup water
1/4 cup Splenda brown sugar, firmly packed (or 1/3 cup regular brown sugar,.  we find the Splenda brown sugar bit sweeter)
1 12-oz. bag of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 tsp. freshly black pepper
pinch of kosher salt
1- 2  Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves + a little more for garnish
2 to 4 Tbsp Bourbon or whisky, to suit your taste
Combine the water and the brown sugar in a medium-sized saucepan.
Set on the stove over high heat. Whisk to combine. Bring it up to a boil, whisking occasionally.
Add the cranberries, salt and pepper. You can add the cranberries fresh or frozen. Cook on medium until cranberries pop and mixture thickens nicely.  Add your thyme and, if you choose, your bourbon or whisky.

Cool and put in container. It will keep in the refrigerator for three or four days. Or straight into a pretty service dish.  If you’re lucky, you now get to relax! 

Victoria Abbott is the mysterious collaboration between the artist and photographer Victoria Maffini and her mother, the mystery writer, Mary Jane Maffini.  Strangely enough, their three book collector mysteries, The Christie Curse, The Sayers Swindle and The Wolfe Widow all contain Siamese cats. Coming in September 2015 The Marsh Madness.

And now, because we’re in such a great mood, here’s our gift for you: we’ll draw from the names in the comments – make sure you leave an email address – for a copy of The Wolfe Widow, our Thanksgiving book.  

 Already have it? We’ll make a deal from one of the other Victoria Abbott books or your choice of MJ’s thirteen titles.  Check them out HERE:

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Check out the fun on Pinterest!


Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving Cranberry Pound Cake

by Sheila Connolly

Recently I wrote here about searching for a recipe to use with my vintage Swans Down hexagonal cake pans. I tracked down the corporate headquarters and asked if they could find a vintage recipe to match. They couldn’t, but they were quick to answer and kindly sent me a big batch of their recipes. I applaud their customer service!

Among their Thanksgiving recipes was one for Cranberry Pound Cake. Since I live in the home of Ocean Spray, I have a moral obligation to use our native cranberries, so I thought I’d share this recipe, in case you want something that isn’t apple or pumpkin pie with your holiday meal.

Swans Down Cranberry Pound Cake

3 cups sifts Swans Down cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chopped fresh cranberries (chop first, then measure)
Optional: 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and lightly flour a 10-inch tube pan.

Sift the flour and measure. Then add the baking powder and salt, and sift again to mix.

In a large bowl, cream the butter, then gradually add the sugar, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs and the extra yolk one at a time, beating after each addition until smooth.

Mix the vanilla and the milk. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three batches, alternative with the milk, and beating on low after each addition.

Fold in the cranberries (and nuts if you’re using them).

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove from the pan and finish cooling on the rack.

Glaze (if you want it)

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 Tblsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a medium bowl combine the sugar and butter, then stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy. If it’s too thick, add more cream, one tablespoon at a time. Drizzle over the cooled cake.

I'm giving away a copy of Picked to Die to someone who leaves a comment here (random drawing!) about the first Thanksgiving dish you ever cooked yourself. (I roasted my first Turkey when I was 16 because I really wanted to go with my family to my high school's Thanksgiving Day football game.) The drawing will be held on Thanksgiving Day.

Meg, Seth, Bree, Max and Lolly, and all the citizens of Granford, wish you a bountiful harvest and a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Butternut Squash Pasta with Leeks and Fried Sage #Thanksgiving #recipe @LucyBurdette

LUCY BURDETTE:  Suppose you have a hankering for a side dish for the holiday that’s a little different, but keeps the spirit too? And suppose you have vegetarian guests coming who won’t share in the turkey? Here’s an unusual autumn recipe that might solve both problems. I happened to have both gorgeous sage and leeks in my garden when I first tried this, but grocery store sage will work fine too...


    1 medium butternut squash,
    8-12 fresh sage leaves, stems discarded
    3 medium or 2 large leeks, cleaned and finely chopped
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    3 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
    1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
    1 lb rotini or penne
    1 cup chicken broth

    Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to serve on the side

Cut the squash open, seed it, and cut into slices. Place this on a baking pan with the garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until soft and just beginning to turn golden. Cool and peel, then process the vegetables in a food processor until smooth, along with 1/2 cup chicken broth. Keep this warm.


  While the squash is baking, sauté leeks in olive oil until  soft and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the prepared squash to the pan and simmer over low heat, about two minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese and season with salt and pepper.


Cook rotini in a pasta pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente.


While pasta is cooking, heat vegetable oil in an 8- to 9-inch skillet over high heat until it shimmers. Add the sage leaves and fry until crisp but still green, under 30 seconds. Transfer to paper towels to drain.


Drain the pasta and add this to the squash mixture in a large bowl, thinning with warm chicken broth if it's too thick. Decorate with a few of the fried sage leaves, and serve the others on the side with extra cheese.

 Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

We’re so thankful to all of our readers who visit Mystery Lovers Kitchen and share our love for food, mysteries, and foodie mysteries. So we’re celebrating you, our fans and friends, by giving away a book. I’ll send out a copy of DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS to one commenter. Tell me the one Thanksgiving dish you can't live without. Remember to leave your email. 

The new book is hitting bookshelves on December 2--you can preorder here. I'm utterly thrilled with the first book review, from Booklist:

Burdette infuses the mystery with Key West spirit and holiday fun along with delicious food references and recipes. This strong series continues a unique blend of island mayhem and sparkling characters surrounding a layered mystery.

And if you haven’t settled on your Thanksgiving menu yet, visit our page chock full of Thanksgiving recipes: Savor the Season!



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