Friday, December 18, 2009

Homemade ketchup, salty chocolate bark and baby pies!

The holidays are definitely upon us and I'm still loving all of the baking and crafting I'm getting to do in order to get all of the Christmas gifts ready. This week was a bit of a whirlwind as I am preparing to head out of town for almost three weeks on a camper van odyssey up the California-Oregon-Washington border to spend some well deserved time with my family.

 However, I did manage to squeeze in making a few sweet treats to give away...including individual apple pies and the easiest salty pecan chocolate bark you ever did see. I also made some homemade ketchup to go on some tourtiere (Quebecer-speak for meat pie) that I had made and that turned out quite well, though I wouldn't call it a holiday gift as someone might look at you sideways if you handed them a jar of ketchup and said "Merry Christmas!"

Nothing like homemade ketchup to say Happy Holidays!

The ketchup was quite easy though, if you have a food processor or solid blender that is. All I did was roast the ingredients together (unpeeled), peel them when they were done, through them in the food processor with some vinegar and sugar and voila! See the complete recipe below.

The chocolate bark was completely inspired by my friend Jessica's cooking adventures and she made these for holiday treats. She got such great reviews on it that I decided to make some this year. This recipe is quite possibly the easiest recipe this side of making toast. Plus, the results are absolutely gorgeous! It is even easier if you buy the pecans already roasted and salted, because you take that step out of the process.

Salty Pecan Chocolate Bark - no easier gift this year...

Lastly, no, I am not obsessed with apples. I happen to have tons of them from my CSA box (Community Supported Agriculture) and since I'm going away for almost three weeks, I wanted to use a bunch of them up. I figured I'd make mini apple pies and give them to friends for a nice holiday surprise. Using a very simple crust recipe and the french style crust (place your filling in the middle and fold up the sides to provide structure, these treats were whipped up in a snap (literally between coming home from work and going out to dinner). Wrap them in a rustic cloth and tie it with a ribbon and you've got a lovely favor.

These pies made tasty and attractive gifts.

Though this may be it for holiday gift ideas (I'm not sure yet...) stay tuned for some eating, drinking and cooking adventures up north in jolly (and tasty) Seattle!


5 minute (plus chilling) Chocolate Bark
makes 1 large cookie sheet

12oz bittersweet chocolate, either chips or baking bars cut into 8 pieces
12oz white chocolate, either chips or baking bars cut into 8 pieces
3/4 - 1 cup pecans - if you get them pre-roasted, you won't have to do that step yourself.
1 tsp sea salt

*if you don't have roasted pecans, roast them on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, stirring at least once. Keep an eye on these as burnt pecan don't taste good!

- preheat oven to 175 degrees
- distribute the chocolates alternatively on a parchment-lined cookie sheet so that there are pockets of brown and pockets of white (if using chips, make these pockets up with small handfulls of them).
- bake chocolate for 5-10 minutes (take it out as soon as the chips have melted)
- using a fork, swirl the chocolates together
- sprinkle pecans on top (pressing down slightly on them if you like)
- sprinkle sea salt over the entire bark
- chill in the fridge until hard (at least 4 hours)
- remove from fridge and break into pieces

Mini Apple Pies
makes 6

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 stick (16 tbsp) butter, cubed and chilled
8-10 Tbsp ice water

6-8 apples
6 Tbsp butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp brown sugar

- Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor.
- Add the cold butter cubes and pulse until the butter is about the size of peas.
- Add 8 Tbsp of ice water and pulse until the dough comes together (you may need to add more water) into a ball.
- divide the dough into 6 pieces and flatten into disks and chill at least one hour, but over night is good too.

- peel and slice the apples.
- in a heavy skillet, melt the butter and add the apples, sugar and cinnamon - saute until golden.

- on a floured surface, roll out the dough disks until about 1/4 inch.
-place about a cup of apple slices in the middle of each crust and fold the edges up to keep the pie contained.

- Bake the pies for 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
- Cool for at least 60 minutes before wrapping.

Homemade Ketchup
makes 1 pint

10 large tomatoes
2 onions
4 gloves garlic
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1-2 tsp salt (depends on taste)

(you can add oregano, basic, allspice and cayenne if you like)

Ketchup ingredients, fresh out of the oven    

- place the tomatoes, onions and garlic on a baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes (remove the garlic after 15 minutes) - until the tomatoes split.
- Remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle them without burning yourself.
- peel the tomatoes, onions and garlic and process them in the food processor until saucy.
- put the sauce into a heavy medium saucepan, add sugar, salt, vinegar and desired spices.
- cook down over medium heat for about 15 minutes (this will bubble and splatter so make sure you have something to cover your pot with).
- once you have your desired consistency, you can keep the ketchup for three weeks in an airtight container or can it for later use.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you liked the chocolate bark! It is so insanely easy - but so delish. Those apple pies look really good - I've been on a pear kick lately. I just got this recipe for pear crisp with vanilla brown butter, it's calling out to me! Do you ever make homemade mayo? I keep hearing how fantastic it is but I've never tried it. Wow this is a totally schizophrenic post, but I can't help it - your blog makes me hungry!