Maple-Spiced Apples

These fragrant apples are wonderful served on top of French toast.

Ingredients:
4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced ¼-inch thick
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Method:
1. Melt butter in a heavy skillet. Add apples and cook over medium heat until they begin to soften.

2. Add brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon and maple syrup. Cook until most of the liquid is evaporated. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Variation: This recipe is also lovely with fall pears instead of apples, or a mixture of the two.

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Tarte Nordmande

A French classic, featuring orchard-grown apples, a buttery short crust pastry, and a splash of apple brandy.

Ingredients:
For the short crust pastry:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup powdered sugar
1 egg
⅛ tsp salt
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

For the tart:
3-4 apples, such as Pink Lady or other firm baking apple with good flavor
¾ cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
½ cup crème fraîche (or heavy cream)
¼ cup Calvados (or other apple brandy)
Powdered sugar (optional, for serving)

Method:
1. To prepare the crust: In a medium bowl, combine butter and ½ cup powdered sugar. Beat with an electric hand mixer until pale and creamy. Add the egg and beat again until fluffy. Add the salt and flour and mix just until the dough comes together into a soft ball. (This dough should not be too sticky.) Place the ball of dough into your tart pan and press the dough gently to fill the pan. Place the dough-lined pan in the refrigerator, while you prepare your filling ingredients, and being to preheat your oven to 400º.

2. For the filling, mix together the powdered sugar, 2 eggs, crème fraîche (or heavy cream), and Calvados (or other brandy). Set aside. Peel and slice apples into ⅜”-½” thick.

3. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and arrange the slices over the dough in the tart pan. Place the pan on a lined baking sheet for easy transportation and to catch any spill-over. Pour the Calvados mixture over the apples in the tart pan. (You may not use all of this mixture, just be conscious that you are not over-filling your pan.) Bake the tart for 35-40 minutes, until the cream is firm and the tart is a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Sprinkle with powdered sugar once cool, if desired.)

Lemon Bars

Finish off your week of baking with these bright bars!

Ingredients:
For the crust:
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:
5 eggs
1½ cups sugar
¾ cup lemon juice (from about 4-5 lemons)
2 tablespoons lemon zest (from about 4-5 lemons)
Pinch kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup all-purpose flour

Method:
1. Liberally grease a 9×13 inch baking pan with a little bit of the softened butter. Preheat the oven to 350°.

2. To prepare the crust: In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, mix the softened butter, powdered sugar and kosher salt on high until well combined. Add the flour and mix on low speed until the dough begins to just stick together and clump up. Press the dough mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan with your hands. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until just starting to brown.

3. Meanwhile, make the topping: In the same mixing bowl, mix together the 5 eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, a pinch of kosher salt and baking powder on medium-high speed until well combined and pale in color. Add the flour and mix until smooth.

4. After the crust has baked, remove from the oven and turn the temperature down to 325°. After the crust has cooled in the pan slightly, pour the topping in and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes. Cut into squares and top with powdered sugar, berries, lemon zest, and/or mint leaves, if desired.

Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies

Accented by a creamy, chocolatey Nutella filling, these lovely shortbread cookies from Ina Garten of The Barefoot Contessa are always a hit.

Ingredients:
½ cup whole hazelnuts
¾ pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
3½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup chocolate hazelnut spread, such as Nutella
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Place the hazelnuts on a sheet pan, roast for 10 minutes, and allow to cool. Place the nuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until finely ground.

2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and granulated sugar together on low speed until they are just combined. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts plus 2 teaspoons of water. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt and then, with the mixer on low, add it slowly to the butter mixture. Add the hazelnuts and mix on low until the dough comes together. Dump onto a floured board and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

3. On a floured board, cut the dough in half and roll each piece ¼ inch thick. (Be sure it’s not thicker.) Cut 36 (2¾-inch) rounds with a plain or fluted cutter. Use a ¾-inch cutter to cut a small circle out of the middle of half the cookies. Place all the cookies on sheet pans lined with parchment paper and chill for 15 minutes.

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating once, until the edges of the cookies begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature. Spread the Nutella thickly on the flat side of each solid cookie. Dust the tops of the cutout cookies lightly with confectioners’ sugar and place them on top of the Nutella, dusted side up.

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