All the pleasures of indulging in a whole pie without the downside of consuming a regular-sized pie – these individual apple pies feature sautéed Fuji apples in a brown-sugar-speckled crust topped with gooey caramel dulce de leche sauce.
We love desserts that could, in theory, be shared but are best enjoyed on your own. Click the links to see these delicious ways we’ve end meals with individual serving desserts: pecan persimmon upside down cake, anniversary crème brûlée, fall harvest cakes and, of course, molten lava chocolate cake. Individual miniature desserts are especially enjoyable because you can savor the textures and flavors of the entire pie.
Individual Apple Pies
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1 cup frozen, unsalted butter
- 14 tbsp ice cold water
- 5 large Fuji apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 1/4 inch cubes (6mm)
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 tbsp dark brown sugar
- Liberally grease a 12-muffin tin with butter. Set aside.
- Make dough. Whisk together flour, salt and dark brown sugar in a medium bowl.
- Using a cheese grater, grate frozen butter into flour mixture. Stir so that butter is evenly distributed in flour mixture.
- 1 tbsp at a time, mix ice water into flour mixture until dough comes together. Knead a few times on a floured surface. Form dough into a flattened disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- While dough is chilling, make apple filling.
- Melt butter over medium heat. Add apples, cinnamon and dark brown sugar.
- Sauté apple mixture for about 8 minutes. Apples should be firm but soft enough to pierce with a fork. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Place chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out to about 1/4 inch (6mm) thick.
- Cut circles of dough to fit muffin tin cups.
- Fill pies to the brim with apple mixture.
- Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree F (175 C) oven. Crusts should be golden brown when finished.
- Let pies cool for 10 minutes before removing them from the tin.
- Drizzle dulce de leche on top of pies just before serving.
Dulce de Leche Topping
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
Pour 1 can sweetened condensed milk into top of double-boiler pan; cover. Place over boiling water.
Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 50 minutes, or until thick and light caramel-colored. Remove from heat. Beat until smooth.
It’s the flamed Cognac (not to mention the half bottle of red wine) that gives this savory dish it’s unique, caramelized flavor. When you light the Cognac, stand back! Can you see the horse head in the flames?
Deep in the heart of winter here in Mongolia, we find ourselves craving traditional cold-weather comfort foods. Beef Bourguignon (also known as Beef Burgundy) is a classic stew from France’s Burgundy region. As is true of many stews and chowders, this dish has its origins as peasant fare, but over time was refined into the not-overly-difficult crowd pleaser familiar today. Why not give it a try some cold winter’s night!
As a stew, ingredients can be substituted fairly freely. (The pearl onions this dish traditionally calls for are difficult to find where we live. Coarsely diced regular onions work fine.) It occurs to us that the addition of rutabaga, pumpkin, parsnips or hard squashes would add appropriate flavors to this dish. Also, remember the basic rule for cooking with wine: use one you’re happy to drink. A full-bodied, dry red is best.
The finished beef bourguignon is traditionally served on toast and is a great excuse (if you need one) to pop the cork on a favorite red wine. The better the toast, the better the entrée. See our method, below.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 oz thick-cut bacon, diced into small pieces
- 1 1/4 pounds beef cut into 1-inch cubes. Tri-tip or chuck work well, as do higher quality cuts.
- smoked sea salt (or regular sea salt)
- freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 lb carrots, sliced thick
- 1 lb onions, chopped coarse
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped medium coarse
- 1/4 cup Cognac
- 2 cups quality dry, full-bodied red wine such as Syrah, Shiraz, Zinfandel, Merlot or Pinot Noir or a blend of similar wines
- 1 cup beef broth – made from stock, canned or made from bullion
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp thyme
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- 1 to 2 tbsp all-purpose flour or rice flour
- 1/2 pound mushrooms, stems removed, sliced into large chunks
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (120 C) and adjust rack to a low position.
- Dry the beef cubes with a paper towel and place them in a bowl. Add smoked sea salt and pepper and mix together. Set aside.
- In a large oven-safe pot or sautéing pan with high, straight sides, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook till edges just begin to crisp. Remove bacon to a plate, but reserve the oil and fat in the pan.
- Add beef to hot pan to sear. Do not overlap or crowd. Use tongs or a spatula to turn beef so that each side is browned. Remove seared beef to a plate.
- Add carrots and onions to the pan. Add additional olive oil, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper and sauté till onions are slightly browned and carrots are just tender – about 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Add the Cognac and exercising due caution, light it with a match. This will burn off the alcohol and create a rich, caramelized flavor.
- Stir the tomato paste into the beef broth.
- Place the beef and bacon in the pan. Add wine and enough beef broth/tomato paste mixture to almost cover all the ingredients. Add the thyme and bring everything to a simmer.
- Cover the pan with a lid and place in oven for about an hour and 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat half the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and mix together thoroughly.
- Remove pan from oven. Place on stove, stir in the butter and flour mixture and bring to a simmer.
- In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the mushrooms in the remaining butter. Add them to the stew. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Taste for seasonings.
- Serve piping hot on toast (see below).
Pan-Fried Toast – Use any hearty, rustic bread sliced fairly thick.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium to medium low heat. Mince two cloves of garlic (a fine cheese grater works well for this). Spread one side of bread with olive oil and a thin spread of minced garlic. Place bread garlic-side down in pan and fry, being careful not to let the garlic burn. When the garlic is golden brown, flip the bread and fry the other side. The finished bread should be beautifully browned and crisp on the outside.
An inspiring breakfast: topped with a dollop of sour cream, this apple-filled pancake is like a mile-high crepe, as delicious as it is beautiful .
Morning rituals. Jack and I start every day with a hearty breakfast. This important meal is usually accompanied with a big mug of coffee or tea and a selection of a few poems, which, lucky for me, are read to me by my favorite reader. A day that starts with healthy fuel for the body and sustenance for the mind is likely to be positive and fruitful (wink).
Our breakfast menus traditionally include items like nourishing hot cereals, egg dishes, or something freshly baked. This morning’s menu came straight from the only baking recipe book I have with me here in Mongolia, The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book. If you are only going to have one recipe book, I highly recommend this one. It includes many foundational recipes for breads and desserts which can be easily modified or experimented with. I followed the German Apple Pancake recipe to the T. It came out perfectly. I am already dreaming of this mile-high pancake with farm fresh pears featuring galangal as the centerpiece spice.
German Apple Pancake
- 5 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus 1 tsp)
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 large apples, cored and cut into wedges 1/4 inch thick (6 mm). I used Fuji apples.
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp confectioners’ sugar (optional)
- 1/4 cup crème fraîche. I used 20% fat yogurt.
- Using a blender, or a stick blender, mix eggs, vanilla, and 1/2 cup sugar for about 5 seconds.
- Add flour, baking powder and salt. Blend for an additional 10 seconds. Set mixture aside.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
- Place a 10-inch (25 cm) ovenproof, nonstick frying pan over medium heat and add butter.
- When the butter is heated, add apples and sauté until softened, about 4-5 minutes.
- Sprinkle apples with cinnamon and remaining 1 tsp of sugar. Stir over heat until apples are evenly covered with cinnamon and sugar.
- Move the apples so that they are evenly spread in the pan.
- Pour batter over top of apples.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until bottom is firm, about 8 minutes. You will notice the edges are set.
- Transfer pan to oven and bake until the top of the pancake is firm, about 10 minutes.
- Remove pan from oven. Invert a flat plate over frying pan and flip the pancake onto the plate.
- Cut the pancake into 4 wedges and transfer wedges to individual plates. Dust each portion with confectioners’ sugar. Place a dollop of crème fraîche on each wedge and serve immediately.
- This pancake may inspire someone to read you poetry after they are finished eating their breakfast!
Moist, sweet almond cake with tart sea buckthorn berries baked in – served atop warm vanilla bean custard, this is a sophisticated and flavorful dessert. Serve with sea buckthorn wine or an ice wine.
Berries are our favorite fruits. In Mongolia, we have added a new berry to our culinary collection – sea buckthorn. With 15 times the vitamin C of oranges, it’s no wonder Mongolians have long sought out this berry for its healthful benefits! We found the berries we used in this cake in our local grocery store. We’ll be on the lookout for this hardy plant in the fall in order to harvest our own.
This almond cake lends itself to pairing with a tart fruit such as currants. I made a cranberry version earlier which I adapted for the sea buckthorns. The almonds and the almond extract give the cake a delicious base that would work with a number of flavors. The cake is delicious without fruit as well.
Sea Buckthorn Berry Almond Cake
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup whole almonds pulverized to the consistency of coarse flour
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 3 eggs, well beaten
- 3 tsp almond extract
- 1/2 tbsp dried orange zest or 1 tbsp fresh orange zest
- 2 cups sea buckthorn berries (or another tart berry like cranberry)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C). Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
- Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.
- Mix in almonds.
- Stir in butter, beaten eggs, almond extract, and orange zest.
- Fold in some of the berries. Reserve some to sprinkle on top of cake.
- Spread the batter into the greased pan.
- Sprinkle remaining berries atop cake. Slightly press them into batter.
- Bake for 40 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.
- Serve warm with whipped cream, ice cream, or warm vanilla custard.
Who can resist a cookie with a powdery sugar overcoat and dark chocolate peeking out from the crinkles?
When I was young, I would seek out those chocolates the shape of an orange that had to be banged on a table in order to get the slices to come apart – Terry’s Chocolate Orange, I think they were called. The reward? Delicious orange-slice-shaped wedges of chocolate infused with orange flavor. With this holiday favorite in mind, I added essence of orange to my chocolate crinkles. I also put in chopped pecans for another layer of flavor and a little crunch. Voila, a new holiday favorite is created!
Chocolate Orange Pecan Crinkles
- 1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp orange extract
- 1/2 tbsp orange zest
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and granulated sugar.
- Stir in vegetable oil.
- Mix in eggs, one at a time.
- Stir in vanilla and orange extracts and zest.
- Sift flour, baking powder and salt into the cocoa mixture.
- Fold in chopped pecans.
- Refrigerate for about 45 minutes so the dough is nice and firm.
- Place confectioner’s sugar in a zip top bag.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Using a cookie scoop, or a small ice cream scoop, scoop out a dough ball and drop it in the confectioner’s sugar, making sure it is well covered.
- Place sugar covered dough balls on parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat until you’ve filled a baking sheet with 12 cookies.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for a minute before removing to wire rack.
Makes 30 generous cookies.
Egg yolk flowing like lava over delicious meatloaf and melted gouda cheese. We haven’t even put the chipotle sauce on yet…
My grandmother made meatloaf. My mother made the same meatloaf. Ground beef, an egg or two, breadcrumbs, milk, a dash of salt, a few grinds of pepper. Put it in a loaf pan, top it with ketchup, bake it, slice it, serve it with mashed potatoes. Not as tasty as a grilled hamburger… In fact, those meatloaf recipes of the past weren’t as good as a lot of things, and so for many of us this traditional dish has fallen by the wayside.
Time to look at meatloaf in a new way. Think of the following recipe as a foundation to come up with your own twist on this iconic American comfort food.
We served slices of the finished meatloaf on pan-toasted beer bread, one side of which was covered with melted gouda cheese. The poached egg on top – not an idea original to us – was perfect. After five miles of hiking through the city of Ulaanbaatar on a sunny, sub-freezing day in Mongolia, we had little difficulty polishing off these hot, hearty sandwiches.
Smoky Chipotle Meatloaf Sandwich
- 1/3 pound thick-cut bacon, diced small
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3/4 cup onion diced fine
- 3/4 cup yellow or orange bell pepper diced fine
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup diced crimini mushrooms (or other fresh mushroom)
- 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp powdered chipotle chili pepper
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tbsp dry oregano
- 1 tsp smoked sea salt (or use regular salt)
- a few grinds black pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
- 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
- 2 cups grated mozzarella
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup chipotle barbecue sauce (see recipe below)
- Grease a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with butter. You will need a sheet of aluminum foil to cover this pan.
- Set oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).
- In a pan over medium heat, fry bacon until thoroughly cooked but not crisp. Remove bacon and set aside. Save bacon grease in pan.
- Over medium heat, add olive oil to bacon grease. Add diced onions and cook for about 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add diced bell peppers and continue cooking and stirring occasionally till onions turn translucent and bell peppers are soft. Remove onions and bell peppers from pan and set aside to cool.
- Place egg in a large bowl. Add soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, powdered chipotle, paprika, oregano, salt and black pepper. Whisk together.
- To the egg mixture, add all remaining ingredients except the barbecue sauce. Gently fold everything together with your hands. Keep in mind that while you do want everything evenly mixed together, the less you handle the ground beef, the better the texture of your baked loaf will be.
- Place meat mixture in greased loaf pan, pressing down as you would a hamburger. Slightly indenting the center will result in a finished loaf with a more even top, as the center will rise when baking.
- Top the loaf with chipotle barbecue sauce, cover pan with aluminum foil and place in oven.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 40 minutes.
- Remove loaf from oven. Let rest for 10 minutes. Gently flip the loaf out onto a serving platter.
- Melt a slice of gouda cheese on pan-fried toast made from rustic bread. Place a slice of meatloaf on the toast with the cheese, slather the other slice of toast with additional chipotle barbecue sauce, place a poached or easy-over egg atop the meatloaf and dig in.
Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Ingredients (When adding the seasonings, begin with a little and add more to taste.)
- 6-ounce can tomato paste
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp smoked sea salt
- 1 tsp dry oregano
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp powdered chipotle chili pepper
- couple grinds black pepper
- water, as necessary, to achieve desired consistency. The sauce should be fairly thick.
- Combine ingredients in a pot.
- Simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Place about 1 tbsp of good olive oil in a frying pan for each slice of bread to be toasted.
- Over medium heat, bring oil to a soft sizzle.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and place the bread slices in the pan and fry for about 2 minutes on each side, until surface is golden and crispy.
- For an extra kick of garlic, coat one side of each slice with olive oil and top with minced garlic. Take care not to burn the garlic. This is a family favorite.
A slice of moist cake stuffed with blueberries and topped with crunchy streusel makes for a great start to any day.
Jack says muffins are cake. Whether you use fresh or frozen blueberries, a batch of these muffins is easy to whip up anytime. They’re a favorite with fried eggs and fresh fruit for a tasty, satisfying brunch. Today, I made the recipe again, but in a 9-inch springform pan for a lovely snack to go with afternoon tea. A warm slice of this cake with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream would be an indulgent way to end a dinner – and an absolutely wrong way to begin your day!
Streusel-Topped Blueberry Muffins
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup plain yogurt
- 1 cup fresh blueberries or thawed frozen blueberries
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin tin or line with muffin liners.
- Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.
- Mix oil, egg and yogurt in a medium bowl.
- Stir oil mixture into flour mixture until just mixed.
- Fold in blueberries.
- Fill muffin cups right to the top.
- Mix together streusel topping ingredients.
- Place even amounts of topping on each muffin.
- Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated oven. A wooden stick inserted into center of muffin will come out clean when muffins are done.
Makes 12 streusel-topped blueberry muffins.