From the Heart

Today, I could not help but want to repost this old Valentine’s day blog. It truly is one of my fondest memories of William. Thinking back on that visit with him always makes me smile. He was the master of fun surprises.

I continue to be inspired by his amazing brave and caring energy which brings me to this weekend’s TEDx talk. Truth be told I wasn’t exactly sure what a TEDx talk was when I accepted the invitation. I just knew it would be one more way to celebrate Will’s life, so of course I said, “yes”.

Little did I know that being invited to do a TEDx talk is kind of a big deal. Little did I know just how terrified I would be as I prepared for it. In between panic attacks over the last several weeks I prepared 7 pages of my thoughts. Too much I fretted, so whittled it down to 4. I attempted to memorize a speech. Practice, practice, practice. It felt like I was jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. It felt all wrong.

Several supportive friends suggested, “just speak from your heart”. I am taking their advice and feeling less anxious. To just simply speak from the heart feels right.

To further ease my anxiety I thought it a good idea to bake cookies for all 300 people in the TEDx audience. Baking cookies is much more therapeutic than public speaking. Just sayin’. I’m bringing the original Sweet William’s Inspired and Spirited Chocolate Chip Cookie and a Salted Chocolate Whiskey Shortbread because I wanted a heart shaped cookie.

The cookie dough for the shortbread contains no salt, so don’t hesitate to generously top each cookie with a good sprinkle of finishing salt. I highly recommend The Spice & Tea Exchange Chocolate Sea Salt for its sweet smokey flavor.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon whiskey (Jack Daniel’s recommended)

4 cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur Flour)

1 cup chopped bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate

Chocolate Sea Salt or your favorite finishing salt

In large bowl, beat butter and sugar for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. On low speed, add egg, vanilla and whisky; blend well. Gradually add flour until fully incorporated. Stir in chocolate. Dump dough out onto some plastic wrap. Gather it up into a flat disk. Wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350F. On a silicone mat or lightly floured surface roll dough to 1/8-1/4-inch thickness. Cut out desired shapes with cookie cutters. Re-roll dough scraps as needed to cut out more cookies. Sprinkle cookies generously with finishing salt. Gently press salt into cookie with your fingertips. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes for 1 1/2-inch size cookies or until edges brown. Cool. I made about 200 cookies with a small heart shaped cutter.

On this Valentine’s Day I hope you are surrounded by those you love most. ❤

Birthday Boy’s Spirited Boston Cream Pie

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Happy heavenly birthday William

 #30

It’s Your Day

loved being home

Your life was cut short too soon, but you lived fuller than most.  You cultivated a beautiful diverse garden filled with people far and wide who still love and remember you. They reach out every day, but especially at this time to surround me with the kind of love and appreciation you showed them. Happy birthday my boy. You are loved and missed by so many.

This recipe is adapted from the Joy of Baking. I love this web site for its detailed recipe instructions, weight measurements and videos. Besides angel food cake with strawberries another of William’s favorite desserts was Boston Cream Pie. I fancied this one up with a white chocolate swirl and gave it a touch of Will Keys spirit in the chocolate glaze.

The recipe is designed to make 12 cupcakes, but I chose to make a 6-inch round cake plus 6 cupcakes from the batter. I think William would have eaten the whole cake himself.

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Vanilla Cupcakes:

1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (120 ml) milk, room temperature

Pastry Cream:

2 large (35 grams) egg yolks

3 tablespoons (40 grams) granulated white sugar

2 tablespoons (20 grams) firmly packed cornstarch (corn flour)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup (240 ml) whole (full fat) milk

1/2 tablespoon (6 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze:

4 ounces (120 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces

3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup (or liquid glucose or golden syrup)

1 tablespoon Jack Daniels

White Chocolate Swirl:

2 squares white chocolate

 

Heat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and lightly butter 12 muffin cups, or spray with a non stick baking vegetable spray. (I did 6 cupcakes and a 6-inch round cake)

In bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Then, with the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.

Using a level ice-cream scoopful, fill 6 muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake just comes out clean. Spoon remaining batter into the 6-inch round pan. Bake 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Pastry Cream: In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, whisk the  egg yolks with the sugar. Add the cornstarch (corn flour) and salt and mix until you have a smooth paste.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk just to boiling (the milk starts to foam up.) Remove from heat and slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling (pour through strainer if necessary). Pour the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, keep whisking the mixture for another 30 – 60 seconds or until it becomes thick. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Pour into a clean bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until firm. The pastry cream can be stored for up to 3 days. Whisk or stir before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed. (I pressed my through a sieve to get it extra smooth and creamy.)

Chocolate Glaze: Melt the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat, stir in the Jack Daniels, and let cool until it thickens slightly (to pouring consistency).

2 white chocolate squares, melted

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Assemble: Place the pastry cream in a piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (1 cm) plain tip. Fill each cupcake with the pastry cream by inserting the pastry tip into the top of each cupcake and squeezing just until you start to see cracks in the top of the cupcake. Then pour about 1-2 tablespoons of the chocolate glaze onto the center of each cupcake, letting it drip down the sides. Drizzle with some melted white chocolate and swirl with the end of a toothpick. Let the cupcakes sit at room temperature for an hour or two, or until the chocolate glaze dries. The cupcakes can then be covered and stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Bring to room temperature before serving. (I zapped a cold cupcake for 15 seconds in the microwave and it was heavenly)

For the cake: slice it in half horizontally and place bottom half on serving plate. Top with remaining pastry cream. Place second cake layer on top. Spoon remaining glaze and white chocolate over the top; swirl it.

Makes 12 cupcakes or a 6-inch cake and 6 cupcakes

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William

Spirited Butternut Pecan Cookies

IMG_8091Today’s recipe is brought to you by NOT the great pumpkin, but the butternut squash. It’s not that I am not tempted to share some great pumpkin idea, but if your inbox is anything like mine you have been completely inundated with pumpkin recipes. Besides that I did not plant sugar pumpkins this year. I like to rotate my crops and the butternut squash did not disappoint.

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There is nothing like a fresh picked butternut squash. The biggest difference from store bought? The tender skin! There is no battle slicing through it nor the fear of chopping off a finger. Most of the dozen or so I got from just 1 seed grew quite large, but my final pick was a wee 5-inches.

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Chopped, cooked and smashed this little beauty yielded just 1/2 cup of butternut squash puree. It was more than enough for this cookie recipe that I wanted to test out.

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Yes! It is a spirited cookie. I guess you could say a certain Sailor inspired this one. He has been around a lot lately. The recipe also calls for a few other complimentary flavors like vanilla bean paste, pumpkin pie spice, toasty pecans and demerera sugar. The cookie bakes up soft, but not cake-like, on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside from the sprinkle of sugar.

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Here is a tip. If you are roasting or boiling up a butternut squash for dinner set aside 1/4 cupful for these cookies before adding any seasoning. You will be glad you did.

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Spirited Butternut Pecan Cookies

  • Servings: 3 dozen cookies
  • Print

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

¼ cup mashed butternut squash

1 tablespoon Jack Daniel’s whiskey

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

2 tablespoons demerera or turbinado sugar

36 pecan halves

Heat oven to350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In medium bowl, whisk flour, spice, baking soda and salt; set aside. In large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar for 5 minutes or until light and well mixed. Add egg yolk; blend well. Add squash, whiskey and vanilla bean paste; blend well. Add flour mixture; stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until well blended. Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon drop cookie batter onto prepared baking sheet. Press 1 pecan into center of each cookie. Sprinkle each with a pinch of demera sugar. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown around edges.

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Have a great week from my real favorite pumpkin