butterscotch pudding dirt cups

It is October 8th, which, in most other years, would mean that sugar beet harvest is about halfway done. I’d be making my grocery lists and putting together recipes for the end of harvest party and waiting for Eggboy to give me the go ahead to start prepping the brisket and baking the cakes. The light at the end of the sleep deprived tunnel would be near and visions of Thanksgiving in sunny Florida would be filling up our brains. 

But this year is not like other years!

Winter came so unfashionably early, with two snowfalls already and an expected four inches of snow on Wednesday, that harvest has been at a total standstill for almost a week. It’s wild! I’ve never seen so much October Eggboy before in my life. We’ve been eating lunch together, we went to an art fest this weekend, and tonight we’re making squash soup! We’re cramming in all of the fun fall things now because as soon as the ground dries, it will be back to crazy harvest hours. At this point though, it’s really hard to tell when that will be. All of my fingers and toes are crossed that when harvest can get back up and running it will run smoothly, and that this insane weather delay hasn’t caused too much of a raucous. 

And, ok, I’m not that superstitious, but I meant to post these sugar beet butterscotch pudding dirt cups last week as a celebration of the beginning of harvest but because of my quick bop out to New York I couldn’t get to it until the weather shutdown, so I never posted my annual beginning of harvest sugar beet thing and what if I jinxed it??? What if I disrupted the tradition and that set a wave of bad luck into the air and mother nature was like screw it, we’re going in?? 

Or maybe I’m giving too much power to marzipan shaped into beets. 

This pudding is just one of the many beet-centric sweets that I made this year in celebration of harvest. Our deep freeze right now is packed with sugar beet cookies, cupcakes, blondies, and donuts, waiting to be defrosted for all of the drivers and other folks who help out this time of year. Most of these sweets were made from old standby recipes but I made this pudding as the new official 2018 harvest dessert.

Growing up, butterscotch pudding was always Stoopie’s thing, and it turns out that Eggboy is also a butterscotch person, so I’m going to attribute this to the fact that Stoopie and E-boy both have November birthdays. The November birthstone is kind of butterscotch-esque in some lights? I think I wasn’t too into butterscotch when I was little because it tends to be so cloyingly sweet and one-noted but when Eggboy suggested it with these cute little marzipan beets I couldn’t say no. 

So I brainstormed and brainstormed and somehow came across a very specific lightly caramelized flavor with a fuzzy mouthfeel that was buried deep somewhere in my memory. It occurred to me that I’d had what I wanted in a butterscotch pudding, I just needed to remember where. I sat on my couch, listing everywhere I could have eaten this thing I was thinking of, and a few more thinks later realized that I was dreaming of the pumpkin pie filling that Eggboy totally nailed last year at Thanksgiving. Up front it was creamy and milky, and it was backed up by a faint yet complex caramel flavor. It was very lightly spiced because he couldn’t find most of the spices in my mom’s house and he used Sarah’s recipe but made a few substitutions, namely he substituted more heavy cream for crème fraiche because he wasn’t confident enough in his pronunciation of crème fraiche to ask what it was or if we had it. I realize that pumpkin pie filling is not butterscotch pudding but there are so many similarities that I’d have been remiss not to use that as inspiration. So I tinkered with that filling and came up with this pudding. It doesn’t have pumpkin, but it does have brown sugar which gets caramelized, so that makes this butterscotch. (Did you know that?? Caramelized white sugar = caramel, caramelized brown sugar = butterscotch.) 

The rest of the ingredients, mainly the spices and the maple syrup, contribute to making this one helluva a butterscotch pudding. Does it need the cookie dirt and marzipan sugar beets buried within? No. But it needs a topping, something crunchy like a cookie or pie crust crumble would work, or a dollop of fresh whip, and perhaps a sprinkle of flaky salt. Oooooh yeah. Consider me a butterscotch pudding convert. 


butterscotch pudding dirt cups

serves 8

ingredients

1/4 c (56g) unsalted butter

½ c (100g) brown sugar

¼ c (50g) granulated sugar

¼ c (78g) maple syrup

¾ tsp kosher salt

2 1/2 c (600g) heavy cream

½ c (118g) whole milk

2 tb (14g) cornstarch

3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg


To decorate:

Sprinkles

Crushed chocolate cookies

Marzipan and rosemary “sugar beets”

clues

Combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, maple syrup, and salt in a large heavy pot, stirring until it begins to bubble, and then stop stirring. Cook over medium high for 7-8 minutes, until it turns a dark amber color and begins to smoke slightly. Carefully add heavy cream and whole milk (it will get a lil wild when you pour this in) and stir gently until the caramel melts back down (it will firm up when the milk goes in). Reduce heat to medium. In a separate heat safe bowl, whisk together cornstarch, eggs, and egg yolks. When the milk/caramel mixture is steaming, add a ladle of it to the egg mixture, whisking vigorously, and then pour the egg mixture into the pudding while whisking. Whisk continuously for a few minutes, until it thickens. When it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat and add vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour into serving glasses, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, until cool and set. 

To serve top with sprinkles, crushed chocolate cookies, and hide some marzipan beets in the cookie dirt.


smoked butter shortbread with violet buttercream

Alright nerds, I have a Twelfth Night cookie for you!!

Last month, North Dakota Shakespeare put on a production of Twelfth Night in our town square and it was so great!! Eggboy and I packed the cutest ever picnic and I was brought way way back to Mrs. Meyer's junior year English class when I triumphed my way through Shakespeare, thanks to Sparknotes. You too? Ok cool. 

Just like last year’s rose cookies for Romeo and Juliet, I created this special Twelfth Night cookie to be sold the week of shows. This cookie is kind of all over the place but Twelfth Night kind of is too?! Like that play’s a lil drunk right?? But the important part is is that these cookies taste good and get you thinking about the play. So here are all of the references wrapped up into this chocolate and smoked butter and floral sandwich cookie:

Smoked butter cookies with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves: these cookies have the same spices as the traditional English Twelfth Night Cake which was the predecessor to the King Cake. And what’s great is that the spices compliment the smoked butter element, which was a nod to this particular performance being outside during the summer, as they smelled faintly like a campfire. 

Yellow lemon buttercream: a nod to Malvolio’s yellow stockings!

Purple violet buttercream:

 “O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound

That breathes upon a bank of violets,

Stealing and giving odour.” 

Green rose buttercream: the fact that the rose buttercream is colored green and not pink is a reference to the theme of mistaken identity that’s all throughout the play. Rose is also inspired by Orsino saying something about lying on a rose covered bed.

Yellow, green, and purple buttercream: A nod to the King Cake, which grew out of the Twelfth Night Cake tradition.

Pink buttercream: it symbolizes the role of gender in the play and love, and also throws off the King Cake reference because having something as straightforward as a King Cake reference wouldn’t be in the spirit of this very wild play. It’s also pretty.

Chocolate shortbread: This represents the darkness of Malvolio’s prison. And it makes this a sandwich cookie, which represents the twins! I was also inspired by the cookies in this photo that I've had saved on my phone for forever.

…that’s it! Did I get a good grade??

My awesome friend Mollie drew a picture of it that was displayed during the shows with all of these references:

Here is the recipe for the full cookie, four kinds of frosting and everything. The chocolate shortbread, rose buttercream, lemon buttercream, and vanilla buttercream are all things you’ve seen here before, so what I’m most excited about in this recipe are the smoked butter shortbread and violet buttercream. 

Smoking butter is something I first read about in Katrin Bjork's beautiful cookbook, From the North. I always figured I’d need fancy tools to smoke stuff but when I read this recipe I realized that all I needed were wood chips and a dutch oven. What you do is you heat up some wood chips and then place a bowl of butter on top of them (propped up by some balls of aluminum… if you look in the photo below you can spot them). I found that heating it for about an hour gave it a smoky enough flavor to hold up in baking the cookies, but if you're just smoking butter to serve with bread or radishes, you can smoke it for less time. The process makes the house smell like a campfire which is never a bad thing. The options for what to do with smoked butter are endless and range from spreading it on toast to making a cake with it (how wild would smoked funfetti be?!). It adds a smoky flavor that’s much more subtle than liquid smoke. These shortbread cookies are fairly simple and have some warm spices tossed in that amp up the smoky flavor.

Violet buttercream is a display of my new loyalty to melodramatic purple as the new millennial pink. I ordered violet syrup from Amazon and it smells like a snow cone! Not a specific flavor of snow cone, just general snow cone. Or like, how the blue sparkly snow cone flavored lip gloss that I owned in the 90s smelled. A few splashes of the syrup in a basic buttercream give it a light floral/candy like flavor, and then I added some purple food coloring because the color of the syrup isn’t that concentrated. 

Twelfth Night Cookies

Makes 12

Ingredients

Smoked Butter Shortbread: 

1 c + 2 tb (146g) all-purpose flour, more for dusting
1/2 c (60g) powdered sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
a pinch of cloves
1/2 c (113g) smoked butter, at room temperature (recipe below)
1 tsp vanilla extract 

Chocolate Shortbread:

3/4 c + 2 tb (113g) all-purpose flour, more for dusting
6 tb (30g) dutch cocoa powder
1/2 c (60g) powdered sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 c (113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract 

Violet Buttercream:

3/4 c (168g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2c (240g) powdered sugar
A pinch of kosher salt
1 tb heavy cream
2 tb violet syrup
A squeeze of lemon juice
Purple food coloring
 

Clues

To make the smoked butter shortbread, combine the all of the dry ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low until crumbly. Sprinkle in the vanilla and continue to stir, scraping the sides of the bowl down with a rubber spatula occasionally. Increase the speed and continue to mix until the clumps start to get bigger and the dough starts to come together. Scrape the dough onto a surface and bring it together with your hands into a big ball. Pat it out into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

On surface dusted with flour, roll the dough out until it’s 1/4” thick, dusting with additional flour if it’s sticky. Cut out 2 1/2” circles and transfer to the baking sheets, an inch apart. If desired, cut out smaller circles within the big circles using a round piping tip. Bake until lightly browned around the edges; begin checking for doneness at 12 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes un the pans and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 


To make the chocolate shortbread, repeat the same steps as the smoked butter shortbread.

To make the buttercream, beat together the butter, sugar, and salt until creamy. Add the heavy cream, violet syrup, lemon juice, and food coloring and beat to combine. Taste and adjust as desired. Alternatively, to make the four buttercream flavors pictured: don’t add the violet syrup or food coloring. Divide into four and mix in 1/2 tb violet syrup to one part, 1/4 tsp rosewater to another, 1/4 tso vanilla extract to another, and a pinch of lemon zest to the last. Add food coloring as desired.

To assemble, pipe the buttercream between two cookies and smoosh. Enjoy! 

These can be stored in the fridge for up to a few days!
 


Smoked butter

Makes about 1/2 cup

 

Ingredients

About 2 c Hickory wood chips (other wood chips work too)
10 tb (131g) unsalted butter

Clues

Cover the bottom of a big dutch oven with wood chips. Ball up three big pieces of aluminum foil to make three golfball-sized balls. Place them on top of the chips; they’ll be used to prop up the bowl of butter. Cover the dutch oven and heat over medium high for 10 minutes. Place the butter in a heat safe bowl and place the bowl on top of the aluminum balls. Reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pot, allowing a small opening to vent. Cook for 1 hour. Let the butter cool and allow it to come back to around 65-70ºf. You can let it sit at room temperature overnight or stick it in the freezer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until spreadable and opaque. 


latke hotdish

Made a latke hotdish because I couldn’t not, right?? And also because hotdish Hanukkah is the theme of this year’s holiday party. I probably won’t do this ever again unless you pay me a million dollars but that’s just meant to say more about my current overwhelming desire to be lazy, nothing about whether or not this is good or not. 

This is in fact very good!!! It’s meat and potatoes at its best: hella braised brisket and fried potatoes. There is nothing not to like.

Why is this hotdish different from all other hotdishes?

1. Obvious: it’s topped with latkes!! Tater tots are basically little latkes already so this route essentially just makes our favorite hotdish topping even better. It takes a lot more effort. But as someone who is royally dreading having to shred potatoes again this weekend, I can tell you that you definitely should at least try a brisket juice covered latke once in your lifetime. And I mean, if you’re going to be making latkes anyway, it really would behoove you to make a few extra, throw them on this hotdish, and then freeze it and reheat it for the last night of Hanukkah when you are totally done with flipping latkes. 

2.   It is dairy free!! While the traditional hotdish contains meat and creamed soup, it has also been important to me to find good dairy free/kosher options. In Molly on the Range, one recipe goes the coconut milk route, and I’ve made my classic hotdish a few times using olive oil in place of butter and stock in place of milk. But my new favorite option, I just realized, has been staring me right in the eye since Eggboy and I first started dating! The first recipe that Eggmom ever sent me (before we had ever even met I think) was her tomato soup that is thickened with squash puree. It is delicious and has proved to be one of the most popular recipes in MOTR. So thickening this tomato-based hotdish mixture with butternut squash puree is exactly what I’ve done here and the squash adds the most delicious warming undertones that make me forgive it for being such an easy vegetable to get sick of. 

3. It’s got an apples! Which is a nod to latkes + apple sauce, h/t to Kristin for this connection.

4. And rosemary and red wine and all sorts of things that will make your house smell so good that your guests will have no choice but to melt right down into the holiday spirit. I suck at decorating for the holidays but what I lack in greenery and tiny light up houses, I make up for in house smells. And that’s just as important, right??

Q: Omg you want me to braise a brisket, roast a squash, puree it, shred potatoes, and fry latkes all at once? Is this The Onion?? 

A: You can totally make the braised brisket mixture (including the part where you stir in the squash) a day in advance. It’ll probably even taste better that way. The latkes can also be prepped ahead. Assembly can also be done ahead. That’s one of the most beautiful things about a hotdish, it can all be prepped in advance and the only thing that really changes is how much time it spends baking. If you’re baking from the refrigerator, it’ll probably just need a few more minutes. If baking from frozen, cover with foil and bake at 350º for an hour, and then uncover and then increase the heat to 400º and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until the innards are heated through. 


latke hotdish

serves 6

ingredients

2 1/2 tb canola or vegetable oil, divided

2 lbs brisket, cut into 2” pieces

Kosher salt

Black pepper

1 large onion, sliced

2 carrots, chopped into 1/2” coins

2 celery stalks, chopped into 1/2” pieces

1/2 c red wine

1 tb brown sugar

2 tb tomato paste

1 (14-oz) can chopped tomatoes

2 c beef or vegetable stock

Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped

2 apples, cored and sliced

1 small (2-2 1/2 lbs) butternut squash, halved and deseeded

A good pinch of crushed red pepper

1 batch latkes, recipe follows

Chopped fresh parsley, to serve, optional (if you’re feeling fancy)

clues

Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the brisket, season with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a few turns of black pepper and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the red wine and cook for a few minutes until it’s reduced by half. Add the brown sugar, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, stock, rosemary, and apples and simmer uncovered for 2 1/2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender. You want this to reduce and get quite thick and saucy, however if it reduces too far to where it’s more gloopy than saucy, add a bit more stock. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375ºf, brush the innards of your squash with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt and a few turns of pepper and roast until a fork pokes easily into the center, begin checking at 1 hour. Puree the squash and then stir it into your hot dish mixture with crushed red pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning

Increase the oven heat to 400ºf. 

Transfer the mixture to an 8” by 12” casserole dish and top with latkes lined up in nice neat rows. Bake until the mixture is bubbly and the latkes are deep brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly and then top with chopped parsley, if using, and serve. 


latkes

Makes enough mini latkes for this hotdish, plus a few more to nosh on as you’re cooking

ingredients

1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes

1 large yellow onions

3/4 tsp kosher salt

2 large eggs

1 tb lemon juice

1/3 c (43g) all-purpose flour

Black pepper

 

Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

clues

Shred the potatoes and onions in a food processor or with a grater or mandoline. Place in a strainer that’s been lined with cheesecloth. Toss with salt and let sit over a bowl for 30 minutes. Gather the top of the cheesecloth and then use your hands to squeeze out as much excess moisture as you can. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the eggs, lemon juice flour, and a few turns of black pepper. Heat a skillet with a 1/4” oil until shimmering. Working in batches as not to crowd the pan, fry up loosely packed rounded tablespoons of the latke mixture until browned on both sides. Add more oil to the pan as needed. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and set aside until ready to use. 


-yeh!

paprikash hotdish

I am not up and at ‘em at 3 o'clock in the morning like I thought I would be because it turns out I’ve not been caught by westbound jet lag, which is a shame because westbound jet lag is almost as good as airplane ravioli. It's all because we became night owls in Berlin. While at home we can barely stay awake to finish Homeland, in Berlin we had no bedtime and stayed out well past the last call for hummus, discussing deli culture and gefilte fish over *just one round of arak* (in Berlin, i know, we'll get to that!). And then in the mornings we were lucky if we'd acquired our ein kleiner kaffee zu mitnehmen bitte and gotten on the u-bahn by 11. It'd weird me out when I’d get text messages from friends at home around then, “What is Michelle doing texting me in the middle of the night?!" I'd think, and then it'd occur to me that it was a normal New York waking hour. 

Which is all to say that we did a terrible job of adjusting to Berlin time, and thus have very little work to do now in the way of adjusting back to Grand Forks time. (And which is also to say that we could have easily spent our entire Friday night at the Berghain if Eggboy would have allowed us to attempt to get in lol.) 

I have a bunch of photos that I'm going to put together for you and then I'll tell you more about my trip, but today I've got to get going on testing Passover recipes and unpacking and telling you about this hotdish! According to a lot of instagrams and the fact that Eggboy is laundering all of his insulated coveralls at once in order to put them away for the warmer months, spring is here. Peas are here, rhubarb is here, chives are here, supposedly, but out my window it is still deliciously cloudy parka weather, which means that hotdishes are still *ok*. And I am really excited about this Paprikash hotdish because if Chinese hotdish is my stripper name, Paprikash hotdish is totally my other stripper name, as a nod to my Hungarian half. I love Paprikash and typically have it with dumplings or crusty buttery sourdough, but do you know what is equally as good as both of those things? Tater tots, duh. 

The filling is based on my chicken pot tater tot hotdish but it's flavored like a paprikash, meaning more onion and a load of paprika. So much paprika. Get new paprika because paprika loses its flavor really quickly if it's sitting on your spice shelf. I realize that peas and carrots aren't traditional paprikash ingredients but neither are tater tots, and in the interest of adding more veggies to make this a one-pot meal, I've dumped some in. The result is a v creamy, v comforting supper that's best when shoveled into your mouth out of a large deep bowl. And as you can see, this can totally be wrapped up and stuck in the freezer for later or to bring to a friend's house, just allow for an hour and a half or so in the oven if you're baking it from frozen!

Happy hotdishing! 


paprikash hotdish

makes 6 to 8 servings

ingredients

1/4 c butter

2 large onions, sliced

3 large carrots, chopped

Kosher salt

Black pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 tb hungarian sweet paprika

1/2 tsp cayenne

1 tb tomato paste

6 tb flour

1/2 c dry white wine

2 c whole milk

enough chicken broth base for 2 c liquid** 

20 oz pounds boneless skinless chicken thigh, cut into 1/2- or 3/4-inch pieces

3/4 c peas

20 ounces tater tots

**a bouillon cube or something of the equivalent, like better than bouillon or homemade concentrate. since different brands require a different amount of mix per cup of liquid, check the manufacturer's instructions. don't dilute it in water! 

clues

preheat the oven to 400ºf. 

in a large skillet, melt the butter over medium high heat. add the onion, carrots, a good pinch of salt, and a few turns of pepper and cook, stirring until the onions and carrots are soft, about 10 minutes. add the garlic, paprika, cayenne, and tomato paste and cook for one more minute.

stir in the flour so that it gets evenly distributed and cook for one more minute. add the wine and stir until thickened. then add half of the milk, stirring constantly until thickened, and repeat with the other half of the milk. stir in the chicken broth base and chicken. cook, stirring often, until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink, 15 minutes. stir in the peas. taste and adjust seasonings as desired. 

transfer the mixture to an 11" by 8" baking dish (or other 3-quart ovenproof dish) and cover with tater tots. arrange them snugly and neatly. bake until the tots are golden brown. begin checking for doneness at 30 minutes. let cool slightly and serve!

or, let cool slightly, cover tightly with plastic and refrigerate or freeze until ready to cook. it'll last 2 days in the refrigerator and 3 months in the freezer. 


-yeh!