Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Coconut Crescents and a hearty Cheddar-Topped Shepherd's Pie...

We reached into the holiday magazines again to find a cookie to make for the Weekly Wednesday Treat Day this week. While I know not every one is in love with coconut, these Coconut Marmalade Crescents may just change their mind!

These cookies are incredibly tender and light thanks to the lovely combination of butter and cream cheese in the dough. For the best mixing ability, give the cream cheese plenty of time to take the chill off from hanging out in the refrigerator - the butter should be softened as well, but try not to let it get so soft that it becomes greasy. While the dough was not very sticky after mixing, you will want to refrigerate it to firm the butter back up. This allows you to easily work with the dough and insure the cookies keep their shape while baking. While you could turn the cookies into whatever shape your heart desires, rolling them into a log and bending the edges into a half-moon is dead easy... especially when you have to do it 60 times!

You have a couple options for the coconut you add into the dough - use it plain if you want just a subtle note, but if you want to push that coconut flavor, toast the flakes, like we did, first. We also perked up the crescents with a bit of rum extract in the dough as the combination of coconut and rum creates sparks, but vanilla would fit in well if you didn't have the former. Once the crescents were baked and cooled, we coated the tops in a light frosting (almost more glaze-like) of confectioners' sugar, apricot marmalade and just enough fresh orange juice to thin the mixture out. You could also certainly use orange marmalade if that excites you more than apricot - once glazed, we topped them off with a shower of crunchy toasted coconut. These cookies were sturdy, but still soft on the inside - not necessary cake-like, but tender and moist nonetheless.

Tonight's dinner was all about relaxing and comfort... it is going to be crazy busy around here for the next few days, so this Cheddar-Topped Shepherd's Pie was exactly what we needed.

Underneath a generous mound of cheesy homemade mashed potatoes is a hearty filling of ground sirloin and vegetables. Once the chopped pieces of carrots, celery and onions had a chance to soften, the are coated with flour and thick, concentrated tomato paste. Adding this now allows the two direct contact with the heat, so the flour-y taste can cook out and intensify the tomato flavor. The beef is then added and crumbled until cooked through - while it is technically done at this point, the dish still needs a stint in the oven. To keep the filling moist, a cup of broth, or water, is stirred in - this activates the flour, turning that additional liquid into a thick gravy.

Once that beefy mixture is added to the baking dish, dollops of the mashed taters are added on top and connected with an off-set spatula - to create grooves on top to brown, a fork is dragged all over the top. Since we are a part of the "more cheese please" club, a smattering of additional sharp white cheddar is scattered on top. The dish is then baked just long enough to bring the potatoes and filling back up to temperature, melting the cheese and turning the top a lovely golden shade. Don't think the potatoes will dry out or stiffen up though - they were warm, creamy and had a pleasant sharpness from all that cheese. Pure comfort, delivered in a nice package, just waiting to be devoured. Bonus points for making plenty of leftovers to enjoy throughout the week! If you're feeling especially elegant, scoop the potatoes into a pastry bag, with a big star tip attached, and pipe them on top! Want to make this dish ahead? Prepare both the potatoes and filling a day ahead, keep them separate in the refrigerator and just assemble when ready - add about 15 minutes to the baking time to compensate for the chilly ingredients.


  1. Too funny Joe, I had Shepherd's pie on the brain today as well. I didn't get home in time to make mine, it will have to wait until tomorrow. GMTA. :)

  2. Greetings from Denver - where that pretzel bread boule is available - at Target!

    The shepherds pie looks good enough to almost convince me to eat the meat! I just replace it with mushrooms so it's all good....


  3. I said it before but I love this time of the year where you make all these treats. I would love these because I am a coconut lover.

  4. Lisa - Too bad! Let us know what you decided to make!

    Quinn - Sounds tasty to me.

    Helene - :-)