Recipe Test Nest » Tips » March Madness Party
March Madness Party

I love championship games, they are always a great excuse to entertain. March Madness threw everyone for a loop this year (unless you’re a librarian and choose winners by their mascots). I threw a Test Nest bracket competition on ESPN to sweeten the deal (congrats to Daniel Farrell – he won the challenge and wins a seat at a Test Nest of his choice).

Everyone contributed to the yummy spread, here’s a recap of what I made.

Pigs In A Blanket (4 Stars)

This recipe was pretty easy and has cayenne pepper in it, which added a little more flavor, and it is nice and fluffy bread. I think increasing the cayenne a dash more would help (reflected below).

2 ¼ cups flour, 4 T. chilled vegetable shortening, 2 t. baking powder, 1 t. salt, ½ t. cayenne pepper, 1 ½ cups heavy cream, 1 egg lightly beaten, 6 hot dogs.

Make Dough: Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Pulse 2 cups flour, shortening, baking powder, salt, and cayenne in food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to large bowl. Stir in cream until combined. On lightly floured surface, knead dough until smooth, 8 to 10 times.

Shape and Freeze: Roll dough into 15 by 10-inch rectangle. Brush dough with egg and cut into six 5-inch squares. Place remaining flour in shallow dish. Pat hot dogs dry with paper towels and coat with flour, shaking off excess. Arrange 1 hot dog in center of each dough square. Roll dough around hot dog and pinch seam closed. Cut each hot dog into 4 rounds and place on prepared baking sheet. Freeze until firm, about 30 mins. Transfer to freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 month.

Bake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange rounds, seam side down, on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve warm (this really does make a difference on the taste, warm is much better).

Hazelnut-Lemon Curd Kisses (4 Stars)

Tim loved these, said they were the best thing I’ve made. I liked them but not that much. They are definitely a great little cookie for parties…especially the tartness of the lemon with the robust hazelnuts. I think the lemon curd will affect the flavor of these, so make sure to use a favorite curd.

1 cup flour, ¾ cup toasted hazelnuts, pinch salt, 8 T. (1 stick) softened unsalted butter, ½ cup sugar, 1 egg yolk, 1 t. vanilla extract, ¼ cup lemon curd, ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar.

Make Dough: Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Process flour, hazelnuts and salt in food processor until finely ground. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolk and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.

Shape Cookies: Roll 1 T. dough into 1-inch ball and place balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Using greased teaspoon measure; make indentation in center of each ball. Bake until just set, about 10 minutes.

Fill Cookies: Remove cookies from oven and gently reinforce existing indentation with teaspoon measure. Fill each dimple with ½ t. lemon curd. Bake, rotating and switching sheets, until cookies are just beginning to brown around edges, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Bacon-Ranch Cheese Ball (throw)

I’m still on the search for a 5-star cheese ball, and this one didn’t make it. The bacon was fun and the herb mixture added nice flavor, but it wasn’t very popular.  Of course the type of cracker companion makes an impact I’m sure and I don’t think I choose the best cracker either.

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