Cranberry Sourdough Muffin Tops

Hi, everyone. If you’re in the States and celebrate the holiday, in any way, I hope this past week was one of rest, good food and fellowship with loved ones.

If you’ve been following this blog for at least a year, then you’ll know that now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s about that time to start what’s become one of my favorite annual holiday traditions.

If you’re new here, I’ll explain.

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is the food, specifically baked goods. They were a huge part of my childhood growing up. I always looked forward to the absolutely delicious goodies that my mom and grandmother would make, and now that I’m older I keep that tradition going myself. I record that yearly holiday baking frenzy here on the blog, in a series called the 12 Days of Christmas.

Basically, for the last few weeks of November and the entire month of December I spend the last twelve blog posts of the year sharing twelve holiday-themed baked goods. Most are sweet, but I try to include some savory ones as well. It’s a lot of work, but it’s gotten to the point where my holiday season wouldn’t feel the same without it. Today, is Day 1 of the 12 Days of Christmas.

At the start of this year, I got into making sourdough bread for myself at home. It’s been really fun, but one of the things about it that you learn is that post-feeding(s) you have a lot of spare sourdough discard on your hands that you can either throw away, or find other uses for. I’ve shared some of those alternative uses for starter on the blog earlier throughout this year, and today, I’m sharing another.

Muffin tops are one of my favorite easy, ‘You Can’t Mess This Up’ recipes. They come together in minutes, the ingredients to make them are usually really inexpensive, and because they’re muffin ‘tops’ they taste even better than regular muffins.

However, I have added a modification at the end of the recipe for those who don’t have a muffin top pan, or just prefer regular muffins.

Stay tuned for more on the 12 Days of Christmas–there’s a LOT of delicious goodies coming your way 😉

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Cranberry Sourdough Muffin tops

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 1 cup All purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup (227g) sourdough starter, ripe (fed) or discard
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk*
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter or 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or 1/2 cup molasses, or honey
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • Demerara sugar or coarse sparkling sugar, for sprinkling tops

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Grease the wells of a 12-cup muffin top pan.

Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

In a second bowl, beat together the starter, 1 tabelspoon of. the milk, egg, melted butter, and sweetener. Blend the wet ingredients with the dry, taking about 20 seconds. Gently stir in the cranberries just until blended. If the mixture seems a little thick and pasty, you may add the extra tablespoon of milk

Fill the cups of the prepared pan; sprinkle the tops of the muffins with sugar.

Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan. Don’t let them cool in the pan, or they’ll steam and the outside will become tough.

Note: These can be made as regular cranberry muffins as well. Simply increase the amount of milk to 1/4 cup.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #460.

Apple-Cranberry Galette

We are on the cusp of what has become my favorite week of the year: the week of Thanksgiving.

It’s always extremely busy for me. I spent an immense amount of time on my feet, and by the end of it, I’m very tired.

And still, I absolutely love it.

If I had to list the only things about I don’t love, it would be the fact that I still don’t have the kitchen of my dreams withan abundance of cabinets/storage, unlimited counter space, and multiple ovens.

But, knock on wood, some day. Soon.

In the meanwhile, it pays for me to be able to make a schedule for myself to cook/bake/store things in ‘stages’, so that the day o Thanksgiving itself isn’t so hectic. Some dishes have to be made the day of, but most desserts can be done ahead of time, usually the night before so as to save time + oven space. This dessert is one of them.

I visited an apple orchard several weeks ago, and had quite a few apples I needed to use up. This was one of the uses I found for them, for a few reasons. First, I had never tried apples and cranberries together in a dessert before, and I thought this would be a good time to change that. Second, it’s pretty easy to put together.

Third, I think that this is a good dessert alternative to make for people who don’t like the ‘Usual; Suspects’ on the dessert table at Thanksgiving (Pumpkin Pie, Sweet Potato Pie or Pecan Pie).

Fourth: it’s pretty. (Yes, this is a legitimate consideration for me; I’m a Libra.)

This dessert has all of the things I love: flavor, texture and ease. The tart of the cranberries and the sweet of the apple play wonderfully against each other, and the contrasting textures of the fruit really works.

And to top it off (literally,) this crumble streusel topping is EVERYTHING. It’s buttery, crunchy and is honestly delicious enough to eat all on its own, or stirred into ice cream.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of the Americans on here who celebrate, in your own way. For me, it’s always about family, food, and gratitude for them both.

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Apple Cranberry Galette

Recipe Adapted from a Previous Recipe on Cooking is My Sport

Ingredients

For Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1/3 cup ice cold water, plus more as needed
  • 1 egg, beaten

For Filling

  • 5-6 Fuji, Gala, or Pink Lady Apples, peeled and diced into about 1 inch pieces (aim for about 4-5 cups)
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

For Crumble Topping

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temp.

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, the sugar and salt and stir together with a fork.  

For Crust: Use a box grater to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. You can also a pastry blender, or alternatively, you can dice the butter into tiny cubes, and cut it into the dry ingredients that way. Add the ice water and stir with the fork, until it comes together in moist clumps and forms a mass. if mixture is too dry add a bit more water a tablespoon at a time. Gather dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.

For filling: In a large bowl toss together diced apples, cranberries, brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, zest and vanilla. Set aside.

For Crumble: In a medium bowl, mix together granulated sugar, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Drizzle in melted butter and, using a fork, stir until mixture is crumbly and all the flour is incorporated; the crumbs should be smaller than 1 inch.

Heat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator and on a lightly floured surface, roll it into a roughly 11 x 14-inch rectangle. Transfer to baking sheet and chill until firm, about 15 minutes.

Remove baking sheet from refrigerator. Arrange filling evenly in the center of the dough, leaving a 4-inch border all around; reserve the juices.

Brush exposed dough border with beaten egg and fold edge in up over fruit, making pleats every 2 inches. Pour remaining juices over exposed fruit, brush the folded outer edge with beaten egg. Cover exposed fruit with about 1 heaping cup of crumble. (You may have some leftover, this is fine.)

Bake galette until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove and let cool before serving.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #459, hosted by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Spiced Sausage & Apple Pie

Happy Sunday, everyone. In continuing the pie kick that I’ve been in on the blog, today I’m going to take a walk on the savory side.

Savory pies have always been one of my favorite foods to eat, and to make. There are so many different ‘options’ out there, as just about every major cuisine has its own take on the savory meat pie.

Over the years, I’ve tried to experiment in making different ones, and as meat pie is about as much of a comfort food as you can get, those experimentations usually end up taking place at around fall/early winter when comfort food is a must.

I recently visited an apple orchard, and as when one visits an apple orchard, I had an excess of apples on my hands afterward that I had to do something with, besides just eat raw. I did bake a dessert with some, but I also made a savory dinner with others, which I’m sharing today.

Sausage and apple make for a really great pair, and for anyone who hasn’t found this out for themselves, consider this recipe your wake up call to get with the winning team, asap. The filling for this pie is very simple: sausage and apples with onion, apple cider, and a combination of spices that give it a warm, ‘autumn-y’ flavor.

You don’t have to make your own pie crust for this, two store bought ones will work– but I highly recommend that you do. It’s the same crust recipe I used for my Chicken Pot Pie, and it’s delicious enough to where it will remain THE pie crust I whip up for all savory pies that I make in the future.

The labor for this pie gets spread out over the course of two days, with the bulk of it being done on the first day. The second day is the easy part: you roll out the pie crust(s), fill the first pie crust, top it off with the second, and bake. This makes for good eating for a dinner, but also for brunch or lunch.

Enjoy.

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Spiced Sausage & Apple Pie

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

For Pie Crust

  • 2 1/4 sticks (254 grams) unsalted butter, frozen
  • 2 cups (256 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons very cold water, plus more if needed

For Filling

  • 2 pounds ground pork (or turkey) sausage, cooked and drained
  • 3 medium sized apples (like Gala, Fuji, or Pink Lady)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Plenty of onion and garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice

Directions

For Pie Crust:

In a large bowl, combine the flours, salt, sugar and black pepper. Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients, and stir together with a fork. Add the water, adding more tablespoon by tablespoon if needed just until it holds together.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into two portions. One should be slightly larger than the other. The larger one will be our bottom crust, the smaller one will be the top crust. Wrap both of these blobs in plastic, then press down to form a well-sealed disc. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before rolling and assembling the pie. (I typically let mine rest overnight)

For Filling:

In a large, shallow frying pan, cook the sliced apples with the onion, salt, cider or juice, and sugar for 15 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the liquid is syrupy.

Stir the cooked sausage into the apple mixture, and remove the pan from the heat. Add the pepper and the rest of the spices. TASTE IT. If the seasoning is to your preference, refrigerate for at least one hour, but preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Take the pie dough discs out of the fridge, unwrap, and let hang out on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes.

Roll out the larger disc into a 12-inch circle and set into a 9-inch glass deep dish pie pan. Use your fingers to gently press the dough into the corners of the pan, so it’s as snug as can be. Roll out the smaller disc into a 10- to 11-inch circle. Fill the dough-lined pie pan with the cold sausage-apple filling and use a spoon to smooth out to fill the pan completely.

From here, you can either place the second rolled out disc of pie dough on top of the pie, or cut it into strips and arrange them in a lattice design on top of the pie. Your choice.

Trim any excess so you have an even ¾-inch overhang. Use your fingers to squeeze the two layers together, then fold the overhang under itself, so the edge is tucked into the pie pan and a ridge is formed. Use the tines of a fork to seal the ridges all around.

Place the pie pan on a rimmed sheet pan you’ve lined with aluminum foil (this makes getting in and out of the oven a lot simpler, and also saves on mess from possible seepage.)

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the pie crust is golden brown. Let sit for about 15-20 minutes before slicing.

Sharing this at Fiesta Friday #458.

Cinnamon Sugar Butter Pie

This time of year, I tend to end up making a lot of pies. Most of them tend to be standard old faithfuls for the holidays, but I also try to be intentional about trying new kinds out too.

For the next few weeks, you all will see the product of those intentions here on the blog, with the majority of the recipes to come being my recent pie bakes. This is the first.

In the top 5 rankings of Jess’ Favorite Pies, Pecan Pie is not only in the Top 2, it is not #2.

It took me a while to discover it, but my love for Pecan Pie runs deep. I’ve observed that so far. as pies go, the feelings most people have tend to be at polar extremes; people either love it like me, or they hate (like I used to think I did.)

I know some people who don’t like pecan pie because they think that it’s ‘too sweet’. Others steer clear of. it because they don’t like nuts. I can’t help the people in the first camp. For the people in the second, however…well, pop a squat.

If I had to describe today’s recipe in a nutshell, it would be…a pecan pie, but with an oatmeal crust, and without the nuts.

If that sounds appealing to you then, by all means: follow me camera.

When it comes to the huge positives with this pie, is that–as with a pecan pie–it’s really easy to put together, and it’s comprised of really simple, generic ingredients most of which you probably already have in your kitchen. Mine was mixed and baking in the oven within half an hour. Another hour after that, it was done altogether.

For the cooks in the household that need every spare moment we can get on holidays like Thanksgiving, desserts like these really are a Godsend.

Finally, when it comes to taste, I would describe it as a warm, comforting cinnamon-sugar flavored hug around my tongue. I was surprised by how well the oat cookie crust complemented the filling, and also how much I actually did not miss the nuts in this pie.

And when eaten à la mode? Chef’s Kiss, truly.

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Cinnamon Sugar Butter Pie

Recipe Adapted from Land O’ Lakes

Ingredients

For Crust

  • 3/4 cup uncooked quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For Filling

  • 2/3 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons milk powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg yolks

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9 inch pie plate with cooking spray and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour with the salt and cinnamon. Stir with a fork and set aside.

In a medium size bowl, use a handheld mixer with the beater attachments to beat the butter and the brown sugar together until creamy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat just to combine. Stir in the oats. Stir in the flour mixture, until well mixed.

Pat dough evenly into the pie plate. Bake 5 minutes or until lightly browned. (Crust will appear slightly underbaked.) Set aside.

Meanwhile, make the filling: in a medium bowl, beat the white sugar and brown sugar together with the unsalted butter until creamy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time and mixing just until combined. Add the remaining ingredients and beat just until mixed.

Pour the filling over the pie crust. Bake uncovered 30 minutes. Loosely cover with aluminum foil. Bake 10 minutes. Remove foil; continue baking 5-7 minutes or until edges are set (center will still be jiggly) and top is golden brown.

Cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #457.

Sourdough Ginger Pumpkin Bread

I cannot believe that there are only 2 full months left of 2022, and yet, here we are, at the end of October. Like this month, the year absolutely flew by.

As busy as it’s been, I’m grateful that this year, I was intentional about setting time aside for myself to continue to cook, bake and blog–even during the times that it felt like I was ‘shirking’ off from my day-job. If I hadn’t, it’s safe to say I wouldn’t have gained some new skills in the cooking/baking department that have become pretty important to my eating habits now.

Learning/practicing how to bake sourdough bread was one of the things I set aside personal time for. It’s one of the better decisions I’ve made for my ongoing baking education, not least because there are so many different uses for sourdough besides just ‘standard’ bakers loaves. I’ve already shared several different uses I’ve found for it before in past posts (see here, here, here, and here), and today I’m excited to share the latest one I’ve tried out.

I’ve wanted to try making pumpkin shaped bread for a really long time, but I’d always chickened out because the ‘shaping’ part of it intimidated me. But seeing as I’m in a season of being intentional in trying/doing things that normally would’ve intimidated me, I decided to make pumpkin shaped bread the next thing I was going to tackle. I’m very pleased to be able to report back that I think it turned out pretty well.

The ‘labor’ involved in making pumpkin bread really isn’t as involved/complicated as it might look. What it comes down to, is tying various strings of kitchen twine around/across a ball of bread dough and allowing it to rise/bake with the string still in place so as to preserve the pumpkin ‘shape’.

I’m also happy to report that this bread tastes as good as it looks. The spices from both the pumpkin pie spice and ginger really complement each other nicely, and I strongly recommend that you toast the bread when eating, which both enhances the flavor and provides a delicious texture on the outside to complement the moisture of the bread on the inside.

Happy Halloween !

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Sourdough Ginger Pumpkin Bread

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (227 grams) pureed pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup (170 grams) Sourdough Starter, either ripe (fed) or discard
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 cups (360 grams) Bread Flour* (You may not need to use it all)
  • 1/4 cup (46 grams) mini diced ginger
  • 1 cinnamon stick, optional (for decoration)
  • Kitchen twine, for shaping

Directions

In a small container, pour the 1/4 cup of warm water. Sprinkle the active dry yeast on top, then sprinkle the 1 tablespoon of white sugar. Allow to sit for ten minutes, until proofed and frothy.

In a medium size bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour, the salt, the 1/4 cup white sugar and the pumpkin pie spice. Stir together with a fork.

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with bread hook attachments, add the activated yeast, the pumpkin puree, the sourdough starter, the egg and the melted butter. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and combine. (Using either a handheld mixer with the dough hook attachments, or the standing mixer). If need be, add the extra 1 cup of flour.

Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes until it becomes smooth and bouncy.

Grease the inside of the bowl, place the dough inside, and allow to rise for 1-1/2 hours, until puffy,.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut 4 20″ pieces of kitchen twine, stack them together, and tie a granny knot in the middle. Dip all but the top 2″ of the strings in oil. Place on top of parchment paper. Lay the end of the strings over the sheet pan’s edge, spacing evenly all around.

Deflate the risen dough and shape it into a ball. Place the dough ion top of the strings, seam side down. Bring the strings together at the top. Knot or clip them together loosely, leaving about 3/4″ of slack between the strings and the dough (so as to allow room for the dough to rise).

Cover and let rise for 60-90 minutes, until the dough holds its indentation when lightly pressed with your finger.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Use a straight lame to 1/2″ deep lines from the bottom of the dough to the top in ‘leaf’ patterns, repeating all the way around.

Bake the bread for 50-55 minutes, tenting the top with foil after 35 minutes. (Bread is done when a digital thermometer inserted into its center reads 190 degrees F) Remove the bread from oven and cool it on a wire rack.

Use a pair of kitchen shears to cut the kitchen twine, remove them from the loaf, then stick the cinnamon stick into the top as a ‘stem’.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #456.

Pumpkin Swirl Cookies

One of the reasons I got into baking in the first place was because I appreciated that there are some desserts that are really like pieces of art; they’re just as nice to look at as they are to eat. Or at the least, they make you do a double take and wonder to yourself, “Huh. I wonder how that’s done.”

Today’s recipe is one of those desserts. The moment I saw them I was interested, not just because the flavors sounded good to me; they were pretty to look at and I immefiately wanted to know how they were made, and whatever that technique was, try it for myself.

As it turns out, the technique for these cookies really isn’t complicated. What it comes down to, is making two different cookie doughs–a standard sugar cookie dough and a pumpkin flavored one–then sandwiching them together.

After the cookie doughs are sandwiched together, the sandwiched dough gets portioned off into individual layered cookies that get baked, and bam: Business as usual on the outside, party on the inside. Pumpkin swirl cookies.

A few notes/tips I learned from my first go around in making these: they are HUGE, bakery style cookies, roughly the size of your palm. If you would like to have more/make them smaller, then once you have cut the layered 24 squares, you can either stop there and bake them like that (there won’t be as many layers on the inside though). Or, you can divide the portioned 12 dough balls in the last step before baking in half.

Also, chilling the dough (preferably overnight) is a MUST for this recipe. The pumpkin cookie dough is very moist and it will not be fun/cooperative to work with un-chilled.

Be patient on the baking time. Because these are such big cookies, and because there are two different cookie doughs, they take a lot longer to bake than regular cookies.

Lastly, enjoy them!

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Pumpkin Swirl Cookies

Adapted from Food Network Kitchen

Ingredients

For Sugar Cookie Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla emulsion (I used LorAnn’s Butter Vanilla Emulsion)

For Pumpkin Cookie Dough

  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin spice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla emulsion (I used LorAnn’s Butter Vanilla Emulsion)

Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered/confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • 1/4 cup milk

Directions

For Sugar Cookie Dough:

In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt with a fork and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or In another medium bowl and using a handheld mixer with the beater attachments, beat white sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy.

Add the egg and the vanilla, and mix until just combined.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in 3 batches, mixing until just combined.

Transfer the dough to a piece of plastic wrap. Use a rubber spatula to spread and press the dough into a flat rectangle. Add a second piece of plastic wrap on top, and flatten the rectangle using a rolling pin to approximately 8 by 10 inches. Wrap tightly and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

For Pumpkin Cookie Dough

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, baking soda and salt with a fork and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or In another medium bowl and using a handheld mixer with the beater attachments, beat white sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy.

Add the egg, vanilla and pumpkin and mix until just combined. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in 3 batches, mixing until just combined.

Transfer the dough to a piece of plastic wrap. Use a rubber spatula to spread and press the dough into a flat rectangle. Add a second piece of plastic wrap on top, and flatten the rectangle using a rolling pin to approximately 8 by 10 inches. Wrap tightly and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

For Assembly*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Unwrap the pumpkin cookie dough and place on a lightly floured piece of parchment. Lightly flour the top and a rolling pin and roll into a larger rectangle about 10 1/2 by 16 inches (see Cook’s Note). Slide the parchment with the dough onto a baking sheet and refrigerate while you repeat the process with the sugar cookie dough. Roll and refrigerate the sugar cookie dough in the same manner.

Use a pastry brush to dust off any excess flour from the top of the pumpkin cookie dough. Using the parchment to help you, flip the pumpkin cookie dough onto the sugar cookie dough, lining up the 2 rectangles as closely as possible. Cut the dough in half crosswise with a very sharp knife or pastry cutter so you now have 2 rectangles that are 10 1/2 by 7 inches.

Stack the dough rectangles on top of one another so you now have 4 layers of alternating cookie dough. Cut this stack crosswise into 6 rows, then lengthwise into 4 rows so you end up with a total of 24 squares.

Stack one layered square on top of a second one and, using lightly floured hands, gently press the edges together and round into a domed ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining squares, evenly spacing 6 dough balls on each lined baking sheet.   

Use your palms to slightly flatten the balls. Sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar.

Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the cookies are puffed in the center and golden brown around the edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on the pans 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack set inside a baking sheet to cool completely.

For glaze: combine confectioners sugar and pumpkin spice together in a small bowl. Add milk in tablespoon increments until it’s reached the desired consistency. (You may not need to use it all). Use a fork to drizzle it over the cookies and allow to set, about 20 minutes.

*For a video depiction of cookie assembly, see here.

*The pumpkin dough will be much softer than the sugar cookie dough so you will have to use more flour when rolling out to prevent sticking. Work quickly; if the dough gets too soft or warm, place the whole piece of parchment on a sheet pan and place in the freezer for a few minutes.

Note: no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #455, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Apple Cider Cookie Bars

It’s my favorite time of year: Autumn.

The weather isn’t too hot, but still isn’t too cold. You can break out the sweaters and boots without needing to break out the heavy winter coats. Depending on where you live, the trees begin to change color.

And then, of course, there’s the food of it all.

Much like peaches and strawberries with summer, apple cider is one of those ingredients that are very ‘seasonal’ for my tastebuds. I get the hankering to have it at very specific times of year. Late September-early October is the perfect sweet spot to where I will take apple cider whenever I can get it, in as many different ways as I can get it.

We all know apple cider is delicious enough on its own, but did you know it’s a pretty great ingredient to bake with as well? It’s true. I’ve put it to some delicious uses several times before on the blog, first with donuts (baked and fried), then another time with pound cake.

Today, I’m back to experimenting with cider but with something a little different.

Cookie bars have become one of my favorite desserts over the past few years. They’re simple to make, and they also deliver on the most important factor for me when it comes to successful desserts, outside of flavor: the texture.

With a cookie bar I get the full bodied, chewy texture I like, with a smooth filling on top to balance it all out. As with a lot of the desserts on this blog, these started with a Blank Canvas base recipe, that I customized to my preferences. The cookie base is a standard Pâte Sablée Cookie Crust that I’ve used before with other cookie bar recipes, but this time added some spices to give it more of an ‘autumn-y’ flavor. The filling is an apple cider ‘quick custard’ where you let the oven do the work rather than cooking it over the stove with traditional custard recipes.

You guys, I was so pleased with how these turned out. The pâte sablée is a tasty enough cookie on its own, but adding the apple cider custard was the perfect addition of flavor and texture. This is one is already set to become one of my favorite autumn desserts, and should you try it, I think it’ll become one of yours too.

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Apple Cider Cookie Bars

Recipe Adapted from BHG & a previous recipe on Cooking is My Sport

Ingredients

For Pâte Sablée Cookie Crust

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice

For Cider Custard Filling*

  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt

Directions

For Boiled Cider Syrup:

In a large saucepan bring cider to a simmer over medium. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 1 to 2 hours (depends on pot size), uncovered, until mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup. Let cool completely.

*Note: You can buy pre-boiled cider syrup. You’ll need 1/2 cup total for this recipe.

For Cookie Crust:

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, spices, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a handheld one with the beater attachments), beat butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add egg and egg yolks, beating until combined. Beat in vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract.

With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating until combined.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, letting excess extend over sides of pan; lightly spray with cooking spray.


Press Pâte Sablée cookie crust into bottom of prepared pan. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. Using a fork, prick the dough about every 1 inch.


Bake until light golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

While crust is baking, In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together boiled cider syrup, milk, and 3/4 cup cream. In a medium bowl whisk together brown sugar, flour, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and the salt. Add cider mixture. Stir until combined.

Increased oven temp to 375 degrees F. Pour cider custard onto cookie crust.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until custard appears set at edges but is still slightly jiggly in center. Let cool completely.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #453.

Brown Sugar Toffee Pound Cake

One of the biggest (and ongoing) lessons of my adult life has been to find ways to celebrate myself. They don’t have to be ((and mine typically are not) huge, grand, pricey gestures. But they are necessary. And, mind tend to taste really good.

This past week, I turned 33. Per a tradition I’ve been keeping for about nine years, every year for my birthday, I bake a new cake to celebrate…well, myself. 32 was an amazing year for me. There was a lot of new changes, a lot hard work, and a lot of great accomplishments–among them, getting a year older.

Great accomplishments always call for great cake. I’ve made quite a few great pound cakes in past years for past birthdays, but the pound cake will jus† always be my favorite, so here we go again for Year 33.

This year’s pound cake is pretty simple in terms of ingredients, but I did a few things differently that set it apart from some of the other ones I’ve made.

First, I used brown sugar instead of white to give it a deeper, more caramel-y sweetness. Combined with the five eggs, using brown sugar also gives the cake a denser texture, which I’m a huge fan of. So far as mix-ins, I added Heath Toffee Bits, which I’ve also never used in a cake before but thought they would pair well with the brown sugar and denseness of the cake. The other new addition was the browned butter frosting, which I’ve done in glazes before, but not frosting itself.

While I do think the cake is delicious enough to eat on its own, I do think the browned butter frosting added a really pleasant, nutty flavor to it that cut through some of the sweetness. Also, toffee bits are now a new favorite add in for me, so you’ll probably be seeing those used a bit more in baked goods to come on here.

I really liked my 33rd birthday, and I really liked this cake.

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Brown Sugar Toffee Pound Cake

Recipe Adapted from Bake From Scratch

Ingredients

For Cake

  • 1½ cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or Butter Vanilla emulsion
  • 1 (8-ounce) package toffee bits

For Browned Butter Frosting

  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or Butter Vanilla Emulsion
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons whole milk

Directions

For Cake

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. Combine the milk and vanilla in a glass measuring cup and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with milk-extract mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating at low speed just until combined after each addition.

Stir in toffee bits and pecans.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Tap the pan a few times on the countertop to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean, 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes, covering with foil to prevent excess browning, if necessary.

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

For Browned Butter Frosting

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, gently swirling pan constantly, until particles begin to turn golden brown and butter smells nutty, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and continue swirling the pan until the butter is a rich brown, about 15 seconds longer

Carefully pour butter into a bowl. Add sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons milk to butter, and stir until smooth. If frosting is too thick, add more milk until it reaches desired consistency.

Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Place in the refrigerator to allow frosting to set, about 30 minutes.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #452.

Loaded Peanut Butter Cookies

So, oatmeal cookies. They’re a pretty polarizing food. In my experience, people either love them or they absolutely hate them. I’m somewhat in the middle. I admit that when oatmeal cookies are bad, they are truly wretched.

But oh, when they are good…

I think that the biggest potential downfall of an oatmeal cookies comes down to the texture. If the balance between the oats and the cookie’s moisture isn’t found, then the whole thing ends up giving someone the feeling that they’re chewing dried cud, very quickly, and within seconds they’re reaching for a glass of milk or water to wash the whole thing down.

Flavor is also key. A lot of typical and ‘gourmet’ oatmeal cookies are made with purple raisins. I think this is a huge mistake. The flavor of purple raisins is very pungent, and in this circumstance, not in a good way. In my opinion, it doesn’t complement the flavor of rolled oats very well. Other dried fruits work much better; dried cherries, cranberries, or even golden raisins are all better than purple.

Most recently, I’ve found that another huge boost to oatmeal cookies (both in terms of preserving moisture and enhancing flavor) is adding peanut butter. This isn’t entirely surprising; there are very few things that peanut butter cannot enhance or make better. But I’ll be honest and admit that until I tried today’s recipe I had never thought of putting peanut butter in oatmeal cookies.

But I’ll tell you: whoever did think of it first was really onto something.

So are these peanut butter cookies, or oatmeal cookies? I truly think they’re both. The oats provide the dominant texture, but the chunky peanut butter also adds texture from the nuts AND added moisture from its fats. It’s a really really good combination that would be a good enough cookie on all its own, even if it weren’t for the other add-ins.

The title of this recipe really does say it all. On top of the oats and chunky peanut butter, it also contains semisweet chocolate chips, toffee bits, and mini-peanut butter cups that I diced up into halves to make for better dispersement. The result is a bite that has so many different things going on, but has a really hearty, and yet also (somehow) richness to it that is really delicious.

Like with the vast majority of cookie recipes on this blog, I strongly recommend letting the dough rest in the fridge for a while to let it get nice and chilled before baking. That way, you’ll get rounded cookies with decent lift rather than flat pancakes. The taste won’t be that different, but one is prettier to look at than the other. Your choice.

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Loaded Peanut Butter Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Food Network Magazine

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup chunky peanut butter (Don’t use natural pb here, it won’t come out the same)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar (light or dark, it doesn’t matter)
  • 1/3 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup toffee bits
  • 1/2 cup mini peanut butter cups, chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Spread the oats on a large baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool. Line 2 separate baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the toasted rolled oats, chocolate chips, toffee bits and mini peanut butter cups. Stir with a fork and set aside.

Combine the peanut butter and butter in a large bowl and beat with a mixer on medium speed. Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda and beat until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs and vanilla, then stir in the dry ingredients, just until combined.

Scoop out 12 equal mounds of dough (about 1/3 cup each), arranging the dough balls in a resealable plastic container you’ve lined with parchment paper or foil.

Refrigerate for at least two hours, but preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two large sheet pans with parchment paper.

Arrange cookie dough balls about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Lightly flatten with your fingers.

Bake, switching the pans halfway through, until the edges of the cookies are set but still soft, 20 to 24 minutes. If any cookies are misshapen, use a spatula to press the edges back into a round shape. Let the cookies cool 10 minutes on the pans, then transfer to a rack to cool completely (the cookies will hold together best when fully cooled).

Note: no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #451.

Bakewell Tart

I’ve mentioned it before on here, but it bears repeating that (like many of you, I’m sure) I am a HUGE fan of the Great British Bakeoff.

On the one hand, it’s a cooking competition, but on the other hand, it’s also a cooking show that is just as much about the science/skill behind baking as it is the ‘competition’, which I appreciate.

I was already pretty fond of baking by the time I first started watching the show, but I can say that my love for it increased even more after Bakeoff. I’ve learned new techniques, tried out new recipes, and become a better baker from it, which is probably one of the reasons why I always keep coming back for more.

If you’re familiar with the show and have been watching for several seasons, you’ll know that while in some cases they introduce variation, overall there are some ‘staples’ that are bound to appear in some form or fashion throughout the respective season. For instance, there are consistent themes assigned to every week such as ‘Biscuits’, ‘Cake’ or ‘Bread’, and during those themed weeks, there’s always going to be at least one contestant who bakes a certain recipe, just because they’re so common in British baking.

The Victoria Sponge cake is one of them, as is sticky toffee pudding, or ginger biscuits, or lemon drizzle cake. Another, is the Bakewell Tart.

Like several other recipes, the Bakewell Tart is one that prior to watching Bakeoff, I had never even heard of before. We don’t really see very many of them across the pond in America, at least not in the places I’ve been. It’s a tart composed of a shortcrust pastry that gets topped with jam or preserves, frangipane, almonds and a glaze of some kind.

The Bakewell Tart is considered a staple English dessert and as such, it’s been featured more than one on Bakeoff in both the technical challenge and as signature where contestants can try to remix it with their own special twist. In honor of the fact that the newest season of Bakeoff is soon to come in the US, I decided to finally get around to making one myself.

I’d watched the show enough to know that Bakewell Tarts are relatively easy to put together, and since this was my first go around with it, I tried to keep things ‘simple’ so far as the ingredients were concerned. My personal touches were to use raspberry preserves for my fruit filling, and to also decrease the amount of icing used on top to a drizzle. If you watch the show and remember the Bakewell Tart technical challenge, you’ll remember that the icing in that recipe is laid on pretty thick–I thought a drizzle was plenty, especially when combined with the sweetness of the frangipane.

Now that I’m on the other side of my own Bakewell Tart ‘challenge’, I can say that I see what all the fuss is about and why it’s a staple over there across the pond. They’re delicious, and well worth the try. So as they say on the show: “On your mark, get set, bake.”

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Bakewell Tart

Recipe Adapted from Bake from Scratch

Ingredients

For Pâte Sablée

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup powdered/confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, or emulsion
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cups all purpose flour

For Filling

  • ¾ cup raspberry preserves
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, or emulsion
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1¼ cups almond fl our
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup sliced almonds

For Almond Glaze

  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 teaspoons milk, or more as needed

Directions

For Pâte Sablée

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter at medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.

Add confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest, vanilla, and salt, and beat until smooth, about 1 minute.

Add egg yolk, and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Add flour in two additions, beating just until combined after each addition.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and gently knead 3 to 4 times. Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.

For Filling & Assembly

Preheat oven to 325°F (170°C).

On a lightly floured surface, roll Pâte Sablée into an 11-inch circle, about ¼ inch thick. Transfer to a 9-inch fluted round removable bottom tart pan, gently pressing into bottom and up sides. Trim excess dough.

Freeze until hard, about 10 minutes. Prick bottom of dough with a fork. Top with a piece of parchment paper, letting ends extend over edges of pan. Add pie weights.

Bake until edges look dry, about 15 minutes. Carefully remove parchment and weights. Bake until crust is dry, about 10 minutes more. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
Spread preserves into prepared Pâte Sablée. Refrigerate while preparing filling.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating just until combined.

Spread filling onto preserves, and sprinkle with almonds.

Bake until golden and set, 45 to 50 minutes. While tart is baking, combine ingredients for glaze together in a small bowl with a fork.

Let finished tart cool in pan for 15 minutes.

Remove from pan, and drizzle with Almond Glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #450, hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.