Spiced Cookie Bark

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Do you have folks in your life who are really tough to Christmas shop for?

I’m sure you do. Heck, maybe you’re even one of those people.

Let me just make a simple recommendation for you from my experience and observations as a cook, baker & blogger: give food. I mean it. If yo really don’t know what material present to buy someone, scrap the idea entirely and just give them food. Think about it for a second:

Food is your fail-safe. A guaranteed winner. There’s plenty of options, it’s customizable to whatever favorites your intended has, and it also doesn’t have to be an expensive gift–especially if you’re willing to cook or bake it yourself.

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I’ve found that when it comes to Christmas goodies, people are EXTREMELY easy to please. Cookies. Pie. Cake. Brownies. Candy. Bread. As long as it’s tasty and appealing to the eye, there isn’t much that’s going to be turned down.

(I still haven’t met a fruit cake that’s palatable, but hey, maybe someday.)

If your gift-giving is going to be limited to your near vicinity, then you’ve got a lot of options for baking. However, if you’re planning on sending long distance then you’re gonna have to be willing to make a few conscientious decisions as to what you’re baking and sending just for practicality’s sake. It’s possible to mail just about anything, but that doesn’t make it convenient or cheap–not to mention the fact that you’ve got to ensure it’ll get to where it’s going in one piece.

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Today’s recipe would be a perfect one for gift-giving and shipping in the mail for a couple reasons: first, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated or kept cool. It doesn’t go stale. Second, you won’t have to have the same concern about cracking and breaking the goods in rough transit, because this stuff is already supposed to be broken into shards.

Looks better that way anyway.

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I took my first foray into the bark making field two years ago for the Christmas series with this Graham Cracker Toffee Bark. It wasn’t just extremely easy to make, it also tasted glorious. I knew that I would want to give it another go sometime; albeit it with more variety to the recipe. What makes this one different is that instead of using graham crackers as your base that you pour hot sugar over, this recipe makes the cookie itself. The dough is flavored with vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, then spread nice and thin in a sheet pan then baked in the oven until it browns and essentially caramelizes itself and takes on a crunchy toffee flavor and texture.

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After that, all that’s left to do is drizzle it with some icing and melted chocolate, pop it into the freezer, then started smashing it apart, peanut-brittle style.

BAM. You’ve got a tray full of goodies that would make the very pickiest of people to shop for, extremely happy. If you wanted to group them into individual treat bags for a crows, I would even include this recipe written or typed onto a little card attached to it. It’s pretty simple and it’s always a great idea to pass Christmas cheer like this along, don’t you think?

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

Day 6: Spiced Cookie Bark

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Spiced Cookie Bark

Recipe Courtesy of Land O Lakes

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Ingredients

  • 2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Spiced Sugar Topping

  • 3 tablespoons coarse sugar (like turbinado or demerara)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Drizzle

  • 2 tablespoons semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons white chocolate chips
  • Christmas colored Sprinkles, optional

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan wit aluminum foil, making sure the foil extends over the ends, about 1/2 inch. Spray thoroughly with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg together in a medium size bowl. Set aside.

Combine sugar, melted butter and vanilla extract together in a large bowl. Fold the dry ingredient mixture into the wet, using a fork to begin with. Once it starts to come together into a solid mass, switch to your hands.

Dump the dough out into the prepared pan and use your fingers or a rubber spatula to press it into an even layer.

Combine all of the spiced sugar topping ingredients together, then sprinkle on top of dough.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are light golden brown. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then using the foil to gently lift out of the pan and onto a wire cooling rack. Allow to cool completely.

Melt the dark chocolate and white chocolate chips in separate bowls. Using the tines of a fork, drizzle on top of cookie bark alternately. Sprinkle the Christmas sprinkles on top. Place in the freezer for about 20 minutes to allow chocolate to set.

Break bark into pieces with a knife or bench scraper. Store in an air-tight container.

Almond Stamped Cookies

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It was around this time last year that I really started getting into making stamped/imprinted cookies. My first try was with the Cardamom Wafers I made for the series two years ago. I liked the results and knew I wanted to keep experimenting with the method. It’s a far less laborious alternative to making your Christmas cookies pretty, especially for someone who isn’t that artfully inclined like yours truly. I’m so totally not the type that can take a tube of colored gel or icing and pipe on elaborate designs. Not at all. The extent of my cookie decorating skills is to spread icing on top, then drop some sprinkles on top and call it a day. With cookie stamps, all you do is press a tool into the dough, and the work is practically done for you.

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Probably the best, most extreme form of stamp/imprint cookies is the Springerle cookie. It’s a thick German-based cookie dough that is imprinted using VERY intricate, beautiful wood molds, then left out for the dough to be able to ‘dry’ for hours before being baked. I first heard about them last fall and after hunting down two springerle molds of my own, made my first attempt in the first post of the 12 Days of Christmas series for 2015. The results blew me away. If you treat that dough right, give it enough time to dry out and bake gently, it’ll result in a cookie that impresses everyone.

Thing about Springerle is, the hand-carved wood molds used to make them don’t come cheap. I’d love to get my hands on some more but at $40-$60 a pop (and depending on the size and intricacy of the mold, possibly even more than that), buying more has taken a far back seat to my financial priorities.

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The good news is, making beautiful stamped/imprinted cookies doesn’t have to be a pricey process. There are plenty of molds that although made out of plastic, still feature intricate designs. The Cardamom print wafers and these Speculaas cookies were both made with a set of plastic cookie stamps from my grandmother’s 30+ year old Christmas baking collection and they made some of the prettiest cookies to come out of my kitchen. After multiple recipes, different doughs and using different kinds of molds, I think I can say pretty confidently that the real secret to making printed cookies lies in how you treat the dough, not so much the mold itself.

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The most important tip I can give with imprinted cookies is this: you’ve gotta chill the dough. THOROUGHLY. I mean, to the point where they’re almost rock solid. With the exception of Springerle that become rock hard by themselves in the regular open air, I’ve put every other standard cookie dough I’m stamping/imprinting not in the refrigerator but in the actual freezer for a minimum of half an hour before I bake it. It does sometimes result in me needing to bake them a tad bit longer than the recipe states, (although not that much), but it’s the coldness of the dough when it goes in that will preserve the intricacy of the design from the stamp or mold, regardless of what kind you’re using. If the butter or other fat in the dough is too warm, it expands during baking, causing the cookies to spread, which will blur the design. If the butter is frozen when it goes into the hot oven, it has less time to expand: got it?

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These cookies from today’s recipe are my latest attempt at imprinting. Aren’t they pretty? As I said, you don’t have to go expensive to get pretty cookies. The stamps I used for these came from Target and they came in a set of three for $20.00. (See here if you’re interested). They’re *really* nice, quality stamps too. Like most bakeware, they came with a recipe with which to try them out and since it looked like the dough came together in a matter of minutes, I figured what the heck and tried it out for myself.

These have a no frills, simple flavor profile which I think is appropriate for a print cookie: think along the lines of that trademark almond flavor that reminds you of the thick cookies you can get from bakeries. Because the dough uses powdered sugar rather than regular white, the crumb of the cookies is much finer and delicate. It melts in your mouth, and it’s just divine. As I said, the making of the dough is really simple, the most crucial step is how you treat the dough after stamping/imprinting.

Just remember: freezer, not fridge. Long time. Solid dough. Less spreading. Sharper design. You can do this. What’s more you *should*.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

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Almond Stamped Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Nordic Ware

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for flouring
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Special Equipment: Nordic Ware Cookie Stamps, or any other cookie stamps, cutters you want to use

 

Directions

In a small bowl, use a fork to mix together the flour and salt.

In a large bowl, use the whisk attachment or a handheld mixer to cream together the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and almond extract. Gradually add in the flour in about 1/2 cup increments until the dough comes together.

Shape dough into balls, using about 1/8 cup or 2 tablespoons for each cookie. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using your hand, press each dough ball to form a disk about 1/4 inch thick.

Dip your cookie stamps into flour, then lightly tap them to free excess. Firmly press the stamp into the cookie disk until dough reaches the edges of the stamp. Remove carefully and repeat with the remaining dough balls, flouring stamps before each use to prevent them from sticking to the dough.

Freeze the cookies for about 35-40 minutes to allow to firm up. (This will help protect the design and keep them from spreading in the oven)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove cookies from freezer and bake for 12-14 minutes, until just beginning to brown on edges. Allow to set for about 1-2 minutes on baking sheet before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

 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.)

Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

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I don’t drink hot chocolate very often, but when I do, there are a few must haves that I want in it:

It MUST be chock full of chocolatey flavor. Say no, never and not on my watch to that thin, liquidy crap from a mix that tastes like a bad weight loss shake. I want to feel like I’m drinking a melted Hershey bar, which brings me to the next important element: texture.

A good hot chocolate to me is one that is slightly thick and more robust than say, coffee in its liquidity. I’m not saying it should have necessarily stew consistency, but it should be thick enough to leave a filmy residue on the back of the spoon after you stir it. If your hot cocoa is thin and broth-like…meh. It’s a no from me dawg.

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Thirdly: I want, no I NEED to have a crap load of elements on top. You can’t just stop at the hot chocolate itself. Why? Because a good Christmas tree is nothing without it’s trimmings. You gotta bedazzle that sucka, guys. I’m talking marshmallows, caramel, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, sprinkles, crushed peppermint candy, cookie crumbs. Show your taste buds that you mean business and give it the works.

Or else, what is even the point?

For today’s recipe, I can assure you: I did not hold back. I went hard.

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This hot chocolate really does have it all. It starts with a milk base that is melted down with semi-sweet chocolate. I recommend you use good chocolate here. Hersheys bars will work fine, as will Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks but if you can use Ghiradelli, Godiva or Dove chocolate that I think would work even better. I even think that using dark chocolate or chocolate flavored with chili powder would be awesome, just to give it another level of flavor.

So help me God, if you go and use some chalky generic store brand chocolate chips I will hunt you down, find you and shake you silly.

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You can of course make your own Dulce de Leche by either boiling or baking a single can of sweetened condensed milk, but if you can just get the pre-made Nestle one that comes in a can and is located in the Hispanic/Latino foods aisle of the grocery store,please just go with that. Less work. You can also use less of it in the cocoa if you prefer yours on the less sweet side.

Now, make sure you’ve got all the garnishments on deck once the hot chocolate is made. It’s your customizable world here, but I used whipped cream, chocolate sauce, more melted dulce de leche that I had left over from the can and Christmas nonpareil sprinkles. Also (because I just don’t know how to quit) I dipped the rims of my mugs in hot chocolate, then pressed them into a dish of crushed gingersnap cookie crumbs, then let them chill in the freezer for about 40 minutes. That way, with every sip of hot chocolate, there’s also the added texture and flavor of the spicy gingersnap sliding down your throat. I realize this is extra, but what can I say? I be’s that way sometimes.

Happy Fiesta Friday #149, (cohosted this week by Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju and Sandhya @ Indfused) where I’m linking this post.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

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Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Recipe Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 ounces of semi sweet chocolate, chopped, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 cup dulce de leche, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or 1 cinnamon stick broken in half
  • Whipped cream for topping
  • Sprinkles for topping, optional

 

Directions

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a low simmer over medium low heat.

Add the chocolate, dulce de leche and cinnamon. Cook and stir until the chocolate and caramel has melted into the milk and mixture is smooth, about 3-5 minutes.

Pour into mugs and top with whipped cream, additional chocolate and caramel and sprinkles.

(Mixture will thicken as it cools, just add additional milk to thin out if desired.)

 

Cinnamon Roll Cookies

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Its funny; I’ve made hundreds of holiday cookies, but I don’t think I’ve ever participated in an actual cookie swap. Not a single one.

You guys know what those are, right? Cookie swaps are sugar overload get-togethers where each of the attendants bakes up a large batch of cookies and brings them to share & ‘swap’ everyone else who’s brought their own recipe of cookies to the party. Everyone is supposed to bring a different type so that there’s as much variety as possible. Sometimes there will be recipe exchanges along with the cookies. Sometimes people will vote on which cookie at the swap is the best tasting.

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It’s probably just in my competitive nature but if I did actually go to a cookie swap, I would want MY cookies to be the favorite. If all of the cookies were laid out together on a platter, I’d want MINE to look the prettiest. I’d definitely have to win, which means that the cookies I took with me would A) Not only have to be delicious, but B) also be just as great to look at.

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Having said all of that, I can guarantee that of all the cookies I’ve baked–and there have been many–if I had to choose one recipe to bake and bring to a cookie swap, this one right here would be it. No question.

It more than delivers in the taste department, the details of which we’ll get to in a second. But first, can we talk about the presentation?

I mean, come on. They just LOOK like the perfect Christmas cookie, right?

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What we have here is a cream cheese buttery cookie dough that gets rolled out flat, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar then rolled up in a tight cylinder, cinnamon-roll style. Individual cookies are cut from the cylinders then baked until golden brown. The cookie’s texture is tender and slightly crisp; think somewhere in between a sandie and one of those butter cookies that come out of the blue tins. The orange zest in the dough gives a slight but pleasant citrusy after-taste to them that complements the cinnamon inside beautifully.

They’re really very delicious guys. They remind me of something that the Keebler company would mass produce and sell at Christmas.

Except Keebler didn’t make them. I did. And now you can too.

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Before I even made this recipe, I knew that I was going to have a trial-error experience with it. They were just too pretty NOT to run into some technical difficulties. Fortunately for you guys, you get to find out how to make them without having to make the same mistakes I did. Following my clear and pretty straight forward instructions should make it so that there’s no reason why your cinnamon roll cookies won’t turn out exactly like the ones you see in the pictures.

I’d say that the most important step to nailing this recipe is making sure that your dough is the right temperature, especially before rolling it up into the cylinders that you cut into the individual cookies. When I first made these, my dough was still too soft; I didn’t give it enough time to chill in the freezer so it tore and broke apart AFTER I had already sprinkled with the cinnamon sugar and was attempting to roll it.

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Not pretty. Not fun.

Don’t do that.

Let your dough chill out in the freezer long enough so that it can be rolled up just as easily as cinnamon roll dough can. If you use the freezer rather than the refrigerator, it shouldn’t take too long. Roll the cylinders up as tightly as you can; loose rolls make the swirls in the cookies spread wide and cause some of the filling to spill out. Let the rolled up cylinders chill out in the freezer long enough so that when you cut them into individual cookies, the rolls don’t deflate.

If you keep this dough as chilled and firm as possible, it’ll be good to you. Promise. And, you’ll be the star of any cookie swap party, that’s for sure.

(Still more to come in our 12 Days of Christmas baking series. Stay tuned.)

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

 

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Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Taste of Home

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/4 cups butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 4-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Directions

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

In a  medium bowl or container, mix the flour together with the baking powder, yeast and salt.

In a large bowl of a standing mixer, use the whisk attachment to cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla extract and grated orange peel.

Gently add the flour mixture, about 1 cup at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula periodically to ensure it’s mixed thoroughly.

Divide the dough into four portions. Freeze them for about 2o-minutes, until they are relatively firm.

Sprinkle a sheet of wax or parchment paper with flour. Using a rolling pin (or your hands) roll or pat each dough portion into an 8 x 6 rectangle. Sprinkle with two heaping tablespoons of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up as tightly as you can, jelly-roll style (it was easier for me to roll it up by the short side rather than the long one). Wrap each roll in plastic wrap and place back in the freezer for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the dough crosswise in about 3/8 inch slices. Place them about 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets (or lined with parchment paper). Bake 8-10 minutes or until light brown on the bottoms. Allow to set on the baking sheet for about 60 seconds before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

(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.)

Pumpkin Crunch Tart

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For the second day of our Christmas series, I thought I’d start out this post with a small confession: I had never once tried a pumpkin pie until one year ago, at Thanksgiving.

I dunno why exactly. It could be because our family has ALWAYS been sweet potato pie eaters and although the two aren’t the same, it is typically a kind of  thing that most between choose between rather than having both. Most pumpkin pie also has a different flavor profile than sweet potato pie;  not only does it have a different texture, the spices also tend to pack more of a punch.

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For a while, the latter was the reason that I never really tried or thought it was even worth my while to try pumpkin pie. For most of my life, I was used to the sweeter, less spicy flavor of my grandmother’s sweet potato pie. Although I’d been using pumpkin spice in other baked goods,  pumpkin pie remained the final frontier that I hadn’t tried. It’s not like I thought I would HATE it, I just had the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mindset and stuck to my tried and true sweet potato pie.

This year however, I was feeling a bit more adventurous.

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If I had to give one qualm I have with not only pumpkin pie, but (yes) even sweet potato pie and smooth custard/cream pies in general, it’s that they often lack a textural component to break up that ‘smoothness’ and not have it be so one note. I don’t really go for those super thick and high cream pies that make you bite through two inches of cream and still you’re not really end up ‘chewing’ anything. I could go for something crunchy or a least with a small amount of texture to contrast it. It’s really that idea of wanting to try pumpkin pie with texture that inspired this recipe. I found and used a pumpkin pie recipe that I trusted (Bobby Flay has never let me down yet) and modified it to suit my purposes.

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Altogether this a SOLID dessert guys. The crust is an easy and far less labor intensive one than typical homemade pie crust and it will taste much better than a pre-made one you bought at a store. Use a good gingersnap though; one you would want to eat all on it’s own. If gingersnaps aren’t your thing, you can definitely use graham crackers too though. The filling is what I think a good pumpkin pie should be; there’s a good balance of deep caramel flavor from the molasses and brown sugar and spiciness of the seasoning. What’s more, letting it chill in the fridge overnight gives the spices enough time to really soak into the pumpkin puree so that the flavor is as pronounced as possible. I think the thing that makes this pie really special is the addition of the cinnamon crunch topping that gets sprinkled on top just before eating. It reminds me of a crunchy, spicy oatmeal cookie and it provides the perfect textural contrast that I think these kind of pies so desperately need so that you’re not eating soft and mushy on soft and mushy.

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Another thing, I said this in the recipe itself, but I’ll go ahead and say it again here. I know that most people don’t have rectangle tart pans (or any tart pans at all) just sitting around their kitchen–not unless you’re a baking fiend with an addiction to bakeware (like someone I know). That’s fine. This recipe will absolutely work in a 9 or 10 inch pie dish, you’ll probably just have an excess of crust that you don’t have to use, and you’ll need to increase your baking time in the oven.

Look y’all, when I took my first bite of this pie warmed up with a smattering of whipped cream, I just had to sigh and give The Head Shake. You know which one I mean. The one you give when what you’re eating is almost TOO delicious. It was absurdly good.

(And yes, in case you were wondering). Just as good as sweet potato pie.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Recipe Adapted from Bobby Flay

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Ingredients

For Cinnamon Crunch

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, cold

For Crust

  • 3 cups ginger snap crumbs (I used Trader Joe’s gingersnaps)
  • 10 tablespoons (1 stick, plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

For Pie Filling

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree (NOT the mix)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus more for the top
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Whipped cream, for serving

Directions

For Cinnamon Crunch: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor, and process a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until combined. Pat the mixture evenly into a 4-inch square on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Remove and let cool. Transfer to a cutting board and chop into small pieces. Set aside.

For Filling: Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, both sugars, and molasses together in a medium bowl. Mix in pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Whisk in the heavy cream, milk, and vanilla extract. Either strain the mixture through a coarse strainer into a bowl, or give it a good blending in your blender, about 7-5 seconds. Whisk in the butter. Chill overnight in the refrigerator to allow flavors and spices to properly meld.

For Crust: Grease an 8 x 11 1/2 rectangular  tart pan*. combine the ginger snap crumbs, butter, and cinnamon in a bowl and mix until combined. Press evenly onto the bottom and sides of tart pan. Brush with the beaten egg. Bake until light golden brown and firm, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

For Assembly: Place the tart pan on a baking sheet, pour the pumpkin mixture into the shell, (don’t overfill, it’s ok if you have some leftover) and sprinkle additional cinnamon over the top. Bake until the filling is set around edges but the center still jiggles slightly when shaken, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Cut tart into slices and top with cinnamon crunch and whipped cream. Refrigerate leftover slices.

(*This recipe can also be made in a 9 inch and 10 inch pie dish. The tart pan was just my preference. Also, using a tart pan will almost definitely guarantee you’ll have leftover filling.)

 

Stuffing Bread

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Goodness. Has it been a year already since we did this? Time flies.

If you’re a new follower and are wondering what ‘this’ is, then allow me to fill you in. ‘This’ is the day that we’ll be starting the annual 12 Days of Christmas series on Cooking is My Sport: a series of 12 days of 12 recipes of Christmas themed goodies that I dump on you guys in rapid succession that are specifically designed to make you hungry for carbs/sugar/Christmas cheer. Because I find that is in one of my especially strong skill sets.

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There will (of course) be plenty of cookies and other sweets to come in the following days, but I also wanted to try and incorporate some other types of baked goods into the series as well. Yummy Christmas food comes in sweet AND savory packages. Case in point,  today’s recipe.

We’re coming right off the heels of Thanksgiving where a lot of people cook/eat abundant amounts of stuffing and/or dressing. Our family makes dressing (the stuff you cook all on its own in a separate baking dish, a very safe distance away from the raw, uncooked bird), and we like to eat it at both Thanksgiving AND Christmas. It just wouldn’t be the holidays without it.

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Whether you’re on Team Dressing or Team Stuffing, chances are you’re fond of at least a core set of flavors and ingredients that can be found in both (if they’re any go0d anyway). A lot of times, bread is crumbled and these ingredients and flavors are added TO it along with some egg and chicken broth to moisten it before it gets baked into a kind of casserole.

But what would happen if those flavors and ingredients were mixed together to MAKE a scratch made yeast bread?

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This. This is what would happen. And now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll elaborate. What you’re looking at is a whole wheat loaf of bread that I flavored with poultry seasoning, then rolled up with ingredients meant to remind you of the taste of stuffing and/or dressing: sage, celery, onion, browned sausage and cranberries.

I initially saw this bread on King Arthur Flour as a pull apart bread, similar to Monkey Bread where people can tear off chunks. However, in my rendition, I decided to go a little bit of a different route as I thought there could be some problems with the overall construction of the dough and keeping the filling from just collecting in pools between balls of dough–which could get particularly icky when it comes to baking sausage that will probably leak excess grease (even after you drain it)

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So, my idea of ensuring that I had a loaf that would still rise and bake without falling apart was to see if I could take a similar shaping method that was done for the Pane Bianco I did a while ago and apply it here. The dough is rolled out into a large rectangle, the filling is spread out, then the dough is tightly rolled up into a log. That log is split open, then turned inside out to reveal the layers created by the rolling–which, creates a very pretty presentation if I may say so myself. You’ll get huge kudos and props for a process that is actually fairly simple.

Oh, and I mentioned how delicious this stuff is, didn’t I? No? Oh, well yeah: it’s amazing. Using whole wheat flour as the base creates a nutty flavor of the dough that’s nicely complimented by the herbs from the sage, the savory meaty flavor of the sausage and the sweetness of the cranberries. They all balance one another so well. We ate this loaf both for Thanksgiving and warmed up for a few seconds in the microwave for breakfast in the days that followed and were VERY happy campers. I think that you and your wolfpack will be too should you choose to bake them a loaf.

Linking up this recipe to Fiesta Friday #148, cohosted this week by  Linda @ La Petite Paniere and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Stay tuned for more recipes to come in the 12 Days of Christmas; we’re just getting started!

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Stuffing Bread

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour 

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Ingredients

For Dough

  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

For Filling

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion
  • 3/4 cup cooked pork breakfast sausage
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer, sprinkle the instant yeast on top of the milk. Sprinkle sugar on top of yeast and allow to sit for about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the onion powder, dried thyme, poultry seasoning, salt and flour. Set aside.

Using the dough hook attachment, add the flour mixture alternately with the butter in the standing mixer. Knead for about 8-10 minutes until you have a smooth dough that no longer sticks to sides of bowl.

Grease bowl with cooking spray or oil, place dough back inside, cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel and allow to rise until doubled in size about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, make filling: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onions, and cook until the vegetables are softened. Remove from the heat and add the sausage, chopped sage, poultry seasoning, and cranberries. Cool to lukewarm, then stir in the eggs. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble: Gently deflate the dough. Flatten and pat it into an about 22 x 8 1/2 rectangle.  Sprinkle sausage/cranberry filling over dough, leaving about 1 inch of a border clear the top.

Starting with one long edge, roll the dough into a log the long way, away from you. Pinch the edges to seal. Place the log seam-side down on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.

Using kitchen shears, start 1/2 inch from one end and cut the log lengthwise down the center about 1 inch deep, to within 1/2 inch of the other end. Keeping the cut side up, form an “S” shape. Tuck both ends under the center of the “S” to form a “figure 8;” pinch the ends together to seal.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, 45 to 60 minutes. While the loaf is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Uncover the bread, and bake it for 30 to 35 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 to 25 minutes to prevent over-browning.

Remove the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Store, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.