Orange Cranberry Star Bread

Apart from my first choice of being an extremely successful full-time writer, I think that my ideal job right now would be a paid internship in a bakery. I’m serious. I think it would be fun, and beneficial to my baking education.

It’s not that I think I’m a shabby baker. I know that I’m not. But as much as I love to bake, I still feel like there’s just so much more that I have to learn.

I’m not huge into food science, but I would very much like to learn about what ingredients and methods make certain bakes turn out the way that they do, and why. Sometimes I’ll have a baking disaster for what appears to be no good reason, even after I’ve followed the recipe down to the letter. It’d be nice to have the know-how to avoid that from happening. I’d also love to train under a baker whose specialty was breads. I’m not too bad at it now, but I’ve seen some UNBELIEVABLE shaped breads that come out of East European bakeries and they make want to get better at my shaping so badly.

Fortunately, today’s recipe features some bread shaping that’s pretty easy to do.

I made my first star bread two years ago for the last day of the 12 Days of Christmas back in 2016. I was thrilled, not only with how it turned out but how easy it was to create such a pretty and delicious loaf. I knew that I was going to want to try it again. Two years later, and here we are on the last day of the 12 Days of Christmas 2018, and I tried it again albeit with some minor changes.

I said back then that there were numerous possibilities for different fillings to experiment with on this bread, including fruit spread. For my second try I decided to take my own advice and put that to the test, where I used the recipe for my favorite cranberry sauce for the filling. I also added orange zest to the dough to give it extra flavor. I’ll be honest; I don’t think the shaping for this year’s star didn’t turn out as well as it did the first time around. It more resembles a snowflake to me than a star, but I do still think it’s a relatively pretty thing to look at. I do know one thing: it’s absolutely delicious.

Aaaaand, alrighty then. I guess that’s a wrap. I’d like to thank each and every one of you who’ve been following along with me for the 12 Days of Christmas series. A lot of work gets put into this and aside from loving to bake, I do also love being able to spread a little bit of holiday cheer on my chunk of webspace. If I can spread some into your homes by encouraging you to try anything I’ve made, it’s even more rewarding. Regardless of what or whether you celebrate or not, I hope you all have a wonderful, delicious holiday. I’ll list all of the recipes made for this years’ series one more time just in case you wanted to check them out. Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to all!

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

DAY 3: THREE FRENCH HEN PIES

DAY 4: CRANBERRY BUCKLE

DAY 5: GINGERBREAD MARSHMALLOWS

DAY 6: HOLIDAY SPICE S’MORES

DAY 7: CRANBERRY ORANGE ROLLS

DAY 8: GINGERBREAD CUT OUTS

DAY 9: ROSEMARY & THYME CRACKERS

DAY 10: SUGAR CRUNCH COOKIES

DAY 11: GINGERBREAD SPRITZ COOKIES

DAY 12: ORANGE CRANBERRY STAR BREAD

Cranberry Orange Star Bread

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

For Dough

  • 3/4 cup + 2 to 4 tablespoons lukewarm water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup potato flour or 1/2 cup instant mashed potato flakes
  • 1 generous tablespoon of orange zest
  • 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

For Filling

  • About one generous 3/4 cup of your favorite cranberry sauce recipe, or any jam you like

Directions

In a medium size bowl combine the flour, orange zest, nonfat dry milk, potato flour or instant potato flakes and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer combine the water and yeast. Sprinkle the sugar on top. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes, until frothy.

Using the whisk attachment mix in the butter. Switch to the dough attachment and gradually fold in the flour mixture, kneading until a smooth dough forms, about 10-12 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Allow to rest for 1– 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size.

Cut dough into four equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, cover them and let rest for 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 piece of the dough into a 10 inch circle. Place this circle on a piece of parchment and use a spatula to spread approximately 1/4 cup of cranberry sauce or jam on top of the dough. Spread it evenly and don’t lay it on too thick, leaving about 1 inch “jam-less” along the outside edge. Set the parchment nearby.

Take a second piece of the dough and repeat the process, placing on top of the completed disc. Repeat with the others, LEAVING THE TOP DISC BARE.

Place a 2 1/2″ to 3″ round cutter in the center of the dough circle as a guide. With a bench knife or sharp knife, cut the circle into 16 equal strips, from the cutter to the edge, through all the layers.

Using two hands, pick up two adjacent strips and twist them away from each other twice so that the top side is facing up again. Repeat with the remaining strips of dough so that you end up with eight pairs of strips.

Pinch the pairs of strips together to create a star-like shape with eight points. Remove the cutter.

Transfer the star on the parchment to a baking sheet. Cover the star with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and let it rise until it becomes noticeably puffy, about 45 minutes. While the star is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Brush the star with a thin coat of the beaten egg. Bake it for 12 to 15 minutes, until it’s nicely golden; the center should register 200°F on a digital thermometer. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #255, co-hosted by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

Gingerbread Spritz Cookies

Today’s recipe is a reminder that great things really do happen at Christmas.

A few months back, I wrote a post about how cookie presses and I just didn’t ‘get along’ with each other. I had owned two up to that point and neither one of them worked, no matter what I did. It was frustrating. I think that cookie presses were made for this time of year. They’re an easy way to make a LOT of pretty cookies with little effort and in a very short turn around time. I really wanted to be able to make some.

I don’t like giving up. So, I decided to give the whole cookie press thing one more try and went scouring the internet for reviews of some of the ‘wider known’ models on the market. I finally settled on the OXO Cookie Press, as it had the most consistently positive reviews and the stencils that came with it were ones that I preferred to other brands. It stayed on my Amazon wishlist for a while, but one day I decided to get myself a little something for Christmas and bought it.

Not gonna lie, I was a tad bit nervous about whether or not it was going to turn out. Oftentimes baking appliances and tools with come with a tiny recipe booklet, so I decided to go with one that was in the booklet that came with the OXO cookie press. I figured it had to be safest bet. The recipe was for gingerbread cookies. I thought that it would be cute to use the teddy bear stencil, and if it turned out, share for the 12 Days of Christmas.

The recipe for the dough comes together much in the same way as most other cookie doughs. The main difference here is in the chilling time. If you’ve ever used one of the cookie recipes I’ve shared on the blog before, you’ll know that I’m a strong advocate for overnight chilling. Most cookie doughs need that extra time to minimize spreading and maintain their shape. However, when it comes to spritz cookies, overnight chilling is the wrong move. You don’t want the dough to be room temp or warm, but if it’s TOO cold then it won’t be pliable enough to press through the metal plates of the cookie press. So, for these 30 minutes of chilling in the fridge will do just fine.

With spritz cookies, the dough has to be at the right temperature and the baking sheets should also be extremely cold when you press the dough out onto them. I don’t know why, but it helps the dough come out cleaner. Place your baking sheets in the freezer prior to even getting started so that by the time you’re ready to press, they’re nice and chilled. No greasing the sheet or (as I usually do) using parchment paper. Don’t worry; they won’t stick.

The entire process to make these was incredibly easy, and quick. I couldn’t have been happier with how they came out, in look or taste. If you’re looking for a cookie press to buy, I give my unpaid & completely enthusiastic recommendation to go with OXO’s.

Just one more day of the 12 Days of Christmas! Stay tuned for the final recipe to be posted tomorrow.

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

DAY 3: THREE FRENCH HEN PIES

DAY 4: CRANBERRY BUCKLE

DAY 5: GINGERBREAD MARSHMALLOWS

DAY 6: HOLIDAY SPICE S’MORES

DAY 7: CRANBERRY ORANGE ROLLS

DAY 8: GINGERBREAD CUT OUTS

DAY 9: ROSEMARY & THYME CRACKERS

DAY 10: SUGAR CRUNCH COOKIES

DAY 11: GINGERBREAD SPRITZ COOKIES

Gingerbread Spritz Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of OXO

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark, doesn’t matter)
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, at room temp
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place about 3 baking sheets in the freezer to chill thoroughly.

In a medium bowl combine the flour with the salt and spices and stir together with a fork. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, cream together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add the egg, molasses and vanilla and stir just until combined.

Gradually add the flour into the mixture, in about 3 batches, just until it’s combined.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Place chilled dough into your cookie press. Press dough out onto ungreased and unlined baking sheets.

Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned at the edges. Allow to sit on baking sheet for about 60 seconds before removing to a wire rack 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.)

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #255, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

Sugar Crunch Cookies

I want to take this opportunity today, on the 10th Day of Christmas to share a newfound Christmas miracle with all of you.

Every year, I look forward to when the ‘seasonal foods’ start popping up in the grocery stores–the ones that are only sold from about early November to early January. I’ve got some tried and true favorites, but this year I discovered a new one.

I know it’s the fan favorite, but even when I was a kid, Cinnamon Toast Crunch never really ‘did it’ for me. It’s just so, so SO sweet. Plus, there was something about the puffy texture of the cereal that I never liked. So I didn’t eat too much of it. Honey Bunches of Oats & Honey Nut Cheerios–that’s my kind of racket. However, I was in Target a little while ago on the cereal aisle and I happened to see a pretty red box of cereal with the following words written on it:

Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch

Now y’all know me. You KNOW how I am about sugar cookies. (I adore them.) I had to at least give this stuff a try, especially since it was a seasonal product and wouldn’t be around forever.

So the verdict is in and yeah, Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch is a bonafide Christmas miracle. Milk improves the taste of most cereals, but when it’s comes to those that are delicious eaten dry, this is the best one I’ve had since Waffle Crisp–and that’s saying a lot. It has that rich, vanilla flavor that every great sugar cookie has, but unlike it’s counterpart Cinnamon Toast Crunch, it isn’t overly sweet. The texture is also better. It’s a perfect toasty golden sugar cookie in cereal form. Yum.

As delicious as SCTC is to eat on its own, my sister gave me the great idea that it would be an even better ingredient to try and bake with. I’ve seen a lot of recipes floating around the internet that use plain cornflakes, Fruity Pebbles or Golden Grahams and turn out great, so I decided to take inspiration from that to craft my own variation of a SCTC cereal holiday cookie for the 12 Days of Christmas.

Here’s what’s in ’em. I used a blend of all purpose and almond flour as a base to the dough. The almond flour gives it a nutty flavor that I think tempers the sweetness nicely, but if you’re nut-allergic you should be able to use all regular flour with no problems. I also added some dried cranberries to the dough for two reasons: I wanted to give some extra texture to the cookie, and I wanted to give a pop of tartness that I also think works well with the sweetness.

Un-chilled dough tends to result in cookies that spread a lot and so, after mixing crushed SCTC into the dough, I let it rest in the fridge overnight. I highly recommend that you do this in order to achieve the puffy round shape that you see in the pictures.  Aren’t they pretty, y’all? I think what I like most about these apart from the flavors is the texture–they’re soft and chewy, also yet crunchy from the cereal. They’re sweet from the cereal, but also toasty from the almond flour with that tang of tartness from the cranberries. It’s like the best Christmas compost cookie ever.

Just 2 days left of the 12 Days of Christmas! There’s still plenty of time to bake for the holidays, so feel free to check out the other recipes if you haven’t already.

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

DAY 3: THREE FRENCH HEN PIES

DAY 4: CRANBERRY BUCKLE

DAY 5: GINGERBREAD MARSHMALLOWS

DAY 6: HOLIDAY SPICE S’MORES

DAY 7: CRANBERRY ORANGE ROLLS

DAY 8: GINGERBREAD CUT OUTS

DAY 9: ROSEMARY & THYME CRACKERS

DAY 10: SUGAR CRUNCH COOKIES

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Sugar Crunch Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour or finely ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, or cherries
  • 1 3/4 cups of Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch (or any cereal you like), lightly crushed
  • Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

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

In the bowl of a standing mixer, or using a handheld one, cream the butter and sugars together until they’re light & fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, stirring just until combined. Gradually add the flour mixture, in 2 batches, stirring just until combined. Stir in the cranberries. Gently stir in 3/4 cup of the crushed cereal.

Scrape the dough into a sealable container and refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Pour the remaining 1 cup of crushed cereal in a small bowl.

Use a 1/8 scoop (that’s about 2 tablespoons) to scoop out balls of dough. Roll each dough ball in the crushed cereal until it has a light coating. Place onto the parchment paper, about 1/2 inch apart. Press down a little on the tops to lightly flatten. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar.

Bake the cookies until light golden brown and puffy, 12 to 15 minutes. Allow to set for about 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack 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.)

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #255, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

Rosemary and Thyme Crackers

I have this annoying habit of buying fresh herbs for making one dish, then leaving the rest of them in my fridge, forgotten, until they eventually dry up and I have to throw them out. I hate when I do it. Tell me you do it too so that I don’t have to feel guilty.

I had some leftover rosemary and thyme hanging out in my fridge that I really, really didn’t want to let go to waste. I did get to put some of them in the dough for some sandwich buns that I made one night for our dinner, but after that I still had leftovers. When I did some brainstorming as to what else I could put them in, I realized that it’s been a while since I last made some crackers from scratch.

I know that traditionally, cookies are the treat of choice when it comes to Christmas baking and gift giving. But not everyone has a sweet tooth, and even if you do have one, that doesn’t mean that sometimes you won’t want to take a break from something sweet and taste or give the gift of something a little more on the savory side.

The dough for these is a cinch to put together, but I do recommend that you allow it to rest in the fridge for at least one full day. The dough is very very soft when you first make it, and you want to give it enough time to firm up enough to be rolled out without too much of a mess. The rosemary and thyme flavor will also deepen the longer you let it rest.

You can cut these into whatever shapes or sizes that you like. I did some that were about the size of a Ritz cracker, and then some that were around the size of an oyster. Regardless of the size, I have to say that the most important piece of advice I can give when making any recipe for them at all, is to roll the dough out as thin as you possibly can. There’s no point in baking crackers if they don’t have that snap when you break them in half, and they won’t if they’re rolled too thick. Also, the coarse salt that gets sprinkled on top before baking is highly recommended. That salt helps to further enhance the flavor of the herbs. I really liked these, and I think you will too should you choose to try them out.

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

DAY 3: THREE FRENCH HEN PIES

DAY 4: CRANBERRY BUCKLE

DAY 5: GINGERBREAD MARSHMALLOWS

DAY 6: HOLIDAY SPICE S’MORES

DAY 7: CRANBERRY ORANGE ROLLS

DAY 8: GINGERBREAD CUT OUTS

DAY 9: ROSEMARY & THYME CRACKERS

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Rosemary & Thyme Crackers

Recipe Adapted from Served From Scratch

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely minced
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons cold vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water, plus more if needed
  • 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
  • coarse salt, for sprinkling

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, herbs, baking powder, sugar and salt together and stir with a fork.

Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter into the dry ingredients. Cut the shortening into small cubes and add the to the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.

Make a well in the center of the ingredients. Pour in the oil and water and use the fork to stir together until it makes a rough, but still homogenous dough. Shape into a disc, wrap tightly in plastic wrap then refrigerate for at least 24 hours. (The longer it sits, the better the flavor will be)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into quarters and keep the other 3 in the fridge while you work with the 1. Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour. Roll out the dough very VERY thin (as thin as you can get it), using more flour if it sticks. Cut out the crackers into desired shapes, then remove to the lined baking sheets. You can use cookie cutters, or a pizza wheel, bench scraper or sharp knife to make your shapes. Any shape will do. Refrigerate the cut out crackers for 5-7 minutes.

Bake the crackers until light golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes

(Note: no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake crackers differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cracker 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.)

Gingerbread Cut Outs

In the very first post for this year’s 12 Days of Christmas I talked about how my love for this time of year is hugely inspired by all the baking that my mom and grandma did during the holiday season. They made lots of delicious things, but one of the most memorable of the treats was the gingerbread cookies. They shaped them into both gingerbread men and gingerbread teddy bears that we decorated with chocolate chips. They were so good.

For the most part I do try to introduce new, fresh recipes to the 12 Days of Christmas. I do it to give y’all some interesting options, challenge myself, and to find new holiday baking favorites for our house. Sometimes though, the classics are best. After all, what kind of Christmas would it be without a good, old-fashioned classic gingerbread cookie recipe to put to good use?

The gingerbread cookies that my mom and grandma made when I was a kid were thick, slightly soft, slightly chewy and full of strong, spicy flavor. I’ve made quite a few gingerbread cookies of my own, but most of them failed to tick off all of the above boxes at the same time. It’s difficult for one recipe to do that, I admit. But if any of y’all have been looking for a perfect gingerbread cookie recipe that’s good for cut outs, decorating, gift giving, Christmas tress decoration–anything really–then you can stop looking. Cause it’s right here.

What puts these gingerbread cookies above all the others I’ve had boils down to about three things: Spice, Texture, and Durability. Because the dough is generously seasoned, they’re slightly spicy–they have a ‘bite’ that lingers on your tongue, as it should. The texture is soft, but it does have a pleasant chew, especially towards the edges. These are also plenty durable enough to decorate (rather heavily if you like), ship in the mail, or even make them into Christmas tree ornaments (just pierce holes into the tops).

This recipe makes quite a bit of dough, so don’t be afraid to go big with the cookie cutters if you don’t want a whole bunch of leftovers sitting around your house, tempting you (and they WILL tempt you) . They hold their shape extremely well after baking, so don’t worry about designs getting lost in indiscernible blobs. That won’t happen.

Eight days into the 12 Days of Christmas now–don’t forget to check out the other recipes from the previous days below!

(Btw, aren’t these cookies 100xs better than 8 maids a milking?)

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

DAY 3: THREE FRENCH HEN PIES

DAY 4: CRANBERRY BUCKLE

DAY 5: GINGERBREAD MARSHMALLOWS

DAY 6: HOLIDAY SPICE S’MORES

DAY 7: CRANBERRY ORANGE ROLLS

DAY 8: GINGERBREAD CUT OUTS

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Gingerbread Cut Outs

Recipe Courtesy of The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 8ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) packed brown sugar (light or dark, doesn’t matter)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 1/2 cup water

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld one) cream together the butter, sugar, salt and spices together until light and creamy.

Add the molasses and the egg, stirring just until combined. Use a spatula to intermittently scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

Add half of the flour with the baking soda that’s been dissolved in the water on low speed. Stir in the remaining flour, mixing just until combined.

Scrape the dough into one large mound, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle a clean work surface with powdered sugar. Divide the dough into quarters, keeping the other 3 in the fridge while you work with the 1. Using a rolling pin to roll out the quarter of dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Use whatever cookie cutters you like to cut out the shapes, then transfer to baking sheets that you’ve lined with parchment paper. Leave about 1/2 inch space between the cookies.

Refrigerate the cut out cookies for about 10 minutes, then bake on the middle rack for 8-10 minutes. Let them rest on the baking sheet for about 65 seconds before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #254, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives.

Cranberry Orange Rolls

Tell me some of the traditions you or your family had when you grew up. How about some of the traditions that you have now?

I think that my love for Christmas started because of all the traditions that we had while I was growing up. I enjoyed those traditions and the way that they made me feel, and it created this huge nostalgia for the holidays that lasts to this day.

In elementary school, I remember the traditions that happened on the last day before our Winter Break. Classes ended early and for the latter half of the day, the school would turn into a ‘holiday carnival’ of sorts. Each classroom would turn into a fun activity for us to do until was time to go home. One room had games, one room had holiday movies playing on a television, one room was for making Christmas ornaments, another was for decorating Christmas cookies, and so on.

My mom and my sisters and I had a tradition of driving around the neighborhood on Christmas Eve night and looking at other house’s lights and decorations that they put up.

Now that I’m grown I have several holiday traditions of my own. We try to put up our Christmas tree within the first couple of weeks of November, which is also when I dust off my holiday playlist. There is a list of holiday movies that we watch all throughout the month of December. And of course, I do the 12 Days of Christmas here on the blog.

I’ve heard about a lot of families that have a tradition of eating cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. We don’t, but it’s a holiday tradition that I can definitely get behind.

My sister doesn’t like cinnamon rolls (insert eyeroll emoji), so whenever I get the craving for breakfast rolls, I have to get a bit creative and make something that she’ll like. These Honey Sausage Rolls were a hit. These Orange Rolls were a HUGE hit.

And then came today’s rolls.

I don’t know who it was who first came up with the flavor combination of cranberry and citrus, but whoever they are, they were a genius who truly gave us a Christmas miracle. It has truly never, EVER let me down. These were so delicious. Where do I even begin?

The dough itself is flavored with vanilla, orange zest and juice. The powdered milk and instant potato flakes are there to improve the overall texture of the finished product–it gives the rolls a chewy, but light richness.

The filling is both tart and slightly sweet thanks to the combination of cranberry and orange juice. I think it gives a great, fresh balance of flavor to the icing that gets slathered on top of the rolls while they’re still warm.

As you can see, this recipe makes a modest sized bunch. If you’re baking for a crowd, you may want to consider doubling it. You may want to consider doubling it even if you’re not baking for a crowd. I wish that I had.

We’re over halfway through the 12 Days of Christmas already! Check out the other posted recipes if you haven’t already:

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

DAY 3: THREE FRENCH HEN PIES

DAY 4: CRANBERRY BUCKLE

DAY 5: GINGERBREAD MARSHMALLOWS

DAY 6: HOLIDAY SPICE S’MORES

DAY 7: CRANBERRY ORANGE ROLLS

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Cranberry Orange Rolls

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) softened unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry powdered milk
  • 1/4 cup potato flour, or dry instant mashed potato flakes
  • 1 egg, beaten

For Filling

  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

*A heaping 3/4 cup of leftover cranberry sauce will work in lieu of the filling as well. This is my go-to favorite recipe.

For Icing

  • About 1 1/2 cups powdered
  • A few tablespoons orange juice

Directions

Lightly spray an 8 or 9 inch square baking dish or cake pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

In a small bowl, pour the water, sprinkle the yeast on top. Sprinkle the sugar on top of that. Allow to sit for ten minutes, until proofed and frothy. In a medium size bowl combine the flour with the dry milk and potato flour and stir with a fork. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, pour the proofed yeast, the orange zest and juice, the butter, vanilla extract and salt. Use the paddle attachment to stir together. Switch to the dough hook and add the dry ingredients in increments. When the dough starts to gather around the hook, remove from the bowl, turn out onto a clean work surface, and use your hands to knead the dough for about 10 minutes, adding more flour if need be until a smooth dough is formed. (The dough should spring back when you press your finger into it.)

Grease the inside of the mixing bowl, place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap, then a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise until doubled in a warm place, about 65 minutes.

To make the filling: Combine all of the filling ingredients except the melted butter in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Remove from the heat, and stir in the melted butter. Set aside to cool.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface that you’ve sprinkled with flour and gently deflate. Roll/pat it into a 16 x 12 rectangle.

Spread the filling out onto the dough. Roll up into a log tightly, pinching the seams closed to seal. Cut the log into 9 slices. and place the slices into your prepared baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and your damp kitchen cloth. Allow to proof for an additional 45 minutes until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the proofed rolls with the beaten egg. Bake until golden brown in the center (an instant read thermometer should read 195-200F), 35-40 minutes. Cover with foil if they’re browning too quickly.

To make the icing, combine the powdered sugar with just enough OJ to make a smooth glaze. After the rolls have cooled for about 7-8 minutes, Spread the icing over the rolls while they are still warm so that the icing can seep into the crevices of the rolls. Keep any leftovers in a sealed plastic container in the fridge.

I’ll be sharing these at this week’s Fiesta Friday #254, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives.

Holiday Spice S’mores

Are s’mores just for summertime? I think not.

If y’all have been following this blog for a while you know that I’m a ‘s’mores all the year round’ kind of girl. Let the record speak for itself:

S’mores Cake. S’mores Sandwich Cookies. S’mores Brownies.

Pretty soon, I’m going to run out of S’mores flavored things to bake. But not today. Today, I’ve got one more.

I’ve known that I wanted to make homemade s’mores for a while. As much as I love all the flavors of s’mores, I don’t like eating them with store-bought graham crackers. It’s a texture thing. I was pretty sure I could do better with a cracker that I made by myself, with a more pleasant texture. While I was planning out all I would make for the 12 Days of Christmas series, I thought of them again. I tried to think of how I could make them ‘Christmasey’. This is what I came out with.

Basically, I’ve taken a standard graham cracker recipe and added some spices to the dough that remind me of the holidays: cinnamon, ginger cloves and nutmeg. I cut them into squares just to give them the traditional s’mores look, but you can cut them into whatever shapes you like. (Gingerbread man shaped s’mores would be really cute). These aren’t as crunchy as store-bought graham crackers, but personally I prefer them that way.

When they have a tiny bit of chew, biting into the s’more doesn’t make it ooze all over the place, which can get messy with melted chocolate and marshmallow. It’s also a really, really tasty spice cookie all by itself. We’re just going to enhance that by adding the other 2 components.

Here’s the thing. I said in my last post that I understood why going to the trouble of making marshmallows from scratch may SEEM unnecessary and extra. I also said that I had found another use for them besides adding them to hot chocolate. I am not exaggerating when I say that that second use was a revelation.

A gingerbread spiced graham cracker sandwiching melted chocolate AND a melted, gooey gingerbread spiced marshmallow?

Y’all. I wasn’t prepared. I really wasn’t. That first bite was all of the things. Every single one of them. I’m pretty sure my eyes rolled back in my head. This is one of the best ideas I’ve ever had and I’m so pumped to share it here at the holidays. Making marshmallows from scratch is worth it, if for no other reason than this: Holiday Spiced S’mores.

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

DAY 3: THREE FRENCH HEN PIES

DAY 4: CRANBERRY BUCKLE

DAY 5: GINGERBREAD MARSHMALLOWS

DAY 6: HOLIDAY SPICE S’MORES

Holiday Spice S'mores

Recipe Adapted from Bake From Scratch

Ingredients

For Graham Crackers

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling
  • Your choice of chocolate (For assembly)

(For Marshmallows: See recipe Hereor purchase seasonal gingerbread flavored marshmallows from store)

 

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract.

In a small bowl combine the flour with the spices, salt and baking soda, stirring together with a fork. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 1 cup increments, mixing just until combined.

Shape dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Sprinkle a clean work surface with powdered sugar. Divide dough into quarters, keeping 3 in the fridge while you work with one. Roll dough to ⅛-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut into roughly 2 inch squares. Use a chopstick to punch a hole through the center of the squares, then remove to a baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper.

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Refrigerate the cut out cookie dough for 10 minutes. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon sugar.

Bake in the oven on the middle rack until just golden brown, about 9-10 minutes. Allow to set on sheets for about 60 seconds before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble the s’mores, place a square of chocolate and a marshmallow on one of the crackers. Microwave for about 5-10 seconds, until they just begin to melt. Press another graham cracker on top.

(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.)