Pecan Praline Cream Cheese King Cake

Laissez le bon temps rouler, everyone.

That’s French for “Let the Good Times Roll.” It’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot at this time of year, as it’s usually the time for Mardi Gras. I have never been to a Mardi Gras celebration. Unfortunately, I’ve never even been to Louisiana. I do really like Cajun food, though. For now I guess that’s as close as I’m going to get.

Gumbo, jambalya, beignets, and pecan pralines are just a few of the things that come to mind when it comes to Mardi Gras food, or Cajun food itself. There’s also a little dessert called King Cake that gets associated with both, and will be the focus of today’s post. It may be called a ‘Cake’, but I prefer to think of King Cake as a very enriched delicious sweet bread that’s filled with delicious sweet stuff.

The fillings can range from cinnamon sugar and pecans, cream cheese, marzipan, or fruit. The most common is cinnamon sugar with pecans. The top of the cake is drizzled with a thin glaze or icing, then showered in purple, green and yellow sprinkles–the common colors of Mardi Gras. Most King Cakes are filled with a small plastic baby to signify the Baby Jesus. The person who finds the ‘Baby King’ in their piece of cake is supposed to have a lucky year.

I made my first King Cake two years ago. I kept things simple, with a twist, and filled it with chocolate. I didn’t get around to making one last year, so I knew that going into this year I was going to be sure I didn’t make that mistake again. I did want to shake things up and make it a different way than I did before. I also wanted to do more than just a cinnamon sugar-pecan filling.

I have one complaint with a lot of the cinnamon sugar fillings in bread that both I’ve seen, and tried : the cinnamon sugar often ends up getting absorbed into the dough while baking, and by the time all is done, there’s not much of it left. I wanted this King Cake to be truly decadent and full of…filling by the time it was finished baking.

I found a recipe for a King Cake that does just that on LemonBaby.co. The filling in Amanda’s recipe is made from a mix of melted butter, cream cheese and brown sugar and toasted pecans. The dairy gets simmered together with the sugar until it forms a smooth sweet sticky spread, then the nuts get mixed in just before it all is slathered on the risen dough. Most King Cakes are shaped into rings, but for this one I choose to make a loose braid that I then wound into one big mass. Feel free to do whatever you like with this one in shaping.

Huge props to Amanda for this recipe. It was EXACTLY what I was looking for. The pecan praline filling doesn’t get absorbed by the dough at all during baking, and the cream cheese gives it a nice tang of flavor to counterbalance all the other sweetness that goes on in a King Cake. It would pair perfectly in the morning with a cup of coffee.

King Cake requires some time, but the effort is definitely more than worth it.

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Pecan Praline Cream Cheese King Cake

Recipe Courtesy of LemonBaby

Ingredients

For Dough

  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tablespoon water

For Filling

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark, doesn’t matter)
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans

For Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • Milk
  • Purple, green and yellow sanding sugar or sprinkles

 

Directions

Pour the warm milk into a glass measuring bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top, then sprinkle the one tablespoon of sugar on top of that. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until proofed and frothy.

Stir together the flour, cinnamon and salt in a medium size bowl and set aside.

Pour the yeast-water mixture into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the melted butter, egg yolks, and vanilla extract and mix on medium until combined.

Switch to the dough hook and add the flour mixture gradually, in about three increments, mixing on medium speed just until the dough begins to come together around the hook. Once it has, turn off the mixer and scrape the dough out onto a clean work surface that you’ve sprinkled with flour (like a pastry mat or a smooth countertop). Use your hands to firmly knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10-12 minutes. You can use additional flour (about 1/4 cup at a time) if it’s still too sticky; I also prefer to rub my hands with canola, olive or vegetable oil before kneading and that helps a lot without having to add more flour.

. (The dough is ready when you can stretch one piece of it out very thin, and it’s translucent enough to see through.)

Grease the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow it to rest until doubled in size, 1 1/2 hours–2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the filling: in a medium saucepan, melt the butter with the cream cheese over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar with a wire whisk. When the mixture starts to bubble, immediately remove from the heat and stir in the pecans. Set aside to cool completely.

When dough is finished rising, turn out onto a clean work surface and punch down to deflate air bubbles.

Roll the risen dough into a 10 x 20 inch rectangle on top of a piece of parchment paper. Spread the filling on half of the long side of the dough. Fold the dough in half covering the filling. Pat dough down firmly so the dough will stick together. Cut dough into three long strips. Press the tops of the strips together and braid the strips. Press the ends together at the bottom. (This will probably get messy; it’s ok, just tuck in what you can of anything that falls out.)

Gently stretch the braid so that it measures 20 inches again. Shape it into a circle/oval and press the edges together. Use the edges of the parchment paper to lift and transfer the cake to a large sheet pan (preferably one without sides). Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise until puffy, about 45-50 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk the one egg together with the tablespoon of water in a small bowl and brush egg wash all over the top of the cake with a pastry brush.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown. (You may have to cover it with foil if it starts to brown too quickly.) Inner temp of the bread should be 200-205 Degrees Fahrenheit. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make icing, stir powdered sugar and a few tablespoons of milk at a time together in a bowl with a fork. Add enough of the milk until it reaches the consistency that you like. Use a fork to drizzle over the top of the King Cake. Sprinkle the purple, green and yellow sanding sugar on top in a pattern. Allow to sit for about one hour until the icing has dried.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #264, co-hosted this week by Angie and Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau.

Red Velvet Cookies

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day.

I know I’m overdue for a new post and I didn’t want to let this holiday go by without finding an excuse to bake something red and/or Red Velvet Flavored. It’s become somewhat of a tradition for me here on the blog and I like keeping up with tradition.

This year I’m keeping it’s nice and simple and bringing over a batch of cookies. Red Velvet flavored cookies.

Aren’t they pretty?

A couple weeks back I made a post where I sang the praises of moon cake molds as stamps/cutters for making the prettiest cookies you ever did see. I’ve done it before in several existing posts on the blog, and I still can’t recommend them enough. They take ordinary cookie dough and turn it into sheer, edible art.

The dough for these cookies is pretty straightforward. They’re flavored with melted chocolate, cocoa powder as well as LorAnn Oils Red Velvet Emulsion, another product for which I can’t recommend strongly enough. Most people think that Red Velvet flavor is really ‘just’ chocolate. I used to think that too; this emulsion proved me wrong. Red Velvet definitely has chocolate flavor, but LorAnn’s emulsion gives it that tangy aftertaste that automatically makes me think of a red velvet cake with tangy cream cheese frosting. Su-blime.

Be sure to refrigerate your cookie dough until it is thoroughly chilled. I usually let mine chill overnight in the fridge. The colder it is, the better it will hold it’s shape/design. Have extra powdered sugar on deck for you to dip your cookie stamps in, as well as for the dough itself. I try to avoid using flour to roll out cookie dough, as adding extra flour just adds more gluten, which dulls the flavor and can make them taste bland.

Enjoy!

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Red Velvet Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Springerle Joy

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus more for rolling
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 tablespoons Red Velvet Emulsion (Like LorAnn Oils)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup melted chocolate chips
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon dry, powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

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

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add the egg, mixing just until combined and yellow disappears. Add the Red Velvet emulsion, vanilla extract, melted chocolate chips and cocoa powder.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, in about 3 increments, stirring just until combined.

Scrape dough out into one disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Divide dough into quarters. Keep the other 3 portions in the fridge while you work with the one.

Roll dough out on a clean and floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Dip your cookie stamps into powdered sugar, then tap to remove excess. Press firmly into the dough. Use a slightly larger round cookie cutter to cut out shape, then transfer to cookie sheets. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the dough.

Freeze cut out cookie dough for 10-20 minutes.

Bake cookies for 7-9 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies. Allow to sit on baking sheets for about 60 seconds before removing to cool completely on wire racks.

(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 these at this week’s Fiesta Friday #263.

Cinnamon Stamped Cookies

So, here’s a random but I think very useful tip for those of you who love to bake: the prettiest cookies do not have to come from cookie cutters, or cookie stamps.

At least, not most of them. I will say that certain springerle molds can make absolutely beautiful, unreal looking cookies. The problem with most springerle molds is that because they’re hand-crafted wood, they don’t run cheap.

I got into collecting cookie stamps a little while ago and although I got some pretty nice ones, the designs weren’t as elaborate as the springerle molds, which was what I really wanted. Then one day, I was surfing the web for cookie stamps, and stumbled across something different. They were called moon cakes. Mooncakes are Chinese pastries that are typically eaten during the Mid-Autumn festival. I’ve never had one and had never heard of them until then; all I knew that the designs on top of them were beautiful.

Traditional mooncakes are made with what’s called a mooncake mold. It’s a plunger like tool where the ball of filled pastry gets pressed into a shaped mold, then imprinted on top with the intricate design. After I’d done my quick Google search to learn how THAT was done, I then turned to the thought that aligned with my interest: would I be able to use the mooncake mold as a cookie stamp?

Since they were much, MUCH more cheaper than springerle molds, I decided to take a chance and ordered a set of mooncake molds to put my theory to the test. They came in a couple of days and within hours I was in the kitchen rolling out cookie dough. What do you y’all think? Was I right, or was I right?

A couple of things: first, this is a recipe that can be made with ANY cookie stamp, mold or cutter you have. The dough is a basic butter cookie that is flavored with cinnamon and vanilla but you can always switch the flavors up to what you’re inclined towards. It bakes up crisp on the outside and tender on the inside–just as a butter cookie should be. Second, if this post has inspired you to buy and test out mooncake molds for yourself, I would recommend to always use a cookie dough that has been designated as a cut-out cookie recipe. There’s no point in going to the trouble of using the mold if the recipe is one that doesn’t hold it’s shape or design after baking.

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Cinnamon Stamped Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing just until combined and yellow disappears. Add the vanilla extract.

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

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray.

Roll dough out on a clean and floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Dip your cookie stamps into powdered sugar, then tap to remove excess. Press firmly into the dough. Use a slightly larger round cookie cutter to cut out shape, then transfer to cookie sheets. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the dough.*

Freeze cut out cookie dough for 10-20 minutes

Bake in the oven on the middle rack until just golden brown, about 9-12 minutes. Allow to set on sheets 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.)

Linking to the Fiesta Friday #258, co-hosted this week by Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

Ginger Pound Cake

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you all had a great holiday season that was filled with great food, relaxation and time spent with loved ones. It’s crazy that we’ve already left 2018 behind. I have a lot of optimism that 2019 will be a good year with lots of much needed change. After I finished the 12 Days of Christmas, I needed a wee break to recoup from all that baking. I’ve got my rest and I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. So, let’s start this year’s recipes off the right way, shall we?

I’ve spoken before on here about my love for ginger. You can search the Recipe Index for the various recipes I’ve used it in in; it’s a great ingredient. There are a lot of uses to be found for it and lately, I’ve always seemed to have a stalk or 2 of it in my fridge. Ground ginger often finds its way into desserts like gingerbread, but my favorite way to use and eat it is when it’s been candied/crystallized.

The only downside to candied and crystallized ginger is that most of the time, it doesn’t run cheap in the stores. In my opinion at least, it’s often overpriced. Not to worry though. There’s an easy way around that. You can always just make your own.

It’s easy. It’s MUCH more inexpensive. It’s worth it. (Check out my instagram now for the step by step instructions) And when you’ve finished looking that over (and after you’ve made some crystallized ginger for yourself), come back here and check out today’s recipe. Trust me, we’re going to put it to good use.

A pound cake is the perfect dessert/blank canvas to test out a wide variety of flavors. It’s already plenty delicious on its own–any added flavor you give to the batter will serve to just amplify the finished cake. I’ve done quite a bit of it here on the blog already, and now I’m pleased to share this new addition to the Pound Cake Pantheon of Awesomeness (I totally came up with that on the spot, can’t you tell?)

The recipe uses ginger in two ways: ground ginger that gets sifted in with the other dry ingredients, and crystallized ginger that gets steeped in milk for a few minutes. Both the ginger and the ginger flavored milk are then mixed into the batter.With six eggs in it, this is going to be one very tall cake. If you’re not sure if your bundt pan can fit up to 16 cups, then I’d recommend splitting it between two loaf pans, just to be on the safe side.

The texture of this cake is sublime. It’s rich, buttery and moist enough to where you could eat it plain and still be totally satisified–or go the extra mile and throw on the ginger flavored icing. Combined with the richness of the cake itself, the ginger here adds a spicy sweet flavor that’s got great bite, but still isn’t overpowering. I really enjoyed this cake and I think you will too.

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Ginger Pound Cake

Recipe Courtesy of The Southern Cake Book

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 ounces of crystallized ginger, finely minced
  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • A few tablespoons of milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 16 cup (10 inch) Bundt or tube pan.

Simmer milk and ginger together in a small saucepan over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until thoroughly heated. (Don’t let it boil.) Remove from the heat and let it stand for 10-15 minutes. Add the vanilla extract to the milk.

Stir together the flour with the ground ginger in a bowl with a fork, and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld one) beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add the sugar, about 1 cup at a time, beating 5-7 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until the yellow disappears. (Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as you’re doing this to ensure even mixing.)

Add the flour to the butter mixer alternatively with the milk (begin and end with the flour). Beat at a low speed, just until combined after each addition.

Pour the batter into the cake pan. Lift and tap it down on the counter a few times (this will prevent air bubbles from forming). Place the cake pan on a sheet pan, then bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour and 25 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and cake reaches an inner temp of 205-210 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stir together the ingredients for the icing together in a bowl. It shouldn’t be too runny, just loose enough to drizzle. Use the tines of a fork to drizzle the icing over the cake in a decorative design. Allow to to sit for about 30 minutes, just until icing has set. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #257, co-hosted this week by Suzanne @apuginthekitchen and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives.

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.

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 Buckle

Have you ever cooked or baked something that was really really good, but needed to come with an explanation?

I was looking over the Recipe Index of this blog and realized that I do that pretty often, actually. I’ll announce that I’m making something to my family and the response will be, “Huh?” or “What’s that?”

The conversations usually go something like this:

Me: “I’m making Shakshuka and naan for dinner.”

Family: “What’s Shakshuka?”

Me: “It’s kinda like a tomato sauce, except you put cumin, eggs and ground beef in it. The naan is the dipping bread that goes along with it.”

Family: “…..Um.”

Me: “Look, just don’t worry about it. I know what I’m doing, and it’s going to be fantastic, trust me!”

Occasionally it may be a miss, but 9 times out of 10, I’m usually right and the recipe that needed an explanation was still delicious.

Today I’m sharing another one of those recipes that I had to give an explanation for. Unless you’re a baker or someone who bakes with fruit pretty often, I’ve noticed that not a lot of people will know exactly what you’re talking about when you announce that you’re going to bake a buckle. They may have a vague idea, but if you had to differentiate it from say, a cobbler, grunt or pandowdy, they probably won’t know.

The closest comparison that I can give to a buckle is a coffee cake. This coffee cake batter has a lot of fruit in it–like, a lot. There’s actually more fruit than batter. The batter’s function is to absorb the fruit and hold it all together like a cake-like sponge. The cake does rise thanks to leavening agents, but the amount of fruit in the batter does weigh it down. There’s also a streusel topping that gets sprinkled on top of the batter before baking. After baking, the bumpy uneven surface of that streusel looks ‘buckled’–hence the name.

Most buckles are made with blueberries, but because this was for the 12 Days of Christmas, I decided to make mine with cranberries, which I find more festive (and tasty). It came together in literally minutes.

You may be tempted to reign it in when it’s time to add in the cranberries. I was. Three cups is a lot, especially for such a small pan of cake and a batter that is thick. But, listen: we’ve already been through this. The primary function of the batter is to just hold the fruit together. The more fruit that is in this, the better it’s going to turn out. Trust me. Add the whole three cups. Just do it.

Same thing with that streusel: it may seem like it’s too much when you’re mixing it together. It’s not. It’s just enough. Dump it all on top of the batter. The whole she-bang. You will thank me later.

We loved this so much. I had originally intended to send it to an office to share, but upon sampling it, the Family made an executive decision that we were no longer interested in sharing, and that the Cranberry buckle would be staying right here at home with us. Once you bake this, you’ll understand why.

Don’t forget to check out the other recipes from the 12 Days of Christmas series 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

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Cranberry Buckle

Recipe Adapted from Alton Brown

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk (plus more if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries

For Streusel Topping

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes.

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 use a wire whisk or a fork to combine the flour with the baking powder, salt, and ginger and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer using the paddle attachment (or using a handheld one), cream together the butter and the sugar until it’s creamy. Add the egg and stir just until combined.

Pour the vanilla and milk together in a small cup.

Add the flour and the milk to the batter alternately in batches, starting and ending with the flour. (This batter is supposed to be thick, but if it’s too thick to spread in the pan and/or too crumbly, you can add in a few tablespoons of milk–just enough to make it smooth enough to spread.)

Use a spatula to fold in the cranberries. Spread the batter into the baking dish and place the baking dish on a sheet tray.

For the streusel: combine the flour, sugar and nutmeg together in a small bowl. Use the tines of a fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like course breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on top of the batter in the pan.

Bake until golden brown and puffed up in the middle, 45-50 minutes. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #253: co-hosted this week by Liz @ Spades, Spatulas, and Spoons and Mila @ Milkandbun.

Christmas Elf Bites

Every year for the 12 Days of Christmas I try to include at least one recipe in the series for any of the followers or visitors to this blog who don’t like to cook or bake, or those who want to cook or bake but just don’t believe that they can.

You’ll notice that I specifically did NOT say that they *couldn’t* cook or bake–that was on purpose.

Take it from someone who not too long ago, couldn’t do much else but scramble eggs and boil water for pasta: you can cook. You can bake. You really can. Yes, even without the help of a cake mix or pre-made cookie dough. It’s possible. This holiday, you can bake 100% from scratch without messing it up, and come out with something you’ll not only enjoy, but be able to share with others who are definitely going to enjoy it too.

I don’t want to shame anyone who doesn’t like to bake or thinks that they can’t bake at all. It’s not something that everyone is going to love to do. I get that. But honestly, today’s recipe is about as easy and basic as you can get for baking without using a frozen dough–and I guarantee that this is going to taste better than ALL of those. (Baked goods made from scratch always do.)

This starts with a very simple, straightforward shortbread. Because it is so simple, I recommend your using a good butter for it. Generic butter has a much higher ratio of water in it, and therefore has less flavor. Name brand butter (especially the European ones) is far more cultured than generic. I don’t mean ‘culture’ as in sophistication–I mean that is has been churned longer in order to have a higher ratio of fat in it. More fat = flavor. You’d be surprised the difference it makes.

This is a rather whimsical themed recipe, and because I think almond extract gives a ‘whimsical’ flavor to baked goods, that’s what I used to flavor these. Vanilla will work just as well, as will citrus extract or zest you add to the flour as well. I also hand kneaded in some sprinkles to give them some color (don’t use a mixer to do this, it will make them bleed prematurely and they may stain messily while baking). The dough is first pressed into a square baking pan and chilled. From there, you lift it out of the pan in one block, cut it up into mini bite sized pieces, then bake.

And that’s literally it. 15 minutes later, you’re done. Sound easy enough?

These cookie bites are a delicious idea for gift giving & stocking stuffers. They’re easy enough to do with the kiddies. They’re small enough to have dessert without feeling guilty. Plus, I just find them cute to look at, so I gave them a cute “Christmas-y” themed name to match. Ho ho ho.

We just started the 12 Days of Christmas a few days ago, so go back and check out Day 1’s recipe if you haven’t seen it yet!

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

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Christmas Elf Bites

Recipe Courtesy of Land O Lakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon multi-colored nonpareils

Directions

Line a square 8 or 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

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

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

Slowly stir in the flour, mixing just until combined. Use your hands to gently knead in the nonpareils. Press the dough into the pan, doing your best to make the top smooth and flat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Use the corners of the paper to lift the dough out of the pan. Use a sharp knife, pizza wheel or a bench scraper to cut the dough into 1/2 inch squares. Gently place the squares about 1/2 inch apart on a sheet pan you’ve lined with parchment.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until they’re just beginning to turn golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Vanilla-Red Pinwheels

Hey, everyone. If you’ve been following me for a while, then you’ll know that this is the time of year where I start the 12 Days of Christmas–an annual series of twelve baking recipes I post during the month of December that remind me of the holidays. Growing up, my mom and my grandmother baked a LOT of delicious things at Christmastime.

Apart from loving to eat it, I also just loved the overall atmosphere that all of their baking created in the house. Now that I’m an adult, I guess this series is my way of recreating that atmosphere for myself, and for the people who I love. I look forward to it every year, and I hope y’all enjoy it too. (Also, if you’re interested in viewing the series from past years, you can search the 12 Days of Christmas tag to find past recipes for the past few years.)

I knew even in the early days of planning this years series that I was going to make these. They’d been on my radar for a while for two reasons: first, I just can’t resist a butter cookie. Second, pinwheel cookies are so pretty, they’re nearly hypnotizing. I remember the first time I saw one. I just stared at it, becoming more and more determined with every passing minute that I was going to figure out how it was made asap and make a batch for myself.

I know that pinwheels look like they’re super elaborate, but the actual construction of them isn’t that difficult. Honestly, the ‘trickiest’ part is making sure the dough is at the right temperature for when it’s time to combine & roll the two different colored doughs together. Too cold and it will crack when you try to roll it. Too warm and it won’t hold the pinwheel design of the two colors. Don’t worry, though: because this is a basic butter cookie dough, it is very forgiving. If you think the dough is too cold, simply leave it out for a few extra minutes before you try to roll. It you think it’s too warm, leave it in the fridge for a little bit longer. You’re going to find that happy medium, I promise.

A lot of pinwheel recipes are either a vanilla-chocolate mix of doughs. Some are a single vanilla dough where one half has just been dyed with food coloring. For mine, I went with a vanilla dough and a red one that I flavored with a Red Velvet Emulsion from LorAnn oils. I also flipped the order of layering in my second log so that there is a vanilla wrapped cookie dough AND a Red Velvet flavored one. Also, don’t you dare throw away the scraps from when you trim the doughs! Those pretty tie-dye patterned cookies you see below are made solely from my scraps. I gently kneaded them together with my hands into a log, then wrapped it up with the others. When you cut it, you can see that the colors marble together and hold their design even after baking. Nothing wasted.

These cookies are excellent; like a classic butter cookie, they’re slightly crisp with a crumb that melts in your mouth. The two flavors work beautifully together. And (of course), they make one heck of an impression when presented on a plate. Not too shabby a start for the 12 Days of Christmas, eh?

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Vanilla-Red Pinwheels

Recipe Adapted from Simply Recipes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of LorAnn Oils Red Velvet Emulsion (you can also use a strawberry or raspberry flavoring. A combination of 1 of these flavorings with Red food coloring will also work)

Directions

In a medium sized bowl combine the flour with the salt and baking powder. Stir together with a fork, then set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld one), cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, stirring just until combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in batches, stirring just until combined.

Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a plate. Divide it in half. Set one aside, and place the other back into the bowl. Add the the 1 teaspoon of Red Velvet emulsion and stir until it’s uniform in color. Remove the Red Dough from the Bowl.

Divide the Vanilla Dough into 2 portions. Divide the Red Dough into 2 portions. You should now have four balls of dough. Roughly shape each one into a rectangle, then wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate them for about 30 minutes, or until firm.

Remove one of the vanilla doughs from the fridge. Sprinkle a clean surface (like a pastry mat or a piece of wax or parchment paper you’ve taped to your counter) with powdered sugar. Lay a piece of parchment paper down, place the dough on top of the paper, then place a second piece of parchment on top of that. Roll out the dough until it’s about 6 x 12 in size. As your roll, occasionally move it around/flip it, just to make sure it doesn’t stick. When it’s the right size, (keeping it sandwiched between the parchment paper)transfer the rolled out dough to a baking sheet.

Repeat this process with the other doughs. Place the baking sheet with the doughs in the freezer for 15 minutes. It should be firm, but not stiff–too stiff and it won’t roll properly.

Remove one of the vanilla doughs and one of the red doughs. Peel away the top parchment paper from them both. Flip the red dough on top of the vanilla dough so that they are sandwiched together. Peel the bottom paper from the raspberry dough. Trim the edges so that the 2 doughs line up. Carefully and tightly roll from the long end into a log, peeling away the bottom layer of parchment as you go.

Repeat this sandwiching and rolling process, but this time put the red dough layer on the bottom so that when you roll the dough, the red dough is on the outside.

(There is an excellent step by step pictured process of this, located here.)

Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (Don’t throw away the scraps from the trimmings! I gently kneaded them together with my hands and formed a tie-dye patterned log that I also refrigerated with the pinwheel cookies.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a sharp knife or bench scraper to slice the cookies into slices 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Place them about 1 inch apart on the sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until they begin to just turn golden brown on the bottom & at the edges. Allow to set up for 60 seconds on the baking sheet 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.)

I’ll be linking this post up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #252, co-hosted this week by Alex @ Turks Who Eat and Zeba @ Food For The Soul.

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS