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.)

Gingerbread Marshmallows

Full disclosure ahead: as much as I advocate for intentionally making more things that can be bought from a store from scratch, there are some times–SOME times–where even I question whether or not it’s actually worth it to go to the trouble. Sometimes I just don’t think I’m a good enough baker or cook to make it myself. Sometimes I don’t have the necessary time or equipment. Sometimes, I choose convenience.

I’ve known that it was possible to make marshmallows at home from scratch for several years. I never so much as considered making marshmallows at MY home, by MYSELF until this year. The reasons, I think are probably obvious. I debated the issue with myself for several days.

Making marshmallows from scratch? Really Jess?

Why?  For what? Who even does that?

I don’t know y’all. For some reason, this year I felt differently about it. I got to thinking about how cool it would be if I COULD not only make marshmallows, but if I got to do it for the 12 Days of Christmas. And how much more cool would it be if they turned out even better than those I could just buy in a store?

(If you think this is all ridiculous & unnecessary, I get it. Kraft absolutely does sell gingerbread flavored marshmallows during the holiday season. If you were to go to a local grocery right now, you’d probably be able to find them with no problem.)

But if you’re like me and you’re feeling a little bit adventurous, then maybe you ought to keep reading. You may be pleasantly surprised when I tell you that making marshmallows isn’t complicated. It’s really not. You’re going to need 2 very crucial tools: an instant read thermometer and an electric mixer. It doesn’t have to be a standing one, a handheld one will do, but trying to do this without the thermometer and by hand…eh. I can tell you why it’s a bad idea.

Marshmallow is made when a sugar syrup gets poured over gelatin, then whipped at a very high speed for a certain amount of time. You need the thermometer to let you know when the sugar syrup has reached the right temperature. You need the mixer because the gelatin syrup needs to be whipped/beat for up to 10 minutes. Trying to do this manually by hand will put your arms in a whole lot of discomfort. Capisce?

Like a proper gingerbread, these are flavored with ginger, cinnamon, cloves and molasses. What most makes a homemade marshmallow different from a store-bought one is texture. Homemade marshmallows are fluffier and chewier. They melt and are far gooier than storebought ones. They’re just so much better. As you can see, they go beautifully in a cup of hot chocolate, and give it AMAZING flavor. I also found another use for them….that I’ll be sharing on Day 6 of the series. Stay tuned!

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

DAY 3: THREE FRENCH HEN PIES

DAY 4: CRANBERRY BUCKLE

DAY 5: GINGERBREAD MARSHMALLOWS

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Gingerbread Marshmallows

Recipe Courtesy of Betty Crocker

Ingredients

  • Butter or shortening for greasing
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar, plus more for sprinkling & coating
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup molasses

Directions

Generously grease the bottom of an 11 x7 baking dish with butter or shortening. Line it with parchment paper, grease the paper and sprinkle the bottom with 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or a large bowl) sprinkle the gelatin, ginger, cinnamon and cloves over 1/2 cup of cold water to soften. Set aside.

Place a glass of ice water next to the stove. In a medium saucepan, heat granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, water and molasses over low heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until sugar is dissolved.

Bring to a boil and cook without stirring until mixture to comes up to approximately 240 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer. If you drop some of the mixture into the glass of ice water, it should form a soft ball that forms its shape, but is still pliable. Remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer onto low speed (or use a handheld one). Slowly pour the syrup mixture over the gelatin. Once all of the sugar has been poured in, turn the speed of the mixer up to high. Beat for 8-10 minutes, until the mixture turns white and becomes thickened and shiny. It should also triple in volume.

Use a spatula to pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Wet your hands to make it smooth across the top. Let stand uncovered at room temp for a minimum of 8 hours or overnight.

Sprinkle a clean surface with powdered sugar. Use the corners of the parchment paper to lift the marshmallow out of the baking dish. Turn it out onto the sugared surface. Use a sharp knife or pizza wheel you’ve greased with butter to cut the marshmallows into squares.  Dip each one into powdered sugar and lightly dust off the excess.

Store in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.

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 Wafers

This week’s episode of the Cooking is My Sport show is entitled “But Jess…Is It Really Worth It, Though?”

Thank you for tuning in. It’s going to be a good one.

Over the past few years on the blog, I’ve shared recipes for things that many of us could, theoretically buy from elsewhere rather than make ourselves. It is easier and more convenient go to our local grocery store and buy something with little to no trouble.

I could buy quite a few of the things that I post here–if not from a grocery store, then from a bakery or something. And though even EYE I am not going to go to the trouble of making something like, puff pastry, for the most part, I really do cook or bake most of what we eat. Why do I do this?

Because I believe it’s worth it. I really do.

If you ask, “But Jess, is it REALLY worth it, though?” to bake Christmas cookies rather than just buying some in a store, I’m going to say yes. It’s worth it.

Ask “But Jess, is it REALLY worth it, though?” to bake your own cake from scratch, then go to the trouble of making your own buttercream and skip the store bought cake with that greasy, lardy crap, I’m going to say yes. It’s worth it.

Come to me with, “But Jess, is it REALLY worth it, though?” to make biscuits from scratch when they’re available at the local chicken joint, I am DEFINITELY gonna say, yes. It’s worth it.

(My biscuits are better than any others that you can buy anywhere else anyway. Including Popeyes. Yeah, I said it.)

I shared the recipe for my grandma’s banana pudding on the blog years ago. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever made–but up until recently I had always made it with store-bought vanilla wafers. I’ll be honest and admit that is the way that she makes it, and it tastes fantastic. But recently, I decided to see what it would be like if I went the extra mile and made the pudding with vanilla wafers that I made by myself. Any guesses on how it went? Anyone?

OHMYGODGAMECHANGER.

From the beginning, I had two major concerns for the recipe as a whole: the short, crisp texture of store-bought wafers and the intense vanilla flavor. If I wasn’t going to get a comparable or superior result to the store-bought version, it just wouldn’t be worth it in the long run to make them. I’m pleased to report that this recipe delivers on both. They are crisp, but the butter keeps them from being too crunchy or crumbly. They’re not too sweet, and that vanilla flavor is spot on. Even if I had no intention of making banana pudding at all, I still would’ve considered this time well spent–it’s that tasty a cookie.

Go ahead and ask me: “But Jess…is it REALLY worth it, though?”

Yes. It’s worth it.

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Vanilla Wafers

Recipe Adapted from Williams Sonoma

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the flour with the salt, stir together with a fork and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a hand-held one) cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you mix. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Stir the flour into the butter mixture, just until blended. (If it’s a little dry, you can add a few tablespoons of milk, one at a time, just until it holds together.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Sprinkle a rolling pin and clean work surface (like a pastry mat, wax paper) with powdered sugar.

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Keep the other 3 in the fridge while you roll out the 1 portion to about 1/4 inch thick. Use a small (1 1/2 inch), round cookie cutter to cut out rounds. Place the rounds on the sheet pans.

Refrigerate the cookies on the pans for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle each one with white sugar, then bake the cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until the edges and bottoms are golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks and let cool completely.

(Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #242, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Jen @ Apply To Face Blog.)

Teddy Bear Cinnamon Crisps

I’m running a little short on time, so this post (like this recipe) is going to be short, simple and sweet.

I really like Teddy Grahams. They’re small little graham flavored crackers made by Nabisco and they’re really quite scrumptious. When I was growing up, they came in a few different flavors: Chocolate, Chocolatey Chip, Honey and Cinnamon. (From what I understand, there are more now, but I’m not too interested in them.) My favorite were the Cinnamon and the Chocolatey Chip. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is that the Chocolatey Chip ones are immensely popular and as such, can be found just about anywhere.

The bad news is that, for whatever reason, the Cinnamon ones are not. At least not in this area. I can’t find them anywhere. I happen to like the Cinnamon ones a tad bit better than I do the Chocolatey Chip, so this is…inconvenient.

But y’know, whatever. It’s a temporary setback and I do like myself a good baking challenge.

If you’ve been following the blog over the past year, then you’ll know that I’ve been experimenting with making my own crackers at home with pretty good results. I love the simple process of it almost as much as I love all the different flavor options there are available. On the way home from the grocery store on yet another recent failed attempt to find Cinnamon Teddy Grahams, I thought that maybe I should just stop looking elsewhere for them and start looking in my own kitchen.

This recipe really couldn’t be easier to put together. There’s a trio of spices of cinnamon, mace and cloves that gives it plenty of warm, toasty flavor. Brown sugar rather than white gives the crackers a richer taste. It all comes together within minutes, but does require a rest in the fridge to give the dough a chance to rest, which you definitely want because cracker dough needs to be rolled out VERY thing in order to ensure that the finished product has the right crispness. They were originally plain on the tops, but I decided to give them another layer of texture by sprinkling cinnamon sugar on them just before baking.

In the first place, they smell like warm, sugary spice & everything nice. I wish I could get the scent captured in a candle or something–it’s much better than the vanilla candles you see in stores that are so cloying and overpowering that they just end up triggering your gag reflex. They bake up a nice golden brown with a pleasant, crispy snap while the spices also give them a flavor that does remind me of the Cinnamon Teddy Grahams.

I said I was in a hurry and I am. You guys remember why? Yep yep yep. Black Panther is now released in theaters in the U.S. and I’m on my way to see it now. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it, but my wait is offically over, so it’s ttfn.

(Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #211, co-hosted this week by Lily @ Little Sweet Baker and Alisa @ Livin’ Well.

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Teddy Bear Cinnamon Crisps

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

For Cookies

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1-2 dashes ground cloves
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Topping

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar

 

 

Directions

In a small bowl combine the flour with the salt and spices with a fork.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

Sift in the flour mixture to the butter mixture (not all at once, in about 3 batches) until just combined.

Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan and lightly spray with cooking spray.

 In a small bowl combine the ingredients for the topping and set aside. Sprinkle a work surface like a wooden cutting board, a pastry mat or wax paper with flour. Cut the dough into quarters. Keep the quarters you’re not using in the fridge while you work. Use a floured rolling pin to roll out each piece of dough very thin (about 1/8th inch). Use a cookie cutter of your choice (I used a teddy bear one) or a pizza wheel, bench scraper or knife to cut dough into shapes. Arrange the cookies on the baking sheet (you will probably need more than one). When you’ve finished, refrigerate the cookies on the sheet pan for about 15 minutes.

Lightly spray the cookies with cooking spray, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top. Bake in the oven until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheet for about 1 minute 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.)

Winter Spice Peanut Brittle

Alright y’all, so listen. I’m just gonna be honest about something right up front.

The best peanut brittle that I’ve ever had comes from my grandmother. That recipe is one that I’ve been eating, and now using, nearly all of my life and it’s unmatched by any other peanut brittle I’ve tasted. Her recipe is the best. All others pale by comparison.

ALL.OF.THEM. (It’s also already on the blog, although I was just starting out as a blogger and my photography skills were basura at the time, so apologies for that. Still, go ahead and check it out after you get done reading this one, kay?)

Having said that, I can now also say that this year was the first time that I made peanut brittle that wasn’t hers. The main reason was curiosity; because the ingredients I was using were a bit different, I wanted to see how it would turn out. If you’ve been following along with the 12 Day of Christmas series at all, then you’ve also seen that I’ve used what I called a Winter Spice blend in another recipe, which brings together spices that I think give baked goods an extra ‘Christmas-y’ taste. As most peanut brittle isn’t flavored with much else but peanuts, sugar and vanilla, I also wanted to see how it would taste if there were extra spices added to it.

Couldn’t hurt to at least try, right?

I say all of this in the recipe instructions, but because it’s so important I’m going to make the time & space to give those same housekeeping instructions here too. Guys, listen. If you choose to make this, or ANY form of brittle in general, it’s very very important that you take this advice.

#1) Grease your sheet pan up with butter and shortening. Slather it on there, to all four corners. Do this before you do ANYTHING else in the recipe directions. Make sure that it’s good and schmeared on. Why? Because you’re not going to have time to do it while the candy is cooking, or after you take it off the heat, and if the sheet pan is not properly greased, the brittle will stick to it. You might (BIG might) still be able to get it off but you’d likely have to use a mallet or chisel to smash it into inedible crumbs/dust/powder. If you grease it ahead of time, it will pop right out, no problem.

#2) Pre-measure all of the ingredients before you begin. There is a very small window between the time where the candy reaches hard crack stage and where you need to add the baking soda, vanilla and spices to it. You’re already going to have been standing over a hot stove, stirring your tush off to make sure the caramel doesn’t burn and are going to have to move fast between taking it off the heat and spreading it into the sheet pan. It will go a lot smoother if all you have to do is reach to your right or left, and pour the stuff in as opposed to scrambling to measure everything out WHILE STILL STIRRING to keep it from sticking. Don’t ask me how I had to find this out for myself. Just take the advice.

Provided you follow my instructions to the letter….ta-da! This is what you’ll get. Pretty cool, huh? I’m not going to say this brittle is as good as my grandma’s–no peanut brittle is, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. But I did like it very much. And gosh, did it get rave reviews from everyone that I shared it with. I think if you’re looking for a different twist on peanut brittle then this is it. I’m gonna go ahead and link this up to Fiesta Friday #202, co-hosted this week by  Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Smoky Chili Crackers

Day 3: Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

Day 4: Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

Day 5: Honey Spice Madeleines

Day 6: Chai Spice Shortbread

Day 7: Winter Spice Peanut Brittle

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Winter Spice Peanut Brittle

Recipe Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

For Winter Spice Mix:

  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

For Peanut Brittle:

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup dark corn syrup
  • 2 cups salted peanuts
  • 1 tablespoon butter, plus more for greasing pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons winter spice mix
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Special equipment: candy thermometer or instant read thermometer (This really isn’t optional if you want to be sure the brittle will turn out.)

Directions

Before you do anything else, thoroughly grease a 15 x 10 sheet pan with softened butter or shortening.  Have a kitchen towel or 2 pot holders ready to place beneath it.

Get all of your materials and ingredients measured and set out ahead of time on the countertop.

Combine the ingredients for the winter spice mix in a small, air-tight container and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup. Whisk together to dissolve sugar and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Once it reaches 260 degrees Fahrenheit, stir in the peanuts and butter, stirring CONSTANTLY (no seriously, do not stop stirring), until it reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove saucepan from the heat and immediately add the winter spice, baking soda and vanilla extract. Pour out onto your greased sheet pan, using a spatula you’ve sprayed with cooking spray to spread it out into a somewhat even layer (it won’t be perfect; that’s fine.)

Make sure the kitchen towel or pot holder is placed beneath the bottom of the pan (it will be very hot). Allow the brittle to cool completely, then use a sharp knife to break it into shards. Store in an air tight container.

Smoky Chili Crackers

There are certain foods that I just can’t have in my house, for reasons.

When I was younger I loved the Keebler Chips Deluxe chocolate chip cookies, especially the ones with rainbow M&Ms. I could put away more than a few of those and STILL have an appetite for dinner. This was also when I had the metabolism of an Olympic athlete.

I love Waffle Crisp cereal, but I can’t let it be in my house. Why? Because I can eat half a box of Waffle Crisp handful by handful in one sitting, that’s why. I don’t even need milk. Just leave the box with me and go. Therefore, it’s not a good idea for me to have it.

There’s one other snack that although I love, I know I just don’t have the willpower to summon portion control for and just don’t buy.

Any guesses? I’ll give y’all a hint.

It’s a cracker. It comes in a red box. It also looks very similar to today’s recipe.

Yeah. Cheez-Its.

My love for Cheeze Its is especially weird in light of the fact that I…don’t like cheese in and of itself (except for on pizza, but that’s different). I don’t know, there’s just something about that salty flavor that I can’t get enough of or resist. Because I have such a hard time putting them down, I just can’t have them in the house. My salty munchie cravings I’ve found are much stronger than sweet ones.

Although most people favor sweets at Christmas, I thought it would be nice to sneak a savory recipe or two in this year’s series. This is one of them. If you’ve been following the blog this year then you’ll know I’ve put out several homemade cracker recipes. They’re easy to make and I’ve found that the results are just as good (and sometimes even better) than the ones you can buy in the store. Some flavor profiles aren’t necessarily available through store-bought crackers and I find it fun to create my own and get something new that’s exactly what I want.

So, do these taste like Cheeze Its? No. But, I still REALLY liked how they turned out.

First of all, there’s no cheese in them. They’re flavored with cumin and smoked paprika, and have an earthy smoked flavor. The tomato paste balances out that smokiness and also gives them the warm orange hue. There’s also a touch of chili powder to give a kick on the back end. The texture is somewhat coarse thanks to the cornmeal in the dough. I think these crackers would be just fantastic with hummus, french onion dip, spinach dip or soup. Those who like raw cheese would also really enjoy eating a small wedge on top. Try and enjoy, will ya?

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Smoky Chili Crackers

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Smoky Chili Crackers

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon powdered/dry milk (like Carnation’s)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked parika
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 cup shortening, cut into cubes
  • Scant 1/2 cup water
  • Coarse salt, for sprinkling

Special equipment: cookie cutter of choice

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, dry milk, cumin, smoked paprika, baking soda, sugar and chili powder.

Cut in the shortening and tomato paste with a fork until the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs.

Add enough water to make a workable dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the fridge for an hour or the freezer for twenty minutes.

Divide the dough into quarters, working with one piece at a time. Keep the other 3 in the fridge while you roll out the other on a floured surface, like wax paper, or a pastry mat.

Roll the dough out to about 1/8 inch thickness (very thin). Cut into 1 1/2 inch squares. Repeat with remaining portions of dough. Freeze the crackers for about 10 minutes on a sheet pan.

Poke a hole in the center of the crackers using a fork tine, or the tip of a knife. Lightly spray crackers with cooking spray and sprinkle with the coarse salt.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the pan.

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.