Cornmeal Sage Biscuits

Yes. It’s true. One month into 2021, and I’m sharing yet ANOTHER biscuit recipe.

We’ve established a long time ago that they’re somewhat of an obsession of mine, but this time there’s a whole separate ‘excuse’ for why they’re making another appearance.

These biscuits make up one half of another ‘meal’ recipe that I’ll be posting next week. But I thought that rather than dump them both at the same time, I’d break them apart and just like a sit down meal in a restaurant, make the carbs the appetizer before serving the ‘meat’ next week.

If you’ve ever taken a look at the Recipe Index on the blog, you’d probably be able to tell that I have a mild fixation with yellow cornmeal. I like it both for its flavor and the texture it gives to baked goods. I think it was around two years ago when I first experimented with it in biscuit dough.

Cornmeal gives the biscuit a coarser texture, but I’ve learned since then how to counterbalance the potential heaviness in the dough with the addition of sour cream, which does positively SINFUL things to the texture of just about any baked good you add it to.

I knew going into making these that I wanted to boost the typically neutral flavor of biscuits, and give them a savory flavor. For that reason I seasoned the dough with sage and what’s become my favorite spice mix, the Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Saute. I use it in just about everything I cook. But if you don’t have it on hand, that’s fine. Just use another seasoning blend you’re partial to like any of the many ones from McCormick, Mrs. Dash, or Weber’s.

I was extremely pleased with how these turned out. They rose beautifully even with the cornmeal, and the flavor is FANTASTIC. They paired beautifully with the ‘second component’ of the dish I made for our dinner that I’ll be sharing next week. So stay tuned 😉

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe. Be kind.

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Cornmeal Sage Biscuits

Recipe Loosely Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 5 cups cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground sage
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite savory spice mix (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, (1 1/2 sticks) frozen
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2-2 cups buttermilk, plus more if necessary

Directions

For Biscuits

In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, sugar, sage and the seasoning mix. Stir together with a fork.

 Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the sour cream. Use a fork to ‘cut’ it into the dry ingredients until it forms thick clumps. Make another hole in the middle of the dry ingredients, and pour the buttermilk. Use a large fork and a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add the additional buttermilk, just until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or a clean smooth countertop with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Use a bench scraper or a large sharp knife to divide the dough in half. Roughly shape each half into a square. Stack one of the halves on top of the other and use a rolling pin to roll it together into one mass. Repeat this process 4-5 more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the biscuits will bake flaky).

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the biscuit dough out onto it. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a biscuit cutter, or a knife to cut the dough into rounds about 2″ each. You can recut the leftover dough into new biscuits, just try not to handle it too much.

Remove the cut biscuits to the baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper, placing them rather close to each other (it will help them rise higher). Place the tray into the freezer about 15 minutes.

Spray the tops with cooking spray. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, covering them with foil if they brown too quickly.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #365, co-hosted this week by Eff @ Food Daydreaming.

 

Coffee Blondies

I have a love-hate relationship with coffee. And by love-hate I mean, I love drinking the stuff, but I also hate that I’m semi-addicted to it.

I go through these periods (I’ve gone as long as a few years at a time) where I can completely kick the habit and not even miss it. But then, out of nowhere the craving for it will settle in and suddenly I’ve got to have it and I fall off the wagon and go back to my dependency on it like nothing ever happened. It’s odd.

I’m regrettably back in my dependency stage at the moment. Every night before bed I ensure that I place the grounds and the water in my coffee maker and set the timer to make sure it’s ready for me in the morning. First thing in the morning after I wake up and brush my teeth, I go into the kitchen, pour out two in two mugs, then put them both in the fridge to chill for about an hour. I add a coffee ice cube to the mug (yes, I keep coffee ice cubes in my freezer) a little bit of milk, then a splash of vanilla syrup, and bam. That’s how I take it. Every day.

There’s usually at least a little bit of coffee left in the pot at the end of the day, and I try not to end up throwing it out–especially if it’s good coffee. As I said, my most common use for the ‘leftover’ coffee is to freeze it into ice cubes. The other is to try and bake something with it.

Coffee is an ingredient that can really enhance the flavor of chocolate, which is why sometimes you’ll see it included in brownie or chocolate cake recipes. But for coffee fanatics like me, sometimes you want a dessert that makes it the central flavor. I’ve experimented with coffee in desserts before on the blog, including this pound cake (one of the best cakes I’ve ever tasted for what it’s worth), as well as with cookies and scones. Today, I’m trying something new.

I’m in a phase where I really want texture from my desserts. I like chewy richness, like the kind you can only get in a pie, or brownies, or thick cookies…or blondies.

The blondie itself is like a really rich, chewy cookie. Take a look at that shiny, crackly crust, would you? The nuts add another textural element to that chewiness. Best of all, because it’s a blondie and not a brownie, the coffee flavor stands out on its own. These are everything that my tastebuds want. They come together in minutes and bake in less than an hour, so it’s also a pretty fool-proof recipe too. Even if you don’t like coffee, I think you’d still like these.

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Coffee Blondies

Recipe Adapted from Canadian Living

Ingredients

1½ cups (213 g) all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks; 170 g) unsalted butter, cold
1½ cups (297 g) packed brown sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons strong coffee, room temperature
1 egg
1½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup (86 g) pecan halves, toasted and chopped
¾ cup (128 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking pan and line it with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder with a fork and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, brown sugar, and salt. Remove from the heat and stir in the coffee until well combined. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Add the egg and vanilla and whisk until combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add the pecans and chocolate chips and stir gently.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake 18 to 24 minutes, until the blondies are set on the edges and the top is golden brown and just beginning to form cracks. A wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the blondies should come out with just a couple of crumbs.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Use the parchment sling to gently lift the blondies from the pan. Cut them into squares.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #364, hosted this week by Diann @ Of Goats and Greens and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

Chicken Empanadas

Meatpies are one of my favorite foods. Back when my kitchen skills were as advanced as scrambling eggs or boiling pasta, I used to tell myself that if I ever learned how to cook one of the things I was going to learn and learn well, was how to make a meatpie.

While I still may have some more things to learn, I do think the practice I’ve had thus far has led me to understand what really makes a good meatpie. It depends on giving equal amounts attention and consideration of both the casing and the filling because a good filling encased in tough pastry is no bueno, and a good pastry with bland filling is also not so great.

My strategy for avoiding bland meatpie filling is to as Chopped judge Marc Murphy says “season with authority.” I’ve tried to inject flavor at just about every step of the cooking of this empanada filling. And then after it’s finished, I allow it to rest in the fridge just to give the spices the time to really set in so that they come through after the empanadas are finished baking.

The key to flakiness of this crust is the shortening. It’s VERY easy to work with and roll out. I could obviously still use some more practice when it comes to my crimping/sealing skills, but that’s completely on me, not the recipe. Trust me, it really does melt in your mouth when you eat it.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe. Be Kind.

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Chicken Empanadas

Filling recipe by Jess@CookingisMySport, Pastry recipe courtesy of The Kitchn 

Ingredients

For Chicken Filling

  • 2.5-3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 1 (1 oz.) packet of your favorite taco or fajita seasoning
  • 2 bell peppers, diced (you can mix and match different kinds; I used 1 red and 1 green)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 16-32 oz low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of smoked Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For Pastry

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening or lard, frozen
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Directions

For filling:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

In a small bowl combine the taco/fajita seasoning with 1/3 cup of the flour. Place the cubed chicken in a gallon sized resealable plastic bag. Pour the flour-seasoning mixture over the chicken and seal the bag. Toss the bag to season the chicken in the flour until evenly coated.

Pour a tablespoon of oil (canola, vegetable or olive) in the bottom of a Dutch oven or pot. Sear the chicken over high heat, just to get a crust on the outside of it (it doesn’t need to be cooked through here). Remove the chicken to a 13 x 9 baking dish and keep loosely covered. (you may need to do this in batches).

When the chicken has finished searing, pour a bit more oil into the bottom of the pot and saute the peppers and onions over medium heat until they are soft and translucent. Remove them to a bowl and set aside.

Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of flour into the pot, and allow to toast for about 2 minutes. Pour in 16 oz of the chicken broth and stir briskly with a whisk or fork until flour is dissolved and a smooth and somewhat thick ‘gravy’ forms, then pour in the other 16 oz of broth. Season the mixture with the cumin, smoked paprika, honey and salt and pepper. Allow to come up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Pour the gravy mixture over the chicken. Tightly cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until chicken is fork tender.

Remove the chicken from the baking dish and mix with the sauteed onions and peppers. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to meld and for the filling to completely chill.

For crust:

Place 3 cups of the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Use a box grater (or cut it up into small cubes) to cut the shortening/lard into the dry ingredients. Stir together with a fork. It should have a sandy texture.

Whisk the egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl until combined. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients.Continue mixing until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Empty mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and use your hands to shape it into a rough ball. Using the heels of your hands, gently knead the dough into a smooth, elastic ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight.

Lightly flour a clean, large work surface and a rolling pin. Roll the dough out to about 1/8-inch thick. Using a 4-inch-round pastry-cutting mold, cut circles from the dough. (Alternatively use a knife and trace around a 4-inch plate to form the circles.)

Gather the dough scraps and form into a ball again. Roll out the dough and cut more circles. (If the dough springs back and is difficult to roll out, let it rest before rolling again.) Makes about 16 dough circles.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.Take 1 of the cut circles and and place 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling in the center. Brush the edges of the empanada with the beaten egg. Fold the circle in half to form a half moon and seal the edges together with a fork or pinch with your fingers. (Be mindful when sealing to squeeze out any air pockets.) Place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough circles, spacing the formed empanadas a few inches apart.

Chill the formed empanadas for 20 minutes before baking. Meanwhile, arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 375°F.

Place both sheets in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the sheets front to back and top to bottom, and continue baking until the empanadas are golden-brown, about 10 minutes more. Let cool a few minutes before serving with salsa.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #363, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Secret Ingredient Rice Krispie Treats

So, I feel like on a list of the easiest things to cook/bake, rice krispie treats are right up there with spaghetti, scrambled eggs, and grilled cheese sandwiches. They all feature pretty basic ingredients, come together within minutes and are all (I think) pretty hard to mess up.

Even back when I was an abysmal cook, I knew how to put together rice krispie treats. No matter what anybody says, the pre-made packaged ones don’t taste as good as the ones made from scratch. They just don’t.

There’s nothing wrong with pre-packaged rice krispie treats, but I’m partial to making my own from scratch because if I can control the amount of marshmallow in the mix, then I can control the ‘gooey-ness’ factor. Packaged ones don’t really have it.

You want to know what ones do? These.

I’m always interested in finding ways to improve on classics, and today’s recipe is another one of those ways. If you’re a fan of scratch made rice krispie treats and you want to up their gooey-ness factor, this is for you. It doesn’t require a whole lot of extra steps or ingredients. There’s just one extra step and one extra addition to the usual suspects of ingredients, actually:

Browning the butter, and a can of sweetened condensed milk.

That’s right folks. Browning your butter and adding sweetened condensed milk to your treats mix will alter everything you ever thought you knew about how to make or eat rice krispie treats. You are not prepared for how incredible this is. I wasn’t. The rich, gooeyness it adds to them is everything you want in a treat. It adds a real ‘bakery’ taste and flavor to them that almost makes no sense, because rice krispie treats aren’t baked at all. I don’t understand it, and I really don’t need to. I’m just glad to have discovered it, and you will be too once you try this out for yourself.

Wear a mask. Social Distance. Stay safe. Be kind.

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Secret Ingredient Rice Krispie Treats

Recipe Courtesy of The Kitchn

Ingredients

  • 6 cups toasted rice crisp cereal, such as Rice Krispies
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (10-ounce) package mini marshmallows (about 4 cups)

Directions

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the cereal and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan or pot over low heat, gently stirring with a rubber spatula so all the butter melts evenly. When the butter is bubbling, add 1/3 to 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk* and stir to combine.

Bring the sweetened condensed milk to a boil (this will happen really quickly) and cook for about a minute until it is fragrant. Once the butter begins to foam, watch carefully, as it will quickly begin to brown and emit a nutty aroma. When browned, turn off the heat. Stir in the salt and vanilla.

Working quickly, add half the marshmallows and stir until thoroughly melted. Add the remaining marshmallows and stir until melted. The residual heat from the butter should be enough to melt them off the heat, but you can return the pot to low heat for a few seconds if the marshmallows aren’t melting easily. Keep a close eye on the butter, however — you don’t want it to continue to brown to the point of burning.

Add the toasted cereal and gently fold it in until the cereal is completely coated with the marshmallow mixture.

Transfer the mixture to an 8 x8 inch baking pan that you’ve sprayed with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Using the rubber spatula, lightly and gently press into an even layer.

Let the treats stand at room temperature until set and completely cool, about 1 hour.

Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

*This all depends on how gooey you want the treats to be. I went for the full 1/2 cup.

Linking up to Fiesta Friday #362, co-hosted this week by Petra @ Food Eat Love.

Sweet Potato Biscuits & Cranberry Butter

Happy New Year everyone.

If you’re reading this, it means that you’ve made it 2021. Give yourself a pat on the back. Let out the breath that it feels like we’ve all been holding for I don’t know how long.

What a year. What a time to be alive.

2020 was a rough year for most of us. We may have survived it, but I’m sure we all know of others who did not, and those who are still struggling going into 2021. I’m not one for making New Years resolutions, but I am on board for maintaining a positive perspective even in the midst of negativity, and trying to spread positivity where I can.

If your 2020 was particularly difficult, I’m very sorry. You have all of my best wishes and hopes for a better and brighter 2021 where things begin to turn around. Please know that trouble doesn’t last always. This too shall pass. You’ll make it.

After spending a lot of time and effort getting pretty good at baking them, biscuits have become my happy place. I thought a happy place recipe was, a great recipe to kick off the new year with on the blog, so here we are.

I mean: don’t these make you feel at least a little happy just looking at them?

Sweet potato biscuits have been on my radar for a while to try out. I always had hesitation about it because most of the recipes I’ve seen others put out, the biscuits seemed to come out flat and hockey-puck like to me. The potato just seemed to be weighing everything down and one of my biggest biscuits pet peeves are biscuits that don’t rise.

But that was all before I developed my personal technique of biscuit-making that to date has never failed to give me the results that I want. As it turns out, it still doesn’t even when adding mashed sweet potato to the mix.

Sweet potatoes are a heavy ingredient, but what I found they do most for biscuit dough is take the place of the majority of the liquid. You won’t need to add as much buttermilk because the sweet potatoes themselves are moist and give the dough the moisture it needs to hold together, as well as the finished biscuits the moisture they need to not be too tough and dry.

These taste perfectly fine on their own, but I decided to give them an accompaniment using some spare cranberries I still had leftover from the 12 Days of Christmas sitting in my fridge. It comes together in minutes, and the sweet tartness pairs pretty well with the savory flavor of the biscuits.

Here’s to sweet potato biscuits, cranberry butter, and 2021. May one be just as wonderful as the other, and vice versa.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Be kind.

Sweet Potato Biscuits & Cranberry Butter

Recipe Adapted from Allrecipes.com and Let’s Dish 

Ingredients

For Biscuits

  • 2 large, orange fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more for potato water
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (light or dark, doesn’t matter)
  • 1/2 cup-3/4 cup buttermilk*
  • 6 1/2 cups self rising flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, frozen

For Cranberry Butter

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of one medium orange

 

Directions

For Biscuits:

Cut sweet potatoes in half lengthwise. Cut each in half again lengthwise, then in half cross-wise. Cut each piece in half to make evenly sized chunks. Transfer into pot; cover with water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer on high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and cook until potatoes are tender, about 17 minutes. Drain thoroughly; return to pot and mash potatoes. You will need 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes. Cool thoroughly.

Transfer cooled mashed potatoes to a medium size mixing bowl and add brown sugar, stirring to combine. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Stir together with a fork.

Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Stir together with a fork to coat with flour after each addition of about 1/3 to 1/2 stick. This will prevent butter from clumping. Mixture should look like floury pieces of butter.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add sweet potato mixture. Toss with a fork until evenly distributed, but don’t overmix.

Drizzle in the buttermilk. The amount you add here is going to vary according to the time of year and your location. You may need to use all of it, you may not. Start with 1/2 cup and stir the dough together with the fork, just until it begins to come together in large clumps. Add more flour if you need to, just enough to make it hold together.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or a clean smooth countertop with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Use a bench scraper or a large sharp knife to divide the dough in half. Roughly shape each half into a square. Stack one of the halves on top of the other and use a rolling pin to roll it together into one mass. Repeat this process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the biscuits will bake flaky).

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the biscuit dough out onto it. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a square cookie cutter, or a knife to cut the remaining dough into squares, about 2″ each.

Remove the cut biscuits to the baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper, placing them rather close to each other (it will help them rise higher). Freeze until cold, about 15 minutes.

Bake until golden brown, 18 to 23 minutes. You may need to cover them with foil to keep from browning too fast. When you pull one away from the others, it should look baked all the way through; the edge shouldn’t look wet or unbaked.

For Butter: 

Use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, powdered sugar, honey, cinnamon, vanilla extract and orange zest together until fluffy. Add the cranberries.

Store in the refrigerator, but it’s best to bring it to room temperature to serve.

Linking this post to Fiesta Friday #361.

Cranberry Pound Cake

Happy eve of Christmas Eve everyone. We’ve reached the final day of the 12 Days of Christmas series on the blog. And as with every year, I feel a little blue about it. I’ve said before that the lead up to Christmas Day is actually my favorite part of the season, not the actual day itself. Once the day comes, it’s already almost over and the next one is as far away as it’s ever going to be. Add to that this year has been… a particularly different kind of year and holiday season for most of us.

2020 has been very, very difficult. Unimaginable, really. If you’re reading this and you have experienced particular hardship, tragedy or loss in 2020–also if the holiday season is a typically bleak and sad time of year for you in general– please know that you are in my thoughts. I wish there was a way that I could send/share some warmth, compassion and light in your direction–or at the very least some of my food.

I don’t know what all is going to happen in 2021. After the year we’ve had, it’s rather pointless to try and make predictions. The best that I can do is to remain grateful for all of the blessings I have in my life, and to hang on to the hope that better things and times are on the horizon for myself, and for all of you reading this blog post.

12 Days/recipes of baking a lot of work, but I do it because it never fails to insert a lot of light and cheer into my holiday season. To those who’ve been following along with it, I hope that my little baking series has done the same for you.

I decided to close out the series with pound cake, because why not? It’s something that I think it’s safe to say, most people like, and it gave me another opportunity to work with an ingredient I’ve been particularly obsessed with this season: fresh cranberries. Cranberries are a perfect addition to pound cake because as with many other desserts, they provide a much needed tart and slight bitterness to balance out all the sugar. With six eggs in the batter, this cake is extremely dense and rich, but the cranberries give it a real lift of freshness that almost makes you forget about pesky little things called calories. This is a really delicious cake, you guys. Try it sometime.

I wish everyone a sincere and heartfelt Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Stay safe. Wear a mask. Social distance. Be kind.

 

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Day 3: Sugar & Spice Crackers

Day 4: Cranberry Cookie Tart

Day 5: Spicy Gingerbread Sticks

Day 6: Reindeer Munch

Day 7: Jell-O Butter Cookies

Day 8: Gingerbread Blondies

Day 9: Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle

Day 10: “Berry” Christmas! Scones

Day 11: Chocolate Turtles

Day 12: Cranberry Pound Cake

Cranberry Pound Cake

Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients

For Cake

  • 1 lb. unsalted butter (4 sticks), softened
  • 2 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries

For Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • a few tablespoons orange juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 16 cup (10 inch) Bundt or tube pan and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld one) beat the butter at medium speed until creamy and lighter in color. 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. Add the extracts and the cranberries, stirring just until combined.

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 40 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. (Pound cake is done at an inner temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Cool in pan on a wire rack 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack.

For icing, stir together ingredients in a small bowl, then use a small fork to drizzle on top of cake. Allow icing to set for about 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Chocolate Turtles

A very significant part of the inspiration behind my doing this series every year on the blog in the first place comes from growing up in my grandparents’ house and my memories of the holidays there. 

Food is a personal thing for me, and cooking/baking food is even more personal because you’re providing sustenance and mere satisfaction to someone else, presumably someone else whom you care for. Most people who holiday bake, do so with the intention of giving it away to people they care about; it’s an act of love, which is really what the holidays should be about anyway.

All of that to say, my grandmother baked a lot during the holiday season, and so it always created this increased atmosphere of holiday giving and warmth and nostalgia that I try to recreate myself now every year now that I’m old enough and have discovered how much I love to bake. She pretty much did it all; cake, cookies, pie, peanut brittle, fudge, and another little nifty treat known as chocolate turtles.

For those who may be unfamiliar, chocolate turtles are a candy where pecans are mixed with a soft caramel, then dipped in chocolate. They’re VERY popular back where I come from in the Midwest, so much so that you can buy them much like you can buy a chocolate bar in a grocery store checkout line. Here on the West coast…not so much. So, my solution, as with a lot of things that I can’t find in stores out here is to just make it myself.

It may surprise you to know that the process for making chocolate turtles isn’t too complicated. There’s no need for candy thermometers, tempering, or any other complicated steps. You don’t have to use an oven to make them at all, since technically, you’re not ‘baking’ anything new. This really just comes down to assembly.

The most important things to stay on top of when making chocolate turtles are first of all, make sure you line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Not aluminum foil; parchment paper. Caramel is notoriously sticky, especially when it’s soft, and you will save yourself a lot of mess and frustration if you assemble these on parchment paper so as to ensure that they’ll actually come off when they’re set. Second, be diligent about ensuring that you’re not overheating the caramel in the microwave when softening it; don’t skip the step of pausing at the 30 second intervals to stir. That’s really about it. Enjoy y’all. One more day left in the 12 Days of Christmas. Any predictions on what we’ll close on?

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Day 3: Sugar & Spice Crackers

Day 4: Cranberry Cookie Tart

Day 5: Spicy Gingerbread Sticks

Day 6: Reindeer Munch

Day 7: Jell-O Butter Cookies

Day 8: Gingerbread Blondies

Day 9: Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle

Day 10: “Berry” Christmas! Scones

Day 11: Chocolate Turtles

 

Chocolate Turtles

Recipe Courtesy of Averie Cooks

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces roasted pecan halves
  • 25 soft candy caramel squares (about 1 heaping cup; note, make sure you are not using hard caramel candy, they have to be the soft chewy ones)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half, divided
  • 16 ounces of your favorite chocolate bar (You can mix them up like 8 ounces milk and 8 ounces dark, if that’s your preference; I used Hershey’s milk chocolate bars for the whole thing)
  • Sea salt, optional for sprinkling
  • Nonpareil sprinkles, optional

Directions

Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray.

Arrange pecan halves in small piles on the paper, about 1 inch apart, in bunches of about 4-5 pecan halves per pile. Try to make them overlap so that the caramel doesn’t seep through.

In a glass measuring cup or microwaveable safe bowl, heat the soft caramels with a few tablespoons of the heavy cream or half & half for 3-4 minutes, pausing every thirty seconds to stir it so that they do not burn (This is important). You also may not need to let it go the full 3-4 minutes, you don’t want it to be liquid, you just need the caramel to be soft and loose enough to drizzle off the spoon, but still hold it’s shape around the nuts.

Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the caramel over each pecan pile and set aside for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt about 8 oz of the chocolate in another glass measuring cup or microwaveable safe bowl. Heat in 15 second increments until it’s smooth. (Melt the additional chocolate as is necessary.)

Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of the melted chocolate over the caramel pecans, trying to ensure it encases the whole thing.

If desired, sprinkle a pinch of sea salt and the nonpareils over the turtles.

Allow the turtles to firm up at room temperature (this will take several hours, I recommend letting them rest overnight).  After an hour at room temp, you can place them in the fridge before serving, and to store.

“Berry” Christmas! Scones

Four days left before Christmas, and we’re winding down to the final three recipes of this year’s holiday baking series. I’m just about through with all the “merry and bright” baking I’m going to do before the Big Day. Somehow, every year it seems to both fly by and take a while, but as with every other year, I can honestly say that I’m so glad I decided to do it. It puts me in the holiday spirit like nothing else can.

I love making scones in general because they’re another one of the ‘blank canvas’ recipes that can stand up to a lot of customization. Once you have a good base scone recipe, you can adapt it to practically any flavor or occasion that you like. The more comfortable you get with baking, the more you’ll want to experiment. For my good, base scone recipe I defer to the clever folks at King Arthur Flour; I then tweaked, modified it so that it was more…Christmas-y.

Orange and cranberry are my “merry and bright” go-to flavors. I really tried to inject as much of it as possible into this dough, which is why it has the zest of two oranges and up to 2 cups of FRESH cranberries. I’ve made scones with dried ones before but this time I wanted to go with fresh so that they would burst while baking and create pockets of tart flavor to counterbalance the sweetness of the sugar, although I wouldn’t say these are overly sweet. The addition of vanilla and almond extracts give it that warm, bakery flavor.


While I was feeling good about placing fresh cranberries in the dough, I was a little concerned about the rise on the scones and that the berries might get in the way of that. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. They rose beautifully, much higher than I anticipated honestly and even though I know sour cream does amazing things to scone and biscuits dough I was still amazed at how light they turned out in texture.

If you’re the type of person who likes to eat a nice breakfast treat on Christmas morning, then this recipe was added to the series with you in mind. I recommend making the dough the night before, then popping the scones in the oven in the morning, so that they’re ready for you to eat as or after you’re opening presents, drinking coffee/tea, and whatnot. Be sure to check out the rest of the recipes from this year’s 12 Days of Christmas; just two days/recipes left!

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Day 3: Sugar & Spice Crackers

Day 4: Cranberry Cookie Tart

Day 5: Spicy Gingerbread Sticks

Day 6: Reindeer Munch

Day 7: Jell-O Butter Cookies

Day 8: Gingerbread Blondies

Day 9: Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle

Day 10: “Berry” Christmas! Scones

Berry Christmas! Scones

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1-2 cups fresh cranberries
  • Zest of two oranges
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1-2 cups buttermilk* (The amount of milk to use is going to vary depending upon the time of year and the location you’re in because of the varying moisture levels in the air. I always start with one cup, then gradually add more as I deem fit).

Directions

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

 Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Add the cranberries and zest. Stir with a fork.

In a small bowl combine the eggs with the extracts and stir until the yolks are broken. Set aside.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the egg mixture and sour cream and buttermilk. Use a large fork and a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add the additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or a clean smooth countertop with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)

Use a bench scraper or a large sharp knife to divide the dough in half. Roughly shape each half into a square. Stack one of the halves on top of the other and use a rolling pin to roll it together into one mass. Repeat this process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the scones will bake flaky).

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the biscuit dough out onto it. Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a square cookie cutter, or a knife to cut the remaining dough into squares, about 2″ each.

Remove the cut scones to the baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper, placing them rather close to each other (it will help them rise higher). Freeze until cold, about 15 minutes.

Bake until golden brown, 18 to 23 minutes. You may need to cover them with foil to keep from browning too fast. When you pull one away from the others, it should look baked all the way through; the edge shouldn’t look wet or unbaked.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle

As the saying goes, you learn something new every day; hopefully, the something new that you learn is useful and pleasant. Today’s recipe came as a result of me recently learning something new that was useful, pleasant, and delicious. It’s always nice when that happens.

It wasn’t until the month of November in the year 2020 that I learned about a nifty little invention called cookie brittle for the first time. Maybe some of you will be learning about it for the first time in reading this blog post. To you, I say: welcome. Your lives will never be the same.

Cookie brittle is a cookie dough made without any leavening agents (no egg, no baking powder, no baking soda). Ingredient wise, it resembles shortbread. But the method in making it departs from shortbread in that no air whatsoever is whipped into it. Instead, the butter is melted, combined with sugar, then spread thin into a sheet pan. With no air or leavening, the baked dough creates a very close textured crumb that after it cools becomes extremely, well…brittle.

I have a very special relationship to chocolate chip cookies. I have a go-to recipe that I very seldom deviate from, as I believe it’s as close to perfection as one can get. But in this instance I was just too curious not to give this cookie brittle thing a try. Boy. I learned something that day, that’s for sure. Texturally speaking, cookie brittle goes far beyond the texture of crispy chocolate chip cookies like Chips Ahoy or Tate’s Bake Shop. It’s called brittle for a reason; if I had to describe it, I would say that it’s like…a chocolate chip cookie crunchy toffee. Chocolate chip cookie candy. Now, doesn’t that sound absolutely delicious?

The recipe is actually very easy to follow, you just have to make sure that you follow it to a T. The dough has to be cool before you mix in the chocolate and nuts, and you have to be careful not to leave it in the oven too long. Because it’s baked directly in an ungreased pan, it can go from perfectly golden brown to burned in seconds. Don’t ask me how I found out both of those tips, just follow them.

Did I mention that this also makes great gifts? Cause it does. That’s if you’re still feeling in the giving Christmas spirit after trying this for yourself. You may not be. It’s that good.  

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Day 3: Sugar & Spice Crackers

Day 4: Cranberry Cookie Tart

Day 5: Spicy Gingerbread Sticks

Day 6: Reindeer Munch

Day 7: Jell-O Butter Cookies

Day 8: Gingerbread Blondies

Day 9: Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle

Recipe Courtesy of Cookies & Cups

Ingredients

  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 cup Turbinado sugar (Sugar in the raw)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Set aside a large rimmed baking sheet.

In a medium saucepan on medium heat combine the butter and sugar, stirring constantly. Once butter is melted, cook for one more minute and remove it immediately from the heat, being careful not to bring the mixture to a boil. Alternatively place butter and sugar in a large heat-safe bowl and heat in the microwave for 90-120 seconds until the butter is melted and sugar has dissolved slightly.

Whisk mixture until it is combined.Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes (this part is VERY important, it needs to be cool before you continue) and then whisk mixture again for 1 minute.

Whisk in the vanilla and the salt. Stir in the flour until the dough forms and then stir in the pecans and chocolate chips.

Press the dough onto the ungreased pan spreading it out all the way to the edges, you want the brittle to be thin.

Bake for 22-25 minutes, rotating the pan every 7-8 minutes until it’s lightly golden and firm to the touch in the center.

Let the brittle cool in the pan for 3 minutes and then line a counter or second baking sheet with parchment paper and invert the first pan onto the second, and allow it to cool completely.

Break the brittle into pieces and enjoy!

 

Gingerbread Blondies

Only seven days left until Christmas! Is everyone excited? It’s 50/50 for me. On one hand, I absolutely love the holiday season, but on the other hand it’s the season that I love more than the actual holiDAY itself. Christmas itself is bittersweet for me because once it comes, the holiday season is almost over.

But on the flip side, there’s still six more days until it’s over, so let’s just celebrate that with some more recipes in the five days that we have left of the 12 Days of Christmas, shall we? In all the years I’ve been doing the series, there are always certain categories of recipes that I try to make sure make an appearance, just for variety’s sake. I always try to do a savory recipe option. I always try to do a yeast bread recipe. I always try to do a snack. Then, I always try to a recipe that fits squarely into my “You Can’t Mess This Up, No Seriously You Can’t” category.

The “You Can’t Mess This Up, No Seriously You Can’t” category is for people who don’t like to cook or bake, or those who think that they can’t. I say “think” because I’m of hte opinion that if you can read, measure and follow a set of instructions, you can cook SOMETHING. Doesn’t have to be complicated. Doesn’t even have to be that delicious. But if you can read, count and do what you’re told, there’s something out there that you can cook and bake.

  Today I’m pleased to be able to share my “You Can’t Screw this Up” recipe of the 12 Days of Christmas: gingerbread blondies. While they’re the furthest thing from complicated that you can get, don’t let their simplicity fool you: they come together in minutes, and are absolutely delicious.

The base of the blondie itself is rich with warm, sugary, winter spices. It tastes like a dense and rather chewy cake. I modified the original recipe and decided to try and cut through the sweetness of the molasses and brown sugar by adding fresh cranberries to the batter. The cranberries burst as they bake creating lovely pockets of juicy, tart flavor.

I wasn’t kidding when I said you can’t screw these up. I’m also not kidding when I say they’re absolutely delicious.  The only way they could possibly be improved is with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Then they’re beyond perfection; they’re holiday nirvana.

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Day 3: Sugar & Spice Crackers

Day 4: Cranberry Cookie Tart

Day 5: Spicy Gingerbread Sticks

Day 6: Reindeer Munch

Day 7: Jell-O Butter Cookies

Day 8: Gingerbread Blondies

Gingerbread Blondies

Recipe Adapted from Betty Crocker

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries

Directions

Line an 8-9 inch square baking dish wish parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray. Set aside and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, combine the four, spices, and salt. Stir together with a fork, then set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter or margarine, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla and egg. Stir together with a fork or a wire whisk unto; thoroughly combined.

Add the flour mixture in 2 increments, stirring just until the streaks disappear. Fold in the cranberries.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 26-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely in pan on cooling rack, about 1 hour before cutting into squares.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #359, cohosted this week by Jhuls@The Not So Creative Cook.