Christmas Tourtiere

Hey y’all. How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

It was sunny and a high of 66° in mine. I can and have definitely gotten used to this. I’ve spent most of my life in the Mitten, but one thing that I can tell you for sure I don’t miss about it is snow and all the extra crap that comes with it. In most other parts of the country, winter has definitely settled in and made herself comfortable. (Snow storms in Georgia, yikes.)

Even if snow and all of its inconveniences aren’t apart of my life anymore, this is still the time of year where I want to eat warm, comforting, stick to your ribs, make-you-want-to-take-a-nap food. My body craves that whether I’m in the midwest or on the west coast.

The bulk of this Christmas series is sweets and desserts (as is expected), but I did want to try and mix things up this year with the inclusion of some savory options. The first were the savory chili crackers on Day 2. Today for Day 8, I’m super excited to share this second savory recipe that’s actually been a long time coming.

I’ve mentioned before that I really love meat pies. You can find the proof of this through several posts that are already on the blog. There’s a meat pie for just about every culture, region and taste. This one is a French Canadian one called a Tourtiere.

Tourtiere is a meat pie typically made with ground beef, pork, veal or a mixture of all three. What I think makes it most distinctive from other meat pies is the spices that are used inside to flavor the filling. They’re the warm, sugar and spice flavors that hit those same winter notes that I’ve put in other recipes in the series. Tourtiere was something that I’ve known about for a few years. Because it’s a pie that is traditionally baked at Christmas time I thought it would be a good addition to the 12 Days of Christmas, done my way.

I’ll be honest. I love meat pies, but in making them I have found through trial and error that there are two things that can easily go wrong. First, your pie crust can either turn out too tough, too thin or underbaked with a soggy bottom. Second, the filling can turn out too dry and bland–this is ESPECIALLY true with ground meat fillings. *Shudder*

I’ve tried to eliminate those problems for you guys here so that we all can have delicious winter meat pie to eat with no disappointments along the way. Y’all ready?

I wanted to make sure that the pie crust I used was sturdy enough to stand up in the pan and also durable enough to support the bulk of the filling with minimal to no leaks. At the same time, I wanted it to be buttery, tender and flaky as well. This one pulls both off. I used the same method in putting together the dough as I do with making biscuits and scones: frozen butter grated directly into the dry ingredients with minimal hand touching. I also added seasoned salt and black pepper to give it a boost of flavor. All in all, it’s a cinch to put together.

The filling is also easy to make, it just requires more attention. The ground beef is mixed with sauteed onion and white roasted potato. Half of that roasted potato is going to be cubed and mixed with the ground beef and onion. The other half is going to be mashed and used as a kind of ‘glue’ that helps the beef and onion stick together while also retaining their moisture.

Seasoning in a meat pie is everything. You have to make sure it’s seasoned, and seasoned well. I simmered this filling in beef broth and was VERY generous with the spices. Keep tasting it along the way to adjust. Also, I highly recommend letting both the pie crust and the filling sit in the refrigerator overnight, for two reasons. One, pie crust needs time to rest so that the butter will stay cold enough to make flakes as it bakes. It will also be easier to roll out and press into the pan. Second, the filling will develop deeper flavor the longer you let it sit. You also don’t want to put hot (or even warm) filling inside a semi-warm pie crust. I don’t foresee that turning out well.

One thing I do want to advise is to bake the pie on a lower row of the oven. Why? Well, the lower it bakes, the more the bottom crust will cook and avoid the dreaded soggy bottom. If you have to cover the top crust with foil to keep it from browning too quickly so be it, but don’t neglect the bottom one.

Doesn’t this look good, guys? I think I’ll share it at this week’s 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

Day 8: Christmas Tourtiere

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Christmas Tourtiere

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Pie Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or butter flavored shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
  • 6-8 tablespoons ice water

Special equipment: (HIGHLY recommended): a box grater

For Filling:

  • 1 large potato, roasted until tender and cooled
  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 medium yellow sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup of chicken or beef broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
  • Plenty of onion powder, seasoned salt and black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions

For Pie Crust:  In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and pepper with a fork and set aside.  Rub the pieces of shortening into the flour mixture either with your hands or a fork, mixing just until it looks like coarse bread crumbs. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter directly into the flour mixture. Stir a few times with a fork , then make a well in the center of the mixture. Pour in the ice water, using a stiff rubber spatula/fork to make the dough come together. If it’s still too dry, you may add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time until it holds together. Divide the dough in half, then wrap each half in plastic wrap. Allow it to rest in the fridge overnight.

For Filling: Scoop one half of the roasted potato out of the skin. Use a fork to coarsely mash it. Peel the skin off of the other half and roughly chop it into chunks. Set potato aside for now.

Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven and brown ground beef. Drain the beef of fat, then place it covered in a bowl. Saute the onions in the skillet until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute or two, then add the beef back to the skillet with the broth and spices, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture up to a boil, then lower heat down to medium and allow the liquid to mostly cook off. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Take the reserved mashed and cubed potato, and add to the beef mixture. Taste and adjust for seasoning, then refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to develop.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9 inch deep dish springform pan. Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Divide pie crust in two, making one half slightly bigger than the other. Keep smaller half in fridge while you roll out the other into roughly an 11-12 inch circle. Carefully place crust in bottom of the pan and use your knuckles to press it into bottom and up the sides. There should be some overhang dough; that’s a good thing, don’t cut it off.

Take the filling and spoon it into the prepared pie crust. Keep refrigerated while you roll out the other half of the dough into a 10 inch circle. Use a pizza wheel or knife to cut it into strips if desired. (You can also just place the top crust whole on top of the pie without cutting a design) Lay the strips over the pie in a lattice design, then bring the overhanging pie dough up over the strips, crimping them together to seal. If you have some extra scraps, you can use a pie cutter to make decorative shapes like I did.

Use a pastry brush to brush the beaten egg over the pie crust. Place the pan on a sheet pan that you’ve lined with foil. Bake for 75-80 minutes, covering with foil if top crust start to become too brown. Allow to rest on a wire rack for at *least* 40 minutes before unmolding from the pan. If you don’t want to wait that long, it’s okay, the crust just may not hold up its structure  as well when it’s still piping hot.

 

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.

Chai Spice Shortbread

I’m annoyed.

For years, YEARS I tell you, of living in the Mitten I could and did boast that I had an iron clad immune system. I hardly ever got sick. *Ever*. If I did, it was a bad stomach bug but I was able to rally and get over it in 2 days, tops. Didn’t matter if someone around me had a cold and was contagious–I knew I wasn’t catching it. I knew.

But since moving out here? Tuh. Let me tell you something.

My immune system has me its match in whatever is in the air outchea. I’ve caught a rather nasty…something in the past week. I guess it’s a cold, but I don’t know. All I know is that not only have I been feeling icky, but I’ve been feeling icky for longer than 2 days and I’m irate. I’ve been taking over the counter medications, cough drops, using vapor rub and even running essential oil diffusers in my house to try and clear it up. While the combination is helping, it’s not squashing this thing like the miserable bug it is.

And I’m over it.

Do y’all know how disgusting Oregano spirits are? Do you KNOW, tho? It’s gotta be up there with the top worst, most disgusting things I’ve ever put in my mouth. Yet it’s supposed to great for killing infections and since I’m over here struggling with sore throat, sinus congestion and a runny nose, at this point I’m willing to try just about anything to get rid of this cold or whatever it is that has my immune system shot to Hell.

But still, I rise…through baking.

I’ve done shortbread several times before on the blog. I think one of the main reasons I keep coming back to it is that it is such an easy versatile recipe to do. I want people both comfortable and uncomfortable with baking to be able to try recipes out for the 12 Days of Christmas series and I think this is another one of the ones that can be for both groups.

Don’t let the pretty design fool you. I mean, you can and should love it (I know I do), but don’t let it make you think these were hard to make. That couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a very basic shortbread recipe that’s been flavored with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves– flavors that when put together strongly resemble the taste of chai spice.  The smell of these as they bake is just wonderful. They’re crisp on the outside, yet have that fine shortbread crumb on the inside.

Although it is a very simple dough, as you can see it holds an impression and shape very well so if you have some fancy cookie cutters or stamps you want to put to use with a simple recipe that won’t give you much trouble then I think you ought to give this one a try. I think these are also sturdy enough to ship very well too.

We’re halfway through the 12 Days of Chrismas. If you haven’t seen the first six recipes yet, feel free to check out the links below. Still plenty of time to join in on the Christmas baking. And now, unless y’all have some fool-proof cold remedies you’d like to share, I think I’ll wrap this post up and go make myself some more hot tea. ‘Ta.

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

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Chai Spice Shortbread

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Special equipment, cookie stamp or cutter of choice, optional

 

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer, or using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and the extracts until light and slightly fluffy.

Combine the flour with the spice in a small bowl, then add to the butter mixture in batches and mix until it forms a stiff dough that holds together when you gather it one hand. If it’s too dry/crumbly, you can add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time until it does hold together.

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

Sprinkle a work surface, like a pastry mat, cutting board or wax paper with flour. Remove dough from fridge and divide in quarters. Keep the other 3 pieces in the fridge while you use a rolling pin to roll out the quarter of dough to a thickness of about 1/2- 1/4 inch. Dip your cookie stamp or cutter in flour and cut out shape. Remove to a sheet pan you’ve lined with parchment paper and keep the sheet pan in the fridge or freezer as you repeat process and have stamped/cut out all of your dough. The cookies should be VERY cold and solid before baking (this will help preserve the design).

Preheat oven to 300°F. Bake cookies on middle rack for about 25-30 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. Allow to cool for about 60 seconds on sheet pan before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Note: You don’t have to have cookie cutters. If you want to make ‘drop shortbread’, drop the shortbread by teaspoonfuls onto the sheet pan, the use the tines of a fork to press a criss-cross pattern on their tops. Refrigerate or freeze for about 15 minutes, then bake as directed.  Also, 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.

Honey Spice Madeleines

The madeleine is a tiny French sponge cake. It gets its shape from special cooking pans with ridged indentations. Often it’s flavored with butter and vanilla, but as with many traditional recipes, there are many ways to put a twist on it with different flavors and additions. I’ve also seen them be lightly iced before. They’re what I would think is a perfect ‘tea time’ style treat.

I’ve know about madeleines for a while, but it wasn’t until a few months ago when I knew that they were called madeleines. I’d seen the sea oblong shell thingys in pictures and I remember one of my niece’s playmates shared one with her once, I just didn’t know what they were specifically.

I’ve already talked about how Amazon is one of my minor addictions and sources of temptation. I have a wishlist that just seems to grow week by week (and sometimes day by day). For several months, I had a madeleine pan sitting in it. I kept eyeing it and weighing the pros and cons of whether or not it would be ‘worthwhile’ to buy one.

On one hand, it wasn’t like I could have multiple ‘uses’ for it–it’s a madeleine pan and to my knowledge there’s not much else it can be used for except to make madeleines. That would definitely make it a splurge buy.

On the other hand…I didn’t have a madeleine pan, I really wanted to try to make madeleines, and it wasn’t that pricey. And I cooooould rationalize it by just resolving to make madeleines on a regular basis, right?

Well right or wrong, that’s what I ended up telling myself, because I totally got that pan.

I knew that when I bought the pan I was going to make madeleines and that if I liked how they turned out, I would share them for this years 12 Days of Christmas series. Since it was a Christmas themed series, I wanted to try and make the madeleines a break little bit out of the traditional flavor profile and make them taste…’Christmast-y’. This recipe does just that. The batter is flavored with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and a touch of pepper for added spice. There’s also some orange zest in there as well. The batter does need to rest overnight, as it improves the overall texture of the sponge.

From what I understand, the metal baking pans work better than the silicone or dark plated ones because it causes the madeleines to bake more evenly. I greased mine with cooking spray and when the cakes were done, they slid right out, no problem. I did decide to leave mine plain but if you like, you can dust yours with some powdered sugar. Like I said, these are a perfect for tea time: they taste so moist and delicate. Those spices really come through and would pair perfectly with coffee or tea.

If y’all are interested, here is the madeleine pan I bought. It gave me no trouble whatsoever and I was very happy with how it made my cakes turn out. Here’s for making madeleines a regular sight on the blog, both at Christmas time and year round, eh?

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

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Honey Spice Madeleines

Recipe Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves (or a little less, if you prefer)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Grated zest of  1/2 orange
  • 2 large eggs, at room temp
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Powdered sugar, optional

Special equipment: 12 cup madeleine pan

 

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking power, salt, spices & pepper and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or another bowl, pour in the sugar with the citrus zest. Rub it together with your fingers until the sugar is fragrant.

Add the eggs to the bowl and use the whisk attachment (or a handheld mixer) to beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture is pale and thick, about 2-3 minutes.

Beat in the honey and vanilla extract. Use a spatula to GENTLY fold in the dry ingredients, and then the melted butter.

Cover the batter with a piece of plastic wrap pressed up against the batter. Refrigerate overnight,

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter and flour the madeleine pan molds and place the pan on a bigger sheet pan. Fill the batter into the molds about half-way (don’t overfill). Bake for 11-13 minutes until the tops spring back when touched. They should come out easily. You may have to bake in batches. Sprinkle the madeleines with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

I’ll be completely honest with y’all: I have no idea what canned cranberry sauce tastes like. I’ve never tried it before in my life. Growing up, I would always see it on the table at Thanksgiving and Christmas but there was something about the mere sight of the stiff sliced rings that was off-putting to me. Why would it be called a ‘sauce’ when it resembled thin beets (which, I’ve never liked)? Plus, back then I thought it made no sense to want to eat something sweet with something as savory as turkey and dressing.

Nowadays I DO think it makes sense to eat cranberry sauce with turkey and dressing–I actually think it’s delicious…just so long as it’s homemade. Ever since I started making my own cranberry sauce it spurred a love for ALL things cranberry, specifically in baking.

I still had some fresh cranberries leftover from Thanksgiving that I kept in the freezer and I knew that I wanted to try and do something with them for the 12 Days of Christmas series. My niece’s preschool was let out for Winter Break this past week and I wanted to make her teacher a small gift of appreciation. So, she and I made this loaf together. She’s becomes quite the good little sous chef/baker.

The first breads that I made when I was starting out baking were quick breads. They’re very easy to put together, involve no work with yeast, kneading, proofing, and are pretty hard to mess up. They store and ship well too, which makes them ideal for gift-giving at this time of year.

Cranberries and oranges are an ideal flavor combination. The sweet of the orange balances out the tart of the cranberry and vice versa. Here, the fresh cranberries are paired with both orange zest and juice. I also added a cinnamon swirl to the batter that gives it more of a ‘wintery spice flavor’. You may have noticed that I also really like adding icings to things, so there’s one of those here too. You can leave it out if you like, the bread is yummy enough all on its own to do without.

Quick bread is great all on its own alongside coffee or tea. It’s also sturdy enough to make awesome french toast and bread pudding. Do whatever you want with it, really. Just make & try it. I’m gonna go ahead and share this at the Fiesta Friday #201, co-hosted this week by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook. 

Stay tuned for more recipes in the 12 Days of Christmas series, I’m really hyped to share what’s to come.

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

Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

Recipe Adapted from Chowhound.com

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 1 medium orange
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick), melted and cooled slightly, plus more for coating the pan
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries 

For Topping

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 heaping teaspoons butter

For Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk

 

 

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, orange zest, baking powder, salt, baking soda and cinnamon with a whisk.

Add the orange juice, melted butter, egg and vanilla. Fold in the cranberries.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

In a small bowl combine the sugar and ground cinnamon. Cut the butter into the mixture, leaving it in small clumps. Sprinkle on top of the loaf. Use a knife to swirl through the top and through the middle of the loaf.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes. Allow to cool inside pan for about 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Combine the powdered sugar with the milk and stir until it forms a thickened glaze. Use the tines of a fork to drizzle over the top of the loaf. Allow to set for about an hour until hardened.

Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

Since it’s Christmas time, you guys had to know two things were going to happen: first, gingerbread was going to make an appearance in this 12 Days of Christmas series. Second, I was going to find a way to sneak a stamped cookie into it. Stamped/printed cookies are still a minor obsession of mine. I’m always up for trying out a different recipe for one, and I’m also on the lookout for cookie stamps and cutters that can give me the intricate, pretty designs that I want. Ideally, I’d just buy all the wooden Springerle molds that I wanted–and there are many.

However, as I’ve mentioned multiple times before, those suckas aren’t cheap. Nor should they be–I do own two, and I must say that you get what you pay for in quality and longevity. It’s just that wanting to build up a collection of the molds is a lot harder and more expensive to do than with a cookie stamp or cutter collection. If I wanted to widen my Intricate Stamped Cookie Collection without breaking the bank, I figured that I’d have to get creative with it.

You guys have already seen some of the fruits of that labor through my discovery that pie crust cutters could double as cookie stamps. Now, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve found yet another way to circumvent the ‘system’ of pricey Springerle molds that I just cannot afford at this time, while still getting the results that I want from my cookies. My newest solution came in one word: mooncakes. Y’all know what those are? That’s alright, I didn’t at first either.

Mooncakes are a Chinese pastry that are typically served during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The first time I saw one it caught my attention because of the intricate, beautiful design on the top of the cake and I wondered how it was made. I later found out that the design comes from moon cake molds: wooden or plastic contraptions that are designed to not just sculpt and seal the outer skin of the moon cakes, but also to imprint the pretty design on the top.

The wooden ones, like Springerle molds, aren’t inexpensive. The plastic ones however, are. I looked on Amazon and found a set of 4 moon cake molds, each with 3 different ‘plates’ that you could switch in and out.I bought the set and immediately wanted to try out the stamps on a cookie dough to see if it would give me the same pretty design as it did on the mooncakes. These were the results. Was it a worthwhile investment?

You guys tell me. I know that for now you can only comment on how they look, so I’ll spill on the actual taste.

The spices here are *very* strong. That warm, typical gingerbread smell and flavor is given a huge, added punch with the addition of both cocoa and garam masala. The aroma in the dough was so strong that I could smell these even before they were baking. You might worry that the chocolate would overpower everything else flavor-wise, but it doesn’t. Although you’re definitely going to know it’s there, in this case what it most does is enhance the other flavors; the cookies taste ‘richer’, if that makes any sense. The kick from the garam masala is going to hit your taste buds afterwards. At first you don’t taste it, then you swallow and suddenly think, “Oh wow, *there* it is!”

I love my new mooncake molds–I mean, my new cookie cutters. I love these cookies. I think y’all will love both if you choose to give them a go. DO IT. (P.S. If you’d like to find the set I bought on Amazon, it’s here) Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #201, co-hosted by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Smoky Chili Crackers

Day 3: Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

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Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

Recipe Courtesy 0f Springerle Joy

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Ingredients

  • 180 grams butter (softened)
  • 125 grams dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 125 grams molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 50 grams cocoa
  • 350 grams (pastry or all-purpose) flour
  • pinch of salt

Special equipment: cookie stamp or cutter of choice

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, spices and cocoa with a fork and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer using the paddle attachment, or using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and slightly fluffy.

Add the egg and molasses and mix until just combined. Fold in the flour mixture in batches (don’t add it all at once) until the dough comes together smoothly.

Shape into a disk and refrigerate for a few hours until slightly firm. If you’re in a hurry, you can freeze it for about 40 minutes to an hour.

Divide the dough in quarters. Keep one quarter out, while keeping the other three in the fridge as you work. Sprinkle a work surface like a pastry mat, cutting board or wax paper with flour. Roll out the dough to about 1/2 inch thickness and sprinkle the top with flour or powdered sugar. Dip your cookie stamp in flour or powdered sugar, then firmly press it into the dough. Remove, then cut out the cookie and remove it to a sheet pan you’ve lined with parchment paper. Repeat until you’ve cut out all the dough.

Refrigerate the sheet pan(s) of cookies overnight.

Preheat oven to 320°F. Immediately place sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes (depending on cookie size), rotating the pans halfway and checking regularly.

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.

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.