Berry Crisp Ham and Black Pepper Biscuits

I think that this may be the first time ever that I’ve been away from my mom on Mother’s Day. It’s certainly the first time I’ve been over two thousand miles away. Feels weird. I miss her. I wish I was back in the Mitten sometimes, but especially times like now so that I could cook my mom a good meal as a way of showing her that I do love and appreciate her.

For any of my followers that are also far away from their moms on Sunday,  if your mother has passed away, or if you just don’t have the kind of relationship with your mom that you’d like to and the holiday is difficult for you–I’m sorry for that. I hope you can find a silver lining to the day.

Food has never failed to be one for me, so let’s focus on that for the moment.

Today’s recipe was actually the meal that I made for us on Easter. However, I thought it would work this week just as well. It also piggy-backs on last week’s where I shared the second best biscuit recipe I’ve ever had or made. I do hope some of you were able to give it a try like we both know you wanted to. But if you’re STILL dragging your feet and putting it off, maybe this week’s recipe & pictures will finally put the boot in your rear and make you just do it already.

Bargain shoppers know that the closer you get to major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, the better price you can get for the huge ‘roast’ style cuts of meat like whole turkeys and hams in grocery stores. We haven’t had ham since Christmas and since we do enjoy it,  I knew for sure that I was going to wait until the last minute to buy an inexpensive one to make for Easter dinner. I just wasn’t sure of how and with what else to serve it with.

It didn’t take very long before I made up my mind. I’d been craving breakfast for dinner for a while. Since it’s just the three of us all the way out here I thought that that would be a simple, yet delicious celebratory meal: Easter Brinner.

I for one, just couldn’t imagine having a real ham brinner without the biscuits. So, I didn’t try. I cooked a ham and a batch of the newfound biscuit recipe that I was still swooning over and still wanting more of after they were gone–with some modifications that in my opinion, made it even better.

First off, I loveloveLOVE this ham. The rub I put together is sweet, zesty and with just the right amount of aromatic ‘kick’ from the cloves and nutmeg. It pairs just right with the berry glaze that gets brushed over the ham while it warms up and causes it to form that dark, bark-like, sugary crust on the outside. Using a standard/spiral ham is also pretty impossible to mess up as the thing is already cooked in the first place. So long as you don’t dry it out, which if you follow the baking time, is extremely difficult to do, it should turn out great.

The first time I made these biscuits, I left them plain, without any major seasonings added to the dough outside of some sugar and a tiny bit of salt. They were definitely delicious enough on their own. However, for Easter I did want to try and mix things up and see if they could be improved upon. I was right. They could. Best part was, the only changes I made from the original was the addition of 2 ingredients: black pepper and bacon drippings.

Just two simple ingredients and WHOA. They really did elevate the biscuits in not only flavor but the appearance. Although it’s definitely visibly flecked throughout the dough, the pepper isn’t overwhelming. Promise, it really isn’t: so do use the whole tablespoon. The biscuits also browned more evenly across the top and bottom and the layers were more pronounced than they were the first time I made them. The edges became perfectly crisp while the inside stayed light and fluffy. This  is just how biscuits ought to be.

See this?

Black pepper biscuit, sliced in half. Ham. A fried egg cooked just to where the egg white has set and the yolk is still runny. Smear both sides with the ham glaze. Smash it all together into one. This kids, is the best breakfast sandwich that I’ve ever had, bar none. And it was my Easter Brinner. (Actually, I loved it so much that I ended up having two, but mind your business).

I only wish I was back home so I could make this meal for my mom. I kinda think she’d be pleased with it.

Happy Mother’s Day and Fiesta Friday #171, where I’ll be linking this post up to.

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Berry Crisp Ham and Black Pepper Biscuits

Recipe Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens & King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Ham

  • 8 lb. cooked ham, liquid reserved
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • About 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 cup honey

For Biscuits

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen, plus more for brushing
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat/drippings (solid or liquid, doesn’t matter)
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plus more if necessary

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, combine the light brown sugar, cinnamon, coriander, ground cloves, and nutmeg.

Place the ham in a large roasting pan. Using a sharp knife, score the outer skin in crisscross pattern, being careful not to pierce the actual meat. Rub the spice mixture evenly over the skin with your hands. (It may get messy, and it may not all stick to the ham. That’s fine. The excess will form a syrupy sauce in the bottom of the pan as it cooks;  yum.) Pour the chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake on the bottom rack for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until heated through (inner temp should be near 140 degrees F.)

Meanwhile, pour reserved ham liquid, OJ, jam, berries and honey in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about 15-20 more minutes until syrupy, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat, and brush some of the glaze over the ham as it cooks.

Remove the cover from the roasting pan and crank oven up to 425 F. Allow ham to cook for about 20-35 more minutes until the skin gets crispy, brushing/basting with a bit more of the glaze. Remove from the oven, cover with foil again and allow to stand for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the extra glaze.

For Biscuits: Keep oven at 425 Degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, pepper and sugar with a fork.

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the dry ingredients and stir a few times to combine. Make a well in the center of the bowl. Add the bacon fat and pour the buttermilk into the well and use a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.

Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper 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.)

Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.

Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to divide the rectangle in half, then divide the halves into thirds or fourths squares (depending on what size biscuits you want).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cut biscuits on it. Freeze them for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, fill a shallow pan with water and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

Brush the biscuits with melted butter, then bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top. Remove from oven to a wire rack.

Cinnamon Star Bread

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Hey guys.  So yeah… about this.

This is bread. Just cinnamon, sugar and bread. That’s it.

I know right? I’m not even going to make an attempt at humility with this one. Quite frankly, this is pretty awesome and I feel kinda awesome myself for having actually made it. I was excited after the second proof before the thing even went in the oven: it was already just so darn pretty.

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I’ve spoken before about my love for the Great British Bake Off/Baking Show. If you’re a fan of cooking & baking in general then I assume you’ve already seen it yourself–if not, you should as it’s a great show. In every episode there is a Show-stopper round, where the contestants have to take the subject of the week and use it to create a ‘showstopping’ work of art that is every bit as delicious to look at as it is to eat.

Rest assured, I will most certainly not be competing on a baking show at any point in time–however if strictly hypothetically speaking I did happen to compete on Bake Off, this Christmas star would almost DEFINITELY be my centerpiece for the showstopper round of Bread week.

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Number one: it’s GORGEOUS. Probably one of the prettiest things I’ve ever baked. Number two, it’s also deceptively simple to put together. No, but seriously: IT IS. I didn’t believe it at first glance either, but after reading the step-by-step illustrated walk-through on the King Arthur Flour website, I knew that this was something I could at least try to pull off for myself.

Plus, I couldn’t think of a better occasion for it than the 12 Days of Christmas series.

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I almost didn’t want to cut into this at all, but you guys should know that the recipe yields beautiful results both to look at and to eat. The bread bakes up soft and chewy and the cinnamon sugar gives it a subtle sweetness that makes it great for enjoying with coffee. I’m sure I also don’t have to point out the obvious; that if you were to take this into just about ANY breakroom, anywhere then it would most definitely disappear with all quickness. The twists on the star points make for easy tear-and-share portions and I assure you that there’s plenty to go around.

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I decided to keep things simple for my first go-around with the bread, but now that I see how easy it is to put together my mind is already formulating new renditions to give this. The cinnamon sugar can easily be substituted for a blend of chocolate & nuts. A layer of fruit spread. Nu-friggin-tella. I could also even possibly see a savory twist given to this where it’s layered with cheese and herbs. The possibilities here are endless and the results for this just can’t be beat. Because I like to share, I’ll be sharing my Christmas star with all of us showing up to this week’s Fiesta Friday #151–where it’s pretty crowded already I see. The more the merrier.

Well. Here we are again. We’ve reached yet another end to the 12 Days of Christmas series. Thanks to all of you who followed along with me. Hopefully it stirred up the baking elf in you and gave some inspiration to whip up some Christmas cheer in your own kitchens. Just as I have every day, I’ll include the links to all of the recipes in this year’s series below. Feel free to check them out if you haven’t already done so.

Have a very VERY Happy Holiday, you guys. Bless up.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

Day 6: Spiced Cookie Bark

Day 7: Demerara Sugar Buns

Day 8: Sugared Shortbread

Day 9: Hot Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

Day 10: Cranberry Scones

Day 11: Pebernodder Cookies

Day 12: Cinnamon Star Bread

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Cinnamon Star Bread

Recipe Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Dough

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

For Filling

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup cinnamon sugar (1/3 cup of white sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon)

 

Directions

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

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

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

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

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 piece of the dough into a 10 inch circle. Place this circle on a piece of parchment and brush with a thin coat of the beaten egg. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the cinnamon sugar mixture on top and use your fingers to lightly press into the dough, leaving 1/4 of the outer circle bare. Set the parchment nearby.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pebernodder Cookies

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So here’s my full disclosure on the subject of today’s post: it was my original intention to make Pebernodder cookies apart of 2015’s 12 Days of Christmas.  I first heard of them through this baking recipe card collection I had and because I thought they looked and sounded delicious, I decided to give it a whirl.

It didn’t work out very well.

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To this day, I have no idea what the heck was wrong with that stupid cookie dough. The problems started showing themselves with the very first test cookie. It spread too much. The edges were coming out weird. The consistency of the finished cookie wasn’t even close to what one should’ve been.

And Believe me, I tried everything I could to fix it. I altered how I rolled out and cut the dough. I froze the dough for a while. Baked it more. Baked it less. Changed the position in the oven. Nothing worked. It was just…off.

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I finally remembered the other batches of cookies I had to bake and decided to write the Pebernodder off as the L that I was just gonna have to take for that year’s Christmas baking. I binned the remaining failed dough (of which there was unfortunately quite a bit), shook off the irritation, and just kept it moving.

In the back of my mind however, I resolved that for the next go around in 2016, I was absolutely *going* to get it right.

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I should probably go into just what is ‘right’ for a Pebernodder for you guys, huh?

Well the word ‘Pebernodder’ is actually Danish for Pepper Nuts (I think so anyway. I also don’t speak a syllable of Danish, so don’t quote me on that one). They’re traditionally very tiny cookies strongly flavored with spices like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and even pepper. Some variations use black pepper, while others even use the even more potent white pepper that give them an extra ‘kick’ that juuuuust toes the line between sweet and spicy.

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Aside from the combination of the spices, the main appeal of the cookie to me was the tiny, portable size. They just look like cookies that are meant to be piled in a big Christmas tin, wrapped in bow and presented as a gift or brought to an office party to share.  There’s plenty to go around with this batch, that much I can assure you.

Now remember, these are called Peppernuts for a reason. They’re supposed to be round and tiny so that they kinda resemble nuggets. So keeping that in mind, here are a few tips for handling this dough that should give you the results you want:

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The dough should be rolled into long and thin logs, then cut into very tiny pieces, like balls. Provided the dough is cold enough AND that you follow the tip of crinkling up the parchment paper, the cookies should have VERY minimal spreading. The tiny size of the cookies and high temperature of the oven also makes them bake very quickly despite the recipe yielding such a huge batch. You won’t be in the kitchen forever, promise.

Spice, spice and more spice: that’s the best way I can describe the taste of these. There’s just enough sugar to balance the bite of the spices. I know that other variations of these come out crisp, but my cookies came out rather soft and chewy–not that I’m complaining mind you. I heard nothing but praise from these and I’m very happy with my redo of the Pebernodder.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

Day 6: Spiced Cookie Bark

Day 7: Demerara Sugar Buns

Day 8: Sugared Shortbread

Day 9: Hot Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

Day 10: Cranberry Scones

Day 11: Pebernodder Cookies

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Pebernodder Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Rikke Gryberg

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/10 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • A few shakes of black pepper (optional, use if you prefer a ‘bite’ to the cookie, leave out if you prefer it on the sweeter side)

Directions

In a medium bowl, use a fork to mix the flour, cinnamon, cardamom, ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, baking power, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In the bottom of a standing mixer bow, use the wire attachment (or a handheld mixer) to mix the butter, white sugar and heavy cream.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, about 1/2 cup at a time. It should form a smooth dough. Separate into 4 portions and place in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes, until dough holds together firmly.

Take each individual portion and divide it into about 3 to 4 balls. Roll each ball into long strips/ropes, about 8-10 inches long. Place the ropes on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the freezer for another 10-15 minutes

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take a sheet of parchment paper and crumple it up in your hands thoroughly. Smooth it back out onto a baking sheet. (Repeat this process for as many sheets of cookies you plan on baking. The ridges and bumps made in the paper will keep the cookies from spreading too much.)

Remove the cookie logs from the freezer. Using a bench scraper or a sharp knife, cut each log into little pieces, about 1/3 inch thick. You can line the logs up next to each other and cut them all at once if you wish to save time. Place each piece about 1 1/2 inches apart from each other on the sheet (these cookies don’t spread much, so don’t feel the need to place a lot of space between them)

Take one baking sheet and bake in the oven for 7-8 minutes until the cookies have just started to turn golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 60 seconds before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the rest of the dough, keeping what you’re not currently baking inside the freezer or the refrigerator so as not to let it get too soft (which will cause them to spread).

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.)

Cranberry Scones

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As the song goes, “Christmas is the time to say I love you”.

I’ve got a few different love languages, but as you can probably imagine, my primary one is through cooking and baking. I don’t do either for just anybody.

I don’t love just anybody. If I’m feeding you, I care about you. I like you a lot. You’re my peoples. (That or I’ve got an overabundance of food I want to get rid of. Or you’re paying me to do so; my ‘love’s’ for sale in that respect.)

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If I’m fluent in the love language of baking, then I’d say it’s a fluency in the ‘dialect’ of coffee shop pastries. There’s just always been something about the goodies in the big display cases of coffee shops that makes me excited.  Cinnamon rolls. Banana bread. Muffins. Donuts. Bagels. Coffee Cake. Cookies.

SCONES.

C’mon, how can all that buttery, sugary goodness NOT scream ‘I love you’ when you’re hungry and salivating?

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I’m convinced that there’s nobody who won’t feel loved if you feed them a scone. A good one anyway. I’ve heard some people say that they don’t care for/hate scones and immediately I know that they’ve just never had one that was made right. Made with love.

I feel sorry for them–because everyone deserves one of those.

More specifically…one of these.

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I had some leftover cranberries chilling in my refrigerator and I didn’t want them to go to waste. I figured that cranberries were a nice ingredient to complement both the Christmas season and the theme of the series we’re in.

I also just felt like making scones; it’s been a while since I have, about a year and a half I think, and as far as I’m concerned that’s just far too long to go without.

Making a good scone is very similar to making a good biscuit; how you treat the butter and handle the dough is going to determine the success or failure of just about the entire result. So, a couple things:

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it once more: freezing your butter ahead of time is the best decision you can make. The colder the butter is, the more flaky the scone will be. Having said that, I’ve found that the best way to ‘cut’ it into the dough is to use the large holes on a box grater. The pieces will be just the right size and they’ll distribute far more evenly into the flour that way than they would if you just cut the stick of butter into cubes with a knife.

I’m wary of using cups or biscuit cutters to cut my scones (and biscuits). Supposedly so long as you don’t twist when you press down, it doesn’t affect the layering, but I’ve never found that to be the case. For some reason, it always hinders the rise for me. So, I always just default to using my bench scraper to cut the dough into squares or wedges. Works every time.

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Finally, just before I bake I will always let my cut scones (and biscuits) chill out in the freezer for about 20 minutes. I can’t remember where I read it or the scientific explanation, but this also helps the finished product expand and rise higher. So don’t skip that step if you can help it.

Following all of the above tips will get yo these: and don’t they just look delectable? Buttery, flakey dough with plentyof layers. Sweet and tart fruit throughout. Crunchy sugary goodness sprinkled on top. The Christmas “I love you.” that you’ve been craving all year.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

Day 6: Spiced Cookie Bark

Day 7: Demerara Sugar Buns

Day 8: Sugared Shortbread

Day 9: Hot Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

Day 10: Cranberry Scones

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Cranberry Scones

Recipe Courtesy of The Kitchn

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 small orange or clementine, zested
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup milk
  • Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling, optional

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F and prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment or lightly spraying with spray oil.

In the bowl of a food processor, whiz the cranberries with the brown sugar and orange zest until lightly chopped. Remove to a separate large bowl. Back in the food processor, whiz the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and pulse with the flour in the processor just until roughly crumbled.

Mix the flour and butter mixture with the cranberries in their bowl. Add the milk and stir just until the dough comes together; it’s fine if there is still crumbly flour.

Sprinkle the countertop or a board with flour, and dump the dough out on it. Cut out rounds using a biscuit cutter or glass, or pat into a thick circle and cut into wedges.

Sprinkle the scone tops with the turbinado sugar. Freeze for 25 minutes.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until just golden. Serve warm.

Hot Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

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So, in my Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate post, I think I may have been a little harsh in my critique of the ‘just add water’ hot cocoa mix as an ingredient. I may have given you the impression that I think it completely useless and something to avoided at all times.

Not so. Not at all.

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Do I prefer to have my hot chocolate straight from real melted chocolate and milk: yes.  Do I still think the sky blue colored name brand hot chocolate with the ‘Sound of Music’ inspired mascot is nasty and should be avoided at all costs? Absolutely.

However, there’s a time and place for everything, and this absolutely extends to hot cocoa mix–especially when it comes to my favorite of activities: baking. There are still other name brands that I think produce perfectly fine powdered cocoa mixes, both for drinking and baking.

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….You guys DID know you could bake with hot cocoa mix with great results right? You totally can. You just have to make sure that (just like with booe) you pick and use a product that you would want to drink all on its own….which is exactly why I stand by my assertion that the Alps Girl hot chocolate should be avoided at all costs. It’s crap and I don’t think it would translate well in this recipe; stay away from it.

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At this time of year, I’ve seen the Land O’ Lakes gift baskets floating around with the HUGE variety of hot chocolate mixes. I’ve had several of those before and I think they’re pretty tasty all on their own and would be just fine to use. I opted used Nestle Abuelita Mexican Hot Chocolate mix in this recipe, as personally I prefer the flavors of Mexican hot chocolate to regular. Plus, the mix produces pretty tasty hot cocoa all on it’s own. If you have another gourmet brand of hot chocolate you want to use, have at it. Like I said: just make it something you’d want to drink.

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I’ve only made marble cake once before and to be honest, it wasn’t very successful. The marbling effect didn’t work out the way I wanted to and it ended up sinking to the bottom of the pan so that it wasn’t pretty and…yeah. Just a bad kitchen memory. But as the saying goes: if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.

I gotta say, I think my second attempt at marble cake came out not just pretty, but pretty damn tasty too if I may say so myself. What’s more, it’s pretty easy to do.

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Pound cake is the perfect vehicle for a marble cake because everyone loves a pound cake all on its own anyway. Once you take a standard vanilla pound cake batter and swirl it with a Mexican Hot Chocolate flavored one, you’re really just improving on a classic dessert that you’d be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t going to want a slice.

I included a recipe for the pretty icing drizzle, but I would ALSO highly recommend eating this with a scoop of vanilla ice cream with chocolate drizzled on top. Or, a scoop of chocolate ice cream with MORE chocolate drizzled on top for you chocaholics.

Oh! And maybe even eating a slice with a warm cup of hot cocoa on the side. Heh. See what I did there?

Happy Fiesta Friday #150, co-hosted this week by Caroline @ Caroline’s Cooking and Tânia @ Iwanttobeacook.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

Day 6: Spiced Cookie Bark

Day 7: Demerara Sugar Buns

Day 8: Sugared Shortbread

Day 9: Hot Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

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Hot Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

Recipe Adapted from Food Network

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Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream (you can substitute buttermilk if you don’t have the sour cream; it’ll be fine)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup hot chocolate or cocoa mix (I used Nestle Abuelita Authentic Mexican Hot Chocolate Drink Mix)

For Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Milk
  • About 2 tablespoons melted chocolate chips
  • Sprinkles (optional)

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl combine the flour and salt together and set aside. In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, sour cream or milk and vanilla extract and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer and using the wire attachment (or you can use a handheld mixer), cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Alternately add in the flour (about 1/3 a cup at a time) and the egg mixture, starting and ending with the flour until just combined; don’t overmix.

Transfer about 1/3 of the batter to the small bowl you mixed the eggs/sour cream or milk in. Stir in the hot chocolate mix.

Take the greased loaf pan and spoon in a layer of the vanilla batter, using the butt end of the spoon or a rubber spatula to smooth it out to all four corners. Take about three rounded tablespoons of the chocolate batter and dollop it on top of the vanilla. Use the pointed end of the knife to swirl the chocolate batter into the vanilla. Repeat, spooning another layer of vanilla batter on top followed by 3 more dollops of chocolate. When you’ve used all the batter, insert the knife down to the bottom of the pan and give it a few more swirls; not too many or you’ll ruin the marble effect.

Give the pan 2 or 3 taps on the counter, place on a baking sheet and bake for 90 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the inner temp of the cake reaches 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing: Place the powdered sugar in a small bowl and add enough milk to make a thick icing, 1 tablespoon at a time. Using the tines of a fork, drizzle it on top of the cooled cake. Take the leftover frosting and stir in the melted chocolate chips. Once the white icing has cooled, take the chocolate icing and drizzle a second layer of icing on top of that. Top with sprinkles if desired. Allow icing to set before cutting and serving, about 30-45 minutes.

Sugared Shortbread

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Good things don’t always have to come in big packages. Baking doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out process to yield delicious, worthwhile packages. Christmas treats shouldn’t have to always take you a few days to crank out of the kitchen.

And this is coming from someone who will dedicate entire weekends to her baking endeavors if the recipe so calls for it.

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If you’re sitting down at the moment and thinking, “Boy, I’d really love to have a really yummy Christmas cookie right about now but I sure don’t feel like spending a bunch of time in the kitchen.”, then rest easy. There is indeed a solution to this problem.

The solution is shortbread. Sugared Shortbread to be exact.

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I really don’t know how I’ve been baking for as long as I have and *just* now got around to baking shortbread but I suppose Christmas is as good a time as any to start. This recipe is so easy, there really was no excuse for me to try and hide behind anymore. From the time I made the decision to take a stab at the shortbread to mixing the ingredients, baking, then finish was really no more than one hour, TOPS.

It was just SO simple. And the results.

I was skeptical that a cookie with so few and ‘standard’ ingredients could be something worth writing home about at all. But fortunately,even skeptics like me get proven wrong at times. I don’t know what it is about the combination of these few, simple ingredients, but they create a cookie that is really, really REALLY addictive.

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The smell as it’s baking is…wow. I was excited before I even took it out of the oven. Does it *need* the extra sprinkling of sugar on top? Not necessarily. On it’s own, it’s a pretty darn tasty stick of buttery shortbread, but the added sugar does give it that extra sweetness and an added crunchy texture on top. The texture of the shortbread itself is sandy and tender; think a thick sandie cookie that melts in your mouth. Because I prefer the flavor, I used two teaspoons of vanilla extract but this shortbread is so versatile that I could easily see using ANY other extract with excellent results: lemon, lime, coconut, anise, almond, orange. If you wanted to add in citrus zest, that too would be awesome.

Bottom line, if you’ve got about 10 minutes to spare, then you should whip together this shortbread. It’s a perfect bite of Christmas cheer if ever I took one–and I took several.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

Day 6: Spiced Cookie Bark

Day 7: Demerara Sugar Buns

Day 8: Sugared Shortbread

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Sugared Shortbread

Recipe Adapted from New York Times

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup rice flour*
  • 1/2 cup sugar, and more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted and cooled
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

*You can make your own rice flour by pulverizing plain long grain rice in a high power blender  (like a Ninja or Nutribullet) on the highest setting until grains are very fine and powdery.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 or 9 inch square pan with parchment paper.

Whisk the dry ingredients (flours, sugar and salt) together with a fork or wire whisk. Pour in the melted butter and vanilla extract. Stir together until evenly combined.

Press into the bottom of the pan evenly with your hands or  rubber spatula. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the pan and sprinkle with a thin layer of sugar. Bake for 5 more minutes.

Using a bench scraper or a knife, cut shortbread into slices while still warm and sprinkle more sugar on top if desired. Allow to cool completely.

Demerara Sugar Buns

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Everyone knows that little kids love to wake up bright and early on Christmas morning so that they can dive right into the presents, while the adults just wish they could sleep in, am I right?

Well…what if I’m not?

What if there were something that would make us grown-ups want to get right out of bed early on Christmas morning and come clambering down the steps like excited rugrats too?

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If there’s anything that can do it, I’d say it be food. And in the personal case of THIS adult, (short of, I don’t know loan forgiveness or a winning Powerball lottery ticket) then I’d think more specifically, it would be the smell and anticipation of a good Christmas breakfast.

I’ve had some of the shortest sleeps of my life the night before I know I’m going to eat good the next day. At times, it really can be like being a little kid struggling to go to sleep on Christmas Eve. I’ve put roasts in the slow cooker late at night, then absolutely woken up bright and early the next morning, rushed into the kitchen and lifted the lid just because the smells coming out of it were too tantalizing to leave alone and I had to see/taste the results.

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Baked goods are a major Achilles Heel of mine. Always have been. Rich, buttery doughs that are slathered in thick icing/glaze or sugar make me salivate at the mouth and weak at the knees (not to mention chunky in the derriere, but let’s just focus on positives here, shall we?)

The smell of them is a very close second to the taste. To me, the smell of baking pastries is just how you’d imagine Christmas morning would smell if you could capture it inside an air freshener. It makes me kinda curious as to why no one’s gotten on that yet; surely some company out there must be able to do better than those sugar cookie flavored candles that really just  act as triggers for your gag reflex.

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You know what smell would make an *awesome* holiday candle?

Demerara Sugar Buns.

Come on: doesn’t it just sound like it belongs on a candle label? (Either that, or used as the stage name of a Burlesque dancer.)

The presents underneath the tree are always going to be what gets the kids out of bed–but I promise one thing and it’s that the smell of these buns baking in your oven will prooooobably be enough to make the adults curious enough to at least wake up and call out what’s for breakfast. It’s just…glorious, you guys.

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The dough is both all purpose and whole wheat based, which gives it a faint nuttiness that pairs very well with the nutmeg that I added to give it an earthy spice. For shaping, I couldn’t make my mind up between wreaths and spirals, so I did both. The spirals proofed and baked prettier than the wreaths and in the future I’d probably just stick to the spirals, but you can shape these into whatsoever shape your heart desires; heck, you could even just leave them as simple balls of dough if you’d like. It won’t affect the taste, promise.

Aside from it’s awesome flavor, you can probably guess that the best part of biting in one of these babies is that crunchy layer of demerara sugar that sprinkled on top. Because it’s sprinkled on before baking, it also becomes caramelized in the oven, giving an even richer, sweeter flavor to the buns overall.

I know I don’t need to state the obvious, but I will anyway: these are delicious. Slice one in half when piping hot, slather with butter and jam and you’ll swear it’s a Christmas miracle.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

Day 6: Spiced Cookie Bark

Day 7: Demerara Sugar Buns

 *******************************************************

Demerara Sugar Buns

Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

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Ingredients

  • 1 ¼-ounce envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
  • 2/3 cup whole milk, warmed
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus melted for brushing (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided (plus more for sprinkling)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup Demerara sugar, plus more

 

Directions

Whisk yeast, milk, and maple syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer just to combine. Sprinkle the 1 teaspoon of white sugar on top then let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Whisk in eggs and the 6 tablespoons of butter.

In a small bowl, combine the salt, whole wheat flour, 2¾ cups all-purpose flour, and nutmeg.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the mixer and mix on low speed with dough hook until a shaggy dough forms. Increase speed to medium and mix until dough comes together into a smooth ball and pulls away from the sides of bowl, 10–12 minutes.

Place dough in a buttered large bowl and cover. Let sit in a warm spot until doubled in size, 1–1½ hours.  Meanwhile in a small bowl combine the 1/3 cup of demerara sugar with the 1/3 cup white sugar in a small bowl. Punch down dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface; divide into 3 pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time and keeping the other pieces covered in plastic wrap, roll out dough into about a 12 x 8″ rectangle. Sprinkle with one-third of sugar mixture and cut crosswise into 4 pieces (you should have four 8 x 3″ rectangles). Roll up each piece to make a long rope; squeeze ends gently and pinch along seam to seal. Tug rope to stretch so it’s about 10″ long. From here, either roll the ropes up into coils (like you would a spring), or shape into wreaths (there are MANY tutorials online that will show you how to do this).

Gently transfer buns to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap & a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about another 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the 4 tablespoons of melted butter and brush over the proofed buns. Sprinkle with more Demerara sugar. Bake for 12-20 minutes until buns are golden brown and the sugar on top has started to caramelize. Allow to cool for about 10-12 minutes. Serve with butter & jam.