Brown Sugar Cookies

Sometimes I wish I was more ‘scientifically’ minded, so that I could be more into the ‘technical’ aspect of baking. At its core, baking of any kind is just a science experiment. Certain ingredients put together in a certain way have a certain reaction, and that reaction is the ‘product.’

I’ve been doing this long enough to where I know or have a rough idea what kinds of reactions certain ingredients and certain methods have, but I’m not at the point where I I understand the full science behind it.

For instance, a lot of practice and trial/error has given me a very good grasp on what ingredients and methods work for baking (American-style) biscuits. I know what they do, but the scientific ‘how’ of the ingredients/methods? Eh.

Cookies are another recipe that I really wish I understood the science behind more. I know how to make them, but there are times when I think if I understood the ‘whys’ of making them, I could be better at it. Today’s recipe was one of those times.

They weren’t quite what I expected when I set out to make them, but I still really like how they turned out. I thought they would be more along the lines of a smallish, puffy cookie and in reality, they were indeed chewy, but they spread quite a bit and were flatter than I imagined. Now either that happened because I was doing something wrong, or because I needed to have a firmer grasp on how my ingredients were going to react

Or, y’know… both.

But regardless, I still liked these enough to leave them on the list for the 12 Days of Christmas. It’s the flavor for me; the brown sugar and molasses gives them great, rich flavor up the wazoo. If you like the large, bakery style cookies that have crisp edges and a chewy center, these are definitely for you. They also keep and ship very well.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to google/hunt down a ‘science behind cookies’ article.

Day 1: Winter Spice Sausage Rolls

Day 3: Peanut Butter Snickerdoodles

Day 4: Sweet Potato Gingerbread

Day 5: Brown Sugar Cookies

Brown Sugar Cookies

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large yolk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, for rolling
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and the molasses and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.

Place the granulated sugar and ground cinnamon in a medium bowl.

Form the cookies into 1 1/2-ounce balls (2 tablespoons). Roll each ball in the sugar and place cookie dough balls in a resealable plastic container lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line three sheet pans with parchment paper. (If you don’t have 3 baking sheets, you can reuse the parchment and baking sheets, just let the sheets cool off between each round.)

Place 8 cookies on each sheet pan. Bake one pan at a time, rotating halfway through baking. Bake until the sides are set and the bottoms are light golden brown, 10 to 11 minutes.

Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack and let the cookies cool for 5 to 10 minutes on the pan, then remove them and let them cool completely on the wire rack.

(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.)

Sweet Potato Gingerbread

I usually always try to incorporate some kind of gingerbread-y themed recipe(s) in the 12 Days of Christmas, but up until today’s post, it’s actually been quite a while since I made actual gingerbread. I consider that kind of a shame considering how much I love it, and how extremely easy it is to throw together.

True to my word from earlier posts, I’m sharing yet another recipe that features sweet potato as a main ingredient. It’s one of my favorite vegetables, it’s rich in beta carotenes, and I’ve found that it lends itself extremely well as a baking ingredient–even when baking for Christmas.

I’ve used mashed potato as an ingredient when baking yeast bread before, with wonderful results. Not only does it add flavor, the potato acts as a built in ‘moistener’ that makes it very difficult for the loaf to dry out. Since it worked for a yeast loaf, I saw no reason it couldn’t work for a quick bread.

For me, delicious gingerbread boils down to two things: moisture and spices. They both have to be there, or it’s no bueno. The mashed sweet potato takes care of all of the moisture in this loaf, and as for spices, there’s ground ginger (of course) as well as cinnamon nutmeg and molasses.

Oh, the wonderful, heavenly smells this made in my kitchen as it was baking. I’m getting emotional/hungry just thinking about it.

Gingerbread’s flavor actually improves with time, so this might be something you ‘make ahead’, allow it to sit for a few days wrapped in wax paper, parchment in a plastic bag, then take out to enjoy on Christmas eve or Christmas morning.

Or you could do what I did, and cut a square out as soon as it was cool enough to handle and eat it standing right over the stove. Your choice.

Day 1: Winter Spice Sausage Rolls

Day 3: Peanut Butter Snickerdoodles

Day 4: Sweet Potato Gingerbread

Sweet Potato Gingerbread

Recipe Adapted from Southern Lady Magazine

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • ¼ cup dark molasses
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Coarse sugar, for sprinkling, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 13x9x2-inch pan, or line the pan with parchment paper you’ve lightly sprayed with cooking spray; set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine brown sugar and butter; beat at medium speed with a mixer until creamy. Add sweet potato, milk, molasses, eggs, and vanilla, beating to mix well. Gradually add flour mixture to sweet potato mixture, beating until combined.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle the top with coarse sugar, if desired.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan, and cut into 12 squares.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #410.

Peanut Butter Snickerdoodles

If I were facing down a platter of cookies and I had a choice between a snickerdoodle and a peanut butter cookie, I honestly can’t tell you which one I would pick.

For me, the choice comes down to what flavor(s) and what textures I’m in the mood for at the moment.

A snickerdoodle is more of a chewy/cakey cookie with a warm, sugar-spice-everything nice flavor profile. The peanut butter cookie may be crisp, or chewy, but the flavor profile is pretty much…peanut butter. Which, needs no help from anything else. It’s delicious enough all by itself.

The thing is, they’re both delicious cookies…but what if you put them together?

I’m always curious about trying out ‘mishmash’ recipes that combine two classics into a hybrid one, and seeing how well it does or doesn’t work. Today’s recipe combines the snickerdoodle and the peanut butter cookie together and I have to say, I think it works.

As you can probably tell from the pictures, structurally and texturally, these do lean more on the peanut butter cookie side. The snickerdoodle element comes in towards the end, where the balls of cookie dough are rolled in cinnamon sugar to create that crackly sugar crust of goodness that are reminiscent of snickerdoodles.

These are really easy to make so far as cookies go, and they pack/ship very well. If you’re like me and you couldn’t choose between peanut butter and snickerdoodle cookies on a platter either, make it easy on yourself and just try these out.

And! Be sure to stay updated with the other recipes shared thus far on this year’s 12 Days of Christmas (see below…)

Day 1: Winter Spice Sausage Rolls

Day 3: Peanut Butter Snickerdoodles

Peanut Butter Snickerdoodles

Recipe Adapted from Taste of the South Magazine

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup butter-flavored shortening
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter (use whichever you prefer; I used crunchy)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Directions

In a large bowl, beat shortening, ½ cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla with a mixer at medium-high speed until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add peanut butter, beating until smooth. Add egg, beating to combine.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture to shortening mixture, beating just until combined after each addition. Add cream, beating to combine.
In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls of dough into balls; roll in sugar mixture to coat.

Place dough balls in a plastic container lined with wax paper or parchment paper. Cover lightly and refrigerate overnight or at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place cookie dough balls 2 inches apart on prepared pans. Using a fork, flatten each ball to about ½-inch thickness, making a crosshatch design.

Bake until edges are just beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on pans for 5 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

(Note: no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #410.

Sweet Potato Cookie Bars

It’s Day 2 of the 12 Days of Christmas series on the blog–if you haven’t already, go back and check out the recipe for Day 1, where I also give a description of the series in general for those of you who may be new here.

I think that I mentioned in a post from a a couple weeks ago that I’d been doing a bit more baking with sweet potato as an ingredient as of late and as a result, I’d be posting some more sweet potato recipes here on the blog. Today’s recipe is one of the further proofs of that.

Sweet potato pie is easily in my Top 5 ranking of pies. It’s not number #1 or #2 (those spots go to Pecan and Strawberry-Rhubarb, respectively), but sweet potato is definitely up there.

One of the reasons I prefer pie to other desserts like cake is the textural element. I like contrasting textures in my food so that everything doesn’t necessarily taste ‘one note.’ And although I loveloveLOVE the flavors of sweet potato pie, I think it’s a few rankings beneath others because texturally, it can be a bit ‘one note’.

Sweet potato pie filling is ideally supposed to be very smooth, and pie crust itself is supposed to be flaky and melt in your mouth. That leaves little room for much ‘chew’ in the dessert itself, which is the only downside to sweet potato pie if I had to give one. This is one of the reasons why I’m rather geeked to be sharing today’s recipe with you all; it’s an automatic and pretty delicious ‘correction’ to what I see as the only minor ‘problem’ with sweet potato pie.

Rather than a pie crust base, this recipe has a pâte sablée cookie crust that’s pre-baked once, then twice again with the sweet potato filling on top. Apart from the fact that the cookie is delicious enough all on its own, it’s thick and chewy enough to give a fantastic textural contrast with the smooth and spiced sweet potato filling . They checked all the boxes for me and although they’re not a pie, I dooooo think they make for a solid contender against the real thing. Try em out.

Stay tuned for more recipes for the 12 Days of Christmas…

Day 1: Winter Spice Sausage Rolls

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Sweet Potato Cookie Bars

Recipe Adapted from Bake from Scratch

Ingredients

For Pâte Sablée Cookie Crust

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

For Sweet Potato Filling

  • 2 cups warm mashed baked sweet potato (make sure it’s completely mashed/smooth, with no chunks throughout)
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions

For Cookie Crust:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a handheld one with the beater attachments), beat butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add egg and egg yolks, beating until combined. Beat in vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating until combined.

For Sweet Potato Filling

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, letting excess extend over sides of pan; lightly spray with cooking spray.
Press Pâte Sablée cookie crust into bottom of prepared pan. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. Using a fork, prick the dough about every 1 inch.
Bake until light golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together warm mashed sweet potato and all remaining ingredients until well combined. Pour filling onto warm crust.
Bake until filling is set and an instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175°F (79°C), 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely in pan. Using excess parchment as handles, remove from pan. Trim edges, and cut into bars as desired using a hot, dry knife.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #409.

Winter Spice Sausage Rolls

We’re just on the cusp of December.

If you’ve been following this blog for at least a year, you know what that means. If you haven’t been following the blog for at least a year and have no idea what’s going on, you picked a great day to show up.

Annually straight after Thanksgiving, I kick off a special holiday series on the blog called the 12 Days of Christmas. It’s exactly what it sounds like:

12 days of holiday-themed baking and cooking recipes that I share from now and leading up to just before Christmas.

It’s always a lot of work, but it’s definitely a labor of love that I genuinely look forward to every year. When I was growing up, the holidays were a time when a lot of really delicious baking happened, and it gave the season a special feeling that I try and rekindle for nostalgia’s sake now that I’m old enough to do it for myself.

So let’s just get right into, shall we? Although the majority of the recipes I make for the 12 Days of Christmas are sweets, I do always try to throw at least one savory option in there, and this year, the savory dish is what we’re starting out with.

Sausage rolls aren’t huge here in the States, but from what I can tell, they’re huge across the pond in the UK, particularly at this time of year. British sausage rolls are typically made with sausage that’s been flavored with ‘wintery’ spices, then wrapped and baked in puff pastry. I knew going into the series this year that I wanted to do a Christmas sausage roll, but puff pastry isn’t my favorite.

So I made some adjustments.

The sausage filling of these rolls is flavored with pretty much all of the spices you’d associate with Christmas flavors, and if you’re a fan of Christmas meat pies like sausage rolls or French Canadian Tourtiere, you’ll recognize the flavor profile I was going for. However, for the casing part, I deviated from tradition, making neither puff pastry or pie crust; instead, these are wrapped/rolled/baked in a chewy/fluffy yeast dough. Additionally, the bottom of the pan is lined with a honey cinnamon glaze that makes the most delightful ‘goo’ to pair with the saltiness of the rolls themselves. In that sense, they’re kind of like Winter Spice Sticky Buns.

Pretty delicious start to this year’s 12 Days of Christmas I’d say.

Winter Spice Sausage Rolls

Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients

For Sausage Filling

  • 1 1/2 pounds breakfast sausage
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 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
  • Onion powder, salt and black pepper, to taste

For Bread Dough

  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 (1/4-oz.) envelope active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 large eggs

For Glaze

  • 3/4 cup (6 oz.) salted butter, cubed
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest plus 1/2 cup fresh juice (from 1 orange)

Directions

For the Sausage Filling: Heat about 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a skillet. Brown the sausage in the skillet in crumbles. Remove from heat and drain well. Move sausage into a medium size bowl and stir in the butter, honey, and spices. Set aside and allow to fully cool. (I prefer to let mine sit in the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors develop, but you don’t have to if you’re short on time.)

For Glaze: Melt the butter in a 2-3 quart saucepan.  Stir in the rest of the glaze ingredients into the saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook for an additional 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

For Buns: Heat milk in a 3-quart saucepan over medium until bubbles begin to form around the edge of pan. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine warm water and yeast in a 1-cup measuring cup. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the white sugar on top of the yeast mixture. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until bubbly.

Add yeast mixture, salt, 2 cups of the flour, and 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar to warm milk; stir until relatively smooth. Place mixture in a warm place (85°F) until bubbly, 10 to 15 minutes.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the shortening with the paddle attachment (or using a handheld mixer) until fluffy. Add the 2/3 cup of sugar and beat together until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time. Gradually spoon in the yeast mixture to the shortening-sugar mixture, mixing on low in batches until combined. Add remaining 3 cups flour, in batches, beating just until blended after each addition.

Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook; beat dough on medium speed until smooth, 10 to 12 minutes. Turn the dough out onto floured surface and knead with your hands for an additional 2 minutes. Grease/oil a bowl and place dough inside, covering with plastic wrap and damp towel. Allow to stand in a warm place for 1 hour until doubled in size.

Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Pour 1 1/2 cups of the honey glaze in the bottom of the dish, being sure to cover all corners (you can pour in more if you want a more gooey, sticky bottom on your buns). Set aside.

Punch dough down on a floured work surface to deflate air bubbles. Divide in half, place one half back in bowl and re-cover with plastic wrap. Roll out the other half to a rectangle, about 10- x 8-inches. Sprinkle one half of the sausage filling over the dough, leaving 1 inch border around. Starting from the long end, roll into a tight cylinder and pinch together to seal. Cut off & discard the two short ends to create smooth, even buns. Cut cylinder crosswise into 4 to 5 (1 1/2-inch-thick) rounds. Place each bun cut side down in the baking dish. Repeat with second dough half and sausage filling. When finished, cover the baking dish with plastic wrap & a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size 30-40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°. Bake buns on middle oven rack until golden brown on top, 55 minutes to 1 hour. (If buns are getting too brown, cover with aluminum foil after baking 30 minutes.) When finished, brush or drizzle some of the remaining honey glaze on top of buns.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #408.

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.

 

Jell-O Butter Cookies

As a snack/dessert all on its own, Jell-O doesn’t do much for me. I’ve just never been much of a fan. I think that for me, it comes down to the texture. Because of the gelatin, it’s rubbery, and doesn’t have much of a ‘chew’ to it. It’s just…there. Hanging out in your mouth until you swallow it. Where’s the ‘experience’ in that?


Even after I had a tonsillectomy and could only eat soft, cold, texture-less things, I still never wanted Jell-O. I stuck to popsicles and ice cream. All of that to say, Jell-O isn’t an ingredient that’s usually in my house. But when I was putting together the recipes for this year’s 12 Days of Christmas, I found one from the folks at Springerle Joy that made me change my mind. Not for the sake of Jell-O itself, but as an ingredient for another treat.

Butter cookies are really as close to a perfect dessert as you can get. Like pound cake, they’re wonderful all on their own, but their simplicity allows for a variety of different flavors to be added to them that can really enhance their taste.

This recipe is for a standard butter cookie that tastes perfectly fine all on it’s own. But rather than spices, the powdered base of two different flavors of Jello gets kneaded into the dough. Isn’t that clever? I wish I could take credit for the idea, but it’s 100% the recipe developers at Springerle Joy who come up with all kinds of imaginative recipes for stamped cookies, which are a favored go-to of mine. As with most other butter cookies, they hold up VERY well to cookie cutters, stamps and designs after baking.

When it comes to flavors, the sky’s really the limit, isn’t it? I mean, it’s been around for so long that there must be dozens of flavors of Jell-O out there by now. I know that around the holiday season, there’s a cranberry flavor that gets sold in some locations. I could’t locate it where I live, so for my rendition, I used cherry and lime. I then added red and green coloring gel to give them an extra vivid pop of color. Feel free to use whichever flavors you’re partial to.

These were fun to make, and eat. If you’re the kind of person who always has a box of Jell-O in your pantry, maybe you want to give this recipe a whirl.

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

 

 

Jell-O Butter Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Springerle Joy

Ingredients

  • 250 grams unsalted butter at room temperature (2 sticks + 2 Tablespoons)
  • 150 grams confectioner’s (powdered) sugar (1/3 lb)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 450 grams all-purpose flour (1lb)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 (3 oz.) packages of Jell-O (flavors of your choice. I used cherry and lime.)
  • Red and green food coloring gel (optional)

Directions

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

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

Fold the flour-salt mixture into the butter mixture, mixing just until combined.

Divide the dough into two sections. Sprinkle two Tablespoons of Jell-O powder onto each section and knead the dough until combined. You can add a few drops of food coloring gel to boost the color if desired.

Wrap both doughs in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or at least for a few hours.Dust the surface of your counter and rolling pin with flour or powdered sugar and roll out the dough to a thickness of approx. 3/8 inch to 1/2 inch. (If your dough is too soft to work with, refrigerate it 15-30 minutes.)

Dust the surface of your dough and your cookie mold with flour. Press the mold into the dough just far enough down to fill the mold cavity. Dust off any flour that appears on the impression. Place your cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Chill your cookie sheet full of molded cookies about 1/2 hour in the fridge.

Take your cookie sheet out of the fridge and immediately place it on the center rack of a preheated 325 degree F (160 degree C) oven. Bake your cookies about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies. Remove the cookies when the bottoms are just beginning to turn golden brown.

(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.)