Cranberry Pull Apart Wreath

Happy Christmas Eve eve, everyone.

We’ve reached the end of the 12 Days of Christmas series and we’ve just about reached the end of 2021.

That is absolutely bonkers to me.

The year flew by for me, and what a year it’s been. I have mixed emotions.

On the one hand, it’s been busy, challenging, and at times very stressful.

On the other hand, it’s also been very rewarding, validating and blessed.

Life’s not perfect, these are trying times we’re living in, and I’d be lying if I said it never got to me.

But at the end of the day, I like my life. I love what I do. I feel very blessed and grateful that I get to do it, and I have people in my life whose love and support makes all of the above possible. Those are facts that I try to remind myself of whenever times do get rough.

I understand that the holidays are not a particularly enjoyable time of year for everyone, for various reasons. To whoever you are and wherever you are that’s reading this, I hope that you can find at least a little bit of comfort, peace and joy, in whatever way that looks like for you. For me, doing this Christmas baking series is a huge source of my yearly holiday cheer. If it’s brought some to any of you, I really couldn’t ask for anything more.

I’ve been so excited to share this recipe with you all as the finale of the 12 Days of Christmas. It really surpassed my expectations and hopes for it when I first got the idea to try it out.

I’ve made pull apart bread twice before on the blog, with fantastic results. I knew going into this year’s series that I wanted to give it a holiday makeover, and this is what I came up with.

Pull apart bread requires a sturdy enriched dough that can stand up to the filling, and so I went with my go-to challah recipe for this. The filling itself is my go-to cranberry sauce recipe, but you can use whatever cranberry flavored jelly/preserves thing you prefer.

One thing I must insist on though is that you make sure your baking pan/tin is big enough to accommodate this loaf. I’m not kidding: this recipe makes a LOT of bread, y’all. Feel free to invite over a crowd, OR, make plans for a killer pain perdu. Both will work.

You guys, please have an amazing holiday and rest of the year. Congratulations for making it through 2021; here’s to 2022 and whatever it has in store for us. Please stay safe out there.

Jess ❤

Day 1: Winter Spice Sausage Rolls

Day 3: Peanut Butter Snickerdoodles

Day 4: Sweet Potato Gingerbread

Day 5: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 6: Gingerbread Biscotti

Day 7: Cranberry Custard Pie

Day 8: Pecan Pinwheel Cookies

Day 9: Browned Butter Pecan Tart

Day 10: Winter Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies

Day 11: Gingersnap Blondie Brookies

Day 12: Cranberry Pull Apart Wreath

Cranberry Pull Apart Wreath

Recipe Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

Ingredients

  •  2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • the zest of 1 large orange
  • 2 cups of homemade cranberry sauce or preserves. (I use this recipe)

Directions

In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Sprinkle white sugar on top of that and allow to proof about 10 minutes until yeast is frothy.

Beat in honey, oil, eggs, orange zest and salt. Add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating to kneading with hands as dough thickens. (You may not need to use all the flour, this varies according to kitchen temperature and time of year)

Knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed. Cover with a damp clean cloth and let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in bulk.

Grease and flour a 16 cup tube pan; set aside.

Punch down the risen dough and turn out onto floured board. Divide in half and keep one half covered in the bowl while you work with the other

Roll the half out into a 12 inch square. Use a spatula to spread HALF of the cranberry sauce/preserves over the dough. Use a pizza wheel, bench scraper or sharp knife to cut the square into 16 small squares. Make 4 stacks of 4 squares each. Place each stack on its side into the tube pan. Gently separate the dough layers so the dough fills the pan (it doesn’t have to be neat). Repeat this step with the other half of dough and the other half of the cranberry sauce/preserves.

Cover tube pan with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towel and allow to rise in warm place until dough rises by half its size, about 1 hour. Just before baking, sprinkle the top with white sugar. Bake until loaf is browned & cooked through (195-200 degrees F inner temp), tenting with foil if browning too quickly. Allow to cool in pan for about 30 minutes, then loosen with a knife around the sides. Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool for about 30 more minutes before slicing and serving.

Gingersnap Blondie Brookies

Just two more days of the 12 Days of Christmas, and just three more days until the actual day of. I feel like it came super fast this year, and as always, I’m a little sad that it’ll be over soon.

I’ll tell you one thing I’m not sad about though: today’s recipe.

I’ve mentioned before here that the best desserts (in my opinion) are the ones that have texture to them, and blondies are one of my personal favorites on that score.

This recipe has texture written all over it. There’s two components: a rich fudgy blondie layer on the bottom, and a chewy gingersnap cookie dough that gets plopped all over on top.

When you put those components together, you get a thing of pure, delicious beauty.

What do you guys think? I promise, it tasted every bit as good as it looks.

Also, as an added tip: serve it a la mode. Trust me.

One more day left of the 12 Days of Christmas; be sure to go back and look at the past ten days of recipes if you haven’t already.

Day 1: Winter Spice Sausage Rolls

Day 3: Peanut Butter Snickerdoodles

Day 4: Sweet Potato Gingerbread

Day 5: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 6: Gingerbread Biscotti

Day 7: Cranberry Custard Pie

Day 8: Pecan Pinwheel Cookies

Day 9: Browned Butter Pecan Tart

Day 10: Winter Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies

Day 11: Gingersnap Blondie Brookies

Gingersnap Blondie Brookies

Recipe Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

Ingredients

Blondie Layer

  • 1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For Gingersnap Cookie Layer

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar
  • Holiday colored sprinkles, if desired

Directions

For Blondie Layer: in a medium saucepan cook and stir brown sugar and butter over medium until melted and smooth, stirring frequently. Cool 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges. Grease foil. In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir egg and vanilla into brown sugar mixture. Stir in flour mixture. Spread batter in prepared pan.

For Cookie Layer: in a medium bowl stir together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. In a large bowl beat butter with a mixer on low 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar. Beat until combined, scraping bowl as needed. Beat in egg and molasses until combined. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour mixture.

Crumble cookie dough over blondie batter in pan. Sprinkle coarse sugar and sprinkles over top. Bake about 45 minutes or until browned and set. (The middle needs to have risen/puffed up; if it has not, the blondies are still not cooked through)

Cool in pan on a wire rack. Using foil, lift out uncut bars. Cut into bars.

Winter Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies

Although I think there are some recipe classics that just shouldn’t be messed with, sometimes I get an idea in my head for a new addition or flair to give a classic, and I just can’t get it out of my head until I at least give it a shot.

Today’s recipe was one of those times.

I’ve long been of the opinion that the chocolate chip recipe that I use is as close to perfect as can be. I’ve been using it for years and there’s only been one other time I made a modification to it.

However, while I was brainstorming for recipes to include on this year’s 12 Days of Christmas, this idea popped into my head and my curiosity kept eating away at me until I decided to finally give it a try.

What I’ve learned is that so long as you don’t change the basic chemistry of a baking recipe, you can feel free to add some variation to it and see what happens. That’s basically what I did here; taking my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe, and adding some winter spices to the dry ingredients.

I really really liked what the spice mixture did for this recipe. I was concerned that the cloves and pepper in particular would be a little bit too strong, but they’re really not. The first taste that you get is of the chocolate, but then as it lingers, the flavor of the spices begin to settle in on the tongue. It’s very pleasant, and what I think turned out to be a successful holiday adaptation of a classic.

Day 1: Winter Spice Sausage Rolls

Day 3: Peanut Butter Snickerdoodles

Day 4: Sweet Potato Gingerbread

Day 5: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 6: Gingerbread Biscotti

Day 7: Cranberry Custard Pie

Day 8: Pecan Pinwheel Cookies

Day 9: Browned Butter Pecan Tart

Day 10: Winter Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies

Winter Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Land o’ Lakes

Ingredients

  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups Butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chocolate chips, plus more if desired

Directions

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in bowl; set aside.

Combine butter, sugar and brown sugar in another bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy.

Add eggs and vanilla. Continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.

Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed until well mixed. Stir in chocolate chunks.

Using a 1/4 cup measuyre, scoop out portions of dough and roll into balls. Place the balls in a resealable plastic container and refrigerate for at least four hours, but preferably overnight.

Heat oven to 375°F.

Place the dough balls 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10-14 minutes or until light golden brown. (Do not overbake.) Press additional chocolate chips into the tops of cookies, if desired. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to cooling rack.

Browned Butter Pecan Tart

In the Top 5 rankings of my favorite pies, The Pecan has been the undefeated champion for years now. It just ticks all the boxes for me: sweetness, butter and texture in abundance. Not only that, when it comes to labor, pecan is one of the easiest to make.

Something I’ve started to do lately is experiment with see how well my favorite pies translate into different iterations, like tarts or bars. I had great results with Day 2’s Sweet Potato Bars, and today’s recipe on Day 9 is yet another experiment I did with successful results. Not only that, it features one of my favorite ingredients to bake with: browned butter.

Browned butter is one of those ingredients that in my opinion serves to elevate already delicious foods to heights you may not have thought them even capable of. I have yet to try it in anything, sweet or savory food alike when I haven’t been completely satisfied with the addition of browned butter. I’m pleased to report that the pecan pie is no exception.

I like to think of this as pecan pie for a crowd in that it serves more people than the standard 9 inch pie, and the browned butter gives it an added flair that you usually try to whip out when/if you’re trying to show off a bit for guests. It would be a perfect dessert for Christmas dinner. Just a suggestion.

Day 1: Winter Spice Sausage Rolls

Day 3: Peanut Butter Snickerdoodles

Day 4: Sweet Potato Gingerbread

Day 5: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 6: Gingerbread Biscotti

Day 7: Cranberry Custard Pie

Day 8: Pecan Pinwheel Cookies

Day 9: Browned Butter Pecan Tart

Browned Butter Pecan Tart

Recipe Adapted from the Daily Meal

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cup sifted cake flour

For the Filling

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup Golden Syrup or light corn syrup
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon, optional
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups pecan halves, lightly toasted

Directions

For Crust: Coat a 10-inch loose-bottomed fluted tart pan with nonstick spray (round or rectangular); set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter with the flat paddle attachment on medium-high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar gradually and continue to beat on medium-high speed until lightened and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg yolk until well combined. Add the flour and pulse the mixer on and off until it begins to combine, and then run the mixer on medium-low speed just until the dough begins to form. Scrape out onto plastic wrap and use the wrap to help press the dough into a flat disk shape. Wrap the dough thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Roll out on a lightly floured surface and fit into the pan, pressing into corners and trimming the top flush with fluted edges. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or freeze for 15 minutes while the oven preheats. (At this point, you can double-wrap the tart shell very well in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to 2 days before baking, or freeze for up to 1 week.)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake directly on the oven rack for 8 to 12 minutes or just until it feels dry to the touch and is beginning to color around the edges. Check about halfway through baking; if the crust is puffing up, gently press back down with the back of a fork. Cool the tart pan set on a rack while you make filling.

For Filling: Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium heat. Continue to cook until the butter browns, but do not let it burn.*

(To Brown Butter: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, gently swirling pan constantly, until particles begin to turn golden brown and butter smells nutty, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and continue swirling the pan until the butter is a rich brown, about 15 seconds longer. Transfer to a medium bowl, whisk in ice cube, transfer to refrigerator, and allow to cool completely, about 20 minutes, whisking occasionally.)

Remove browned butter from the heat and whisk in the sugar and golden syrup or corn syrup. Allow to cool slightly (you maybe transfer this to a mixing bowl if you like to hasten the cooling). Once it is barely warm, whisk in the eggs one at a time, then whisk in the bourbon, if using, vanilla, and salt. Stir in the pecans. Scrape into the crust.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes. The filling will be slightly puffed and set around the edges. The middle might still look a bit soft; that’s okay. It firms up tremendously upon cooling. Cool the pan on a rack. The tart is ready to serve or may be loosely covered with foil and stored at room temperature overnight.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #411, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Pecan Pinwheel Cookies

Icebox cookies are some of my favorites to make, but especially at the holidays.

The dough is typically very no-fuss with simple, classic flavors. With icebox cookies, you can make a rather large quantity at one time rather than having to space them out on a baking sheet. The texture is also usually crisp and short, so they also keep/ship very well.

For those that have never made them before, icebox cookie dough is shaped into a log, then that log is kept refrigerated (thus, the icebox part) and cookies get sliced off from the log and baked as needed/wanted. As a simple cookie, they typically also look pretty simple, but there are variations that get a little (and sometimes, a lot) creative with the presentation; this is one of my favorite preferences/approaches to take.

The simplicity and structure of ice box cookie dough allows for it to be ‘played with’ in the sense that although the texture of the cookie will remain the same, the look can be adjusted to numerous possibilities. I’ve experimented with some of them in past recipes on the blog, like here with Checkerboard Cookies, and even before at the holidays with Vanilla-Red Pinwheels.

Going into this year, I knew I wanted to take another stab at an icebox ‘shaped’ cookie, and these seemed like the perfect new variation to try. Whereas the shaped icebox cookies I made before have either been a vanilla-chocolate or a vanilla-red velvet combination, this time the flavor combo is a vanilla cookie with a pecan flavored one.

Shaped icebox cookies tend to look a lot more elaborate and difficult to make then they actually are, and that applies here too. As I said in the past, the only real ‘trick’ to pulling them off successfully is knowing the right temperature/feel of the cookie doughs when the time comes to assemble/ roll the two together into the desired shape. If it’s too cold, it will crack. Too warm, and it will be extremely difficult to handle and keep it’s shape. Once you find the happy medium dough temperature, they’re a cinch.

And I can also personally confirm that the results, both visual and taste-wise are SO worth the labor involved.

Day 1: Winter Spice Sausage Rolls

Day 3: Peanut Butter Snickerdoodles

Day 4: Sweet Potato Gingerbread

Day 5: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 6: Gingerbread Biscotti

Day 7: Cranberry Custard Pie

Day 8: Pecan Pinwheel Cookies

Pecan Pinwheel Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Bake from Scratch

Ingredients

  • 1⅔ cups, plus 1½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder, divided
  • ½ cup pecan pieces, toasted*
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened and divided
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, divided
  • 2½ teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup finely chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup turbinado sugar

Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1½ cups flour, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon baking powder. Set aside.

In the work bowl of a food processor, place pecan pieces and 2 tablespoons flour mixture; pulse until pecans are finely ground. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can do what
I did and place the pecan pieces in a resealable plastic bag and smash them with a rolling pin until they are finely ground). Add pecan mixture to remaining flour mixture, whisking to combine.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat ½ cup (113 grams) butter and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla, beating until combined. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour-pecan mixture to butter mixture, beating until combined. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Clean bowl of stand mixer and paddle attachment. Using the paddle attachment, beat granulated sugar and remaining ½ cup (113 grams) butter at medium speed until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add 1 egg and remaining 1½ teaspoons vanilla, beating until combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 1⅔ cups flour, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and remaining ½ teaspoon baking powder. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating until combined. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Let doughs stand at room temperature until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. On a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, roll vanilla dough into a 14×10-inch rectangle (⅛ inch thick). Transfer dough on parchment to a baking sheet. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Repeat procedure with pecan dough.

Transfer vanilla dough on parchment to a flat surface. Carefully invert pecan dough on top of vanilla dough. Between sheets of parchment, gently roll over doughs a few times to press together. Peel away top sheet of parchment. Starting at one long side, roll dough into a log, using bottom sheet of parchment to help lift and roll. (If dough cracks, stop rolling, and let stand for a few minutes until pliable.) Be sure to roll doughs together as tightly as possible to avoid gaps. Trim any pecan dough if uneven after rolling. Tightly wrap in parchment paper, twisting ends of parchment to seal. Transfer to a baking sheet, seam side down. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or freeze until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 325°F (170°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk remaining 1 egg (50 grams). In another small bowl, stir together chopped pecans and turbinado sugar. Pour onto a piece of parchment paper. Brush log with egg wash, and roll in pecan sugar. Roll back and forth a few times so sugar sticks to log. Using a sharp knife, cut log into ½-inch-thick slices. Place about 1 inch apart on prepared pans.

Bake until edges are just beginning to turn golden, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Let cool completely on pans. Store in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks.

Notes: *To toast pecans in the oven, preheat oven to 350°F and spread pecans in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. When the oven is ready, bake the nuts until lightly browned and fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Remember that nuts continue to cook even after they have been removed from the oven, so don’t hesitate to pull them from the oven once they begin to change color. Once the nuts are warm but not too hot to handle, chop as desired. Nuts are still slightly soft when they’re still warm, so this will make cleaner cuts than if you wait to chop them when the nuts are cool and brittle.

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 Custard Pie

Every single year, I always so look forward to ‘cranberry season.’

Cranberry Season is that period of roughly the last 2 months of the year where you can find cranberries in most grocery stores, in abundance. I always make a big batch of cranberry sauce for our Thanksgiving dinner, but I also always try to find new ways to bake with cranberries for the holidays, just because I think it’s a perfect holiday/festive-y food.

I’ll be honest, I’m starting to have to get more and more thoughtful towards the new cranberry recipes that I try out just because by now, I’ve baked with them in a lot of different ways. (A simple glance at the blog’s Recipe Index can tell you that.)

But I’m pleased to say that today’s recipe was a complete and total first for me. I’d never made cranberry pie before, or even a custard pie at all.

This was probably the best (and not to mention the easiest) introduction I could’ve had to both.

This isn’t one of those custards you have to stand over the stove stirring and stirring. All there is to do is throw together a pie crust, pour the cranberries into the pie dish, then pour the custard on top. As the pie bakes, the cranberries burst open.

Custard is great with just about anything, but when it’s paired with cranberries, I’ll tell you: it is something really special. The orange flavored custard is a perfect balance to the tart bitterness of the cranberries. Although this was originally an experimental bake, it’s a dessert that I could easily see myself making as a new yearly tradition.

Day 1: Winter Spice Sausage Rolls

Day 3: Peanut Butter Snickerdoodles

Day 4: Sweet Potato Gingerbread

Day 5: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 6: Gingerbread Biscotti

Day 7: Cranberry Custard Pie

Cranberry Custard Pie

Recipe Adapted from Kardea Brown

Ingredients

For Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour, plus more for the dough
  • 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
  • Pinch of sea or kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons, 1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen
  • About 1/4 cup cold water

For Filling

  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 3 1/2-4 cups of preferably fresh cranberries*, but if frozen they need to be completely thawed (from 12 oz. bag)

Directions

For crust: in a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. If you have one, use a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. (If you don’t, then just dice the butter into cubes and use a fork to cut it into the dry ingredients). Add a few tablespoons of water at a time and stir with a fork until the dough starts to come together. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Shape into a round and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a deep dish pie pish.

Remove the pie dough from the refrigerator and roll out into a large round, about 12 inches. Transfer to the pie dish, fold over the sides and use a fork to press a design into the edges.

For the filling: Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until uniform in color and no egg white is visible. Whisk in the sugar mixture until smooth. Add the heavy cream, vanilla and orange zest and whisk to combine. Add the cranberries to the bottom of the pie crust and pour the custard over the top.

Bake until the custard is set with a slight wobble in the center, about 50 minutes. Let cool completely.

*I didn’t need to use the full 4 cups of cranberries, this really depends on the deepness of your pie dish.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #411, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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.