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.

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.

Gingerbread Biscotti

It’s no doubt the caffeine lover in me, but I’m a sucker for baked goods I can enjoy with my coffee.

There’s just something about the bitter taste of the coffee that makes the sweetness of the baked good that much more delicious.

With the frequency with which I bake for this blog, I’m always looking for variety and new things to try out. As such, I have noticed that there are certain recipes that have what I’ve come to view as a ‘repeat factor’; meaning, they have a certain likelihood of whether or not I’m going to be baking them again.

Some recipes ‘score’ higher than others, but I will say that recipes I enjoy eating alongside coffee or tea have definitely secured higher scores in their Repeat Factor. For that reason alone, biscotti has a leg up in the rankings.

Beside that, it’s easy to make, it stores/ships with no fuss, and because it’s biscotti there’s not the same worry about the cookies ‘staying fresh.’

I’ve been meaning to make gingerbread flavored biscotti for years, but for whatever reason, I didn’t get along to it until now. Boy, was that a mistake.

But regardless, I can now report back that it’s delicious, and that I’ve been enjoying these immensely alongside my morning (and afternoon) coffee. Biscotti also makes for a perfect selection for cookie boxes/gifts for all the aforementioned reasons. Plus, doesn’t it just look so festive?

We’re halfway through the 12 Days of Christmas; check out the already posted recipes below in case 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

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Gingerbread Biscotti

Recipe Adapted from Land o’ Lakes

Ingredients

For Biscotti:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark, doesn’t matter)
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 large Eggs
  • 3 tablespoons mild molasses
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Coarse sugar, for sprinkling

For Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • A few tablespoons of milk or water
  • Holiday nonpareil sprinkles

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a large cookie sheet, or line with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine butter, sugar, brown sugar, ginger, 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Add eggs; continue beating until well mixed. Add molasses; continue beating until well mixed. Add flour and baking powder; beat at low speed until well mixed.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into 12-inch log on lightly floured surface. Place logs 3 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheet. Flatten logs slightly. Spray tops of logs with cooking spray, then sprinkle coarse sugar on top.

Bake 22-25 minutes or until lightly browned and tops are slightly cracked. Remove from oven; cool 15 minutes on cookie sheet.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Carefully place logs onto cutting surface. Cut into 1/2-inch diagonal slices with serrated knife (a bread knife works perfectly for this). Place, cut-side down, onto ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheets.

Return to oven. Bake 9 minutes; turn slices. Continue baking 5-7 minutes or until cookies are dry and crisp. Cool completely.

Combine icing ingredients together with a fork until it is at desired consistency. Drizzle over the cooled biscotti, then sprinkle the nonpareils on top. Allow to sit until icing it set, about 30 minutes. Store biscotti in a sealed container or plastic bag.

Cranberry Pound Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Day 3: Sugar & Spice Crackers

Day 4: Cranberry Cookie Tart

Day 5: Spicy Gingerbread Sticks

Day 6: Reindeer Munch

Day 7: Jell-O Butter Cookies

Day 8: Gingerbread Blondies

Day 9: Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle

Day 10: “Berry” Christmas! Scones

Day 11: Chocolate Turtles

Day 12: Cranberry Pound Cake

Cranberry Pound Cake

Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients

For Cake

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

For Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • a few tablespoons orange juice

Directions

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

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld one) beat the butter at medium speed until creamy and lighter in color. Gradually add the sugar, about 1 cup at a time, beating 5-7 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until the yellow disappears. (Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as you’re doing this to ensure even mixing.)

Add the flour to the butter mixer alternatively with the milk (begin and end with the flour). Beat at a low speed, just until combined after each addition. Add the extracts and the cranberries, stirring just until combined.

Pour the batter into the cake pan. Lift and tap it down on the counter a few times (this will prevent air bubbles from forming).

Place the cake pan on a sheet pan, then bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour and 40 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. (Pound cake is done at an inner temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit.)

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

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

Chocolate Turtles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 1: Orange Cranberry Buns

Day 2: Sausage Bread Pudding & Cranberry Sauce

Day 3: Sugar & Spice Crackers

Day 4: Cranberry Cookie Tart

Day 5: Spicy Gingerbread Sticks

Day 6: Reindeer Munch

Day 7: Jell-O Butter Cookies

Day 8: Gingerbread Blondies

Day 9: Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle

Day 10: “Berry” Christmas! Scones

Day 11: Chocolate Turtles

 

Chocolate Turtles

Recipe Courtesy of Averie Cooks

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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