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.

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.

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

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

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.

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 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.

“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.