Banana Streusel Bundt Bread

My tastes for certain foods fluctuates according to the time of year. In the winter, I want to eat hearty, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food. At the holidays, I want to eat a lot of gingerbread, sugar-and-spice and cranberry-flavored everything. In the summer, I like eating light, fresh, citrusy things. But then I also think there are some foods that for me are good and wanted year-round.

Banana bread has always been one of them.

Whether it’s winter, spring, summer or fall, I’m always up for some banana bread. Come to think of it, I’m up for banana bread at pretty much any time of day. It’s one of those things that’s sweet enough to have for dessert, but not too sweet to where you can still have it in the morning with coffee for breakfast without feeling guilty.

I had a very strong craving for banana bread, but I wanted to do it up a little more than I usually do with the typical loaf pan. Y’all know me, I’ll throw a streusel on anything and call it holy, so that’s pretty much what I went for here.

Doesn’t it look glorious?

Also, you should know that this recipe makes a lot of banana bread–no, like, a LOT. That’s never a problem for me, but be advised that this is a feeding a family-brunch size batch of banana bread, which is why it calls for so much mashed banana, and why it gets baked into a full size bundt pan.

Like I said, I can eat banana bread whenever, so I ate this both in the morning warmed up and smeared with butter, and I also ate it at night for dessert topped with whipped cream. It’s delicious both ways.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe. Be kind.

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Banana Streusel Bundt Bread

Recipe Adapted from Bake From Scratch

Ingredients

3½ cups plus 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 cups  plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar, divided
1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
4 teaspoons unsalted butter, cubed
2 cups mashed ripe banana
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs, preferably room temp
⅔ cup sour cream, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 15-16 cup bundt pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together 4 tablespoons (32 grams) flour, 2 tablespoons (28 grams) brown sugar, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and ¾ teaspoon cinnamon. Add butter; using your fingers or 2 forks, work butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs or slightly wet sand. Set streusel aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat banana, oil, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, remaining 1½ cups  brown sugar, and remaining 1⅓ cups  granulated sugar at medium-low speed until well combined, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together baking powder, baking soda, salt, cloves, nutmeg, remaining 3½ cups flour, and remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to banana mixture, beating until combined and stopping to scrape sides of bowl.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Tap pan on counter a few times to evenly spread batter and release any air bubbles.

Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with streusel, and bake until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking and loosely covering with foil to prevent excess browning, if necessary. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

Using a small offset spatula, loosen cake from pan. Slowly invert bread onto a wire rack placed over a rimmed baking sheet. (Some streusel will fall off.) Using a large, flat plate or a cake lifter, turn bread streusel side up, and place on wire rack; let cool completely.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #368

Chicken Empanadas

Meatpies are one of my favorite foods. Back when my kitchen skills were as advanced as scrambling eggs or boiling pasta, I used to tell myself that if I ever learned how to cook one of the things I was going to learn and learn well, was how to make a meatpie.

While I still may have some more things to learn, I do think the practice I’ve had thus far has led me to understand what really makes a good meatpie. It depends on giving equal amounts attention and consideration of both the casing and the filling because a good filling encased in tough pastry is no bueno, and a good pastry with bland filling is also not so great.

My strategy for avoiding bland meatpie filling is to as Chopped judge Marc Murphy says “season with authority.” I’ve tried to inject flavor at just about every step of the cooking of this empanada filling. And then after it’s finished, I allow it to rest in the fridge just to give the spices the time to really set in so that they come through after the empanadas are finished baking.

The key to flakiness of this crust is the shortening. It’s VERY easy to work with and roll out. I could obviously still use some more practice when it comes to my crimping/sealing skills, but that’s completely on me, not the recipe. Trust me, it really does melt in your mouth when you eat it.

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe. Be Kind.

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Chicken Empanadas

Filling recipe by Jess@CookingisMySport, Pastry recipe courtesy of The Kitchn 

Ingredients

For Chicken Filling

  • 2.5-3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 1 (1 oz.) packet of your favorite taco or fajita seasoning
  • 2 bell peppers, diced (you can mix and match different kinds; I used 1 red and 1 green)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 16-32 oz low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of smoked Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For Pastry

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening or lard, frozen
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Directions

For filling:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

In a small bowl combine the taco/fajita seasoning with 1/3 cup of the flour. Place the cubed chicken in a gallon sized resealable plastic bag. Pour the flour-seasoning mixture over the chicken and seal the bag. Toss the bag to season the chicken in the flour until evenly coated.

Pour a tablespoon of oil (canola, vegetable or olive) in the bottom of a Dutch oven or pot. Sear the chicken over high heat, just to get a crust on the outside of it (it doesn’t need to be cooked through here). Remove the chicken to a 13 x 9 baking dish and keep loosely covered. (you may need to do this in batches).

When the chicken has finished searing, pour a bit more oil into the bottom of the pot and saute the peppers and onions over medium heat until they are soft and translucent. Remove them to a bowl and set aside.

Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of flour into the pot, and allow to toast for about 2 minutes. Pour in 16 oz of the chicken broth and stir briskly with a whisk or fork until flour is dissolved and a smooth and somewhat thick ‘gravy’ forms, then pour in the other 16 oz of broth. Season the mixture with the cumin, smoked paprika, honey and salt and pepper. Allow to come up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Pour the gravy mixture over the chicken. Tightly cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until chicken is fork tender.

Remove the chicken from the baking dish and mix with the sauteed onions and peppers. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to meld and for the filling to completely chill.

For crust:

Place 3 cups of the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Use a box grater (or cut it up into small cubes) to cut the shortening/lard into the dry ingredients. Stir together with a fork. It should have a sandy texture.

Whisk the egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl until combined. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients.Continue mixing until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Empty mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and use your hands to shape it into a rough ball. Using the heels of your hands, gently knead the dough into a smooth, elastic ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight.

Lightly flour a clean, large work surface and a rolling pin. Roll the dough out to about 1/8-inch thick. Using a 4-inch-round pastry-cutting mold, cut circles from the dough. (Alternatively use a knife and trace around a 4-inch plate to form the circles.)

Gather the dough scraps and form into a ball again. Roll out the dough and cut more circles. (If the dough springs back and is difficult to roll out, let it rest before rolling again.) Makes about 16 dough circles.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.Take 1 of the cut circles and and place 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling in the center. Brush the edges of the empanada with the beaten egg. Fold the circle in half to form a half moon and seal the edges together with a fork or pinch with your fingers. (Be mindful when sealing to squeeze out any air pockets.) Place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough circles, spacing the formed empanadas a few inches apart.

Chill the formed empanadas for 20 minutes before baking. Meanwhile, arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 375°F.

Place both sheets in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the sheets front to back and top to bottom, and continue baking until the empanadas are golden-brown, about 10 minutes more. Let cool a few minutes before serving with salsa.

Linking to Fiesta Friday #363, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Secret Ingredient Rice Krispie Treats

So, I feel like on a list of the easiest things to cook/bake, rice krispie treats are right up there with spaghetti, scrambled eggs, and grilled cheese sandwiches. They all feature pretty basic ingredients, come together within minutes and are all (I think) pretty hard to mess up.

Even back when I was an abysmal cook, I knew how to put together rice krispie treats. No matter what anybody says, the pre-made packaged ones don’t taste as good as the ones made from scratch. They just don’t.

There’s nothing wrong with pre-packaged rice krispie treats, but I’m partial to making my own from scratch because if I can control the amount of marshmallow in the mix, then I can control the ‘gooey-ness’ factor. Packaged ones don’t really have it.

You want to know what ones do? These.

I’m always interested in finding ways to improve on classics, and today’s recipe is another one of those ways. If you’re a fan of scratch made rice krispie treats and you want to up their gooey-ness factor, this is for you. It doesn’t require a whole lot of extra steps or ingredients. There’s just one extra step and one extra addition to the usual suspects of ingredients, actually:

Browning the butter, and a can of sweetened condensed milk.

That’s right folks. Browning your butter and adding sweetened condensed milk to your treats mix will alter everything you ever thought you knew about how to make or eat rice krispie treats. You are not prepared for how incredible this is. I wasn’t. The rich, gooeyness it adds to them is everything you want in a treat. It adds a real ‘bakery’ taste and flavor to them that almost makes no sense, because rice krispie treats aren’t baked at all. I don’t understand it, and I really don’t need to. I’m just glad to have discovered it, and you will be too once you try this out for yourself.

Wear a mask. Social Distance. Stay safe. Be kind.

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Secret Ingredient Rice Krispie Treats

Recipe Courtesy of The Kitchn

Ingredients

  • 6 cups toasted rice crisp cereal, such as Rice Krispies
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (10-ounce) package mini marshmallows (about 4 cups)

Directions

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the cereal and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan or pot over low heat, gently stirring with a rubber spatula so all the butter melts evenly. When the butter is bubbling, add 1/3 to 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk* and stir to combine.

Bring the sweetened condensed milk to a boil (this will happen really quickly) and cook for about a minute until it is fragrant. Once the butter begins to foam, watch carefully, as it will quickly begin to brown and emit a nutty aroma. When browned, turn off the heat. Stir in the salt and vanilla.

Working quickly, add half the marshmallows and stir until thoroughly melted. Add the remaining marshmallows and stir until melted. The residual heat from the butter should be enough to melt them off the heat, but you can return the pot to low heat for a few seconds if the marshmallows aren’t melting easily. Keep a close eye on the butter, however — you don’t want it to continue to brown to the point of burning.

Add the toasted cereal and gently fold it in until the cereal is completely coated with the marshmallow mixture.

Transfer the mixture to an 8 x8 inch baking pan that you’ve sprayed with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Using the rubber spatula, lightly and gently press into an even layer.

Let the treats stand at room temperature until set and completely cool, about 1 hour.

Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

*This all depends on how gooey you want the treats to be. I went for the full 1/2 cup.

Linking up to Fiesta Friday #362, co-hosted this week by Petra @ Food Eat Love.

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.

Reindeer Munch

For me, the holidays are about flavors AND smells. There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of “You eat with your eyes first,” and that’s true. But you also first eat with your nose too. There are some foods where the second that their smell hits my nostrils, I can already half taste them in my mouth.

It’s (obviously) been a long tine since I’ve been in a mall, but one of the few times of year I always used to like going to them was the holidays. Not so much to shop til I dropped, but mostly because if any of you have ever walked through a mall during the holiday season, then there is a certain smell that you’re going to be able to recognize.

The spiced nuts kiosk. In just about every place I’ve lived and every mall I’ve visited during the holidays, there’s a local vendor who rents out a booth/kiosk for the season to sell spiced/sugared nuts. Most of them have a tabletop stove contraption thingy that lets them make the nuts right there for you to see. It makes the most wonderful smells. I would get them in a candle if I could. Bath and Body Works should really consider it.

What does that have to do with today? Well I was trying to think of a snack recipe to include in the series and I started thinking about how the spied nuts kiosk. Nuts are a pretty pricey ingredient, so although I wanted to do a spiced nuts post, I wanted it to be a bit more accessible for those who may not want to splurge on buying them in bulk. Plus, I’ve just always been curious as to how spiced nuts were made. You can find practically any answer to any question you have through Google; so here we are.

Turns out, you don’t need one of those stovetop spinning contraption thingy things to make your own spiced nuts. Your oven will do the job just fine. The process is actually pretty simple. The sugary crusty coating comes from beating egg whites and water together, then folding in sugar. That gets poured over your ingredients, then they get baked off until crisp. Because the coating is so sweet, I wanted to use something salty that would offset the sweetness, balance out the flavors together, and also be sturdy enough to hold the topping. Enter in pretzels. I added in a little bit of cereal to play with different textures; the recommendations I give in the recipe are personal preferences. Feel free to use whatever cereal you like. Finally, I added in a little bit of dried fruit that would provide a tart, tangy flavor to balance out the sweet and salty.

I realized that this was going to be delicious when it was in the oven baking and my house smelled like a mall during the holidays. This stuff is dangerous. Bag it up and give it away as gifts and stocking stuffers, or there’s an excellent chance you’ll stand over the stove, munching on handfuls. Like I did. 

We’re officially halfway through the 12 Days of Christmas! Be sure to check out the other recipes that have been shared on the blog and get that holiday baking in while you still can.  

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

Reindeer Munch

Recipe Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Ingredients

  • 3 cups pretzels
  • 1 cup of a cereal mix of your choice (I used Cheerios Cinnamon Oat Crunch and Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch, but you can swap in practically anything else so long as it’s dry and sturdy)
  • 1 cup of nuts of your choice (pecans, almonds would be my preference)
  • 1 cup dried fruit (like cherries or cranberries)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and spray it generously with non-stick cooking spray; or you can use a silicone baking mat. Set them aside.

Mix pretzels, cereal and nuts together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Using a handheld mixer, beat egg whites and water together on medium speed until stiff peaks form, about 4-5 minutes. Add the sugar, spices and salt, gently folding until combined.

Pour/spoon mixture over the pretzel- cereal-nuts mixture and stir to coat it completely. Spread them over the baking sheets and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Allow to cool completely. Stir in the dried fruit. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container or a resealable plastic bag.

Butter Pecan Scones

Butter pecan is one of those flavors that draw a line in the sand with people’s taste buds.

They either absolutely love it or they absolutely hate it.

I’ve even seen it become an age debate; supposedly, ‘old people’ like butter pecan while for the young folks, it’s a no go.

I don’t know what kind of logic goes into that argument. But I guess that makes me old, guys. Cause I’ve always loved butter pecan. Roasted pecans and rich vanilla flavored butter is my kind of carrying on. Outside of cake batter, I’d say that butter pecan was my favorite ice cream flavor. It’s so simple, but still so rich and divine.

Typically butter pecan is a flavor that is reserved for ice cream. I haven’t seen it pop up in too many other recipes. This past week I was trying to decide what to make for brinner and although I decided upon scones, I wanted to do a little something different with them that I could share here on the blog.

I knew that I had some unused pecans in the pantry that I wanted to use up (nuts are way too expensive to waste) but I didn’t want to just throw them into a regular scone dough and call it a day. Because I’m extra like that.

Adding pecans to a recipe doesn’t make it butter pecan. You have to create those rich, warm, vanilla flavors to go along with the nutty goodness.

Rich and warm flavor brings one thing to my mind.

And thus, the browned butter chronicles continue on Cooking is My Sport.

 

I’ve said before that there are very few ways of improving upon butter; browning it is one of them. Browned butter creates a rich, warm and nutty flavor to it that I thought would be perfect for a butter pecan flavored scone. After browning the butter, I froze it, just like I do with all of my biscuit/scone recipes. From there, I went with my usual formula.

In lieu of white sugar, I used brown to give it extra caramel-y flavor. I added sour cream along with buttermilk because in the first place, it really gives the dough a tender texture that is needed, as the nuts soak up a lot of the moisture from the buttermilk.

These came out even better than I expected them to while they were baking, filling the house with all kinds of wonderful aromas. They’re not overly sweet, but that buttery, pecan flavor sure does come through. I are mine sliced in half, toasted with a smear of pumpkin butter. It was absolutely delicious.

(As a brief but very important aside, if you live in the United States, please exercise your right to vote in the upcoming election. We can’t have four more years of this; we just cannot.)

Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay safe.

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Butter Pecan Scones

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cups brown sugar (preferably dark, but light will work fine too)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1 to 2 cups toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla 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

For browned butter:

Melt the butter over medium heat in a 2 quart saucepan. Let it cook and watch it closely until 3-5 minutes until the butter begins to foam, forms a golden brown color and browned bits form on the bottom. (It will have a sweet, nutty smell). Immediately remove it from the heat. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then place butter in a small bowl, and freeze until solid, about 2 hours.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and brown 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 pecans. Stir with a fork.

In a small bowl combine the eggs with the vanilla extract 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.

(Linking up to Fiesta Friday #352)

Butter ‘Finger’ Cookies

Today’s post is another one for all the people who may be reading this and think that they can’t bake. I understand. I used to feel that way too. But believe me when I say that there are some recipes out there that are near impossible to mess up. I don’t just mean box mix recipes, either. Despite what you think, it IS possible to bake certain things from scratch, and not have to worry about blowing it because it’s just too simple.

I’ve made these cookies numerous times before when I needed a dessert to take somewhere to pass at a social function, and either didn’t have a lot of time or just didn’t feel like doing much work. Everybody loves butter cookies. These come together in minutes and bake in pretty much the same amount of time.

You probably have most, if not all, of the ingredients to make this in your house already. I think the best part is that you don’t have to worry about rolling them out and fooling with any cookie cutters. Just spoon all the dough in a bag (and yes, you *can* just use a ziploc bag and snip off the end) and pipe it out in tiny little sticks. They don’t have to be straight. In fact, I purposely piped mine into kind of oval-ish shapes so that when they baked, they would resemble little ‘fingers’.

I used vanilla emulsion, but this dough can be flavored in pretty much anyway you want. I think they’d be wonderful with lemon or orange. Once they’re done baking, you can dip them in chocolate and sprinkles to jazz them up. These are a perfect little snack to have alongside coffee, tea or cocoa. They transport very well and the freshness also lasts when stored in a sealed plastic container.

Get into these, y’all. They’re worth it.

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Butter 'Finger' Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Joy of Baking

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla butter emulsion (like LorAnn Oils, but vanilla extract will work fine too)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

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

In a small bowl combine the flour with the salt, stirring together with a fork. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 1 cup increments, mixing just until combined.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray.

Spoon the dough into a pastry bag or a gallon size Ziploc plastic bag fitted with a decorating tip (I used a Wilton 6B tip, but if you don’t have one, it’s not necessary, they just won’t be ridged) and pipe it into curved or straight sticks that you space about 2 inches apart on the sheet. Once finished, refrigerate the sheet pan for about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with a little bit more sugar. Bake in the oven on the middle rack until just golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.

(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 #267, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com and Abbey @ Three Cats and a Girl.

Snickers Cookie Bars

I’m really not too much of a ‘candy’ person anymore, with one very important exception: chocolate bars.

I don’t think I will ever stop loving chocolate bars. I still remember the first one that I was ever allowed to have as a kid: a Nestle Crunch Bar. After that, I think it was a Payday. I’m also a fan of Twix, 100 Grand, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s with Almonds, Hershey’s Cookies and Cream, Krackle, and Butterfinger.

Major pass on Almond Joy, Mounds, Milky Way and Three Musketeers. Those I don’t like.

You may have noticed one glaring omission from that list. It was intentional, for reasons that you’ve probably guessed. I’ve been considering making today’s recipe for several weeks now, but I was nervous about it. Finally, I made a split second decision and just decided to go for it.

And here we are. My tribute to the best, the ULTIMATE candy bar ever made.

I think I was nervous about trying this for several reasons: first, the candybar it’s inspired from is just so perfect all on its own. Nougat, caramel, peanuts and chocolate; why mess with that kind of sheer perfection?

Second, no matter how many times I’ve done it, and done it successfully, the process of making caramel still makes me nervous every time.

Still, since I had all the ingredients I needed on hand I decided to just go for it. Couldn’t hurt to try.

There’s not a whole lot of labor required for these, but I do recommend giving yourself time to do it in stages. Unlike our favorite candy bar, the first and bottom layer of these is a very rich cookie. The dough comes together in minutes. Once it’s baked and cooled off, you can move on to the tricky part: the caramel.

Here’s the thing about caramel: as much as making it makes me nervous, the truth is that if you have a working thermometer that you pay close attention to, you’ll be just fine. This one is far from the most difficult I’ve made and because we’re making caramel and not candy, it doesn’t take very long. After the caramel peanut layer has been given time to set, things get super simple. You melt some chocolate, spread it on top and sprinkle some peanuts on top of that and you’re done. Waiting for the whole thing to set up before cutting into it is the hardest part, honestly. Because these are very sweet and rich, a little bit of one goes a long way in satisfying a sweet tooth, which means there’s more to go around.

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Snickers Cookie Bars

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

For Cookie Layer

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp and cubed
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For Caramel Peanut Layer

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup, light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup salted roasted peanuts

For Topping

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • One tablespoon of softened butter, cubed.
  • A couple tablespoons of chopped peanuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8 or 9 inch square baking dish with parchment paper and spray well with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, cream together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix until just combined.

Fold the flour in, in about 2 increments, mixing just until blended and a soft dough forms. Press the dough into a pan and use a spatula to make the top as smooth as you can.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and firm. Cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour while you make the caramel.

Melt the butter in a high-sided saucepan with at least 2 qt capacity. Add the corn syrup, brown sugar, white sugar and heavy cream. Cook, stirring frequently with a wire whisk until sugar dissolves completely and liquid comes to a boil.

Cook until caramel reaches temp of 235-240 degrees Fahrenheit. (I STRONGLY recommend a candy thermometer or an instant read thermometer for this). Remove from heat.

Stir in the peanuts. Spray a spatula with cooking spray and spread the caramel over the cooled cookie layer. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes (I let mine sit overnight just to be on the safe side).

Melt the chocolate chips over low heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and keep stirring until the butter dissolves completely. Spread the chocolate quickly and evenly over the caramel layer with an offset spatula. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts.

Let sit for an additional 2 hours to allow the chocolate to set and harden up before using the parchment paper to lift up out of the baking dish and cutting into squares.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #261, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com and Julianna @ Foodie on Board.

Rosemary and Thyme Crackers

I have this annoying habit of buying fresh herbs for making one dish, then leaving the rest of them in my fridge, forgotten, until they eventually dry up and I have to throw them out. I hate when I do it. Tell me you do it too so that I don’t have to feel guilty.

I had some leftover rosemary and thyme hanging out in my fridge that I really, really didn’t want to let go to waste. I did get to put some of them in the dough for some sandwich buns that I made one night for our dinner, but after that I still had leftovers. When I did some brainstorming as to what else I could put them in, I realized that it’s been a while since I last made some crackers from scratch.

I know that traditionally, cookies are the treat of choice when it comes to Christmas baking and gift giving. But not everyone has a sweet tooth, and even if you do have one, that doesn’t mean that sometimes you won’t want to take a break from something sweet and taste or give the gift of something a little more on the savory side.

The dough for these is a cinch to put together, but I do recommend that you allow it to rest in the fridge for at least one full day. The dough is very very soft when you first make it, and you want to give it enough time to firm up enough to be rolled out without too much of a mess. The rosemary and thyme flavor will also deepen the longer you let it rest.

You can cut these into whatever shapes or sizes that you like. I did some that were about the size of a Ritz cracker, and then some that were around the size of an oyster. Regardless of the size, I have to say that the most important piece of advice I can give when making any recipe for them at all, is to roll the dough out as thin as you possibly can. There’s no point in baking crackers if they don’t have that snap when you break them in half, and they won’t if they’re rolled too thick. Also, the coarse salt that gets sprinkled on top before baking is highly recommended. That salt helps to further enhance the flavor of the herbs. I really liked these, and I think you will too should you choose to try them out.

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

DAY 3: THREE FRENCH HEN PIES

DAY 4: CRANBERRY BUCKLE

DAY 5: GINGERBREAD MARSHMALLOWS

DAY 6: HOLIDAY SPICE S’MORES

DAY 7: CRANBERRY ORANGE ROLLS

DAY 8: GINGERBREAD CUT OUTS

DAY 9: ROSEMARY & THYME CRACKERS

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Rosemary & Thyme Crackers

Recipe Adapted from Served From Scratch

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely minced
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons cold vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water, plus more if needed
  • 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
  • coarse salt, for sprinkling

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, herbs, baking powder, sugar and salt together and stir with a fork.

Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter into the dry ingredients. Cut the shortening into small cubes and add the to the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.

Make a well in the center of the ingredients. Pour in the oil and water and use the fork to stir together until it makes a rough, but still homogenous dough. Shape into a disc, wrap tightly in plastic wrap then refrigerate for at least 24 hours. (The longer it sits, the better the flavor will be)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into quarters and keep the other 3 in the fridge while you work with the 1. Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour. Roll out the dough very VERY thin (as thin as you can get it), using more flour if it sticks. Cut out the crackers into desired shapes, then remove to the lined baking sheets. You can use cookie cutters, or a pizza wheel, bench scraper or sharp knife to make your shapes. Any shape will do. Refrigerate the cut out crackers for 5-7 minutes.

Bake the crackers until light golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes

(Note: no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake crackers differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cracker 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.)

Holiday Spice S’mores

Are s’mores just for summertime? I think not.

If y’all have been following this blog for a while you know that I’m a ‘s’mores all the year round’ kind of girl. Let the record speak for itself:

S’mores Cake. S’mores Sandwich Cookies. S’mores Brownies.

Pretty soon, I’m going to run out of S’mores flavored things to bake. But not today. Today, I’ve got one more.

I’ve known that I wanted to make homemade s’mores for a while. As much as I love all the flavors of s’mores, I don’t like eating them with store-bought graham crackers. It’s a texture thing. I was pretty sure I could do better with a cracker that I made by myself, with a more pleasant texture. While I was planning out all I would make for the 12 Days of Christmas series, I thought of them again. I tried to think of how I could make them ‘Christmasey’. This is what I came out with.

Basically, I’ve taken a standard graham cracker recipe and added some spices to the dough that remind me of the holidays: cinnamon, ginger cloves and nutmeg. I cut them into squares just to give them the traditional s’mores look, but you can cut them into whatever shapes you like. (Gingerbread man shaped s’mores would be really cute). These aren’t as crunchy as store-bought graham crackers, but personally I prefer them that way.

When they have a tiny bit of chew, biting into the s’more doesn’t make it ooze all over the place, which can get messy with melted chocolate and marshmallow. It’s also a really, really tasty spice cookie all by itself. We’re just going to enhance that by adding the other 2 components.

Here’s the thing. I said in my last post that I understood why going to the trouble of making marshmallows from scratch may SEEM unnecessary and extra. I also said that I had found another use for them besides adding them to hot chocolate. I am not exaggerating when I say that that second use was a revelation.

A gingerbread spiced graham cracker sandwiching melted chocolate AND a melted, gooey gingerbread spiced marshmallow?

Y’all. I wasn’t prepared. I really wasn’t. That first bite was all of the things. Every single one of them. I’m pretty sure my eyes rolled back in my head. This is one of the best ideas I’ve ever had and I’m so pumped to share it here at the holidays. Making marshmallows from scratch is worth it, if for no other reason than this: Holiday Spiced S’mores.

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

DAY 3: THREE FRENCH HEN PIES

DAY 4: CRANBERRY BUCKLE

DAY 5: GINGERBREAD MARSHMALLOWS

DAY 6: HOLIDAY SPICE S’MORES

Holiday Spice S'mores

Recipe Adapted from Bake From Scratch

Ingredients

For Graham Crackers

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling
  • Your choice of chocolate (For assembly)

(For Marshmallows: See recipe Hereor purchase seasonal gingerbread flavored marshmallows from store)

 

Directions

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

In a small bowl combine the flour with the spices, salt and baking soda, stirring together with a fork. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 1 cup increments, mixing just until combined.

Shape dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Sprinkle a clean work surface with powdered sugar. Divide dough into quarters, keeping 3 in the fridge while you work with one. Roll dough to ⅛-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut into roughly 2 inch squares. Use a chopstick to punch a hole through the center of the squares, then remove to a baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper.

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Refrigerate the cut out cookie dough for 10 minutes. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon sugar.

Bake in the oven on the middle rack until just golden brown, about 9-10 minutes. Allow to set on sheets for about 60 seconds before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble the s’mores, place a square of chocolate and a marshmallow on one of the crackers. Microwave for about 5-10 seconds, until they just begin to melt. Press another graham cracker on top.

(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.)