Posts tagged holiday

Christmas cookies for Santa

We made cookies for Santa over the weekend. Here’s the recipe for Chocolate Nutella Orange Pinwheels that Santa will be munching on tonight.

As far as the mix for the “raindeer” I have no idea what my youngest tucked in the bag of “healthy treats” for Rudolph and company.

"Dear Santa, Please bring this to the raindeer it is healthy for them too."

You'll notice a strongman, Perry the Platypus, a volcano, and a squid among our Santa cookies

Santa is going to love these cookies!

Chocolate Nutella Orange Pinwheel Cookies

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Spiced chocolate gingerbread cookies

Someone snagging the last cookie

Sure gingerbread cookies are tasty, but why not add chocolate chips? Oh yeah. Digging around online, I found a recipe on Rachael Ray that tweaked a Joy the Baker recipe to do just that–marry chocolate and chewy gingerbread cookies.

I put my own spin on these cookies by ditching the traditional dip in sugar and upping the spiciness. Intrigued?

Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes + baking

Servings: I think 3 dozen my kids kept eating them before I could count


Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups flour

2 tsps. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsps. cinnamon

1 1/2 tsps. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Pinch of cayenne powder (opt.)

1 tsp. dark cocoa powder

1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp.) butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar (dark preferred)

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg

1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a baking bowl, except for the brown sugar.
  3. In another bowl, cream together the brown sugar and butter until well combined. Add the molasses, then the egg and vanilla.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the creamed butter. Mix in the chocolate chips.
  5. Roll the cookie batter into 1 – 1 1/2″ balls.
  6. Bake on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for 9 minutes.
  7. Allow the cookies to cool on the pan for 3 minutes before removing.

*These are better on day 2!

Directions

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Nutella Yule Log

There’s nothing more heart-warming then joining my kids around the kitchen to make a holiday dessert. And then as you’re whipping Nutella into heavy cream discussing what you’d do in the event of a zombie apocalypse. At least that’s where the conversation turned as my teen was helping me put together this yule log (there’s a Norman Rockwell painting in there somewhere, I think). Meanwhile, I was doing extensive testing to make sure the whip cream tasted just right. It’s a tough job, but it’s not one that can be left for the undead.

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes + lots of time for assembly

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

Cake

The fun part: time to flip!

4 eggs (room temperature)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3/4 sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup flour

1/4 cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. dark cocoa powder (opt. I use black onyx powder, you can use Espresso)

Filling

2 cups heavy cream (oh yeah!)

1/2 cup Nutella

touch of salt

Directions:

Adding Nutella spiked cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking oil.
  3. Beat together the eggs, oil, and sugar until its a pale yellow color.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry cake ingredients.
  5. Carefully fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture just until combined.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 11 minutes or until the cake springs back from the edges of the pan.
  7. Let the cake cool in the pan for 2 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile liberally dust a clean kitchen cloth with powdered sugar and prepare for flipping.
  9. In my experience, this is a two person job: Flip the cake batter onto the powdered sugar cloth. Roll the cake in the cloth short end to short end.
  10. Leave the cake rolled while you prepare the filling.
  11. Making the filling (and get ready for your kids to fight over who gets to lick the spatula)
  12. On high speed, whip the cream until it just begins to thicken.
  13. Add the Nutella and continue whipping just until stiff. (I add a pinch of salt).
  14. Assembling the yule log:
  15. Slowly unfold the cake in the cloth and gently remove the parchment paper. (I couldn’t find anything in the original recipe about when to take off the parchment paper so I just kept it on.)
  16. Use the spatula to smear the whipped Nutella cream on the unrolled cake being careful not to go all the way to one of the short ends.
  17. Start rolling the cake from short end to short end working toward the non-filled end. The cream will squish toward the non-filled end. (I also find this is a two person job.)
  18. Wrap the roll in parchment and then aluminum foil.
  19. Freeze for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  20. Slice and serve.

Inspired by the King Arthur Flour recipe for chocolate and peppermint yule log.

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Basket cookies & bunny bread

Anybody want a cookie?

For Easter I wanted to pass along a couple ideas I came up with while roaming through our neighborhood Italian shop, Alesci’s. Over the holidays, the bakery puts out their version of pupa cu l’ova, or basket cookies, a traditional Italian Easter treat. The idea behind the cookies is to bake an egg tucked into a cookie dough “basket.” Roaming online recipes, I found various ways to do this–sometimes the egg was hard-boiled, other times it wasn’t. Sometimes the egg was already dyed, others went sans color.

The sizable basket cookies at Alesci’s are made with a stiff biscotti dough that’s thickly glazed with powdered sugar and then tossed with multi-colored sprinkles. From what I could tell (and I’d have to happily research this by eating more), the cookies are baked, glazed, and then while still warm the hard-boiled egg is pressed into the cookie. Some recipes call for baking the cookies with the egg inside. My thought is if you want to try this at home, you could make a regular sugar cookie dough spiked with a little bit of anise. I’m going to have to try that for next year.

Don't eat the egg in the middle--it's just for decoration!

But what I did make with my kiddos is some bunny bread. We used pizza dough to create our edible bunnies. I rolled out the dough and then had the kids use a biscuit cutter for the bunny heads and simply cut the ears out with a kitchen knife. For the eyes we used black beans, but olives would work well too. We experimented with the nose and teeth. An overturned mushroom stood in for teeth on a couple of our bunnies. My daughter made a pepperoni smile for another. We did make one big bunny by stretching the dough out into a circle but in the end my teen noted it looked more like a pig than a bunny. Ah well, I wanted some sort of Easter treat for my kids that didn’t involve sugar and this one turned out tasty–and fun. Happy holidays everyone!

The floppy eared bunny

This one looks more like a pig, huh?

Bye bye bunny!

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Dark chocolate apricot cheesecake with blackberry sauce

Chocolate. Make that dark chocolate. That’s what Happy Valentine’s Day are all about. If you’re looking for something decadent and special come February 14th, this is one show-stopper of a dessert. And the best part is you can make it a couple days ahead of time: it’s even better after it’s had time to–in Mr. Squid’s words–”densify.”
I actually made this dessert by request awhile back for my tween’s birthday cake. But I was getting bored doing the same-old cheesecake; I wanted to have some fun with the recipe.
So I was looking for a few ways to tweak my classic recipe and I thought of a common dessert combination from Viennese desserts where apricots are the fruit of choice with chocolate, instead of strawberries or raspberries. I like a hint of tartness to desserts so along with subbing apricot jam for raspberry, I also decided to forgo the regular whipped cream on top with a fresh blackberry sauce instead. That said, you can’t even taste the apricot in the final cake, it just intensifies the depth of the dark chocolate.
You’re intrigued, right? I hope so. This was by far my favorite cheesecake I’ve ever made. Ever.
Note: Another update to this recipe was trying to make it just a smidge healthier. I know, this wouldn’t qualify for a light recipe by any stretch of the imagination but I used Neufchatel cream cheese instead of the full fat variety and I nixed the whip cream for a fruit sauce. Small steps, right?

Okay, one more note: Please don’t let these directions scare you, just being thorough here because I believe in cheesecakes without cracks, and a waterbath is the way to go.

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes + 75 minutes baking + 60 minutes cooling

Servings: 12

Ingredients
Crust
9 ounces chocolate wafers
3 tablespoons butter, melted (lower fat butter works well too!)
Cheesecake
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chips are fine
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup apricot jam
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese (Neufchatel recommended)
*Make sure the cheese is at room temperature
¾ cups sugar (I used 2/3 this time)
4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Sauce

2 cups blackberries (thawed or fresh)

1 Tablespoons butter

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

lemon (optional)

Directions
For the crust: In a food processor, grind up the chocolate wafers (I also add just a touch of salt). I use Pepperidge Farms chocolate goldfish as the base for my crust—they’re not overly sweet like Oreos with cream filling. Add the melted butter to the crushed cookies. Here’s the tricky part. You’ll need a 9-inch springform pan. Surround the outside of the pan with aluminum foil (I’ll explain more on this later.) Cut a round piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom part of the pan. Spray the pan with cooking spray then insert the paper and spray again. Press the cookie crumbs into the pan and half way up the sides with your fingers (I’ve tried this with spoons, but frankly fingers are best). Put the crust into the fridge while you prepare the filling.
For the filling:
Preheat the over to 325 degrees. In a large, glass measuring bowl, melt the chocolate and the heavy cream together in the microwave. Melt the two slowly. I usually start at half the power level for around two minutes. When the chips start to lose their shape, I finish the melting process by stirring the mixture vigorously. Add the jam to the chocolate mixture, stir and let it cool about 10 minutes.
In another large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and the sugar. As I noted in the directions, it’s key to have the cream cheese at room temperature. (Eggs, too!) Beat the sugar and cream cheese for at least 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Now, add the vanilla and the chocolate-apricot mixture. Beat all the ingredients together for at least 5 minutes (I set a timer).
Constructing a waterbathConstructing a waterbath: Here’s another tricky part—creating a water bath for your cheesecake. water bath keeps your cheesecake dense and smooth instead of dry. You’ll need a large, glass baking dish. I wish I had a larger one, but my biggest is 9×11” so I have to improvise. (I also add a larger, cookie baking pan under the casserole dish to make it easier to get it into and out of the oven.) make several aluminum balls and place them in the center of the baking dish because the casserole dish isn’t wide enough. Next, gently press the springform pan into the casserole dish. Pour the cheesecake filling into the crust, making surethat your aluminum balls stay in place and keep your pan level. Add about a half an inch of water to the bottom of the casserole dish (not into your cheesecake!). Carefully put the whole contraption into the preheated oven.
Make sure the foil comes all the way upBake for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours or until the cheesecake just jiggles in the center. Once the cheesecake is set, turn off and leave the door open. Wait one hour and then remove the cheesecake. Carefully pull it out of the water bath. Gently release the springform mechanism, but don’t remove it. Use a butter knife to separate the crust from the pan (this will ensure that the top doesn’t crack). Put your cheesecake into the fridge for at least one day before serving.

For the sauce: Place the water, sugar, and butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until the mixture thickens and just barely become syrupy (about 4 minutes on my power burner). Pour the berries into the hot mixture and simmer until the berries start to break apart. Use a handheld immersion blender to liquify the berries. Alternatively, you can pour the sauce into a blender. Adjust the seasonings: I like my sauce tart so I added 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon red raspberry vinegar. You might like adding orange zest or a bit of juice to add a hint of sourness and interest to the sauce. Cool to room temperature before serving. The sauce will thicken as it cools.

Note: I’ve had this recipe for years, it comes from an old recipe book called 365 Great Chocolate Desserts by Natalie Haughton

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