Tag Archives: holiday baking

Day 13 of Baker’s Dozen: Easy Panettone

We did it. We made it to the last day of the Baker’s Dozen. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I know many organizations are off from work today, getting a head start on the holiday weekend. I hope you are all finished with your shopping and baking and can now sit back and enjoy the holiday season with your loved ones.

This is the easy version of Panettone, which is an Italian fruitcake. You will see it in stores generally in the blue boxes. I’ve never bought one of those. I worry how dry and old they may be. And the whole preservative thing (obviously it has something in it if it is shelf stable for months!) Which is probably one of the big reasons it is commonly turned into French Toast (which will be my Sunday morning brunch. Can’t wait). But the traditional way to make panettone is a very long and tedious process. And really, who has time for long and tedious this month? Not me.

After all the baking I’ve done this month, I needed the easy version.  King Arthur Flour has the easy version and it was delicious. You’ll notice that there’s a hole in my panettone. Traditional panettone is baked high with no hole, which makes for a more difficult baking process.Remember, we need easy right now.

I followed their recipe almost exactly, except that I let my biga rise for almost 24 hours  and then I tossed my dried fruit in a little rum for about 30 minutes before adding it to the dough. And that’s it.  They did such a great job with the instructions that I’m just going to give you the link. You can still make it in time for Christmas Brunch and you won’t regret it. After all your hard work this month, you deserve a treat, don’t you think? Now you can have your cake and eat it too.

King Arthur Flour American Style Panettone

Be sure to read the tips right below the ingredient list.

Warmest wishes to you and yours! Happy Holidays!

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Day 12 of Baker’s Dozen: Cranberry Brioche Coffee Cake

Surely you are all done with your holiday shopping, right? Yesterday, maybe not, but today, definitely, right? No? Well, there are quite a few stores that still guarantee holiday delivery. One happens to be my favorite baking store, Sur La Table (hint hint). Not only do they have an amazing baking supply, like these great paper baking pans, but they also have a fantastic selection of adorable foodie ornaments, which I plan on shopping for at After Christmas Sales (another favorite!).

And those paper baking pans would be perfect for today’s recipe, Cranberry Brioche Coffee Cake, which would make an amazing gift and earn you a few BFFs. Who wouldn’t love a beautiful coffee cake for a gift? Bonus: I used the Sugared Cranberries in addition to dried cranberries. Yum. And just another reason to love brioche, as if we needed another reason, right?

This recipe is one that can be very easily adapted to suit your needs. Don’t like cranberries? No problem, just add any fruit that you like. Want to make several smaller cakes? Easy.  You don’t even need to use this brioche recipe. There are a ton to chose from (just a quick google search brought up Epicurious, Food Network) or maybe you have your own that you like.

And the great thing about brioche is the dough freezes very well until you are ready for it. Maybe you want this coffee cake for Sunday morning. You could make the dough today, freeze it, take it out Saturday to thaw, and have this coffee cake in time for brunch with very little work. Or, even better, you could make it Saturday because it tastes better the next day.

This recipe came from the most recent issue of King Arthur Flour’s Baking Sheet, which I received as a housewarming gift from a dear friend (many thanks!!). However, I made a few adjustments, and I used my trusted brioche recipe and not theirs, although I’m sure it’s great and would work just fine. Enjoy!

Cranberry Brioche Coffee Cake

Adapted from King Arthur Flour’s The Baking Sheet, Holiday 2011

Yield: 1 8 inch coffee cake

Difficulty: Easy to Medium

Prep time: About 45 minutes hands on, 12+ hours for resting dough, 35 minutes for baking

Ingredients

Procedure

1. Soak the dried fruit in the alcohol or juice overnight, or microwave for 30 seconds. Note: the alcohol does not cook off completely and still has a distinct flavor. If you don’t like this, I recommend using half alcohol and half juice, or all juice. Drain before using.

2. Make the brioche recipe of your choice and have ready before rising (this does not refer to the freezing and overnight chilling if your recipe calls for that). Scale out about 500 g (17 oz) and press into a buttered 8 inch pan. I used a spring form pan but any pan will work. If you want to make mini coffee cakes, just scale out enough dough for the mini pans. If you want a bigger cake, use more brioche.

3. Let rise until puffy, preferably in a warm spot like your oven (turned off!). It took a good hour for mine because the dough was still cold and my house is chilly. If your recipe doesn’t call for any chilling, this may not take as long. Preheat oven to 400F (but take the dough out before preheating if you were proofing it in the oven).

4. Once puffy, lightly dimple the dough, but do not deflate it. Pour the cream over the dough (if using a spring form pan then make sure it is sitting on a sheet pan), then the sugar, and then the drained dried fruit. Alternately, you can lightly kneed the fruit into the dough before putting in the pan, and sprinkle a few extra on top. If you are using the sugared cranberries I’d recommend pulsing them in a food processor first.

5. Bake in preheated oven until golden and a thermometer reads 190F in the center. It took about 30 minutes for my cake. The original recipe says 23 minutes, which wasn’t long enough. Let cool completely or ideally overnight before serving. Enjoy with a cup of coffee!

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Day 11 of Baker’s Dozen: Sugared Cranberries

Only a few more days till Christmas! I hope you are all enjoying the season and aren’t getting too frazzled by last minute shopping and baking. If you are, this is the easiest holiday treat yet! Takes about 10 minutes hands on time. Can’t beat that right?

This is the first year I’ve seen sugared cranberries, but I can tell you that I will be making them every year now! They are so pretty and really tasty. Tangy and sweet with a burst in your mouth.

From my research I found the original recipe came from Cooking Light, but you can adjust this recipe to your liking and it is very easy to make more or less. Just follow the 1:1:1 ratio and add whatever additional spices you have! I made two cups, so I used 2 cups water, 2 cups sugar, and 2 cups cranberries. I also added a cinnamon stick and a vanilla bean for extra spice. But you can omit the extras or add different extras. Totally up to you! I love recipes like this.

These will make great holiday gifts and/or a great addition to your holiday spread with very effort. Enjoy!

Sugared Cranberries

Adapted from Cooking Light

Yield: 2 cups

Difficulty: Very easy!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries or frozen, thawed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 1 vanilla bean (optional)
  • 1/3 cup additional sugar for coating

Directions

1. In a sauce pan dissolve the water and sugar to make a simple syrup over medium low heat. Add spices if using. Let syrup cool.

2. Rinse cranberries and place in bowl. Once syrup is cool (if it is too warm the cranberries may burst) pour over cranberries. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

3. The next day, strain the cranberries. You can reserve the simple syrup for another use, like using in coffee or tea. (Or putting on a sponge cake!). Place a tablespoon of sugar at a time in a bowl and a few cranberries. Toss to coat and place on sheet pan to dry. Repeat the process until all cranberries are coated. You can sprinkle more sugar over the cranberries if it looks like they need more. Let dry a couple of hours and then store in an airtight container.

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Day 10 of Bakers Dozen: Chewy Ginger Snaps

We’ve made it to the home stretch! Can you believe Christmas is less than a week away? This time of year always flies by. I’m almost done with my holiday shopping, just have a few last minute items to pick up and the last of my mailings went out today. Now it is time to just kick back and relax a bit!

Gingersnaps are probably one of the most recognized holiday cookies. I’d always preferred sugar cookies over ginger cookies but I may have been persuaded with this recipe. The perfect amount of fresh ginger, chewy (not a fan of crunchy), and well, I think they look pretty. I think Santa agrees!

This recipe came from Alton Brown, Good Eats 3. It’s a really amazing book and would make a great gift for a foodie. And Amazon is selling it at half the price I paid for it. We were lucky enough to meet Alton at one of his book signings this past fall, but you had to buy the book from the store to get a ticket. Which of course meant buying it at full price. It’s a steal at $18! I also got the Sugarplums recipe out of this book. And the marshmallows. Can’t say I don’t use my cookbooks, right?

These cookies are easy, which is how Cookies for Santa should be. You don’t want the added stress of complicated cookies this time of year. Chopping the ginger was the most time consuming part. I omitted the candied ginger because I knew that would be too much ginger for my taste buds, but added extra fresh ginger, 4 tsp instead of 2 tsp.  And the fresh ginger makes a huge difference. Don’t omit that. It takes the cookie to a whole new level.

I used a tablespoon scoop and baked the cookies for 12 minutes to get them perfectly chewy. If you prefer a crisper cookie, just bake longer, about 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Ginger Snaps

Adapted from Alton Brown

Yield: about 30 cookies

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 9 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 7 ounces dark brown sugar (just under 1 cup)
  • 5 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick + 1 tsp)
  • 3 ounces molasses, by weight (1/4 cup)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 4 ounces finely chopped candied ginger (optional – if you add candied ginger reduce fresh ginger to 2 tsp)
  • coarse sugar for sprinkling on cookies (optional)

Note: I’ve provided conversions in case you don’t have a scale, but I can’t vouch for the accuracy.

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cardamom, clove and salt.

3. Place the brown sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until light and fluffy,3 minutes. Scrape the bowl. Add the molasses, egg and fresh ginger and beat on medium for 2 minutes. Add the crystallized ginger, if using, and using a rubber spatula, stir to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix with paddle until well combined.

4. Using a 1 TB cookie scoop, drop the dough onto a parchment lined half sheet pan approximately 2-inches apart. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 12 minutes for slightly chewy cookies or 15 minutes for more crisp cookies. Rotate the pan halfway through cooking.

5. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to stay on the sheet pan for 30 seconds before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with all of the dough. Store in an airtight container for up 10 days (trust me, they won’t last that long!). If desired, you may scoop and freeze the cookie dough on a sheet pan and once frozen, place in a resealable bag to store. Bake directly from the freezer as above.

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Day 9 of Baker’s Dozen: Sticky Toffee Pudding

A couple months ago I had never heard of sticky toffee pudding. I first learned about this British treat when watching Unique Sweets. I think they called it sticky date pudding and I had trouble finding a decent recipe. Since the holidays kicked into full gear though, it is everywhere. Everywhere! It’s the new thing. And for good reason – it is a tasty and very unique treat. Not overly sweet, fruity, and a great change from all the typical holiday treats!

After searching recipes I finally decided on one from King Arthur since their recipe used figs. Its not terribly different and substituting dates to make it more traditional would be perfectly fine. But I love figs so this was the recipe for me.

You’ll notice that this doesn’t look like American pudding. It’s definitely a cake but called pudding across the pond. Pudding can also be savory, like Yorkshire pudding. Here pudding is more closely associated with pastry cream.

It’s pretty quick to make and easy too. The caramel sauce takes a while but is easy. I spiked both my cake and sauce, because, well, it’s the holidays, and why not? Figs go great with oranges so I added grand marnier to my cake and put a bit of dark rum in the caramel sauce. Have fun this holiday season!

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Yield: 6 to 8 individual cakes

Difficulty: Easy

Cake

  • 1 cup chopped figs or chopped dried dates
  • 1/3  cup + 3 TB boiling water
  • 2 TB Grand Marnier or orange juice
  • ¼ cup soft butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 TB dark molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour or AP Flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Sauce

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt; omit if using salted butter
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp dark rum, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter six ¾-cup silicone baking cups or oven-safe custard cups. Combine the figs and boiling water, and liqueur if using, and set aside.

2. Beat the 1/4 cup butter, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder until fluffy. Beat in the egg, then the molasses and vanilla, then the flour.

3. Purée the figs and water in a food processor or blender. Add the baking soda, and stir into the batter.

4. Pour into the prepared baking cups. Place molds on a baking sheet.

5. Bake the cakes for 18 to 22 minutes, until a cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center. Remove from the oven, and cool in the molds or cups.

6. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Cook the sugar, butter, and salt over medium heat until the mixture is a deep amber color; watch closely to prevent burning. It should take about 10 minutes.

7. Carefully mix in the cream. Cook the mixture until it’s thick enough to coat a spoon. This will take another 5 to 10 minutes. Add the rum, if using.

8. Unmold the cakes and serve with the sauce.

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Day 7 of Bakers Dozen: Peppermint Meringues

If you’ve seen the cover of Bon Appetit this month, you’ve seen the beautiful peppermint meringues with the red background. It drew me in immediately! So festive! I had to mimic the red on red for the pictures.

Meringues have never been a favorite cookie of mine, mostly because in the past I’d only had store bought ones that were sickeningly sweet. These are sweet, but not quite the diabetic coma sweet of store bought versions. And much tastier with a beautiful airy yet crunchy texture.

These cookies aren’t quite as easy as the past few posts, but they certainly aren’t hard either. Meringue can be intimidating. Mine even turned out a little runnier than they should have been, but they still turned out great. I’m not sure what happened, honestly. I had perfect peaks and then when I added the powdered sugar as directed, it got runny. But they still piped fine and baked up without any issues.

Peppermint Meringues

From Bon Appetit

Yield: About 60 small cookies

Difficulty: Easy to Medium

Prep time: About 30 minutes hands on, 2 1/2 hours to bake

Ingredients

  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 12 drops red food coloring

1. Get all your gear ready before you start. Place a 1/2 inch tip in a pastry bag (or use a plastic bag), and have your food coloring and peppermint extract ready, as well as your sugars. Make sure your egg whites are room temperature – very important! Since it is cold most places right now, this may take a couple of hours. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silipat.

2. Preheat oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt on medium-high speed until white and foamy, about 1 minute. With mixer running, gradually add sugar in 3 additions beating for 2 minutes between each addition. Beat until firm peaks form, about 2 minutes longer. Add powdered sugar and peppermint extract; beat to blend, about 1 minute.

3. Dot coloring over surface of meringue; do not stir (the coloring will form swirls when piped). Spoon meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2″ tip. If using a plastic bag, cut corner after adding meringue to bag. Twist top; pipe 1″ rounds onto prepared sheet, spacing 1″ apart. They will not spread so they can be close together.

4. Bake meringues until dry, about 2 1/2 hours. Let cool completely, about 1 hour (meringues will crisp as they cool). These will only keep a couple of days. Store in an airtight container with parchment between layers to keep from sticking.

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Day 5 of Bakers Dozen: Caramel Corn

I should not have made this caramel corn. Shouldn’t have done it. Why? Because I can’t stop eating it! It’s worse than the peanut brittle. Sweet, salty, and crunchy. I should also mention that popcorn is an addiction of mine.  I have an air popper that cooks my lunch for me often. Cause, you know, sometimes I just feel like an easy lunch. And popcorn is perfectly acceptable in my book. Then I had to go and add caramel to the mixture, which is probably making my dentist cringe.

This recipe is very easy. You don’t want to use microwave popcorn – the extra flavors might not work with the caramel. You do need a candy thermometer again, but you don’t have to babysit this caramel. Just cook it, toss with the popcorn and eat! Well, give it a second to cool off. Trust me on this one.

If you want to add nuts I’m sure it would work great. Maybe cut out a little of the popcorn for the nuts added. In Hawaii you can find caramel corn with macadamia nuts. So. Good. Personalize it and enjoy!

Caramel Corn

Recipe from Joy of Baking

Yield: 8 to 10 cups

Difficulty: Easy

Prep time: About 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (110 gr) popcorn kernels, or about 10 cups of popped corn, plain
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 gr) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (110 gr) packed dark brown sugar (I only had light and it worked fine)
  • 1/2 cup (120 gr) light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 2 TB (28 gr) butter
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda

1. Preheat oven to the lowest setting it will go (mine goes to 170F). Lightly spray a large stainless steel bowl. Pop the corn into the bowl and place in oven to keep warm. Lightly spray two wooden spoons and set aside. Prepare a sheet pan with parchment or silpat and set aside.

2. Measure your salt and baking soda and set aside. In a medium heavy bottom saucepan, stir together the sugars, corn syrup, and water. Bring to a boil. Place a lid on pan for just a minute to reduce sugar crystals from forming. Uncover and clamp candy thermometer to pan.

3. Cook to 240F. Add the butter, stir only once, and then bring mixture to 300F. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the baking soda and salt. The mixture will foam up.

4. Quickly pour over popcorn and toss with your prepared spoons. Pour onto sheet pan and spread out. Let cool and break into pieces.

5. Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days. But it won’t last that long. Yum.

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