Monday, December 26, 2016

Cranberry Orange Blondies

 When fresh cranberries are in season, I always go out of my way to use them, just because I know they will only be available for a short period of time. Basically, I grab a few bags every time I go to the grocery store, and then store them in my freezer until I want them. They freeze remarkably well for months! But this year, I keep finding more and more recipes to use them!!! So much for stocking up my freezer!! Guess it's time to run back to the store to get some more!
 Anyway, I found this recipe on Rodelle's website (which is a company that sells fine baking ingredients). I liked that this recipe uses FRESH cranberries instead of dried, which is often the case when you're baking something small and picky-uppy like blondies. I've made them several times, and they're always a big hit. So if you're having a party, you should definitely give them a try. So easy and delicious! I PROMISE you they will disappear in no time!!

1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole cranberries, fresh or frozen

Heat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, butter, orange zest, vanilla extract and salt. Add in flour and whisk to combine, stirring just until no streaks of flour remain (do not over mix.) Chop cranberries coarsely, then fold berries into batter. Pour batter into prepared pan, spread into an even layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until bars are golden and set. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

I tried doing an orange glaze over the top, but they turned out to be far too sweet, VERY gooey, and not in a good way. I found it best to just dust with powdered sugar. Makes them look festive too!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

 Recently I was looking for something yummy and different in the way of Christmas cookies. As much as I love the usuals, I'm always interested in finding something new. So I thought, maybe instead of doing something involving chocolate (which is often the go-to), I thought maybe I'd see if I could find something a little lighter and fresher. Then I thought, hmm...lemon? And off I went, looking for lemon cookie recipes. It wasn't long before I found MANY different versions of a lemon crinkle cookie. TBH, I had never even heard of them, but they seemed pretty popular, so I went with it. I tried one recipe... tasty, but they didn't crinkle!!! They were as smooth as could be! I thought "ok, wait, how can I post a recipe for Lemon Crinkle cookies if they don't even crinkle??" Time to try something else. Again, I couldn't find exactly the right one. So I did what I often do! I took different parts of the recipes I liked, and put them together. And here we are!!
 The result is a VERY lemony, buttery, chewy cookie that DEFINITELY crinkles as you bake it! So good! I made them for some friends and got RAVE reviews! Add them to your cookie tray, include them in your next cookie swap, or just bake up a batch to have with a nice cup of tea. It makes a small batch, so you might wanna double it! I promise they won't last very long!

1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp lemon extract
1 whole egg
1 tbs lemon zest
1 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar

 Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray, or line with parchment paper or silpat nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
 In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add lemon extract, egg, lemon zest, and juice. Scrape sides and mix again. In a separate bowl, stir together remaining ingredients except the powdered sugar. Slowly add to mixture, stirring until just combined. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again. Chill dough for 10-15 minutes. Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until just set. Remove from oven and cool cookies for about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely.

Definitely chill the dough for a bit. It makes rolling it into balls so much easier! And after you coat them in the powdered sugar, roll them around in the palm of you hand to remove any excess sugar (not unlike the way you loosely hold dice and shake them in your hand before you roll 'em) You'll wind up with a prettier crinkled cookie. Otherwise you might end up with clumps of powdered sugar on your cookies, which is not exactly what you want. (Or maybe it is! You do you!)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Old Fashioned Gingerbread

 I was recently watching a TV holiday baking championship and they were making gingerbread. Then I thought "wait, how come I don't have a gingerbread recipe on my website??" I mean, I LOVE gingerbread! One would think I'd have posted a favorite recipe by now. But no, none to be found. So, of course, I went right into research mode to find just the right recipe. I wanted it to be moist and flavorful, and definitely with a good amount of spice. (almost HOT spicy!)
 The problem is that every recipe I found wasn't exactly just right. So I kinda took what I liked from a couple different recipes and went with it. It turned out great! I made it for Tory and Ryan when they came over for a movie night, and they both gave it a big "thumbs up!" So this is now my go-to gingerbread recipe. Now that it's FINALLY here, you should definitely try it!

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup molasses*
1 egg
2-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup hot water

 Heat oven to 325ºF.  Grease and flour 9" square baking dish (or spray with baking spray).
Cream together the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl. Add molasses and egg and beat until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Add hot water and stir until well incorporated and batter is smooth. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

  *When choosing molasses, you want to go for anything that is light or mild. Some may be labeled as "robust" but that may be a little strong and overpowering. And never use Blackstrap molasses for baking as that is far too bitter.

Yes, you read that correctly - black pepper!
And be sure to serve with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream and a dusting of powdered sugar!

Monday, December 5, 2016

White Hot Chocolate

 If you're one of my regular readers, you know that I'm always looking for new versions of old favorites. So, I figured, instead of doing a regular hot chocolate, why not do it with white chocolate instead? It's rich and creamy and festive and sweet enough that you could definitely serve it as a dessert beverage. Or maybe just whip up a batch to warm you up on a snowy night. You'll definitely be thinking "why haven't I done this sooner?"
 Tbh, I kind of like it after all the craziness is over, say on Christmas night, after all the parties and food and wrapping and presents. It's a great way to cap off the holiday with something warm and comforting. If you're a fan of white chocolate, I promise you'll love it!

1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vanilla whipped topping, for garnish

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine white chocolate chips and heavy cream. Stir continuously until white chocolate chips have completely melted. Stir in the half-and-half, and vanilla extract. Stir occasionally until heated through. Pour into mugs and top with a dollop of vanilla whipped cream.

To lighten it up a bit, just use any milk of choice instead of the heavy cream. You could even use almond milk, if you so choose.
For a little extra holiday touch, sprinkle the top with crushed peppermint sticks!