Category Archives: Baking

Merry Christmas!

Hi All!  Just popping in to announce the winner of the Christmas Treat Box Giveaway.  I used the random number generator to help me pick the winner and it chose post 67, which is Laura C. with this post:

“I’ve seen these cookies before but never had any. Glad the machine was fun and easy to use”

Well, Laura, there are some pizzeles in the box I just shipped off to you, so I hope you enjoy them and the other treats as well!

Thank you to all of you for being faithful readers and commenters.  I wish you could be here to enjoy a piece of cake with me.  Our event on Saturday ended up being cancelled due to weather, so we’ve had to eat the whole cake by ourselves, but I would have loved to share it with you.   You all make writing this blog a lot of fun!

Today, despite getting off to a late start, has been fairly productive.  My candied orange peel is drying now.

And the next batch of panettone dough is made and rising (very slowly).  Do you see how stretchy and sheer the dough is?  Heavenly!  I know it’s only Monday, but the week is looking good so far!  How’s your week looking?

Day 12: Unfinished

Christmas is a week away and I don’t know about you, but I still have a lot left to do.  Thankfully, I have a pretty clear week in which to get them done.  Unfortunately, I sort of ran out of time this weekend and there are still too many balls in the air to have a finished topic today.  However, I can show you a few things that I am hoping to get done in the next few days.

The first one is to finish up this batch of candied orange peel.  There’s lots of recipes out there for making candied orange peel.  Here’s a good one.  Orange peel is a pretty essential ingredient in a lot of my Christmas baking, but it’s also fabulous to eat on its own.  It’s also good dipped in dark chocolate!

Next on the agenda is to work on making another batch of panettone.  I made a batch last week using a new recipe, but it didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked.  It was a recipe I had in my files that I definitely got off the internet, but now I can’t find it.  Funny.

Anyway, it was good, but not quite the texture we’re used to, so I want to make a few adjustments and try it again.  I may be able to talk about it later this week if it works out!

In the meantime, this brings us to the end of my 12 Days of Christmas Blog series.  It’s only one week until Christmas!  For one more entry into the Christmas treat box giveaway, leave a comment here before noon eastern standard time tomorrow (December 19).  I’ll announce the winner in the early afternoon and hope to get that box shipped out soon after.  Thank you so much for joining me these past 12 days!  See you tomorrow!

 

 

Day 11: Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Lemon Icing

This is one of my favorite cakes to make and not just during this time of year.  We eat gingerbread all year round because it’s good and shouldn’t just be limited to just one month out of the year.

This one is dark and spicy with bursts of candied ginger throughout.

But, the thing that makes this gingerbread extra special is the lemon glaze.  The zinginess of the lemon goes so well with the spicy mellowness of the cake.  You want to be sure that your icing is fairly thick or else most of it will just fall off.  This happened to me the first time and I had to redo it, which is why the cake pictured looks like it has two icings.

The cake tastes better if it is made a day ahead of time.  I made this cake for an event tonight, so I don’t have any pictures of it cut right now, but if there are any leftovers I will add a photo or two tomorrow.

That’s all for now.  Sorry to be so short today, but it’s been a busy few days and I need a little lie down before going out tonight.

Be sure to leave me a comment for another entry into the Christmas treat box giveaway.  I think it is mostly packed up now and just waiting for the winner’s address.  I can’t believe tomorrow is the last day!  I would love to hear about  your favorite Christmas tradition.

Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Lemon Icing

adapted from the Standard Baking Co., Portland ME

2 3/4 cups (13.25 ounces) all purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 Tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (4 ounces) or 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (4.5 ounces) sugar

2 large eggs

3/4 cup mild molasses

1 1/3 cups cold water

1/4 cup (2 ounces) finely chopped crystallized ginger

Lemon Glaze

1 3/4 cup (5 ounces) powdered sugar

2  Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a bundt pan or spray with Baker’s Joy.  Set aside.

Whisk together the flour and spices.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until combined.  Add the large eggs and beat to blend.  Beat in the light molasses.  It will look grainy.

Add half of the dry ingredients and beat until blended.  Beat in half of the water. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients and beat until blended.  Add the remaining water and mix until mostly incorporated.

Stop the mixer, give the bowl a good scraping down.  Then, add the chopped crystallized ginger and beat the mixture again on medium speed for at least a minute.

Transfer the batter to your bundt pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the glaze:

Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice to get a thick icing that drops in mounds (you don’t want it too runny or it will just run right off–I did this the first time).

With the cake still on a rack, pour the icing evenly over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides.

 

 

Day 9: Mince Pies

I’ll bet that mince pies is not a thing that most of you have to have on your holiday treats table.  But, I’ll also bet that most of you have never tasted a mince pie.  Well, up until yesterday, I would have been with you on both of those counts.

I don’t really remember how I first heard of this traditional treat, but from the beginning, I think the associations with it were negative.  That could be because traditionally (like from a long time ago when there were serfs and lords), mince pies had meat, meat fat, nuts, and dried fruit in them.  All those things are minced up, mixed with spices and baked in a pie.  The combination is not one that fits most modern food cravings.

However, nowadays, most mince recipes do not call for any meat or meat fat.  There’s just butter, dried fruit, nuts, and spices.  It all sounded good to me and besides, can anything in a pie be all that bad?

Well, as it turns out, it’s quite good and I think most of us are missing out on this lovely treat.

To make this, I first started by making mincemeat.  Many recipes call for store bought mince, but I wasn’t sure about those mixtures.  So, I used the mince recipe from here, except for the fruit, I used some of my Rummy Fruit Mix that had already been marinating for a few weeks.  Also, I only made half the recipe of mince.

For the pastry, I used a basic Pate sucree (sugar pastry dough) recipe from Baking Chez Moi.  Fitting the dough rounds into the muffin cups was the trickiest part.

I ended up cuting out a wedge to help them fit better.  This dough is really great for things like this because it patches really easily and it has a lot of butter which will help it to release from the pan.

For the top, I opted for some cut out snowflakes to make them look festive.

They baked for about 30 minutes, and then came out of the pan with no trouble at all.  Aren’t they pretty?

I am really pleased with how they turned out.  But how do they taste?  They taste great!  The filling is sweet and fruity, with a strong rum flavor.  It’s like eating fruitcake without the cake, so if you like fruitcake, you will definitely like mince pies.  It’s a little concentrated, so I think a few more nuts or making smaller pies might be a better balance.  Oh, and the pastry goes just right with the filling.  I love that dough and will be using that again for future pies for sure.

This is one of the things I love about trying new recipes and techniques–It’s exciting to discover something new and unexpectedly yummy.  The only think I regret is halving that mince recipe because it only made twelve.  Between the four of us, those will last about a day if we aren’t careful.  These are supposed to keep well for a long time, so now I wish I had made dozens!

Are you trying anything new this Christmas?  Tell me about it in the comments and get another entry into the Christmas Treat giveaway.

Day 8: Cheese Crackers

In this season of sweetness, it’s sometimes nice to have something that is not sweet.  Cheese crackers are not something I would normally think of to make because crackers are so easy to buy and they don’t last long in my house with all the snacking that goes on, so it’s not something I generally think of as a good way to use up my time.

However, the few times when I have had freshly made crackers, they have been really tasty and nothing like the dry, overly seasoned things you buy in boxes.

So, I thought I would make some and they are not hard to make.  Everything gets mixed up in the food processor, which does all the blending.

The next step is shaping, which I did in two ways.  I rolloed out half the dough into a 1/4 inch thick sheet and cut out as many little holly leaf shapes as I could.

It turns out that 1/4 inch thick crackers are too thick.  The first pan was good, but they did not retain their crispness.  One eighth of an inch is a better thickness for crackers.

They bake for quite awhile, about 20 minutes for these little ones to get them nice and dry and crispy.

The other half of the dough got shaped into a log for slicing.  I haven’t made those yet, but probably will soon, because these disappear fast!  They are very easy to eat, quite tasty, and are a welcome break from sweet things.  They will be good for serving to guests as they are hanging around and waiting for the big meal.

I noticed that cinnamon buns are quite a popular Christmas breakfast treat!  In our house, we can’t remember what we ate for Christmas breakfast before I started making Pandoro.  Everything else is eclipsed by the Pandoro as if those breakfasts did not exist.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for another entry into my Christmas treat box giveaway.  I’ve started to pack the box now, but there are still a few things yet that need to be made.  My house is beginning to look like a bakery and my freezer is almost full!  How are you doing on your preparations?

Cheddar Cayenne Crackers

adapted from Williams-Sonoma

makes a lot of tiny crackers or 4-6 dozen medium sized crackers

1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) all purpose flour

1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika powder

8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) softened butter

2 heaping cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 or 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a food processor bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to combine.

Add the butter and pulse a few times until the butter is in small bits.

Add the cheese and pulse until the mixture looks pebbly.  Add the cream while the machine is running and then pulse until a ball begins to be formed on the blade or the dough starts to clump together.  If you squeeze a handful of dough together, it should stay in a ball.

Transfer the dough to a a sheet of parchment paper or clean pastry board.  Knead a few times to bring it all together into one mass.  Divide the dough in half.

If you would like shaped crackers, flatten the dough into a disk and roll out between two sheets of parchment to a 1/8 inch thickness.  Use 1 inch to 2 inch cookie cutters to cut out shapes.  If the dough is too soft and sticky, place the sheet of dough into the freezer for a few minutes to firm up.

If you want slice and bake crackers, shape your dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Wrap in parchment of plastic and refrigerate for at least two hours before slicing.  When you are ready to bake, slice the log into 1/8 inch thick slices.

Transfer the shapes to your prepared cookie sheets so that they don’t touch.  A half inch of space around each cracker is sufficient.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your crackers.  Larger cookies will take longer,  They should be golden brown.  Let cool completely on a rack.  Store in an airtight container and eat within a week.