Christmas

Orange & Cranberry Curd Squares

by Shawnda on November 1, 2013

in Christmas,Cookies and Bars,Cranberries,Thanksgiving

Orange and Cranberry Curd Squares

This truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

After our Fairy Mermaid Princess (Princess Mermaid Fairy?) waved goodbye to the last of the trick or treaters, we turned off the lights and gave The Little her choice of Hocus Pocus or Charlie Brown to help wind down from the excitement of the night. Because nothing blows a 3 year old’s mind more than seeing other kids dressed in a costume.

Momma, look! That boy has a face on top of his other face!

She, who ended up sleeping in her Mermaid Fair Princess tutu-dress thingy – again – chose Charlie Brown… Christmas. So here we are, on November 1st with the first holiday dessert of the year already half gone.

Orange and Cranberry Curd Squares

In my defense, we didn’t have a single piece of Halloween candy left over. So we went with the next best thing for breakfast today: Orange & Cranberry Curd Squares.

You might recognize the recipe from its cousin post, Grapefruit Curd Squares. Because next to a margarita, those bars are still the greatest things to happen to a grapefruit.

And these bars aren’t that far from being the greatest things to ever happen to cranberries. Or cranberry juice, I should say.

Orange and Cranberry Curd Squares

Pies will get their moment to shine but for now, we’re perfectly happy ushering in the holiday season with a batch of beautiful citrusy & tart cranberry bars.

Plus, it’s far harder to pass off a piece of pie as breakfast.

Orange-Cranberry Curd Squares

A citrusy shortbread cookie topped with a beautiful red cranberry curd.

Ingredients

  • For the cookie base:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Zest from 2 small oranges, divided (and fruit reserved for juicing later... or just eating)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cold and cut into 8 pieces
  • For the cranberry curd:
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice*
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp yogurt or sour cream
  • Powdered sugar, for serving
  • 1-2 drops red gel coloring (optional)
  • *We're talking about the pure, unadulterated 100% "why did I wear white today" cranberry juice, brands like RW Knudsen. Not the juice cocktail kind with pear and apple juice.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spray an 8x8 baking pan with non-stick spray.
  3. Add flour, salt, sugar, 2/3 of the orange zest, and butter pieces to the small bowl of your food processor and process for ~1 minute, until the butter has been completely distributed into the dry ingredients and there are no traces of powder left. (You can do this by hand, it will just take a few minutes longer - just smash the sugar with the orange zest first to better distribute the orange flavor.)
  4. Spread mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan and press down firmly.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, until the edges brown.
  6. Let cool for 20 minutes.
  7. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  8. Whisk in the remaining orange zest, cranberry juice, eggs, and yogurt until thoroughly combined and lump-free.
  9. Not overall thrilled with the color of the mixture? Consider adding just a drop or two of red gel coloring. Happy now? Great, let's move on.
  10. Pour over cookie crust and bake for 20-25 minutes, until just set - the center should jiggle but not be fluid when you gently shake the pan.
  11. Let cool in pan for 30 minutes and then run the tip of a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen.
  12. Allow to cool completely before cutting into 12 squares and serving dusted with powdered sugar.
  13. Leftovers will keep a few days covered, at room temp or in the fridge.
  14. Fabulous eaten cold and called breakfast. Not that I'd know.

Notes

Yields: 12 servings

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma's Lemon Curd Squares

Estimated time: 2 hours

{ 5 comments }

White Chocolate-Peppermint Chunk Cookies

It’s a cookie hangover kind of Monday.

Yesterday I took 6 dozen cookies to a cookie exchange… and came home with 6 dozen different cookies. Chocolate-covered cherry cookies, chocolate-peppermint sandwich cookies, peanut butter truffles, chocolate-ginger cookies, cinnamon-chocolate chip…

In between baking and packaging up 6 dozen cookies and the tummy full of deliciously sweet shame that I have now – bottomless glasses of Prosecco. We kind of know how to party. And by kind of, I mean our hostess is a rockstar.

My contribution this year was White Chocolate-Peppermint Chunk Cookies from Pink Parsley. I couldn’t find the Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips that she used (but there was plenty of the regular chocolate & green mint kinds everywhere), so I made my own with white chocolate baking chips, crushed peppermint, and peppermint extract.

White Chocolate-Peppermint Chunk Cookies

The resulting chunks were creamy but still had little crunchy bits of candy in them. Folded into a chocolate chip cookie dough base, they made a deliciously chewy and festive cookie perfect for a boozy cookie exchange.

White Chocolate Peppermint Chunk Cookies

A festive, chewy cookie studded with white chocolate peppermint chunks.

Ingredients

  • For the white chocolate peppermint chunks:
  • 12 oz bag white chocolate baking chips
  • 16 peppermint candies, unwrapped
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • For the cookies:
  • 2 cups + 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 2 cups white chocolate peppermint chunks

Instructions

  1. Line a dinner plate or small tray with plastic wrap.
  2. Finely crush/grind the peppermint candies until most of the candies are very small pieces.
  3. Place the white chocolate in a medium bowl and microwave at 70% power for 1 minute.
  4. Stir and microwave another 30-60 seconds until smooth.
  5. Add the crushed peppermint and give a few stirs.
  6. Sprinkle the peppermint extract over top and give it a few more folds - your texture is going to go from flowy to something that looks feels more like buttercream frosting.
  7. Transfer the white chocolate mixture to the prepared plate and use a spoon to spread it around to an even thickness.
  8. Lay another piece of plastic wrap on top and use your hands to smooth and spread the white chocolate.
  9. Refrigerate ~15 minutes until solid.
  10. Turn the white chocolate disk out onto a cutting board and cut into small chunks.
  11. Preheat the oven to 325 and line two baking sheets with parchment or Silpat.
  12. Stir flour, salt, and baking soda together and set aside.
  13. Beat butter and sugars together on medium-high 1-2 minutes until mixed (I usually just let the mixer run while I'm gathering and measuring out dry ingredients and such).
  14. Scrape down the sides and add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and beat until uniform.
  15. Turn the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.
  16. Add the white chocolate chunks and let the mixer run a few more seconds until incorporated.
  17. Drop heaping tablespoons onto the prepared pan and bake ~18 minutes until the edges begin to brown, rotating sheets halfway through.
  18. Let cool on the baking sheet and transfer to an airtight container for storage.

Notes

Yields: ~20 cookies

Slightly adapted from Pink Parsley

Estimated time: 45 minutes

{ 13 comments }

Christmas Cookie Icing

by Shawnda on December 7, 2012

in Christmas,Cookies and Bars

Sugar Cookie Icing

You know what the best part of decorating cookies is? That moment right before you actually start making the icing. Everything is clean, lined up, and ready to go. Because by the time that the icing is done, all bags and bottles have been filled with each color, and the cookies are spread out… the place is a complete disaster.

Sugar Cookie Icing

And that’s just the island.

Sugar Cookie Icing Sugar Cookie Icing

But it’s always a ton of fun and The Little gets a kick out of “painting” with “mommy’s tools.”

I don’t love royal icing so I opted to try a recommended nonroyal sugar cookie icing. It behaves pretty much exactly like royal icing, only it dries glossier (which I failed to capture, but it does). And it doesn’t have that funky royal icing smell that I associate with meringue powder. You outline, flood, and add detail.

Sugar Cookie Icing

And spend the rest of the night quoting A Christmas Story. You’ll shoot your eye out! I can’t put my arms down! Ohhhhh Fuuuuuuudge.

And if your husband is 3 weeks deep into Cousin-Eddie-from-Christmas-Vacation quotes, he probably won’t even roll his eyes once :)

Sugar Cookie Icing

The downside – the plain white icing less opaque than plain royal icing. This is where, if you haven’t before, you might just see the value in white food coloring. I didn’t have any and thought it looked pretty good after drying.

The recipe for the cookies you see above is my very favorite cut-out sugar cookie recipe. It’s a shortbread-sugar cookie hybrid from The Pastry Queen. It’s delicious and doesn’t overly spread or puff when you bake it.

And the leg lamp came from a homebrew cookie cutter – I simply found a picture online of a leg lamp, scaled it to a better size, printed it, and traced it onto a piece of cardboard reclaimed from soda fridge pack box. And I saved $10 by not buying a cookie cutter. (Although I’d happily spring for the cookie cutter if I were making more than just a few of these.)

Homemade Leg Lamp Cookie Cutter

I found the original icing recipe size to be far too small for decorating – but it probably would have been fine for just dipping cookies. We made a double batch of the recipe you see below to decorate 2 dozen cookies with several colors and had almost nothing leftover.

Sugar Cookie Icing

An alternative to royal icing that makes equally pretty decorations on cut-out sugar cookies.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp milk (plus more to adjust consistency)
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp corn syrup (plus more to adjust consistency)
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • Gel food colorings (I use Americolor)

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, corn syrup, and extract until uniform.
  2. You may find this mixture to be far too thick even for outlining (I sure did) so add equal parts of milk & corn syrup until the consistency is right (I needed 1 1/2 tsp more of each).
  3. Divide between bowls and color the frosting.
  4. Transfer to a piping bag, candy bottle, or my favorite - a small sandwich baggie fitted with a coupler and tip (I use Wilton #1-2 for outlining, 2-3 for detail).

Notes

Yields: Enough frosting to decorate 12 cookies in 4-5 colors

Source: AllRecipes

Estimated time: 10 minutes

{ 15 comments }

Gingerbread Caramels

by Shawnda on November 29, 2012

in Candy,Christmas,Holiday Favorites

Gingerbread Caramel

This is a very exciting Christmas on the “Christmas as a Parent” scale. The first Christmas was all about watching your sweet bundle of drool staring hypnotically at the blinking tree. That’s also the one where you learn that no matter how awesome or noisy or flashy that toy is, the box or bag or wrapping paper that encased it is a thousand times better.

No – 10,000 times better.

The second one is when you learn that those glass ornaments you’ve used for the last 4 years have to go back into the attic for the next 16. But they’re far more excited about play kitchens and trains and puzzles and slide-erasable etch-a-sketch thingies than they are the paper it was wrapped in.

Christmas Christmas
Christmas Christmas

But this Christmas, this is the one where she is just old enough to start to understand the concepts of the holidays, from Tebowing in front of the Christmas tree (not really; but what’s up, Kim), to celebrating with family (I see my Gia and PaPaw?!), to celebrating the birth of Jesus (we make cake for Jesus burt-day party?), to Santa Claus (Mr. Boogie scare Santa?).

And until a week ago, the only thing that my daughter could tell you about Santa Claus had to do with The Nightmare Before Christmas. Oops.

But we get to start fun new traditions this year. Like listening to Bing Crosby while we put up the Christmas tree in our pajamas. And frothing milk for hot chocolate with Shrek the Halls on in the background. Hanging stockings, decorating the mantle, and reading The Elf on The Shelf (I caved and conformed) with the smell of gingerbread filling the house.

Gingerbread Caramels

The fastest way to get into the holiday spirit is to put up a bunch of plastic decorations, set out a creepy toy elf, and make your house smell like gingerbread.

True story.

I whipped up a batch of my favorite caramel recipe the other night and spiked it with a generous dose of gingerbread spices. Mom’s gingerbread was always spiced with plenty of black pepper and plenty of cloves. The warmth from those spices really set her cookies (and bread, and cakes) apart. And it’s just not Christmas without it.

Gingerbread Caramels

Chewy, buttery caramels full of warm gingerbread spices makes a great grown-up Christmas candy.

Ingredients

  • For the homemade gingerbread spice mix:
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp fresh finely ground black pepper
  • For the caramels:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp vanilla or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp gingerbread spice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup or Lyle's Golden Syrup
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp cloves (optional)
  • Finely ground black pepper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Stir together the ingredients for the gingerbread spice in a small bowl until mixed well, making sure to press out any lumps with a spoon.
  2. Leftover spice can be stored in a small airtight jar or a zip-top bag.
  3. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with buttered parchment paper.
  4. Bring cream, butter, vanilla, salt, and 1 Tbsp gingerbread spice just to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Boil sugars, corn syrup, molasses, and water in a 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Attach a candy thermometer and continue boiling without stirring (just gently swirl the pan occasionally) until mixture reaches 310-315.
  6. Carefully pour in the cream mixture into the caramel (take care, mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 246.
  7. Around softball stage (~240), I took a small spoonful of caramel sauce, cooled it down in a small bowl of ice water, formed it into a ball, and tasted it - I decided I wanted more cloves and a few more grinds of black pepper and just sprinkled those over top.
  8. Pour into baking pan and cool completely (about an hour).
  9. Cut into 1-inch pieces (a buttered pizza cutter or very sharp knife is your best friend), and then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

Notes

Yields: 64 candies

Adapted from Sea Salt Caramels with Vanilla Bean

Estimated time: 2 hours

{ 20 comments }