A three generational road trip from California to Connecticut (to drop my granddaughter off at college) was full of adventures and lots of laughter. You’re invited to travel along as I share recipes inspired by my favorite memories.
If you are ever in Altoona, Pennsylvania you must stop at the Boyer Candy Factory Outlet. You can stock up on essentials like Mallo Cups, Clark Bars, and my new favorite. . . Jimmie Stix. (I won’t be using Jimmie Stix in a recipe because I ATE THEM ALL.) Seriously, retro candy never tasted so good.
Mallo Cups are filled with creamy marshmallowy filling. There is a little coconut in there too, which is very subtle in flavor and texture. Since I’m not a fan of coconut in candy, I was a little leery about this, but found the coconut added something special to the candy cups.
I brought quite a few home with me, but since it took me a few tries to nail the cookie recipe, I ran out and had to order more online. I found that the small (.5 ounce) cups worked best. You can order directly from Boyer: Boyer Candies
Or you might want to try Ebay. I ordered some from there (hello . . . .free shipping!) and they were mailed quickly in a protective bag with a small freezer pack inside. Nicely done!
Topping graham-based cookies with Mallo Cups created little cookie mountains in various stages of volcanic activity. Some stayed solid, some oozed marshmallow filling, and a few erupted dramatically. All were delicious.
No mixer is needed for this recipe. It all gets stirred up by hand in one saucepan! No chilling, no rolling . . . so easy. (I don’t use a microwave, but if you do, you can simply melt the butter and chocolate in a sturdy microwave-proof bowl instead of using the stove.)
Makes 24 cookies if you're using the .5 oz Mallo Cups. If you have larger cups, add a little more dough to each cookie, which should yield approximately 18.
24 Mallo Cups - .5 oz. each
9 full graham crackers (1 sleeve) finely crushed
½ cup butter
4 ounces milk chocolate (if using chips, this is ¾ cup)
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter, increase to ¼ teaspoon)
Preparation: Line two large baking sheets with parchment. Unwrap 24 Mallow Cups and set aside. Remove ¼ cup of the graham cracker crumbs and set aside in a small bowl. Heat oven to 375 F.
In a large saucepan on lowest heat, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring often.
Remove from heat and add the brown sugar and graham cracker crumbs (except for the reserved crumbs in bowl). Stir to combine.
Add eggs and vanilla. Stir well.
Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. Allow mixture to sit for 5-10 minutes; it will thicken during that time.
Each cookie will use 1 rounded tablespoon of dough (about 4 teaspoons). My medium-size cookie scoop is perfect for this. Using your hands, roll each scoop into a ball and dip in the reserved crumbs, leaving the top bare. Place on baking sheet and press one of the Mallo Cups onto the ball of dough, pressing firmly until you can see a little dough around the edge of the cup. (The Mallo Cup will not be pressed all the way into the dough.) Repeat, keeping cookies 2 inches apart.
Bake for 11 minutes, remove from oven and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a minute or two before transferring to a cooling rack.
Surprise someone with these cute, easy bunny huts this Easter. Behind the door of each egg-shaped abode is a little bunny, just waiting to be discovered. Made with rice cereal, marshmallows, candy melts, and butter (flavoring too, if desired) this no-bake treat is simple to make and so much fun to decorate.
You can make this as easy or as challenging as you wish. If time (and mess tolerance) is at a premium, try simply forming the eggs with your hands, cutting a door, scooping out a hole, and placing a bunny inside. Done! Or you can pipe icing around the opening, add doorknobs, and even toss in a graham cracker roof (painted with royal icing).
You may even want to go all out and turn them into panoramic eggs by adding creative touches like flowers, leaves, bees, Easter baskets, or butterflies. Go wherever your imagination takes you. Lots of little sugar shapes are available in the stores, so you don’t have to take the time to make everything by hand.
NOTE: To simplify the Bunny Hut recipe, I’ll give you instructions for the panoramic eggs at the bottom of the post.
These are easy. I piped around the door with royal icing, used a piece of candy as a doorknob, and added Mr. Bunny with a few jellybeans. And just for the record, I realized later that I have the doorknob on the WRONG SIDE! I have no idea why I did that. You, I’m sure, will get it right.
A little harder: vertical panoramic eggs. Slice off the front, scoop out the innards, and decorate!
A lot more challenging: horizontal panoramic egg. Sorry it’s fuzzy – it’s HARD to get a picture inside one of these!
And trust me, these taste a lot better than the traditional sugar version. Panoramic sugar eggs are gorgeous, but you can’t EAT them. Well, you can, but shouldn’t. If you want to play with them though, here is my post: Sweet Sugar Eggs.
I tried a lot of variations when I made these, and here are my words of wisdom:
If it’s important that all the eggs are the same size (avoiding fights on Easter is a good idea), use egg molds. Metal, plastic, those old eggs that had pantyhose in them . . . what? You don’t remember those? Sheesh, I’m old. Anyhow, as long as you butter them, they’ll work. The trick is to really, really pack the mixture in.
If you want a custom size egg, or the kids want to help, buttered (or damp) hands are all you’ll need. Again, the mixture has to pressed firmly. You may have to help younger children with this.
I used colored candy melts, but white are fine. Just add a bit of food coloring when you stir in the marshmallows. A spoonful of flavored gelatin or unsweetened Kool-Aid is a fun way to add flavor and coloring too.
If you move the eggs to a tray to sit and dry, they may start to break open. Just keep an eye on them and give them a squeeze as needed.
Don’t expect light pastels! The cereal is tan, and it will slightly muddy whatever colors you’re using. Still pretty, though. Make sure you stir really, really well. You can see in some of my pictures that there are darker pieces of cereal that didn’t get coated completely, which isn’t desirable . . . though the kids won’t care one bit!
Makes 6 large eggs.(approximately 4 inches long and 2¾ inches wide)
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup candy melts (colored or white)
2 cups miniature marshmallows
Food coloring, ½ teaspoon flavored extract - optional
5 cups crispy rice cereal
4 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
5 tablespoons warm water
6 small foil-covered chocolate bunnies
Small jelly beans
Round candy (I used white Sixlets, but small M&Ms or chocolate chips would work too)
Eggs can be formed with your hands or molds. If using plastic or metal molds, lightly butter the insides.
In a very large pan (non-stick is definitely recommended) on low heat, melt the butter and candy melts together, stirring often.
Once melted, stir in marshmallows and any additional coloring or flavoring. As soon as all of the marshmallows have melted, remove pan from the heat and stir in the rice cereal. Stir well to coat the cereal completely.
IF USING MOLDS:: Fill prepared molds and press down firmly. Add additional mixture, cupping with the palm of your hand to create a 3-D egg. Pack it down! Slide each egg out, turn over and press into mold again. This will make both sides uniform. If possible, dry for 2 hours in the molds. Otherwise, turn eggs out onto parchment or a baking sheet. Check often to make sure the eggs haven't broken apart. If they do, just squeeze them back together.
BY HAND: Butter your hands (or dip them in water and give the a shake) and form mixture into egg shapes. It's important to press very firmly as you shape them. Let them dry on a piece of parchment or baking sheet. Check often - if they start to break apart, just squeeze them back together. Allow eggs to dry for 2-3 hours.
ROYAL ICING: In a large bowl, combine powdered sugar and meringue powder. On medium speed, slowly add water until mixture is thick and creamy. Add a little more water, ¼ teaspoon at a time, if necessary. Beat for 5 minutes, until stiff peaks form. Keep icing covered with plastic wrap. It dries out quickly!
ASSEMBLY: Using a serrated blade, slice a piece lengthwise off one side of the egg. Make it a generous slice; a thin door is a fragile door! With royal icing, glue a candy doorknob on the right side of each door and set aside to dry. Use a melon baller to scoop out enough of the egg to comfortably hold your small chocolate bunny. Paint the inside with royal icing, then place bunny and a few small jelly beans in the cavity.
Using a small open star tip, pipe icing around the outside of the opening. Let it dry completely. Once all of the eggs are done, lay them down. Pipe a small amount of icing on the left side of each door and attach it, leaving it slightly ajar. Let door dry completely before sitting egg upright.
Melt butter and candy melts. Stir in marshmallows (and color/flavor) well. Remove from heat.
Add rice cereal and stir really, really well.
Eggs in molds.
Or you can skip the molds and just freestyle it! Hope you have strong hands, because you really need to pack them tight.
Slice off the “door” and scoop out a hollow for your bunny to sit.
Pipe around the outside of the opening, paint the inside with royal icing, and place the bunny and some jelly beans in the hole.
You can also add a roof. I used two graham cracker halves, painted with royal icing and sprinkled with colored nonpareils.
Going for the gusto? Here are the instructions for making panoramic eggs.
Make krispy mixture as described in recipe above.
HORIZONTAL EGGS: press mixture against the inside of the mold, creating a shell. Make sure there are no holes or open spaces. Press very firmly. To avoid ragged, thin edges, let the mixture go a little over the top and trim with scissors once dry. Dry the eggs for at least 2 hours in the molds before removing. If you don’t have molds, use your hands to make the eggs. Once dry, cut about 1/4 of the egg away from the narrow end, then cut the egg in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop out with a melon baller, leaving approximately a 1/3-inch thick shell.
The left one with sky will be the top. Now to fill in the bottom.
A little icing around the edge and the top will be added.
Paint the insides with colored royal icing. Green on the bottom half for the grass, blue on the top half for the sky, white for clouds. Place all of your decorations on the bottom half, using royal icing to attach each item. Pipe icing around the edge of the bottom half, then gently press the top half on. Once completely dry, pipe a decorative border around the opening and the seam. Top with leaves and flowers.
VERTICAL EGGS: Make solid eggs as described in the recipe above. Slice a thin piece lengthwise from the front of each egg. Create a cavity by scooping with a melon baller. Use royal icing to make clouds, glue decorations inside, and decorate the outside. Colored icing is perfect for piping flowers and leaves.
Have fun! I’d love to see some of your creations on my Facebook page.
Anyone would do a jig for a slice of this Chocolate Chip Mint Pot o’ Gold Cake! Light green, with delicate mint flavor and dark chocolate speckles, it’s ideal for your St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Dark, fudgy chocolate frosting and a generous mound of chocolate gold coins will turn this sweet dessert into a leprechaun’s treasure. The first slice can be neatly plated, but when you cut the second slice, all of the coins and candy in the middle will come tumbling out. The kids will love this!
My recipe actually makes two Bundt cakes, which are later placed together to create a rounded “pot” shape. While one is baking, the remaining batter rests happily in the fridge (unless you happen to have TWO Bundt pans and can bake them together).
I chose a thick frosting to fill in the designs made by the Bundt pan. The frosting hardens fairly quickly, but can be encouraged to spread with a few drops of milk or coffee if necessary. Don’t worry about making it perfectly smooth; once the cake is iced you’ll be able to gently pat with your hands (yes, gloves are a good idea if you’re baking this for others) to remove rough spots.
By the way, I know most people would call this “mint chocolate chip”, but wouldn’t that mean that the chocolate chips were mint flavored? We always called the ice cream (my favorite, by the way) “chocolate chip mint”. I caved in and went with the majority when I posted my Mint Chocolate Chip Pie, but not this time. Nope. I take my chocolate chip mint seriously!
Quality peppermint extract matters! Mine was old and smelled kind of funky, so I ordered some from Nielsen-Massey. What a difference! You know I don’t have advertising on this blog, so there’s nothing in this for me, but I was really impressed with the bright flavor.
Frequent scraping of the bowl while mixing is very important. Scrape the beaters once in a while too so there are no clumps of butter in your batter.
Try not to open the oven door while the cake is baking.
Let your eggs and butter come to room temperature before mixing. And don’t rush the process. Each egg needs to get thoroughly beaten into the batter.
Order the chocolate coins online. Buying the little bags would be awfully expensive! I got mine on Amazon for a reasonable price.
This makes a larger than usual amount of cake batter, since two cakes will be needed to create the "pot" shape. If you are making this cake for another occasion, the batter will be enough for one large Bundt pan and a standard loaf pan.
2 cups (4 sticks) salted butter, room temperature (If using unsalted, add ½ teaspoon salt to dry ingredients)
3 cups sugar
8 large eggs, room temperature
4½ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
¾ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon peppermint extract (more if desired)
green food coloring
3.5 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup salted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1¼ cups dark cocoa (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
⅓ cup milk (a little more if needed to thin frosting as you work with it)
¼ cup strong coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 cups powdered sugar
CAKE: Heat oven to 325 F. with the rack in the middle of the oven. Use a flour/oil spray (like Baker's Joy) to coat the inside of a large Bundt pan. (Or grease and flour the inside, taking care to get in all the nooks and crannies.)
In a large bowl (a sturdy stand mixer is highly recommended) beat the butter until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat 3-4 minutes, until very light, scraping the bowl occasionally.
Add eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds between each egg. (Your patience will be rewarded!)
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt two times. Set aside
In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, vanilla, and peppermint extract.
Beginning with the dry ingredients and ending with the wet, alternately add ⅓ of each, mixing on low speed after each addition, just until incorporated.
By hand, gently fold in the chopped chocolate and enough green food color to get the color you want.
Spoon half of the mixture evenly into the prepared Bundt pan (about 5½ cups), refrigerating the other half. Smooth the top and bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until the top edge is browned and a toothpick or skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake.
Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
Clean and prepare the pan and repeat with the remaining batter. Let both cakes cool completely.
FROSTING: In a small pan, melt butter and unsweetened chocolate on lowest heat—or use a microwave. Stir in cocoa and transfer to a large bowl. (Again, a stand mixer is very helpful.)
Combine the milk, coffee, and vanilla and add alternately with powdered sugar, about ⅓ of each at a time. Beat well.
ASSEMBLY: The frosting will thicken fairly quickly; be prepared to add a little more liquid (milk or coffee) if needed. Place one cake, with the large flat side up, on serving plate. Cover with frosting and place the second cake, large flat side down, on top to create a round shape.
Frost your way around the cake, leaving the cavity and the area around it unfrosted. (You can frost the whole top, but the coins will stick.) Make it as smooth as possible, Save enough frosting to make a "rim" around the top
Once the entire cake is frosted, press gently on an area with your finger. If it sticks to your finger, wait a little longer. Once the frosting has firmed up, use your warm hands (wear gloves if you wish) to press and smooth all around the cake.
Use a large round icing tip to pipe a rim around the top of the cake, then fill the center and top with gold coins.
I used green royal icing to add grass and clovers.
Love is baked right into this bread, with a heart-shaped swirl of cherries and walnuts. The dough is surprisingly simple to make, and creating the heart just takes an extra step or two; I’ll walk you through it.
Make sure your bread pan isn’t too small. A 9-inch by 5-inch pan (or even a little bigger) works well. This is a large loaf . . . more to love!
I used dried, sweetened dark cherries. (Not freeze-dried!) On my first attempt I used frozen dark cherries (heated and drained) and it was a sloppy mess. Still, it almost worked . . . if you don’t count the dramatic way it blew up in the pan. Luckily, I half expected this, and used a sheet pan under the bread pan. Whew.
Of course, if you don’t want to fuss with the heart shape, you can just roll it up with the filling like a spiral bread. It’s still delicious! But I really recommend my method of brushing egg wash on the dough as you roll. It helps the whole thing hold together. No one wants to pick up a piece of bread and have it unroll!
Makes 1 large loaf of bread. (Use at least a 9x5 pan.)
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup warm water with a pinch of sugar added
1 package active-dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3¾ cups flour (adjust if needed)
1½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon oil (light flavored, like canola or peanut oil)
5 ounces finely chopped dried (not freeze dried!) dark cherries - about a cup
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg white (reserve the yolk for assembly)
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup ground (or very finely chopped) walnuts
BREAD: Heat milk and butter until butter is melted. Pour into a large mixing bowl (a sturdy stand mixer with a dough hook is recommended). In a small cup or bowl, combine warm water with a pinch of sugar and the yeast. Let it sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.
To the milk mixture in bowl, add yeast mixture, egg, sugar, and 2 cups of the bread flour. Beat well.
Add salt and remaining flour, (enough to make dough come cleanly away from sides of bowl) and mix until completely combined. With mixer running, drizzle oil over the dough and knead by machine for 6 minutes (or by hand on lightly floured surface for 8 minutes).
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise until double, approximately 45-60 minutes. Make the filling while the dough rises.
FILLING: Mix together finely chopped cherries, sugar, flour, egg white, vanilla, and walnuts. Set aside. Combine the egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water and whisk well.
ASSEMBLY: Move raised dough to a very lightly floured surface. Press into a rectangle or log. Cut off ⅓ and set aside.
Press the larger piece of dough firmly into greased bread pan. (I spray my pan with a flour/oil blend like Baker's Joy). Try to make the dough level. Set aside.
Roll the small piece of dough into a long rectangle, approximately 8 inches by 15 inches. Distribute the filling over the dough. Don't worry if it doesn't completely cover the dough, just keep it as even as possible.
You will be rolling both ends toward the middle, so mark the middle of one of the long sides for reference. Beginning at one short end, roll dough snugly, pulling toward yourself slightly as you go. Use a pastry brush or paper towel to brush the floury bottom side lightly with egg wash as you roll. (This will help the swirls stick together.) Roll to your middle mark. Repeat, rolling from the other end. Both sides should be equal - if not, adjust by unrolling the larger side a little and rolling the other until they touch. Pinch the ends closed.
With a sharp knife, cut the dough in the pan lengthwise, right down the middle, almost to the bottom of the pan. Use your hands or a dough scraper to make a V-shaped channel.
With floured hands, quickly pick up the rolled dough. The round tops will be the top of the heart, so press the sides to make the bottom a little pointed, and tuck the roll into the V-shaped channel in the pan, getting it as deep as possible.
Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until the bottom section of dough is just above the sides of the pan. (The heart part will be higher.) Brush with any remaining egg wash.
Heat oven to 375F. Place bread pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, or until it's a rich dark brown. Bottom should sound hollow when tapped.
Cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely before cutting. (Don't cut while hot, or the filling might not set properly.)
The dough is easy, so I’m not going to overwhelm you with prep photos. Here it is, ready to rise.
This is nice dough – not sticky, rises quickly. I cut corners and didn’t move it to a greased bowl. It was fine rising in the mixing bowl. (One less thing to wash!)
Cut 1/3 of the dough off and set it aside.
Press the large piece of dough firmly into bread pan. Make it as level as possible.
Roll out the small piece of dough and cover with filling. (I forgot the walnuts, so sprinkled them on. It worked!)
Brush the dough as you go!
Meetin’ in the middle! And yeah, yeah, it got a little messy. I was on a roll and forgot to stop in the center. Had to put it in reverse. Adds some rustic charm to the finished bread.
Slash the dough in pan down the middle and press open into a V-shaped channel.
Pick up rolled dough, pressing together at the bottom (which will be the pointy part of the heart) and fit into the channel in the pan.
Let it rise until the bottom bread is just above the edge of the pan. The rounded heart dough will be standing tall. Brush with remaining egg wash.
I know it’s hard to wait, but do let this bread cool down before cutting. The texture will be so much better. Warm is okay; you have to be able to melt that butter, right? Or put a couple of slices under the broiler and enjoy it toasted. (I don’t recommend using a toaster. If that filling fell out, it would make a real mess.)
One bite of these buttery snowball cookies will tell you they aren’t your mama’s tea cakes. The dough is subtly flavored with orange zest, and a sweet cranberry filling hides in the center. If you choose to add a fresh cranberry, it will add a burst of tangy flavor.
Whether you call them Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican (or Italian) Wedding Cakes, or Snowballs, they are a holiday tradition worth making. They do tend to be just a little bit dry (like shortbread) so a small dab of filling to soften the center worked well. Of course, if you don’t want all the bells and whistles, you can simply leave out the filling entirely. But oh, not the orange zest! It’s so good.
I am pretty hands-on, and use my thumb to make the hole in each ball of dough (where the filling is added) but if it makes you more comfortable, it can be made with the round handle of a wooden spoon . . . or you can wear disposable gloves. The only tricky part is to make the dough at the top of the hole thinner—and don’t over fill, of course—so the cookie can be neatly pinched closed. If a little filling squeezes out, just wipe it off and patch the spot with a small piece of dough before rolling into a smooth ball.
For best results, once cookies are filled and formed, chill for 1 hour before baking. They can be chilled on the baking sheets, or the balls of dough can be put in a large cake pan and then transferred. You can skip this step, but they will be slightly flatter.
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon cranberry sauce (jellied or whole berry)
a few drops of red food coloring (optional)
¼ cup white chocolate chips
24 fresh cranberries (optional)
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 cup finely chopped pecans (I toast mine first for the best flavor)
Zest of one large orange (about 1 packed tablespoon)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar to roll cookies in
FILLING: In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese and cranberry sauce. If desired, add a few drops of red food coloring.
Melt the white chocolate in a small pan on lowest heat, or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave at fifteen second increments. Don't get it too hot - just until melted. Add to cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth. Place in a pastry bag and set aside. (You can skip the pastry bag and just use a ½ teaspoon measuring spoon to fill the cookies, but it will be messier.)
DOUGH: In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add powdered sugar and beat for 1 minute, scraping sides of the bowl often.
Add chopped pecans, orange zest, and vanilla. Beat well.
Add flour and salt. Beat just until blended.
Make balls of dough, using a generous tablespoon of dough for each. (You should have about 24.) Make a deep hole in each. The easiest way is to cup your hand around the dough with it poking out of the circle made by your thumb and forefinger. Use a finger on your opposite hand (or the rounded handle of a wooden spoon) to make the hole, then widen it so it's a little thinner at the top. Using a pastry bag, fill the hole about half way. Press a raw cranberry (if you're using them) on the filling and gently pinch the dough over the hole. Roll between your hands to form a round ball. Place 1½ inches apart on ungreased (or parchment lined) baking sheet.
Repeat until all cookies are formed. If you have time (and room in your fridge) chill for 1 hour.
Heat oven to 325 F. Bake cookies 15-17 minutes, until just the bottoms are lightly browned.
Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for a minute or two before sliding onto a cooling rack.
When the cookies are barely warm, dredge them in the powdered sugar. Wait until completely cool and repeat. Store in an airtight container.
Beat butter well (see how fluffy?) Add powdered sugar and beat for 1 minute.
Stir in finely chopped pecans, orange zest, and vanilla
Mix in the flour and salt. It will look crumbly at first, but keep beating; it will come together!
I found that the easiest way for me to fill the cookies was to wrap my hand around the ball of dough and use my other hand to make the hole, fill it, pop in a cranberry, and pinch the top.
But you might prefer working on a flat surface, like this:
Poke a hole in each ball with your thumb and thin the sides out. Add about a half teaspoon of filling
Add a fresh cranberry
Carefully pinch the cookie closed and roll gently between your palms to make a ball
The tops of your cookies shouldn’t brown, but the bottoms will turn a light golden brown. I think my camera exaggerated the color, but I may have left this batch in the oven a minute too long. Meh . . . that’s what the powdered sugar is for!
Dredge warm cookies in a bowl of sifted powdered sugar. Wait until cool, then repeat. (For the second coat you can put the sugar in a paper bag and shake a few at a time.)
Santa may visit twice this year if you have these mouthwatering cookies sitting out for him.
Do you remember the old Neiman Marcus cookie recipe? I’m old, so I do! You can read about it online, but the urban legend goes like this: a woman requested a cookie recipe from the department store and was told it would cost her “two fifty”. She had them charge her card, only to find they meant $250. Outraged, she retaliated by sharing the recipe far and wide.
I’ve seen many recipe variations, but the copy I had (way back when) called for ground oatmeal, grated chocolate, and macadamia nuts. I’m happy to add the nuts, but simplified things by skipping the grinding and grating. (Grating chocolate is not fun.) I’ve tweaked the recipe over the years until it looks very little like the original, but it’s OH SO GOOD.
The baked cookies are slightly shiny on top, like a brownie, but have a chewy texture. Make sure not to overbake them or they’ll get crunchy. They’re actually pretty tasty that way, too . . . but better slightly soft.
I never turn down a doughnut. Or two. Maple bars are my guilty pleasure, and I go back and forth between preferring cake doughnuts and raised, but one thing is clear to me: they must be fried to be irresistible. Baked doughnuts are fine, but . . . they just aren’t the same.
I love apple cider cake doughnuts, and was pondering the possibility of adding apple to a raised doughnut. (No, no, not chunks like apple fritters.) Would the addition of applesauce interfere with the rise of the yeast? The Man thought it was a bad idea, but rapidly changed his mind when he taste-tested a half dozen or so.
Here are some glazed and some sugared. See that dark doughnut kind of in the middle? I may have left that one in the oil too long. Still tasted good though!
This recipe creates a very soft dough. Soft and supple, and . . . well . . . I want to write poetry about the way it feels! It demands a little delicacy in handling, but the payoff is an incredibly light, fluffy doughnut. Actually, a whole lot of them; you’ll get about 24 doughnuts and a pile of doughnut holes. They’re best the day they’re made, but can be frozen for a few weeks, so don’t feel like you have to sit down and eat two dozen of them (though I did my best).
Oh, and there’s a reason store bought doughnuts come in a cardboard box! If you put these in an airtight plastic bag, they will get gooey. I find that they do well loosely covered with foil.
cooking oil - lots of it! At least 2 inches deep in pot. (I use peanut oil.)
2 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup apple cider (a little more if needed to create a thin glaze)
1 teaspoon meringue powder (optional for a firmer glaze)
SUGAR TOPPING (OPTIONAL)
mix 1 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon and roll warm doughnuts in mixture.
In a medium saucepan on medium high heat, scald milk by bringing it almost to a boil. Remove when you see bubbles all around the edge of the pan.
Add ⅓ cup sugar, apple sauce, apple cider, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl (a sturdy stand mixer is recommended) combine the warm water, yeast, and remaining ½ teaspoon sugar. Let it sit until foamy - about 5 minutes.
Add the milk mixture to the bowl and stir to combine. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with between eggs.
Add 5 cups of the flour, one cup at a time (switch to a dough hook if using a stand mixer) and beat for 2 minutes.
Add butter, one slice at a time, beating after each addition.
Slowly add remaining flour and knead by machine for 5 minutes. (If kneading by hand, spoon dough onto generously floured surface and knead for 7-8 minutes.) Dough will be very soft and will not form a ball. Scrape into a large greased bowl and cover. Let rise until double, about 1 hour.
Turn dough out onto a generously floured surface. Flip over to cover both sides lightly with flour, and pat into a rectangle. Roll gently out approximately ⅓-inch thick. Using a doughnut cutter or a large and small round cutter, cut out the doughnuts. Try to keep them close together. Use a spoon to remove the holes as you go, placing them on lightly floured surface.
Once all of the doughnuts are cut out, remove the scraps. They can be re-rolled once, but I don't recommend cutting out doughnuts. They will be a little tough, and not very attractive. But you can cut more holes out of the scraps.
Cover the doughnuts with a dishtowel and let them rise until puffy. (About 45-60 minutes.)
Heat oil to 365 F. Use a thermometer often, adjusting heat as necessary to keep the temperature consistent. Use a thin metal spatula to slide a few doughnuts at a time into the hot oil, always leaving them room to float and move in the oil. Cook until golden brown (about 1 minute) and flip the doughnut over to cook the other side. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider, and place on cooling racks covered with paper towels.
While still warm, whisk together the glaze ingredients (if using) and dip the top of each doughnut, placing on a rack to dry.
Alternatively, you can simply combine sugar and cinnamon and roll the warm doughnuts in the mixture.
I didn’t have apple cider, so used apple juice. It is a little sweeter, but still worked well.
Add applesauce, spices, and apple cider to scalded milk.
Combine warm water, yeast, and sugar and let it bubble. Stir in the milk mixture.
Mix in eggs one at a time.
Add 5 cups of the flour, but not like this! I’m sure you won’t be so busy taking photos that you forget to put the guard on the mixer, right? (You should have seen ME. And the FLOOR!)
NOW add the butter, bit by bit. I know, seems strange, huh? But adding the butter after the majority of the flour makes a huge difference in texture. Trust me. Then you’ll add the remaining flour to make a very soft dough.
See how soft the dough is? It won’t come cleanly from the bowl, but if you use your fingers to coax it out into the greased bowl it shouldn’t stick to your hands. Soft but cooperative!
Once the dough has risen, dump it onto a floured surface. Turn it over to coat both sides with flour and roll it gently – about 1/3-inch thick.
Cut ’em out! Rather than re-rolling (which makes for less-than-desirable results) cut more doughnut holes with the scraps. Or any little shapes. I used a small flower cutter on some.
Cover and let rise until puffy – about 45-60 minutes.
Use a metal spatula to slide into deep oil – at least 2 inches – about 365 F. Cook a few doughnuts at a time, just until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon or spider.
The doughnut holes are the best part!
Place on cooling racks covered in paper towels.
Whisk up some glaze and dip the warm doughnuts. (The meringue powder is totally optional. I just like a firmer glaze.) Or roll the doughnuts in cinnamon sugar.
Don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure doughnut holes have no calories.
Here’s to a warm, cozy, indulgent holiday season. Wishing you joy,
I’m on a bit of a sourdough kick right now, and couldn’t resist creating a sourdough version of my Pumpkin Rye Bread. This is a little denser, chewier . . . just the way I like it. It also takes longer that the yeast version (though it is not a bit harder to make), so I recommend you start this bread in the evening and let the dough rise overnight in a cool spot.
I use a cast iron Dutch oven with a domed lid for baking sourdough bread. The pan helps the bread keep its shape and the lid holds the steam in and gives the loaf a wonderful crust. If you don’t have one, you can simply put a pan of water in the bottom rack of your oven when you start preheating. The bread can go on a baking sheet on the rack above the water and the steam will give your bread that magical sourdough crust.
This loaf has been dropped into a preheated (OH so hot) Dutch oven. Lid goes on for baking. (You’ll notice for this loaf I put the orange strip down first with the dark dough on top of it, then rolled, for a lighter colored loaf.)
This is ideal for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but you know I can’t just leave a recipe alone, right? So . . . with Halloween as an inspiration, I made a batch with food coloring for more contrast, and cut designs on an outer layer of rye dough. I love the way it turned out!
With the exception of food coloring, the ingredients are the same; it’s just formed differently. The loaf at the top of the post was rolled up like a cinnamon roll, and the Halloween version was made of a ball of brown dough wrapped in orange dough, wrapped in the remaining brown dough.
Get creative. As long as you handle the dough gently to keep as many of those precious air bubbles in it as possible, you can play to your heart’s content. I think a whole lot of balls of dough pressed together and then formed into a smooth ball or covered with a layer of dough would be fun. Next time!
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (2 if you're going for darker dough)
1 teaspoon espresso powder
Food coloring (optional) for richer colors
Begin this bread in the evening and bake the next day. The first rise takes 8-10 hours.
In a large bowl, combine sourdough starter, pumpkin, and water. (Add orange food coloring here, if desired.) Stir in 3 cups of bread flour, and salt until completely blended.
Pile 1 cup of bread flour on work surface and drop half of the dough onto it. Using a bench scraper to help if necessary, knead until dough is smooth and doesn't stick to hands - about 5 or 6 minutes. You will use up most of the flour. Form dough into a ball and place in greased bowl.
To make the rye dough, you can either knead by hand or machine. If kneading by hand, add caraway seeds, molasses, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Mix well, then place 1 cup of rye flour on work surface, drop the dough onto it, and proceed as you did with the orange dough. You may need a little additional flour; if so, don't use more rye flour - use bread flour. If kneading by machine, use a dough hook. Add rye flour and the remaining ingredients and knead for 5 minutes. Add a little more bread flour if dough is overly sticky. Form into ball and place next to the orange dough in the bowl.
Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough sit in a cool place overnight.
The next day, carefully separate the two balls of dough (don't worry if a little of one color sticks to the other.) Handle the dough as gently as possible so you don't lose all the bubbles. Press, stretch, or gently roll each piece into a long wide strips, about 3 inches wide by 14 inches.
Place one on top of the other. If the dark strip is on the bottom, more dark will show on the outside of the loaf, and vice versa. Roll the two pieces up together and pinch the end to seal.
Turn so the swirl is on top and use the sides of your hands to tuck the dough under a little, scooching the bread along the work surface to smooth the bottom.
Place in a bowl lined with floured plastic wrap or a floured dishcloth. Cover and let rise until doubled. Depending on your sourdough starter, this could take anywhere from 1 - 4 hours.
Baking in a Dutch oven: Set the bottom half of Dutch oven on second lowest rack in oven and preheat to 450 for at least 30 minutes. (No grease is necessary if it is well seasoned.) Open oven and pull out rack. Gently lift dough from bowl and CAREFULLY drop it into the VERY hot pan. Use a scissors or sharp knife to make three quick cuts across the bread, cover with the lid, and return it to the oven. Reduce heat to 425 and bake for 20 minutes. Remove lid and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the bread is beginning to brown.
BAKING on BAKING SHEET: Put a large pan of water on bottom rack of oven and preheat to 450 F. for 30 minutes. Dust the center of a baking sheet with flour or corn meal. Lift dough from bowl and place on baking sheet. Open oven door carefully (the steam is very hot) and quickly put the bread on a rack above the water. Reduce heat to 425 F and bake about 40 minutes, or until bread is beginning to brown.
Remove from oven and tip out onto cooling rack. The bottom of the bread should be brown and sound hollow when tapped. Allow bread to cool before cutting.
NOTE: Photos are for the original recipe. Halloween bread photos and instructions will be at the bottom of the post
Combine sourdough starter, pumpkin, and water.
Stir in 3 cups bread flour and the salt. It will be kind of . . . gloppy. That’s okay!
On work surface, drop half of the dough onto 1 cup bread flour and (using a dough scraper to begin with, if necessary) knead until smooth (about 5 – 6 minutes).
It should hold its shape and shouldn’t stick to your hands or the work surface. It will use most of the flour to reach this point.
To remaining dough, add molasses, caraway seeds, cocoa, and espresso powder. Mix well.
This is where there should be a photo of me, kneading the rye dough on a bed of rye flour. The photographer (ahem) was negligent. Sigh. Just figure it’s the same as incorporating the flour in the orange dough, only you MAY need a little more flour (because of the molasses). If so, use bread flour, not more rye.
Snuggle them up, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap, and let them rise in a cool place overnight.
Next day, pat each ball of dough into a long strip, about 3 inches wide, and 14 inches long. (Longer makes smaller marbling, shorter makes big, bold streaks.)
Lay one piece on the other (whichever color you want to show most on the outside should be on the bottom) and roll it up. Pinch the end to seal. Turn so the swirl is on the top and use the sides of your hands to tuck the bottom underneath a little, while “scooching” the bread toward you and turning.
Line a bowl with plastic wrap or a dish towel, and sprinkle generously with flour. Place dough in the center. Cover, and let rise until doubled. Depending on your starter this could take anywhere between 1 – 4 hours. Mine took 2.
This loaf has been dropped into a preheated (OH so hot) Dutch oven. Lid goes on for baking.
Use the same ingredients but add a generous squirt of orange coloring when you add the pumpkin and water, and then add black food coloring to the remaining dough when you add the molasses. Follow the recipe instructions for adding the remaining flour and tuck them into the bowl to rise.
Waiting to be put to bed for the night.
The next day, instead of forming two strips and rolling them together, divide the dark dough into two pieces. Roll one into a ball, place on slightly flattened orange dough and bring the orange dough up to completely cover the dark dough. Pinch together well and flip it over, smooth side up.
Pull orange dough up and over the ball made with half of the dark dough.
Flatten, gently stretch, or carefully roll out the remaining dark dough, large enough to completely encase the orange ball. Lay it over the orange dough ball and tuck under the bottom. Gently “scootch” the ball toward you, spin a little to the right, pull toward you again. Repeat until the dough is smooth.
Drape the remaining dark dough over the ball. (That’s my hand under there. I may have gotten carried away and made it a little too big. The stuff stretches! The extra dough just got tucked under, creating a thicker dark marbling at the bottom. You can’t go wrong with this!
Line a bowl with a dishtowel or plastic wrap, dusted in flour, and set the dough in the bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled. This can take anywhere from 1-4 hours, depending on the enthusiasm of your sourdough starter.
Ready to rise
Lift out and, using scissors, knife, or razor, cut designs in the dough, snipping deeply enough to see the orange, and even the brown center. Bake as instructed in the recipe.
Okay, WHEW. I think I’m ready to move on from bread now.
I make these recipes seem WAY more complicated than they are, because I don’t want to leave any questions in your mind when you’re elbow-deep in flour. If I had a little more technological ability I’d just do a video. (Maybe in the future, but don’t hold your breath.)
As Julia Child said: “Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”
Two of my favorite breads have been marbled together to create a crusty, flavorful symbol of autumn harvest. This loaf could be:
The focus of a charcuterie board.
A Thanksgiving centerpiece.
The foundation for the best turkey or grilled cheese sandwich ever.
A Halloween masterpiece. (Add a little orange and black food coloring.)
I actually made two versions—this, and one using sourdough. I loved the chewy texture of the sourdough loaf, but I can only put one recipe in a blog, and this one was quicker to make. (You’re welcome!) I will, however, post the sourdough recipe too in a few days. Check back!
It takes a little more effort to make this than a normal loaf of bread, because you will have to knead the orange half by hand. (The rye half can be kneaded by machine if you wish.) But there is nothing hard about this at all.
Optional: 1 egg white whisked with 1 teaspoon water and flaked rye (or oatmeal)
Food coloring - orange and black to create Halloween colors
In a large bowl combine very warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit until bubbles begin to form - about 5 minutes.
Add pumpkin, 3 cups of bread flour, and salt. Mix until completely combined. Mixture will be a heavy batter.
Spread the remaining 1 cup of bread flour on work surface and drop half (about 1½ cups or 1 pound) dough on the flour. Sprinkle some of the flour on top of the dough and knead until just slightly sticky - about 5 minutes. It's very soft to begin with; use a dough scraper if necessary. Form kneaded dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Leave any leftover flour on work surface.
The remaining dough in the bowl will be your brown rye bread. To knead by hand, stir in caraway seeds, molasses, cocoa, and espresso powder,. Push bread flour aside and place 1 cup rye flour on the work surface, then drop the dough onto the top and knead as you did the orange dough. If more flour is needed, don't add more rye - use bread flour. (If kneading by machine, simply add the remaining ingredients to the dough and switch to a dough hook and knead for 5 minutes.) Form a ball and place it into the bowl next to the orange dough.
Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
On floured surface, press or roll the rye dough into a rectangle approximately 12 inches long, with the width a little shorter than the length of your bread pan. Repeat with the orange dough. Place orange dough on top of brown dough. (It doesn't have to fit perfectly.)
Fold the bottom third up and then the top third down over the bottom third. Pinch edges closed. Using the edges of your hands, gently tuck the dough under all the way around, several times until you achieve a smooth loaf. If the orange dough shows through the top a little, that's fine.
Place in prepared loaf pan, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap, and let rise until double - about 1 hour.
Heat oven to 375 F and lightly grease a large loaf pan. (I like to spray with a flour/oil spray like Baker's Joy.)
If desired, brush the top of the loaf with egg white wash and sprinkle with flaked rye (or oats). Make several slits diagonally or straight across the top using a sharp knife, razor, or scissors.
Bake for approximately 40-45 minutes, or until light brown. When released from the pan the bottom should sound hollow when tapped. .
For best results, let the bread cool before cutting.
Combine water, sugar, yeast, and let it sit until you see a few small bubbles forming (about 5 minutes).
Add flour, pumpkin (sheesh, that looks RED!) and salt. Mix well. It will be more like a heavy batter than a dough.
Place half the dough on top of 1 cup flour on work surface. Knead for about 5 minutes. You probably won’t need all the flour, but that will depend on if you divided the dough evenly. If it isn’t sticking to your hands, it has enough flour!
Form into a ball and place in greased bowl.
To the remaining half add molasses, cocoa, espresso powder, and caraway seeds. If using the machine to knead, add rye flour. If kneading by hand, don’t add the flour yet. Dump the wet dough onto a cup of rye flour. Knead well and form into a ball.
Snuggle them up, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap, and let them rise.
The orange dough is softer and will rise a little more. That’s okay!
Press or roll each ball into a rectangle about 12 inches long and not quite as wide as the length of your pan. Lay orange dough on brown.
Flip bottom third up, then top third down over the bottom third.
Pinch it all the way around the edges.
Use the sides of your hands to gently tuck the bread under ALL the way around until you have a smooth loaf. Place it in the pan to rise until doubled.
Once it has risen, you can brush the top with an egg wash and sprinkle with flaked rye if you’d like.
Snip! Snip! Cut a few slits in the top, straight or diagonal, with a sharp instrument of choice.
Put down that butter! Try to restrain yourself (I know it’s hard) and wait until it’s cooled off to cut it, otherwise you’ll let out all that important steam. Warm is okay.
This is going to be a fall tradition around here from now on. Hope you and yours enjoy it too!
Light, spicy scones studded with chunks of fresh pear are a lovely way to welcome fall. Brown butter adds a nutty flavor to these luscious pear scones—well worth the few additional minutes of preparation. And if you’ve never used brown butter before, you may have a new addiction; this stuff is good!
Are you the organized type? Brown your butter and let it chill overnight, and the scones will be quick and easy to make for breakfast. If you are more spontaneous (I totally understand a sudden, urgent need for scones) you can make the brown butter, cool it slightly, and pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes. For best results, use unsalted butter (spring for the good stuff; it has less water in it), though I’ve used salted when necessary, cutting the added salt a bit my recipe.
If you want to use regular butter instead of brown butter, use 1 stick (1/2 cup). When making brown butter you use a little more, because by the time the water boils out and you throw away the browned solids in the bottom of the pan, you end up with less. In this case, you should have approximately 1/2 cup.
Before I baked the scones, I sprinkled them generously with sparkling sugar. I love sweets, so felt compelled to add a brown sugar icing after the scones had cooled a little. Just FYI, that’s a lot of sweetness. You will probably want to choose one or the other. (Hint: I vote for the icing!)
¾ cup (1 and ½ sticks) unsalted butter (if using salted, reduce salt to ¼ teaspoon). This will yield approximately ½ cup of brown butter
2½ cups all purpose flour
⅓ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped fresh, firm pears (peeled and cored)
¾ cup buttermilk
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
Coarse or sparkling sugar (optional)
¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk
½ cup powdered sugar
BROWN BUTTER: Cut butter into chunks and place in small pan (light colored, if possible) on medium low heat. Stirring occasionally, bring butter to a boil. It will be noisy; once it has quieted down and turned into more of a foam, stir often until the butter turns a deep golden color and the solids have turned dark and dropped to the bottom of the pan. Pour into a strainer to remove the sediment and pour the butter into a small bowl, discarding solids. Chill (or freeze) until solid.
Heat oven to 400 F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment and sprinkle generously with flour.
In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.
Use a pastry blender to thoroughly cut in the butter.
Toss the chopped pears into the flour mixture until coated.
Mix together the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour liquids into the well. Stir gently just until combined. Don't overmix!
Drop the dough onto the flour-covered parchment, and turn a few times gently to coat. Use your hand to pat into an 8-inch round. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired.
Using a sharp knife, cut into 8 (or 10) sections, pushing the knife straight down and lifting straight up for best results. Use the knife or a pie server to slide carefully under each scone and pull out, separating the scones slightly. Even if they bake back together they will come apart easily.
Bake approximately 18 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove pan and place on cooling rack.
ICING: In a medium saucepan, bring brown sugar, butter, and milk to a boil over medium heat. Boil gently for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar until no lumps remain. When scones are no longer hot, drizzle icing over them. A plastic storage bag with the tip cut off works well.
Bring the butter to a boil. It is very noisy at this point!
The bubbles get smaller, more like a rich lather. Stir, stir, stir!
Starting to get brown. Thick and creamy, hard to see the solids in the bottom. Time to take it off the heat.
Strain the butter and place in the fridge or freezer until solid.
With a pastry blender, cut the chilled brown butter into the flour mixture.
Add the chopped pears and toss until coated.
Beat or whisk the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla together. Make a well in the dry ingredients and stir liquids in gently, JUST until combined. Drop dough onto prepared pan, turn to coat with flour, and press into 8-inch round.
Cut into 8 (or 10) wedges, and carefully slide a utensil under each to separate slightly. Bake!
Mmmmm. Once they’ve cooled a bit, you can drizzle them with icing.
If you make eight scones, they’re pretty big. I have NO objection to that, but if you would prefer dainty scones, make two small rounds out of the dough and use a little shorter bake time.