“My Wild Irish Rose” Cookies

May I give you one more boozy recipe for St. Patrick’s Day? My next post will be family-friendly, but I’m still on a Jameson whiskey roll and had a lot of fun creating these crunchy mint cookies. They have a layer of dark chocolate on the bottom and each cookie sports a Jameson-spiked ganache rose on top.

I vividly remember pounding out “My Wild Irish Rose” on the piano in the living room, singing along with neither grace nor talent. Fifty years later the song comes back to haunt me, as it does each March, along with other traditional Irish songs like “Danny Boy”, “That’s an Irish Lullaby”,  “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”, and “I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen”, though I read recently that this was actually written by a German composer. Oh, and that annoying unicorn song, but I am NOT getting that stuck in my head!

I love The Irish Tenors, and good old Bing crooned his way through some Irish ballads, but when I think of some of these songs it always takes me back to Joe Feeney on The Lawrence Welk Show. He wasn’t one of my favorites, but he sure had the perfect voice for Irish songs. (Grandma made me watch it, honest!)

Now, see? I gave you some nice ideas for tunes to hum while you’re making ganache roses.

The cookies are a slam-dunk. Very easy. If painting their little bottoms with dark chocolate and piping ganache roses makes you grind your teeth, you could take the easy way out and just pour a little bit of melted chocolate into the wells in the center. Or add mini chocolate chips to the dough. They wouldn’t be ROSE cookies, of course, but they’d still be tasty. And of course, you can make them without booze – just use cream instead.

Oh, and if you don’t (gasp!) have a shamrock cookie cutter, you can roll three balls of dough (a teaspoon each), add a stem, and press in the middle to create a shamrock. Flatten the petals down slightly. I learned the hard way that the cookies won’t get nice and crunchy if they’re too thick.

If you’re going for the gusto, here’s your recipe:

"My Wild Irish Rose" Cookies
Makes approximately 18 large (3½-inch) shamrock cookies. These are baked at a low temperature so they don't brown, but get baked through for a nice crunch. If you prefer, you can use a total of ⅔ cup cream and skip the alcohol!
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate (chips are okay)
  • ⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ⅓ cup whiskey (I used Jameson) You may skip the alcohol and substitute cream if desired.
  • ........
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • green food coloring
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate (chips are okay)
  1. GANACHE: In a small saucepan on the lowest temperature, melt the chocolate, stirring often. Heat the cream until it's hot but not boiling, and add to the chocolate. Stir until combined. Remove from heat and gradually add the whiskey, stirring constantly until smooth. Cover lightly with a paper towel and set aside, stirring now and then, until the mixture is thick enough for piping. (This might take 2-3 hours, depending on the temperature of the room.) The ganache should resemble thick buttercream icing. Scoop up a spoon to test it; it shouldn't fall off the spoon when turned upside down.
  2. Spoon into a pastry bag fitted with a rose tip. Put a little icing on a rose nail (or I've used a flat meat thermometer in a pinch) and put a small piece of waxed paper or parchment on the nail. Pipe the rose just as you would with icing. (If the ganache gets too soft, allow it to cool off BRIEFLY in the fridge.) There are lots of tutorials on the Internet if you have never done this. Don't make the roses too big! Leave the paper under each rose and place them on a baking sheet. Refrigerate or freeze.
  4. Heat oven to 325 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  5. In a large bowl (a stand mixer is recommended) beat the butter until creamy.
  6. Add the powdered sugar and beat well.
  7. Add the egg, peppermint extract, and food coloring (make it a little darker than you want because it will lighten when the flour is added) and beat until completely mixed.
  8. Add cornstarch, salt, and flour. This is a stiff dough - you will want to use a dough hook if you have one, or be prepared to finish stirring by hand.
  9. Roll dough out between lightly dusted sheets of parchment. It should be fairly thick - between ¼-inch and ⅓-inch. Cut with a shamrock cookie cutter and place on prepared baking sheets. With your thumb, press in the center of each cookie.
  10. Bake for approximately 15-17 minutes, or until just the bottoms are lightly browned. Remove from oven and press the centers again, using your thumb (or a rounded measuring spoon, tart tamper, or the handle of your rolling pin) to redefine the well in the middle of the cookie. Move to a rack to cool completely.
  11. Melt the 6 ounces of chocolate, either in a pan at lowest heat or in a bowl in the microwave at 15-second intervals. Stir well and, using a pastry brush, brush the bottom of each cookie and place chocolate-side-down on parchment, pressing gently to distribute the chocolate evenly. Refrigerate to quickly set the chocolate.
  12. Place a dab of chocolate in each cavity and add a rose, pressing gently to secure it.

Start with the ganache:

Stir hot cream into melted chocolate.

Gradually add whiskey, stirring constantly.

Use a rose tip to pipe ganache roses.

Make the dough, then roll out between pieces of parchment.

The dough should be nice and thick – between 1/4-inch and 1/3-inch.

Press firmly in the center of the cookie with your thumb, or . . .

Use your weapon of choice: thumb, measuring spoon, tart tampers, rolling pin handle.

Once baked, the holes will have mostly filled back in. Press down again while the cookies are hot. (The first time keeps the cookies from cracking around the cavity.)

Brush the bottoms with a thin layer of dark chocolate.

Press gently onto parchment, wiggling slightly to distribute chocolate evenly. Chill.

Use a dab of the melted chocolate to nestle each rose in its place. Dance a jig!

They’re as tasty as they are pretty; just the right amount of mint. And don’t forget, if you’d like to save a step, add some mini-chips to the batter and skip the chocolate bottoms. Or, hey, if you’re like me and there can never be enough chocolate, do both!


My wild Irish Rose, the sweetest flower that grows.
You may search everywhere, but none can compare with my wild Irish Rose.
My wild Irish Rose, the dearest flower that grows,
And some day for my sake, she may let me take the bloom from my wild Irish Rose.





Guinness Stout Bread

Hearty and rustic, yet surprisingly light (thanks to the addition of a full bottle of Guinness  Draught Stout), this bread will be the ideal accompaniment for your St. Patrick’s Day feast. Oats and whole wheat flour give the loaves a wonderful texture, molasses adds a slightly sweet back note, and the beer adds a rich, yeasty, complex flavor. I added chopped raisins to one loaf and loved the results, especially when the bread was toasted.

You can use any dark beer you want, of course. I just picked this because it screamed “St. Patrick’s Day” to me, and I was won over by the packaging that promised a hint of chocolate and coffee flavor. Sold!

I had to make a second batch to double-check my measurements. I always lose count when it comes to cups of flour and then I try to convince myself that I’m (pretty) sure it was three cups when it actually might have been four. But that would haunt me, so . . . I give in and make it again.

I hate to burst your bubble if you see me as some meticulous baker, but here is my actual plan of action for this recipe. Seriously, this is the way I work!

Obviously, I need someone to follow around after me, taking notes!

Anyhow, I’m glad I had to make another batch because I was inspired to make the dough balls into shamrocks, and . . . aren’t they nice? I also ran out of wheat flour (only had a cup) so used 1/2 cup of buckwheat flour, which made the dough a little darker and—according to my husband—even tastier. If you have some, you might want to try that!

Guinness Stout Bread
  • 1 bottle (11.2 fl oz) dark beer (I used Guinness Draught Stout)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ⅓ cup molasses
  • ½ cup very warm water
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package active-rise yeast
  • 1 cup oats (old-fashioned or quick)
  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2½ - 3 cups white bread flour
  • ½ cup chopped raisins - optional
  • cornmeal - optional
  1. In a small pan, combine the beer, butter, and molasses. Cook over low heat until the mixture is lukewarm and the butter is mostly melted.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow it to get bubbly - about 5 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl (a sturdy stand mixer with a dough hook is recommended) combine the beer mixture, yeast mixture, oats, wheat flour, and salt.
  4. Slowly add 2 cups of bread flour and mix well. Add as much remaining flour is needed until the dough comes cleanly away from the side of the bowl. Continue to knead by machine for 6 minutes (or drop onto a floured surface and knead by hand for 8 minutes), then place in a greased bowl. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until doubled - about 1 hour.
  5. Move dough to a lightly floured surface and divide into 2 pieces. Form into balls and place on a large baking sheet. If you are adding chopped raisins, knead into the dough before forming the balls. (Optional: sprinkle the baking sheet with cornmeal for a crunchy bottom crust.)
  6. Cover and allow to rise until double - about 1 hour.
  7. Heat oven to 375 F.
  8. Cut a large "X" in the top of each loaf and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the bread is a rich brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Move to a rack to cool. You can brush the top of each loaf with butter if you want them to have a sheen, and to soften the crust slightly.
  9. TO MAKE SHAMROCKS: Once the balls of dough are shaped, cut four 1½ - 2" slices at (picturing a clock) approximately 10:00, 2:00, 4:00, and 8:00. Make sure to leave the center intact. This creates three petals and a stem. Pull firmly down on the stem to stretch it out into the desired shape. Use your fingers to shape the petals and cut a shallow slice down the center of each to add shape. Bake as directed above.

Place dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled.

Divide dough into two pieces. Add chopped raisins if desired. (Totally optional.)

Place on a baking sheet. I like to dust mine with cornmeal for a crunchy bottom crust. (One is plain, one with raisins.) Let ’em rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

After loaves have doubled, cut a large ‘X’ on each and bake.

Baked. Brush the hot loaves with butter if you want them shiny, or prefer a softer crust.


Form the dough into two balls.

Cut 4 slits. (My cuts were a little wonky. Aim for 4:00 and 8:00 on the bottom and then stretch out the stem.)

Mold and shape the petals. Make a cut down the center of each to add shape.

Place on baking sheet and allow to rise until almost doubled, then bake!


Q: Does the house smell amazing while the bread bakes?
A: The house smells like a brewery! A fragrant brewery, but . . . pretty heady.

Q: I don’t like beer. Can I use wine instead?
A: Are you crazy? No! Go home.

Q: Can you give me a gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free version of this recipe?
A: Um. You haven’t been hanging out here very long, have you? I’m a Paula Deen type of baker. This is actually a healthy recipe for me; molasses instead of white sugar, less than a pound of butter, and some oats and wheat flour thrown in to impress you. You’re welcome!

Anyone else? No? Good.

I have a very elaborate recipe in the works. This was easy; the next one will be a lot more challenging. Bwa ha ha. Check back in a few days!


Chocolate-Filled Sweet Rolls


Whether you slowly unwrap this feather-soft sweet roll to reveal the rich chocolate filling or jump right in and take a huge bite, the buttery dark chocolate layer will surprise you with its bold flavor and subtle sweetness, balancing perfectly with the roll.

It’s hard to actually describe the flavor of these pastries. My husband thought I’d added coffee (I didn’t) and the closest thing I could compare it to was brownie batter (my favorite) though not as sweet. And they aren’t gooey!

I made my rolls heart-shaped for Valentine’s Day. If you want to create heart rolls but don’t happen to have 24 mini heart pans (I know, I know) you can put the rounds in one large heart-shaped cake pan. If you don’t have a heart pan, bake them just like cinnamon rolls in a large baking pan, glaze them, and add Valentine sprinkles. Improvise!

And, of course, these are great for other occasions. Who doesn’t like chocolate? A few chocolate jimmies look very nice and kind of advertise what’s inside, so no one is expecting cinnamon.

This roll recipe really is easy. It’s time-consuming because it has to rise twice, but seriously, there’s nothing hard about it at all.

Chocolate-Filled Sweet Rolls
Makes 24 rolls Use small 3½-inch mini pans or one large 11x15-inch pan
  • DOUGH:
  • ¾ cup milk (I use whole milk)
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup very warm water
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • ⅓ cup plus ½ teaspoon sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 5 - 5½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 7 ounces dark chocolate
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • GLAZE:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  1. DOUGH: In a small pan over medium-low heat, combine milk, shortening, and butter. Stir occasionally until shortening and butter are melted. Remove from heat and stir in buttermilk.
  2. In a small cup, combine warm water, yeast, and ½ teaspoon of the sugar. Let it sit until bubbly (about 5 minutes).
  3. In a large bowl (a sturdy stand mixer is best) combine the milk mixture, yeast mixture, eggs, and ⅓ cup sugar. Switch to a dough hook, if you have one.
  4. Slowly add 5 cups of flour and the salt. Mix well. The dough should come cleanly away from the side of the bowl. If it doesn't - or is sticky to the touch - add the remaining ½ cup flour. Continue to use the mixer to knead the dough for 5 minutes. If kneading by hand, place dough on floured surface and knead for 7 minutes.
  5. Place dough in greased bowl, cover, and allow it to rise until doubled . . . about an hour.
  6. Prepare pans: If using small mini-pans, spray with an oil/flour baking spray. If using a 11x15-inch baking pan, spray lightly and line the bottom with parchment.
  7. FILLING: In a small saucepan over lowest heat (or in a microwave, in 15-second increments) melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring well.
  8. Working with half of the dough at a time, roll out to 9x15 inches on a lightly floured surface, with the long side facing you.
  9. Spread half of the chocolate mixture over the dough. Sprinkle evenly with ¼ cup sugar.
  10. Beginning with the long edge facing you, roll the dough up. Use a sharp knife to cut 12 equal pieces. (They will each be a little more than 1 inch.)
  11. Place in prepared pan(s) and repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  12. Heat oven to 400 F. Bake rolls for approximately 20 minutes, or until rich golden brown. While still warm, glaze with the following:
  13. GLAZE: Combine powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. Adjust if necessary, using powdered sugar or milk, to create a fairly thin glaze. Brush over warm rolls and sprinkle with decorations if desired.

Bubbly yeast! If yours doesn’t do this, check the date on the package.

Once kneaded this dough is so silky soft and elastic!

Put the dough in a greased bowl and cover it. Wait for it . . .

Look at this beautiful dough 1 hour later!

Melt very dark chocolate (use the good stuff!) and butter together.

Roll it out, cover with chocolate and sugar (trust me . . . it’s not too sweet) and roll it up.

Place slices of rolled dough into individual mini pans OR in one large baking pan.

Bake, glaze, and gussy them up with some sprinkles!

I loved these so much I’m getting up at 5:00 AM on Valentine’s Day to make them again. I’m taking them to my weekly weight-loss meeting, bwa ha ha. Guess who’s going after the monthly pot for the most weight lost. Oh, sweet sabotage!

You know what’s coming now, right? Green. Lots and lots of GREEN. And probably booze. Stay tuned.


Ruffles & Roses Banana Cream Pie

Treat your Valentine to a very special pie this year. A thick, ruffled pastry surrounds the vanilla wafer bottom crust topped with velvety banana cream filling. Add whipped cream, a few pastry decorations, or even a drizzle of chocolate sauce to take this dessert to the next level.

You don’t have to have a pie-shaped pan (though this might be a good excuse to splurge on one), but you do need a deep-dish pie pan because this makes a generous amount of filling. It might be a good idea to be prepared with a few cupcake liners in case you have extra filling. Just layer a spoonful of cookie crust, a few banana slices, and a dollop of filling and put the mini desserts in the freezer for another time.

And . . . speaking of freezers, if you want neat, tidy slices of banana cream pie, I recommend freezing the pie and cutting it frozen. Add the little decorations and fresh banana slices before serving. If you’re using fresh whipped cream, add it after the frozen pie has been cut. If you’re using topping in a tub, it can be added before freezing.

ONLY cut as many pieces as you need, and return the remaining pie to the freezer immediately, because once it’s frozen it won’t look pretty when you take it out of the fridge the next day. 

You don’t have to freeze it, of course, but a cream pie is, by nature, soft . . . and it can get a little messy when serving. If you’re more about eating it than taking photos of it, then this won’t bother you one bit. And oh, my is it creamy. Mmmm.

I just have to tell you, as much as I love the soft, creamy pie, I really can’t resist it when it’s frozen. I may have added a little chocolate sauce, some peanuts, and a cherry to create my own “banana split pie”. The frozen filling is just like rich ice cream.

Ruffles & Roses Banana Cream Pie
This is a generous recipe, enough for a large, deep-dish pie pan. You may want to reserve a little of the cookie crust. If you have extra filling, layer a few cupcake liners or ramekins with crumbs, banana slices, and filling. Wrap well and freeze for later!
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shortening, chilled
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vodka (or vinegar, if you prefer)
  • 1 cup finely crushed vanilla wafers
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, plus 2 yolks
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup cornstarch
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 large firm bananas (save one for garnish)
  • Whipped cream (or topping in a tub), banana slices, sprinkles, pastry garnishes, chocolate drizzle for decorating if desired
  1. PASTRY:
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Work the cold shortening into flour until the size of peas.
  3. Combine the milk and vodka (or vinegar) and drizzle into flour mixture, tossing with a fork. Stir gently until it comes together.
  4. Working with half of the dough at a time, place between lightly floured pieces of parchment and roll until about ⅛-inch thick. Cut strips wide enough to reach from the bottom edge of your pie pan to about ½ inch over the top. Cut strips into manageable lengths (for me, this was about 6 -7 inches long) and, one at a time, lay them loosely along the side of your pie pan, gently pleating as you go to create ruffles. Each time you use a new piece, roll the end a little and nudge it up against the piece you just added, to hide the edge. Press the dough along the bottom edge of the pie pan as you go. (The cookie crust will fill the bottom later.) Gather dough scraps and reroll all at once if needed.
  5. Place a piece of foil along the bottom of the pie pan and fill with pie weights or beans. Any extra scraps may be cut into hearts or shaped into roses and leaves for decoration. Place those on the crust now, using a little milk to anchor them. Press firmly. Place crust in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (Small shapes - like hearts - can be baked on cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.)
  6. Heat oven to 375 F.
  7. Place pie pan on baking sheet for easy handling, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully lift out the foil and weights.
  8. COOKIE CRUST: Combine crushed vanilla wafers, brown sugar, and melted butter. Put in bottom of pie pan and press down firmly, using a measuring cup or your hand. Be careful, the pan will be hot!
  9. Return to oven for an additional 20 minutes, or until the pie crust is golden. Cool on a rack.
  10. FILLING:
  11. In a small bowl, whisk together the two eggs and 2 yolks and the lemon juice. Set aside.
  12. In a large pan, combine the sugar, salt, cornstarch, and milk. Whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture is steamy and beginning to bubble. Reduce heat to low.
  13. Slowly add about 1 cup of the hot mixture into the egg mixture, whisking vigorously. Pour the egg mixture back into the pan and stir well.
  14. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick and begins to make big bubbles in the center, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Pour into a heat-proof bowl and cover. Chill for 1 hour.
  15. Slice 3 bananas. Pour half of the cream filling into the pie pan. Cover with all of the banana slices. Top with remaining filling (as much as your pie will hold.) Chill for at least 4 hours. Top with whipped cream (or topping in a tub) and decorate if desired.
  16. If you want frozen banana pie (yum!) lay a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the filling, wrap well, and freeze. When ready to serve, cut as many pieces as you need and then return remaining pie to the freezer; it will not hold well in the refrigerator once it has been frozen. Allow the pie slices to thaw slightly, top with whipped cream, and serve.

Cut wide strips of pie dough to create ruffles

Pleat the ruffles and press along the bottom edge of pie pan.

I used a silicone mold for the roses and a cutter for the leaves and hearts.

Add foil and weights (I have a bag o’ beans I use over and over) and any pastry decorations you’re using.

Bake 20 minutes, then press cookie crumbs into the bottom of the pie. Bake an additional 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cook filling until thick and bubbly, then whisk about a cup into the egg mixture and return all to the pan on low heat.

cook and stir on low heat until thick. It should be “blurping” big bubbles.

Add a layer of chilled filling, add sliced bananas, then top with more filling. Place plastic wrap right on top of the filling and chill for at least 4 hours

Add real whipped cream when ready to serve. (I made ruffles.) If you’re using tubbed topping, this can be done a couple of hours ahead. Decorate.

My apologies to Dean Martin, but I’m going to change his song just a bit:

“When the moon hits your eye like a big piece of pie, that’s amore”

Nothin’ says amore like a beautiful slice of pie, right?


Cherry Nut Fudge

This easy fudge is full of sweet dark cherries and walnuts . . . and a little bit of Baileys Chocolate Cherry Liqueur. You don’t have to add the liqueur, of course (a dash of cherry flavoring is a good substitute) but it sure adds a festive touch for Valentine’s Day.

I used silicone heart molds to create perfect little fudge hearts. You could also pour the fudge into a large heart-shaped pan, or into a regular sheet pan and cut hearts out with cookie cutters. (I’m sure you can think of something to do with the leftover scraps.) This makes a lot of little hearts, so unless you have several silicone pans, have a small pan lined with parchment to put excess fudge into.

When I say the fudge is easy, I mean it’s not a complicated recipe. It does require your undivided attention at the stove for ten minutes or so, though. You can do that, right? For simplicity, leave the fudge plain. If you want to play with your food, you can “ice” it with a thin layer of melted chocolate and decorate with sprinkles, or roses made of royal icing or candy clay.

The heart on the left below is unadorned. The heart on the right was flipped over and the smooth side was coated with chocolate and gussied up with a few candy roses.

You’ll need a candy thermometer for this recipe. I started out with the recipe on the jar of marshmallow fluff, but because I added frozen sweet cherries to the mixture, it took a lot longer to reach the proper temperature – about ten minutes instead of the four minutes in the instructions on the jar. Not something you should guess at!

Speaking of temperatures, did you know that altitude really matters when making candy? My home is at an altitude of 2,500 feet, so I deduct five degrees from the target temperature. Subtract one degree for every 500 feet in elevation.

This recipe calls for 12 ounces of chopped chocolate. I use good dark chocolate and include 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate because I want my fudge to be really rich. I tend to have little chunks of different brands of chocolate in the cupboard, so I just throw them all together on my kitchen scale until I have 12 ounces. Mix and match! (And yes, to make it even simpler, you can use dark chocolate chips.)

Cherry Nut Fudge (with a little something extra)
  • 1 cup (packed firmly) frozen dark sweet cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cups sugar
  • ⅔ cup evaporated milk
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme (or fluff)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup Baileys Chocolate Cherry Liqueur (or substitute 2 teaspoons vanilla and ½ teaspoon cherry flavoring)
  • Optional for decorating: Melted chocolate, sprinkles, nuts, candy, royal icing flowers
  • Candy thermometer and silicone molds (or 9x13-inch cake pan)
  1. If using a 9x13-inch pan or heart-shaped cake pans instead of silicone molds, butter lightly and place parchment in the bottom of the pan. Silicone molds do not need to be greased.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine cherries, sugar, evaporated milk, and butter. Stir frequently until mixture comes to a boil, then stir constantly until it reaches 234 F. on a candy thermometer. (Adjust for high altitude if necessary, lowering temperature by 1 degree for each 500 feet.)
  3. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and marshmallow creme.
  4. Add walnuts and liqueur (or flavorings) and stir until well mixed.
  5. Spoon or scoop into ungreased silicone molds (tap lightly to level the fudge) or spread into prepared pans.
  6. Allow mixture to cool completely, then cover and place in cool location. Refrigerate for firmer fudge (and easier cutting.)
  7. Decorate fudge by spreading with a small amount of melted chocolate and adding desired candy, nuts, or icing flowers.


Chop up the chocolate! (Yes, you can use dark chocolate chips if you prefer.)

Prepare and set aside everything that you will add at the end. Trust me, you don’t want to be trying to stir and chop at the same time!

Combine cherries, sugar, milk, and butter in large pan

Almost done! Love that purple color.

Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate and marshmallow.

Add nuts and Baileys (or vanilla and cherry flavorings if you’re substituting) and stir well

Fill silicone molds or prepared pans and chill until firm.

I use a knife to put a thin layer of chocolate on the smooth side of each heart because I love the little “snap” when I bite into one. Or two. It would be fun to write names or little conversation heart sayings on each one, too. So many possibilities!

More sweet treats coming soon,



Grape Balls of Fire!

If you’re making snacks for a football game, these spicy appetizers will be a guaranteed fan favorite. Meatballs are dipped in a fiery glaze and baked in a spicy puff pastry wrap. Set aside some of the glaze for dipping, and watch the hearty treats disappear.

I have a real aversion to storebought frozen meatballs, but if you like them, by all means, use them and save yourself some time! I used ham balls because I had just made a bunch of them. They were wonderful, (you’ll find the Taste of Home recipe here: Brown Sugar Glazed Ham Balls) but beef would be great too!

I admit to being a total wimp when it comes to spicy foods, so I ask you to use your judgment and season the glaze to taste. You may want to add a whole lot more hot sauce that I used. If you’re making your own meatballs, you could add a little Chinese hot mustard to the raw meat, or red pepper flakes for another layer of spiciness. This is a recipe that is just begging for you to make it your own!


  • If you want to use store-bought puff pastry (not phyllo dough!) you can roll the spices onto the dough before cutting out the circles.
  • If you make your own dough, don’t panic if it’s very, very crumbly and messy at first. With each roll, fold, and turn, it will get more cooperative. Every time I make this I think I’ve done something wrong, but it always comes together!
  • The dough can be made ahead, which will make the assembly a snap. I even cut out the circles, dusted them with flour, and stored them in a zipper-type freezer bag for 3 days and they worked perfectly. I left the dough a tiny bit thicker and cut out smaller circles, then when I was ready to use them I used a small roller to thin and enlarge the dough.
  • When you dip the balls in glaze and roll in breadcrumbs, your fingers will get messy, so either get an assembly line going or be near a sink or bowl of water.
  • After baking, immediately move pastries from the cupcake pan onto a cooling rack so the bottoms won’t get soggy.
  • The tops will open up a little during baking to show the top of the meatball. If you don’t want this, you can go with Plan ‘B’ and use two smaller rounds of dough (imagine a flying saucer) like this:

It’s a little bit more work, but pretty. Not sure if “pretty” is critical if you’re making this for a group of football fans, though! Your call.

The pastry on the left uses two rounds. The one on the right uses one larger round.

Grape Balls of Fire!
Makes approximately 24 appetizers. Pastry dough can be made ahead and stored for a day or two in a heavy plastic storage bag.
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon spicy garlic seasoning (or ½ teaspoon garlic salt and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes)
  • 1 teaspoon Chipotle seasoning - more to taste.
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter
  • ⅔ cup very cold water
  • GLAZE:
  • ⅔ cup brown sugar
  • ⅔ cup grape jelly
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons chili paste
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne (more to taste)
  • a few dashes hot sauce of your choice
  • 24 cooked MEATBALLS, approximately 1-inch to 1½-inches
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (I use Panko)
  • 1 egg plus 1 teaspoon water for egg wash
  1. PASTRY: Combine flour and seasonings directly on work surface.
  2. Cut cold butter into small chunks, 1-inch or less
  3. Using a bench scraper, knife, or sturdy spatula, chop butter into flour until butter pieces are about the size of a large pea.
  4. With scraper in one hand and cold water in the other, drizzle and toss until all the water has been incorporated. Don't overwork it - it should look like a shaggy mess.
  5. Use your scraper or spatula to shape into a 5x8 inch rectangle, with a short edge facing you.
  6. Roll out dough to approximately 6"x10", using the metal scraper to form straight edges. Keeping the short edge facing you, Flip the bottom edge up to the middle (it will be crumbly...just do the best you can) and the top edge down to the bottom. This will create three equal sized layers. Give the dough a turn to the left, lightly flouring the surface if necessary to keep it from sticking, and repeat. Repeat 3 more times. Wrap snugly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 days.
  7. GLAZE: In a medium saucepan combine brown sugar, grape jelly, vinegar, chili paste, and cayenne. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from heat and add hot sauce to taste. Reserve ½ cup glaze in a small bowl for dipping.
  8. Heat oven to 400 F. Grease (very lightly!) the bottom of each cavity in 2 cupcake pans.
  9. Remove dough from the refrigerator. If the dough has been in the fridge for more than an hour, allow it to warm up slightly on the counter for a few minutes. Following the previous instructions, roll and turn two more times, then roll out dough very thin - about 15 x 22". (Similar to wonton or eggroll wrappers.)
  10. Cut circles from the dough, keeping them as close together as possible. Stack scraps, each piece on top of the previous piece) for re-rolling if necessary. For a meatball that is 1½ inches across, you'll need a 4½-inch or 5-inch circle.
  11. Dip each meatball in the glaze, roll in breadcrumbs (this will keep help absorb the glaze), and place in the center of the dough circle. Moisten the edge of the dough all around with egg wash and lift the dough up, pleating it around the meatball and pressing together at the top. Place in the prepared cupcake pan and brush lightly with egg wash.
  12. Bake 18 minutes, or until golden brown.
  13. Serve with glaze.

Add spicy seasoning to flour on work surface.

Cut butter into small pieces

Chop the butter (don’t blend!) into the flour. Butter pieces should be about the size of large peas.

Use a scraper to corral it into an 8×5-inch rectangle.

See this crumbly mess? This is what the first “fold” may look like. Don’t worry!

The next roll and fold will look better!

Final fold before it goes in the fridge. The small, flattened pieces of butter that are visible are your friends. They will make the pastry flaky.

Glaze ingredients.

Boil the glaze ingredients for 2 minutes, then add hot sauce. Allow glaze to cool until it’s thick and sticky. Mmmmm.

Coat meatball with glaze, then roll in breadcrumbs. (I use Panko.)

Place meatball on the circle of dough. Brush egg wash around the outer edge of dough.

Bring edges up, gather together at the top and pinch together, like an Asian dumpling.

Brush with egg wash and they’re ready to bake

Baked. Lift them out of the pan and let them cool on a rack. Or . . . just eat ’em!

Okay, I know these are a little more work than Pigs in a Blanket, but c’mon. Puff pastry! Meatballs! If you’ll try these, I promise to come up with a very easy recipe next time.


Gingerbread Houses (and other edible abodes)

I’ve been holding a Rowdy Baker “Holiday House” contest for five years running now, and have seen some great houses made . . . mostly made by youngsters. I love seeing kids in the kitchen, and am thrilled to have them participate, but am convinced that adults are missing out on all the fun!

And it is fun. It’s also messy, frustrating, and persnickety, but mostly FUN!

I’m just beginning to get comfortable with creating my own templates for the structures. I (loosely) followed instructions from a great book: “The Gingerbread Architect” by Susan Matheson and Lauren Chattman, for some of my creations and still use the recipe in the book for my gingerbread base, though I add a little less leavening and a little more spice than the authors call for.

The collapse of my house in 2015 was not the fault of the plans in the book. I think I just wasn’t patient enough. It really helps to spread your efforts out over a few days and let that royal icing set hard as you go.

I don’t enter my own contest, of course, but I do play along. I can’t ask people to do something I wouldn’t do, right? Besides, I love making huge messes and staying up until the wee hours creating all the little details. Sometimes it’s challenging, but I try to make every single item on my houses edible.

I’ll show you the five I’ve made so far, and just add to this post every year.

2017 A mountain of fudge with a gingerbread cabin and gingerbread critters.

2016 (my personal favorite) a barn with gum paste and/or chocolate clay reindeer and farm animals inside. This thing was huge. And heavy!

2015 I actually made two. One was a monster of a house (which collapsed the next day in a very dramatic fashion.) and the other was an igloo made of sugar.

2014 was a more traditional house. I put a glow stick inside and the light shone through the windows.

2013 was the year that started it all. A blogging friend and I put out a challenge to make a pretzel house. The two of us were the only ones who actually entered, but we sure had a blast. 

So there you have it: five years of planning, swearing, and creating. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The holidays are so busy, it’s hard to cut out time for a project like this, but so much of it can be simplified. And when it’s done (which is never, because you’ll keep thinking of just one more thing to add to your house) you’ll be pretty proud of your accomplishment.

Let that flour fly!


Orange Cranberry Cupcakes

Chopped fresh cranberries and orange zest add little bursts of flavor to these sweet vanilla cupcakes. The fluffy orange icing is made with a generous amount of whipping cream, which keeps it from being too sweet.

Make sure to freeze lots of cranberries this season, because these cupcakes aren’t just for the holidays – you’ll want to make them all year long.

You know how many sweets I bake (my sweet tooth is legendary), so you might be surprised to know that I really prefer my cake unadorned, or at least minimally so, and sometimes even (gasp) scrape off some of the icing. Peer pressure often has me piling the icing on cupcakes just like everyone else, and I have to admit it makes for beautiful photos.  But how on earth are you supposed to eat a cupcake with mountain-high icing without having it go right up your nose?

Eeeuw. Not attractive.

So I’ll give you two options. A half-batch of icing is enough for a sweet little rosette on each cupcake, like this:

Or, if you love your icing, make a full batch and pile it higher, like this:

Yes, you could make even more and go for the mountain effect, but I didn’t go there. This time.

For an artsy effect, you might want to gently heat and drizzle orange marmalade or cranberry sauce over the icing, which would be lovely. But for the love of all that’s holy, do NOT use fresh cranberries to decorate the cupcakes unless you want to watch everyone pucker.  Sour, sour, sour. The berries that are baked into the cake itself are delicious, though.

Orange Cranberry Cupcakes
Sweet orange cupcakes studded with bits of chopped fresh cranberries, topped with whipped orange icing. Makes 24 tall cupcakes, or approximately 28-30 standard cupcakes.
  • CAKE:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 3½ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • grated zest from 1 large orange
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ICING:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 2 tablespoons concentrated frozen orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • grated zest from 1 large orange
  • pinch salt
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • orange food coloring if desired
  • Candy orange slice or sprinkles for decorating
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Place extra large baking cups in two 12-cavity cupcake pans. (If you are using regular baking cups, this recipe will make approximately 28-30.)
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy - about 5 minutes.
  3. Add vanilla and orange extracts and mix until combined.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating and scraping the bowl between each addition.
  5. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
  6. Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture, beginning with the flour and ending with the buttermilk, approximately ⅓ of each at a time. Stir each addition well before adding the next.
  7. Beat mixture just until well blended.
  8. Add 1 tablespoon flour to the cranberries and toss to coat. Fold cranberries and orange zest into batter.
  9. Scoop into cupcake liners. For extra large (or tulip-type) liners fill a little over half full - about level with the pan. If you're using regular liners, fill approximately ⅔ full.
  10. Bake approximately 20-25 minutes, or until cupcake springs back up when pressed on the top.
  11. Cool on a rack.
  12. ICING:
  13. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, shortening, orange juice, and vanilla together well.
  14. Add powdered sugar and orange zest, beat until combined. If too stiff to mix, add a little of the whipping cream.
  15. Add whipping cream and beat until light and fluffy. This will take several minutes.
  16. Place half of the icing in a bowl and add a small amount of orange food coloring.
  17. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip with both colors to get a swirled look. For a rosette, start in the center of your cupcake and work in circles outward. For a mounded "mountain" effect, start on the outside and work your way in, increasing pressure at the center. Top with a candy orange slice or sprinkles.

My next-door neighbor, Pam, gave me some wonderful parchment supplies and I’m in love with these extra-large liners. They come up high so you can use a little more batter. (They fit nicely into two of my standard cupcake pans but were a little too big for the other.) If you can’t find them, you can use tulip-type liners or just make more regular-sized cupcakes.

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add vanilla, orange extract, and eggs. Beat well.

Add one-third of the flour. Stir.

Add one-third of the buttermilk. Stir.

….and repeat. Again!

Dust the cranberries with flour. Fold into batter along with orange zest

Fill tall cups a little over half full.

Beat butter, shortening, orange juice, and vanilla together. Add powdered sugar and orange zest.

Whip in the cream. So fluffy!

Put both colors together in a pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip and make ’em pretty! Top with an orange candy slice.

These would make a perfect holiday dessert . . . not too rich, not too heavy, and so festive!

Time’s flying and Christmas is just around the corner. I’m so not ready. The next time you hear from me I’ll probably be pushing chocolate hearts, so let me say it right now:

Merry, Merry Christmas!


Apple Pumpkin Muffins

The spicy fragrance of fall will fill your kitchen as these Apple Pumpkin Muffins bake. Tender apples and a crunchy streusel top spicy, fluffy pumpkin muffins – perfect for a holiday breakfast.

I know I may have been a little . . . well . . . opinionated in the past when I said that muffins should be sort of rustic and not too sweet. I also may have stated that if you want soft and sweet you should eat a cupcake. Ahem. I’m making an exception for these luscious muffins.

I used cake flour and buttermilk to make these babies melt in your mouth. More dessert-like than a regular muffin, though they’re still (and I should know) wonderful for breakfast. Personally, I’d be happy to switch out my slice of pumpkin pie for one of these muffins on Thanksgiving; the pumpkin pie spice in the batter takes them over the top.

If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, you can substitute the following: 1 1/4  teaspoon cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon powdered ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, 1/4 teaspoon powdered cloves

Apple Pumpkin Muffins
Makes 12 muffins using tall tulip-style paper liners. If you use regular liners the recipe will make approximately 18.
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅔ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup solid pack pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup chopped apple (about 1 medium) tossed in 2 tablespoons flour
  1. Heat oven to 375 F. Place 12 tall tulip style paper liners in muffin tin.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all of the streusel ingredients, breaking large lumps apart with a fork. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice until thoroughly combined.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, pumpkin, and vanilla.
  5. Add egg mixture and melted butter to the dry ingredients, stirring just until combined.
  6. Divide mixture evenly between the 12 paper liners – approximately ⅓ cup in each.
  7. Divide chopped apples between each muffin, without pressing into the batter.
  8. Divide streusel between each muffin.
  9. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of a muffin.
  10. Cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan and cool completely.

This recipe was made using tall tulip-style paper liners. If you plan on using regular muffin liners, the recipe will make approximately 18 smaller muffins and will bake for about 22 minutes.

I neglected to take in-process photos of the streusel, but I know you don’t need to see a picture. Just stir it together!  I did remember to grab my camera for the muffins though.

Whisk together the dry ingredients

Whisk together liquids.

Add egg mixture and melted butter to dry ingredients

Stir just until combined.

Divide batter between 12 tall tulip-style paper liners (or 18 regular)

Divide chopped apples between muffins and cover with streusel.

Allow muffins to cool for 5 minutes in the pan before removing and cooling on rack.

I’m down to my last can of pumpkin, so I think it’s safe to say that we’re through with pumpkin everything for the year.

Happy Holidays,


Maple Raisin Challah

What’s rich and brown, shiny and sleek, and smells like Vermont at sugaring time? The answer is Maple Challah, aka “the end of dieting as we know it”. Once this heady fragrance wafts out of your oven, all good intentions will be put aside and you’ll be a gonner!

I used maple syrup to sweeten the dough, but it doesn’t give enough maple “kick”, so I turned to my trusty Mapleine. Maple flavoring, maple extract, it’s all good! And, in case you’re wondering, I found kosher maple flavoring and refined coconut oil on the internet.

Whether you make a simple three-strand braid or go all out for the six-strand braid, this bread won’t fail to impress; it’s gorgeous even if you try desperately to follow instructions and still come up with a wonky braid!  


I tried a six-strand braid. Several times. I had no trouble with four strands (see my Pumpkin Challah ) but apparently, that was pushing the limit of my braiding skills. I hate videos, but this is one time I probably should have watched a tutorial. In the end, I did the best I could, tucked the less than attractive ends under, and hoped that a good, puffy rise and a lot of egg yolk would cover my worst messes. It wouldn’t pass the test of experienced challah bakers, but it worked for me.

Because I can never get enough maple flavor, I sprinkled the top of one of the loaves with maple sugar which gave a slightly burnt-sugar flavor and made the crust a tiny bit crunchy. I loved it, though it takes away the pretty shine. It’s totally optional, of course, but mmmmmm. Here’s what the sugar-topped loaf looks like next to one with a traditional egg yolk wash:

Left loaf was brushed with yolk wash and sprinkled with maple sugar

Remember that challah dough is rich and will take a little longer to rise than a basic sandwich bread. Make it when you’ll be home all day so you don’t try to rush it. Ninety-minute rise times are to be expected. You don’t have to sit and watch it – just set a timer and go about your business, and before you know it you’ll be tearing off a tender piece of maple goodness.

Maple Raisin Challah
Makes 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves. Simple braids are very attractive. For more complicated braids, look for online tutorials.
  • ½ cup hot water
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • pinch sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs plus 1 yolk, divided (extra yolk is for glazing bread)
  • ⅓ cup refined coconut oil, melted (or you can use a mild-flavored cooking oil)
  • 1 tablespoon maple flavoring - or to taste
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  1. Combine hot water and raisins in a small bowl and let sit for 10-15 minutes to plump raisins. Stir in maple syrup.
  2. In a small bowl or cup combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow it to sit until yeast is foamy.
  3. In a large bowl, (a stand mixer with a dough hook is recommended) combine eggs, oil, maple flavor, the raisin mixture, and the yeast mixture.
  4. Add flour and salt. Mix well. Allow mixer to knead dough for 5-6 minutes. (If mixing by hand, drop dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 7-8 minutes.The Dough should be soft and slightly tacky. If it's too sticky, add a little more flour.
  5. Place dough in a greased bowl. Turn to coat the dough, cover with a dish towel, and allow it to rise until doubled - about 90 minutes.
  6. For one large 3-strand braid, divide dough into 3 equal parts. (For 2 small braids, divide into 6 equal parts.) Braid loosely and tuck ends under. Place on parchment covered baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth. Allow bread to rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.
  7. Heat oven to 350 F.
  8. Whisk egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water. Brush generously over entire challah. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until bread is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
  9. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.

Hot water, raisins, and maple syrup

Combine eggs, oil, maple flavor, raisin mixture . . .

. . . and the foamy yeast

Put dough in greased bowl and let it rise. It will go from THIS . . .

. . . to THIS. Now comes the fun part – braiding!

Braiding a round challah. I’m not EVEN going to try to explain this. The Internet is your friend, with lots of tutorials.

Brush with egg yolk and sprinkle with maple sugar if desired. The more sugar you add, the crunchier the crust will be.

Bake. Cool on a rack if you have superhuman self-control. Otherwise, rip and tear!

I haven’t tried it (yet), but I’ll bet this recipe would be great for rolls, too. I think I’ll add them to my Thanksgiving plan. And I may try mixing maple syrup with that egg yolk before brushing it on the bread. If you beat me to it, let me know how that works!