Barmbrack is a fruit-filled, slightly sweet bread that is traditionally served In Ireland on Halloween, but is also enjoyed on St. Patrick’s Day. Originally, it was leavened with the frothy foam produced by fermenting beer, but since I don’t make my own beer, I used good old active-dry yeast instead. In keeping with the “spirit” of the thing, though, I did soak the dried fruit in beer.
Guinness is lovely…dark and rich, with a hint of coffee and chocolate. You can, of course, use any beer. Or milk. Or brewed tea. It’s all up to you.
This isn’t a difficult recipe, but it is time consuming. The fruit needs to be soaked for at least 2 hours, then it needs to rise twice, and since the dough is rich, this can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours each time. The good news is, the bread tastes even better the next day, so you can make it ahead of time.
And if you’re really rushed, I have an easier recipe for Tipsy Tea Brack that uses baking powder instead of yeast. It’s much faster, and aside from being just a little sweeter, the two breads are very similar. Both were a hit in my household, but I have a weakness for yeast breads, especially when toasted, and didn’t mind spending a day babysitting the dough. Mmmm.
1½ cups dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, fruitcake mix)
zest from 1 lemon
½ cup very warm water with a pinch of sugar added
1 packet (1/4 oz) active-dry yeast
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or ½ teaspoon. cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon each: clove, ginger, allspice, nutmeg)
4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter (if using unsalted butter, add an additional pinch of salt)
In a small pan, heat liquid until steaming, but not boiling. Remove from heat.
Add dried fruit and lemon zest. Cover tightly and let fruit sit for at least 2 hours. Strain into a bowl,. Press firmly on fruit to remove excess liquid. Reserve 1 cup of liquid, discarding any remaining. If necessary, add water to bring the amount to a full cup.
In a small bowl or cup, combine the warm water and yeast. Let it sit until foamy - about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl (a sturdy stand mixer is recommended), combine the cup of reserved liquid, ¼ cup sugar, egg, vanilla, spices, yeast mixture, and 2 cups of the bread flour. Beat until well combined.
Switch to a dough hook and add remaining flour and salt. Knead by machine for 3 minutes, then drizzle in the butter and knead for an addition minute. Add fruit and mix until combined. (If kneading by hand, add the butter along with the last 2 cups of flour, then move dough to a floured surface and knead 6 minutes, working the fruit in at the end.)
Transfer dough into a large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow dough to rise until doubled. This may take 1½ hours or more, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.
Grease a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to distribute the fruit evenly. Form into a ball and place in prepared pan. Cover and let rise until almost doubled.
Heat oven to 375 F. Bake bread for approximately 50 minutes. The top should be dark brown. Turn the bread out onto a cooling rack. The bottom should sound hollow when tapped. (If in doubt, give it a few more minutes in the oven.) Allow the bread to cool completely before cutting.
Skip the soda bread on St. Patrick’s Day and try your hand at this delightful Irish treat! If you aren’t a fan of fruitcake (which I totally understand) you could skip the candied fruit and just use the sultanas and raisins for a milder taste. If you don’t care for dried fruit (even soaked in Jameson’s), it’s back to soda bread for you!
Tea Brack, which uses baking powder to rise, is a simpler version of Barmbrack, a yeast-leavened loaf. Both are very popular in Ireland. Though little charms are often baked in, I hate the thought of putting inedible things in my bread, so I was a party pooper and didn’t toss in the coin, the ring, the little piece of material.
There are a lot of recipes out there for both breads, each claiming to be “traditional”. I gave up trying to sort through them and did my own thing—as usual. If you’d like to try the yeast version, check out my recipe for Irish Barmbrack
My recipe has Irish whiskey in it, and a crusty top made with Irish Cream and brown sugar. If you prefer to leave out the alcohol, just use tea instead. Note: I used Earl Grey, but any black tea would be fine.
In a medium pan, warm tea until steaming but not boiling. Remove from heat.
Add fruit, lemon zest, and whiskey. Cover and let sit for 2-3 hours.
Line the bottom of a generously greased loaf pan with parchment. Heat oven to 350 F.
Sift the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, and spices into a medium bowl.
Stir the egg and vanilla into the fruit mixture and pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Gently stir just until the flour is incorporated, and spoon into prepared pan. Bake for 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. If you are not adding the topping, let the loaf cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then turn it out to cool completely.
TOPPING: If you are adding the topping, mix the brown sugar and Irish Cream together well, then brush over the top of the hot loaf. Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes. Let the loaf sit in the pan on a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes, until topping feels firm to the touch. Turn out onto the rack to cool.
What a sweetheart of a pie! Thin slices of apples are enveloped by creamy, delicately flavored custard. Sour cream makes it slightly tangy, contrasting with the sweet, crunchy cinnamon streusel topping.
I don’t remember where I got this recipe, but I know I’ve been making it for at least thirty years—and I don’t even like apple pie.
At least, I don’t like the kind with sticky, sugary, gooey filling that has so much cinnamon in it you can’t even taste the apples. Pies were not served in my household when I was growing up (with the exception of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving), so the closest thing I remember was that nasty apple dessert in the TV dinners. Oh, and Hostess fruit pies. (I ate the glazed pastry and discarded the fruit filling.)
I’m sure there are good traditional apple pies out there. Your grandma probably makes a beauty! But give me this sour cream version any day.
The type of apples you use can make a big difference. I put some Granny Smith apples in this pie, but wasn’t crazy about how firm the apples were. If you want to use them, try steaming or simmering them briefly before adding to the sour cream mixture. If you have access to Honeycrisp, they’re wonderful in pie. Braeburn and Golden Delicious are very good too.
My recipe makes enough filling for a large deep-dish pie. If you are using a standard pie pan, you’ll have filling left over. You can bake it in lightly buttered ramekins, topping each with streusel mixture. (Make another half batch of streusel, if necessary.) Or you can toss in another cup of apple slices and make two pies.
6 cups thinly sliced apples (best: Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Golden Delicious. A mixture is good!)
CINNAMON STREUSEL TOPPING:
½ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon (reduce if you want a light-colored topping)
Pinch of salt
¼ cup butter, melted
PIE CRUST: Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in shortening until it looks like coarse crumbs.
Mix milk and vodka (or vinegar) together and pour all at once into flour mixture. Toss lightly with a fork just until it forms a ball.
Roll out between two sheets of parchment, lightly dusted with flour.. Roll from the center out, Remove top sheet of parchment. Lay pie pan upside down on dough. With a pastry cutter or sharp knife, cut a circle of dough at least 1½ inch bigger than the pan, all the way around. Place pan right side up and move dough to pan, carefully easing it in. (Hint: slide a flat baking sheet under the parchment. Gently place the pie pan upside down, centered on top of the dough. With one hand on the pie pan and one under the baking sheet, flip it all over. So easy!)
Fold excess dough under and crimp or flute the edges. Place in the refrigerator to stay cool.
PIE FILLING: In a large bowl, stir together the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon until well combined..
Stir in the sugar, flour, and salt.
Heat oven to 400 F.
Peel and quarter apples. (Approximately 4 large apples or 6 medium). Remove the cores and slice thin—less than ¼ inch. When you have about 6 cups, stir into sour cream mixture.
Remove pie pan from refrigerator and pour apple filling into crust, all the way to the top.
Place pan in the oven with a baking sheet on the rack below, just in case of drips. Bake for 15 minutes. Without opening oven, reduce heat to 350 F and bake for an additional 45 minutes.
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.
The first day of our road trip was a long one, from Sacramento to Salt Lake City, where we had a wonderful dinner with my daughter’s old high school friend (hi, Angie!) and then fell into our hotel beds, exhausted. In the morning we were pressed for time, but had heard wonderful things about Pig & a Jelly Jar and just had to have breakfast there. It was a fun little place, and breakfast in the courtyard was lovely, but . . . we’d really been lusting after their warm beignets, and were sad to find out that there weren’t any prepared yet. We’d have had to wait 40 minutes, which would put us behind schedule.
We had a wonderful breakfast anyhow, and then got on the road, sans beignets. I was disappointed because I’d never tried one—had just heard about them from people who’d visited New Orleans. You know what’s coming, right?
Yeah. when I got home I made some. And then I made some more. There’s really nothing hard about it, if you don’t mind a mess. Between the hot oil and the powdered sugar, I had more cleaning than I was counting on, but still . . . it was worth it.
Jelly glazed sausage and a fried egg take this over the top!
As a nod to Pig & a Jelly Jar, and inspired by a glazed doughnut breakfast sandwich I had in New Haven, Connecticut (I know, I’m state hopping here), I split a few of the beignets and added pork sausage lightly glazed with jelly. It should have been blueberry lavender jelly (which is what the restaurant serves with their beignets) but a quick check in the fridge assured me I was all out of blueberry lavender jelly, so I used raspberry. And I added a fried egg. Oh, yum!
Then, because I couldn’t resist, I made a maple beignet version with sausage, scrambled egg, and maple-glazed bacon. This was, of course, my favorite.
I’m going to be honest here: since I’ve never eaten a beignet outside my own kitchen, I don’t really know how mine compare. What I do know is, they are pillowy and sugary, and delicious. And since I was worried because my beignets had big air pockets in them, I Googled the “problem” and found out that air pockets are desirable. Sweet!
I also discovered that I prefer little bite-size beignets. They fry a bit faster and seemed lighter. And you can fool yourself into thinking you’ll just have a few. (Don’t count on it!) So if you aren’t planning on making breakfast sandwiches, I would definitely recommend keeping the squares two inches or smaller.
Note: Beignets aren’t supposed to be a sweet dough (like a doughnut), which is why you drench them in powdered sugar. For my maple version I used dark (bold grade) pure maple syrup as the sweetener, and it worked great. However, even with the flavorful bold syrup, the maple flavor will be very subtle. I am not a fan of subtle maple flavor, so I added a teaspoon of my beloved Mapleine flavoring, which gave the dough a little boost. Next time, I’ll double the amount.
Makes about 16 3-inch beignets. or about 64-70 small beignets (1½ inch)
½ cup pure maple syrup
6 tablespoons butter
5 ounces evaporated milk (small can)
1 cup warm water (110 - 115 degrees)
1 package active-dry yeast
1-2 teaspoons maple flavoring
1¼ teaspoons salt
5½ cups bread flour
Light flavored oil, enough to have at least 2 inches in a heavy pot
Per sandwich: 2 slices bacon, 1 sausage patty, 1 egg, fried or scrambled
Maple syrup for glazing meat, OR
2 tablespoons jelly
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon butter
In a medium saucepan on med-high heat, bring maple syrup to a full boil and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add butter and evaporated milk. Stir occasionally until butter is melted and mixture is lukewarm.
In a large bowl (a stand mixer with dough hook is recommended) combine warm water and yeast. Allow mixture to sit 5-10 minutes, to soften the yeast.
Add warm syrup mixture and eggs to the yeast mixture, mix until combined.
Add salt. Gradually add flour until dough comes cleanly away from the side of the bowl. Continue to knead by machine for 4 minutes, or by hand on floured surface for 6 minutes.
Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow it to rise. This is a rich dough, and may take up to 1½ hours..
On a generously floured surface, roll dough out into a square, approximately 14x14 inches. Try to keep it an even thickness. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to trim off uneven edges. Use a ruler to mark off squares (between 3 and 3½ inches). If making beignet bites, these can be cut in quarters. Let them sit and rest while you prepare the oil.
Pour oil into a deep, heavy pot over medium heat until oil reaches 360 F. You'll need to keep a close eye on the heat as you cook; it will fluctuate. A good thermometer is really important.
While oil is heating, cover a large cooling rack with paper towels.
Use a thin spatula to drop several squares of dough into the hot oil, being careful to leave enough room for the dough to move around freely. If you make large beignets, you may only be able to fry two at a time, depending on the size of your pot. Allow the dough to reach a warm brown color (about 1 minute) before flipping over. Once both sides are cooked, use a slotted spoon or kitchen spider to move the beignets to the prepared cooling rack.
Once all of the beignets are done, sift powdered sugar over both sides. You can give them a second coating in a paper bag with more powdered sugar, if you'd like.
Eat warm!! These can be frozen and reheated, but they're really best if eaten right away.
To glaze bacon or sausage with maple, simply pour a few tablespoons of syrup in a non-stick fry pan over medium heat. Once bubbly, add the meat, flipping several times until syrup turns thick and sticks well.
For the jelly glaze, mix the jelly, water, and butter in a non-stick frypan over medium heat. Stir until hot and bubbly. Add meat, flipping several times, until glaze turns thick and sticks to the meat.
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.