Very strong coffee, bran cereal, molasses, raisins (figs or dates are good too), apple and wheat flour are baked into these tender muffins. They will really wake you up and get you moving. You see where I’m going here, right? All puns and infantile jokes aside, these are really tasty muffins and better for you than a regular berry muffin with a mountain of streudel on top.
This recipe makes 24 muffins. You could cut it in half, but why would you? Wrap and freeze them for a quick on-the-go meal.
Makes 2 dozen muffins (a few less if you use tall tulip liners). Wrap individually and freeze for a quick breakfast.
¾ cup very strong hot coffee (I bring ½ cup freshly ground coffee and 1¼ cups water to a boil, let it simmer for a few minutes, and then put it through a fine strainer.)
½ cup coconut oil (or butter, if you prefer)
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups All-Bran original cereal
1½ cups all purpose white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon dark unsweetened cocoa (Optional. Mostly for color.)
1 cup raisins (or chopped dates or figs)
1 medium apple, grated (leave the skin on, but stop grating before you get to the core!)
butter and sparkling sugar if desired to add to the tops of warm muffins
Heat oven to 400 F.
Prepare muffin pans by lining them with paper liners.
Stir coconut oil (or butter, chunked into small pieces) into hot coffee until melted.
Stir in buttermilk and molasses.
Add eggs and vanilla and beat until completely combined.
Add bran cereal and let it soak while you prepare the dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, combine white flour, wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa. Add raisins (or chopped dates or figs) and grated apple, and toss to coat.
Pour liquid ingredients into bowl and fold or stir gently just until it is mostly incorporated. A few wisps of flour showing is fine. Do NOT overbeat.
Spoon into prepared muffin liners, almost to the top. If you are using tall tulip-type liners, fill a little higher than the level of the pan.
Bake standard size for approximately 16-18 minutes, or tall size for approximately 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of a muffin.
Move the pan of muffins onto a cooling rack and, if desired, brush with soft butter and sprinkle with sparkling sugar or cinnamon sugar. Then remove from pan and set muffins on a rack to cool completely.
The combination of chocolate and peanut butter is irresistible to me, and I just love getting both flavors in one cookie. There are endless ways to put these two doughs together, and I’ll show you a few, but I’m sure you will come up with some fun ideas of your own.
Yes, you’ll have to make two different batches of cookie dough, but it really is a very easy dough to make, and it won’t take you long at all. If you’re wondering how many this will make, I just don’t know what to tell you. It depends on whether you’re making the three layer cookies or the chain cookies or . . .
Let’s just say it makes a generous amount, at least 4 dozen.
Two easy batches of shortbread cookie dough can be combined in countless ways to make creative and delicious cookies.
PEANUT BUTTER DOUGH:
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon milk or water
1½ cups powdered sugar
½ cup cornstarch
3 cups all-purpose flour
CHOCOLATE COOKIE DOUGH:
1½ cups butter, softened
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon water or coffee
1½ cups powdered sugar
½ cup cornstarch
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
To decorate: your choice of chopped peanuts, sprinkles, chocolate icing or ganache
PEANUT BUTTER DOUGH:
In a large mixing bowl (a sturdy stand mixer is best) beat butter, peanut butter, egg yolk, vanilla, and milk (or water) together well.
Add the powdered sugar and cornstarch and beat on low until incorporated.
Gradually add the flour. This is a very stiff dough! It will appear crumbly, but with thorough beating, should come together. If it doesn't, drizzle in a small amount of milk or water.
Wrap and refrigerate dough. Scrape bowl out and use for the chocolate dough.
CHOCOLATE COOKIE DOUGH
In large bowl, beat butter, egg yolk, vanilla, and water (or coffee) together well.
Add the powdered sugar and cornstarch and beat on low until incorporated.
Combine the flour and cocoa and gradually add, mixing until dough forms. If necessary, drizzle in a very small amount of water or coffee.
Wrap and refrigerate both doughs for 30 minutes. If you refrigerate the dough longer, it will become very stiff. If that happens, let it rest at room temperature until manageable.
Heat oven to 350 F.
Working with a small piece of one color at a time, roll ¼ inch thick on lightly floured surface or between sheets of parchment. Bake on ungreased baking sheet or on parchment for approximately 10 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your cookies. They should just be beginning brown on the bottom. Here are some ideas:
Try using two different sizes of the same shape of cutter. If using hearts, cut large hearts out of both doughs, then use a smaller heart cutter in the center of half of the large hearts. Gently press a shape with the center removed onto a solid shape. Once baked, fill the center with chocolate ganache or peanut butter icing. You can also marble the colors, roll, and cut. Or try putting a small heart on a large one, topping with a dab of peanut butter, and covering with another large heart, creating a small raised heart in the center. Cover cooled cookie with icing or ganache. Or cut small hearts out of the center of large hearts to create heart "frames". cut one on the side, and slip the other through the cut. Press lighlty for a 2 heart "chain".
This rich, slightly boozy chocolate cake is paired with a light, slightly boozy whipped tart cherry buttercream filling. (Are you seeing a theme here?) And if that isn’t enough to make you put on your apron, it’s covered with chocolate ganache and sprinkled with chopped walnuts. Add a dollop of whipped cream, and you’d think you were eating a sundae…only better.
Boozy sundaes are the best!
Of course you don’t have to add alcohol. A little cherry flavoring in the cake would be fine. Ditto with the buttercream – just add more flavoring. Obviously you’d want to do this if you were planning to serve the cake to children, because contrary to what we have all been told, alcohol doesn’t always magically disappear when heated.
I used a 6-inch Wiltons heart pan. I sure wish I had two of them, because I had to bake one at a time, and this recipe makes four. It just took a little more time, but the batter held up very well at room temperature. Each cake was leveled and then sliced into two thin layers. I only used five layers for the finished cake, but wisely compensated for the “wonky” layers I knew I’d get. (I seem to be missing that gene. You know, the one where you can see if something is level. You should see the way pictures hang on my wall!)
Hubby happily ate the scraps.
This isn’t an inexpensive cake to make. The dried cherries are pricey, good ganache uses good chocolate, and of course you’ll need the chocolate cherry liqueur and the cherry brandy, but those two liqueurs are wonderful to have around. They are great in so many dishes…or just for sipping!
Seriously, if there’s any time to indulge in something completely decadent, it’s in February! You can use the excuse of Valentine’s Day, George Washington’s birthday (hellloooo…cherries) or a morale booster as winter begins to turn into a slushy, gray mess. Any or all of those reasons work for me.
If you can’t find the dried cherries, by all means used canned sweet cherries – or frozen cherries – or even maraschino cherries. Just blot them well and skip the whole “soaking them in booze” step. I’m sure you’ll find something to do with that extra liqueur.
I just can’t be brutal and cut much off the top of the small cakes to level them. I take off what I must, but there is still a flat half and a slightly rounded half. I use the flat halves for layering, so they’ll stay somewhat level, and then one with a slightly rounded edge for the top. It looks pretty that way, and lets the ganache cascade off nicely.
Speaking of cascading, stop before you think you should. That stuff will keep working its way down and you don’t want huge puddles at the bottom. Hold off on the nuts until you’re sure the lava flow has stopped, otherwise they will be going along for the ride.
I used five of the eight baked layers, which was plenty tall. One tore, and two were a little out of level. If you trust your slicing skills better than I trust mine, just bake three of the cakes and make a few cupcakes with the remaining batter.
Do you know why this recipe looks so HUGE? There are three components, and I’m very wordy about how to do each – the cake, the filling, and the ganache. It’s not as scary as it looks! It all begins with a rich, tender, killer chocolate cake:
½ teaspoon cherry flavoring (a little more if you aren't using the brandy)
10 drops red food coloring
6 cups powdered sugar
⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream
walnuts or sprinkles, if desired
Heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour (or use an oil and flour spray like Baker's Joy) pans. A piece of parchment, cut to fit pan, can be put in the bottom for ease of release. For layered heart cake, use 6-inch heart pans. Cakes may be baked one at a time if only one pan is available. (Make sure pan is cooled and greased between cakes.) Two 9-inch round pans may be used instead.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, and sugar.
Add oil, coffee, milk, and Baileys (or milk and flavoring, if preferred). Beat for 1 minute on medium speed, scraping sides of bowl.
Add eggs and vanilla. Beat 1 additional minute.
Pour batter into pans: Fill the 6-inch heart pans half way, approximately 1½ cups of batter in each. Or divide evenly between 9-inch pans.
Bake 25 minutes. Test with a toothpick. It should come out cleanly when inserted in the center of the cake.
Allow cakes to cool in pans for 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto rack to cool completely. Chill for easiest handling! Cut a thin slice off of the top of each cake to level it, and then cut each cake into two equal layers.
In a small pan on medium heat, combine the dried cherries and 2 tablespoons cherry brandy (or water, if preferred). Bring to a simmer, remove from heat, and let sit for 20-30 minutes.
In large bowl, beat the butter and shortening until smooth and creamy. Add remaining tablespoon of brandy (or milk, if preferred) cherry flavoring, and food coloring, and beat well.
Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until completely incorporated. Mixture will be thick.
With beater on medium high speed, slowly add cream and continue to beat until stiff peaks form - approximately 3 minutes.
Drain the cherries (keep the brandy they were soaking in for later) and stir into the filling.
Spread between 5 cake layers, crumb coat the sides (this is a very thin coating to hold in the crumbs) and chill for about an hour to let the coating set.
While the coating is setting, make the ganache.
Place chopped chocolate into small bowl.
In small pan on medium heat, bring the cream to a heavy simmer. It should be bubbly, but not at a boil. Remove from heat.
Pour half of the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 2 minutes. Stir gently with a rubber spatula.
Return the cream to the stove and bring back to a simmer. Pour over chocolate mixture.
Fold slowly until cream and chocolate are combined. Set aside, but stir occasionally.
If you are using liqueur in this recipe, use a wooden skewer to poke holes in the top of the chilled cake, almost through the bottom layer. Carefully pour remaining brandy (from the cherries) into the holes. OR you can use a tablespoon or two of Baileys. Not too much or the cake will get mushy!
Ice the cake, sides and top, with the remaining filling.
If your ganache is thick but still pourable, it's ready to be spooned over the top of the cake. If it's still very thin, wait a little longer; it will thicken as it sets.
Soda crackers are lots of fun to make and can be shaped however you wish, from traditional squares to seasonal shapes. Sprinkle on cheese, basil, or garlic salt before baking for a savory treat. A little sourdough starter adds a little extra leavening, though the flavor really isn’t detectable.
I’ve played with this recipe a number of times over the last few months, trying to get that perfect blend of crispy and flaky. It’s a fine line, because if they aren’t cooked quite long enough, they aren’t crisp all the way through. Too long (a minute or two makes a huge difference), and they turn brown. I think I finally nailed it, and had fun in the process.
You’ll need sourdough starter. Hopefully you have some in the fridge, but if not, check out my post for Pumpkin Sourdough Bread. There are several ways to get your hands on this valuable stuff!
I use half butter and half shortening in these crackers. I hate to use shortening, but if you read the ingredient label on a box of saltines, you’ll realize that the homemade version is still much more wholesome! I haven’t tried it with all butter; maybe soon. My husband is hoping they’ll turn out like Ritz.
Use COLD ingredients, and don’t over mix. You want to see small chunks of butter and shortening.
Sprinkle with herbs, spices, or shredded cheese if you like savory crackers. The cheese will get dark, so you may want to add it half way through the cooking time.
For fun, create hanging (perching?) crackers by cutting slots on the side to fit your mug or bowl before baking. From my recent experience, I can tell you…angle matters! Do a trial template with a piece of cardboard or toast first.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
With a pastry blender, blend the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients until small chunks remain - about the size of large peas. Don't over-blend.
Combine sourdough starter and cold water. Pour over flour mixture, tossing with a fork or your hands. THE DOUGH WILL NOT COME TOGETHER IN A COHESIVE BALL.
Drop the crumbly dough onto a lightly floured surface and press gently to give it a rectangular shape, approximately 5"x9", using a bench scraper, putty knife, or large spatula 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 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. (5 times total.)
Roll to 5"x9", cover it in plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.
Heat oven to 400 F.
Roll dough out on lightly floured surface. Dough should be very thin - less than ⅛". This will take some time - and muscle! It may help to lift dough and stretch gently a few times during the rolling process. If you are making square crackers, try to keep the dough square or rectangular.
Spray lightly with cooking spray, sprinkle with salt, and poke little holes in the entire surface with a fork. Cut into desired shapes. If you are making shapes other than squares, place them close together, because you won't be able to re-roll the scraps.
Place on ungreased baking sheet, close together but not touching.
Bake for approximately 9 minutes, or until the crackers just start turning golden brown.
Immediately slide off of cookie sheet onto cooling rack.
NOTE: When the crackers are cooled, test one. If they aren't as crispy as you'd like, heat oven to 250 F. and place crackers back in the oven to dry out for 5-6 minutes. Watch them carefully, and remove them if they start to brown.
Oh, heavens! This cherry tart has a rich chocolate crust that lies somewhere between a cookie and a pie crust, and filling that’s spiked with cherry brandy. (Totally optional.) Oh, and did I mention that I used canned cherry pie filling? I know that’s not my usual modus operandi, but I’m afraid my cherry tree is buried under a few feet of snow, and besides…I’m making you create the crust from scratch, which is probably enough of a challenge, right?
I had to do some experimenting to come up with a crust that didn’t turn soggy on the bottom, but I’m happy to say that if you follow my baking instructions, your tart will be tender (but definitely not gummy) on the bottom, and crunchy on the sides. Yum yum yum!
If you don’t want booze in yours (eyeroll), you can skip the whole “cook the filling, lime juice, and cornstarch” step and just dump the cans of filling into the chilled tart crust. I wouldn’t even bother with the lime, (though it does add a nice flavor) because that would mean you’d have to dump the filling into a bowl, and…well…one more bowl to wash!
If you do use the brandy, be sure the cooked mixture is cool before putting it in the crust.
It’s critical to keep your dough chilled, and that egg white wash is a must! This will help keep the cherry mixture from seeping into your bottom crust.
Use whatever method works best for you when you move the crust to your tart pan. It’s thicker than a pie crust, but you can still roll it gently onto a rolling pin to transfer it. I like to roll mine out on parchment, center the tart pan upside down on the dough, slide one cookie sheet under the parchment and lay one gently on top of the dough, then flip. Whatever works best for you!
After you’ve eased your dough into the pan, turn the excess inward and press firmly against the inside edge. Trim off any dough that sticks over the edge of the pan.
Put a baking sheet in the oven while it preheats, then slide the chilled tart onto the hot sheet. This blast of heat from below will also help your crust to cook through. Be careful when you do this; you don’t want it to slide right into the back of the oven!
FILLING: (If not using alcohol, just use canned filling and skip the other ingredients)
2 cans cherry pie filling
1 tablespoon fresh lime (or lemon)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ cup cherry brandy
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips
½ cup cold butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1 egg white, whisked
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.
In a large pot on medium heat, combine two cans of cherry pie filling, lime, and cornstarch. Cook and stir until mixture bubbles and turns clear (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the cherry brandy. Set aside to cool.
In a medium pot over medium heat, bring water, sugar, and salt to a boil.
Remove from heat and add the chocolate chips, whisking until smooth. Allow mixture to cool completely before moving to the next step!
In a medium bowl, grate the butter using a grater with large holes. Add flour and stir until all of the butter is coated.
Add the cool chocolate mixture and stir until mostly combined, then dump out onto lightly floured surface and knead gently just until it comes together into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. (No longer - the chocolate will harden and make it difficult to roll out.)
Lightly spray an 11-inch tart pan with cooking spray. I like to use a flour and oil mixture, like Baker's Joy.
Roll out dough to make a circle about an inch bigger than your tart pan, all the way around. (Your pan should be 11 inches, so the circle would measure approximately 13 inches in all directions.)
Gently ease the dough into the pan. Roll any excess at the top towards the inside of the pan, pressing firmly against the sides. If any dough sticks up past the edge, trim it off.
With a pastry brush, cover the bottom of the crust with egg white. Freeze for 15 minutes (or refrigerate for 30).
Preheat oven to 400 F. Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack while preheating.
Place tart pan onto a flat baking sheet or cutting board. Spoon filling into crust and slide it from the flat sheet onto the hot baking sheet in the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes. Without opening the oven, turn the heat to 350 F and bake an additional 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. When tart is barely warm, slide onto your hand, letting the ring fall down your arm. You may either leave the tart on the metal bottom or use a thin spatula to slide it from the base to a serving platter.
Decorate with whipped cream if desired, or serve with ice cream.
Add lime (or lemon) juice and cornstarch. It will look cloudy – that’s okay.
Cook it until it’s bubbly and fairly clear.
Add flour to grated butter and stir to coat.
Stir chocolate mixture into butter and flour. Make sure the chocolate isn’t warm!
Knead gently until it forms a ball, flatten into disk, wrap and chill. (You should see little bits of butter throughout.)
My favorite method to transfer dough to pan. Center pan upside down on dough, slide baking sheet under parchment, one on toop of dough, and flip.
Brush bottom of crust with egg white and chill. Add filling and bake!
I used stabilized whipped cream on this tart. To stabilize cream, I beat 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form, add 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar and beat until combined. Then I heat about 1/2 teaspoon Knox gelatin in 1/2 teaspoon water until it’s melted and drizzle a little in the cream while mixing on high. I don’t use it all…maybe half, but it’s too hard to melt a smaller amount!
For the tart at the beginning of the post, I beat 4 ounces of room temperature cream cheese, added 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 cup of heavy cream and beat until it was thick and fluffy. I think I like the piped hearts better because the cherries still show.
Or…you could just eat it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Disclaimer: My husband preferred the tart without alcohol; he didn’t like the smell of cherry brandy. It MAY be because I had already spent a fortune at the liquor store picking up other booze for Valentine’s Day baking and went cheap on the brandy, but I liked it. A lot. I’ve never tried Kirsch, but that might be a good alternative if you have some.
Ready, set, GO!
So…onward. There are lots of ideas swirling around in my head; as soon as I corral them into something resembling recipes, you’ll be seeing lots of chocolate, cherries, raspberries, and sprinkles.
If you love peppermint patties, you will swoon over these holiday confections! With a crunchy cookie bottom, a thick layer of soft, creamy peppermint candy, and a firm, snappy coating of chocolate, the combination of textures is every bit as appealing as the flavors. Family and friends will take one bite and beg you to make more; I’ll bet they’ll be the first treats to disappear from your cookie platter.
There’s really nothing hard about making them, but they are a bit of a project. If you have young ones around, I know they’d love to help cut out the shapes and put the cookies and filling layers together. And you don’t have to do it all at once; bake the cookies one day and leave the filling and dipping for another time. The cookies freeze well, so you could get that part out of the way weeks before, if you’re the efficient type.
Frankly, though I love anything and everything dipped in chocolate, I hate doing the dipping. If there were anyone else here I could stick with that job, I’d do it. I don’t usually fuss about getting messy. Up to my elbows in dough? Great! Splattered wtih icing? Sweeeeet! Food coloring under my nails? No problem. But chocolate on my hands? Eeeeuw. Wash wash wash wash.
Okay, I lied; I don’t love EVERYTHING dipped in chocolate. This was a bad idea. Bad!
Still, totally worth it!
Of course I can’t just make something the way I imagined it; I have to play with variations. So…after the recipe and instructions, I’ll show you a few different ideas I tried.
If the chocolate cookie recipe looks familiar, that’s because it’s my go-to recipe when I want crunch. The cookie itself isn’t too sweet, which is perfect, because the patty filling certainly is! It’s basically what everyone’s aunt uses to make wedding mints, right? Put them together and dip the two layers in chocolate, and it just works perfectly together.
I originally considered topping the mint layer with a firm ganache before dipping, but my daughter talked me down from that craziness. She was right—these don’t need more chocolate. (Did I just say that?)
2 cups all-purpose flour (plus a little more, if necessary)
⅔ cups unsweetened cocoa
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
½ teaspoon clear vanilla (optional)
8½ -9 cups powdered sugar
18 ounces dark chocolate
1 tablespoon shortening
Milk or white chocolate, or colored icing for decorating. Or just use sprinkles!
Heat oven to 350 F.
Cream together the butter and sugar.
Add the vanilla, milk, and egg, and beat well.
Add the dry ingredients (slow down there, Tiger...the cocoa will fly everywhere! Beat it on low until it's incorporated) and mix together well. It should be very soft, but if it's too sticky to handle, add up to 3 tablespoons extra flour.
For best results, roll out between two pieces of lightly floured parchment until it's about ¼" thick.
Cut with a star shaped cookie cutter (mine was 2¾" wide) and place ½"-1" apart on ungreased bafking sheet. Bake for 12-13 minutes. The cookies should be fairly firm. If they're still soft, give them another minute or two. They'll harden a bit as they cool.
Allow the cookies to sit on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Beat together the cream cheese and butter. Add peppermint extract and vanilla, if using, and mix well.
Slowly add the powdered sugar, using a sturdy stand mixer and dough hook, if possible. If mixing by hand, stir in as much powdered sugar as possible, then place any remaining sugar on work surface and put the dough on top of it. Knead by hand until smooth. Add additional powdered sugar if dough is too sticky to roll.
Work with half of the dough at a time, keeping the reamaining half tightly wrapped in plastic. Roll out ¼-inch thick between sheets of parchment that have been dusted with powdered sugar.
Cut with the same star cookie cutter you used for the cookies. Place one piece of peppermint dough on each cookie. Using a mini-roller or your hands, make sure the dough goes all the way to the edge of the cookie. Press gently around the edge to make it rounded and smooth all the way around.
Chill for at least one hour.
Melt chocolate and shortening in the microwave at 15 second intervals, stirring each time, or in a small pan on lowest heat, stirring frequently.
Turn each cookie over and dip the peppermint side into the melted chocolate, making sure the chocolate completely covers the peppermint. You don't need to coat the bottom of the cookie.. Allow excess to drip off, and place (cookie side down) on waxed paper or parchment. Chill until chocolate is firm. (If you are using sprinkles, add them before the chocolate hardens)
Or, once chocolate is firm, drizzle with a contrasting color, using milk or white chocolate or a colored icing.
Oh, you’re going to love this! This hearty casserole made with sweet potatoes, apples, cranberries, bacon, and pecans is the ultimate side dish for Thanksgiving, guaranteed to win everyone’s heart around the holiday table. It’s also stellar as a rib-sticking breakfast. Since it freezes well, I recommend that you make a double batch and tuck some away for Christmas, when things are wild and crazy and time is of the essence.
This will be the dish you are requested to bring to every function you attend, September through February. And not in that polite way: “Oh, Aunt Susie…we’re so glad (cough cough) you’re bringing your famous corn and oysters to Thanksgiving again this year”.
See how short this recipe is? It’s not one of my typical three-page-marathon recipes. You’ve just got to give it a whirl! This dish can be changed to suit your preferences, of course. Double the cranberries, omit the bacon (or try ham), substitute maple sugar for brown sugar, or walnuts for pecans.
If you plan on making this ahead and freezing it, it’s best to do so right after it’s put in the casserole dish, not after it’s baked. Be sure to bake it for at least an hour if your casserole is going straight from the freezer to the oven, and test to make sure the veggies are hot and fork tender.
½ cup coarsely chopped raw cranberries (frozen berries are fine, too)
4 pieces of bacon, cooked and broken into small pieces (optional)
⅓ cup brown sugar, packed firmly
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup miniature marshmallows (optional)
Heat oven to 350 F.
Peel sweet potatoes and cut into bite-size pieces. Place in medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a full boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain well.
Peel and core apples. Cut into bite-size pieces.
Place sweet potatoes and apples in a large bowl. Add melted butter and toss to coat.
Add all remaining ingredients except for the marshmallows and toss.
Place in a lightly greased 2½-quart casserole dish, leaving at least ½-inch of space at the top. If you don't have that size, the mixture can be pressed firmly into a 2-quart dish, (any extra can be put in a "bonus" ramekin) or a 3-quart casserole can be used, but it may not need as long in the oven.
Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. (30 if you are using a 3-quart casserole)
Remove from oven, fluff lightly with a fork, and cover with marshmallows. Return to oven and cook for 10–12 minutes, or until marshmallows are golden brown.
Here are some of the ingredients. I always use what the grocery stores call “yams” (they’re not, really), with the orange flesh. They really are sweet potatoes, but I believe they are more flavorful than the pale sweet potatoes. Your choice!
The pig wouldn’t cooperate and stay on the table, but bacon (or ham) really jazz up this dish.
Peel and chunk the sweet potatoes. (I know, I know…call them “yams” if you must!)
Cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute.
Cut apples (whatever kind you like) into bite size pieces.
If you’re doubling the recipe, use a HUGE bowl for the following step:
Toss apples and cooked potatoes in melted butter. Add cranberries and nuts…and everything else except the marshmallows.
In the recipe I mentioned the different options for casserole dishes. A 2 1/2-quart dish is your best bet. I squeezed mine into a very deep pie pan (because it was so pretty) which was fine, but with less headspace, I couldn’t get too carried away with the marshmallows. Boo!
I used a deep pie pan.
Using a 3-quart casserole means you’ll need to cut the baking time down to 30 minutes, since the ingredients are more spread out. The upside is, you can go crazy with the marshmallows!
In a 3-quart casserole.
If you really want to get fancy, and no—I haven’t tried this yet—spoon the mixture into lightly greased ramekins and let each person have their own mini-casserole.
If there ARE any leftovers, they won’t get pushed to the back of the refrigerator with the dressing and green bean casserole (and those nasty corn and oysters), I promise!
This recipe (tweaked slightly) made its debut in a column I wrote for Yummy Northwest a couple of years ago, showcasing “Bounceberry” recipes, (aka: cranberry recipes).
You may want to take a peek at the archived column for more fun holiday ideas.
Delicate maple leaf wafers are perfect for decorating your favorite fall desserts, or, of course, for eating—one after another after another. They’re light and crispy, like the thinnest of potato chips, but the sweet maple flavor of these dainty cookies is even more addictive. (Bet you can’t eat just one!) Jazz them up with fall colors if you’d like, or leave them golden brown. Either way, these treats are quick, easy, and fun to make!
Crunchy brown leaves bursting with maple flavor.
You will need either silicone baking sheets or parchment to bake the cookies on. Trust me on this! I was resistant to both for years, but have now fully embraced their usefulness. There are several ways you can make these leaves, and I’ll show you all of them, but my favorite method involves a stencil (I made my own by sacrificing a silicone sheet and cutting leaf shapes into it), parchment, and a broad pastry brush.
The photo below shows my stencil option on the top, and a simple printed template with parchment over it on the bottom. Both methods work, but the stencil definitely makes things go faster!
Two options: A stencil over the parchment or a template under the parchment. (For the template you would paint inside the lines, directly onto the parchment.)
If you are making brown leaves, the maple flavoring will be added to the bowl along with the melted butter. If you are making colored leaves, separate the batter into small bowls (how many will depend on what colors you want to use). In one of the bowls, stir enough maple flavoring into the batter to achieve a rich brown color. Stir food coloring into the others.
This is pretty obvious, I guess, but it doesn’t hurt to mention: the colored leaves won’t taste like maple! If you add maple flavoring to the bright colors, they will turn muddy. And nobody wants THAT, so…if you want your leaves to taste like maple, you’ll need to use more brown batter in each leaf.
The leaves can be baked either on a silicone baking sheet or on parchment. I prefer parchment because the silicone sheet leaves a shiny, slightly bumpy texture on one side of each leaf. If you don’t mind that, the silicone sheets work really well. The parchment does tend to wrinkle slightly, giving some of the leaves a rippled effect, but I kind of like the look—like a soggy autumn leaf. And, having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I remember a lot more soggy leaves than dry ones!
I brush the batter over the leaf shapes. Thin is best; they come out crispier, and can be beautifully lacy. But…they are also more fragile. Plan on losing a few. I think you’ll know what to do with the broken ones, right? Here’s a lovely brown leaf ready to go in the oven.
Thinly brushed batter will result in a delicate, lacy wafer.
I’ll give you the recipe (oh, so easy) and then show you some fun options.
Makes between 4 and 5 dozen wafer cookies, depending on thickness. You will need either a maple leaf stencil to go over the parchment (easily made by tracing a maple leaf cookie cutter onto a silicone sheet or cardboard and cutting shapes out with a craft blade) or a maple leaf template to slide under the parchment.
¼ cup butter
3 egg whites
½ cup superfine sugar (or for more maple kick, use fine maple sugar!)
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon heavy cream OR thick (Bulgarian style) buttermilk
½ - 1 teaspoon maple flavoring (like Mapleine) if making brown leaves. If making colored leaves, maple flavoring will be added to a small portion of batter. See instructions below.
Heat oven to 375 F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking sheets.
In the microwave or in a small pan on low heat, melt butter. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a medium bowl, beat egg whites and sugar together until foamy.
Add flour and cream. Beat until smooth.
Add butter and (if you are making brown leaves) maple flavoring. Beat on low until well mixed.
If you wish to make colored leaves, separate batter into small bowls and add maple flavoring to one of the bowls until you get a rich brown color. Add food coloring of your choice to the others.
If you are using a stencil, lay stencil on parchment covered baking sheet and brush batter over each leaf cutout. (Keep coating as thin as possible without leaving bare spots.) Carefully lift stencil onto the second baking sheet and repeat. If you are using a template, place it under the parchment and paint inside the lines, using a pastry brush or paintbrush.
For colored leaves, dip the pastry brush into two or three colors at a time and brush onto stencils, keeping brush strokes to a minimum to avoid muddy colors.
Bake one sheet at a time for approximately 6 minutes. Watch carefully and pull the leaves as they are beginning to turn a mottled brown. Even the colored leaves will pick up brown streaks.
Remove from oven and quickly but carefully slide a thin metal spatula under each leaf, moving them to a cooling rack or a piece of crumpled up foil, to create a curled shape.
If the leaves begin to harden before you've finished shaping them, they can be returned to the oven for 15 seconds to soften a little.
lift the stencil carefully and move to clean parchment for the next batch!
OR you can go with some bright fall colors. The best way I’ve found to make the colored leaves is to dip the pastry brush into two (or three) different colors, then brush onto the stencil, using the least number of brush strokes possible.
Go a little wild with the colors!
Ready to bake
Remember that I told you there were other methods? If you are a free spirit, you can simply brush leaves free-style on your parchment, using a large artist’s paintbrush, or put a template under the parchment and use it as a guide.
Painting leaves. (These were filled in with streaks of color.)
Or…brush brown leaves onto the stencil and then highlight them with colors, using a paintbrush.
You can also use that paintbrush to paint different streaks of color onto the stencil.
Kids might have fun just painting random shapes. If you go this route, I’d advise using a silicon sheet, because the parchment will slide around on the baking pan.
They bake quickly – exactly 6 minutes in my oven. Yours might vary, so watch them closely. They go from anemic to charred very quickly!
Slightly crumple a big piece of foil and have it sitting on the counter. As you lift each leaf, immediately lay it on the foil. It will shape itself over the hills and valleys of the foil into appealing fallen leaf shapes.
If your leaves start to get too firm to shape before you can remove them all from the baking sheet, put them back in the oven for 15 seconds. OR lay them on a baking sheet with crumpled foil and return to the oven briefly. As long as they weren’t over baked to begin with, they should soften and bend into interesting shapes. Or just embrace flat leaves!
I learned that if I always had a parchment covered baking sheet on the counter I could lift the messy stencil from the pan I was finished with and move it to the empty sheet to wait to be painted. Otherwise, I obsessively washed the stencil between batches, wasting waaaay too much batter. OCD much?
You can make the batter several hours ahead and keep it chillin’ in the refrigerator, covered tightly.
Besides just eating these sweethearts hand over fist, I love to use them for decorating pies, cakes, or cheesecakes. Here’s a maple cheesecake with leaf decorations.
(No…I’m not posting this cheesecake recipe. I’ve got to keep SOME of my good stuff for the cookbook I’m working on, and this is definitely one for the book!) I know, what a tease, huh?
Fun, easy, creative! This would be a wonderful project to do with kids. Perhaps to be arranged on little plates at each Thanksgiving place setting?
Tangy sourdough combines with rich pumpkin puree to flavor this bread to perfection. The fragrant loaves are a reminder that there’s a chill in the air and comfort food is beckoning…a harbinger of the coming holidays.
A turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich on sourdough pumpkin bread? French toast with pure maple syrup? Crackly, chewy rolls with soft interiors? Yes, PLEASE!
Sourdough starter is always hanging out in my refrigerator…unless I’ve killed it. Sourdough and houseplants are at risk in my household. I either smother them with attention or forget about them until it’s too late to rectify the situation.
Which is why I keep dried sourdough in my freezer; it’s a backup plan that has come in very handy.
If you don’t have sourdough starter, there are several options:
Start your own. I had a tough time with this in the past, but the method I used this time was easier than I expected. Maybe I just got lucky and caught the right yeast, but it was pretty painless.
Beg some off of a friend. I’ve done this too, but if I kill the starter I feel really guilty (sorry, Laurie!) so I tend to muddle through by myself.
Send away for some that is a strain from the 1800s…absolutely free. You just need to send a self-addressed stamped envelope (and I encourage a small donation). I love the idea of having starter with a pedigree! Go here for more information: Carl’s Friends.
For more information about creating your own sourdough starter, drying and freezing it, and instructions for feeding it—plus a few fun recipes—click on this link to a Yummy Northwest column I wrote: From Starter to Finish.
At least once a week I remove some of my starter (replacing it with flour and water, of course) and mix up a “sponge” – a batter that sits all night and is ready for action the next morning. I use 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast in the sponge, but if you’re a purist you can skip the yeast entirely. Just be aware that you will be at the whim of your dough; it will rise when it damn well pleases! I get a little insurance by using that tiny bit of added yeast.
Since you won’t know exactly how long your bread will take to rise, I strongly recommend starting your sponge the night before and mixing your dough the next day.
Sourdough sponge – it’s ALIVE!
It’s usually just a matter of adding some water, salt, and flour to get a lovely, crusty loaf of dough – but for this recipe I also added 15-ounces of canned pumpkin puree. (Be careful, don’t use the kind that’s premixed for pies. Grab the solid-pack pumpkin.) I also added a little less water and a little more flour to offset the moisture in the pumpkin.
Note: For a milder flavor, decrease the pumpkin to 1 cup and increase the warm water to 1 cup in the bread recipe.
Night before: Create the sponge by combining all of the sponge ingredients and beating well with a wooden spoon. Cover and allow the sponge to sit at room temperature overnight.
Bread: in a large bowl (a stand mixer and dough hook is recommended) combine the bubbly sponge, pumpkin, water, salt, and 6 cups of bread flour. Knead by machine for 5 minutes, or by hand on floured surface for 7-8 minutes. Dough should come cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and be just slightly tacky. If dough is too soft, add additional flour a little at a time.
Cover bowl and allow dough to rise until doubled. If you used a little yeast in the sponge, this will take between 1 - 2 hours. If you skipped the yeast, it could take much longer. Be patient and let the bread do its thing. The longer it takes to rise, the more flavorful the bread will be.
When dough has doubled, punch it down on a lightly floured surface and shape it into loaves. Place in lightly greased loaf pans or form into balls and place on baking sheets with a little cornmeal sprinkled on them. Cover with a towel and allow dough to rise until doubled. With a sharp knife or razor, cut several shallow diagonal slashes in the loaves (or an "X" on round loaves).
Heat oven to 425 F. For the crispiest crust, place a pan of water on the bottom of the rack while the oven is heating. Be very careful when you open the door - there will be lots of steam. Alternatively, you can use a spray bottle to spray the loaves and the inside of the oven when you put the pans in to bake.
Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until loaves are rich golden brown. For a shiny crust, brush hot loaves with butter. Cool on racks.
Make those loaves whatever shape you want! Let ’em rise, and bake. For crispy, crackly crusts, use steam!
I’m a sourdough fiend. Can’t resist a piece (or two) of toasted sourdough with a little peanut butter.
Once you have an active starter, making sourdough bread is a cinch! My goal is to make as little mess as possible, so I mix my sponge right in the mixer bowl, then just dump the remaining ingredients in the next day. I don’t turn it out into a greased bowl to rise – just cover the mixing bowl. It seriously takes 15 minutes of effort to make a couple of loaves. You just have to time it for when you’ll be hanging around the house.
My guess is, with the scent of sourdough wafting through the air, everyone will be hanging around the house. Get the butter ready!
These spicy molasses cookies are slightly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, just like a spider! Bwa ha ha. I try to put aside my hatred of spiders when I decorate and eat these delightful, flavorful cookies, because at Halloween it’s kind of fun to enjoy the food, yet be grossed out at the presentation—sort of a “love to hate it” situation.
The dough is very soft and must be chilled before rolling and baking, so planning ahead is a good idea. If you wrap it well, you can actually make this dough several days ahead…if you’re the efficient, organized type. (I salute you!)
I made several batches of these a few years ago for a holiday bazaar, and they sold like crazy. It’s a horrible picture, but you can see how huge they were.But…not everyone wants a whole handful of cookie, so I improvised and made these cute little two-inch bites for this post.
The dough is very quick to make; just leave yourself plenty of time to chill it properly. It also helps to roll it out between two sheets of lightly floured parchment. And even though I really don’t like using shortening, it’s important in this recipe. All butter will make the cookies spread more, and you don’t want that!
Makes about 8 dozen small (2-inch) cookies. You can make them larger or just lightly frost the rest when you get tired of making spiders!
½ cup butter, slightly softened
½ cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
5½ cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup molasses
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
Royal Icing - use your favorite recipe OR try mine:
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder (I use Wiltons brand, available in the cake decorating section)
¼ cup water
Dark icing, melted chocolate, dark brown coated candy...whatever you want to use for the spider.
In a large bowl (a stand mixer is helpful) beat together the butter, shortening, brown sugar, and white sugar until well combined.
Add eggs and beat until incorporated.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt, and baking powder.
In a small bowl combine the molasses and sour cream. Whisk in the baking soda. It will foam up and lighten in color.
At low speed, add ⅓ of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. When most of the flour is mixed in, add ⅓ of the molasses mixture. Repeat twice, scraping the sides of the bowl often. Do not overbeat!
Chill dough for at least 2 hours. Overnight is better.
Heat oven to 375.
Roll out ¼ of the dough at a time, leaving the rest in the refrigerator. Dough should be about ¼-inch thick. Cut into circles and place on parchment covered baking sheet, 1 inch apart.
Bake small circles for 8-9 minutes, larger circles for 9-10 minutes. Touch the top of one cookie gently. If your finger leaves a mark, give them another minute. For crispy cookies, add an extra minute or two.
Cool on a rack.
To make royal icing: Combine powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water. Beat with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes, until thick and fluffy.
Using a pastry bag and small tip (or a heavy zipper bag with the tip cut off) pipe spider webbing onto cool cookies: make a straight line from top to bottom, then side to side. Then two more lines diagonally, like cutting a pie into 8 pieces. Pipe near the outer edge of the cookie, swooping from one line to the next. Do it again closer to the center. That's it!
Hint: You can also coat the entire cookie in a thin layer of icing, let it dry, and then draw the web on with a food color pen like Wilton's FoodWriter.
You can make the spider out of dark chocolate frosting (this is one of those times I'd encourage buying a can of frosting for simplicity), ganache, or by piping melted chocolate for the legs and head, and using a dark brown M&M for the body.
Beat butter and sugar, then add eggs. Mixture should be light and fluffy.
In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients
In a small bowl, whisk baking soda into molasses and sour cream. It foams!
Alternate molasses and dry ingredients. Dry first, then wet. Repeat twice.
Cover dough and chill thoroughly.
Cut circles and bake on parchment. Size is up to you!
There are two decorating options I like:
Wait for the icing to dry (see the center? I didn’t wait long enough) and draw the web onto cookie with a food marker. OR pipe it with black icing or melted chocolate.
or pipe royal icing webs on plain cookies. I think the spiders show up a little better this way.
To make the spiders, simply pipe on legs and a small head, using black icing or melted chocolate (I stir a tiny bit of corn syrup into the warm chocolate, just until it thickens a little) and top it with a dark brown M&M. You can find lots of different spider shapes on Google.
I had intended to go all out with these—make brown recluse and black widow spiders—but it creeped me out so badly I just couldn’t do it. If you are tougher than I am, go for it. Making these cookies was bad enough for this arachnophobe!
This recipe makes a whopping 8 dozen small (2-inch) cookies. If you get tired of drawing webs and making spiders, you can always make them larger OR just lightly ice some of them with the crispy royal icing.