Easter Bread Baskets

I love this bread. It’s fast and easy, uses only a few ingredients, and tastes like heaven . . . soft and fluffy inside, crispy and crackly outside, though for this recipe I added a little olive oil and skipped the steam bath in the oven, because as much as I adore that crackly crust, it wasn’t the look I was after.

The recipe makes enough for a large basket, flower decorations, and lots of rolls to fill your basket with. If you just want to make the basket and skip the rolls, cut the recipe in half.

Making the basket really isn’t hard at all. If you’ve ever made a lattice pie crust, you’ve got this! You know, under and over. Under and over. If there are any unattractive spots, cover them with flowers! I made roses for one and daisies and wild flowers for the other, then painted them with colored cream.

This recipe looks intimidating, but that’s just because I had a really hard time explaining the details of weaving with dough, Just look at the pictures; you’ll figure it out!.

Easter Bread Baskets
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Makes a large basket, flower decorations, and enough rolls to fill it to overflowing. If you only want to make the basket, cut the recipe in half! YOU WILL NEED AN OVEN-SAFE BOWL
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups very warm water
  • 2 packages active-dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • heavy cream and food coloring if desired for flower decorations
Instructions
  1. Cover the outside of an oven-safe mixing bowl with foil, pressing firmly to smooth out wrinkles. (I used an 8-inch bowl because that was all I had, but a larger one would be great.) For best results, spray foil lightly with a flour/oil baking spray.
  2. In a large bowl (a sturdy stand mixer is highly recommended) combine warm water, yeast, and sugar. Allow to sit for 5 minutes to soften yeast.
  3. With mixer running on low and using a dough hook, gradually add flour and salt. Once combined, add olive oil.
  4. Knead by machine for 5 minutes, or by hand on lightly floured surface for 7 minutes. Dough should be smooth and buttery, not sticky.
  5. Place dough in greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled - about 1 hour in a warm kitchen.
  6. Heat oven to 375 F.
  7. Punch down dough. Divide in half. Return one half to the bowl and cover to rise again. Place the other half on a lightly floured surface and roll out approximately 16 inches by 13 inches.
  8. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut 8 long strips, about ⅓-inch wide. Turn prepared bowl upside down on a baking sheet and place one strip across the bowl, letting it drape down both sides to the baking sheet, leaving at least 1 inch extra at the bottom. Cut off any extra. (Keep scraps under plastic wrap to use later.) Repeat with the other 7 pieces, keeping them evenly spaced. I find it's easiest to start with one horizontal, then one vertical, and then fill in the gaps.
  9. Cut 7 more strips. (Hint: If the long strips are too awkward to work with, cut them in half. You can hide a jointed piece under any vertical strip.) Lifting every other piece, weave the dough strip under and over the vertical strips at the top of the bowl. (Which is actually the bottom of the bowl, right? So confusing.) Add another ring, then press them down firmly. Once baked, this will be where it sits, so it needs to be firm and flat.
  10. Continue down the side of the bowl. Try not to stretch the dough.
  11. When you get to the bottom, Fold the vertical strips over the bottom ring and pinch firmly. (Some will go up and over, some with go under. Use your thumb to press around the bottom, at each vertical strip and in the space between.
  12. To make roses, cut strips 4-5 inches long and roll up, pinching to thin dough as you go. Press firmly onto basket. Cut out and add other flowers and leaves using small cutters. (Remember to point the leaves down, because it will be flipped over when it's baked.) Paint with a little heavy cream colored with food coloring.
  13. Bake for approximately 15-17 minutes, until it begins to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to sit until almost cool. Gently pull pan and foil away from basket.
  14. HANDLE: Twist two ½-inch wide strips of dough together. Place over upside down bowl and trim at the bottom, tucking the ends under the bowl. Place on baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes, until it starts to turn golden. Remove and let cool.
  15. ROLLS: Increase temperature of oven to 400 F.
  16. Punch down remaining dough. Cut into equal-size pieces (about 2 ounces each) and shape into balls. Use the scraps to make more rolls. Place 1 inch apart on parchment covered baking sheets and let rise for 30 minutes. Cut an "X" into the top of each and bake until tops are golden - about 15-17 minutes.
  17. Handle can be attached with toothpicks, or simply set into the basket, supported by the rolls.

Place dough in greased bowl. Let it rise until doubled.

Fat and sassy! It took an hour to rise in my (very) warm kitchen. If your place is cooler, it could take longer.

I rolled mine long and skinny. Doesn’t matter, as long as it’s about 1/4-inch thick.

Lay 8 strips across bowl, evenly spaced. Leave at least 1 inch at the bottom. (Use more if you want a tighter weave.)

Weave the first strip, over and under. Pinch together where they meet.

2nd strip. Press down with hand before working your way down the bowl. The basket will sit on this, so make it nice and flat!

Fold extra dough (trimming if necessary) over bottom ring.

After folding ends over bottom ring, press around the bottom edge at junction of horizontal and vertical pieces and once in between each vertical piece. Just makes it purty.

Cut flowers and leaves using cookie or gum paste cutters, or press dough into fondant molds

Roll strips of dough to create roses.

Press decorations firmly onto basket. Paint with heavy cream and food coloring.

After basket is baked and removed from bowl, twist two pieces of dough together and lay across bowl, tucking ends under to hold in place. Bake. This is the handle. (Totally optional.)

I added some little dove rolls and decorated “egg” rolls to this basket. The egg rolls were uncooperative. Maybe a different bread dough would be better. The doves were fun and sweet. But that’s a blog for another day.

The world is going crazy right now, but I wish you a blessed Easter. For the record, baking is supposed to be very calming to the spirit. I recommend it highly!

Lorinda

Corned Beef Hash Pie with Painted Crust

Okay, it’s not one of the healthiest meals around, but boy, is it rib-sticking. We love this easy hash, and tucking it in a flaky pie is a perfect way to use leftover corned beef. I wanted to make the pie for St. Patrick’s Day, not after, so I cooked up a corned beef just for this purpose. For a standard pie you’ll need about 3 cups of chopped corned beef.

Heavy cream mixed with food coloring made a simple, thick paint that held its color nicely while baking. I used an ice cube tray for a palette. As it turned out, this was an excessive amount of “paint”; most of it went down the drain once the pie was made. You may want to be a little more prudent than I if you try this.

Whipping cream and food coloring make wonderful pastry paint!

Have you ever attended one of those “Corks & Canvas” events where you all attempt to paint the same picture? If so, you may have seen me. I was that nutcase who painted with her fingers. It’s just a lot more natural for me than using brushes. (And yeah, it might have had something to do with the wine we were served.) I have to tell you, except for the tiny details, finger painting worked really well on the pie crust, too.

And I have the green fingertips to prove it.

The recipe below is enough for one standard pie. If you have a larger pan, or if you plan to layer (the rainbow, sheep, and a few of the hills were separate layers) you may want to make a bigger batch of crust and bump the filling up to four cups of potatoes and 4 cups of meat.

Corned Beef Hash Pie with Painted Crust
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Amounts are for standard pie pan. If you are using a large, deep-dish pan, you may wish to make more filling and crust.
Ingredients
  • HASH FILLING:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 3 cups peeled, cubed (small cubes) potatoes
  • 3 cups chopped, cooked corned beef
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 cups broth (I used beef, but chicken works well, too)
  • ¼ cup flour
  • CRUST:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold shortening
  • ¼ cup cold milk
  • 1 tablespoon vodka (or vinegar)
  • OPTIONAL: heavy cream and food coloring for painting designs on the crust
Instructions
  1. FILLING: In a large skillet on medium high heat, add butter and oil. When hot, add cubed potatoes. Stirring often, cook for 5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium low. Add corned beef and onions. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together broth and flour. Add to potato and meat mixture. Stir until it thickens, then remove from heat. Allow the mixture to cool.
  3. Heat oven to 350 F.
  4. CRUST: In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in the shortening, using a pastry cutter, until shortening is about the size of small peas.
  5. Combine milk and vodka. Drizzle into flour mixture, tossing mixture with a fork or rubber spatula, until it is blended and begins to hold together.
  6. On a generously floured surface, roll half of the dough out until you can cut a circle larger than the top width of your pie pan. (Aim for at least 1 inch larger, all the way around.) Cut out circle, gently roll up on your rolling pin, and ease into the pan. Trim edge, leaving a little hanging over the edge of the pan.
  7. Roll the other piece out to the same size. If you are planning to paint the top crust, make sure the rolled crust has plenty of flour under it. Slide it onto a thin flexible cutting board or a floured baking sheet for ease in handling.
  8. Mix your choice of food coloring into small amounts of heavy cream (an ice cube tray works well.)
  9. Paint onto the crust, using soft paintbrushes. Try not to overwork the "paint" or the crust will get mushy. I found that my fingers worked better than brushes in large areas. Leave a 1-inch unpainted area around the outside of the circle; this will be the fluted edge.
  10. This is a little tricky: carefully slide the crust off the floured base, positioning it evenly. Fold both crusts under together and flute.
  11. (If you aren't painting the crust, fill the bottom crust with cooled hash, place the top crust over it, and, pressing the two crusts together, fold under, all the way around the pan. Flute the edges, brush the top with a little cream or an egg wash on the top if desired, and place pie on a baking sheet.)
  12. Bake 45-50 minutes at 350 F, until golden brown around the edges.

Cook the cubed potatoes, add meat and onions, then thicken with broth and flour.

Before it was baked.

H

So much flavor!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Lorinda

Sour Cream Apple Pie

I’ve never liked apple piestoo sweet, too sticky. But this apple pie is different; the sour cream filling mellows out the flavor, the spices aren’t overwhelming, and the cinnamon streusel topping is waaaay better than a top crust.

I posted this recipe years ago in my Yummy Northwest column (Yummy Northwest is gone now, but I saved copies for posterity) and consider it one of my go-to recipes for cold weather and holidays. I’ll bet you will, too.

I’ve been making this for over forty years, and honestly can’t remember where I got the original recipe, but if I find the source I will definitely give credit to the genius who created this!

Sour Cream Apple Pie
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Ingredients
  • PIE CRUST:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold shortening
  • ¼ cup very cold milk
  • 1 tablespoon vodka (or vinegar, if preferred)
  • PIE FILLING:
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 cups apples, peeled and thinly sliced (I like to use Granny Smith apples )
  • STREUSEL:
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
Instructions
  1. CRUST: In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in the shortening, using a pastry blender, until there are no lumps larger than peas.
  2. Combine milk and vodka (or vinegar) and add, tossing with a fork (or your fingers) until it holds together. Roll out a crust a little bigger than your pan, and ease it into the pan, crimping the edges. Use a small cookie cutter to cut shapes to decorate the edge of the crust, if desired. (I like to brush the shapes with a little melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before adding. I bake a few separately to decorate the top of the baked pie, too.)
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. For filling: mix flour, sugar, salt, and nutmeg in large bowl.
  4. Mix together egg, sour cream, vanilla, and apples. Stir into flour mixture and spoon into pie shell. Mix together ingredients for crumb topping and set aside.
  5. Bake pie at 400 F for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 F for 30 minutes. Remove pie from oven and sprinkle with all the prepared crumb topping. Return to oven for 15 minutes.
  6. Enjoy warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

 

I hurried through this post because someone asked for the recipe. I’ll make it again in the next few days (the sacrifices I make for you!) and add prep photos. But it’s pretty easy. You’ve got to give this one a try!

Cherry Key Lime Cupcakes

Cherry-lime is a perfect flavor combination; a little sweet, a little tangy. When I found key limes on sale for a jaw-droppingly low price, I snapped up two bags of them and then let my mind go wild.

It likes to do that . . . especially at three o’clock in the morning.

Since Valentine’s Day is almost here, cherries were a natural choice to complement the lime flavor. Both were used in the cake batter, and then I decorated the cupcakes with maraschino roses.

It took a lot of cherries before I figured out the easiest method to make roses. My fingers looked like I was part of a crime scene. Perma-red! And cutting the limes was a learning experience too. (Let’s just say that my favorite knife and I are no longer friends.) Please be careful; those limes are slippery little devils.

Gah! After making the roses. (But before attempting to cut my finger off.) Fun times.

If you aren’t familiar with key limes, they are smallmuch smaller than a regular lime.  And boy, oh boy, do they have a lot of flavor.They lighten in color as they ripen, so you want to look for shades of light green and yellow. Dark green limes are too firm and don’t produce much juice. Zesting and juicing them takes patience. I bounced between quartering them and squeezing with my fingers, and using a garlic press. (I made this recipe three times, and my hands got tired!) From experience, I can tell you that a good sturdy garlic press works well as long as the lime is quartered first, but have the skin side facing up, otherwise you’ll get sprayed in the face. I know this for a fact.

Stained hands, a cut finger, and lime juice in the face. Yes, I had a GREAT time making these. And you can, too. Bwa ha ha.

But look at these sweethearts. Worth it, right?

Here’s the recipe and instructions. Disclaimer: I don’t like using shortening. I really don’t. I tried this with butter. I tried this with coconut oil. The flavor was excellent, but the best color, best rise, came from shortening. So . . . if you substitute, you may not get a light, fluffy cake.

Cherry Key Lime Cupcakes
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Makes approximately 30 cupcakes or two 9-inch layers (with 2-inch sides) If making a rose for each cupcake, you will need two 16-ounce jars of cherries for the entire recipe.
Ingredients
  • CAKE:
  • ½ cup (packed) finely chopped maraschino cherries, blotted dry
  • 12 key limes
  • ¾ cup shortening
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 5 eggs (1 whole egg plus 4 egg whites, separated) room temperature
  • 2¼ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • FROSTING:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (optional)
  • ¼ cup cream
  • ROSES (MAKES 30):
  • 45 cherries (a 16 ounce jar has between 30-35 cherries.)
  • 8 limes for leaves
Instructions
  1. Begin by prepping the limes. You'll need ½ cup of lime juice for the cake, and 2 tablespoons for the icing (optional). Zest them first, placing zest in a small bowl.Quarter the zested limes and either squeeze by hand or use a sturdy garlic press to juice them. (If you don't have quite enough juice, add water to make up the difference.) Strain out any stray seeds. Set aside 2 tablespoons for the icing and add ½ cup of juice to the zest.
  2. Heat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners, or prepare two 9-inch round pans (with 2-inch sides) by greasing and flouring or spraying with baking spray (like Baker's Joy).
  3. In a large bowl, beat the shortening and sugar together well.
  4. Add lime zest and juice. Mix well, scraping the sides of the bowl often.
  5. Add 1 whole egg and beat well.
  6. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  7. Add dry ingredients and milk alternately, ⅓ of each at a time, beginning with the dry ingredients and ending with the milk. Just mix until combined.
  8. In a small cup or bowl, stir the chopped cherries into 1 tablespoon flour. Fold into batter.
  9. In a medium bowl, beat the 4 egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold gently into batter.
  10. Spoon into cupcake liners, about ⅔ full. Or, if making a cake, divide between the two pans.
  11. Bake cupcakes approximately 20 minutes, (cake layers 25-30 minutes) or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Remove to rack to cool.
  12. FROSTING: Beat butter and shortening well. Add powdered sugar and lime juice and mix thoroughly - approximately 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl often.
  13. Add whipping cream and beat well. Pipe onto cool cupcakes or spread on cake. NOTE: The recipe given is adequate for the cupcakes, but if you are making a cake and want lots of embellishments (rosettes on the top, a generous design at the bottom) you may want to double the recipe.
  14. ROSES: 30 cherries will be used for the outer petals. 15 cherries will be used to create inner bud. Blot cherries with paper towel. Using a sharp knife and working your way around the cherry, cut 3-5 "petals", beginning from top and cutting down almost to the bottom. Use the tip of the knife or scissors to cut out center. Repeat with 29 more cherries. (Wear gloves if you don't want red fingers!)
  15. With the remaining 15 cherries, use a sharp knife, trim two thin pieces of cherry skin, working around the top half and then the bottom half. Roll each strip and place one in the center of each "petaled" cherry. Place one on each cupcake. (If you make these ahead, set them on a plate and refrigerate until ready to decorate.)
  16. With a sharp knife, cut 4 thin pieces of skin from the limes, working from top to bottom. Cut into leaf shapes. A scallop-edged pastry wheel makes them look more like rose leaves, if you have one. Place a leaf next to each rose. A thin strip for a stem is pretty too. Get creative!

 

A fine grater (or microplane) will do the job.

A sturdy garlic press works well, as long as you quarter the limes.

If you’d rather not make 30 roses, you could always make a cake and just put a few on top! I used some Tillen Farms Bada Bing cherries on this cake, but . . . well . . . they kinda look like olives, right? I love them, though. They don’t have artificial colors, which is very nice. But . . . olives.

I know I didn’t give you much time, and will totally understand if you aren’t able to pull this recipe off by Valentine’s day. (Slacker!) But hey, wouldn’t this be pretty for Christmas?

Lorinda

Cordon Bleu Pastry Pockets

Chicken, ham, and Swiss cheese are wrapped in pastry dough and baked to buttery, flaky perfection. The upcoming Super Bowl was my inspiration, but this hearty appetizer would be great for any party. They’re easy to serve and eat, and believe it or not, the first batch can be ready for the oven in an hour.

The dough is layered, but doesn’t require the trips back and forth to the refrigerator that puff pastry or croissant doughs demand. You simply mix it, roll and fold it four times, and then roll it out into a large, thin rectangle which is cut into 4-inch squares. Fill and bake. The dough resists tearing and stretches obligingly when you pull it over the filling.

I played a little bit and used dark beer in place of the milk in the recipe. It was actually very tasty (The Man was a fan of these), but I didn’t think they were as flaky . . . a little more pie crust than puff pastry. And the color wasn’t quite as pretty, though maybe a lighter beer would have made a difference. Still, you might want to give it a try, just for fun.

Cordon Bleu Pastry Pockets
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Makes 20 Pockets
Ingredients
  • 1 cup finely chopped ham
  • 1 cup finely chopped chicken
  • 1 cup finely chopped Swiss cheese
  • 1-2 tablespoons cream cheese (Optional. Makes the filling easier to handle.)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • Heavy cream OR 1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water, to brush on pastries before baking
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine ham, chicken, and Swiss cheese. Mix in cream cheese if desired. (This will make the mixture a little sticky, making it easier to fill pockets.) Place in refrigerator.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Toss the butter pieces in the flour and cut in, using a pastry blender, just until pieces of butter are about the size of a large blueberry.
  3. Stir in cold milk until mostly combined. Some crumbs are fine. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and use your hands to shape and press down, forming a rectangle.
  4. *With a rolling pin, roll dough into a 12-inch by 5-inch rectangle. It will be messy and crumbly. Don't worry - just do the best you can. With one short end facing you (dusting surface with flour as needed), use a large spatula or dough scraper to lift the bottom third of the dough and fold it, so the short end is in the middle. Now lift the top third and lay it over the dough so the short end is at the bottom. You should have 3 equal layers of very crumbly dough. Turn the dough to the left so the long open edge is on the right (like a book)*
  5. Repeat from (*) to (*) three more times. Dough should be smooth, with small areas of butter visible.
  6. Heat oven to 425 F. Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  7. On floured surface, roll dough. After trimming edges, you'll need a 20-inch by 16-inch rectangle, so roll it out a little larger than that. Trim edges to make it neat and mark it every 4 inches, then cut out 20 squares.
  8. Mound filling in the center of one square at a time, extending toward opposite corners. Pull the top corner down to the bottom one, tucking in any stray filling that tries to escape. Press firmly all around the edge, then use a fork to go over the edge again. Use a knife or pastry cutter (if desired) to neatly trim and straighten the outer edge. Poke once with the fork on the top of each pocket.
  9. Place on prepared baking sheets, leaving 1 inch between pastries. Coat lightly with cream or egg wash. (A paper towel dipped in wash works better than a brush.) Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove to cooling rack.

Combine finely chopped ham, chicken, and Swiss cheese. (Stir in a little cream cheese if desired, to make it easier to handle when filling pockets.)

Toss chopped butter into dry ingredients and combine with pastry blender.

Stir in cold milk (or beer!) Just until mostly combined.

Use hands to flatten (it will be a crumbly mess) and then roll as best you can to a 12×5-inch rectangle.

Use a large spatula or dough scraper to lift the bottom short end up to the middle, then the top short end down to the bottom to make 3 equal layers. Turn to the left and repeat 3 more times.

By the 4th roll/fold/turn it will look like dough. It’s okay to see blotchy butter spots.

To get a neat, tidy 16×20 rectangle, roll it a little larger, then trim. Throw away the scraps – don’t try to re-roll them.

Add filling to center, extending to opposite corners.

Press the edges firmly. Use a fork to go over them again. Trim the very edge to make it straight and pretty. Coat with cream or egg wash and bake!

Um. I tried making football shapes. It didn’t go too well. Be my guest – if you figure out how to do it, please let me know!

And here’s the beer version:

Dips are good. I used a Red Robin dipping sauce and ranch dressing with mustard and horseradish.

Since (once again) the Seahawks aren’t in the game, I’m not too excited about the Super Bowl. But if you are, and you have a crowd to please, give these a whirl!

Lorinda

Raspberry Rose Cookies

Cookie dough roses are baked right into these raspberry flavored hearts, creating a treat your valentine won’t be able to resist. A thin icing is all they really need, but decorating them was so much fun, I just had to play.

(Humor me . . . just one more picture? It’s excessive, but they were so photogenic, I couldn’t choose!)

Go classy and understated, or let your artistic side run wild. Your choice!

These cookies may look delicate, but they are sturdy enough to be decorated by little hands. Flavored gelatin not only provides the raspberry “zing” and color, it gives the shortbread cookie base a denser, chewier texture.

I tried using half shortening and half butter to ensure a pretty pink color, but they just didn’t have the flavor I wanted. Back to all butter, which gives them a hint of salmon color. You could add a touch of pink coloring if you’d like.

They’ll hold their shape, so any designs you add to the hearts before baking will still be there when they come out of the oven. Cake decorating tips, gum paste tools, cookie stamps or silicone molds all work very well for this.

I used a small heart cutter and gum paste tool to create designs. You could use a straw to cut out holes all the way around to look like lace. A small rose in the center would have been pretty too.

Press hearts with a silicone texture mat for texture, or press dough into a floured silicone mold and carefully ease the shape out onto the heart. Clockwise from upper left: Hand shaped rose on plain heart, rose design made by silicone mold on plain heart, textured heart, textured heart with small rose.

Raspberry Rose Cookies
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Makes approximately 18-20 cookies
Ingredients
  • COOKIES:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry flavored gelatin
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ICING:
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water to make thin glaze
  • Red or pink food coloring (green if you are adding leaves)
  • Royal icing, colored sugar, sparkling sugar if desired
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Prepare two baking sheets by covering each with a sheet of parchment.
  2. COOKIES:In a large bowl, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, and gelatin for 3 minutes.
  3. Add egg white. Beat for 1 minute.
  4. Mix in the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Dough will be thick.
  5. Work with half of the dough at a time, keeping the remainder wrapped at room temperature. Roll out dough ¼-inch thick. No thicker, or roses will brown before cookie bakes.
  6. Cut out heart shapes using 3-inch cutter. (Mine was slightly smaller.)
  7. Using the base of a large decorating tip or 1-inch round cutter, cut a hole in the middle of each heart. Save the circles. Before gathering scraps, use the round cutter to make more circles; you will use these for rose petals. Place hearts on prepared baking pans, 1 inch apart.
  8. To create roses, Press one small circle into a roughly oval shape. Slowly roll from one end to the other, to create the center of the rose. If dough cracks, just press it gently to smooth. Flatten another circle, and, holding it a little higher than the center, wrap it around. It doesn't need to go all the way around - the idea is to overlap petals. Don't worry about how long the "stem" you're holding is. That will be cut off when you're through. Repeat until you have a rose you like. I prefer 5 petals: the center, 1 around the center, and then 3 around the outside. As you work, gently pat the top edge of the petals to smooth if they crack, and roll the top edge back slightly on a few petals. When finished, use a knife or scissors to cut off the excess at the bottom (or pinch it off with your fingers) and place the rose in the hole in the heart, carefully pressing at the base to secure. Shape some leaves, if you wish.
  9. Bake 9-11 minutes, depending on the thickness of your cookies. The bottoms should be just starting to brown a little, but don't overbake or the roses will brown. (If this happens, a little icing and colored sugar on the edges will cover it nicely.) Cool completely on a rack.
  10. GLAZE: Whisk together the powdered sugar and water. In a small cup, combine 2 tablespoons of glaze and a drop of red or pink coloring. Do the same for green, if you added leaves to your roses. Brush a smooth, thin coating of the white glaze on each cookie, avoiding the rose. With a paintbrush, lightly paint the roses red or pink and the leaves green. Let cookies dry for at least 1 hour before storing or decorating.

Cut out hearts Use a large decorating tip to make a hole in each. Keep the circle of dough for rose petals!

Flatten the 1-inch circle into a rough oval shape. Start and one side and roll up, smoothing top edges if it cracks.

Add second and third petal, overlapping.

I like to stop at 5 petals. But each rose is a little different; follow your instincts!

Pinch or cut off excess dough on bottom of roses. Settle each rose into a heart, pressing gently into the hole.

Bake on parchment 350 F. for 9-11 minutes.

You can use a small decorator tip to put design on outer edge.

You can also make tiny roses and leaves. Use a straw or large tube tip to make the hole to set the rose in.

Brush the cookie with white glaze, then paint the roses and leaves.

Once the cookies are dry, decorate to your heart’s content. I used royal icing and some colored sugar.

XOXOXO

Lorinda

Peanut Butter Skrewballs (for an adult hot beverage)

If you love hot chocolate, especially when it’s laced with a little something extra, you’ll love these Skrewballs. They’re a sweet peanut butter and cocoa confection (think soft truffle) lightly flavored with Buttershots and Skrewball Whiskey. This whiskey is deliciously peanut buttered flavored, and very, very sweet. I found it a bit syrupy for sipping, so I made these little flavor bombs that you drop right into your hot beverage. After much experimentation, my control group (aka: The Man) and I decided that hot milk was the tastiest choice  Hot cocoa works well, too. Coffee was good, but a little extra cream was needed. Of course, my coffee could hold up a spoon. You might not need that cream if you make normal coffee!

Since the mixture is just lightly flavored with the alcohol, you’ll probably want to splash a little extra in your cup once you’ve dropped the Skrewball in the steaming hot milk and whisked thoroughly, and before you add the whipped cream.

This easy recipe makes about 12 little flavor bombs (9 if you use large mugs). The Skrewballs can hang out in a container in your fridge for weeks if they’re dipped in chocolate. If you decide to skip that step, I’d suggest you drop yours into a mug of hot cocoa instead of milk, to maintain the perfect balance of peanut butter and chocolate.

Peanut Butter Skrewballs (for an adult hot beverage)
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Makes12 (9 larger screwballs if you use big mugs) flavor bombs to drop into hot milk or cocoa.
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup powdered creamer (you can substitute whole milk powder if you wish)
  • 2-3 tablespoons cocoa
  • pinch of salt (a little more if you used unsalted butter or unsalted peanut butter)
  • 1 tablespoon butterscotch liqueur (I used Buttershots)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter flavored whiskey (I used Skrewball)
  • 1 package (11.5 oz) milk chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon shortening
Instructions
  1. Beat together the butter, peanut butter, powdered sugar, powdered creamer, cocoa, and salt until combined. It will be dry and crumbly.
  2. Mix in the alcohol until mixture forms a thick batter.
  3. Scoop onto a parchment lined platter or pan, dividing into 12 equal pieces. (A cookie scoop works well for this.) Roll with your hands to form smooth balls. If you use large mugs, make 9 bigger balls. (You can stop here and refrigerate them if you don't want to dip in chocolate.)
  4. Place screwballs in the freezer while you gently melt the chocolate and shortening over low heat in a small pan. (Or microwave at 15 second increments, stirring often.)
  5. Dip the balls in the chocolate. It will be thick; don't try to make a thin coating. The chocolate adds a lot of flavor to the hot drink.
  6. Return to parchment and chill until firm. They're ready to drop into a cup of steaming hot milk. Whisk well, add a splash of whiskey, and top with whipped cream.

Ingredients. If you object to using creamer, you can use whole milk powder instead.

Combine the butter, peanut butter, and dry ingredients. Stir in the booze.

Makes a nice, thick batter. Or soft dough?

Make 12 balls (or 9 larger ones if you use big mugs).

Dip in milk chocolate. Be generous; the chocolate adds a lot of flavor to the hot drink.

And you may have already figured this out, but not all of them have to go into hot drinks. They’re awfully good just as they are!

Lorinda

Chocolate Walnut Holiday Bread

Pull off a branch of this Christmas tree and bite into tender bread layered with creamy dark chocolate and ground walnuts. I couldn’t resist adding maraschino cherries to make the bread even more festive. It’s rich without being too sweet, and the chocolate flavor really stands out.

This dough needs to chill overnight, so make it in the evening, let it rise, and then put it in the fridge until the next day. 

I’m sure you’ve seen variations of this idea, often using puff pastry and hazelnut spread. (Check out YouTube for this option.) It would have been much easier, but I wanted to make things difficult, of course, preferring a soft, puffy 3-D appearance.

I’m posting this at the last moment, but inspiration just struck today and I had to bake this. If you’re too busy this Christmas, the strips of layered dough could easily be woven into a heart for Valentine’s Day. Or you could simply roll the dough out, spread with the chocolate mixture, roll up and slice, and bake like cinnamon rolls.

This is undeniably messy to make. You will get chocolate on your hands, on the counter, and on the bread itself. But your hands and the counter will wash, and the chocolate smears on the dough just makes the bread prettier, honest!

Since this is a last minute slam-dunk, I’ll dispense with my usual chit chat and just go right to the recipe!

Chocolate Walnut Holiday Bread
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Ingredients
  • BREAD:
  • ¼ cup very warm water
  • 1 package active-dry yeast
  • pinch of sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • FILLING:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 10 ounces chocolate (I used semi-sweet mini chips)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 cups ground walnuts (grind in a food processor for 10 seconds)
  • Maraschino cherries, if desired, blotted well with paper towel
  • Egg wash: 1 egg and 1 teaspoon milk or water, whisked together well
  • Powdered sugar and water glaze, if desired
Instructions
  1. BREAD DOUGH:
  2. In a small bowl, combine the warm water, yeast, and pinch of sugar. Allow to sit until bubbly - about 5 minutes
  3. In a small pan place 2 cups milk, 2 tablespoons butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Heat on medium until butter is melted. It should be warm to the touch, but not hot.
  4. Pour warm milk mixture, yeast mixture, and eggs into large bowl. (A stand mixer with dough hook is recommended) and mix until combined.
  5. Add flour and salt and mix well.
  6. Add 2 tablespoons softened butter and knead by machine for 5 minutes. (Dough will be too soft to knead by hand. If you don't have a stand mixer, stir with a heavy spoon.)
  7. Scrape dough into a generously greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double - about 1 hour.
  8. Punch down the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
  9. FILLING: The next day, in a medium pan on low heat, combine the cream, butter, and chocolate. Stir often until chocolate melts. Once the mixture is smooth, add the flour and ground nuts. Stir well and set aside. Mixture will need to set up a little. If you plan on starting the bread right away, place the pan in a cold water bath. (Put the pan of chocolate filling in a larger pan and add cold water to the bottom pan, bringing it halfway up the side of the pan of chocolate.) Stir occasionally until thickened.
  10. ASSEMBLY: Place a sheet of parchment in a 12x17 rimmed baking pan. Remove dough from the refrigerator and drop onto floured surface. Form a long roll, flatten, and roll into a 24-inch by 14-inch rectangle. Spread with the filling and cut into three 8x14-inch pieces. Roll each up from the long side, stretching slightly to create rolls that are 18 inches long.
  11. Cut two of the rolls LENGTHWISE down the middle, exposing the chocolate layers. You will have 4 long skinny pieces and one whole piece (for the trunk).
  12. Note: Remember that dough will rise as it bakes, If all of your branches touch the sides of the pan, the tree will look square. Only let the bottom, bigger branches touch the sides of the pan.
  13. Pick up one of the cut pieces (yes, this will get messy) and twist it. Place it down in an upside-down 'V' shape, at the bottom (short end) of the pan. leaving room for a trunk. It will be too long; cut extra off with a scissors or knife.and set scrap aside. About an inch above the bottom branch, add another twisted piece, cutting off extra. This piece will be smaller, so the scrap will be larger. Repeat two more times, getting progressively smaller with each branch.
  14. Using the palms of your hands, roll the uncut piece to make it longer and skinnier, tapering it at one end, and place it in the center of the branches, putting the skinny end at the top and going from top to bottom, creating a trunk. Cut off excess, and cut the scrap down the middle to use for branches.
  15. Twist and stretch the remaining scraps to make them a little thinner, then fill in your tree, laying branches across the trunk. Pull and twist to shape the tree to your satisfaction. Cut some vertical lines down the trunk to look like bark.
  16. If you're using maraschino cherries, tuck them into the branches. Cover bread with a towel and allow it to rise for 30 minutes..
  17. Heat oven to 350 F. Brush bread with egg wash and bake for approximately 40 minutes. (Cover lightly with foil if bread is getting too dark.) Remove from oven and cool on rack.
  18. Use glaze to add "snow" to the branches, if desired.

Dissolve yeast until bubbly in very warm water with a pinch of sugar.

Combine warm milk mixture, yeast, and eggs.

Mix in flour and salt, then knead in softened butter. Dough will be soft and will stick to the bowl. That’s okay!

Scrape dough into buttered bowl. Flip over to coat both sides and let rise until doubled. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Finely grind the walnuts in a food processor for about 10 seconds.

Heat cream, butter, and chocolate until smooth. Stir in nuts and flour.

Drop chilled dough onto floured surface. Use hands to make a long roll, then roll it out 24×14

Spread with filling

Cut into three equal pieces and roll each from the long edge.

 

Use a sharp knife (or pizza cutter) to slice up the middle of two rolls. This is where it starts getting messy!

First layer, place 4 branches, then top with uncut roll for trunk

Add another layer of branches. Get creative! Twist and pull to shape it, then add maraschino cherries.

I’m in love with the way this dough turned out. It was so soft I had my doubts, but once it was chilled, it was very cooperative. I’ll be playing with it more in the future, for sure.

TIPS:

  • I use maraschino cherries without artificial color. If you use regular ones, they will be brighter and prettier.
  • If you have a larger pan, use it! It will be much easier to shape your tree.
  • If you don’t have a food processor or blender, just chop the nuts finely.
  • I like to put a little meringue powder in my icing to give it more body.
  • If it looks like your bread is getting too dark, lightly cover it with foil as it bakes.

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Lorinda

Christmas Kisses (Meringue Topped Brownies)

Hang up that mistletoe, because a kiss just doesn’t get any sweeter than this! Each chewy chocolate brownie is filled with a sweet surprise and topped with a crisp peppermint meringue rosette, creating a harmony of flavors and textures. These little two-bite treats are sure to brighten up a holiday cookie platter or buffet table. And make sure to put one next to Santa’s glass of milk to give him a break from all of those sugar cookies.

If you prefer cake brownies, well . . . move along; there’s nothing to see here! Nope, these are chewy with a crunchy edge, just the way I love them.

It took me a few tries to get this right. Okay, five. It took me five tries. My first attempt was with a chocolate cookie crust. They were delicious, but so messy. SO MESSY. Meringues crackle and crumble when you bite into them, which is expected, but add a crumbly crust that falls everywhere, and it simply wasn’t going to work. I could just see these being served at a tea and having to hand out bibs!

I tried baking the brownies for a bit first, and the final result was a dry, hard, brownie brick. Nope.

The third time I realized that they were hollow. The bottom of the meringues melted into the brownies, and the meringues puffed and were hollow (as meringues are) which would have been kind of neat, if the tops didn’t pop off so easily. I could see them filled with ganache, and almost went that direction (you can, if you wish) but ultimately tried, tried again.

On the fourth batch I went for a slower, shorter bake time. Goo. ‘Nuff said.

So . . . I tried an experiment, hoping to give the meringues something to hold onto besides brownie batter. Peppermint patties erupted in the oven, but the other three optionssoft peppermint candy, chocolate kisses (point down) and peppermint kisses (point up)—all worked great. Whew. You have a choice!

Left to right: Soft peppermint puffs (give the best support), Chocolate kiss, and peppermint kiss.

And if you’d like to really add some bling, dip the tips of each kiss in a little melted white chocolate and sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy, grated chocolate, or sprinkles.

Here’s the recipe . . . tips and photos are below.

Christmas Kisses (Meringue Topped Brownies)
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Makes 48 kisses. Ultra fine sugar is recommended for the meringue, but regular sugar can be used. It just may need a little more beating to dissolve properly.
Ingredients
  • BROWNIE LAYER
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1½ cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used half regular, half special dark)
  • ¼ cup grated or very finely chopped dark chocolate
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Candy for filling - 48 each peppermint puffs or chocolate kisses)
  • MERINGUE:
  • 4 egg whites (at room temperature)
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¾ cup ultrafine sugar (Baker's Sugar)
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • red food coloring (optional)
  • White chocolate melts, crushed candy cane, grated chocolate for decorating if desired
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 250 F. Place 48 paper liners in mini muffin pans.
  2. BROWNIES:
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter, cooking oil, and sugar.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla until frothy, then add to large bowl and stir to combine.
  5. Add cocoa powder, grated chocolate, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir just until combined. A few wisps of flour showing is just fine.
  6. Using a pastry bag with large tube tip (or you can use a spoon) divide the brownie mixture between the 48 cavities - approximately 2 level teaspoons each.
  7. Add a piece of candy to each cup, pressing down firmly. If using a chocolate kiss, place it point down. Set aside.
  8. MERINGUE:
  9. In a squeaky clean bowl, beat egg whites until thick and foamy, then sprinkle in the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.
  10. Trickle in the superfinen sugar, a tablespoon or two at a time, beating well before adding more. Take your time to ensure the sugar dissolves completely.
  11. Once all sugar has been added, beat until mixture is at stiff peak stage and holds its shape. Depending on many factors (weather, size of eggs, etc.) this can take 5 or 6 minutes.
  12. Add peppermint extract and beat until combined.
  13. For striped meringues, use red paste food coloring to paint stripes up the inside of a large pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip. (It's easiest to do this in two steps, folding down the top of the bag and painting from the tip up, then unfolding the bag and continuing the stripes.)
  14. Pipe in a circular motion upwards. Leave a little edge of brownie showing to make them easier to handle. (Use up extra meringue mixture by piping on a baking sheet covered with parchment.)
  15. Place pans in the oven (including extra meringues) and let them cook for 30 minutes, then WITHOUT OPENING THE OVEN DOOR, turn oven off and leave the kisses in there overnight.
  16. If desired, dip the tip of each in melted white chocolate and sprinkle on crushed candy cane, grated chocolate, or chocolate jimmies.
  17. Store in airtight container.

 

Beat eggs and vanilla, and add to butter and sugar mixture.

Add the dry ingredients and stir JUST until combined.

Pipe (or spoon) into paper liners.

Add candy to support the meringue. (I could have just cropped out the peppermint patties, but I want to show you what happens if you use them!)

Perfect peaks on the meringue.

Paint red stripes in pastry bag OR just add a couple of drops of red coloring to meringue for pink rosettes.

Pipe on the meringue. Leave a little brownie edge to make them easier to remove from the pan.

Just say “no” to peppermint patties!

TIPS:

  • Start the day before, because these really should be left overnight in the oven.
  • When you wake up in the morning and remove the kisses from the oven, immediately place them in an airtight container.
  • Putting the chocolate kiss point down seemed to support the meringue better
  • Skip the stripes if you’d like. They’re pretty plain white or light pink, too.
  • Regardless of what you may have heard, meringues are simple to make, and unless you are in Florida and the humidity is ghastly, don’t sweat the weather. I made this batch while it was snowing like crazy outside.
  • You can skip the paper liners if you use a baking spray (like Baker’s Joy) in the cavities. Just use a table knife to pop the kisses out when they’re cool.
  • This recipe can easily be halved to make 24. (If you don’t have a 1/8 cup measure for the 3/8 cups of flour and superfine sugar, use 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons.)

I’m hoping to get one more Christmas post up, but things are crazier than usual around here, so just in case . . .

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Lorinda

Cranberry Pear Muffins

Hearty yet tender, these flavorful muffins are bursting with fresh cranberries, pears, and oatmeal. They get a zing of flavor from orange zest, and are topped with crunchy cinnamon streusel. I gilded the lily and drizzled a little orange glaze over the top. It makes them so pretty!

To be honest with you, I didn’t really expect to like these. In fact, I was kind of counting on that. (Stupid diet.) I’ve never been very fond of pears, and was worried that the cranberries would be too tart. Nope. Sweet, slightly tangy, and delightful. Nom nom.

What a sweet little breakfast these would be for Thanksgiving or Christmas morning.

The recipe makes 18 muffins. If you have extras, wrap them well and freeze them.

Cranberry Pear Muffins
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Makes 18
Ingredients
  • STREUSEL TOPPING:
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup chopped nuts (I used toasted pecans)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • MUFFINS:
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cranberries (more if desired)
  • 1 cup chopped pears, peeled and cored (1 large pear)
  • zest of 1 large orange
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup oil (l use peanut or canola)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ICING (optional):
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • orange juice, cranberry juice, or water to thin to desired consistency
  • 1 teaspoon meringue powder if desired for firmer icing
Instructions
  1. STREUSEL: Combine all dry ingredients for streusel topping. Stir in melted butter and set aside.
  2. MUFFINS: Heat oven to 375 F. Put 18 paper liners in muffin pans.
  3. In small bowl, combine buttermilk and oats. Stir well and set mixture aside to soften while you chop the cranberries and pears and prepare the batter..
  4. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk or sift.
  5. Add chopped cranberries, chopped pears, and orange zest. Toss with a large spoon.
  6. In a small bowl, combine milk, egg, oil, and vanilla. Beat well and combine with the buttermilk/oat mixture.
  7. Make a well in the dry ingredient and fruit mixture. Pour liquids in all at once. Fold gently, being careful not to over mix. If you see a few wisps of flour, that's just fine.
  8. Divide evenly between prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with streusel topping.
  9. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of a muffin. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then remove muffins to cool completely.

STREUSEL: Stir together all the dry streusel ingredients well, then stir in melted butter. Set aside.

MUFFINS: Add chopped cranberries to dry ingredients

. . . and chopped pears.

. . . and orange zest. Toss well.

Beat together milk, egg, oil, and vanilla. Stir in softened oat/buttermilk mixture.

Make a well in dry ingredients. Add liquids all at once. Fold in gently just until mostly combined.

Don’t over stir! Wisps of flour here and there are just fine.

Divide batter between 18 muffin cups and top with streusel. Bake!

Drizzle with icing if desired

Heading into the holiday season is always a thrill for me. Obsessive baking isn’t just acceptable, it’s practically mandatory.

Sweet!

Lorinda