One bite of these buttery snowball cookies will tell you they aren’t your mama’s tea cakes. The dough is subtly flavored with orange zest, and a sweet cranberry filling hides in the center. If you choose to add a fresh cranberry, it will add a burst of tangy flavor.
Whether you call them Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican (or Italian) Wedding Cakes, or Snowballs, they are a holiday tradition worth making. They do tend to be just a little bit dry (like shortbread) so a small dab of filling to soften the center worked well. Of course, if you don’t want all the bells and whistles, you can simply leave out the filling entirely. But oh, not the orange zest! It’s so good.
I am pretty hands-on, and use my thumb to make the hole in each ball of dough (where the filling is added) but if it makes you more comfortable, it can be made with the round handle of a wooden spoon . . . or you can wear disposable gloves. The only tricky part is to make the dough at the top of the hole thinner—and don’t over fill, of course—so the cookie can be neatly pinched closed. If a little filling squeezes out, just wipe it off and patch the spot with a small piece of dough before rolling into a smooth ball.
For best results, once cookies are filled and formed, chill for 1 hour before baking. They can be chilled on the baking sheets, or the balls of dough can be put in a large cake pan and then transferred. You can skip this step, but they will be slightly flatter.
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon cranberry sauce (jellied or whole berry)
a few drops of red food coloring (optional)
¼ cup white chocolate chips
24 fresh cranberries (optional)
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 cup finely chopped pecans (I toast mine first for the best flavor)
Zest of one large orange (about 1 packed tablespoon)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar to roll cookies in
FILLING: In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese and cranberry sauce. If desired, add a few drops of red food coloring.
Melt the white chocolate in a small pan on lowest heat, or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave at fifteen second increments. Don't get it too hot - just until melted. Add to cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth. Place in a pastry bag and set aside. (You can skip the pastry bag and just use a ½ teaspoon measuring spoon to fill the cookies, but it will be messier.)
DOUGH: In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add powdered sugar and beat for 1 minute, scraping sides of the bowl often.
Add chopped pecans, orange zest, and vanilla. Beat well.
Add flour and salt. Beat just until blended.
Make balls of dough, using a generous tablespoon of dough for each. (You should have about 24.) Make a deep hole in each. The easiest way is to cup your hand around the dough with it poking out of the circle made by your thumb and forefinger. Use a finger on your opposite hand (or the rounded handle of a wooden spoon) to make the hole, then widen it so it's a little thinner at the top. Using a pastry bag, fill the hole about half way. Press a raw cranberry (if you're using them) on the filling and gently pinch the dough over the hole. Roll between your hands to form a round ball. Place 1½ inches apart on ungreased (or parchment lined) baking sheet.
Repeat until all cookies are formed. If you have time (and room in your fridge) chill for 1 hour.
Heat oven to 325 F. Bake cookies 15-17 minutes, until just the bottoms are lightly browned.
Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for a minute or two before sliding onto a cooling rack.
When the cookies are barely warm, dredge them in the powdered sugar. Wait until completely cool and repeat. Store in an airtight container.
Beat butter well (see how fluffy?) Add powdered sugar and beat for 1 minute.
Stir in finely chopped pecans, orange zest, and vanilla
Mix in the flour and salt. It will look crumbly at first, but keep beating; it will come together!
I found that the easiest way for me to fill the cookies was to wrap my hand around the ball of dough and use my other hand to make the hole, fill it, pop in a cranberry, and pinch the top.
But you might prefer working on a flat surface, like this:
Poke a hole in each ball with your thumb and thin the sides out. Add about a half teaspoon of filling
Add a fresh cranberry
Carefully pinch the cookie closed and roll gently between your palms to make a ball
The tops of your cookies shouldn’t brown, but the bottoms will turn a light golden brown. I think my camera exaggerated the color, but I may have left this batch in the oven a minute too long. Meh . . . that’s what the powdered sugar is for!
Dredge warm cookies in a bowl of sifted powdered sugar. Wait until cool, then repeat. (For the second coat you can put the sugar in a paper bag and shake a few at a time.)
Santa may visit twice this year if you have these mouthwatering cookies sitting out for him.
Do you remember the old Neiman Marcus cookie recipe? I’m old, so I do! You can read about it online, but the urban legend goes like this: a woman requested a cookie recipe from the department store and was told it would cost her “two fifty”. She had them charge her card, only to find they meant $250. Outraged, she retaliated by sharing the recipe far and wide.
I’ve seen many recipe variations, but the copy I had (way back when) called for ground oatmeal, grated chocolate, and macadamia nuts. I’m happy to add the nuts, but simplified things by skipping the grinding and grating. (Grating chocolate is not fun.) I’ve tweaked the recipe over the years until it looks very little like the original, but it’s OH SO GOOD.
The baked cookies are slightly shiny on top, like a brownie, but have a chewy texture. Make sure not to overbake them or they’ll get crunchy. They’re actually pretty tasty that way, too . . . but better slightly soft.
I never turn down a doughnut. Or two. Maple bars are my guilty pleasure, and I go back and forth between preferring cake doughnuts and raised, but one thing is clear to me: they must be fried to be irresistible. Baked doughnuts are fine, but . . . they just aren’t the same.
I love apple cider cake doughnuts, and was pondering the possibility of adding apple to a raised doughnut. (No, no, not chunks like apple fritters.) Would the addition of applesauce interfere with the rise of the yeast? The Man thought it was a bad idea, but rapidly changed his mind when he taste-tested a half dozen or so.
Here are some glazed and some sugared. See that dark doughnut kind of in the middle? I may have left that one in the oil too long. Still tasted good though!
This recipe creates a very soft dough. Soft and supple, and . . . well . . . I want to write poetry about the way it feels! It demands a little delicacy in handling, but the payoff is an incredibly light, fluffy doughnut. Actually, a whole lot of them; you’ll get about 24 doughnuts and a pile of doughnut holes. They’re best the day they’re made, but can be frozen for a few weeks, so don’t feel like you have to sit down and eat two dozen of them (though I did my best).
Oh, and there’s a reason store bought doughnuts come in a cardboard box! If you put these in an airtight plastic bag, they will get gooey. I find that they do well loosely covered with foil.
cooking oil - lots of it! At least 2 inches deep in pot. (I use peanut oil.)
2 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup apple cider (a little more if needed to create a thin glaze)
1 teaspoon meringue powder (optional for a firmer glaze)
SUGAR TOPPING (OPTIONAL)
mix 1 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon and roll warm doughnuts in mixture.
In a medium saucepan on medium high heat, scald milk by bringing it almost to a boil. Remove when you see bubbles all around the edge of the pan.
Add ⅓ cup sugar, apple sauce, apple cider, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl (a sturdy stand mixer is recommended) combine the warm water, yeast, and remaining ½ teaspoon sugar. Let it sit until foamy - about 5 minutes.
Add the milk mixture to the bowl and stir to combine. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with between eggs.
Add 5 cups of the flour, one cup at a time (switch to a dough hook if using a stand mixer) and beat for 2 minutes.
Add butter, one slice at a time, beating after each addition.
Slowly add remaining flour and knead by machine for 5 minutes. (If kneading by hand, spoon dough onto generously floured surface and knead for 7-8 minutes.) Dough will be very soft and will not form a ball. Scrape into a large greased bowl and cover. Let rise until double, about 1 hour.
Turn dough out onto a generously floured surface. Flip over to cover both sides lightly with flour, and pat into a rectangle. Roll gently out approximately ⅓-inch thick. Using a doughnut cutter or a large and small round cutter, cut out the doughnuts. Try to keep them close together. Use a spoon to remove the holes as you go, placing them on lightly floured surface.
Once all of the doughnuts are cut out, remove the scraps. They can be re-rolled once, but I don't recommend cutting out doughnuts. They will be a little tough, and not very attractive. But you can cut more holes out of the scraps.
Cover the doughnuts with a dishtowel and let them rise until puffy. (About 45-60 minutes.)
Heat oil to 365 F. Use a thermometer often, adjusting heat as necessary to keep the temperature consistent. Use a thin metal spatula to slide a few doughnuts at a time into the hot oil, always leaving them room to float and move in the oil. Cook until golden brown (about 1 minute) and flip the doughnut over to cook the other side. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider, and place on cooling racks covered with paper towels.
While still warm, whisk together the glaze ingredients (if using) and dip the top of each doughnut, placing on a rack to dry.
Alternatively, you can simply combine sugar and cinnamon and roll the warm doughnuts in the mixture.
I didn’t have apple cider, so used apple juice. It is a little sweeter, but still worked well.
Add applesauce, spices, and apple cider to scalded milk.
Combine warm water, yeast, and sugar and let it bubble. Stir in the milk mixture.
Mix in eggs one at a time.
Add 5 cups of the flour, but not like this! I’m sure you won’t be so busy taking photos that you forget to put the guard on the mixer, right? (You should have seen ME. And the FLOOR!)
NOW add the butter, bit by bit. I know, seems strange, huh? But adding the butter after the majority of the flour makes a huge difference in texture. Trust me. Then you’ll add the remaining flour to make a very soft dough.
See how soft the dough is? It won’t come cleanly from the bowl, but if you use your fingers to coax it out into the greased bowl it shouldn’t stick to your hands. Soft but cooperative!
Once the dough has risen, dump it onto a floured surface. Turn it over to coat both sides with flour and roll it gently – about 1/3-inch thick.
Cut ’em out! Rather than re-rolling (which makes for less-than-desirable results) cut more doughnut holes with the scraps. Or any little shapes. I used a small flower cutter on some.
Cover and let rise until puffy – about 45-60 minutes.
Use a metal spatula to slide into deep oil – at least 2 inches – about 365 F. Cook a few doughnuts at a time, just until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon or spider.
The doughnut holes are the best part!
Place on cooling racks covered in paper towels.
Whisk up some glaze and dip the warm doughnuts. (The meringue powder is totally optional. I just like a firmer glaze.) Or roll the doughnuts in cinnamon sugar.
Don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure doughnut holes have no calories.
Here’s to a warm, cozy, indulgent holiday season. Wishing you joy,
I’m on a bit of a sourdough kick right now, and couldn’t resist creating a sourdough version of my Pumpkin Rye Bread. This is a little denser, chewier . . . just the way I like it. It also takes longer that the yeast version (though it is not a bit harder to make), so I recommend you start this bread in the evening and let the dough rise overnight in a cool spot.
I use a cast iron Dutch oven with a domed lid for baking sourdough bread. The pan helps the bread keep its shape and the lid holds the steam in and gives the loaf a wonderful crust. If you don’t have one, you can simply put a pan of water in the bottom rack of your oven when you start preheating. The bread can go on a baking sheet on the rack above the water and the steam will give your bread that magical sourdough crust.
This loaf has been dropped into a preheated (OH so hot) Dutch oven. Lid goes on for baking. (You’ll notice for this loaf I put the orange strip down first with the dark dough on top of it, then rolled, for a lighter colored loaf.)
This is ideal for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but you know I can’t just leave a recipe alone, right? So . . . with Halloween as an inspiration, I made a batch with food coloring for more contrast, and cut designs on an outer layer of rye dough. I love the way it turned out!
With the exception of food coloring, the ingredients are the same; it’s just formed differently. The loaf at the top of the post was rolled up like a cinnamon roll, and the Halloween version was made of a ball of brown dough wrapped in orange dough, wrapped in the remaining brown dough.
Get creative. As long as you handle the dough gently to keep as many of those precious air bubbles in it as possible, you can play to your heart’s content. I think a whole lot of balls of dough pressed together and then formed into a smooth ball or covered with a layer of dough would be fun. Next time!
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder (2 if you're going for darker dough)
1 teaspoon espresso powder
Food coloring (optional) for richer colors
Begin this bread in the evening and bake the next day. The first rise takes 8-10 hours.
In a large bowl, combine sourdough starter, pumpkin, and water. (Add orange food coloring here, if desired.) Stir in 3 cups of bread flour, and salt until completely blended.
Pile 1 cup of bread flour on work surface and drop half of the dough onto it. Using a bench scraper to help if necessary, knead until dough is smooth and doesn't stick to hands - about 5 or 6 minutes. You will use up most of the flour. Form dough into a ball and place in greased bowl.
To make the rye dough, you can either knead by hand or machine. If kneading by hand, add caraway seeds, molasses, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Mix well, then place 1 cup of rye flour on work surface, drop the dough onto it, and proceed as you did with the orange dough. You may need a little additional flour; if so, don't use more rye flour - use bread flour. If kneading by machine, use a dough hook. Add rye flour and the remaining ingredients and knead for 5 minutes. Add a little more bread flour if dough is overly sticky. Form into ball and place next to the orange dough in the bowl.
Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough sit in a cool place overnight.
The next day, carefully separate the two balls of dough (don't worry if a little of one color sticks to the other.) Handle the dough as gently as possible so you don't lose all the bubbles. Press, stretch, or gently roll each piece into a long wide strips, about 3 inches wide by 14 inches.
Place one on top of the other. If the dark strip is on the bottom, more dark will show on the outside of the loaf, and vice versa. Roll the two pieces up together and pinch the end to seal.
Turn so the swirl is on top and use the sides of your hands to tuck the dough under a little, scooching the bread along the work surface to smooth the bottom.
Place in a bowl lined with floured plastic wrap or a floured dishcloth. Cover and let rise until doubled. Depending on your sourdough starter, this could take anywhere from 1 - 4 hours.
Baking in a Dutch oven: Set the bottom half of Dutch oven on second lowest rack in oven and preheat to 450 for at least 30 minutes. (No grease is necessary if it is well seasoned.) Open oven and pull out rack. Gently lift dough from bowl and CAREFULLY drop it into the VERY hot pan. Use a scissors or sharp knife to make three quick cuts across the bread, cover with the lid, and return it to the oven. Reduce heat to 425 and bake for 20 minutes. Remove lid and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the bread is beginning to brown.
BAKING on BAKING SHEET: Put a large pan of water on bottom rack of oven and preheat to 450 F. for 30 minutes. Dust the center of a baking sheet with flour or corn meal. Lift dough from bowl and place on baking sheet. Open oven door carefully (the steam is very hot) and quickly put the bread on a rack above the water. Reduce heat to 425 F and bake about 40 minutes, or until bread is beginning to brown.
Remove from oven and tip out onto cooling rack. The bottom of the bread should be brown and sound hollow when tapped. Allow bread to cool before cutting.
NOTE: Photos are for the original recipe. Halloween bread photos and instructions will be at the bottom of the post
Combine sourdough starter, pumpkin, and water.
Stir in 3 cups bread flour and the salt. It will be kind of . . . gloppy. That’s okay!
On work surface, drop half of the dough onto 1 cup bread flour and (using a dough scraper to begin with, if necessary) knead until smooth (about 5 – 6 minutes).
It should hold its shape and shouldn’t stick to your hands or the work surface. It will use most of the flour to reach this point.
To remaining dough, add molasses, caraway seeds, cocoa, and espresso powder. Mix well.
This is where there should be a photo of me, kneading the rye dough on a bed of rye flour. The photographer (ahem) was negligent. Sigh. Just figure it’s the same as incorporating the flour in the orange dough, only you MAY need a little more flour (because of the molasses). If so, use bread flour, not more rye.
Snuggle them up, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap, and let them rise in a cool place overnight.
Next day, pat each ball of dough into a long strip, about 3 inches wide, and 14 inches long. (Longer makes smaller marbling, shorter makes big, bold streaks.)
Lay one piece on the other (whichever color you want to show most on the outside should be on the bottom) and roll it up. Pinch the end to seal. Turn so the swirl is on the top and use the sides of your hands to tuck the bottom underneath a little, while “scooching” the bread toward you and turning.
Line a bowl with plastic wrap or a dish towel, and sprinkle generously with flour. Place dough in the center. Cover, and let rise until doubled. Depending on your starter this could take anywhere between 1 – 4 hours. Mine took 2.
This loaf has been dropped into a preheated (OH so hot) Dutch oven. Lid goes on for baking.
Use the same ingredients but add a generous squirt of orange coloring when you add the pumpkin and water, and then add black food coloring to the remaining dough when you add the molasses. Follow the recipe instructions for adding the remaining flour and tuck them into the bowl to rise.
Waiting to be put to bed for the night.
The next day, instead of forming two strips and rolling them together, divide the dark dough into two pieces. Roll one into a ball, place on slightly flattened orange dough and bring the orange dough up to completely cover the dark dough. Pinch together well and flip it over, smooth side up.
Pull orange dough up and over the ball made with half of the dark dough.
Flatten, gently stretch, or carefully roll out the remaining dark dough, large enough to completely encase the orange ball. Lay it over the orange dough ball and tuck under the bottom. Gently “scootch” the ball toward you, spin a little to the right, pull toward you again. Repeat until the dough is smooth.
Drape the remaining dark dough over the ball. (That’s my hand under there. I may have gotten carried away and made it a little too big. The stuff stretches! The extra dough just got tucked under, creating a thicker dark marbling at the bottom. You can’t go wrong with this!
Line a bowl with a dishtowel or plastic wrap, dusted in flour, and set the dough in the bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled. This can take anywhere from 1-4 hours, depending on the enthusiasm of your sourdough starter.
Ready to rise
Lift out and, using scissors, knife, or razor, cut designs in the dough, snipping deeply enough to see the orange, and even the brown center. Bake as instructed in the recipe.
Okay, WHEW. I think I’m ready to move on from bread now.
I make these recipes seem WAY more complicated than they are, because I don’t want to leave any questions in your mind when you’re elbow-deep in flour. If I had a little more technological ability I’d just do a video. (Maybe in the future, but don’t hold your breath.)
As Julia Child said: “Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”
Two of my favorite breads have been marbled together to create a crusty, flavorful symbol of autumn harvest. This loaf could be:
The focus of a charcuterie board.
A Thanksgiving centerpiece.
The foundation for the best turkey or grilled cheese sandwich ever.
A Halloween masterpiece. (Add a little orange and black food coloring.)
I actually made two versions—this, and one using sourdough. I loved the chewy texture of the sourdough loaf, but I can only put one recipe in a blog, and this one was quicker to make. (You’re welcome!) I will, however, post the sourdough recipe too in a few days. Check back!
It takes a little more effort to make this than a normal loaf of bread, because you will have to knead the orange half by hand. (The rye half can be kneaded by machine if you wish.) But there is nothing hard about this at all.
Optional: 1 egg white whisked with 1 teaspoon water and flaked rye (or oatmeal)
Food coloring - orange and black to create Halloween colors
In a large bowl combine very warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit until bubbles begin to form - about 5 minutes.
Add pumpkin, 3 cups of bread flour, and salt. Mix until completely combined. Mixture will be a heavy batter.
Spread the remaining 1 cup of bread flour on work surface and drop half (about 1½ cups or 1 pound) dough on the flour. Sprinkle some of the flour on top of the dough and knead until just slightly sticky - about 5 minutes. It's very soft to begin with; use a dough scraper if necessary. Form kneaded dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Leave any leftover flour on work surface.
The remaining dough in the bowl will be your brown rye bread. To knead by hand, stir in caraway seeds, molasses, cocoa, and espresso powder,. Push bread flour aside and place 1 cup rye flour on the work surface, then drop the dough onto the top and knead as you did the orange dough. If more flour is needed, don't add more rye - use bread flour. (If kneading by machine, simply add the remaining ingredients to the dough and switch to a dough hook and knead for 5 minutes.) Form a ball and place it into the bowl next to the orange dough.
Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
On floured surface, press or roll the rye dough into a rectangle approximately 12 inches long, with the width a little shorter than the length of your bread pan. Repeat with the orange dough. Place orange dough on top of brown dough. (It doesn't have to fit perfectly.)
Fold the bottom third up and then the top third down over the bottom third. Pinch edges closed. Using the edges of your hands, gently tuck the dough under all the way around, several times until you achieve a smooth loaf. If the orange dough shows through the top a little, that's fine.
Place in prepared loaf pan, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap, and let rise until double - about 1 hour.
Heat oven to 375 F and lightly grease a large loaf pan. (I like to spray with a flour/oil spray like Baker's Joy.)
If desired, brush the top of the loaf with egg white wash and sprinkle with flaked rye (or oats). Make several slits diagonally or straight across the top using a sharp knife, razor, or scissors.
Bake for approximately 40-45 minutes, or until light brown. When released from the pan the bottom should sound hollow when tapped. .
For best results, let the bread cool before cutting.
Combine water, sugar, yeast, and let it sit until you see a few small bubbles forming (about 5 minutes).
Add flour, pumpkin (sheesh, that looks RED!) and salt. Mix well. It will be more like a heavy batter than a dough.
Place half the dough on top of 1 cup flour on work surface. Knead for about 5 minutes. You probably won’t need all the flour, but that will depend on if you divided the dough evenly. If it isn’t sticking to your hands, it has enough flour!
Form into a ball and place in greased bowl.
To the remaining half add molasses, cocoa, espresso powder, and caraway seeds. If using the machine to knead, add rye flour. If kneading by hand, don’t add the flour yet. Dump the wet dough onto a cup of rye flour. Knead well and form into a ball.
Snuggle them up, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap, and let them rise.
The orange dough is softer and will rise a little more. That’s okay!
Press or roll each ball into a rectangle about 12 inches long and not quite as wide as the length of your pan. Lay orange dough on brown.
Flip bottom third up, then top third down over the bottom third.
Pinch it all the way around the edges.
Use the sides of your hands to gently tuck the bread under ALL the way around until you have a smooth loaf. Place it in the pan to rise until doubled.
Once it has risen, you can brush the top with an egg wash and sprinkle with flaked rye if you’d like.
Snip! Snip! Cut a few slits in the top, straight or diagonal, with a sharp instrument of choice.
Put down that butter! Try to restrain yourself (I know it’s hard) and wait until it’s cooled off to cut it, otherwise you’ll let out all that important steam. Warm is okay.
This is going to be a fall tradition around here from now on. Hope you and yours enjoy it too!
Light, spicy scones studded with chunks of fresh pear are a lovely way to welcome fall. Brown butter adds a nutty flavor to these luscious pear scones—well worth the few additional minutes of preparation. And if you’ve never used brown butter before, you may have a new addiction; this stuff is good!
Are you the organized type? Brown your butter and let it chill overnight, and the scones will be quick and easy to make for breakfast. If you are more spontaneous (I totally understand a sudden, urgent need for scones) you can make the brown butter, cool it slightly, and pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes. For best results, use unsalted butter (spring for the good stuff; it has less water in it), though I’ve used salted when necessary, cutting the added salt a bit my recipe.
If you want to use regular butter instead of brown butter, use 1 stick (1/2 cup). When making brown butter you use a little more, because by the time the water boils out and you throw away the browned solids in the bottom of the pan, you end up with less. In this case, you should have approximately 1/2 cup.
Before I baked the scones, I sprinkled them generously with sparkling sugar. I love sweets, so felt compelled to add a brown sugar icing after the scones had cooled a little. Just FYI, that’s a lot of sweetness. You will probably want to choose one or the other. (Hint: I vote for the icing!)
¾ cup (1 and ½ sticks) unsalted butter (if using salted, reduce salt to ¼ teaspoon). This will yield approximately ½ cup of brown butter
2½ cups all purpose flour
⅓ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped fresh, firm pears (peeled and cored)
¾ cup buttermilk
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
Coarse or sparkling sugar (optional)
¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk
½ cup powdered sugar
BROWN BUTTER: Cut butter into chunks and place in small pan (light colored, if possible) on medium low heat. Stirring occasionally, bring butter to a boil. It will be noisy; once it has quieted down and turned into more of a foam, stir often until the butter turns a deep golden color and the solids have turned dark and dropped to the bottom of the pan. Pour into a strainer to remove the sediment and pour the butter into a small bowl, discarding solids. Chill (or freeze) until solid.
Heat oven to 400 F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment and sprinkle generously with flour.
In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.
Use a pastry blender to thoroughly cut in the butter.
Toss the chopped pears into the flour mixture until coated.
Mix together the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour liquids into the well. Stir gently just until combined. Don't overmix!
Drop the dough onto the flour-covered parchment, and turn a few times gently to coat. Use your hand to pat into an 8-inch round. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired.
Using a sharp knife, cut into 8 (or 10) sections, pushing the knife straight down and lifting straight up for best results. Use the knife or a pie server to slide carefully under each scone and pull out, separating the scones slightly. Even if they bake back together they will come apart easily.
Bake approximately 18 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove pan and place on cooling rack.
ICING: In a medium saucepan, bring brown sugar, butter, and milk to a boil over medium heat. Boil gently for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar until no lumps remain. When scones are no longer hot, drizzle icing over them. A plastic storage bag with the tip cut off works well.
Bring the butter to a boil. It is very noisy at this point!
The bubbles get smaller, more like a rich lather. Stir, stir, stir!
Starting to get brown. Thick and creamy, hard to see the solids in the bottom. Time to take it off the heat.
Strain the butter and place in the fridge or freezer until solid.
With a pastry blender, cut the chilled brown butter into the flour mixture.
Add the chopped pears and toss until coated.
Beat or whisk the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla together. Make a well in the dry ingredients and stir liquids in gently, JUST until combined. Drop dough onto prepared pan, turn to coat with flour, and press into 8-inch round.
Cut into 8 (or 10) wedges, and carefully slide a utensil under each to separate slightly. Bake!
Mmmmm. Once they’ve cooled a bit, you can drizzle them with icing.
If you make eight scones, they’re pretty big. I have NO objection to that, but if you would prefer dainty scones, make two small rounds out of the dough and use a little shorter bake time.
Who needs soda crackers in their soup when it’s so easy to make edible spoons? Yes, you can have your spoon and eat it too! Surprisingly, one spoon will make it through an entire bowl of soup without falling apart, but if you give each person two or three, they can crunch away as they go, which is half the fun.
I used a little yeast in this simple dough to keep the spoons light; we wouldn’t want to break a tooth on them, right? The dough won’t rise much, but it will be easier to work with after an hour of rest. While I worked with half of the dough (I don’t have four dozen spoons) the other half was covered with plastic wrap, rising a bit again as it waited its turn. Once the spoons are covered with dough they go straight into the oven, because you don’t want them to rise at that point.
If you don’t need four dozen spoons, you could turn the remaining dough into breadsticks by cutting the dough into strips, brushing with melted butter and then sprinkling with garlic salt and Italian cheese. Give them a twist and bake until light brown and crunchy.
I can fit 18 spoons on a cookie sheet, which was plenty for me! If you get tired of making spoons, turn the rest of the dough into crunchy breadsticks.
I tried many different methods for shaping the dough to see which was fastest and easiest for me, and settled on rolling the dough out very thin, then cutting rough spoon shapes with a sharp knife. You may prefer to roll small pieces into ropes (skinny on one end, fat on the other), but the important thing is to cover the spoon with a very thin layer of dough. If it’s too thick it won’t be as crisp, and it will puff up, which won’t leave enough room in the bowl of the spoon for soup.
Thin, thicker, thickest! The spoon on the left would be for a light soup. The spoon on the right would work for chili.
In a large bowl, combine the water, salt and sugar.
Add flour and yeast. (If using a stand mixer, switch to a dough hook.) Mix until dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl, adding a little more flour if necessary.
Place dough on a floured surface and knead a few times until dough isn't sticky. Place in greased bowl or a plastic bag. Let dough sit for 1 hour. It will rise a little, but will not double.
Heat oven to 375 F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment. (The spoons slip around easily; use baking sheets with sides, if possible.) Gather STAINLESS teaspoons and tablespoons and place them upside down on the baking sheets. Coat the backs lightly with a thin coating of butter.
Divide dough in half. Return one half to bowl or plastic bag while you work with the other half.
On a floured surface, roll dough out very thin . . .no more than ⅛ inch. With a sharp knife cut out shapes roughly the size and shape of a spoon. Don't worry about being exact; you can stretch and pat the dough to fit.
Start with the bowl of the spoon, pressing the dough to fit all the way to the edges. Press with the palm of your hand to make it even, trimming any excess around the edge with scissors if necessary.
Twist the dough at the bottom of the bowl, where it turns into the handle, and press firmly onto the spoon, then cover the handle with the dough, cutting off the end or twisting it decoratively. You can also twist the whole handle, or braid . . . have fun and experiment!
When all of the spoons are covered with dough, place the baking sheet into the oven. Bake approximately 18-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your dough and the weight of your silverware. Look for a rich golden brown around the edges.
Remove from oven and leave the dough on the spoons for 5 minutes. Remove and allow stainless spoons to cool before repeating with the remaining dough.
Best if used promptly, but if you are making them ahead, make sure they are completely cool before storing.
You can also freeze them. If you want to serve them warm, just pop them in the oven for a few minutes at 375 F.
Place dough in greased bowl or plastic bag and let it sit for 1 hour. It will rise a little, but won’t double.
This dough was a little thick. Thin is better, but if you want sturdy, be sure to bake it a little longer.
Ready for the oven.
Baked. Let them sit on the spoons for 5 minutes.
We’re moving into my favorite time of year. Pears and apples, nutmeg and cinnamon, maple everything . . . I love Fall! The garden goes to sleep and I have time to play in the kitchen and linger in my happy place. I just bought forty pounds of Honeycrisp apples and some gorgeous pears, so I guess you know what’s coming next.
This fluffy strawberry cake is made with fresh berries, and has chocolate cookie layers baked right in! Frosted with whipped buttercream and topped with chocolate dipped strawberries, it’s a dessert that will dazzle!
You’ll need about 15 large strawberries (more if you plan to dip some in chocolate to decorate the top). And you’ll need chocolate wafers. I used Nabisco Famous wafers, because they crush well and aren’t too sweet. You could scrape the icing out of chocolate sandwich cookies and use the those if you prefer. (Dump that greasy filling!)
I made this cake five times before I was satisfied, and The Man was happy to test each version. Repeatedly.
I wanted a little more strawberry flavor, so for my fifth try I added a teaspoon of (gasp) strawberry gelatin powder. You can use strawberry extract instead, or just stick with the berries and enjoy the light taste.
Each of my cakes got progressively pinker as I got braver with the pink food color. Again, go au naturel if you wish, but expect a less vibrant, grayish shade of pink because the color fades a bit as it bakes.
Here is how the color progressed as I experimented:
That first cake also had whole eggs. The yolks don’t exactly help bring out the color, do they? Looking at these photos, I might have been a little heavy-handed with the food coloring on that last cake. I think I like the bubblegum color of the middle version best. Moderation! Here is how it looked frosted:
CAKE: Cut two parchment circles to fit the bottom of two 8-inch round cake pans. DO NOT GREASE OR FLOUR PANS. (9-inch pans will work too; your layers will just not be as tall.}
In a medium bowl, combine crushed wafer cookies, melted butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar, stirring until completely blended. Divide between the pans (about 1 packed cup in each pan) and press firmly onto the parchment. Use a measuring cup to press down along the edge of the pan to keep edge from crumbling after baking.
In a large bowl, beat the softened butter, coconut oil, and sugar together for 3 minutes.
Mix in the strawberry puree and add coloring and flavoring if desired.
Sift together the baking powder, salt, and cake flour. Sift again! Add half to the batter, beating on medium speed just until combined. Scrape bowl. Add milk and beat until combined. Scrape bowl. Add remaining flour mixture and beat until combined. Fold in chopped strawberries.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add 1 tablespoon sugar gradually while beating, then beat until egg whites form stiff peaks.
Fold into cake mixture gently, until just a few small fluffs of egg white remain visible.
Divide batter between the cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out cleanly when inserted in the middle of one of the cakes.
Move cakes onto cooling racks for 10 minutes. Carefully run a thin knife around the outside edges to loosen, then turn them out by putting a rack on top of each cake and flipping them both over. Carefully lift off pans. Allow cakes to cool completely.
FROSTING: In a large bowl beat butter and coconut oil (or shortening) together until smooth. Add ⅓ of the powdered sugar at a time, beating well with each addition. (If mixture gets too stiff to mix, add a small amount of the whipping cream as needed.) Beat in coloring. Add cream gradually, then beat well. Adjust as necessary with more sugar or more cream to achieve an icing that will spread easily.
ASSEMBLY: Place first cake chocolate side up on serving dish. Gently spread a thin layer of frosting over the chocolate layer. Add second layer chocolate side up. Spread frosting along the side of the cake. Use remaining icing to pipe designs. Strawberries dipped in chocolate add a lovely touch to the top of the cake!
Crush the chocolate cookies. You can use a food processor or put them in a zip top bag and roll them with a rolling pin. Or, roll one at a time and make a mess!
Combine the crushed chocolate cookies, sugar, and melted butter
Press crumbs FIRMLY into parchment lined pans. Use a measuring cup with flat sides to tamp down around edges.
Using a blender or food processor, blend 12 large strawberries (or enough to make 1 1/2 cups of smooth puree. (Think margarita!)
Cream together the butter, coconut oil, and sugar. Add puree.
Sift dry ingredients together twice. I sift onto a paper plate then place the empty sifter into a bowl. It’s easy to funnel the flour back into the sifter this way.
Mix in half of the flour, then the milk, then the remaining flour. Don’t overmix! (Pretend I have a photo here . . . )
Roll the chopped berries in a paper towel and give them a squeeze to remove extra juice. Stir into batter.
Beat egg whites until foamy, then trickle in the sugar while beating. Continue until stiff peaks form. (Use those yolks for pastry cream, Hollandaise sauce, mayo, ice cream, or custard!)
Fold the egg whites gently into the batter and divide between the two pans. Bake.
Frost with a thin layer of buttercream icing. Go easy; let the cake be the star of this show! But pretty rosettes with chocolate dipped strawberries are gorgeous on top.
If you’re like me, you may have put on one or (ahem) two pounds during this pandemic quarantine. Sigh. I just love sugar. And chocolate. And nuts. All the “bad” stuff is just so good! You might want to indulge in this cake NOW, because I’m going to pull up my big girl panties (which are pretty darn snug at the moment} and create a healthier recipe for my next post.
I love dense, chewy rye bread, but wanted something lighter for sandwiches and rolls. With yeast in short supply in many places right now, I was pleased to find that using sourdough starter and just 1/4 teaspoon of yeast created two wonderful loaves of bread. I tried a batch without any yeast, and it was really good, but it took a little longer to rise and was slightly denser.
You probably know by now that I don’t always play by the rules. Experimenting is half the fun! Purists will hiss through their teeth when they see I’ve added yeast to my sourdough sponge, but it made lovely, light loaves of bread. I just used it as insurance, but if you have a robust sourdough starter and don’t mind a little more rise time, by all means skip the commercial yeast!
If you aren’t familiar with using a sponge when making bread, I really urge you to give it a try. It isn’t complicated or difficult. In a few minutes you can mix it up, tuck it in, and go to bed. When you wake up in the morning it will be ready to go to work.
A sponge creates a lighter loaf of bread, with more flavor, and is worth the extra bit of effort.
For this recipe you will need sourdough starter, rye flour, and bread flour. Bread flour makes a big difference. Rye flour is very low in gluten, and between that and the minimal amount of yeast in the recipe, the dough needs the extra ‘oompf’ bread flour offers.
Try to resist cutting into it while it’s hot, because it’s still baking inside. But DO get some while it’s warm!
Actual hands-on time for this bread is maybe 30 minutes, (a few more if you knead by hand) but it takes a long time to rise, so start your sponge the night before and just hang out the next day so you can let your dough set the pace.
1 cup sourdough starter (approximate; if you have a little less, that's fine)
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon active-dry yeast
1 cup bread flour
1 cup warm water
¾ cup warm water
½ cup very strong coffee
⅓ cup molasses
2 tablespoons cooking oil
3 cups rye flour
1 tablespoon salt
3½ cups bread flour
1 heaping tablespoon caraway seed (optional)
SPONGE: Start this the night before. Combine sourdough starter, sugar, yeast, bread flour, and warm water in a medium bowl. Stir well, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight.
DOUGH: In a large bowl (a sturdy stand mixer with dough hook is recommended) combine the sponge, warm water, coffee, molasses, and cooking oil.
Add rye flour and beat for 1 minute.
Add salt, bread flour, and caraway seeds. Knead by machine for 5 minutes, or by hand on a floured surface for 7 to 8 minutes. Dough will be slightly sticky. If kneading with the mixer, dough should come cleanly away from the side of the bowl. If not, add more bread flour 1 tablespoon at a time. If kneading by hand, use a lightly floured surface and add a little flour at a time, just enough to make it easy to handle. A dough scraper will help.
Move dough into a large greased bowl. Use slightly damp hands to form it into a ball and turn to coat the surface. Cover with a towel and let the dough rise until double. Depending on many factors this may take two to three hours.
Prepare a large baking sheet by sprinkling it with cornmeal, then punch down the dough and form into two long loaves. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until double . . . 2 to 3 hours.
Heat oven to 375 F.
Slash across each loaf several times with a razor blade or a very sharp knife. Bake for 40 minutes, or until dark brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with your knuckles.
Slide loaves onto cooling rack, brush with butter if desired, and allow to cool before cutting.
Add bread flour and salt last. (And caraway seeds, if desired. Some people use fennel too.)
The dough is a little sticky. You may need to use a rubber spatula to scoop into greased bowl. Damp hands work well to coax it into a ball.
Risen, and ready to punch down and form into two loaves.
My dough doesn’t look very smooth, partly because of the caraway seeds (I love them and tend to get carried away) and partly because I grind my own rye berries. This time I left them a little coarse. I’m pretty sure you’ll buy your rye flour at the store, which will be a little less . . . rustic.
You do YOU, of course, but here is how I form my loaves:
First I pull all of the edges up to the top to make a rough ball.
Then, start from one side and roll it like a sleeping bag. Pinch the ends into submission (make them round and pretty) and place seam down on baking sheet.
Ready to cover and let rise.
Slash the bread! Dusting with flour (my preference) is optional.
Try different shapes if you’d like. Just adjust the baking time for smaller loaves.
Before you dig in, you may want to sacrifice part of a loaf for absolutely killer croutons! What a treat. I had to hide some for salads because The Man was eating them hand over fist.
For Mothers Day, May Day, or a spring tea, these sweet little tea cakes will steal the show! So easy to make (and to eat), you may find yourself trying out all the different variations you can think of. Try adding: lime zest, chopped nuts, colored sprinkles, or culinary lavender. Skip the coconut if it isn’t to your liking, and just add a cup or so of nuts.
You almost certainly have eaten similar cookies during the holidays; they’re a classic, known as Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cakes, and a variety of other names. Buttery, melt-in-your-mouth tender, and minimally sweet (if you don’t count the powdered sugar they are usually rolled in), they are one of my favorite cookies on the Christmas platter. I just traded coconut for the nuts. Oh, and added lemon. And violets.
Coconut was something that just seemed to go with the lemon and violet theme. I’m not a huge fan, but I chopped it up into tiny pieces (no long stringy stuff for me) and found it delightful.
IMPORTANT: Violets (violas) are edible. Pansies, too. Both are perfect for this application. But beware; African Violets are NOT edible. Nope. Steer clear! When in doubt, do your research. I bought seeds for edible violets last year and had more flowers than I could use. They made it through our cold winter (zone 5) and are blooming like crazy again this year. Try that. Or you can order fresh violas online (if you’re Daddy Warbucks). I understand that some grocery stores offer them in season. Not where I live! One more option is candied violets. They aren’t as pretty as fresh, but still nice.
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (I needed 3 large lemons for this)
¼ teaspoon lemon extract (or ½ teaspoon vanilla)
½ cup coconut, chopped fine
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons water or lemon juice
1 teaspoon meringue powder (optional)
24 fresh violets, stems trimmed off as close to flowers as possible.
Heat oven to 300 F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment.
COOKIES: In a large bowl, beat the butter and powdered sugar until creamy.
Add lemon juice, zest, extract, and coconut. Beat well.
Add flour and beat just until combined. (Mixture will look crumbly.)
Use a rounded tablespoon of dough for each cookie (a cookie scoop works well) and roll into balls, taking care to make them smooth and round. Space at least 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown.
GLAZE: In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, water (or lemon juice) and meringue powder. Mixture should be fairly thin, easily pouring off a spoon.
Dip the top of each cookie in the glaze and allow it to drip before turning it right side up on a piece of parchment. Immediately place a violet on top, pressing down lightly to flatten. Allow cookies to dry for at least 15 minutes, then add a little more water to the small amount of glaze left in the bowl and paint it gently over each flower. Let cookies dry thoroughly before storing.