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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Author:
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

Black Licorice & Orange No-Bake Cheesecake

I admit this recipe will appeal to a very limited audience, but I happen to adore black licorice. I always chose licorice ice cream when we were taken to the ice cream parlor as a child, and remember fondly the bowls of orange and black jelly beans that were put out for our Halloween parties.

I couldn’t resist running with that theme!

Which means I made this a little harder than it needs to be, because I wanted to actually use jelly beans to flavor my cheesecake. I also hoped that the pectin (or whatever is used to make them gummy) would help thicken my cheesecake, because there’s nothing worse than a no-bake cheesecake that doesn’t set properly.

My hope of covering all the bases (flavor, color, texture) with jelly beans may have been slightly optimistic. I ended up adding a little additional color, and found that unless you prefer subtle flavoring (I don’t), you’ll probably need to boost that too. I added orange zest to the orange layer and mashed licorice sticks to the licorice. (Easy to do . . . you’ll see.)

And . . . licorice has a way of turning green. And purple. You’ll need some serious black food coloring for this job! A final deep gray color was acceptable.

I used vodka for soaking the beans, assuming it would dissolve them more quickly than water. I’m not a lush, honest! It’s just that there are such fun flavors available in the liquor store. Pernod would be great for the licorice layer, and Grand Marnier for the orange. Sadly, I had neither, so if you go that route, please let me know how it tasted.

For an alcohol-free version, substitute orange juice for the booze when you soak the orange jelly beans, and Stash Licorice Spice tea (or just plain water) for the black jelly beans.

And, of course, you can always skip the jelly beans altogether (though DO use some to decorate your cheesecake) and simply use anise flavoring and black food color for the licorice layer, and orange flavoring and orange food color for the orange layer.

Black Licorice & Orange No-Bake Cheesecake
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Author:
This cheesecake needs to be refrigerated for a minimum of 10 hours before serving. Add any whipped cream decorations just before serving.
Ingredients
  • ORANGE MIXTURE:
  • 10 orange jelly beans, cut in half
  • 3 tablespoons vodka (or Grand Marnier or orange juice)
  • zest from one orange (zest orange and set aside to add to batter)
  • orange food coloring and flavoring, if desired
  • LICORICE MIXTURE:
  • 3 tablespoons vodka (or Pernod, licorice tea, or water)
  • 10 black licorice jelly beans, cut in half
  • 6 black licorice twists (I used Red Vines brand)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Black food coloring (powdered is best, but paste is okay - don't expect a true black color!)
  • CRUST:
  • 2 cups finely-crushed graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • CHEESECAKE
  • 16 ounces cream cheese (full fat, room temperature)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1¼ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • DRIZZLE:
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
Instructions
  1. Separate orange and black jelly beans into two small cups. Add 3 tablespoons vodka (or liquid of choice) to each. Cover lightly and set aside for at least 2 hours.
  2. Chop up licorice twists and place in a small cup. Add water. Cover lightly and set aside for at least 2 hours.
  3. Combine all ingredients for the crust in a medium bowl, mixing well. Press evenly into an 8-inch springform pan. Make sure you press it very firmly. Use a flat-bottomed measuring cup for best results. Place in the refrigerator.
  4. Drain the orange jelly beans, reserving the liquid and discarding any remaining jelly bean carcasses. Do the same with the black jelly beans. Set aside.Carefully drain the chopped licorice, but this time KEEP THE LICORICE and throw away the liquid. Mash licorice gently with a spoon and set aside. .
  5. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add sour cream and powdered sugar, and beat for 2 minutes.
  6. Add lemon juice and mix well.
  7. Remove 1⅓ cups of the batter and place in a separate medium bowl.
  8. Add 1 tablespoon of orange liquid to one of the bowls, and the orange zest. If you want to add orange coloring or flavoring, do so now. Stir well. Set aside.
  9. Add 1 tablespoon of black liquid to the other bowl, and the mashed licorice twists.
  10. Mix well, then add black coloring until it is the desired shade. NOTE: Don't throw away the remaining orange and black liquid. It will be used to make a drizzle for the top of the cheesecake.
  11. In a medium bowl, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Divide between both bowls and fold in gently.
  12. Remove springform pan from the refrigerator and carefully spread the licorice mixture into the pan, smoothing all the way to the edges.(Using an offset spatula helps.) Add the orange mixture to the top of the licorice layer and smooth evenly.
  13. (Optional) In a small sauce pan, combine the remaining orange liquid and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens (about 1 minute). Hold the pan high over the cheesecake and drizzle the syrup over the top. Repeat with the licorice liquid.
  14. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 10 hours. (It can be made a day ahead.) Carefully run a sharp knife between the crust and the side of the pan.before releasing the outer ring. Decorate with whipped cream and jelly beans (maybe sprinkles, too?) right before serving.
  15. This is delicious frozen, too. If you want to freeze it, wait until it is completely set, then wrap it well.

Chop up licorice twists. I used Red Vines Brand. (I can’t guarantee Twizzlers would “melt” the same way.)

Soak chopped licorice twists in water for 2 hours. They will turn to mush, which is exactly what you want. Drain and discard liquid – mash and save the licorice.

Soak the jelly beans for 2 hours before draining. Keep that liquid!

Mix crust ingredients together well. Press into 8-inch springform pan. Refrigerate.

Beat cream cheese well. Add sour cream and powdered sugar. Beat for 2 minutes

Add lemon. (I know it sounds weird with licorice, but don’t skip this!)

Whip it! Whip it good! You want to see stiff peaks form.

Divide into two equal portions. Add licorice to one and orange to the other. Add additional coloring or flavoring if you wish. Gently fold in the whipped cream.

Spread licorice on crust.

Top with the orange layer.

If you’d like, you can briefly cook the remaining orange and black liquids with a little sugar to make a drizzle. (Or I’ll bet it would be great in tea.) Sprinkles would look good, too.

If you’ve read this far, you must be a true licorice lover. You have just enough time to run to the store and get the ingredients so you can make it the day before Halloween. Shoo! Shoo!

Lorinda

Pumpkin Spice Cake (Garden Spider’s Revenge)

Surprisingly light, pleasantly spicy, and easy to make, this two-layer cake deserves a place on your table from now through Christmas. Brown sugar buttercream frosting complements it perfectly without overwhelming; it allows the flavor of the cake to shine through.

Oh . . . you may have noticed that I decorated this one for Halloween. A little gross,  with a tipped over wheelbarrow that spilled its pumpkins on the ground, next to a trowel and straw hat that have been abandoned because the unlucky gardener—who had obviously gotten on the bad side of a huge garden spider—has been wrapped tightly in the spider’s silk. A lot of webs, a little blood . . . good times! You may not want to decorate your cake like this for Thanksgiving, but it’s a slam-dunk winner for a Halloween party.

This blog is about the cake and frosting, but I’ll also tell you what I used for Halloween decorations at the bottom of the post, in case you want to creep out your family and friends.

Pumpkin Spice Cake
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Author:
Makes two 9-inch round layers or 36-38 cupcakes (bake for approximately 18 minutes)
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1¼ cups cooking oil
  • 1 cup solid pack pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • FROSTING:
  • 1½ cups butter - room temperature
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 6-7 cups powdered sugar
  • Cream or milk (if needed)
Instructions
  1. CAKE: Heat oven to 350 F. Place rounds of parchment in two 9-inch round cake pans. Spray sides and parchment lightly with baking spray (like Baker's Joy). Or grease and flour the pans and place a parchment round in the bottom of each.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, oil, and pumpkin well.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly and scraping the side of the bowl with each addition.
  5. Combine buttermilk and vanilla.
  6. Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix until incorporated. Add half of the buttermilk mixture and mix until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and repeat. Mix just until the batter is smooth.
  7. Divide evenly between prepared pans. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out cleanly when inserted in the middle of one cake. Don't overbake or cake will be dry.
  8. Cool for a few minutes on rack, then turn out of pans to cool completely.
  9. FROSTING:
  10. In a large bowl, beat the butter and shortening together until smooth. Add brown sugar and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes.
  11. Slowly add powdered sugar until desired consistency, scraping the sides of the bowl often. Beat 2-3 minutes. To achieve a good spreading consistency, add a little cream or milk if too thick, or if mixture is too soft, add a little more powdered sugar. This frosting needs to be soft and easy to spread, because the cake is very light.
  12. Place one cake on serving plate and cover the top with a generous amount of frosting. Place second cake on top (flattest side up) and press gently to level it. Cover entire cake with remaining frosting.
  13. Decorate if desired with finely chopped nuts, sprinkles, or holiday candies.

Sift the dry ingredients and set aside.

Beat sugar, oil, and pumpkin (yes, it was colorful, but maybe not THIS red . . . ) then add eggs – one at a time. Seriously, take your time and beat well after each egg.

Add flour and liquids alternately.

Divide batter between two prepared 9-inch pans and bake.

Bake just until toothpick comes out clean . . . about 25 minutes.

This frosting is so good. Add liquid if necessary so it will spread easily. The cake is very light, and you don’t want to mash it!

There should be plenty of frosting for piping around the bottom. I left it plain because I was adding candy pumpkins. If you’re making this for an occasion other than Halloween, decorate the top with chopped nuts, candy, edible leaves . . . whatever you like.

 

So, stop here if you are making this cake for Thanksgiving or Christmas (or any other festive occasion). If you want to know how I made my Halloween decorations, read on.

The toppings on my cake were a mishmash of ideas.

When I frosted my cake I pressed “dirt” onto the top. (Chocolate and regular graham crackers, finely crushed and blended.)

The wheelbarrow was made from red fondant, with long cinnamon stick handles. The wheel was two candy melt discs stuck flat side together (heat one side briefly on a warm saucepan, then press together). wrapped in a strip of licorice to look like a tire. Use a little melted Isomalt (more about this stuff later) or melted candy melt as glue. If using Isomalt, be careful, and use gloves! A thin piece of cinnamon stick was pushed through the center of the candy melts to act as an axle, then both sides were stuck to the long handles. A little black licorice was also used as a trowel, with a handle made from a Kraft caramel.

I made a small batch of simple shortbread for the fence in the background. I have a fence cookie cutter, but you could just make posts. I also used the cookie dough to create the straw hat.

The poor gardener was made by wrapping cotton candy around a head, two arms, and two feet made from white chocolate. I added a little pink, orange, and brown to get a flesh color, but it could have used a bit more. I poured it into molds. What, doesn’t everyone have body part molds??? If not, you could use candy clay, fondant, or gum paste to create your own. Or just use cotton candy and let everyone imagine there is a person in it. (Oh, and I painted some hair and two eyes on the head with food coloring.)

I only ended up making one person on the cake, but had plenty of body parts to choose from 😀

They all looked a little too jolly to be victims, so I wrapped the cotton candy up over their mouths. Silenced!

There was some trial and error (and possibly some foul language) when it came to that spiderweb. I played with spun sugar with very limited success, and finally broke down and used Isomalt. If you’ve never used Isomalt, it’s similar to sugar but stays clear when heated, instead of amber, and is a little more forgiving. It’s hot hot HOT, so if you play with it, please be careful. I like to use it for windows in my gingerbread houses, so had some on hand. (I order the crystals through Amazon.) There are some wonderful videos online, but basically I just heated it until it melted, cooled it briefly, and when it thickened slightly I used a fork to drizzle/whisk it over the entire garden scene (not too much, just a hint of webbing) and then on a large piece of parchment. First I aimed at making “spokes”, then went in circles around and around. Dip, whisk. Once it cooled, I trimmed it to size carefully with scissors and placed it over my garden scene.

I used black fondant to shape the spider. (Hint: stick those legs on with a little water. They tend to drop off at inopportune times, otherwise.)

I bought the candy pumpkins. (I do have limits to my patience!) For the blood oozing out of the man’s mouth and down the side of the cake, I remelted the remaining isomalt and added a little red food coloring. Powdered food coloring is best, but I didn’t have any, so used paste. It thickens really quickly when you do that, so I had to work fast. Drizzle! (Or just buy a tube of red cake gel.)

That’s it. Gross cake accomplished!

Happy Halloween. (Sweet dreams . . . bwa ha ha.)

Lorinda

 

 

 

 

“Apple Pie” Shortbread Cookies

Tender shortbread cookies filled with sweet apple pie filling may be a new fall tradition at your house. I’ve added these to my shortbread pie cookie collection, and I think this is (take a step back,“Chocolate Pie Shortbread Cookies”) now my very favorite variety.

Imagine biting into one of these and sinking your teeth into warm apple filling. It’s heavenly! Promise me you’ll try one before it’s cooled off entirely. Don’t get me wrong—they’re great the next day—but warm off the rack? Delightful.

Proper shortbread uses a lot of butter, so this is not an inexpensive or low- cal recipe, but when the cookie melts in your mouth you will forget cost, time, and calories. The cookies are that good. Oh, and speaking of time . . . these aren’t hard, but weaving the lattice tops takes a little patience. Plan on a few hours of baking bliss, or find a helper to make it go faster. Believe me, rushing through it just makes more work for you; the little strips of dough will sense your impatience and be less cooperative. Enjoy the process!

Hint: If you plan to make these for a special occasion like Thanksgiving, when you’ll be running around doing lots of last-minute things, make the cookies the week before and freeze them, assembled but unbaked. So easy that way, and if you’re serving right after the meal, they can go in when the rolls come out of the oven. (Make sure you set the timer; you know how crazy things get. Or is that just me?) They’ll still be warm when everyone is ready for dessert.

My husband, having a constant stream of goodies presented to him, has become a little hard to impress. His comment after eating one of these warm cookies? “This is so much more than a cookie!” We won’t discuss how many he ate.

I know this recipe looks daunting, but that’s because it’s hard to explain how to make the lattice tops. It’s just wordy. I’m sure you could figure it out (I’m embarrassed to tell you how long it took me to find the fastest method) but it’s all down in black and white for you!

Apples vary in juiciness, which is why I have you strain them so the amount of thickener is consistent. If you have leftover cooked juice, it’s wonderful in tea (or wine).

NOTE: Recipe was edited to change the size of the cookie cutters. (I need to learn to read a ruler correctly.) The large cutter was about 3 1/2 inches, and the small one was 3 inches. Even so, those are BIG cookies. Feel free to downsize.

"Apple Pie" Shortbread Cookies
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Author:
Makes 24 substantial cookies!
Ingredients
  • APPLE FILLING:
  • 4 cups chopped apple (about 3 large apples)
  • ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons apple cider, divided
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • COOKIE DOUGH:
  • 2 cups butter (4 sticks), room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider (may use milk)
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • ½ cup cinnamon sugar
Instructions
  1. FILLING: In a medium pan on medium heat, combine chopped apples, ¼ cup cider, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then cook at a low boil (reduce heat if necessary) for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Strain apples, reserving the liquid.
  3. In a small bowl or cup, combine 3 tablespoons cider with 3 tablespoons cornstarch. Stir well and set aside.
  4. Return apples to the pan, along with 1 cup of the reserved liquid. (add apple cider to reach 1 cup of liquid, if necessary.)
  5. Bring apple mixture back to a boil and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Cook and stir until thick - about 1 minute. Cool thoroughly.
  6. DOUGH: In a large bowl (this is a heavy dough, so a sturdy mixer and dough hook is recommended) combine softened butter and powdered sugar. Beat well.
  7. Add apple cider and egg yolks and beat until incorporated. (Reserve egg whites in small bowl.)
  8. Add flour, salt, and nutmeg. Beat just until combined. Add cornstarch and beat until thoroughly combined. Dough will be stiff.
  9. Heat oven to 350 F.
  10. Working with half of the dough at a time, roll out to ¼-inch thickness. (A little thinner is fine, but don't go thicker.) For best results, roll between lightly floured sheets of parchment. Choose two round cutters, one slightly smaller than the other. My large cutter was 3½ inches and my small one was 3 inches.Cut dough into strips the width of your big cutter, and then from the short side, cut those strips into smaller strips a little less than ½-inch thick. (Each small strip would be 4½-inches by about ½-inch.)
  11. Weave 6 pieces into lattice, leaving a little space between strips. (Lay one piece vertically, one horizontally, making a plus sign. Place two more vertical pieces, one on each side of vertical piece. Lift the top of the center piece and slide a strip under it horizontally, laying over the other two vertical pieces. Lift the bottom of the center piece and slide a strip under it horizontally, over the other two vertical pieces.)
  12. Press lattice firmly with the palm of your hand. Center the small cutter over the lattice and cut out a round. Hold it down firmly with one hand while you remove the scraps and place them in a pile. SCRAPS WILL BE USED TO MAKE THE COOKIE BOTTOMS LATER.
  13. With a thin spatula, move the cookie top to a piece of parchment or cutting board. Repeat until you have 24 lattice tops, using as much of the remaining dough in the bowl as necessary.
  14. Whisk together the reserved egg whites and 1 tablespoon water. Brush lightly over lattice tops and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  15. Gather all of the scraps and any remaining dough and roll out to a little less than ¼-inch thickness. Cut rounds with large cutter. Press around the edge of each with your finger to thin and enlarge the rounds slightly. Brush with egg white wash.
  16. Heap 1 level tablespoon of apple mixture in the center of each round (a small scoop works well) and cover with one lattice top. Press the edge of the lattice top down firmly, then use your finger to flute the edge of the bottom round up, pressing firmly into the lattice layer. Place 1 inch apart on parchment covered baking sheet.
  17. Bake 12-14 minutes, or until edges are beginning to brown. Move to a rack to cool.

 

 

Cook the filling.

Strain the cooked apples. Don’t throw that juice away!

Add the cornstarch mixture to the boiling apples. Once thickened, let it cool completely.

Are you ready to rock?
(No pics of mixing dough. That’s pretty basic stuff!)

Roll out dough between sheets of floured parchment.

Cut strips the width of your large cutter; then cut those pieces into smaller strips

These strips are almost 1/2-inch wide. You can also make skinnier strips and use 8 pieces for a more dainty lattice.

Brush with egg wash and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Use a thin spatula to move each lattice onto filling.

Cut out bottom rounds. Press around edge to thin and enlarge slightly.

Brush bottom with egg wash. Heap a level tablespoon of filling in the center of each round. Add a lattice top and press firmly around the base

Use fingertip to flute edges . Press firmly against base of lattice top. (If you don’t press them together, the fluted edges may lay back down again as they bake!)

Going in the oven.

Enjoy!

Lorinda