Gingerbread

gingerbreadYesterday we put up our Christmas tree, and it seemed appropriate to make gingerbread. Not gingerbread cookies, despite how delicious (and adorable) they are – but actual gingerbread loaves, which I’d never made before.

I found a great gingerbread loaf recipe from Pillsbury and adapted it slightly to include a thicker glaze than the original.  You could leave the loaves plain if you like, but I highly recommend glazing them – although you might not expect it, lemon glaze adds a wonderful dimension of flavor to this rich, spicy bread. It would also be easy to cut this recipe in half to make just one loaf, or to bake the whole recipe in smaller loaf pans to give as gifts (which I’m totally going to do).

Ingredients

For the gingerbread

  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • Generous 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

For the glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 8 x 4 loaf pans (or spray with baking spray).

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and set; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each until the mixture is smooth.

In a 4-cup glass measuring cup, combine molasses and boiling water, stirring to combine. Add baking soda and stir; mixture will become foamy.

With the mixer running on low, slowly pour the molasses mixture into the butter mixture, beating until combined. Add flour in three batches, beating until just incorporated after each; stir by hand until well-blended.

Divide batter evenly between the pans and bake for 45-60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean; my loaves only needed about 45 minutes.

Cool in pans for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

To make the glaze, place powdered sugar in a medium bowl and add lemon juice 1 tablespoon at a time; you want a thicker glaze texture. Pour over loaves, spreading to the edges. Allow glaze to set before serving.

Easy Peanut Butter Fudge

easy-pb-fudgeI’ve made many batches of this fudge recipe with milk chocolate chips, but various migraine-related issues have put an end to my chocolate-eating days. Fortunately, I’ve always loved peanut butter fudge, and this recipe offers an easy alternative to chocolate. Much to my surprise (and delight), this fudge has a much richer peanut butter flavor that you might expect to get from peanut butter chips, though I do recommend using the Reese’s brand instead of generic.

This recipe makes a smaller batch and is not quite as sweet as my previous peanut butter fudge recipe, though both are delicious. While the original recipe calls for this to be refrigerated after pouring into the lined pan, I chose to leave it at room temperature to cool completely; you could certainly refrigerate it if you like, though refrigerating fudge can dry it out.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup (one 5-ounce can) evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Reese’s peanut butter baking chips
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

Line an 8×8 baking dish with foil, extending foil over the sides.

In a medium bowl, combine peanut butter chips and marshmallows; set aside. Place vanilla in a small prep bowl; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, evaporated milk, butter, and salt; stirring constantly, bring to a rolling boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes. Note: you must continue to stir the mixture while it boils for 5 minutes; I stir with my non-dominant arm during this period so I don’t get too tired.

Remove from heat and add peanut butter chips, marshmallows, and vanilla extract. Vigorously stir until the mixture is smooth, about 3 more minutes. Pour into baking dish and allow to cool completely at room temperature before cutting.

Spice Muffins with Pecan Streusel

spice-muffins-with-pecan-streuselHappy Thanksgiving, friends! This holiday offers so much wonderful food, from turkey to pumpkin pie. But what about Thanksgiving breakfast? Shouldn’t it have special food as well? I think these spice muffins, with their crunchy pecan streusel topping, make a wonderful addition to Thanksgiving breakfast.

These muffins are adapted from a standard recipe in the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, which I’ve had for 16 years (and has never, ever failed me). I began with a basic, plain muffin recipe and added cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, as well as a pecan streusel topping. You could opt for walnuts in the streusel if you like, or leave the nuts out altogether if you prefer. Next time, I might also add a spice drizzle icing.

Ingredients

Pecan Streusel

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
  • 4 tablespoons chopped pecans

Spice Muffins

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line one 12-count muffin tin with paper liners; this recipe makes 12 muffins.

In a small bowl, combine streusel ingredients: mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger with a fork. Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or two knives) until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in pecans; set streusel aside in a cool place until ready to use.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Make a well in the center.

In a medium bowl, combine egg, milk, and vegetable oil; pour into the well in the dry mixture and stir until just moistened. The batter will be lumpy, but that’s fine – you don’t want to over-mix.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into muffin tins, filing about half full. Top with about 1 tablespoon of streusel mix.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately remove muffins to a wire rack to cool, or serve warm.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Apple Pie with Plaid Lattice Leaf Crust

apple-pie-with-lattice-leaf-crustSometimes, I use canned pie filling. Yes! You’re shocked, I know…unless you’ve already read my posts on cherry pie and peach pie, of course.

Here’s the thing: fully scratch-made pies are awesome, but I’ve already made apple pie from scratch. And today, on Thanksgiving Eve, I wanted to spend time focusing on my crust, creating a beautiful, fancy lattice and interesting edge.

Behold, fancy lattice and interesting edge! I’m not the best crust designer, so each time I make pies now, I practice a new design. This time, I chose a thin plaid lattice of one-half and one-inch strips, then added a leaf border around the edge. I’m very pleased with the end result.

Ingredients

  • 2 pie crusts*
  • 1 20-ounce can apple pie filling
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg

*My pie crust recipe, which I learned from my mom, yields 3 crusts. If you’re not sure what to do with the extra crust, consider apple crumb pie, chocolate pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, or pie crust rolls

Preparation

Mix cinnamon, nutmeg, and pie filling; set aside.

Prepare crusts; line an 8-inch pie dish with one and reserve the second for the lattice leaf top.

Roll your second crust into a rectangle at least 9 inches tall. Cut one-half and one-inch strips; you’ll need 5 one-half inch and 7 one-inch strips for this design, plus more for the leaves, and you should have plenty. I had a bit of dough left over that I’m going to turn into pie crust rolls later.

Pour filling into pie dish, then top with 7 strips of crust; start from the outside edge and alternate the one-inch strips with the one-half-inch strips.

Fold back every other strip halfway; place a one-inch strip, then a one-half-inch strip, in the opposite direction and fold the other strips back so they cover the new ones. Repeat as necessary; if you need video help for latticework, check out this video from Southern Living. Once your lattice is complete, trim your edges and fold them over to secure them.

Using a small leaf cookie cutter (I chose a teardrop-shaped leaf), cut leaves for your edge; re-roll your scraps if necessary. My edge used 24 leaves.

Gently press the leaves onto the edge of your crust, making sure they stick to the crust below.

Place a pie guard or foil around the edge of the crust; bake for 25 minutes, then remove the guard and bake another 25 minutes.

Cool pie completely, or serve warm.

Butter Pecan Cookies

butter-pecan-cookiesThis recipe is adapted very slightly from one called “butter pecan fantasies” in the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. While the dough might be a bit of a challenge to work with, the end result is absolutely delicious. The toffee bits, butterscotch chips, and chopped pecans might seem like too much at first, but their flavors blend together perfectly, and their different textures add wonderful crunch to an otherwise soft, chewy cookie.

I added more vanilla extract than the original recipe called for to bring my dough together, as it seemed too crumbly with just 2 teaspoons. It’s also important to note that mixing in the toffee bits, butterscotch chips, and chopped pecans takes some time – I used both the paddle attachment on my mixer and my hands to incorporate them as best I could. These cookies would be delicious with chocolate chips instead of butterscotch, but they’d need a different name.

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup toffee bits
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, salt, and baking soda. Add egg and beat until well-combined and fluffy. Add flour mixture in three batches, beating well to combine between each; dough will pull away from the side of the bowl when ready.

Mix in toffee bits, butterscotch chips, and pecans; use your hands if necessary.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes, until tops are just golden brown.

Cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes about 3 dozen.

Amish Oatmeal Cookies

amish-oatmeal-cookieOatmeal cookies are among my favorite, and these cookies offer a delightful twist on the classic treat. This recipe comes from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion and includes some surprising touches; there’s nutmeg in the dough along with cinnamon, and a brown sugar cinnamon mixture for coating. The original recipe includes raisins, but I decided to leave them out. If you’d like to add them, go for 1/2 cup and add them after you stir in the oats.

I didn’t expect these cookies to spread out when baking as much as they did, so I advise you to leave plenty of room on your baking sheets, at least a few inches between each cookie. Also, let them cool on the baking sheets for just a minute or two once they’re done baking; any more time, and they might end up overdone.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, slightly softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats

For the coating

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat butter, sugars, baking powder, salt, baking soda, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add eggs and milk, beating until combined.

Mix in flour on low speed until just incorporated, then stir in oats.

Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour or until firm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine light brown sugar and cinnamon, mixing with a fork to combine.

Scoop dough using a 1-inch cookie scoop and roll into balls, then dip in brown sugar mixture to coat.

Place on cookie sheets, spacing at least 2 inches apart. If desired, use the tines of a fork to flatten slightly – I omitted this step in my preparation.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until centers are still puffy but edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Old-Fashioned Vanilla Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

old-fashioned-cupcakes-with-pb-frostingThis recipe is slightly adapted from Trisha Yearwood’s on the Food Network site. While it yields a delicious treat, I must say that the cupcake is much sturdier than I expected it to be. It’s almost like a pound cake cupcake, so if I ever make these again, I’ll probably pair them with a different frosting.

The frosting, however, is absolutely delicious. I tweaked mine to add more milk and vanilla for a fluffier, creamier texture than the original. I also want to note that the original said it yielded 12 cupcakes, but it really makes 24, so you’ll have plenty to share.

Old Fashioned Vanilla Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Add flour mixture and milk in alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Add vanilla and beat until combined.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter in cupcake wells, filling about 3/4 full.

Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and place cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and peanut butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes.

Add 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1/4 cup milk; beat on medium speed until well-combined, about 3-4 minutes.

Add remaining powdered sugar and beat for another 1-2 minutes, then slowly add remaining milk, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until the frosting is a smooth, spreadable consistency.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of frosting onto cupcakes; spread with an offset spatula.

Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.