Happy Holidays!

How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was good… Surrounded by loved ones, delicious food and sweet-tooth satisfying desserts. Of course, I did my fair share of baking… Key Lime Pie, Pumpkin-Brownie Swirl Pie, Pumpkin Pie, a Pumpkin Tiramisu Cake and the below Pear Cranberry Pie, just to name a few things.

 

I’ll admit that I took some major shortcuts when it came to making the crust for this pie. First off, I used a frozen deep dish pie crust as the base and for the lattice pattern I used refrigerated pie crust that I cut into strips to weave and braid and then added a decorative border with leaf cut-outs. I decided to brush the pie with milk prior to baking – I usually use an egg, but, after all of the baking I did I was feeling lazy and didn’t feel like cracking and whisking an egg – so I made sure to dab a little milk under the leaf border so to that the leaves and the lattice and braided strips would adhere to the crust. One other thing to note, I let the frozen crust sit out at room temperature for a few minutes after filling it so that it would be easier for my top crust stick to it. As for the filling, if you’ve never had pear pie you should definitely try one. For me, pear pie isn’t as sweet as apple pie and while I do bake a lot I actually don’t like things that are overly sweet. If you want the best of both worlds, try this Brown Butter & Vanilla Pear Pie I made last year for Thanksgiving. While the filling consists mainly of pears, there is 1 apple in the mix. As for the recipe for this or, I got it from the premiere issues of Magnolia Journal last year. You can find the recipe here.

Now that Thanksgiving is over I am looking forward to Christmas and New Year’s. I can’t believe how quickly the year has flown by. Fourth of July honestly feels like it was just a few short weeks ago, but, it was more like 5 long months ago. Today marks my three-month anniversary at my new job, oh yeah, I never mentioned that, I got a new job. I was working part-time before but I am now working full-time, which has given me some challenges when it comes to writing blog posts and sometimes baking, but, not really. I can always squeeze in some time for baking.

Next week I will be bringing you my 3rd annual Cookie Palooza… Hopefully you’ll try at least one of the recipes and just maybe it will become one of your staples. One of the cookies is actually one I am planning on making and gifting later this month, oops, later next month – we are still in November. I kind of like that Thanksgiving was early this year. I feel like it cuts down on the panic of realizing that the next set of holidays are just around the corner. Although, I was at Walmart a few weeks ago and seeing people shopping for what seemed like Christmas gifts already had me panicking a bit. Like I was short on time to get things done. Yikes! I have to-do lists everywhere I look.

The second week in December I am bringing you something new… A Holiday Cake Week. The idea came about last year when I never seemed to get the time to post about a Yule Log Cake I made and then some Snickerdoodle Cupcakes I made. So, I figured I would save the write-up for both and create a special week for them this year. Rounding out the five is a Pull-Apart Cupcake Christmas Wreath, a Rum Cake and a Rainbow Cookie Cake. Yum!

So, sit back, enjoy this last month of the year and don’t forget to indulge in some delicious treats. ‘Tis the season!

Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprints

There are some recipes you see that you know that you must instantly try… As was the case when I got a recipe in my inbox last week from Land O’ Lakes for a Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprint cookie. I pretty much love any pastry / baked item that involves almonds and then when you throw raspberry into the mix you are definitely in for something pretty delicious. Best of all, not only are these cookies amazing, but, they are simple to make and add a festive to look to your holiday cookie platters.

I began by making the dough (obviously… LOL!)… I combined butter, sugar and almond extract in the bowl of my stand mixer and beat it at medium speed until it was well combined, scraping the bowl as necessary. On low speed I added in flour and continued beat the mixture until it was well combined. Once the dough had come together I covered and refrigerated it for an hour or until the dough was firm.

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Once it was firm, I rolled dough into 1-inch sized balls – I used approximately 1/2 tablespoon of dough for each ball.

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Then using the back of a 1/4 teaspoon (you could simply use your thumb as well, hence the name of the cookie) I made a small indentation into the center of each cookie and then filled them with raspberry jam.

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After refrigerating the cookies for about 10 minutes I baked them in a 350 F preheated oven for about 12-14 minutes, until the edges just began to brown. You don’t have to refrigerate the cookies prior to baking, but, I did so so that the dough could firm up again a bit so the cookies wouldn’t spread as much while baking. My cookies did spread some so I probably could have left them in the refrigerator a bit longer. After removing them from the oven I let them sit on the cookie sheet for a minute or two and then transferred them to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Once the cookies cooled I drizzled a glaze of water, confectioners’ sugar and almond extract over them.

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One word for these cookies… YUM!

 

Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprints

  • Servings: 36-42 cookies
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Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup raspberry jam

 

For the Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 to 3 teaspoons water

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

 

Directions:

Combine the butter, sugar and almond extract in a bowl and beat at medium speed until creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Switch to low speed and add in the flour, beating well until all the ingredients have been combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F and cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls; approximately 1/2 tablespoon of dough. Place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Make a small indentation in the center of each of the cookies and fill with a 1/4 teaspoon of the raspberry jam.

You could place the cookies back in the refrigerator for a few minutes for the dough to firm up again, or place them directly in the oven for about 12-14 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned. Let stand on the cookie sheets for 1 minute and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Combine all the ingredients for the glaze in a bowl and whisk together until smooth and then drizzle over the cooled cookies.

Recipe from Land O’ Lakes

Vanilla Spritz Cookies

How is your holiday baking going? I’ve been squeezing it in while trying to finish up Christmas cards, Christmas shopping and Christmas gift crafting (i.e. knitting and crocheting.) I think I am on track to get it all done; if not there will be some late nights in my near future.

Today I am bringing you super simple and delicious Vanilla Spritz Cookies. So customarily when you make spritz cookies you pipe them through a cookie press, well, I tried that once and the results were horrible. So for these cookies I decided to pipe them using a pastry bag and a large star tip instead and the end result was great!

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To make the dough I began by beating butter in my stand mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Next I added in sugar and baking powder. Once those ingredients were well combined I added in an egg and vanilla bean paste. And finally flour.

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Next I transferred the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and made simple piped drop cookies which I then sprinkled with festive colored sugar and sprinkles. Now, I went simple and just did simple drop cookies, but, you could get creative and pipe wreaths or different swirl designs.

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After baking them in a 375 F preheated oven for 8 minutes I removed them from the oven and transferred them to a wire rack to cool completely. Now, these cookies are of the dangerous variety… On the smaller side and super yummy. Which means you could grab a decent handful and munch away on them absentmindedly. But, since it’s the Holidays it’s okay!

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Vanilla Spritz Cookies

  • Servings: 72 cookies
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***Please note that I halved the recipe. Below is the original recipe with the original measurements. If you would like to make a smaller batch of cookies, i.e. 36, follow the measurements in the parenthesis. To get the 2 tablespoons of egg, whisk the egg and then measure it out. You might be tempted to use the entire egg, but, that would make the dough to watery and prevent you from being able to pipe or form the dough.

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened (3/4 cup / 12 tablespoons)

1 cup granulated sugar (1/2 cup)

1 teaspoon baking powder (1/2 teaspoons)

1 egg (2 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste* (1/2 tablespoon)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (1 3/4 cup)

Sprinkles and Sugar Crystals to decorate

*If you do not have vanilla bean paste you can use an equal amount of vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl beat butter with a mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and baking powder, continue beating until well combined then add in the egg and vanilla bean paste. And finally the flour. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary during the mixing.

Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe drop cookies onto prepared cookies sheets. Sprinkle the cookies with decorative sugar and/or sprinkles.

Bake for 7-8 minutes, until the edges are firm but just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

Recipe slightly modified from Better Homes & Gardens 100 Best Cookies Magazine

Christmas Crafting

With Christmas just a few days away I finally got my cards in the mail the other day. I was so gung-ho about making them super early this year – I took out all of my supplies for them back in late October and put it on my crafting table all ready to go, but, got sidetracked with a few other Christmas crafts I wanted to get done first.

So, while I only have one main door to hang a wreath on – as most people – I ended up making three new wreaths this year. I only planned on making a new garland wreath to replace the one I made a few years back but while searching for ideas for that one I came across a yarn ball wreath that I had many of the supplies for – mainly yarn – and then I got an email that described how to make an ornament ball wreath in perfect detail. I tried making one of these a few years ago and didn’t have much success.

Up first… the Garland Wreath. While my local craft store did have those green wreaths I could have just bought and decorated I wasn’t too fond of the way they looked – that’s actually what my original wreath is made with and I never really liked it because of it – so I opted to wrap an 18″ grapevine wreath with garland. After that was done I then decorated it with various Christmas picks. I bought and returned quite a few of them before I was happy with the layout. This is actually the wreath that made it to my front door.

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Then there’s the Yarn Ball Wreath. I used different shades of green yarn I had leftover from different crocheting/knitting projects to wrap various sized Styrofoam balls. I then mapped out their placement on a wire wreath form and attached them using a hot glue gun. I then added in some red shatterproof ornaments for a pop of color and to make the wreath a bit more festive.

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And finally, my favorite, the Ornament Ball Wreath. This was definitely the most time consuming, but, worth every minute. To begin I wrapped a Styrofoam ring with red ribbon tying a loop with the ribbon at one point so the wreath could be hung. I then lined the inside and outside of the ring with alternating sized shatterproof ornaments. I then filled in the flat part of the ring with various sized ornaments and finally – the part I couldn’t get too crazed with – I filled in the gaps with smaller sized ornaments. It’s very easy to go from beautiful to gaudy when adding the ornaments.

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After the wreaths I moved on to making snowflake ornaments. I got the wire forms (6-inch) from Fusion Beads and then it was just a matter of decorating them with pearls, crystals and seed beads in colors that reflected the holiday season or the intended recipient’s favorite color. This was made all the more easier since I recently organized all of my jewelry supplies into storage containers.

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After a few wire mishaps (thankfully I bought extra wire forms) and a couple of wire gashes all of my snowflakes were done. After taking this picture I threaded all of them with coordinating ribbon so they could be hung from a Christmas tree, in a window, or wherever.

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And finally… My handmade Christmas cards. While getting started is always a daunting task, by the third card I am full speed ahead. I even got a jump on next year’s cards by making a few extra this year. We’ll see if I still like them in a year’s time or I may just have other ideas of what I want to make by then.

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Happy Holidays!!!

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(And yes, I did make this as well.)