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!

Cookie Palooza – No Bake Peppermint Chocolate Cookies

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week of cookies. I’m ending Cookie Palooza 2017 with an easy no bake cookie that only requires three ingredients, four if you count the sprinkles… Peppermint Chocolate Wafers.

First ingredient… Melted semi-sweet chocolate. I melted the chocolate using a double-boiler. You could melt the chocolate in the microwave (which was always my preferred method,) but I find melting the chocolate in a double boiler minimizes the chance of scorching the chocolate and you can keep it warm while you’re working so it will stay smooth and thin. Whereas when you melt it in the microwave after a few minutes the chocolate begins to thicken. Creating a double boiler is quite simple… fill a medium saucepan about a little less than halfway with water – you don’t want to fill it too much because then when you place the bowl in the water it will spill over. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat so the water is simmering. Place a heatproof bowl in the water, add chopped chocolate and stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted. Once the chocolate has melted, reduce the flame to low to keep the chocolate warm and add in the peppermint extract (the second ingredient), stir to mix in.

Dip the Nilla Wafers (third ingredient) in the chocolate and flip them over to get them fully covered. The process will go much easier if you have candy dipping tools, but if not a fork will work well. Once cookies are covered lift the cookies out of the chocolate and let the excess drip and then place them on a wax paper lined baking sheet and sprinkle them with festive sprinkles or crushed peppermint candy/candy canes (fourth ingredient.)

 

Once you are done dipping the cookies place them in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes so the chocolate can harden.

And that’s it! A simple cookie that’s perfect for the season and best of all, doesn’t require you to turn on your oven.

Happy Holidays!!!

Peppermint Chocolate Dipped Cookies

Ingredients:

8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped*

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

30 – 36 Nilla Wafer cookies

Sprinkles, optional

Directions:

Melt the chocolate using a double boiler on medium to medium low heat. Once the chocolate has melted add the peppermint extract and stir well to combine. Keep the heat on low for the double boiler so that the chocolate will remain smooth and thin.

Dip the wafers in the chocolate one at a time, making sure to coat the entire cookie. Remove from the chocolate and let the excess drip off before placing on a wax paper lined baking sheet to set.

Sprinkle with sprinkles or crushed peppermint candy. Or let the chocolate set for a few minutes and then drizzle with the left-over melted chocolate. Place in the refrigerator so the chocolate can harden. Store in an airtight container.

*You could also use chocolate chips

**The ratio of peppermint extract to chocolate I used was 1/4 teaspoon per 4 oz.

Cookie Palooza – Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Lemon Ricotta… A flavor combination I first had in the form of pancakes and was instantly hooked so when I saw a cookie recipe using the two I knew I had to try it. A few things to note, these cookies are soft, almost cake-like. They kind of remind me of muffies – aka the top of a muffin. And while I am not one for glazes, I usually leave my baked good unglazed when a recipe calls for it, these cookies definitely need the glaze. Not because they are not delish without it – I tried one before glazing and it was good as is – but when I added the glaze the lemon flavor was kicked up a notch, but, not to the point that it was overbearing.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies Lemon Glaze

  • Servings: 40 cookies
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Ingredients

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 15 oz. container whole milk ricotta cheese

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)

1 lemon, zested

 

Glaze:

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 lemon, zested

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375F.

In medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beat the mixture well so all of the ingredients are incorporate.

Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice & zest. Beat to combine and then stir in the dry ingredients (the flour mixture.)

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough – about 2 tablespoons for each cookie – onto the baking sheets. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are golden. Remove from the oven and the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 20 minutes.

During the 20 minutes make the glaze: Combine the all of the ingredients in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to smooth the glaze over the cookie. Let the cookies sit for 2 hours so the glaze can harden.

Recipe from Food Network

Cookie Palooza: Key Lime Pie Tassies & Pistachio Cookie Cups

These are definitely not your typical cookies, they’re more like mini tarts, but are cookies nonetheless. I tried to do some research as to how a tassie got its name and what the difference was between a tassie and a cookie cup, but, I came up empty handed… Oh well. If anyone knows feel free to share it in the comments sections below!

These weren’t on my original list of cookies for this week, originally I was planning on an Earl Gray Tea Cookie that called for cardamom. Cardamom became the main flavor of the cookie as opposed to the titled earl gray and while that was fine as the cookie tasted good, after making the cookie 2 different times – following the directions exactly the first time and making some variations the second time – both times the cookie came out too dense. I knew then that the recipe was a fail and searched for something else. Hence these tassies and cookie cups, both of which turned out to be a major hit. On a side note, I had a second fail with another cookie recipe as well. It was for a Maple Pecan Chocolate Cookie that called for maple sugar. I had to do some searching for the maple sugar and while the cookie dough – yes, I eat raw cookie dough from time to time – tasted delish with a maple flavor the cookie itself lost the maple flavor and was flat, chewy in the middle and crispy along the edges. Not at all what I was expecting. I read the directions numerous times afterwards to make sure I added the right amount of ingredients and such and I had. I wonder if anyone tests some of these recipes before publishing them sometimes.

Back to the cookies at hand. When I initially made them I didn’t want to make too many – each recipe calls for 24 – just in case this was another fail. But, after friends tried them it was evident that I needed the full amount so I made them again for Thanksgiving and once again they were a hit.

Here are some tips to make these…

To help divide the dough into 24 somewhat evenly balls I formed the dough into a 6×4-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface and cut it into 24 squares. I began by scoring it with a pizza cutter and then actually cut it once it had all been scored.

For the Pistachio Cookie Cups to save money, but not time, I opted to buy roasted unsalted pistachios in their shells and shelled and chopped them myself.

Which I then mixed with an egg, confectioners’ sugar and chopped dried apricots for the filling.

Since key limes aren’t always available in my area and I do love key lime pie, I usually have key lime juice in my fridge. You can find it in the juice aisle or oddly enough at some supermarkets they have it in the baking aisle. I can’t say for sure if using the juice from key limes as opposed to regular limes alters the flavor of the tassies since there are other ingredients involved, but, I do know that there is a difference in the flavor between the two of them. It’s all about preference and authenticity to the recipe when it comes to which lime or lime juice you choose.

The Pistachio Cookie Cups are baked filled while the Key Lime Pie Tassies pastry cup is baked first and then filled with the key lime filling and then baked again. Don’t worry, the pastry cup won’t burn or dry out… that’s what I initially thought would happen. Both of these are delicious and it’s hard to choose a favorite and thankfully they are easy enough and quick enough to bake that you could bake them both to enjoy them at the same time.

And while the Key Lime Pie Tassies are good on their own, I decided to add a little homemade whipped cream and lime zest to some of them for a little more sweetness.

Pistachio Cookie Cups

  • Servings: 24 Cookie Cups
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Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened

3 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios

2 tablespoons finely chopped dried apricots

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in the flour and orange zest. Shape the dough into 24 balls and press onto the bottom and sides of mini muffin pan.

To make the filling: In a small bowl combine the egg, confectioners’ sugar, 1/3 cup pistachios and the dried apricots. Spoon into the pastry-lined mini muffin tin. Sprinkle remaining chopped pistachios over them.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling set. Cool in the muffin tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool completely.

Recipe from Better Homes & Gardens

Key Lime Pie Tassies

  • Servings: 24 Tassies
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Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened

3 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1/4 cup key lime or lime juice, but bottled or the juice from 5 to 6 key limes or 2 to 3 regular limes

2 egg yolks

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

Sweetened whipped cream for topping, optional

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 F. In a medium bowl beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in the flour and orange zest. Shape the dough into 24 balls and press onto the bottom and sides of mini muffin pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Cool slightly in the muffin tin on a wire rack.

Make the filling: In a medium bowl beat the eggs with a whisk. Gradually whisk in the condensed milk. Next, whisk in the lime zest and lime juice. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling into each pastry-lined cup.

Bake about 10 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool in muffin tin on a wire rack. Cover and chill for 2 to 3 hours. If desired, top with sweetened whipped cream and additional lime zest.

Sweetened Whipped Cream: Beat 1/2 cup heavy, 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract with a mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form.

Recipe adapted from Better Homes & Gardens