Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Cookies

As I have said before I do not claim to be a cookie decorator, however with a little more practice I'm getting better, I think.  It helps to start with a really great cookie and of any I've tried, this one provides just about the perfect foundation for decorating.

The recipe is a Southern Living clipping from several years ago and I have used it more times than I can count.  It does take some advanced planning as there is some refrigerator chilling time involved but the time is well worth the rich, buttery results.

Christmas Cookies
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour, sifted

Cream butter.  Add powdered sugar, salt and vanilla and continue beating on medium speed until well blended.  Reduce to low speed and gradually add flour, mixing until a soft dough forms.  And I guarantee, it will be very soft!

Divide dough into thirds, covering each third in plastic wrap and shaping into a disc. Refrigerate 2-24 hours.

Unwrap each disc onto a well-floured surface.  Let it warm up a bit then cover with plastic wrap and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness.  Cut into desired shapes and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Again, this dough can be very soft so you have to work quickly and carefully.  Refrigerate cookies on baking sheet for 15 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-17 minutes until edges begin to brown.  Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes.  Remove to wire rack to cool completely and try to resist the urge to eat them up before decorating with the icing below:

6 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
8-10 tablespoons water
food coloring

Whisk together sugar, meringue powder and lemon juice, adding enough water to reach a good spreading consistency.  Divide and add color as desired.

These cookies bake up beautifully.  They're firm and solid to handle while frosting and have I mentioned that they are delicious?  I mean what's not to love about a buttery shortbread style cookie!

Depending on your cookie cutter size and depending on how many you snitch before frosting, you can expect this recipe to yield about 24-30 cookies.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pumpkin Cream Napoleons with White Chocolate Drizzle

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One of my favorite places in the world to visit is Jan Karon's Mitford, North Carolina.  I love ambling down Main Street with Father Tim.  Having coffee at the Main Street Grill and chit-chatting with Mule Skinner and J.C. Hogan.  A quick stop at Happy Endings Bookstore to see what the latest shipment has to offer. A wave to Uncle Billy sitting outside in a chrome dinette chair crafting a bird house and chuckling to myself over that joke he told about the census taker.  And a stop by Winnie Ivey's Sweet Stuff Bakery to see if there are any of yesterday's Napoleons left over.  And of course, there are, set aside just for Father Tim.

I am re-reading At Home in Mitford for the umpteenth time and almost smelling the cinnamon-scented air as Father Tim stops in at the Sweet Stuff on his way home to the rectory.  If Winnie used the two ingredients for this month's Lady Behind the Curtain's Dessert Challenge - pumpkin and cream cheese - maybe she would create something like this ....

Pumpkin Cream Napoleons with White Chocolate Drizzle
Lady Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge4 tablespoons butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Cream butter and cream cheese at medium speed. Add pumpkin, 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Continue mixing until well blended.  Set aside.
On a floured surface, roll out puff pastry to about 1/8-inch thick.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, prick the surface with a fork.  Top with another sheet of parchment paper and place another baking sheet on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes.  Remove top baking sheet and top sheet of parchment.  Return to oven and bake another 5-7 minutes until lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Cut pastry into three sections.  Mix remaining cup of powdered sugar with just enough water to make a glaze.  Spread over the top of one section of pastry.

Spread half of pumpkin cream on one unglazed section of pastry.  Place the second unglazed section on top and spread remaining cream to cover.  Place the glazed section on top of the stack, glaze side up.

Melt white chocolate chips.  With the back of a spoon, drizzle in a zig-zag pattern over the Napoleon.  Give the top a light sprinkle of cinnamon.  Chill in refrigerator one hour before slicing.

These got a "wow" out of my husband.  I like to think they might have earned a "wow" from Father Tim also.  If you haven't been to Mitford, you need to plan a trip very soon.

Linking up to:


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Apple Snap Cake (with a warm Cinnamon Sauce)

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Proper enunciation is a good thing.  Especially for speakers, singers, as well as in general conversation.

What started out as a snack cake ended up a snap cake because apparently my enunciation was slightly askew when explaining to husband what I was attempting to create.  Each time I said Apple Snack Cake, he was quite certain I said Apple Snap Cake.

He won me over.  I decided "snap" had a nice ring to it.  So, for September's Dessert Challenge from

Lady Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge

I give you the newly christened Apple Snap Cake.  And to top it off, a luscious, buttery sauce with a touch of cinnamon.

Apple Snap Cake
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Photobucket1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 large apples, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
1 cup chopped black walnuts
1- 6 oz package butterscotch morsels

Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl; set aside.

Pour vegetable oil into mixing bowl, add eggs and sugar and mix on medium speed until blended.  Add flour mixture alternately with diced apples, and continue to mix just until combined.  Stir in chopped nuts and butterscotch chips.

Spread mixture in a greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes.  Place on wire rack to cool while preparing the sauce.

Warm Cinnamon Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir together sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan.  Add remaining ingredients and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and blended and sauce coats your spoon.  Serve warm over cake.

This sauce is a variation of a dessert sauce my Mother used to make and it's really tempting to just put a straw in the sauce bowl and finish it off!  But save it for the cake, it reheats nicely in the microwave, and adds a great finish to this quick and easy cake. 

Also linking up at:
Six Sister's Stuff Strut Your Stuff Saturday
Tasty Tuesdays #28
Thursdays Treasures 104
Weekend Potluck #85
Addicted to Recipes Scrumptious Sunday #72
Time to Sparkle #28
Gooseberry Patch Oktoberfest

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Peach & Cherry Upside Down Cake

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With leftover peaches from this month's Dessert Challenge, I decided to forge ahead with my original idea ... an upside down cake featuring peaches and cherries.

And this was the result - almost a coffee cake kind of texture with a hint of spice cake due to a heavier dose of cinnamon.  I think it was better after resting overnight, and found it incredibly moist by day 2.
Peach & Cherry Upside Down Cake

1 cup unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 medium peach, peeled and sliced in wedges
10-12 fresh cherries, pitted and cut in half
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place 3 tablespoons of butter and the brown sugar in a lightly greased 9-inch cake pan.  Set pan in preheated oven for 4-5 minutes or until butter and brown sugar are bubbly. Stir to be sure both are evenly distributed.  Let cool slightly.

Lay peach slices around the edge of the cake pan.  Place cherries, cut side down, between the peaches and around the center, filling gaps with any remaining peaches.

Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  Cream remaining 5 tablespoons of butter on low speed, add sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Add flour mixture, alternately with milk, mixing well after each addition.

Pour batter in cake pan, completely covering the fruit.  Tap pan lightly on the counter to remove any bubbles.  Bake for 40-50 minutes until center tests done.

Run knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen.  Place pan on a wire rack and cool at least 25 minutes.  Lay platter on top of pan and invert.  

Whew!  Now, that is a hold your breath kind of moment, waiting to hear the cake release from the pan ... and hoping ALL of it releases!  I have had some complete disasters, but fortunately this one slipped out like a dream!

Linking up at these parties:
Thursday's Treasures 100th Link Party
Six Sister's Strut Your Stuff Saturday #111
Mix It Up Monday
Time to Sparkle
Cast Party Wednesday #106
Tasty Tuesdays

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Peaches and Cream Bread Pudding

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Fresh peaches are plentiful right now and therefore perfect for Lady Behind the Curtain's dessert challenge for August ... Peaches and Cream!
I was headed in a different direction with the challenge ingredients until while putting groceries away I realized that we really shouldn't have bought that package of sandwich buns because there was already a partially used package of buns hiding in the corner of the bread drawer that needed to be used first.

I've seen a variety of breads mentioned in bread pudding recipes ... Italian bread, French bread, brioche, or simply a crusty white sandwich bread - but I decided to try the buns and they actually worked very well, soft enough to absorb the liquid but they also seemed to hold their shape nicely after baking. Whatever type of bread you use, I might suggest letting the bread pieces sit out and air dry before using, just to crust them up a little more.

Peaches and Cream Bread Pudding
Day-old bread torn into bite-sized pieces (about 4 1/2 cups)
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 large peaches, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup chopped almonds (or pecans!)
2 tablespoons sugar

Place bread pieces into a large bowl and set aside.  Whisk together eggs, whipping cream, brown sugar, cinnamon, and almond extract until well blended. Pour over bread, tossing to coat the pieces well.

Melt butter in a non-stick skillet over medium low heat.  Add diced peaches and stir gently.  Add chopped almonds (in my case, it was pecans because the almond bag was empty!) and sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Add peaches to bread mixture and place in refrigerator to chill for about 15-20 minutes.  
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour pudding into a 11- x 7-inch baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray.  Bake 60-75 minutes until firm and lightly browned.

My topping of choice is a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream but it would also be nice with a dollop of whipped cream.
Husband said it would have been better with the almonds, and probably so, but I wouldn't turn around for the difference!

Linking to these parties:
Six Sisters' Strut Your Stuff Saturday