brown sugar shortbread from "Cooks"

You can find the recipe in “Cooks Illustrated Holiday Baking” (Holiday 2009) magazine page 35

I enjoy this magazine, and the recipes are reliable.  The magazine is a little like AB – the articles explain how and why the recipe works, and what doesn’t work.

These do get somewhat hard, so be sure to cut them soon out of the oven.

just mixed:

press into the pan, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and score deeply:

just out of the oven (I didn’t score deep enough):

cut; recipe states 12 slices; I cut into 16:

aren’t the points pretty!!!

Gesine’s stars

starry starry nights

Starry Starry Nights cookies. They are chocolate rolled in granulated sugar; thus, black and white starry, starry nights.
The grocery closest to home did not have really good chocolate, so I’m making the ‘first’ batch of these with 60% cacao Ghiradelli chocolate.
Chamboard (a black raspberry flavored liqueur imported from France) and Amaretto (almond liqueur) should pair well with this cookie. I added 1/2 t. to about 3T of batter each, just to test a couple of cookies. The Chamboard is much stronger than the Amaretto in the raw batter.
The cookie dough is now making it’s first rest through cooling in the refrigerator. In an hour or so, when the dough is more firm, I’ll use the #100 scoop to make little cookies balls, rolling each in granulated sugar (this makes them a Starry Nights). Then, off to the cooler again – freezer this trip – until they are hard as rocks.
Once they are frozen, another roll though the granulated sugar (now they are Starry Starry Nights!) and they are ready for baking.

a couple of days later – -
These are baked from a recipe in “Confections of a Closet Master Baker” by Gesine Bullock-Prado.  This is the cookie version of a chocolate truffle.

We Americans, who use soft wheat flour for baking, may find the almond meal/flour to lend a strange texture to these cookies.  I’ve been baking with almond meal/flour for a few months, and I like the added texture it gives cookies and cakes.

I mixed the batter, and refrigerated for a couple of days.  Then, with my #100 scoop, I formed the balls, rolled in sugar, and froze for a few days. They baked beautifully, and are delicious!

I stored the cookies in a tin for a couple of weeks.  They remained fresh and flavorful.  Bake a few of these for your ‘chocolate lover’ friends, and keep a few for your own cookie jar.

Here’s the link to a video demo of these cookies.  Gesine makes ‘starry starry nights,’ and the video is posted on her blog.


caramel with golden syrup

addictive – addictive – addictive

It’s like a drug.  You want one, then two, then all the pieces!  The rich, buttery, golden, creamy, sweet, vanilla bean flavor of this caramel is the best I’ve ever tasted.

I probably should have cooked this a few degrees longer; you can see in the above photo that the ends are curling.  The cut caramels hold their shape in the refrigerator, but soon become soft after removed from the refrigerator.

You can find the recipe here.

Since this begins with the addition of golden syrup, watching for the correct golden color is a bit challenging.  Err on the side of darker.

changing consistency:

Though I didn’t scrape the side of the pan when I originally poured the caramels, I did scrape the pan onto a saucer.  I didn’t want to leave any of this goodness in the pan. Notice all the vanilla bean specks in this caramel!

Someone had to taste……

d e l i c i o u s ! ! ! ! ! !

family of gingerbread people

What a nice looking trio!  And, they are standing outside Niece Ashley’s gingerbread house.

I found my inspiration for the gingerbread men here; although, I forgot to add the sugar buttons before I baked the cookies – maybe I’ll remember next year.

As long as the dough remained very cold, the cookies cut easily.  I kept the dough as cool as possible, and refrigerated the cut cookies before baking.

This recipe does create a cookie that puffs somewhat (and bakes into a soft cookie).  Niece Ashley thought the first little men we baked looked like ghosts…

The flavor compensates for any undesirable puffiness.  This recipe yields a sharp gingerbread, with a bit of hot bite – exactly what I wanted for my gingerbread men.

Packaged and ready to be delivered – - -

orange – sugar coated – pecans

Valerie’s Orange Sugar-Coated Pecans
We were baking little almond pound cakes, and she casually mentioned these pecans.  They are wonderful.  The ingredient list contains no spices to distract your senses – just orange, pure orange.
The recipe is simple.
finely grated zest from one orange (original recipe states 1 T)
1/4 c orange juice (I used fresh juice, strained)
1 c sugar
4 c pecan halves
Combine zest, juice and sugar in heavy sauce pan.  Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil.
Stir in the pecans, and continue to cook until all the liquid/syrup has coated the pecans (this took about 5 minutes)
Pour coated pecans onto parchment to dry.  Separate the nuts, as they tend to clump.  They begin to dry quickly.  Let these sit in a tightly covered tin for a couple of days; the orange flavor intensifies.
The syrup does coat the pecans, and eventually your pan should look like this:

cranberry bliss bars

My Starbucks connoisseur, Friend Karen, says these are prefect. I think she ate 2+ before she left my house with her box of Christmas goodies. That’s quite the recommendation for this recipe, coming from one who is such a Starbucks fan.

The bars are good, consisting of a cookie base flavored with holiday spices, and topped with a cream cheese icing. Add a few cranberries for Christmas color, and you have a very festive, flavorful holiday treat.
You can find the recipe here.
Santa looks as if he is ready to jump into the middle of this ‘bliss.’
The recipe makes a large 9×13 pan of bars. Cut the bars into squares, and then cut in half diagonally to form triangle shaped bars.

Herb de Provence + orange = 1 great cookie!

These were my favorite from the 2009 holiday baking session, which lasted 3 weeks. The freshly grated orange zest was a Christmas gift to the senses, as well as the addition of Herb de

Provence to the cookie and the glaze.
I included these in a few Christmas cookie gift bags. The positive reviews were overwhelming. They really are that good!
Recipe can be found here.
All packaged for Christmas and ready to travel…

Cappuccino Brownies

Niece Ashley chose these from the (huge) stack of magazines and books on the coffee table. She chose well!!!!!

While I tried to feed her festive, holiday dried fruit bars, and gingerbread, and orange cookies….she just wanted chocolate…
This recipe is from a “Land O Lakes Recipe Collection” magazine dated 2004.
I make this comment often while I’m baking, but ‘who needs potpourri’ when you have Cappuccino Brownies in the oven?
1 T instant expresso powder
2 t hot water
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
1 t vanilla
2 eggs
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 t instant espresso powder
2 – 3 T milk or cream
2 c powdered sugar
1/4 c butter, softened
1/3 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 t shortening
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1 T expresso powder and hot water in bowl; stir to dissolve.
Melt 1 c chocolate chips and 1/2 c butter in saucepan over low heat, stirring. Remove from heat and stir in espresso mixture, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir until well mixed.
Spread mixture into well greased 8″ square baking pan. Bake for 33 to 38 minutes, or until brownies just begin to pull away from sides of pan. Don’t over bake; cool completely.
Combine 1 t espresso powder and 2 T milk in small bowl; stir to dissolve. Add powdered sugar and 1/4 c butter. Beat at low speed, adding enough milk for desired spreading consistency. Frost cooled brownies.
Melt 1/3 c chocolate chips and shortening in saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Drizzle melted chocolate over frosting; swirl with knife for marbled effect.
A few of my notes:
The brownie base is very soft; I lined the pan with parchment to aid in removing the brownie from pan.
These cut like cheesecake – that means, clean the knife between every slice for a pretty, smooth cut.
The brownies are best on day 2, after the flavors blend. Freshly baked, there may seem to contain too much espresso or chocolate, but just step back and wait a few hours.
I’m not a coffee drinker, but these are DELICIOUS!!!!!!!