Category Archives: Christmas

Eggnog Scones

Eggnog SconesI had something a bit more complicated planned for today’s post, but due to circumstances beyond my control (number of hours in a day, number of days in a week), I had to take the easy way out.Eggnog SconesLucky for all of us, the easy way out is through a warm batch of Eggnog Scones.Eggnog SconesY’all, these are goooood. We’re talking 8 springy, nubbly-edged breakfast treats made with eggnog and then topped with eggnog glaze—what’s not to love.?! I am not a fan of eggnog in its liquid state, but mix it into dough or whirl it into glaze and add warming spices, and I’m suddenly *very* interested.Eggnog SconesAs with nearly all scones, these are a breeze to make. The dough comes together in ten minutes and bakes in fifteen. The glaze is technically optional, but it’s a snap to whisk up while the scones are cooling, and it’s delicious, of course. Creamy and lightly spiced, it’s the perfect accompaniment to the not-too-sweet scones. And that’s to say nothing of how satisfying it is to drizzle over the tops!Eggnog Scones Speaking of satisfying, eating one…or one and a half…or two…of these with a big cup of coffee is, like, the best way to start a holiday morning. I’ve been so busy since I returned home from Thanksgiving that I keep forgetting that Christmas is almost here. When I’m eating an Eggnog Scone though, the holiday cheer is real. Real delicious, that is.Eggnog Scones

Eggnog Scones
makes 8 scones

3/4 cup eggnog + more for brushing, very cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into pieces

Glaze:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
small pinch of ground cinnamon + more for garnish
small pinch of ground nutmeg + more for garnish
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons eggnog

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

Use a fork to whisk together 3/4 cup eggnog and vanilla. Set the mixture in the refrigerator.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt. Use a pastry blender (or two forks or your fingertips) to cut the cold butter into the flour mixture. Remove the eggnog from the refrigerator and pour it into the bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until a dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a very well-floured surface. Using floured fingertips, press dough into a large 1-inch thick disc. Use a floured chef’s knife to cut the circle into 8 wedges. Remove wedges to prepared pan, setting them at least two inches apart. Brush the tops of the scones with additional eggnog. Bake for 15-16 minutes, until they “bounce back” when pressed with your finger. Let cool on their pan for about 10 minutes, or until you can handle them.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Set a cooling rack over the top. Place Scones on cooling rack.

Make the glaze. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and eggnog. Mixture should be very thick, but pourable. Drizzle glaze over scones. Top each with small pinches of cinnamon and nutmeg, if desired.

Serve scones immediately, or once the glaze sets (20 minutes or so). Scones are best the day they’re made, but will keep covered at room temperature for up to 48 hours.Eggnog SconesEggnog Scones

Pinwheel Cookies

Pinwheel CookiesI have had these Pinwheel Cookies on my “to bake” list for years, but every time the holidays have come around, I’ve said “next year.” But now, having gotten brave and made them four times without any real hitches, I can confidently say that the Pinwheel intimidation factor is entirely in the presentation. I mean, all those colors and the signature swirl and the abject cuteness—you can see why I was worried. What if mine were hideous?Pinwheel CookiesI was sure that I, with my fairly limited motor skills, would need months to figure out a method that worked for me. Turns out all I really needed were 48 hours and a little self-confidence. If I can make Pinwheel Cookies, so can you! I mean, even if you really screw them up (which you won’t!) they’re still going to be cookies, right?! Let me walk you through the process.Pinwheel CookiesAs I said, these are simpler to make than they look, but be sure you read through the recipe a couple of times before beginning. That’s Baking 101, but I know I’ve skipped it and found myself in a bind more than a few times. This recipe is not difficult, but it does have many steps, including two short chills and one long one. You want to know what’s coming before you start!Pinwheel Cookies The dough I used here is my tried & true Cream Cheese Sugar Cookie dough—it’s easy to mix together, tastes delicious, and bakes up beautifully every time. Mix it up, divide it in thirds, and dye two of them red and green, leaving the remaining one white/plain. Give the dough a brief chill before rolling it out and stacking it up.Pinwheel CookiesThis part always stresses me out, but I promise it’s not a big deal. I’ve tried stacking the dough in frozen sheets, among other ways, but the best I’ve found is rolling them all on parchment, then stacking and peeling off the parchment. If your dough tears, simply press it back together with your fingers. Once all the colors are stacked, put the dough into the in the fridge for a few minutes before rolling it up into a cylinder.Pinwheel CookiesPinwheel CookiesSome recipes will tell you to trim off the edges of the dough before rolling, but I’ve found that unnecessary. If it’s bothering you, though, go ahead and even out the long sides.

To create the cylinder, start by lifting a long edge of the cookie dough stack and turning it in on itself. It’s easiest if you do this by moving from one end to another, like how you roll up cinnamon rolls (or, if you’ve never made cinnamon rolls, how a typewriter moves). Once that initial roll has happened, lift the parchment and use it to coax the dough into a cylinder. Don’t worry if it doesn’t go perfectly–these are surprisingly resilient.Pinwheel CookiesBefore I chill the dough, I like to smooth the cylinder, rolling it back and forth and stretching it out to 16 inches in length and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. This ensures that all the layers of the cylinder stick together in one cohesive piece and that all the cookies will be roughly the same size. Trim off the uneven ends, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it for a good three hours. If you’re working ahead, you can triple-wrap it and put it in the freezer. Just thaw overnight before slicing.Pinwheel CookiesPinwheel CookiesThe great part about Pinwheel Cookies is that the hard part is done before the final chill. After that, all you’ll need to do is slice them into 1/4-inch thick pieces, arrange them on a sheet pan, and bake them for 8 minutes. Let them cool on a rack and then throw ‘em on a platter, in a tin or a cookie jar.Pinwheel CookiesAll that’s left to do is eat three and declare this the “Year of the Pinwheel.” Nobody else will have any idea WTF you’re talking about, but I do and I think you’re a holiday baking badass.Pinwheel Cookies

Pinwheel Cookies
makes 3.5-4 dozen cookies

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 oz (1/2 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
10-12 drops red gel food coloring*
8-10 drops green gel food coloring

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Cream in granulated and light brown sugars, followed by the egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Add dry ingredients in 3 installments, combining completely after each.

Divide dough into thirds. Form one into a disk—this is the white/plain portion. Using your mixer (or your hands and a surface) knead 10-12 drops red gel food coloring into another third, then form into a disk. Clean your mixer (or your hands and surface) before kneading 8-10 drops green gel food coloring into the remaining third and form into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Flour a rolling pin. Place the red disk on a large sheet of parchment and roll to a 9×11-inch rectangle. Set aside. Repeat this process two more times (with the green and white disks), flouring your rolling pin as necessary.

Stack the dough. Place the red sheet (still on parchment) dough-side-up on your work surface. Carefully lift the green sheet and place dough-side-down on the red. Peel away parchment. If dough has cracks or holes, just use your fingers to piece it back together and pat lightly. Carefully lift the white sheet and place dough-side-down on the green. Again, piece together anything that may be askew. Use your rolling pin to give the stack a couple of rolls, just to adhere everything together. Chill stack for 15 minutes.

Make the pinwheel. Orient the dough so that one of the 11-inch sides is nearest to you. Lift the closest edge of parchment and use your fingers to carefully start to roll the dough. This is easiest if you start on one side and gradually move to the other, like how you would roll cinnamon rolls (or how a typewriter works). Once you’ve started the roll, use the parchment to coax the dough into a cylinder.

Once rolled up, roll the cylinder out to 16 inches. Starting by placing your hands in the center of the cylinder, lightly roll it, moving your hands outward to smooth, until it is 16-inches in length, with a diameter of 1 1/2-inches. This will take a few minutes and a few repetitions of this motion. This ensures the roll is uniform and that all the layers are adhered into a pinwheel. Trim the ends, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 3 hours or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Place cylinder on a clean, dry cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice cylinder into 1/4-inch slices. Place 1.5-2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies 7-8 minutes, until no longer raw-looking. Let cookies cool on the pans for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat slicing and baking with any remaining dough.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Note:

I prefer gel food coloring, as it doesn’t affect doughs as much as liquid food coloring. If you only have liquid, I’m sure it will work, but I don’t know how much you’ll need.Pinwheel CookiesPinwheel Cookies

Pretzel Shortbread

Pretzel ShortbreadFor the third year in a row, my first Christmas cookies of the season are being posted as part of the Sweetest Season Cookie Exchange, in which food bloggers post festive goodies and donate money in support of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We believe in their mission to raise funds for pediatric cancer treatments and research through bake sales and cookie swaps. Many supporters (“Good Cookies”) do this throughout the year, and I always look forward to supporting them by participating in the Sweetest Season. Making cookies is my favorite thing in the world to do, and the fact that it might help someone this week makes it even better. I made my donation on Giving Tuesday, but if you’d like to learn more and/or make a charitable donation to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, click here.Pretzel ShortbreadLet’s talk about Pretzel Shortbread. Salty, sweet, crisp, pretzely (inside & out!) cookies, with or without a drizzle of dark chocolate. Oh my lord, y’all. These are absurdly good.Pretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadToday’s cookies are inspired by Philadelphia-favorite Lost Bread Co.’s Pretzel Shortbread. I first saw them when my friend, Claire, who co-owns Philly’s Root Market, posted about how quickly they were selling out. After that, I went down an internet rabbit hole and found out that they are made out of ground up stale soft pretzels, then brushed with lye before baking for maximum pretzelization.*

*I’m twisting the word “pretzel” a lot today and I will not apologize.Pretzel ShortbreadInstead of being a normal person and ordering from Lost Bread Co. online, I decided to figure out a version for the home baker…but without the lye because who keeps food-grade lye around?Pretzel ShortbreadTaking a cue from Lost Bread Co., my Pretzel Shortbread dough is made with a mix of flour and ground pretzels, and sweetened with dark brown sugar and confectioner’s sugar for both flavor and texture. The rest of the ingredients are butter, vanilla, and salt. It’s all mixed together in the span of a few minutes, then rolled and cut into shapes. I went with stars because that’s what I like.Pretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadNext up: the pretzeling! After the cookies are rolled and cut (and also briefly frozen a couple of times), they are dipped in a warm mix of water and baking soda, or as I call it, “pretzel wash.” This is simply a small batch of the solution traditional soft pretzels are boiled in to achieve their signature golden finish. It’s literally just water and baking soda (no lye!), but it’s the thing that takes these cookies over the top!Pretzel ShortbreadInstead of tossing the shortbread in boiling liquid, which would probably destroy them instantly, I let the pretzel wash cool until I can touch it, and then dip the frozen cookie dough stars into the mix. This is followed up by a swipe of egg wash and sprinkles of coarse salt and sugar before being baked to a brown, burnished, decidedly pretzelesque* finish.

*“Pretzelesque” is my new favorite made-up word.Pretzel ShortbreadFinish the Pretzel Shortbread off with a drizzle of chocolate, or not. I did a little of each—I like to have options.Pretzel ShortbreadSalty, sweet, pretzeled inside-and-out, chocolaty, Christmasy, delicious options.Pretzel Shortbread

Pretzel Shortbread
makes about 3.5 dozen cookies

Pretzel Wash:
2 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons baking soda

Shortbread Dough:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cups ground pretzels (about 1 1/2 cups whole mini pretzels)

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

Garnish:
coarse salt
coarse sugar (optional)

Chocolate Drizzle:
3 ounces pure dark chocolate, chopped
coarse salt, for garnish (optional)
coarse sugar, for garnish (optional)

Read this recipe in its entirety before beginning.

Make the pretzel wash. Pour water into a 3-4 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Wearing an oven mitt (or other protective hand gear), whisk in baking soda. Mixture will bubble and expand violently. Remove from heat. Set aside.

Place softened butter in a medium-large mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to beat it until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add dark brown and confectioners sugars and mix until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and salt. With the mixer on low, beat in flour and ground pretzels. Dough will be crumbly looking, but should hold together very well when pinched. Divide dough in two parts.

Working with one half at a time, sandwich dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll until 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to the freezer (on a baking sheet, if desired) for 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough. It is okay to stack the sheets of dough in the freezer.

While the dough is freezing, place racks in the center positions. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Remove one sheet of dough from the freezer. Peel on of the pieces of parchment off. Use a lightly floured 2-inch cookie cutter to cut cookies. Place them close together on prepared pans. Freeze for 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough sheet. Scraps can be re-rolled, frozen, and cut.

Dip cookies in pretzel wash. Remove frozen cut cookie dough from freezer. Wearing a latex glove (highly recommended), dip cookies into pretzel wash and place back on baking sheets. Freeze again for 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining cut cooking dough.

Make egg wash. Combine egg and water in a small bowl, and use a fork to whisk until combined. Brush egg wash over the tops of the cookies, then sprinkling with coarse salt & coarse sugar.

Bake cookies for 23-25 minutes, or until burnished and brown. Let cool on the pans for 7 minutes. Use a thin spatula (not your fingers!) to remove cookies to cooling racks to cool completely.

Line two baking sheets (or a large surface) with parchment. Place cooling racks over the top. Arrange cookies on racks.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave (30 second increments, stirring in between). Use a fork to drizzle chocolate over cookies. Scatter coarse salt & coarse sugar over the tops, if desired. Repeat with remaining cookies. Chocolate will set after a couple of hours at room temperature, or a few minutes in the freezer.

Shortbread will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week.Pretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadPretzel ShortbreadPretzel Shortbread

Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}

Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}Hello! I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving. I’m still in D.C., but am looking forward to getting back to NYC to put my Christmas tree up and really get into the swing of holiday baking—look out for my first Christmas cookies of the season next Wednesday!Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}Today’s recipe is hardly a recipe at all. When I was visiting my friend, Tad, in San Francisco last month, we stopped for an ice cream cone at The Castro Fountain. While I was waiting for my order, I spotted a sign for Hot Butterscotch. I initially assumed they meant the sauce, but on further inspection, I saw it was a beverage akin to Hot Chocolate. But, you know, with butterscotch. I decided then and there that I would figure out a Hot Butterscotch recipe by Thanksgiving, and lo and behold, here it is. Rocket science, this is not, but those Castro Fountain guys are on to something!Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}Simply whisk a cup of butterscotch and some vanilla into a quart of whole milk. Heat that to a simmer, divide it among a few mugs, and top ‘em off with whipped cream, marshmallows and a drizzle of butterscotch. That’s it!Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}Hot Butterscotch is creamy and comforting with plenty of buttery brown sugar and vanilla flavor. I like it as written, but if you want something a little more decadent, feel free to swap half & half or heavy cream for some of the milk.Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}No matter how you mix it up, this is the perfect low-maintenance treat to make this Thanksgiving weekend. You could even give jars of homemade butterscotch as food gifts and attach a label with the recipe. But then again, I may be getting ahead of myself.

Have a great weekend, y’all!Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}

Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}
makes 4-6 servings

1 cup prepared butterscotch sauce
1 quart whole milk (or a mix of whole milk and half & half or heavy cream)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For serving:
whipped cream
miniature marshmallows
butterscotch sauce, for drizzling

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine butterscotch, whole milk, and vanilla. Set over medium heat. Continue to whisk near-constantly (to prevent scorching) until mixture is steaming and bubbles are forming at the edges. Do not boil. Remove from heat.

Ladle mixture into mugs. Top with whipped cream, miniature marshmallows, and/or a drizzle of butterscotch sauce, if desired. Serve immediately.Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}

Fluffy Dinner Rolls

Fluffy Dinner RollsUntil recently, I’ve eaten (baked) frozen dinner rolls at every holiday dinner of my life and had exactly zero idea that I was missing anything. Warm bread is warm bread, right?

WRONG. So wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrongwrongwrong.Fluffy Dinner RollsI mean, I’m sure I will eat a (baked) frozen dinner roll in the future because warm bread, but now I know the magic and ease of buttery, homemade Fluffy Dinner Rolls and I can never fully go back. In the story of my life, time will be defined as “Before Fluffy Dinner Rolls” and “After Fluffy Dinner Rolls.” Fluffy Dinner RollsOkay, maybe not. But I am changed, and I have a sneaking suspicion that some of you are in the same boat I once was—out there living your lives, blissfully unconcerned that your holiday table is missing something or that you have been denied anything—and I am here to mess all that up by giving you an easy six-ingredient dinner roll recipe that will blow your freaking minds with its buttery, golden wonderfulness and ruin freezer aisle rolls for you forever. #sorrynotsorryFluffy Dinner RollsThese Fluffy Dinner Rolls, y’all. They are fluffy. So fluffy. And they are slightly sweet and buttery as all get-out (whatever that means). There’s butter in the dough, and more is brushed on both before and after baking!Fluffy Dinner RollsFluffy Dinner RollsDid I mention their softness? When I was testing this recipe, I spent a lot of time poking the golden tops of these rolls and watching them bounce back, just because I could. So soft! So dang fluffy!Fluffy Dinner RollsFluffy Dinner RollsFluffy Dinner RollsAs I said, these beautiful dinner rolls require just six ingredients: flour, yeast, sugar, salt, butter and buttermilk. These rolls are egg-free, but lack nothing in the flavor or texture departments.Fluffy Dinner RollsFluffy Dinner RollsFluffy Dinner RollsThey are super simple to make, too. Don’t let the length of the recipe fool you—I just wanted to ensure that you have all the information you need for Fluffy Dinner Roll success. I’ve included instructions for a stand mixer and mixing by hand, and for using both active dry and instant yeasts. I tried my best to describe how to shape them, but it’s surprisingly difficult to explain with words alone, so here are some pictures of what I did:Fluffy Dinner RollsFluffy Dinner RollsFluffy Dinner RollsFluffy Dinner RollsDon’t worry, they don’t have to be shaped perfectly to be delicious. It took me three batches to get a consistent shaping method. Those other four batches? They were for quality control. Or maybe just making up for lost time.Fluffy Dinner Rolls

Fluffy Dinner Rolls
makes 16 rolls

1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast*
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes

For brushing:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided

Read the recipe all the way through before beginning. Instructions for using instant yeast and mixing by-hand are in the notes at the end of the recipe.

Heat buttermilk until it’s between 90-110F (warm to the touch, but not so hot that you can’t comfortably hold a finger in it).

Stir together buttermilk and granulated sugar in a liquid measuring cup or small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over the top and allow to sit for 5 minutes or until it is a bit bubbly or foamy (sometimes a light stir can help this be more visible). If it doesn’t bubble, your yeast is dead. Discard the mixture, get new yeast, and try again.

In the bowl of a stand mixer* fitted with a dough hook, combine 2 cups of flour and salt. Add butter and buttermilk mixture and mix to combine. Mix in remaining 3/4 cup flour. Knead dough in mixer* for 5 minutes or until smooth and slightly sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free environment for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in bulk.

Meanwhile, butter (or otherwise grease) an 8- or 9-inch square pan. Line the bottom with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Flour a surface. Uncover risen dough and gently punch it down. Place dough on floured surface and pat out into a 1-inch thick disk. Flour a large, sharp chef’s knife and slice the disk into 16 thin wedges.

Shape the rolls. Working with one wedge at a time, roll the point (from the center of the disk, where the long sides meet) toward the short end. Then use your fingers to pull edges or creases underneath, creating a smooth ball-like appearance. Place in pan. Repeat until all rolls have been shaped.

Loosely cover the pan of rolls and place in a warm, draft-free environment for 60 minutes or until they have doubled in size and/or fill the pan.

Meanwhile, place an oven rack in the central or lower position (either will work). Preheat your oven to 400F. Melt the butter for brushing.

Uncover risen rolls. Use a pastry brush to gently brush the tops with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Bake rolls for 20 minutes, or until deep golden on top. Brush with remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter when you remove them from the oven.

Let rolls cool 10-15 minutes before serving.

Rolls are best the day they are baked, but will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or so.

Notes:

1. You may use an equal volume of instant yeast. Add it (and the sugar) directly to the dry ingredients, skipping the blooming step. Add warmed buttermilk and butter directly to the dry ingredients and mix as written above in the paragraph beginning “In the bowl of a stand mixer.” The rises may take about 15 minutes longer than with active dry yeast.
2. You may mix this dough in a large mixing bowl with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon.
3. You may knead this dough by hand on a floured surface.

Fluffy Dinner RollsFluffy Dinner RollsFluffy Dinner Rolls