Category Archives: Christmas

Cranberry Simple Syrup & Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails

I never know what to post the week of Thanksgiving, but I think going with something easy that you can make anytime between now and the New Year is a good place to start.

This Fresh Cranberry Simple Syrup certainly fits that bill, clocking in with almost no active work, but plenty of vibrant color and sweet-tart flavor. It starts the way all simple syrups do: with sugar and water. While the classic proportion is 1:1, I upped the water here to accommodate the cranberries’ natural thickening agent (pectin)—we’re after syrup here, not jelly!

The berries, water and sugar are simmered together for just ten minutes, until the fruit begins to burst. Once that happens, remove the pot from the heat and use a fork or potato masher to mash all the berries into the liquid. Resist the urge to strain your syrup right away, instead letting the mashed berries hang out in it while it’s cooling. This imbues the syrup with plenty of tart cranberry flavor and vivid color. Once the half hour is up, strain and cool your syrup, then use it however you like. I bet a little over ice cream would be a treat, but I am focusing on mocktails today.

Cranberry Simple Syrup & Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails​

Let’s talk about these Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails. With their ruby color and booze-free fizz, these are a perfect beverage for any end-of-year occasion. They’re not terribly sugary, and taste intentional and not like an afterthought or just a virgin version of some classic cocktail. They taste like they have some intention behind them, if you will—they’re complete on their own.

The list of ingredients for Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails is blessedly short, and besides the homemade Fresh Cranberry Simple Syrup, everything is readily available at the grocery store.

The recipe is simple: 1 part Fresh Cranberry Simple Syrup, 2 parts ginger beer, 2 parts seltzer, 1/2 part fresh lime juice. I’ve written the recipe in “parts” rather than specific volumes so that you can make enough for two or for a crowd without doing too much math. Simply stir the ingredients together and serve over ice with cranberries and lime wedges for garnish. So cute, right? Wait til you try one—so good.

Cranberry Simple Syrup & Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails​

My absolute favorite thing about these mocktails? They’re not too sweet. There is some sweetness, of course, from the syrup and zippy ginger beer, but it’s balanced by the lime juice and diluted with seltzer in the best possible way. They taste like they were made for grown-ups because they were. How refreshing.

Cranberry Simple Syrup & Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails​

I’m taking the rest of this week off to spend time with my family. I’ll be back next week with new Christmas recipes. Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers.

Fresh Cranberry Simple Syrup
makes about 2 cups

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 10-ounce bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked through

Add all ingredients to a small pot. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes or until berries have burst. Skim off and discard any foam that accumulates. Remove pot from heat, then mash burst berries with a potato masher or fork. Let berries sit in syrup for 30 minutes.

Place a sieve over a large mixing bowl. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to press the syrup through the sieve. Discard the the leftover fruit solids or use for another purpose.

Transfer syrup to a container with a lid. Let cool completely before storing in the refrigerator.
Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails

1 part cranberry syrup
2 parts ginger beer
2 parts seltzer
1/2 part lime juice
ice
fresh cranberries, for garnish (optional)
lime wedges, for garnish (optional)

I measured in tablespoons for each glass, but feel free to use a larger units of measure to make a pitcher of mocktails.

In a liquid measuring cup or other vessel, stir together cranberry syrup, ginger beer, seltzer and lime juice.

Add ice to glasses. Pour mocktail mixture over the top and garnish with cranberries and lime, if desired. Serve immediately.

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie

Hey there! I put all my Thanksgiving recipes on their own page for maximum convenience. Just click the menu at the top of the page and then go to “Thanksgiving Recipes.”

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie​

It’s funny how recipes sometimes just hit me out of nowhere. Like this past September I was in Maine making Vegan Chocolate Pudding for dessert, and I accidentally made it just a little too stiff. While it worked for a no-frills vacation treat, I knew that I needed to make adjustments for a better pudding consistency, but I also knew I had just made a perfect Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie filling.

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie​

And I do mean perfect. Sliceable, but not bouncy. Rich and chocolaty, but completely devoid of dairy and eggs. I had a vision of it sitting in a chocolate cookie crust with a whisper of vegan whipped cream on top, and two months later, here we are.

As with my traditional Chocolate Cream Pie, this vegan version is nearly no-bake and very simple to make. The crust is just crushed Oreos (I used gluten-free) and vegan butter that are mixed together and baked just to set. The filling is made by whisking things together in a certain order, as all pudding is. No need to sieve this one though—no eggs means no worrying about solids! To assemble, just pour the filling into the crust and refrigerate until very, very cold.

Oh yes, this cold, creamy crowd pleaser of a pie is an all-out winner. I mean, who doesn’t love delicious Chocolate Cream Pie and food everyone can eat and enjoy? Dessert and inclusivity are two of my favorite things!

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie​

Before serving, top the pie with some vegan whipped cream! I went with an easy coconut cream-based recipe by Minimalist Baker, and it’s outrageously good. If you’re not up to making your own vegan whipped cream, Reddi Wip makes a good coconut whipped cream in a can that you can find in most grocery stores. Just put a little on each slice immediately before serving (and then spray the rest in your mouth because you’re a grown-up and you can).

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie​

Speaking of slices, can we discuss how beautiful this is? Defined layers! Gorgeous chocolaty filling! And it’s gluten-free and vegan? I think it’s safe to say we have a Thanksgiving showstopper on our hands.

Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie​
Vegan Chocolate Cream Pie
makes 1 pie

Crust:
24 regular or gluten-free Oreos (original or Double Stuf)
5 tablespoons vegan butter, melted

Filling:
5 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used almond milk)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon vegan butter

Topping:
Vegan Whipped Cream (I made it with Thai Kitchen Coconut Cream)
finely chopped dark chocolate

Make the crust. Place Oreos in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until they are crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until the mixture can be pinched together. Press it into the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate (I find that a 1/4 cup measuring cup works for this). Bake the crust for 10 minutes and then let it cool for 20 (or until you can handle the pie plate).

Make the filling. In a medium pot, whisk together cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk in half the non-dairy milk, followed by the remainder.

Place pot over medium heat. Whisking continuously throughout cooking, cook pudding until it has boiled for 1 minute. This process should take 8-10 minutes from start to finish.

Pour filling into the crust. Tap the full pan on the counter a few times to release large bubbles. Press plastic wrap to the surface. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight, until cold.

When ready to serve pudding, peel off and discard plastic wrap. Top with vegan whipped cream of choice and finish with chopped dark chocolate. Refrigerate until ready to slice and serve.

Leftover pie will keep covered in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Soft Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Soft Sour Cream Sugar CookiesSoft Sour Cream Sugar Cookies. Try saying that five times fast. Or, you know, skip the silliness and just make ‘em.Soft Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

These are a homemade take on the super soft, vibrantly frosted Lofthouse Cookies I loved during my college years. While you won’t find me buying them these days, I think about them more than is probably reasonable. They are like a supermarket birthday cake and some sugar cookies had a baby and I am here for it.Soft Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Like the cookies that inspired them, these are feather-soft thanks to the sour cream and confectioner’s sugar mixed into the dough. Those ingredients in particular make these puffy sugar cookies super tender and almost cakey. I know I’ve railed against cakey cookies in the past, but I’ll make an exception for these.Soft Sour Cream Sugar CookiesSoft Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

The dough comes together pretty quickly, but is on the sticky side and needs a chill before baking. I roll these cookies super thick (1/2 inch) and cut them with a 2-inch cutter. I tested with bigger cutters, but found that a smaller diameter helps the cookies to bake evenly, reducing the chances of dense centers and crisp edges. While those are usually good things in cookies, these are best when they’re soft all around. In fact, I prefer to eat them the day after they’re baked for maximum softness. So good.

Quick tip: in case you want to take your sugar cookie game to the next level, you could absolutely make these in the shape of a football, heart, Christmas tree or other simple shape. Keep in mind that this dough spreads and puffs a bit, so you won’t want to do anything terribly intricate. But also…go wild.Soft Sour Cream Sugar CookiesSoft Sour Cream Sugar CookiesSoft Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Soft Sour Cream Sugar Cookies are good unadorned, but a thick smear of vanilla buttercream and smattering of sprinkles take them over the top! I went with a pink marbled motif, dying half my frosting and then spreading both colors together, but feel free to use whatever color(s) of frosting or variety of sprinkles you like here. Get festive with it for holidays, big games, birthdays or any day!Soft Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Soft Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
makes about 3 dozen medium cookies

Cookie Dough:
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, packed
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream (not fridge-cold)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For Decorating:
Vanilla Buttercream (recipe below)
food coloring, if desired
sprinkles of choice

Special Equipment:
a 2-inch round cookie cutter
offset icing spatula

Make the cookie dough. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, confectioner’s sugars, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a medium-large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in sugar, followed by egg, sour cream and vanilla. Add dry ingredients in 2 installments, beating until combined. Dough will be a bit sticky.

Divide dough into halves and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Place oven racks in central positions. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper. Set aside.

Generously flour a surface and rolling pin. Unwrap one half of the dough. Roll the dough to 1/2-inch thickness, lifting and turning the dough frequently so that it doesn’t stick to your surface. Use a 2-inch round cutter to cut cookies. Cut directly down. Do not twist.

Place cookies 2 inches apart on prepared pans. Bake 9-10 minutes, rotating top-to-bottom and back-to-front at the 5 minute mark. Cookies are done when puffed and no-longer raw-looking. They should be mostly pale, but there may be some golden coloring at the bottom edges. Let cookies cool on the pans for 8-10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Let sheet pans come to room temperature before proceeding with the next batch.

Repeat rolling, cutting and baking with remaining half of dough. Re-roll scraps as desired, refrigerating if anything gets too sticky.

After cookies have cooled completely, use an offset icing spatula to frost each one with about 1 tablespoon of Vanilla Buttercream (I used 1/2 tablespoon each pink and plain white buttercreams). Garnish with sprinkles immediately after frosting. Buttercream will crust after an hour or so. You may serve the cookies immediately after frosting, but they are softest the next day.

After they’ve crusted, leftovers may be layered with wax or parchment paper and kept in an airtight container. They will keep at room temperature for a couple of days or I’m the refrigerator for up to a week.

Vanilla Buttercream

makes enough for 3 dozen cookies (with a little leftover)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3-5 tablespoons heavy cream
food coloring, if desired

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in confectioner’s sugar in three installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Beat in salt and vanilla. Add in heavy cream until desired consistency is reached.

To dye half of the buttercream, remove half to a smaller bowl. Add a drop of gel food coloring (or a few drops of liquid) and use your electric mixer to beat until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

Use buttercream to frost Soft Sour Cream Sugar Cookies.

Soft Sour Cream Sugar CookiesSoft Sour Cream Sugar CookiesSoft Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Chocolate-Covered Pecans

Chocolate-Covered PecansChristmas in a pandemic is so strange. I mean, I’ve spent Christmas away from my immediate family before, but it’s always been with (ex-)boyfriends or friends. But this year, traveling and gathering don’t seem like great plans and I am deeply single, so Christmas alone it is.Chocolate-Covered PecansI’ve already had my pre-Christmas anticipatory-loneliness gloom and doom, and have now moved on to determining what will make this Christmas feel like…Christmas. Like, when I FaceTime my family, I’m going to wear my Christmas pajamas that match my sisters. And I’m going to take a walk. Maybe watch Love Actually for the 374th time. Perhaps make a pot roast. And I’m going to eat chocolate-covered pecans by the handful. It’s the Davenport way.Chocolate-Covered PecansChocolate-Covered Pecans have a long history in my family. My dad has been sending them as Christmas gifts for as long as I can remember, and though nearly every box was for someone else, he always had one delivered to the house just for us to share. And by share, I mean he would hide/hoard them to himself until Christmas Day when he’d finally reveal the half-eaten tin.

Over the years, this has come back to bite him in the ass. The general “rule” is that whoever intercepts the box first hides it and clues everyone in *except* my dad, just for a little light payback. This may seem like a lot of hubbub, but we really love messing with each other,* and also Chocolate-Covered Pecans. What’s not to love about naturally-caramelly toasted pecans coated in a snappy-then-melty layer of chocolate?

*Is every family as weird as mine?Chocolate-Covered PecansSince my sisters and I all moved away, we’ve each been added to my dad’s chocolate-covered pecan Christmas list. It’s something I look forward to every year—my tin showing up a week or two before I fly home for the holiday break. Except, of course, that I’m not flying home this year. And for a brief moment, thanks to the notorious difficulties with shipping right now, I thought that my dad might have decided not to send chocolate-covered pecans in 2020.Chocolate-Covered PecansChocolate-Covered PecansThankfully that is not the case and my tin arrived on December 16th, but in that moment where I thought this tradition might be another casualty of 2020, I took the time to create my own recipe for Chocolate-Covered Pecans. I certainly wasn’t going to go without them. No way.Chocolate-Covered PecansMy Chocolate-Covered Pecans are the tiniest spin on my Salted Marzipan Truffles recipe. Truly, the only difference is that I’m using toasted pecans instead of marzipan. I left the salt on for beauty and salty chocolate reasons, but you can skip it if you like. Whatever makes your little holiday heart flutter. Whatever makes this recipe feel like home.Chocolate-Covered PecansMerry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Whatever you do or don’t celebrate, I hope you find a way to enjoy the end of this challenging year. I’m taking Friday off for Christmas, but will be back next week with year-end round ups. Stay cozy, everyone.Chocolate-Covered Pecans

Chocolate-Covered Pecans
makes about 1 cup

1 cup raw pecan halves
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon light corn syrup or golden syrup
coarse or flaky finishing salt (optional)

Special Equipment:
microwave-safe bowl (or double boiler)
parchment paper
small sheet pan or other pan (must fit in freezer)

Preheat oven to 300F. Place pecan halves on a dry rimmed baking sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes, until fragrant and toasted. Let cool completely.

Line a small sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place chopped dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir with a fork. Add coconut oil. Continue to microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Stir in corn syrup.

To dip, drop one pecan half into the melted chocolate. Use a fork to coat pecan in chocolate. Drain briefly by scraping the tines of the fork on the edge of the bowl. Use the fork to gently lay the pecan on the prepared pan. Immediately top with a pinch of finishing salt, if desired. Continue this process until all pecans are coated and salted.

Place baking sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes, until chocolate has solidified. Serve.

Pecans will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Chocolate-Covered PecansChocolate-Covered PecansChocolate-Covered Pecans

Sparkling Shortbread

Sparkling ShortbreadHappy Christmas week! Happy Solstice! Happy almost the end of 2020!Sparkling ShortbreadI’m coming at you on this winter Monday to give you one last cookie recipe before Christmas. Don’t worry, it’s super easy—just a slice & bake shortbread that’s been rolled in sparkling sugar so it looks *fancy.* And it is. But it’s also stupendously easy. I don’t know about you, but when it’s four days before Christmas, I only have time for things that are stupendously easy.Sparkling ShortbreadThis dough is super rich and buttery, and comes together in 15 minutes. Once mixed, divide it in two and shape each half into a log. Don’t worry about perfect round shaping—you can fix flaws after an hour-long chill. It’s much easier to form smooth shapes when the dough isn’t so pliable.Sparkling ShortbreadSparkling Shortbread Next up, coat your shortbread in sparkling sugar! Working with one log at a time, give your shortbread a few rolls to even out any odd shaping. Then, roll them in a few tablespoons of festive sparkling sugar (this is the Mistletoe Blend from NY Cake Supply). I find it easiest to coat the shortbread by using my hands and a sheet of plastic wrap. Just do your best with this and don’t worry about perfection—these will all be a little different and they will all be gorgeous.

Don’t have sparkling sugar? Use sprinkles. I recommend using jimmies (the cylindrical kind) instead of non-pareils (the little balls), as those will bleed their colors.Sparkling ShortbreadAfter coating, the shortbread will need another hour chill. I know—I know!—two chills are too many, but they are easily the most annoying part of this recipe. One upside, however, is that this means you can make the Sparkling Shortbread dough days in advance and then slice & bake when you have time.Sparkling ShortbreadSparkling ShortbreadWhen it’s time to bake, slice the dough in 1/4-inch rounds and bake for 20 minutes at 300F, so they’re fully done but not brown. Despite not containing any leaveners, these cookies will puff and spread (but not too much).Sparkling ShortbreadOnce the shortbread are baked and cooled…well, that’s it! Time to eat. Sparkling Shortbread are crisp and buttery with a little extra crunch and zazz from their sugared edges. Truly, they’re so simple and stunning that I don’t know why you’d bother to make any other cookies this close to Christmas. Keep a few for yourself, drop a few off with a friend and leave a few for Santa. Everybody needs a little sparkle right now.Sparkling ShortbreadThere’s only one more E2 Bakes recipe left this year, and it’s coming up Wednesday! Any guesses???Sparkling Shortbread

Sparkling Shortbread
makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

For coating:
6-8 tablespoons (about 3 ounces) coarse sparkling/decorative sugar

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. Dough will be crumbly looking, but should hold together very well when pinched.

Divide dough in two parts. Form each into a 9-inch log and wrap in plastic. Don’t worry if they aren’t perfectly round. Chill for 1 hour.

Line a small sheet pan or a surface with a sheet of plastic wrap and place 3-4 tablespoons of sparkling sugar on top. Unwrap one log of dough. Give it a few light rolls to form more of a round log shape. Place dough on top of sugar and use your hands and the plastic wrap to coat the log in sparkling sugar. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 3 days. Repeat this process with remaining log of dough and remaining sparkling sugar.

Place oven racks in central positions. Preheat oven to 300F. Line 2 rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper.

Unwrap one log of dough and place on a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice log into 1/4-inch rounds. Place at least 2 inches apart on prepared pans.

Bake cookies for 20-22 minutes, or until no longer shiny but not brown at all. Let cool on the pans for 10 minutes. Use a thin spatula (not your fingers!) to remove cookies to cooling racks to cool completely.

Serve. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.Sparkling ShortbreadSparkling ShortbreadSparkling ShortbreadSparkling Shortbread