Maple Spice Stars

Maple Spice StarsY’all…are these Maple Spice Stars beautiful or what?! I love all the colors, textures, and dimensions of the finished cookies, not to mention the flavors. With their sweet, spicy crunch and maple glaze, these little stars are as delicious as they are dazzling.

Maple Spice StarsThis dough is a maple spin on my classic gingerbread recipe. The biggest changes I made are that I intensified the ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg flavors, cut the white granulated sugar and, of course, that I swapped the traditional molasses for 2/3 cup of pure maple syrup 🍁🍁🍁 These changes produce a cookie with a “cleaner” spice flavor; unlike molasses, the maple syrup accentuates the spices instead of competing with them.

Maple Spice StarsOnce the maple spice dough is made, divide it into quarters and give it a chill. This helps with spreading, allows the flavors to meld, and keeps the dough from being too sticky to roll. That last part is super important. We want this dough to roll and cut like a dream!

Maple Spice StarsRoll the dough out until it’s 1/4-inch thick and cut the stars. Depending on the size of your cookie cutter, this could be a startling number of cookies–I ended up with eleven dozen 3-inch stars (that’s 132 cookies 😮). It’s a lot, but that means this recipe is perfect for cookie trays and food gifting. I highly recommend pairing a couple dozen of these sparkly stars with a box of tea; I like Tazo Wild Sweet Orange and Yogi Egyptian Licorice.

But back to the cookie dough…

Maple Spice StarsMaple Spice StarsBake the stars for 8 minutes, until they are starting to turn golden at the edges. They’ll crisp up as they cool.

Maple Spice StarsMaple Spice StarsMaple Spice StarsNext up, whisk together a simple maple glaze and give each cookie a quick dip. Lay them on cooling racks set over wax paper to contain any excess–you just want a thin layer.

Maple Spice StarsMaple Spice StarsMaple Spice StarsAs a final touch, top the glaze with a mixture of minced candies ginger and coarse sugar. This gives the finished cookies an extra hit of ginger flavor, not to mention how beautiful it makes them look. I love how these stars sparkle ✨✨✨

Maple Spice StarsMaple Spice Stars are some of my favorite holiday cookies ever to appear on this blog, and I have made a lot (*A LOT*) of holiday cookies over the last couple of years. They’re simple, elegant, and they give a nod to a classic without being totally traditional.

Maple Spice StarsOh, and they’re stupidly delicious. And when it comes to cookies, that’s what really counts, isn’t it?!

Maple Spice StarsLooking for more cut-out cookies? Try my Iced Sugar Cookies {Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies & Quick-Dry Royal Icing}, Gingerbread Men with Chocolate Buttons, Peppermint Mocha Cookies, and Red Velvet Cut-Out Cookies.

Maple Spice Stars
makes about 11 dozen 3-inch cookies

Cookies:
4 cups all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup pure maple syrup (I like Grade A dark amber/robust taste)
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Garnish:
2/3 cup minced crystallized candied ginger
3 tablespoons coarse sugar (I like turbinado)

Glaze:
3 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
4-5 tablespoons water

Make the cookies. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in brown sugar, followed by the maple syrup. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Turn the mixer to low, and add the dry ingredients in three installments, stopping frequently to scrape the bowl.

Divide dough into quarters. Wrap each quarter in plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Chill for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Place oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Flour a surface and a rolling pin.

Remove one disc of dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap it, and roll it out on the floured surface. Dough may crack on the initial roll, but should become more pliable. Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Dip the edge of a 3-inch cookie cutter in flour, then use it to cut out cookies. Re-roll scraps to get more cookies.

Bake cookies for 5 minutes. Rotate the pans top-to-bottom and back-to-front. Bake for another 3-4 minutes, until they are no longer wet-looking. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling and baking with remaining dough, making sure to let the baking sheets come back to room temperature between batches.

Make the garnish. In a small bowl, toss together minced crystallized candied ginger and coarse sugar. Set aside.

Make the glaze. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together confectioner’s sugar, salt, maple syrup, and 4 tablespoons of water until smooth. Add more water by the teaspoon, until the glaze is a drizzling consistency.

On a surface (or a few baking sheets), set cooling racks over sheets of wax paper. Dip each cookie in the glaze until it’s 1/3-1/2 dipped. Let any excess drip off and set cookie on a rack. Top with candied ginger garnish. Repeat with all remaining cookies. Allow to set at room temperature for at least two hours or until dry to the touch.

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

Maple Spice Stars

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}I don’t think I’ll ever grow bored of puff pancakes. When I rediscovered my childhood favorite breakfast a few years ago, I was shocked to learn how easy they are to make, and so I have made many. (Many many many.)

I already have the classic recipe and a Caramel Apple version in the archives. Two variations over two years may not sound like much, but just know that this could easily be an all-puff-pancake-all-the-time blog 😉

Today, I’m giving you a version of my favorite weekend breakfast worthy of any Christmas morning spread. Feast your eyes on this rumpled beauty: the Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}.

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Like all puff pancakes, this holiday version is ridiculously easy and far more than the sum of its parts. It comes together quickly and bakes in the oven (no pancake flipping!), culminating in a soft-centered, shareable pancake flavored with everyone’s favorite seasonal beverage.

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Making an Eggnog Puff Pancake is as easy as putting eggnog, a few eggs, a touch of sugar, a bit of spice, and some flour in a food processor and blitzing it into a thin batter. The hardest part is waiting five minutes for some air bubbles to dissipate.

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Pour the batter into a searing hot pan and bake it for fifteen minutes, until puffed and golden. Within 90 seconds of its removal from the oven, your Eggnog Puff Pancake will collapse on itself, leaving behind a rustic, fragrant holiday breakfast masterpiece.

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Let your pancake cool for a minute or two before slicing it up.

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}As far as toppings go, I recommend maple syrup…

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}…and a dusting of confectioner’s sugar that you’ve spiked with cinnamon and nutmeg…

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}…and a dollop of whipped cream.

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}It may seem like overkill, but the combination of toppings and the custard-like, nutmeg-scented center of the pancake will have everyone at the table asking you to make this again before the New Year. And you will because it’s just that easy, and just that delicious.Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Looking for more eggnog treats? Try these sandwich cookies and this cake!

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}
makes 4-6 servings

1 cup eggnog
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar 
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

For serving:
maple syrup
confectioners sugar (with pinches of cinnamon and nutmeg)
whipped cream

Place a large ovenproof cast iron or stainless steel pan in a cold oven. Preheat oven to 400F.

In the bowl of a food processor* or high-powered blender, combine eggnog, eggs, vanilla, flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Process 15-30 seconds, or until no lumps remain. Let batter rest five minutes.

Once oven has reached 400F, remove the hot pan and add butter. Place pan back in the oven for 60-90 seconds, until butter has melted. Remove pan from the oven, and swirl the butter so it coats the pan. Pour in batter. Bake 15 minutes, until puffed and golden. Do NOT open the oven door during baking.

Let pancake cool 2-5 minutes before slicing. Serve immediately with maple syrup, confectioners sugar, and whipped cream, if desired.

Note:

If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you may mix the batter and then push it through a fine mesh sieve to remove lumps and bubbles.

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Pecan Florentines

Pecan FlorentinesIf you’ve never seen or heard of Florentine cookies, you’re probably not alone. I rarely see these ultra-crispy, nutty, chocolaty cookies in bakeries, but on the occasion that I do, I just have to have one.

Pecan FlorentinesMy love of Florentines began when I tried an almond version at Blue Bonnet Bakery in my hometown (they must have been out of Gingerbread Men that day 😉). I was intrigued by the non-traditional appearance of the cookie (let’s be real–I was mostly in it for the chocolate). After one bite, I knew I’d found a favorite.

Pecan FlorentinesFlash forward fifteen years and I’ve finally tried my hand at making them. And you know what? I wish I had made them sooner. I’m always so intimidated by lace cookies, but they’re actually some of the simplest to make. Exhibit A: Apple Cider Snaps.

Pecan FlorentinesHere’s what you need to know about Florentines: if you start now, you can have dough ready for the oven in ten minutes. That dough will bake in all of five minutes. And the finished cookies get filled and topped with dark chocolate. So…what are you waiting for?!

Pecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesMeasure out a cup of pecans and then pulse them in the food processor until they become a rubble. You could use almonds or walnuts if you prefer, but given a choice, I will always go for pecans. It’s a Texan thing, I suppose. I would like more things to taste like pecan pie, Florentines included. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Anyway…mix the pecan rubble with 1/2 cup of flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

Pecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesNext up, bring some butter, dark brown sugar, and Lyle’s Golden Syrup to a boil. Golden syrup is an invert sugar with a slight caramel flavor; I usually find it on the baking or international aisles (it’ll be with the British foods). If you can’t find golden syrup at your grocery store, light corn syrup works just fine.

Pecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesBack to the recipe…combine the wet and dry ingredients and voilà! Cookie dough. It will be thin and a little, uh, gloppy, but it will be cookie dough.

Pecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesDrop teaspoons of dough onto lined baking sheets and flatten them into circles. Bake them for 5 1/2-6 minutes, until lacy and turning golden at the edges. Keep an eye on ‘em and make sure to rotate the pans halfway through–since these cookies are mostly sugar, butter, and nuts, they can go from perfection to charcoal in seconds. I made six batches last week and you can see that I still had a few close calls. Rotate, rotate, rotate. It’s crucial to your Pecan Florentine success.

Pecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesOnce all the cookies are baked and cooled, sandwich them together with dark chocolate. The melted chocolate may seep through some of the holes in the cookies. To mitigate this, I like to spread the chocolate onto one cookie, top it with a second cookie, and flip it over. That seems to contain any overflow.

Pecan FlorentinesAs a finishing touch, I like to drizzle a little more chocolate onto each Pecan Florentine. It’s entirely optional, but I think it’s pretty. After that, just let the chocolate set at room temperature (or if you’re impatient, throw them into the freezer for a few minutes).

(I’m impatient.)Pecan Florentines

Pecan Florentines
makes about 20 sandwich cookies

1 cup raw pecan halves
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup or light corn syrup
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Place racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

Place pecan halves in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until they become a rubble. Transfer to a bowl and stir in flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.

Combine butter, golden syrup (or corn syrup), and dark brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and pour into the bowl with the pecan mixture. Fold together with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon.

Drop teaspoons of dough at least 3 inches apart on the prepared pans. Flatten the dough into circles. Bake 3 minutes. Rotate the pans top-to-bottom and front-to-back. Bake an additional 2-3 minutes (I do 2 1/2 minutes), until golden at the edges. Let cool on the pan five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Discard and replace parchment between batches.

Once all the cookies have been baked, chop the chocolate and place it in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Let cool five minutes.

Line a surface (or two baking sheets) with parchment. Place half the cookies underside-up on the parchment. Top each with about 1/2 teaspoon of melted chocolate. Spread it into a thin layer and top with another cookie. Carefully turn sandwich cookies over. Use a fork to drizzle remaining chocolate over the tops. Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until set.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Pecan Florentines

Peppermint Mocha Buttercreams

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsDo you listen to the Stuff You Should Know podcast? My sister turned me onto it a few months ago and it was love at first listen. As my job is very solitary, I spend my days listening to Josh and Chuck talk about all sorts of things I have never given a passing thought. Imagine my surprise to find that yesterday’s episode was about something that I know all about: cake!

Yes, I spend many waking hours thinking about cake. Really. At any given moment, I am thinking about baking, layering, decorating, or eating cake. If you listen to the podcast (which you should!), it sounds like Josh, Chuck, and I may have that in common…the eating part anyway 😉

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsOne thing we definitely agree on though is that we all occasionally eat cake solely as a vehicle for frosting. For some *unknown* reason, it’s socially unacceptable to eat a bowl of frosting, so we eat cake to get our fix 😉 Until now, anyway…

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsEnter buttercream candies: literally frosting coated in chocolate.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsFrosting. coated. in. chocolate.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsFrosting for frosting’s sake.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsIf you’re anything like me (or Josh and Chuck, apparently), this is basically the best news ever. These are the no-bake treat of my dreams.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsYou can make buttercreams using any flavor of frosting you can imagine–if it can be whipped into buttercream frosting, it can be rolled into candy. As we’re just a few weeks out from Christmas, I’ve decided to go with Peppermint Mocha Buttercreams today 😊

The frosting base of these candies is a classic American chocolate buttercream that I’ve souped up with 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract and some instant espresso. It comes together in just a few minutes and is super fluffy and luxurious.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsChill the peppermint mocha frosting before scooping it by the teaspoon and rolling it into balls. This is not a glamorous process, but it is helped greatly by coating your hands in confectioner’s sugar.

After another chill, it’s time for a dip in melted chocolate…

Peppermint Mocha Buttercreamsand a smattering of crushed peppermints, or perhaps some holiday sprinkles.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsPeppermint Mocha ButtercreamsOne more quick chill later, the Peppermint Mocha Buttercreams are ready to eat. And oh, are they good. I mean, how could the combination of a chocolate shell and a melty espresso-mint center be anything but delicious?!

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsThey’re basically holiday perfection in a mouthful.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsLooking for more Peppermint Mocha? Try my Peppermint Mocha Cookies ❤️💚❤️💚

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsPeppermint Mocha Buttercreams
inspired by and heavily adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
makes about 4 dozen candies

1 tablespoon instant espresso granules
2 teaspoons warm tap water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (NOT mint extract)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
16 ounces dark chocolate (not chocolate chips)
crushed peppermints, for decorating (optional)
sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together espresso granules and warm water. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Beat in confectioner’s sugar, followed by cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add in vanilla and peppermint extracts, followed by espresso mixture. Add heavy cream. Beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until very fluffy. Press plastic wrap to the surface of the frosting. Chill one hour in the refrigerator.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Remove chilled frosting from the refrigerator and discard the plastic wrap. Scoop frosting by the teaspoon, roll into balls, and place on prepared pan. Coating your palms in confectioner’s sugar may help the rolling process. Chill rolled frosting uncovered for one hour.

Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to chop chocolate. Place in a microwave-safe bowl. Melt chocolate in 30 second increments, stirring between, until smooth. Alternatively, melt chocolate in a double boiler. Let cool five minutes.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Remove buttercreams from the refrigerator.

To dip, drop one ball of buttercream into the melted chocolate. Use a fork to coat buttercream in chocolate. Drain briefly by scraping the tines of the fork on the edge of the bowl. Use the fork to gently lay the buttercream on the prepared pan. Immediately top with crushed peppermints or sprinkles. Continue until all buttercreams have been coated and topped.

Chill buttercreams for at least fifteen minutes before serving. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The time for holiday cookies and candy and extravagant breakfasts that are actually dessert. The time for family and friends and hot chocolate and caroling. But also, time for taking extra care of those for whom this holiday season might not be so wonderful.

The Sweetest Season GraphicThis year I am participating in The Sweetest Season, benefitting Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. As you may know, cancer is the #1 cause of death-by-disease for children in the U.S. In spite of this startling statistic and the 40,000 children currently battling cancer nationwide, less than 4% of the National Cancer Institute’s $4.6 billion federal budget goes to pediatric cancer research.

Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that encourages people to raise funds for pediatric cancer research in the most delicious of ways: by making cookies and sharing them with friends and family. The goal is to raise funds to find a cure, one cookie at a time. Many supporters (called “Good Cookies”) choose to have bake sales or cookie swaps, but this year I’m teaming up with many fellow bloggers to post new cookie recipes and donate directly. If you’d like to learn more and/or make a charitable donation to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, click here.

I made my donation on Giving Tuesday, so now it’s time to talk about cookies–Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies, to be exact 😍😍😍

Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Y’all, I’m just crazy about these ginger cookies. They’ve got all the flavor, chewy texture, and sparkly sugared edges you love, but without the gluten, eggs and dairy, so your gluten-free vegan friends can eat them without consequence. I love an inclusive recipe!

Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}The base of these cookies is a jar of cashew butter. It gives the simple dough plenty of structure and a buttery, nutty undertone. Dark brown sugar and a couple of tablespoons of molasses keep the finished cookies soft and chewy, while ground ginger and cinnamon amp up that classic holiday cookie flavor!

Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}As far as egg replacement goes, I am all about aquafaba these days. If you haven’t heard of this miracle of modern vegan baking, well, you’re in for a surprise and a treat.

Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Aquafaba (literally translated “bean water”) is the liquid from cooking and/or canning chickpeas. As the beans cook, they release lots of proteins into the water, creating a nearly-flavorless, almost-gel-like liquid. This is the aquafaba.

Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}As aquafaba can be whipped to stiff peaks, many bakers like to use it to make vegan meringue cookies, mousses, and macarons. I haven’t used aquafaba for any of those things (yet!), but I have used it in my Chipotle-Sweet Potato Hummus and Cornmeal Pancakes. <–try those!

If aquafaba isn’t your thing, you could use the “flax egg” mixture I use in my Cashew Butter Snickerdoodles, but know that there will be a difference in flavor from the flaxseed. If you’re not vegan, feel free to swap in one large egg. No matter which option you choose, your cookies will be delicious.

Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}But enough about egg replacers! The dough for these Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies comes together quickly. After a short chill and a roll in granulated sugar, they’re ready to go in the oven. The cookies bake up in less than ten minutes, just until they’re soft in the centers and crisp and sparkly at the edges.

Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}These little cookies are going to steal the show at your parties and cookie swaps, y’all. They look and taste just like the soft ginger cookies we all know and love–I bet that if I hadn’t just told you that these cookies are made from cashew butter and aquafaba, you wouldn’t even notice. And even if you do, the richness of the cashew butter, hits of molasses and spice, and chewy centers are nearly guaranteed to keep you coming back for more.Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free}

Cashew Butter Ginger Cookies {Vegan & Gluten-Free} 
makes about 3 dozen small cookies

1 16 ounce jar cashew butter
3 tablespoons aquafaba* (chickpea canning liquid)
2 tablespoons molasses (not blackstrap)
1 1/3 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon baking powder

Coating:
1/3 cup granulated sugar

In a large mixing bowl, combine cashew butter, aquafaba, molasses, dark brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Use an electric mixer (or a silicone spatula and some elbow grease) to beat ingredients together until smooth. Add cornstarch and mix again. Cover dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Pour granulated sugar into a small bowl.

Remove dough from the refrigerator. Scoop dough in one tablespoon increments and roll into balls. Coat in granulated sugar and place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes, until puffed and golden at the edges. Let cool on the baking sheets for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat baking process with any remaining dough.

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

Note:

If you are not vegan, you may use one large egg (at room temperature) in place of the aquafaba. Proceed with the recipe as written.