Tag Archives: Holiday

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

Pecan Pie Brownies

Pecan Pie BrowniesIt’s Christmastime, y’all. I’ve got visions of sugarplums dancing in my head. And by sugarplums, I mostly mean these Pecan Pie Brownies.Pecan Pie BrowniesJust imagine a pan of rich, chocolaty Super Fudgy Brownies with a layer of pecan pie filling on top. That’s literally what these are. Look at those layers 😍Pecan Pie BrowniesDuring testing, I tried three different methods of adhering the pecan filling to the top of the brownies. The best, by far, is giving the filling a quick (3-5 minute) pre-cook on the stovetop to jumpstart the thickening. It’s very easy, but does require a sieve. Please don’t let that stop you though—I loathe sieving things, but this is pretty painless, and it beats the hell out of slicing up your brownies only to find scrambled egg bits or a thin layer of pecanless goo underneath. *shudder*Pecan Pie BrowniesOnce you’ve done the 15 seconds of sieving, you get to stir in toasted pecans and spoon it over some soft-set brownies and bake until…divine. Yes—that’s the only word for these. Chewy, fudgy, nutty and sticky-sweet without being cloying; let’s just say these are difficult to resist. I brought a box on my family vacation to D.C., and we chose them over fancy restaurant dessert for all but one night. That’s really saying something—we love fancy restaurant dessert.Pecan Pie BrowniesAs if these need more endorsement, Pecan Pie Brownies also happen to be gluten-free. There are no unusual flours or gums here—this recipe simply doesn’t require gluten-containing ingredients. Inclusive holiday treats for the win!Pecan Pie BrowniesPecan Pie Brownies would be wonderful as part of a cookie tin or holiday party spread, or for enjoying during a cozy Christmas movie night at home. I’m sure they’d work well left as a treat for Santa, too! I will say that, as a childless adult, they really hit the spot when eaten in PJs while watching The Crown and counting down the days until you head home for the holidays. You know, in case you were wondering.Pecan Pie Brownies

Pecan Pie Brownies
makes about 16-25 brownies

Pecan Pie Filling:
1 1/3 cup pecan halves
2/3 cup maple syrup or light corn syrup
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Brownies:
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch rimmed square baking pan with butter. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on two sides for easy removal. Set aside.

Scatter pecans on a dry rimmed sheet pan. Roast 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside.

Make the brownie batter. Combine cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt in a small bowl, and use a fork to combine. Set aside.

Fill a small pot with 1-2 inches of water. Set a heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Remove bowl and bring water to a simmer.

Place butter and chocolate in heatproof bowl. When water comes to a simmer, turn heat to low and place heatproof bowl over the top. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir frequently until melted and smooth. Add sugar and whisk for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Whisk in dry ingredients.

Combine eggs and vanilla in a small mixing bowl. Use a whisk or fork to beat until a bit bubbly, about 1 minute. Whisk into chocolate mixture until smooth.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Tap full pan five times on the countertop to release air bubbles. Bake 15 minutes, until top has begun to set.

Make pecan pie filling. In a medium saucepan, whisk together maple syrup (or corn syrup), brown sugar, eggs, vinegar, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt. Add butter. Whisk constantly over medium-low heat until bubbles are beginning to form at the edges, about 3-5 minutes. Mixture will barely thicken.

Set a mesh strainer over a heatproof bowl. Pour filling mixture through to remove any bits of cooked egg. Fold pecans into filling.

Spoon pecan pie filling over partially-baked brownies. Bake an additional 30-35 minutes, or until the center barely jiggles when the pan is jostled.

Let brownies cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. Chill for 1-2 hours for clean slicing.

Use parchment overhang to remove brownies to a cutting board. Slice into 16-25 pieces and serve.

Leftovers will keep an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week. These may also be layered with wax paper or parchment and frozen.Pecan Pie BrowniesPecan Pie BrowniesPecan Pie Brownies

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}

Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates

Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesI’ve been making Thanksgiving food since mid-October, and while that’s my idea of a good time, it’s a bit of a relief that I’m not going to be anywhere near an oven on Thursday. My family traditionally travels and makes reservations for this particular holiday, so all I have to do is pack that skirt I marked as my “Thanksgiving outfit” back in September, get on a bus to D.C., and leave the cooking to a bunch of chefs.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesWe’ve been doing this routine in different cities since 1997, so it’s second nature now. In fact, the only issue I have with my family’s Thanksgiving tradition is that I’ll have to wait til Christmas to make them this Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesPoor them—they don’t know what they’re missing. I do, though, and so I am here to tell you that you absolutely, unequivocally should make this three days from now.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesI know. I know! The menu’s set. You’ve made the list. But just go ahead and add a brick of feta and some dates to the tail end. I promise it’s worth the change in plans.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesYou’ll only need five ingredients (plus something carby for serving) and fifteen minutes to put this appetizer together, and I would be utterly shocked if it lasts more than another fifteen minutes. I was alone when I made the feta and dates pictured here, and I had trouble keeping myself from eating half the brick in one go.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesBaked Feta with Sautéed DatesBaked Feta with Sautéed DatesThe feta is baked for ten minutes and broiled for a couple more. It turns soft and salty with crispy edges and corners that slump in the most pleasing way. It’s brushed with olive oil all over and honey on top before going into the oven, so it gets brown and blistered and…seriously, good luck not hoarding this all to yourself.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesIt won’t melt—feta doesn’t do that—but it will soften to the point where you can practically slice it with the edge of a cracker. Frankly, you could serve the feta by its lonesome and it’d disappear in minutes, but then you’d be denying yourself the magic of Sautéed Dates, and that’d be a real shame.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesBaked Feta with Sautéed DatesI mean, if there’s anything in the world that can stand up to the wonder that is Baked Feta, it’s these dates. They’re sautéed in olive oil for a minute or two while the cheese is in the oven, just until the edges begin to caramelize. The results are mostly sweet and a little savory—they’re great with yogurt, labneh and hummus. Here, they’re spooned over the warm feta and sprinkled with finishing salt before being scooped up with crackers or baguette or whatever and shoveled into your mouth as quickly as possible because—oh my goodness—this stuff is delicious.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesSalty, sweet, cheesy, savory, fruity, eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head good. You’re not going to want to share, but you should because…manners, I guess? But go ahead and plan to make this for every party between now and January 2nd, because if you can’t eat a brick of cheese during the holidays, when can you?!Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesHappy Thanksgiving, dear readers!Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates

Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates
dates adapted from Renee Erickson
makes about 8-10 servings

Baked Feta:
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 8-ounce brick feta cheese, blotted with paper towels
1 teaspoon honey (or maple syrup)

Sautéed Dates:
1 tablespoon olive oil
10-12 medjool dates, pits removed, sliced in half
coarse or flaky salt, for garnish

For serving:
water crackers
pita or pita chips
sliced baguette

Preheat oven to 400F.

Bake the feta. Use a pastry brush to apply 2 teaspoons olive oil to an 8-inch broiler-safe dish. Place gets brick in the center. Brush exposed feta with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Brush the top of the feta with a teaspoon of honey. Bake feta for 10 minutes or until soft and slumping. Feta will not melt.

Preheat broiler. Broil feta for 2-4 minutes, until the top is blistered.

Meanwhile, sauté dates. Heat 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add halved dates and cook, flipping once or twice, until they have all been coated in a thin layer of oil and some are beginning to caramelize (about 2 minutes). Do not burn.

Spoon sautéed dates over baked feta. Sprinkle with coarse or flaky salt. Serve warm with crackers or bread of choice.

Baked feta will firm up as it cools. To rewarm, place in a 350-400F oven for 5 minutes or until soft again.Baked Feta with Sautéed DatesBaked Feta with Sautéed DatesBaked Feta with Sautéed Dates

Creamed Kale with Crispy Breadcrumbs

Creamed Kale with Crispy BreadcrumbsYou may not be able to tell from the bevy of desserts I post every week, but I am a huge proponent of eating your greens. Almost every meal I make for myself involves a huge bed of arugula. Yes, for real.Creamed Kale with Crispy BreadcrumbsThat said, on Thanksgiving, there are so many sides that leafy greens can get lost in the mix or left out entirely. To that, I counter this: Creamed Kale with Crispy Breadcrumbs. It’s the sort of “eat your greens” situation that is absolutely welcome sidled up to cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce, and Fluffy Dinner Rolls.Creamed Kale with Crispy BreadcrumbsCreamed Kale with Crispy BreadcrumbsCreamed Kale with Crispy BreadcrumbsCreamed Kale with Crispy BreadcrumbsThis is a vegetable side dish that stretches the meaning of the word “vegetable.” Yes, there is kale in there—a lot of it—but it’s coated in a sauce of butter, heavy cream, milk, cream cheese and parmesan, and topped with buttery breadcrumbs. Dietetic, this is not. On Thanksgiving, though, who cares? If there were ever a day for eating a creamy, cheesy, crispy-topped side and calling it a serving of vegetables, this is the one.Creamed Kale with Crispy BreadcrumbsCreamed Kale with Crispy BreadcrumbsCreamed Kale with Crispy BreadcrumbsCreamed Kale with Crispy BreadcrumbsIf you’re wondering why I used kale here instead of going for classic creamed spinach, the answer is simple: kale’s texture holds up. Even after the blanching, shocking, sautéing, saucing, and baking, it still has texture. It contrasts perfectly with the crispy breadcrumbs instead of getting lost in the cheesy sauce. And it’s pretty. And I just *like* kale.Creamed Kale with Crispy BreadcrumbsCreamed Kale with Crispy BreadcrumbsNow, I know that adding one more thing to your Thanksgiving menu is never something to be taken lightly. Time and energy are at a premium at the holidays! Luckily, Creamed Kale with Crispy Breadcrumbs is perfect for making ahead. You can stir together the creamed kale part of the equation a day or two ahead of time and refrigerate it. When you’re ready to serve, top it off with the breadcrumb mixture and bake until brown, bubbly, and so creamy and wonderful that even I—a person who has written repeatedly about loathing cream sauce—can’t resist.Creamed Kale with Crispy BreadcrumbsLooking for something a little lighter? Try my Caramelized Brussels Sprouts!

Creamed Kale with Crispy Breadcrumbs
makes 6-8 servings

Creamed Kale:
2 lbs lacinato kale (curly kale works too)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely diced
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2-3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 ounces full-fat brick-style cream cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese

Breadcrumb Topping:
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (or other plain breadcrumbs)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup (~1 1/2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400F. Bring a large (6 quart) pot of water to a boil over high heat.

Wash and dry kale. Remove and discard the ribs. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice kale into 1/2-inch ribbons.

Fill a large bowl with ice water.

When the pot of water comes to a boil, salt it liberally. Add kale and let cook about 1 minute (until bright green). Remove kale and plunge it directly into the ice water. This method is called blanching & shocking.

Line a sheet pan (or a few plates) with paper towels. Once kale is cool (a few minutes), remove it from the water and place on paper towel-lined pan. Blot with more paper towels to remove excess water.

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I used the same one I used for the kale) over medium heat. Add butter and allow to melt. Sauté onion 5-7 minutes, or until translucent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in kale, followed by nutmeg, salt & pepper. Stir in heavy cream, milk, and cream cheese. Turn heat up to medium-high and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, or until cream cheese has melted and sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Grease an 8-inch casserole dish. Fill with creamed kale.

Make breadcrumbs. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and melted butter. Add Parmesan. Scatter mixture over the top of the kale. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until brown and bubbly.

Serve warm. This is best the day it is made, but may be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to three days. Breadcrumbs will soften over time, but may be re-crisped in the oven.

To make ahead: after transferring creamed kale to a casserole dish, press plastic wrap to the surface and refrigerate for up to 2 days. When ready to bake, make breadcrumb mixture and scatter it over the top. Bake at 400F until bubbly and golden, about 30 minutes.Creamed Kale with Crispy BreadcrumbsCreamed Kale with Crispy BreadcrumbsCreamed Kale with Crispy Breadcrumbs