Tag Archives: Holiday

Molasses Crinkles

Molasses CrinklesI’ve been a bit lost trying to decide what to make for Christmas this year. In the past, I’ve really gone for it with elaborately iced/stacked/painted/glammed up cookies, but that seems a bit frivolous in a year where I will be spending the holidays alone. There is certainly something to be said for going big & going (staying) home with holiday baking as a way to emotionally survive the next 30 days or 30 weeks or whatever, but today I don’t feel like mixing up a giant vat of royal icing and coloring my world. Today I feel like getting in bed and staying there until I can see my friends again or until flying doesn’t seem insane or until every first date doesn’t involve asking someone from the internet if he is willing to take both of our lives into his hands to have an outdoor, distanced coffee.

That got dark quickly. Oy.Molasses CrinklesAnyway, this Christmas is going to be simpler around here. I’m not saying there won’t be sprinkles or a buttercream flourish—I’m still me, duh. It just may be a month of less…involved…holiday sweets.

That doesn’t mean they’re any less special or delicious, of course. I mean, look at these Molasses Crinkles! They’re a classic winter cookie that comes together in a snap and are very difficult to stop eating, especially if you have a pot of coffee and some twinkle lights nearby. I’m speaking from experience here.Molasses CrinklesAs far as the recipe goes, my path to chewy Molasses Crinkle glory is pretty straightforward. I used my Maple Sugar Cookies as a starting place, swapping the maple for molasses, adding big hits of ginger and cinnamon, quadrupling (!) the baking soda, and rolling the cookies in sugar for a textured appearance.Molasses CrinklesMolasses CrinklesMix your dough in a pot on the stove and let it relax at room temperature while your oven warms; this will give the gluten time to develop for extra-chewy results! Scoop the dough into balls and roll them in sugar (granulated or a mix of granulated and coarse) before baking for ten minutes. The big crinkles will begin to form during the last two or so minutes of baking, when the dough has spread pretty dramatically and puffs to the point that it breaks the sugar coating. Then, just when you remove the hot cookies from the oven, give the pan a good thwack on the counter and…bam. Crinkle city.Molasses CrinklesThese cookies, y’all. They’re on the thin side, but have tons of surface area and chewy texture and crinkles and a crisp coating, and that’s to say nothing of the molasses and ginger and cinnamon! And make no mistake, these are molasses cookies. Sure, the ginger and cinnamon are quality background flavors, but sticky, bittersweet molasses? She’s the star of this show.Molasses CrinklesI’ve made three batches of Molasses Crinkles since Thanksgiving, and I’m here to tell you that they keep like a dang dream. Seriously. I keep thinking I’m going to reach into a bag to discover a bunch of molasses frisbees, but nope—chewy as ever.

Brighter days ahead.Molasses Crinkles

Molasses Crinkles
makes about 20 medium-large cookies

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

For coating:
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar and molasses—mixture will not be homogenous. Let rest 10 minutes. Add the egg to the pot and whisk to combine. Whisk in the vanilla, followed by flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Let dough sit for 30 minutes.

Arrange your oven racks in central positions. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment. Set aside.

Place sugar (for coating) in a small shallow bowl.

Scoop dough in 1 1/2 tablespoon increments (I use a medium cookie scoop). Roll into balls and then roll the balls in sugar before placing them at least 3 inches apart on prepared pans. Bake cookies about 10 minutes, or until puffed.

Remove pan from oven and give it one good thwack on a flat surface. Crinkles will fully develop as the cookies cool. Let cookies cool for 8-10 minutes on the pans before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.Molasses CrinklesMolasses Crinkles

Pie Crust Cinnamon Twists

Pie Crust Cinnamon TwistsI never know what to post during Thanksgiving week. I assume your menus are set and that you’ve already shopped and everything—I mean, mine is and I have. Still, I always like to leave you with one last recipe before the holiday.Pie Crust Cinnamon TwistsIn years past, it’s been cheese-related, but this year, I’m going straight for dessert. I know I will be making a pie (or two) in the upcoming days, and maybe you are planning to as well, but also…? You might be a little burnt out and not particularly feeling like going through the trouble of making a whole pie for a very small Thanksgiving gathering, even though you’ve already made a bunch of pie dough.Pie Crust Cinnamon TwistsWell, my friends, that’s where Pie Crust Cinnamon Twists come in. Where you’d normally roll out your pie crust, fit it in a pie plate, fill it, chill it several times and finally bake, this recipe takes super buttery pie dough and transforms it into a flaky cinnamon-scented dessert that you can make with minimal ingredients and tuck into in under an hour. It’s the dream.Pie Crust Cinnamon TwistsPie Crust Cinnamon TwistsStart by rolling out your disk of pie dough (this is my All-Butter Pie Dough) into a 12-inch square(-ish shape). Brush the whole thing with melted butter, then scatter cinnamon-sugar on the center 4×12-inch section.Pie Crust Cinnamon TwistsFold one of the outer thirds over the cinnamon-sugar, then brush on more butter and sprinkle on more cinnamon-sugar. Fold the last blank third of dough over (like a letter) and then refrigerate for 20 or so minutes while the oven preheats. Pie Crust Cinnamon TwistsPie Crust Cinnamon TwistsOnce the oven hits 375F, slice your dough into strips, brush with more melted butter, and twist them do that you can see the two layers of cinnamon swirling all the way down the length of the twists. Yum!Pie Crust Cinnamon TwistsAfter that, bake for 22 minutes or so until your kitchen smells like butter and cinnamon and everything else that’s good in this universe. Then wait just long enough so that you don’t burn your mouth before digging in, with ice cream if you are better-prepared than I am.Pie Crust Cinnamon TwistsI know I am not the first person to write a recipe for Pie Crust Cinnamon Twists, and I won’t be the last either. Some people just spread the cinnamon-sugar right on and skip all the folding and whatnot, but in my experience, this extra care results in a triple-layer twist that is favorably compared to churros. Churros! I don’t know about you, but the one thing my Thanksgiving menu is missing is a flaky, churro-esque finish.Pie Crust Cinnamon Twists

Pie Crust Cinnamon Twists
makes about 1.5 dozen twists

3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 recipe All-Butter Pie Dough, or other good single crust pie dough recipe
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together sugar and cinnamon.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Roll pie dough out to a 12-inch square. Paint a thin layer of melted butter onto the dough.

Mentally divide the dough into thirds (perhaps with the help of a ruler), 4×12 inches each. Scatter half the cinnamon-sugar over the central third. Fold one of the outer thirds over the center to cover the cinnamon-sugar, then paint melted butter on top. Fold the remaining third so that it covers the cinnamon-sugar. Use your rolling pin to tamp down the ends so you don’t lose filling, then roll the whole thing so it’s about 6-inches wide. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F. Line 2 rimmed sheet pans with parchment.

Flour a surface and a large, sharp chef’s knife. Unwrap the folded dough and brush the top with butter. Slice it into 3/4-inch strips. Twist each one a few times and place 2 inches apart on prepared sheet pans (I like about 10 per pan). Bake 21-23 minutes, until puffed and golden.

Let cool a few minutes before serving. Leftovers will keep covered at room temperature for a few days.

Pie Crust Cinnamon TwistsPie Crust Cinnamon TwistsPie Crust Cinnamon Twists

Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers

Turkey and pie may take all the Thanksgiving glory, but I’m on a mission to nab a tiny bit of it for holiday cheese plates. You know, the stuff you snack on while you make…everything else. They’re frequently overlooked or taken for granted, which is a shame because the holiday cheese plate says something about the person who made it. Specifically, that they like cheese.

While there is nothing wrong with just putting out cheese and crackers, I’ve made it a point over these last several Thanksgivings to turn my cheese plate game up to 11. These twists, shortbreads and slumping blocks of feta aren’t difficult or overly flashy—nobody has time for that on the fourth Thursday in November!—but they sure are delicious. Here is a definitive list of your favorite cheesy food blogger’s favorite cheesy appetizers.Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers Rosemary-Parmesan Cheese Straws

These flaky homemade cheese straws are the perfect thing to serve alongside an assortment of cheeses and fresh fruit. They’re perfumed with rosemary, have a little funk from grated Parmesan, can be prepped ahead (!), and they’re absolutely gorgeous.
Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions

Baked Brie is a classic holiday party treat, and it couldn’t be simpler to make. Just wrap a wheel of brie in puff pastry and bake until golden and gooey—that’s it! This version has added sweetness and depth from caramelized onions and a smear of dijon mustard. Yum!Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers
Spicy Cheddar Shortbread

These shortbread are like Cheez-Its all glowed up. They’ve got a rich cheddar flavor with hits of spicy cayenne and black pepper, and are outrageously good. Serve them by themselves or pair with a tart apple for a bright, rich finish.Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers
Baked Feta with Sautéed Dates

I made a whole Christmas dinner for my family last year, including a porchetta, but this easy appetizer stole the show. An entire block of feta is painted with olive oil and honey before being baked until soft and slumping, then broiled to a golden finish. While Baked Feta would be delicious served on its own with water crackers, you’d be remiss to skip the sweet & savory Sautéed Dates. They’re chewy, caramelized, and get finished with a a good hit of coarse salt before being piled on the Baked Feta and fully devoured.Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers
Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil

This year’s cheese plate offering is low-brow and high-brow and completely delicious. Two sheets of flaky rough puff pastry are sandwiched together with southern pimento cheese, gently twisted into a sun shape (“soleil”) and baked until bubbly and golden. While everything else on this list works well as part of a cheese plate, this Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil *is* the cheese plate.

Have you made any of these or any of my other cheesy appetizers? What’s your favorite thing to put on a holiday cheese plate? Let me know in the comments or on social media!Friday Favorites: Cheesy Appetizers

Brownie Pie

Brownie PieI first had Brownie Pie at an Easter brunch almost twenty years ago, but I’m here to tell you to make it for Thanksgiving. Yes! You may not realize it with everything going on, but Turkey Day is twenty days out. Twenty days! I started off the festive foods with Wednesday’s Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil, and now we’re on to the first of my usual three pies and one of my favorite sides ever…but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m here to talk about Brownie Pie, so let’s get to it!Brownie PieBrownie Pie? Like brownies *in* a pie? You better believe it. We’re talking dense, chewy, fudgy, crackly-topped brownies baked up in a flaky all-butter crust. This is a perfect food, people!Brownie PieNow, Brownie Pie not quite as simple as baking brownie batter in a pie crust…but it almost is. You just have to partially blind-bake (bake without filling) the pie crust first, lest your bottom crust stay raw. Don’t worry, it’s not as terrifying as it sounds.Brownie PieBrownie PieTo partially blind-bake, begin by rolling out your dough, then fit and crimp it in a pie plate like you normally would. Next, give it a good chill before lining it with parchment, filling it up with your weights of choice (pie weights, dried beans, rice) and baking for 20 minutes. Then simply lift the parchment and weights out of the crust, dock it with a fork and bake for another 10 minutes, until it starts to brown.Brownie PieBrownie PieAfter that—which, again, is much less of an ordeal than it sounds—it’s as simple as pouring the brownie batter into the crust and baking it off. I used my trusty Cocoa Brownies recipe with a bit more salt and 2/3 cup of chocolate chips for a little extra zazz. If you have another brownie recipe or box mix that you like, feel free to use it! Make sure that it makes enough for an 8” or 9” square pan—you don’t want to overfill your pie plate or worse, have to clean your oven floor.Brownie PieBrownie Pie’s final bake is 30-35 minutes. Ideally, you should let it cool completely for the cleanest slices, but I don’t want to be that person who tells you not to eat warm brownies, so you decide when to slice your pie. Follow your heart and all that. Whatever you do though, don’t skip the vanilla ice cream and chocolate shell.Brownie Pie

Brownie Pie
makes one 9-inch pie

1/2 recipe All-Butter Pie Dough or other good single crust recipe
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
2 large eggs, cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided

For serving (optional):
vanilla ice cream
whipped cream
chocolate shell
chocolate syrup

On a floured surface, roll out pie dough to a 12″ diameter. Fit into a deep 9-inch pie plate and trim the overhang to 1/2-inch. Crimp the edges and freeze for 30 minutes or refrigerate for an hour.

Place an oven rack in the lowest position. Preheat oven to 350F.

Remove pie crust from the freezer. Prick the bottom several times with the tines of a fork. Line frozen crust with a big piece of parchment. Fill the center with pie weights (or dried beans or rice).

Place the prepared pie crust on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until pie crust has “set” and is starting to turn golden in places, but is far from done. Use parchment to lift out pie weights. Dock (prick) crust all over with a fork. Return crust to the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the brownie batter. In a small pot over medium-low heat, melt butter, granulated and brown sugars, and cocoa powder together, stirring frequently, until a thick, grainy mixture forms. Remove from heat and let mixture cool 5-7 minutes.

Add vanilla and eggs to the pot, and stir/whisk to combine. Add flour and salt and stir/whisk to combine. Fold in 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips. Pour batter into par-baked crust and spread to the edges. Scatter remaining 2 tablespoons chocolate chips over the top and press lightly to adhere.

Bake pie 30-35 minutes, until filling is set and crust is golden. Let cool completely on a rack.

Slice and serve with desired toppings. Cover leftovers and keep at room temperature for up to two days. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Brownie PieBrownie Pie

Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil

Hello from the recent past! I’m writing this post ahead of Election Day, so I have no idea what fresh hell is going on in this country upon publishing, nor am I going to address it. This blog has no political views of its own, but you can guess which side I’m on.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilI had a very difficult time deciding what to post today. The election has zapped any creative energy I had left, and just…what do I want to talk about post-Election Day? Do I go straight into pie? Thanksgiving sides? Not post a recipe and tell everyone to make one big cookie everyday until we know the actual results? Disappear without a trace for two months and re-emerge only after January 20th of next year? They all seem like good options.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilInstead though, I’m going with Pimento Cheese: straight-up cheesy, spicy, sweet, tangy, mayo-bound southern comfort food. While it’s normally served with crackers or celery or on a sandwich, today I’m wrapping it up in two circles of puff pastry, slicing and twisting it so it looks like the sun (“soleil”), and baking until good and flaky with multiple textures of melted cheese. Yesssss.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilWhile Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil sounds fancy, it’s really quite simple, as most things made with puff pastry are. As usual, I went with easy from-scratch rough puff pastry here, but the frozen stuff works too. If you’re going the rough puff route, I find it much easier to make the two sheets separately than I do to make one big one and divide it.Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil No matter which dough you use, roll your sheets out about as big as you can (mine were 12×14”) and cut out two 12-inch circles. Top one with a batch of homemade pimento cheese, then seal the edges together with a swipe of water.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilPimento Cheese Tarte SoleilPimento Cheese Tarte SoleilNext up, create the soleil (sun shape). Place a 2.5-3 inch cutter or vessel in the center of your pastry circles, then use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the edges into sixteen rays. Twist them up for beauty reasons, then brush the whole tarte with egg wash and bake until golden all over.Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil
When I started working on this recipe, I had some concern that I’d open the oven after 35 minutes to find pimento cheese melted and burnt everywhere, but those fears were unfounded. The pimento cheese gets bubbly on top, gooey in the center, and a little crisp on the bottom.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilThis tarte, y’all. This. Tarte. I love that it’s both low brow and high brow–“Pull-aparts, but make it fashion.” It’s a guaranteed showstopper, and one of those things that’s good warm or at room temperature (or cold, honestly), as most flaky, cheesy things are. I had zero trouble putting away a quarter of it after this little photoshoot.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilPimento Cheese Tarte SoleilI usually post something to be a part of a Thanksgiving cheese plate, but this fancy finger food? It *is* the cheese plate. No need for crackers or bread or anything else, except maybe a sliced apple and a glass of something festive. And since Thanksgiving is but once a year, know that this would also be welcome in a game day spread. Heck, you could even just make one, slice up some raw vegetables and call it dinner any old time. Basically, it’s appropriate for any pimento cheese and puff pastry-eating occasion, including eating your feelings while waiting for things to sort themselves out, which is the exact route I will be taking.Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil

Pimento Cheese Tarte Soleil
makes one tarte

Rough Puff Pastry (makes 2 sheets):
2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, divided
10 ounces (20 tablespoons) unsalted European-style butter, very cold, cut into small pieces, divided
1/2 cup water or milk, very cold, divided

Pimento Cheese:
8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 4 ounce jar pimientos or roasted red peppers
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons mayonnaise

Egg wash:
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

If you do not wish to make the Rough Puff Pastry, you may use two sheets of frozen all-butter puff pastry that you have thawed according to package directions. Begin the recipe at “Make the pimento cheese.”

Make the first sheet of rough puff pastry. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Pour in 1/4 cup of cold water or milk and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Turn dough out onto surface, and use your hands to pat it into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough into an 8×10″ rectangle. Fold dough in thirds, and give it one quarter turn. Roll into an 8×10″ rectangle again, fold, and turn. Repeat rolling, folding, and turning until it has been done six times total. Wrap folded dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours.

Make the second sheet of rough puff pastry. Repeat the mixing, rolling, folding and chilling process with remaining 1 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) butter, and 1/4 cup cold water and milk.

Make the pimento cheese. Grate the cheese on the large-holed side of a box grater. Transfer to a small mixing bowl.

Drain the pimientos and blot with paper towels. Mince pimentos and transfer to the mixing bowl. Add black pepper and mayonnaise. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold it all together—it will seem dry, but should hold together.

Make the tart. Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed half-sheet pan with parchment.

Flour a surface and a rolling pin. Unfold one sheet of dough. Roll out to at least 12×14-inch rectangle, or a bit larger. Place a 12 inch round item (I used the lip of a large mixing bowl) on top. Use a thin, flexible knife to cut out a circle. Refrigerate. Repeat rolling and cutting process with the second sheet of dough.

Place one circle of dough on prepared pan. Drop spoonfuls of pimento cheese over the dough and spread to cover, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all the way around. Dab or brush some water along exposed dough, then place the second circle of dough over the top. Press edges together all the way around.

Place a light 2.5-3-inch object on the center of your tart (I used a biscuit cutter). Leaving the area covered by the object alone, use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice the pastry into quarters, then eighths, then sixteenths. Remove the round object to see that your tart looks like a sun.

Taking one “ray” (strip of dough) at a time, gently twist it a few times. Repeat with all “rays.” If the dough becomes soft or sticky at any point in the assembly process, refrigerate the entire tart for 15 minutes.

Make egg wash. Combine egg and water in a small bowl and whisk together with a fork. Use a pastry brush to paint egg wash over the entire tarte.

Bake tarte for 35-40 minutes, until completely golden. Let cool 10 minutes before carefully removing to a serving plate.

Serve immediately. This tarte is best warm or room temperature, but leftovers may be wrapped tightly with foil and stored in the refrigerator for a day or two. Reheat in the oven for best results.Pimento Cheese Tarte SoleilPimento Cheese Tarte Soleil