Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Baking that's not just for Christmas

Although I still have a few things on my list yet to make, I thought I'd fill you in on what I've made so far. The great thing about all of these recipes is that none are inherently "Christmassy". You could bring any of these to a 4th of July potluck and no one would look at you askance. 

Cinnamon Nut Palmiers adapted from Budget Bytes
OK, someone might think these would be a little odd for 4th of July, but they'd quickly change their mind after trying one. Simple, easy and delicious.

1 box (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry
2 Tbsp honey
2 tsp cinnamon
4 Tbsp brown sugar
4 Tbsp chopped pecans
confectioners (powdered) sugar for dusting counter

Thaw the box of puff pastry either on the counter at room temperature or in the refrigerator over night. (Make sure to leave out only for the time listed on the box. I left mine out too long and it turned into a solid chunk. I couldn't unfold it like you're supposed to. I had to roll it out with a rolling pin.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Sprinkle a clean counter top with powdered sugar to keep the dough from sticking. Unfold the dough and lightly drizzle with honey (about 1 Tbsp per sheet). Next, sprinkle with half of the cinnamon, brown sugar and pecan mixture.

Roll up each side of puff pastry inward until the two sides meet. (Like you're rolling up cinnamon rolls, but stopping at the half-way point and rolling from the opposite end to meet it.)

Using a sharp knife, cut log into 1/2" sections and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart—they need room to puff up. Make sure they're tightly rolled. You can adjust each cookie a bit as you go. If they're loose, they'll unroll as they puff and bake.

Bake at 400°F for 10-15 minutes. Check at 10 minutes and keep an eye on them. You want them golden brown but not dark brown. The sugar will burn fairly quickly. Immediately transfer to a cooling rack, flipping them over as you do. The filling pools a bit at the bottom and flipping them over will keep them from sticking to the cooling rack. The filling becomes a hard, candy-like crust, but they're surprisingly light and not overly sweet. VERY good.

Peanut Butter Buttons
I've posted this recipe before. I used my smallest Pampered Chef scoop this time. It's approximately a tablespoonful and makes 2" cookies. I got about 177 cookies out of this recipe. These would also make excellent slice-and-bake cookies. Make ahead, roll into logs, keep in fridge or freezer, baking as the urge strikes. These also freeze amazingly well already baked. 
1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups creamy or crunchy peanut butter, your choice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3 3/4 cups flour

Cream peanut butter and butter, add sugars and mix well.
Add eggs and mix until creamy.
Add remaining ingredients.
Chill for one hour and chill between batches.
Drop by tablespoonful onto cookie sheets—do not flatten.
Bake at 325°F for 10-12 minutes for smaller cookies, about 15 minutes if you use a larger scoop. You want these barely done.

Cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes then transfer to cooling racks or kraft paper (to soak up some grease). Store in airtight containers or zip top bags.

cc shortbread
Chocolate Chip Shortbread adapted fom Not Without Salt
Made approximately 79 cookies
Not overly sweet, just buttery and light with a nice touch of chocolate. Oh so good with a hot mug of your favorite cold weather beverage.

3/4 pound butter (3 sticks), softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together, with a whisk, flour and salt; then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Add the chocolate chips until just mixed in. Roll into a log(s) and wrap in wax paper or parchment. Chill until firm. I got two, approx 15" logs out of this at about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. You don't have to be precise.

Carefully slice the log into 1/4″ cookies. Place the cookies on an sheet pan covered with parchment. Bake for 11-13 minutes, until the edges just begin to brown. Allow to cool the store in airtight container or plastic bag.


Monster Cookies adapted by me from the basic Toll House recipe
I doubled this and got approximately 77 cookies from it.
I was going to use regular M&Ms for these, but then saw the bag of peanut butter ones and knew they HAD to go in these cookies. Good call. 

1 cup (2 sticks butter), softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (1/2 bag, add entire bag if feeling wild and crazy)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 bag peanut butter M&Ms (the large bag, not an individual portion one)

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Beat butter and sugars. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla.
Combine flour, baking soda, salt and oats in medium bowl. Mix well then add to butter mixture. Beat until well combined.
Add chips and nuts and mix by hand until evenly distributed.
Drop by rounded tablespoon on to parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minute or until edges brown and cookies are almost set. Let them rest on the cookie sheets for 3-5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.

Just FYI, if you don't add enough flour, they look like this:
monster-too flat
Not pretty. Also, it might be a good idea to leave out the M&Ms and press into top of each cookie just before baking.

babka sliced
Chocolate Babka from Cooking Light Dec 2009
Makes one loaf (I doubled this and got three "large" and 2 mini disposable aluminum bread pan sized loaves)

1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
3/4 cup warm milk (105-110 degrees)
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
7.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 2/3 cups), divided
5.85 ounces bread flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
5 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces and softened
Cooking spray

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used chocolate chips)

2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter, softened

Dissolve 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and yeast in warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in 6 tablespoons granulated sugar, vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and egg yolk. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 6 ounces (about 1 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour and bread flour to milk mixture; beat with dough hook attachment at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes). Add 5 tablespoons butter, beating until well blended. Scrape dough out onto a floured surface (dough will be very sticky). Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add 1.5 ounces (about 1/3 cup) all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will be very soft).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let dough rest 5 minutes.

Line the bottom of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper; coat sides of pan with cooking spray.

To prepare filling, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, and chocolate in a medium bowl; set aside.

Place dough on a generously floured surface; roll dough out into a 16-inch square. Sprinkle filling over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Roll up dough tightly, jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam and ends to seal. Holding dough by ends, twist dough 4 times as if wringing out a towel. Fit dough into prepared pan. Cover and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare streusel, combine powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, and 1 tablespoon softened butter, stirring with a fork until mixture is crumbly; sprinkle streusel evenly over dough. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until loaf is browned on bottom and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool bread in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool bread completely on wire rack before slicing.

This is really good at room temperature, but nuke a slice in the microwave for 10 seconds... bliss.

babka loaves


  1. Oh wow I loved all these recipes. Palmiers are a favorite and I need to make them more often (or not becasue I would be the one eating them all). The chocolate chip short breads looked nice for my afternoon tea. Have a Happy Christmas!


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