Iced Gingerbread Men

Christmas does not feel complete without a cookie shaped into a fun holiday shape and decorated with icing.cutter and dough

This year my cookie of choice is the gingerbread man cut with a vintage cutter given to by my grandmother a few years ago. I haven’t quite given up on my sugar cookie quest, but I need to rethink my approach.

I have actually not been a fan of gingerbread for the majority of my life, with the exception of the houses that I always decorate to my heart’s content. Up until last year I would immediately spit out any gingerbread cookie, but I finally tasted a recipe that I fell in love with.

cut gingers

Now I am sharing it with you and I don’t believe any Christmas will be complete without this recipe from now on.

There are a lot of fun Christmas traditions around the world in this article and it definitely makes me want to include fun new ones next year.

Decorated gingersMerry Christmas Eve! Have fun baking up these delicious little guys!

Gingerbread Men

Yields 2 1/2 dozen

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1 egg yolk

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

To make the cookies:

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Stir in molasses and egg yolk. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg; blend into the molasses mixture until smooth. Cover, and chill for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until firm. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks. Frost or decorate when cool.

Royal Icing

Recipe by Alton Brown

3 ounces pasteurized egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

To make the icing:

In large bowl of stand mixer combine the egg whites and vanilla and beat until frothy. Add confectioners’ sugar gradually and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated and mixture is shiny. Turn speed up to high and beat until mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks. This should take approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add food coloring, if desired. For immediate use, transfer icing to pastry bag or heavy duty storage bag and pipe as desired. If using storage bag, clip corner. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Vanilla Crumb Cakes

Every year for the past couple years I have made my friends treat trays for Christmas. I deliver them one by one in an effort to do a small catch up with my friends before moving on to the next person on my list.

It’s my way of putting a little extra Christmas joy in the holidays. batter

I always try to mix and match flavors and textures and make sure I add something savory as well. I would like to think if they were to eat the tray all at once they wouldn’t get bored with the flavors of the different items.

This recipe was my vanilla flavored and cake textured item.

batter in tinsThis was a simple batter to pull together. A couple whirls in the food processor, a whisk or two, and then folding it all together with a spatula.

Plus I found these adorable tiny loaf pans that would make a small cake fit perfectly on the tray!

loaf on tray

One extra plus, these cakes are extremely forgiving. In one batch I accidentally forgot to bring out the crumb mixture.. Yeah what is a vanilla crumb cake without the crumb?! A delicious, powdered sugar sprinkled cake!

See it really can be a no stress Christmas!

Vanilla Crumb Cakes

Yields 2 crumb cakes

1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

To make cake:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Put sugars together in food processor bowl, pulse until combined. Add flour and nutmeg, pulse until blended. Put butter into flour mixture and pulse until crumbly. Remove and reserve 1/2 cup crumb mixture.

Combine buttermilk, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; whisk in egg. Pour over crumb mixture in large bowl; fold with spatula until dry ingredients are moistened.

Spoon batter evenly into two greased small loaf pans. Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture evenly over batter, pressing lightly into batter.

Bake at 350 F for 35 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean.

Pecan Pie Cake

Well I did it! I completed my challenge. I got all three posts done over the weekend. I am pretty proud of myself (with this recipe and the completion of my challenge).

pecan pie cake

I made this cake for Thanksgiving and it did not disappoint.

IMG_2377

It may have a confusing name, but the name describes it perfectly. It is all the elements of a pecan pie in cake form. Pie + Cake = Delicious!

Pinterest never disappoints! I actually got a variation of this recipe from this site. I toasted my pecans and did not use the frosting because I am not really into whipped cream frostings. EndingTheSilence

Another great thing I found from the internet is a new program offered by NAMI. One of the presenters gave their opinion on the program and why it is so different from the other programs teaching about mental illness.

Pecan Pie Cake

Yields 1 Three Layer 9-inch cake

Pecan Pie Filling

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup dark corn syrup

1/3 cup cornstarch

4 egg yolks

1 1/2 cups half-and-half
pinch salt
3 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
To make the filling:
Whisk together the first 6 ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan until smooth.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, and boil for 1 minute,  or until thickened.  Remove from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla.
Place a  sheet of plastic wrap directly on surface of mixture to prevent a film from  forming, and chill at least 4 hours.
Pecan Pie Cake
3 cups pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
5 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
To make the cake:

Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle 2 cups toasted pecans evenly into 3 generously buttered 9-inch round cake pans; shake to coat  bottoms and sides of pans.

IMG_2345

Beat butter and  shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy, and gradually  add sugar, beating well.  Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating just until blended  after each addition.  Stir in vanilla.
IMG_2347
Combine flour and  baking soda.  Add to butter mixture alternating with the buttermilk, beginning  and ending with flour  mixture.  Beat at low speed just until blended after each  addition.  Stir in remaining 1 cup pecans.
IMG_2348
Beat egg whites at  medium speed until stiff peaks form, and fold one third egg whites into batter.  Fold in remaining egg whites.
Pour batter into prepared pans.
To assemble the cake:
Put one layer pecan side up on plate, pour 1/3 of filling onto layer. Spread filling over layer without letting it flow over sides.
IMG_2360
Stack second layer on filling pecan side up, pour 1/3 of filling onto layer. Spread filling over layer without letting if flow over sides.
IMG_2362
Stack third layer on filling pecan side up, pour remaining 1/3 filling onto layer. Spread filling over layer. Decorate as desired.
IMG_2374

Pumpkin Ice Cream

This will be my last pumpkin post for the season. I have had a pretty good run. Muffins, pies, and now ice cream! And all made from some adorable little pumpkins I got from the farmer’s market.

I don’t have a lot to say about this recipe but that it was eaten pretty much all by me and within 72 hours of me making it. I can’t be helped around ice cream.

It’s an issue.

ice cream

This ice cream was pretty spectacular. So much so that this is the only picture I took of my half-eaten, somewhat melted first bowl of it. From this point on I ate it straight out of the container. No shame.

Something just as quick and fun as making this ice cream (maybe not quite as delicious) is getting you and your friends involved in an engaging text conversation over mental health issues. This new social movement started this past week on December 5th and is continuing until January 30th.

TXTTLKACT_Infographic%20-%20post%20Dec%205

I would love to hear how your experience went! So leave a comment below.

Pumpkin Ice Cream
Yield 1 Quart

2 cups 2% milk

1 cup heavy cream

¾ cup sugar

5 tbsp fresh pumpkin puree

2 egg yolks

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Grated fresh nutmeg

Pinch of salt

To make the ice cream:

Combine the milk, cream, sugar and 3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree in a heavy sauce pan. Turn the heat to medium and bring the temperature to 180 F, stirring often. The milk should begin to foam on the top, but it should not come to a full boil. Remove from the heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining pumpkin puree, egg yolks, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Temper the mixture by slowing pouring in ½ cup of the warm milk, while whisking vigorously.

Transfer the tempered egg mixture back to the pan of warm milk by pouring slowly and whisking constantly.
Return the pan to medium-low heat. Cook stirring often for about 5 minutes, until the milk begins to foam again, but do not allow it to come to a boil.

Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour.

Freeze in a counter-top ice cream maker per the manufacturer’s instructions. As the ice cream is freezing, grate fresh nutmeg into the container (make sure as much as possible that it is evenly distributed).

Pumpkin Cup-Pies

Phew… It has been a busy last couple of weeks. I have been baking up a storm with no time to post on it. Not to mention all the great mental health awareness events that I let pass by unmentioned. Well that is all about to change. I hope to get all the recipes I have been working on posted on by Sunday.

pumpkins

I am up for the challenge!

You may be all pumpkin-ed out after the past weeks holiday festivities, but maybe you have some real pumpkin decorations that you would like to use instead of just throw away before they rot. After all pumpkin can be a December food as well (Hey.. it’s mentioned in multiple Christmas songs!).

roasted pumpkins

So a bit ago I made some miniature pumpkin pies (let’s call them cup-pies). These cup-pies were baked in muffin pans and filled with delicious pumpkin pie filling.

Even more miraculous than tiny pies was the fact that there were no cans involved in the making of the pumpkin. That’s right I used a real pumpkin that had been roasted in the oven (instructions below) and pureed in the food processor. It made the creamiest and smoothest pumpkin pie filling I had ever tasted. pumpkin shells

Now that the holidays are in full swing that means that most people are around family more than they may be during the rest of the year. This can be a good and bad thing. Some people have more difficulties around the holidays for various reasons, but the holidays are actually no worse than the rest of the year for suicide rates as it may have once been believed.

pumpkin puree

Some good reminders for making the holiday season better for you is to not try to accomplish everything little thing on your holiday list. It is okay to pair down. You don’t need to do something seasonably related every day of the season. It is perfectly okay to do the things that are the most fun for you and let go of the things that will cause you extra stress.

dough cut outs

I believe that a good portion of the holiday difficulties come from people’s expectations being too high. I know that can be the case for me, but I am challenging myself to only do the things that make me happy and don’t add any unnecessary stress to my life. That in itself is a challenge because I am a perfectionist and I like to have everything and it all must be perfect. But I challenge you to work with me in letting it be less than perfect so that you can be happy during the holiday season.

before cuppies

These little pies can be helpful for you to think about when trying to do everything at once. What I mean is these little guys are perfectly fine waiting around for when you have time to complete them.

One day you can roast the pumpkin and come back to it when it cooled down and throw it in the food processor. The next day or a few days later you can make the pie crust. At another time you can make the filling. And whenever you are ready you can put them all together and enjoy. I hope we can work together on relieving stress through the holiday season.

after cuppies

And whenever you are ready for it you can have these delicious two-bite pies for your enjoyment.

Pumpkin Puree

1 medium pie pumpkin

To make the puree:

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Split the pumpkin in half and put face down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 50 minutes or until you can insert a fork easily into the flesh. Scoop out the pumpkin seeds and stringy material. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh and put into food processor. Pulse until flesh is smooth.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

2 cups pumpkin puree

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup evaporated milk

3 eggs

1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp salt

To make the filling: Combine ingredients and whisk thoroughly.

Pie Crust

1 cup butter, chilled and cubed

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3-4 tablespoons ice water

To make the crust:

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon in the food processor. Add the butter and pulse until you have pea sized pieces. Add the water until the mixture comes together in a shaggy dough – you should be able to squeeze it together in your hand. Roll out the dough and cut it with a 2-inch round cutter and roll out thinly. Put dough in muffin cups making sure do leave no air bubbles underneath the dough.

To make the pies:

Pour filling into dough cups until almost filled (filling will puff up slightly while baking, but will deflate once cooled). Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes or until pies have set and developed a caramel coloring. Cool slightly in pans and transfer to cooling rack. Enjoy!