Holiday Recipe Round-Up

Christmas Sugar Cookies

With the holidays just around the corner, I have been spending time in the kitchen making treats for you. Chocolate sugar cookie snowflakes, peppermint bark, and even macarons have all been boxed up and frozen for the Christmas parties to come. Unfortunately, due to a series of strange and unfortunate circumstances, I cannot share these recipes with you today. 

It started with the wind. Living in the Upper Midwest, I often use the "freezer" outside my window to chill sugar cookie dough before baking (one of my cookie tips). After playing around with my tried-and-true recipe, I rolled out a dozen cookies, and set the baking sheet outdoors to chill. Ten minutes later, ready to pop them in the hot oven, I realized the prairie wind had literally blown them away. With a quickly setting sun, I made plans to make them again the next weekend so I would have time to snap a few photographs too. 

As the next weekend approached, with all of my baking plans on deck, there was a freak heat wave and all of the snow melted. Normally I would be quite cheery about such a thing, but the warmth brought in a great fog that settled over the region. Since I could hardly see the cars on the street outside my window, taking any type of photography was out of the question. There simply was no light to be found.

So now I have a kitchen full of treats, but no real way to share them with you. I'm crossing my fingers that next weekend brings more light and time to spend in the kitchen so that all is not for naught. In the meanwhile, I've compiled a list of some of my favorite holiday recipes in hopes that they will inspire you. Enjoy, dear friends!

Red Wine Chocolate Truffles

Gingerbread Cookies

Candy Cane Popcorn

Gingerbread Muffins

Nutella Espresso Rolls
Peppermint Marshmallows

Candy Cane Cupcakes

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Pomegranate White Wine Panna Cotta

Almond Espresso Cookies

Almond Espresso Cookies

I bottle up my emotionsfrustration, irritation, worries, and fears. I push them down into the well of my mind, bury them beneath responsibilities and tasks, and wish for them never to surface. At times, I have hidden them so well that they stay below my radar, leaving me with a consistently calm demeanor to put forth to the world. If I pretend I am fine, perhaps I will be fine. It may be flawed logic, but the idea of "faking it until you make it" is not a novel theory. While it may not always be healthy, it is my coping mechanism.

Lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed. Overwhelmed over the length of my to-do list. Overwhelmed at the new projects I have recently taken on. Overwhelmed at how unprepared I am for the holiday season. Overwhelmed at the idea of feeling overwhelmed. So I do as I have always done. I push these emotions down and bury them beneath other work and chores, knowing they will not disappear, but hoping I can cover them up long enough to let the feelings pass. For the most part, it works. I keep my calm at work, and I keep my calm at home.Yet, the feelings must find their way out somehow. 

The can opener, of all things, has become my form of therapeutic release. 

Almond Espresso Cookies

Less than a year ago, I picked up a cheap can opener at the store to replace the other cheap (but broken) can opener at home. It is, for all purposes, a piece of junk and fails to work more often than succeeds. I battle with the defective can opener often, cursing its rusted gears and inability to cut through metal. I throw tantrums when I struggle with it, describing to the inanimate object exactly how worthless it is and how I will replace it as soon as I get to the store. In the moment, I allow all pretenses to fade away and deal with my emotions directly. Ultimately, I realize the battle is not about canned corn, but about allowing myself to let out the feelings I have been holding in so long.

I am learning, as we all do, how to move through life. Some days (like today) I feel like I do a little more learning than on other days. Maybe, after a bit of practice, I will be able to manage with a bit more elegance and grace and a little less cursing at the canned tomatoes. 

Almond Espresso Cookies

Baking is another form of therapeutic release, one that I find both calming and serene. These Almond Espresso Cookies are one of the favorites in my cookie repertoire to both eat and prepare. Almonds are roasted and then ground finely to form the base of the cookies. Chocolate is drizzled over the top, with a little espresso powder mixed in the cookie to complement the flavor. It is a simple cookie, but the flavors are addicting enough to keep me coming back for more. As the holiday season grows closer, these are a simple enough treat to create, but still unique enough to leave an impression at your holiday table.

One Year Ago: Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Two Years Ago: Maple Roasted Chickpeas, Gingerbread Muffins, Persimmon Cake, and Lemon Cranberry Scones
Three Years Ago: Banana Espresso Chocolate Muffins, Cranberry Orange Brioche Rolls, Cranberry Sauce, and Cranberry White Chocolate Tarts
Four Years Ago: Chocolate Espresso Pots de Creme, Sugar-Coated Daydreams, Blueberry Brownies, and White Chocolate Saffron Truffles

Almond Espresso Cookies with Chocolate Glaze

Yields about 12-18 cookies

Almond Espresso Cookies
6 tablespoons (85 grams) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (187 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (85 grams) almonds, roasted and finely ground*
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add the flour, finely ground roasted almonds, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring until batter is uniform.

Drop by the tablespoon onto a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Glaze
1/2 cup (85 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon (14 grams) butter

In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate chips and butter over low heat until smooth. Transfer to a pastry bag (or small plastic bag with the corner snipped off) and drizzle the warm chocolate over the cookies. Allow to set for 30 minutes to harden the chocolate before serving. 

*To roast almonds, spread into a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) until tan and fragrant.

Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

This is a recipe for after Thanksgiving, when the food has been eaten, the dishes have been cleared, and the thanks has been given. Since the holiday is so near, I imagine the majority of you have your menus set and adding a last minute recipe to the list would only send you on another trip to the supermarket. This is a recipe to encourage you to take a moment to relax, sip a hot beverage, and rest your feet over the long weekend.

You deserve a break before the season of family and giving sweeps in. 

Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

Cake doughnuts are one of the ways I like to treat myself (as a bonus, it is also one of the cheapest, costing a whopping 89¢ per doughnut). Whenever I pass the bakery section of the store, I am drawn towards the doughnut case like a moth to the flame. Usually I am able to walk by after a moment of admiration, but sometimes the sprinkles and glaze are too much, and I find myself reaching into the case.

I appreciate that cake doughnuts stray towards the drier end of the spectrum because it makes them perfect to enjoy with a cup of coffee. Since this particular doughnut recipe is baked instead of fried, it has a similar texture to cake straight from the oven (i.e. light and moist). To remedy this, I let them sit out overnight which brought them to the texture I desired (though a few hours would also suffice)


Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

These Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts are baked instead of fried, which makes them easy to make. The doughnuts are enriched with sour cream and spread with a light vanilla glaze. Serve with hot coffee or a glass of cold milk (or, if you are feeling particularly decadent, a mug of hot cocoa). Share with friends and family and enjoy the season.

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Streusel Muffins 
Two Years Ago: Marbled Butternut Squash Bread, Chai Pear Scones, Hot Bourbon Apple Cider, and  Pumpkin Pie Espresso Bars
Three Years Ago: Caramel Apple Cider, Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats, Honey Cinnamon Roasted Chickpeas, and Caramel Apple Tart
Four Years Ago: Dried Cranberry Cocoa Rolls 30 Second Sangria, Raspberry Vanilla Creme Brulee, and "Please, Sir, Can I Have Some More?" Cupcakes

Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

Yields 8 doughnuts

Chocolate Cake Doughnuts
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup (160 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (20 grams) cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup (115 grams) sour cream
1/3 cup (78 ml) milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a standard-size doughnut pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the egg, vanilla, melted butter, sour cream, and milk until thoroughly mixed. 

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag (or large kitchen bag with the corner snipped off). Fill the depressions in the prepared pan with the batter until 2/3 full. Alternatively, if appearance does not matter, you could spread the batter into the pan using an offset spatula, but this results in more unevenly shaped doughnuts. Bake the doughnuts for 15-18 minutes, or until puffed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, before transfering to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Glaze
1 cup (125 grams) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons milk

In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients until smooth. If the glaze is too thick, thin with a teaspoon or two of milk.

Spoon the glaze over the cooled doughnuts, allowing any excess to drip off. The glaze will take 10-15 minutes to set, depending on the thickness.