Chocolate Chestnut Slices

Chocolate Chestnut Slices

Chocolate Chestnut Slices

Chocolate and chestnut, what a pair! As mentioned by Nat King Cole in The Christmas Song, Chestnuts roasting on an open fire are a holiday favorite. But over the years, chestnuts seem to have become less and less prominent. Frequently seen at most street carts around New York during the holidays, I have yet to find one this year. Maybe because most Chestnuts now come from Asia or maybe it’s just the trend life cycle. A whole article could easily be written on the history of chestnuts. I’m just here to share this delicious chocolate chestnut slices recipe.

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Stroopwafel House Mug Toppers

Stroopwafel House Mug Topper

Stroopwafel House Mug Topper

I’m not usually the DIY type but how cute are these?! They have little to do with classic recipes (or the focus of my blog) but I couldn’t help sharing these stroopwafel non-gingerbread gingerbread house mug toppers. The name isn’t the only mouthful – these little houses are made from stroopwafel, the caramel cookie often used as a hot beverage accompaniment (learn more about stroopwafels in this cool Huffpost article). These round dutch cookies sit on top of your tea or coffee mug. The steam softens the caramel center, creating an ooey gooey sweet treat. Alone, they are a tasty complement to hot coffee, tea, or even hot cocoa. As a stroopwafel mini mug topper house, they just might be the cutest (yet functional) holiday mug topper ever. Yes, ever. Even the chimney works – if you look closely at the photo you can see the steam coming out. :)

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Soft Gingerbread Drop Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Soft Gingerbread Drop Cookies

Soft. Gingerbread. Drop Cookies. Need I say more?

Most of us think of gingerbread as cut out shapes or decorated houses. The idea of mixing, chilling, rolling, cutting, baking, and finally decorating gingerbread cookies may seem overwhelming. How can you make gingerbread less of an event but still have that great nostalgic spiced molasses cookie taste? Soft gingerbread drop cookies with cream cheese icing, of course.

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Ginger Almond Sandwich Cookies

Ginger Almond Sandwich Cookies

Ginger Almond Sandwich Cookies

There is no shortage of cookie recipes this time of year. Everyone seems to have a favorite type of cookie or baking tradition that they don’t normally stray from during the holidays. I am no different. I have few really good cookie recipes that I repeat for special occasions. A recipe has to be both special and scrumptious to make it into that repeat category. But this year, I used a familiar good cookie recipe and promoted it to an amazing one by creating these sandwich cookies. These are delicious cookies. Seriously. After taking just one bite, a friend commented “you should sell these,” and he doesn’t even like dessert.

Ginger is an obvious go to flavor this time of year and I’ve been making these tasty almond cookies from “The Art of Fine Baking” for a few holidays now. I even shared the popular recipe in culinary school when we were required to make a gourmet buffet of sorts. Molasses, cinnamon, cloves, and ground ginger provide these buttery cookies with a rich spicy kick. Sliced almonds add a tender crunch to the soft (but not gooey or crumbly) finished cookies. Since the dough (if you don’t eat most of it first) is formed into a log, chilled, and then sliced into even symmetrical rounds, these are easy candidates for sandwiches. Lemony butter cream was the logical choice to help balance the strong spices that accent the deep molasses flavor. Piping this sweet cream onto the cookies proved surprisingly quick. I had to stop myself from eating each cookie sandwich as I made them.

It’s easy to fall back into the same habits and bake the same desserts every holiday season but without trying anything different, you may never establish your next favorite baking tradition. This is the lesson I’m learning…as I gobble down another gingery lemon scented sandwich cookie.

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sliced almonds
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour

Lemon Buttercream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, molasses, spices, baking soda, and almonds. Mix in flour. Form dough into two logs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or line baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice dough logs 1/4 inch thick and place slices on prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake 8-10 minutes or until just lightly browned.

While cookies cool, make the lemon cream:

Beat butter with sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in zest, lemon juice, and vanilla.

When cookies are cool, fill a piping bag with lemon cream and pipe an even layer of cream on half the cookies. Top each cream filled cookie with a plain one to create sandwiches.

Yield approximately 30

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Chocolate Roll

Chocolate Roll or Buche de Noel | ImPECKableeats.com

Chocolate Roll or Buche de Noel | ImPECKableeats.com

This is basically a Bûche de Noël. I refrained from calling it that for two reasons. The first is that my grandmother never referred to it as such and instead called it a chocolate roll. Probably because she was technically Jewish but also because my grandfather was somewhat anti-holiday. The second reason is that most Buche de Noel has meringue mushrooms and/or other decorations that make it look like a log – all tasty but a fair amount of extra work when we all know the cake is the real star of the show.

Although three separate components make up this cake, each is fairly quick and the assembly is simple. My grandmother’s multi-purpose Chocolate Pastry (sponge cake) is the base of the cake. Made with melted semi-sweet chocolate and meringue, it melts in your mouth even before the filling and frosting are added. Basic whipped cream flavored with cocoa powder makes up the filling. The roll is perfectly delicious with just the cake and filling but to take it up a notch, I frosted it with another versatile Paula Peck recipe: Mocha Buttercream. I might be addicted to this stuff. It’s so easy to make and the coffee deepens the chocolate flavor, making it bold and rich. The final chocolate roll is moist and chocolaty, the perfect dessert to end Christmas dinner or even just to satisfy a serious chocolate cake craving.

Ingredients:

Cake
1 recipe Chocolate Pastry

Filling
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted

Frosting
1/2 recipe Speedy Mocha Buttercream

For the filling:

Whip heavy cream in an electric mixer. When cream begins to thicken, gradually add sugar, vanilla, and cocoa powder.

To assemble the chocolate roll:

Place chocolate pastry on a sheet of wax paper large enough to extend at least 1 inch on all sides and dusted with cocoa powder. Spread pastry with filling. Lifting one long side of the wax paper, roll pastry inward. Continue to lift wax paper while pastry rolls up, jelly-roll style. Roll will crack, but cracks will be covered with frosting. Twist wax paper firmly around chocolate roll to help give it shape. Frost cake with mocha buttercream.

Adapted from “The Art of Fine Baking,” by Paula Peck.

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