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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Christmas Day, Part II and Mini Gingerbread Bundt Cakes

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Christmas time is for sharing, right? It’s the time of year when we put aside all our normal selfish tendencies and pay attention to others–food for the Soup Kitchen, clothes to Goodwill, some spare change in the pot of that guy ringing the bell outside the mall, not to mention presents to all our loved ones and maybe even to a few relatives that are almost loved (translation=a pain in the behind). We share with everybody, because Christmas time is for sharing, right?

Well, how did you do this year? More to the point this day after Christmas, are you ready to shelve that sharing business and get back to taking care of little old (or young) YOU? You’ve been so good these past weeks, you’ve earned some long overdue personal attention and pampering.

Here at R&R (get it?) we’ve got the perfect solution–Mini (read PERSONAL) Gingerbread Bundt Cakes. This is one time when you can have your cake AND eat it too, since you can fully indulge your sweet tooth with half of one of these cuties and save the other half for tomorrow–no sharing required!

And get this–since the recipe makes two mini cakes, you can keep one for yourself and share the other and pretend you’re still in the Christmas spirit. Now that’s having your cake and eating it too.

gingerbread bundt

Mini Gingerbread Bundt Cakes

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 heading teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

6 Tablespoons dark molasses

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

1/2 cup milk

gingerbread cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2 mini bundt pans, and then dust with flour. Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, spices, and cocoa in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, molasses, and sugar. Once that mixture is combined, add the egg yolk and whisk. Last, add the milk and whisk all of the ingredients together. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together until just combined.

Divide the batter between the two prepared bundt pans, making sure not to fill more than 3/4 full. (You might have a little extra batter to taste!) Place the bundt pans on a cookie sheet and put in the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until cakes are done and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool for 20 minutes, before removing them from their pans. Cool the cakes completely.

If you want to glaze the cakes, mix together 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1-2 Tablespoons of milk. Add a dash of cinnamon and mix into the glaze. Spoon the glaze over top of the cooled cakes.

Makes 2 mini bundt cakes.

gingerbread bundt mini cake

{Adapted from Real House Moms}

Click below to listen to or read Part II of “Christmas Day”!

Christmas Day, Part II, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Christmas Day, Part II, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Christmas Day, Part I and Hot Chocolate Cookies

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Ever been dying for a cup of hot chocolate on a gray and snowy winter afternoon and realized you just didn’t have the time to make one or maybe felt too lazy to go to the trouble?

In dem olden days before we had those little packets of mix, making hot chocolate required not only a fair amount of time but also a lot of patience because you had to heat the milk but not boil it. This was tricky business since it was hard to know when the milk was hot enough. You could stick your finger in there–I know, that’s kind of gross thinking about it, but at least the milk was, or would soon be, hot enough to kill any cooties–but after doing that about ten times either your finger was scalded or too numb to feel anything or both. Then, just before you were ready to take the milk off the burner, suddenly it would start to boil like crazy and you’d curse and either pour it down the sink or use it anyway–not a good idea as the slimy skin that rose to the top was not only unappetizing but would burn your lip when it stuck on there at the first sip. And now you had a burnt finger and a burnt lip, and you were wondering just why you’d ever wanted that cup of hot chocolate.

To spare you all that trauma–the kind that has set many a hot-chocolate-loving child on a path to reform school–or even the trouble of boiling water and the risk of spilling the mix all over the floor when you at first can’t open the packet then it gives way all at once, we’re passing along a recipe for the perfect kind of hot chocolate–made in advance and in solid form: Hot Chocolate Cookies!

Once you’ve made a batch (O.K., there is that step–but who ever said anything good didn’t require a little effort and planning?) you can have that wonderful taste and comfort anytime and anywhere you want–on the road, in the park, curled up on the couch watching a movie–without worrying about spilling anything or the cup getting cold or having that milk scum sticking to your upper lip like you were making an ad for a dairy product but not getting paid for looking stupid.

Give them a try and spare your finger and lip and any other parts of you that are at risk when playing around with scalding liquids.

hot chocolate cookie

Hot Chocolate Cookies

1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 of a stick)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3 Tablespoons light brown sugar, packed

1 egg yolk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 packet hot cocoa mix (such as Swiss Miss)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup mini marshmallows

hot chocolate cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. (This is very important; otherwise, your cookies will stick to the baking sheet.)

Add the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar to a mixing bowl. Beat ingredients together until creamy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix until all ingredients are well blended.

In a separate bowl, add the flour, hot cocoa mix, salt, and baking powder. Mix ingredients together. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture and stir together. The cookie dough will be very thick. Gently fold in the mini marshmallows.

Roll the dough into eight cookie dough balls, making sure the mini marshmallows are almost fully covered by the dough and are not on the outside of the cookie dough ball. Place the dough balls on prepared cookie sheet. Bake cookies for 10 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool on a cookie sheet for 3-4 minutes, before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 8 cookies.

hot chocolate cookie bite

{Adapted from Heather’s French Press}

Click below to listen to or read Part I of “Christmas Day”!

Christmas Day, Part I, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Christmas Day, Part I, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

In the Wilderness, Part II and Christmas Toffee Crunch

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It may seem odd to pair Christmas Toffee Crunch with a story titled “In the Wilderness.” I mean these candies look like and taste like the pinnacle of richness and pampering and elegance. And in one way they are, the perfect finishing touch to that Christmas party or at the end of a long Christmas Day–sit back and indulge yourself in this wonderful treat!

But in another way of thinking, these bars are down to earth simple and practical, easy to transport on that trip “in the wilderness” and a sure-fire energy boost while on a hike or skiing adventure. Heck, the ingredients and preparation are so basic you almost could make them out there in the wilderness–if you can figure out how to crank that campfire up to 400 degrees then refrigerate the result (O.K., maybe you can’t make them in the wilderness, but you gotta admit it’s an easy recipe!).

So this Christmas Toffee Crunch maybe isn’t such a bad match for “In the Wilderness.” Why not make a double batch–one for the Christmas party AND one for the cross-country ski trip the week after? This delicious candy bar will fill both roles perfectly. How many recipes can you say that about?

Too bad David and Jan didn’t have this on their trip–might’ve smoothed over the rough edges (and maybe placated those armed hicks that barged into their camp in the middle of the night).

  toffee crunch candy

Christmas Toffee Crunch

10 saltine crackers

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

toffee bits, sprinkles, and/or candies to top

toffee crunch

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. Lay saltine crackers in the pan, covering the bottom. (I had to break some of my crackers to cover the bottom.) Set pan aside.

In a small pot, add the butter and brown sugar. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it begins to boil. Once the mixture is boiling, do NOT stir it, and let it boil for 3 minutes. Pour this mixture over the saltine crackers. Place pan in oven and bake for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the semisweet chocolate chips over top of the toffee mixture. Put the pan back in the oven for a minute to soften the chocolate chips. Remove the pan from the oven for the final time. With a knife or spatula, spread the melted chocolate chips to completely cover the toffee. Sprinkle toffee bits, sprinkles, or candy over top of the chocolate.

Let the bars cool for about 30  minutes at room temperature before putting it in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Once the bars are set, cut or break the bars into pieces. Store at room temperature or in the refrigerator for a week.

bite of christmas toffee crunch

{Adapted from The Food Network}

Click below to listen to or read Part II of “In the Wilderness”!

In the Wilderness, Part II, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

In the Wilderness, Part II, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

In the Wilderness, Part I and Snickersnaps

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Combining two really good things can sometimes produce a disappointment or, on rare occasion, something that’s even better than the two items taken by themselves.

Take this time of year, for instance. We just completed the long Thanksgiving weekend with all that food and maybe lots of family and friends in town for a visit–a good thing, right? (As long as you didn’t get into a fight with your drunk brother-in-law or get bossed around too much by Big Sis.) And now we’re starting to turn our attention to Christmas–decorating the house, buying the gifts, thinking about the food, thinking about the food, thinking about the food. Those preparations are fun, right? (As long as you don’t try to go shopping at the mall on weekends or fall off the ladder stringing the lights along the gutter–or stick your hand in all those rotten leaves in the gutter: yuck!) The warm memories of the holiday just past can link up with the excitement for the holiday approaching and make us feel giggly good all over, better than either experience by itself.

Well, guess what? (I know, you figured it out already.) We’ve got a cookie recipe that combines two top-tier cookies into something that’s better than either by itself. Are there two better cookies than gingersnaps and snickerdoodles? Not in my book (get in the backseat chocolate chip!). But this combination–SNICKERSNAPS–is better! In fact, I think it’s the best cookie I’ve ever had (till tomorrow, anyway). No, really–it is the best cookie I’ve ever had.

So give it a try, as you finish up the last of the turkey from Thanksgiving while unpacking the ornaments for the tree. Sometimes two good things combined are better than either one alone.

snickerdoodle gingersnaps

Snickersnaps

Snickerdoodle cookie dough:

2 Tablespoons shortening

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon beaten egg*

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Gingersnap cookie dough:

3 Tablespoons shortening

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon molasses

1 Tablespoon beaten egg*

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 cup cinnamon sugar to roll cookie dough in

snickersnap

To make the snickerdoodle cookie dough, cream together shortening and sugar. Add the beaten egg and vanilla and mix until well incorporated. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar. Mix until all ingredients are well combined. Cover dough and place in refrigerator for an hour, or overnight.

To make the gingersnap cookie dough, cream together shortening and sugar. Add the molasses and beaten egg and mix until well incorporated. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ground ginger. Mix until all ingredients are well combined. Cover dough and place in refrigerator for an hour, or overnight.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Take a small amount of gingersnap dough and roll it into a ball. Take a small amount of snickerdoodle dough and knead it in your hands a couple of times. When the dough comes together, roll it into a ball. Take one ball of each cookie dough and roll them together to make one larger ball. Roll this larger ball in cinnamon sugar. Place cookie dough on nonstick cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake cookies for 9-11 minutes, or until cookies are set. Cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes a dozen cookies.

*Beat one egg and measure out a tablespoon for each cookie dough.

snickersnaps

{Adapted from Bakergirl}

Click below to listen to or read Part I of “In the Wilderness”!

In the Wilderness, Part I, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

In the Wilderness, Part I, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!