Be Sweet…Sparkly Holiday Cookies

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Sparkly…Colorful….Shaped cookies. I made these last December and they were such fun. I used a variety of cookie cutters…some holiday and some not…lots of wee animal shapes. I mixed my own decorating sugar color combinations.

Be sweet this December…be kind….make some cookies…share. Peace.

The current issue of “edible Nashville” magazine featured my cookies along with the recipe. This makes my post even easier…you can get the recipe online from edible, or here in this post. Either way you go this is a very delicious simple sugar cookie recipe topped with lots of crunch, sparkly, seasonal colors for your holiday pleasure.

Sparkly Holiday Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark Chocolate Chai Pound Cake

One day a few months ago while grocery shopping and perusing the baking aisle I ran across a chocolate cake mix that had chai tea or chai flavoring in the mix.  I got a bit obsessed with the idea of chai and chocolate in a cake. I made this cake combining loose leaf chocolate chai to a good chocolate pound cake recipe I had…all easy and homemade for the Holidays.

 I prefer pound cakes that are dense & moist, cut into thick slabs to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea…sometimes toasted.  No icing, please.

There are thousands of chocolate pound cake recipes on the internet and in cookbooks, but this one is simple & straightforward. The generous addition of finely ground up “Chocolate Chai Loose Leaf” from Firepot Nomadic Teas makes one fine cake. A combination of organic cardamom, coriander, ginger, black pepper and cloves as well as cacao nibs says it all. I used a mortar and pestle for grinding the chai, but an electric coffee grinder works as well.

I dust my cake pans with cocoa powder when I’m making a chocolate cake of any kind. The more dark chocolate goodness, the better.

Thick slices…toaster ready.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup good quality cocoa powder + extra for dusting loaf pan
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons loose leaf chocolate chai (use any loose leaf chai you like)
  • 2 sticks softened butter + extra for greasing baking pan
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 x 5 loaf pan generously with butter. Dust generously with cocoa powder. Set aside.
  2. Whisk flour and salt together in a mixing bowl.
  3. Put 3/4 cocoa powder in a glass or metal bowl and while whisking, drizzle in the boiling hot water. Whisk until smooth.
  4. Grind the loose chai using a mortar and pestle or electric grinder until somewhat fine, but not powdery.
  5. Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment beat the 2 sticks butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down sides of mixer as needed.
  6. Add in the vanilla extract and cocoa-water mixture and beat until combined on medium speed.
  7. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Again scrape down sides of bowl as you need to.
  8. Turn mixer to low-speed and add flour-salt mixture just until blended. Remove mixer bowl and using a rubber scraper scrape down sides of bowl and blend in any remaining flour.
  9. Add the ground chocolate chai to the batter and blend well. Scrape batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top.
  10. Bake for about 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool baked cake on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes or so. Remove cake from pan and set on wire rack to continue to cool if you can wait long enough! The aroma of the chocolate and chai combination is fantastic.

Teresa Blackburn    http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com    http://www.foodonfifth.com

“Fruitcakes / Cakes-with-Fruit…a Holiday Quest”

 I opened the local paper this week to the food section and was….well…what was I? Hmmmm……not horrified exactly, and not fearful, yet I felt a certain unease somewhere in the primal brain as my eyes fell on a bigger-than-most newspaper image of just the sort of fruitcake that gives cakes-with-fruit a bad name  (see newspaper image at top in the photo below). The image was complete with a sticky sweet looking glaze, lots of bright green & red candied fruit that had not been real fruit for a long, long time….Maybe some pieces of translucent pale yellow pineapple…but wait are those nuts? Yes, yes a few nuts…I recognized the nuts. I felt a little better.

newspaper image of fruitcake

 This fruitcake image landed in my cerebral cortex almost at the same time that I was experimenting with “fruitcakes or cakes-with-fruit” recipes.

For some time now I have been convinced it is possible to make a cake with nuts and dried fruit for the Holidays that is appealing …that is dense, not too sweet, that is chock full of good dried fruits for moistness, nuts for a bit of crunch. I want a “fruitcake” that is good, simple, sliced and toasted, with a cup of coffee or tea.

cake with fruit

Let me make it clear that I have nothing personal against a commercially made fruitcake. They have always been abundant in my life. As a girl I was  sometimes a bit confused when grown-ups referred to another person as “a fruitcake” and the “fruitcakes” that arrived on sideboards and kitchens every Holiday season.  It eventually became clear how they were somewhat similar yet different! All those muddled, unrecognizable bits and pieces…see what I mean?

Do you like commercially produced fruitcakes? Have you ever had a fruitcake you loved that came from a supermarket? What made it good?

“A Really Good Cake-with-Fruit or Fruitcake”

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit – dried cranberries or cherries, chopped peaches, currants, raisins, chopped apples or apricots (any combinations that you like)

2 cups strong Chai Tea, chilled

1/2 cup mixed chopped nuts – pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts (again whatever you like)

1/2 cup superfine sugar (if you don’t have any just put regular sugar in the food processor and pulse until fine-grained)

1 whole large egg

2 cups all-purpose flour whisked with 2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

the zest from 1 orange

Directions:

1. Soak dried fruit in the chilled tea for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. I used       “Firepot Chia” made right here in Nashville.

Fire Pot Chai Tea

Tea with dried fruit

2. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a bundt cake pan or loaf pan. In a large bowl whisk the sugar & egg together until well mixed.  Stir in flour, baking powder mixture & dried spices. Mixture will be dry & crumbly at this point which is okay.

eggs & sugar whippedfruitcake batter

3. Add tea soaked fruit, nuts, orange zest & all the tea left in the bowl. Stir until batter is wet throughout.

fruitcake batter

4. Scrape batter into prepared pan & bake for 35-45 minutes. Test with a toothpick which should come out clean. Cool cake in the pan for about 10 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack. Can be eaten warm or cooled completely, wrapped and eaten later. This cake just got better as the day went by!

fruit cake batter in panbaked fruitcake

sliced fruitcake

“Day 2”

Toasted fruitcake

My faith in the concept of “fruitcake” has been restored. All it took was turning my kitchen in to a laboratory dedicated to the artful study of “fruitcakes” for a couple of days and a bit of a (some might say) “fruitcake” approach to all this on my part.

It turned out better than I had hoped…a few not so great versions came before this one, but it has been worth it. I finally like “fruitcake”.

Happy Holiday Baking to you.l

tea and fruitcake

Day 1

slice of fruitcake with tea

“Music City Mocha Chip Cookies”

“Music City Mocha Chip Cookies”

(developed for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011)

This chewy cookie is subtly bold with a hint of heat… it is familiarly cozy in its chocolatey-ness, but is that coffee I smell? Hmmm….molasses?

As my cookies were to be mailed out to three fellow food bloggers scattered around the country it was important to me to use  as many local ingredients as possible to share a taste of Music City.   Chewy, chocolatey (Olive & Sinclair) with a hint of coffee (Bongo Java) and a little unexpected “bite” via hot pepper was what I settled on as the flavor profile.  I made about 3 recipes before I got to the one you see here. They were all tasty, but I was just dancing around until I came up with my “Music City Mocha Chip Cookie”, a cozy little cookie that is great with a glass of milk for Santa….

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (White Lily or Martha White) mixed with 1/2 tsp baking soda & 1 tsp sea or kosher salt

8 ounces unsalted butter, room temp (Farmer’s Market)

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup white granulated sugar

1 generous Tbsp Sorghum Molasses (Tennessee)

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs, room temp (Farmer’s Market)

3 Tbsp finely ground coffee (Bongo Java “Mystic’)

 2 cups chopped semi sweet chocolate (Olive & Sinclair chocolate)

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper + more to garnish if desired

1/2 cup cocoa powder

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream butter, brown sugar & granulated sugars together until fluffy using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.

3. Add in eggs one at a time.  Scrape down sides of bowl often. With mixer on low add in ground coffee & vanilla extract.

4. Add the flour mixture until well blended. Sprinkle in cayenne pepper & cocoa & mix well.

5. Stir in chopped chocolate until fully incorporated. Chill dough for 1 hour before baking.

6. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper about 2 inches apart after dipping tops of  dough balls in decorative sugar crystals.

7. Bake until cookies are puffy & the surface starts to “crack”. About 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle on more decorative sugar & extra cayenne if desired,  cool on wire racks. Cookies will keep for up to one week stored in airtight containers with waxed paper between layers.

The dozens of cookies were baked, cooled and readied for mailing. I wanted my cookies to arrive at their destinations in good shape, in fun packaging, something a bit special and Holiday-like. I found great sturdy tins & mailing boxes at The Container Store. My tags I made using imagery from my many Christmas catalogs.  I used a Christmas tree rubber stamp I made last year to decorate the outside of the mailing box. I inserted more catalog imagery into the top of the tins and constructed ingredients list envelopes using art paper scraps & cardboard…I really had to make myself stop…those boxes had to get in the mail!

Bon Voyage “Music City Mocha Chip Cookies”, Bon Voyage.

Thanks to Julie (http://thelittlekitchen.net) and Lindsay (http://loveandoliveoil.com) for organizing this fun event.

Here are the cookies I received:

From Megan at http://www.mlbailey.blogspot.com
From Nancy at rivertreekitchen.com
From Steph at willrun4treats.com

….bake, share & have a very, very sweet holiday….