German Gingerbread

Christmas is known for bringing out the ancestral origins in all of us, with every culture celebrating the holidays enjoying their specific holiday foods. Although my parents were born here in Canada, our German heritage was very evident in my mother’s cooking and baking.

One cookie that has been made specifically for holidays for hundreds of years is gingerbread. Across Europe you will find many versions of the spicy cookies in different shapes, colors and textures.

‘Lebkucken’, a traditional German gingerbread was invented by medieval monks in Franeonia, Germany in the 13th century. Prepared in monastery bakeries with ingredients that not only had symbolic religious meaning but were highly prized for their healing properties.

There are a variety of types of lebkucken, each distinguished by slight alterations in ingredients. Most common ingredients include:                            * honey, flour, sugar and eggs    * gingerbread spice mix or ‘Lebkuckengewurz’  * almonds, hazelnuts and/or walnuts  * candied lemon and orange peel.   The most critical ingredient being the ‘exotic’ spices from all around the world such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, anise, cardamom, coriander and ginger.

Lebkucken can be round, square or rectangular. They can be glazed or not. Sometimes cocoa is mixed in with the dough making it rich and chocolaty. Other times, roasted apple, marzipan or cashews may be mixed in to add different flavors and textures.

‘Elisen lebkucken’ are the highest quality made. They must have at least 25% almonds, hazelnuts and/or walnuts and must contain no more than 10% flour if any. The ‘Nuremberg lebkucken’, baked in the city of Nuremberg, Germany, are known worldwide to be the best. Marzipan is often an ingredient in these gingerbread.

Of course this brings me back to another memory. Some years ago I had the experience of spending some time in the presence of a Dutch baker. At Christmas time, he would bake these incredible Dutch cookies called ‘Speculaas’ that were filled with marzipan and had that glorious similar spice blend. I just loved it and can’t resist making some version of it every Christmas season since.

Today, I’m making a large batch of lebkucken which I’m going to divide. Half of it is going to be made into ‘glazed’ triangles and the other half  I want to dip in white chocolate and add a little holly decoration. Should be good!

German Gingerbread
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Gingerbread cookies that are rich with warm spices, toasted nuts and candied fruit.
Servings
32 TRIANGLES/26 COOKIES
Servings
32 TRIANGLES/26 COOKIES
German Gingerbread
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Print Recipe
Gingerbread cookies that are rich with warm spices, toasted nuts and candied fruit.
Servings
32 TRIANGLES/26 COOKIES
Servings
32 TRIANGLES/26 COOKIES
Ingredients
Gingerbread Dough
White Chocolate Icing
Glaze
Servings:
Instructions
Gingerbread Dough
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet & toast until the skins blister, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, then transfer nuts to a clean kitchen towel & rub together to remove the skins. Cool completely.
  2. In a small bowl, combine almond meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices & salt. Transfer hazelnuts to a food processor, add walnuts, candied citrus rind & crystallized ginger along with 1 cup of the dry ingredient mixture; pulse until very finely chopped. Add remaining dry ingredients & pulse ONLY to combine.
  3. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat butter with brown sugar until creamy. Add honey & beat until smooth. Add eggs & vanilla, beating to combine. Fold in dry ingredients then beat until evenly combined. Divide the dough in half. Wrap in plastic wrap & chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  4. Line an 8 x 8-inch square baking dish with 2 pieces of parchment paper (this will allow you to easily remove squares fro the pan). Spread the half of the chilled dough evenly into baking pan & bake in the center of the oven until surface is dimpled & a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. The cake should be springy but firm. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
Glaze
  1. In a bowl, whisk powdered sugar with your choice of flavoring & water to make a thin but spreadable glaze. Spread glaze on just-warm cake & let cool completely. Remove cake (with parchment) from pan onto cutting board. Cut 16 squares then cut each square into 2 'triangles' giving you 32 pieces.
Making Individual Cookies
  1. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Scoop about 1 1/2 Tbsp dough out at a time. Roll into balls. Place on parchment about 2-inches apart & bake at 350 F. for 15 minutes or test with a toothpick. Remove from oven & cool completely.
White Chocolate Icing
  1. In a microwave safe bowl, melt white chocolate chips with 1 Tbsp shortening on HIGH for 10 second intervals, stirring between intervals, until melted, smooth & fairly runny. Dip half of each cookie in melted white chocolate mixture then run bottom of cookie slightly along edge of bowl to remove excess. Place on parchment paper to set at room temperature.
  2. For the holly decoration, melt candy melts, one color at a time. Place in a small piping bag with a #4 tip & pipe decorations. Allow to set up at room temperature. You should have around 26 cookies.
Recipe Notes
  • If you would like a dark depth of flavor, add 2 Tbsp dark, unsweetened cocoa to your cookie dough as well as using a dark brown sugar instead of the light.
  • If you prefer to not make 2 different versions, make the whole recipe into either bars or rounds -- your choice!
  • This is one of those cookies that gets better as it ages.
  • Something I did & found it worked well was to portion out my cookies before chilling the dough.
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Hazelnut & Dried Cranberry Bites with Orange Coulis

Creativity and imagination is part of the fun of baking from scratch. The pairing of flavors been going on ever since people put food to mouth, but the science of it has now become big business.

As a rule of thumb, desserts usually have one or two predominate flavors, but some may have small amounts of additional flavor elements to help support the main flavor combination.

I have always loved the sweet, nutty flavor of hazelnuts especially in baking. The other day I was thinking about a square my mother used to make at Christmas. It had a very simple ‘shortbread’ base that was neither too sweet or buttery. My next thought was to pair hazelnuts, dried cranberries and glazed citrus peel to form the top layer. To add a little pizzazz, I baked them individually in different shaped tartlet pans. 

I was real curious to see what Brion would think of these little ‘bites’. After tasting one, he felt they had good flavor but were a little dry. My solution to this was to make an orange coulis sauce to serve with them.

There’s something about the citrus notes of orange with the tarty sweetness of cranberries that makes for an aromatic amorous marriage of flavors. The end result produced a great tasting Christmas dessert!

Hazelnut & Dried Cranberry Bites with Orange Coulis
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Servings
24
Servings
24
Hazelnut & Dried Cranberry Bites with Orange Coulis
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Servings
24
Servings
24
Ingredients
Shortbread Crust
Filling
Orange Coulis
Servings:
Instructions
Shortbread Crust
  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt & orange zest. Add butter, mix until well combined. Divide shortcrust among 24 tartlet pans. Evenly press pastry on bottom & up the sides of each. Set aside.
Filling
  1. In a large bowl, beat eggs with sugar, flour, extract, corn syrup & melted butter. Fold in chopped hazelnuts, cranberries & citrus peel.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place tartlet pan on a foil lined baking sheet. Carefully fill tartlet pans (should be enough for 24). Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven & cool on a wire rack.
Orange Coulis
  1. Peel orange in a circular fashion, being careful not to go to thick & getting the pith. Cut in slivers. Juice the orange, straining into a small saucepan. Heat water, orange juice & sugar, bring to a boil. Add slivers of orange peel; simmer about 15 minutes until peel is cooked.
  2. When ready to serve, make a design with some coulis on dessert plates, place tartlets on top. Decorate with a bit candied orange rind!
Recipe Notes
  • If you don't care for the orange coulis, try serving these little bites with a bit of Grand Marnier flavored whipped cream OR some white "Old English" cheddar.
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Apple-Anise Bread Pudding

Bread pudding always gives me reason to remember good things. Why is it so beloved, aside from the extreme comfort food factor? It’s not that the dish was invented here — that honor likely goes to clever medieval or even ancient cooks in Europe and the Middle East who had a surplus of stale bread on their hands. The perfect embodiment of the virtues of frugality and indulgence: day old bread, too precious to waste, is bathed in a mixture of milk and eggs and made into either a sweet or savory bread pudding (with a few other additions) and baked into something sublime.

In 2015, ‘The Taste of a Memory’, a memorabilia/cookbook I wrote as a tribute to my wonderful parents, was published. It contained a compilation of stories, articles, recipes and reflections that evoke an intimate memory, special time period and fond emotion brought about by the aroma and taste of food. Writing them down not only puts them in print but allowed me to take a mental journey back to a gentler time. Hopefully this book will be enjoyed by future generations or just anyone choosing to read it. As with my other book endeavors, Brion’s strong support and technical savvy were invaluable.

For today’s blog, I chose a recipe from the book called  APPLE-ANISE BREAD PUDDING. The licorice flavor of anise is one we both enjoy.

Anise seed is native to the Mediterranean basin and has been used throughout history in both sweet and savory applications. Anise seeds are not botanically related to star anise, but have nearly identical flavors and in ground form can be substituted for each other. For most part, Europeans use anise in cakes, cookies and sweet breads where as the Middle East uses it in soups and stews.

I don’t particularly recall my mother using anise in her cooking or baking but for my sister Loretta and I, it’s definitely one of our favorite flavors.  I hope you enjoy this bread pudding recipe.

Apple-Anise Bread Pudding
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Servings
8
Servings
8
Apple-Anise Bread Pudding
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Servings
8
Servings
8
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Pulse bread CRUSTS ONLY in a food processor to make bread crumbs. Reserve 1 cup for the topping. Butter an 8 x 8-inch baking dish & coat with 1-2 Tbsp of the remaining bread crumbs.
  2. With a mixer, beat eggs & then add the sugar. Mix in anise seeds, cinnamon, vanilla & milk until combined. Pour into a large bowl & add bread bread cubes. Fold together gently with a spatula then pour into prepared baking dish. Top with diced apples & chopped walnuts.
  3. In a small dish, combine reserved 1 cup bread crumbs with 2 Tbs melted butter & 1 Tbsp sugar. Sprinkle topping evenly over pudding.
  4. Prepare a 'hot water bath'. For this you will need another pan that's larger than & at least as deep as the bread pudding pan itself. When you set the bread pudding pan in it and add water it should go about halfway up the sides. This will ensure even, slow baking for a smooth velvety result.
  5. Bake about an hour or until it tests done. Pudding should be puffy & golden. Serve as is or with whipped cream, your choice!
Recipe Notes
  • ANISE SUGAR -    for tea, on top of cookies or over fruit.
  • In a blender, combine 1 cup sugar with 1 T. anise seed
  • Blend on high speed until mixture is thoroughly combined
  • Store in a moisture proof jar

 

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Pumpkin Cranberry Spice Roulade

Thought of by some as old fashioned or outdated, the ‘Roulade’ cake may have been around a long time, but done right  they are moist and deliciously nostalgic.

Sweet dessert roulades are based on a whisked egg mixture and contain very little or no flour. They bake faster than most cakes and are finished with any filling you choose, from simple to elegant.

Pumpkin Roulades bring the comfort and tradition of a pumpkin pie. This particular one that I have featured in today’s blog, brings together three great flavors — pumpkin, cranberry and cream cheese.

It comes together quickly, keeps well, travels well making it perfect to take along to Thanksgiving or Christmas gatherings.

 

Pumpkin Cranberry Spice Roll
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Servings
5-6
Servings
5-6
Pumpkin Cranberry Spice Roll
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Servings
5-6
Servings
5-6
Ingredients
Pumpkin Spice Cake
Cranberry Jam
Cream Cheese Filling/Topping
Servings:
Instructions
Cranberry Jam
  1. In a small saucepan, bring sugar, salt & water to a boil. Add cranberries, reduce heat & simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly then process for a few seconds in a food processor. Add orange zest; stir & set aside to cool completely.
Pumpkin Spice Roll
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices & salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat eggs, vanilla & sugar until mixture is pale yellow & fluffy. Add pumpkin puree & mix to combine. Fold in the dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, spread the cake batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake for about 10-13 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched & tests done in the middle.
  3. While cake is baking, make CREAM CHEESE FILLING. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter & vanilla until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Remove cake immediately from the oven; invert onto a clean tea towel that has been lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar. Remove parchment paper & carefully roll cake in jelly roll fashion in tea towel.
  5. When cake has cooled completely, carefully unroll & spread with a layer of cranberry jam. Next top with a layer of cream cheese filling. Carefully re-roll cake. Wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.
  6. Decorate with remaining cream cheese topping & cranberries (I saved a few whole ones from the cranberry jam). Add a few 'kiwi' leaves & you got it!
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Halloween Cookies

Halloween is one of the oldest holidays in the world. Few people are aware that its roots date back to Samhain, the ancient Gaelic harvest festival celebrated in Celtic countries, such as Scotland, Ireland and Wales. It was believed that spirits from the underworld and ghosts          of dead people could visit the world of the living on the night of          October 31st. These spirits could harm the living or take them back          to the underworld. To avoid this, people started dressing up as ghosts and spirits, if they left their homes, to confuse the underworld spirits. Bonfires and food played a big part in the festivities.

Over the years, Samhain became merged with the later Christian holidays of  All Saint’s Day  on November 1st and  All Soul’s Day  on November 2nd. This explains our modern holiday’s focus on spirits and the dead.

Halloween traditions were brought to America by the Irish and Scottish immigrants. Through time other traditions have blended into Halloween for example the harvest time tradition of craving pumpkins. 

Brion and I live in a ‘young’ neighborhood. We’ve been very fortunate to have great neighbors on either side of us. One family has two boys and the other side has two girls. It is fun to make something special just for ‘our’ little people. This year, I’m making some Halloween cookies for their treat. My choices are SPIDER WEB & 3-D PUMPKIN  cookies! Hope they will like them.

Halloween Cookies
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Servings
4 1/2 Dozen
Servings
4 1/2 Dozen
Halloween Cookies
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Servings
4 1/2 Dozen
Servings
4 1/2 Dozen
Ingredients
3-D Pumpkin Cookies
Servings: Dozen
Instructions
3-D Pumpkin Cookies (30)
  1. For each 3-D pumpkin you'll need: (2) Orange scalloped or plain circle cookies 1 7/8" diameter. (2) Orange scalloped or plain cookies 2 1/4" diameter with a 1 1/4" or 1 1/2" circle cutout. (1) Green scalloped circle 1 1/4" or 1 1/2" diameter with a hole cutout in the center using a straw. (1) Green stem, made from rolling a small amount of green dough into a 'snake', & cutting it into pieces about 3/4" long, then bake. Feel free to adjust the sizes a bit based on the cutters you have, or the finished size you desire.
  2. Place chilled orange colored dough on a LIGHTLY floured work surface. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of dough. This helps to roll out the dough without adding additional flour. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 of an inch thick. Cut out pumpkin pieces ( 4 per cookie ). Place cookies on prepared baking sheet, topped with either silicone liners or parchment paper. Remove green colored dough from refrigerator; roll as above, cut lid circles & stems ( 1 each per cookie ). Make sure to only put cookie pieces of similar size on the same baking sheet to ensure even baking. Place entire baking sheet (with cookies on it) in the freezer or refrigerator for about 3-5 minutes. This will help them to keep their shape while baking. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Bake cookies for 5-6 minutes depending on their size. Bake ONLY until they are just barely beginning to take on a golden tone. After a minute or so, remove cookies from baking sheet to cooling rack. Once cooled, you are ready to assemble the pumpkins.
  4. Starting with one of the solid circles & one cutout circle. Add a line of your 'cookie icing' onto the solid circle, then place cookie 'ring' on top.
  5. Add a line of cookie icing onto the first cookie 'ring'. Add the second cookie 'ring'. The base of your pumpkin is now complete.
  6. Assemble the pumpkin top by first attaching the small green stem to the green circle (using a bit of cookie icing). Then add a line of icing onto the bottom of the green circle, & place the green circle on top of a solid orange circle.
  7. Allow the pumpkin top & pumpkin base to dry completely for at least 1-2 hours. Fill pumpkin cavity with mini M&M candies. Arrange on serving dish with tops.
Spider Web Cookies (24)
  1. Place remaining chilled dough a LIGHTLY floured work surface. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of dough. Roll dough to 1/8" - 1/4" thickness. Cut circles using a 3-inch round cookie cutter. Place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for about 6-8 minutes, until just golden. Do not allow cookies to brown. After a minute or so, remove cookies from baking sheet to cooling rack. Cool completely.
  2. Reserve some regular chocolate chips for spider bodies, however many you plan to make. Place remaining regular chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl with 1 TBSP shortening. Heat in microwave on high for 1 minute bursts, stirring after each minute, until chocolate is melted & smooth. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate & set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, quickly melt white chocolate chips with 1 TBSP shortening the same way as the semi-sweet chocolate. Pour melted white chocolate into a zip lock baggie & cut off a tiny piece of one corner. Make semi-circles on the dipped chocolate part of the cookie. Use a toothpick & draw lines through both dark & white chocolate from the center out to the outside edge of the cookie to create a web effect.
  4. Place a little drip of melted chocolate on the cookie near the web. Use a toothpick to draw out 8 legs from the chocolate. Place a regular chip at one end for the spider body & a mini chocolate chip at the other for the head. Place the cookies on wax paper & allow chocolate to cool & harden before serving.
Recipe Notes

Royal Icing

  • 1 egg white                                                             
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract
  • orange gel food color
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • With an electric mixer, whip egg white, extract & color until frothy. Slowly beat in powdered sugar, a little at a time, until mixture is thick but still liquid enough to beat. Beat on high until the mixture becomes thick & glossy, about 3 minutes. Cover the surface with plastic wrap while waiting to use it. 
  • Royal Icing will set to a firm, glossy finish when applied to cookie. This icing can be stored , tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week.

 

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Sour Cream Oatmeal Cookies

Sour cream is often thought of as topping for potatoes or an addition to sauces. Due to its creamy texture, sour cream can be added to a variety of baked goods and recipes in order to yield moister results. The use of sour cream has been associated with the cooking traditions of Eastern Europe, Germany, Ukraine and Russia since the first half of the 20th century. Originally made by allowing cream to sour naturally, today’s commercial version can contain the addition of lactic acid, gelatin or guar gum.

Probably one of the first recipes I ever used sour cream in was coffeecake. I just couldn’t believe how tender and moist it was and the heavenly smell when it came out of the oven. Looking through my mother’s recipe files, I see there were many recipes that contained sour cream that she had used.

I saw this recipe on a site called love2cooksweets.ca  It was posted back in 2010. Nothing fancy but makes a wonderful sour cream oatmeal cookie. These can be filed under ‘comfort food’ I’m sure.

Sour Cream Oatmeal Cookies
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Servings
24
Servings
24
Sour Cream Oatmeal Cookies
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Servings
24
Servings
24
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda & salt. In a medium bowl, cream butter with sugars; beat in egg & vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with sour cream. Stir in raisins & oats.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Scoop dough onto cookie sheet a few inches apart. Bake 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool on pan about 30 seconds then remove to wire racks.
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Baked Stone Fruit Dumplings

Part of the enjoyment of writing these blog stories and recipes is the research process. I find it fascinating to learn about the different cultures through their recipes. With some, you have to dig deep to retrieve the authentic recipe or process. Many recipes, as I know from my own family heritage, only exist in memory. These recipes are priceless pieces of family traditions. Each having a history and story of it’s own making them unique and special.

Whenever I feel inspired to create a new recipe, I try to learn everything I can about it’s history and the way it is traditionally made, then I set out on my own. It’s not that I think I can do it better, but rather just personalizing it to our taste.

Fruit dumplings were most popular in England and Central Europe. As people crossed the ocean, they carried with them the recipes for the foods they knew and loved. As time passed they experimented more with the flavors of fruit dumplings. The dough evolved from flour and potatoes to the pastry dough we know today.

I have made this BAKED STONE FRUIT DUMPLING  recipe with either my own homemade pastry or frozen puff pastry. We found them real good either way.

Baked Fruit Dumplings
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Adding a scoop of ice cream makes this an irresistible dessert.
Servings
18 Dumplings
Servings
18 Dumplings
Baked Fruit Dumplings
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Adding a scoop of ice cream makes this an irresistible dessert.
Servings
18 Dumplings
Servings
18 Dumplings
Ingredients
Dumpling
Streusel
Caramel Sauce
Servings: Dumplings
Instructions
Dumplings
  1. In a small bowl, combine sugar, bread crumbs, cinnamon & nutmeg. On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry into two 12-inch squares. Cut each sheet into nine 4-inch squares. Brush squares with egg. Place 1 tsp sugar mixture in the center of each square; top with 2 Tbsp chopped fruit of your choice & 1 more tsp sugar mixture. Gently bring up corners of pastry to center; pinch edges to seal. Place on greased baking sheets.
Streusel
  1. In a small bowl, combine streusel ingredients. Brush remaining egg over dumplings; press streusel over tops. Bake at 375 F. for 14-18 minutes or until golden brown. Place pans on wire racks & allow to cool about 10 minutes before serving.
Caramel Sauce
  1. While dumplings are baking, combine flour & water in a small saucepan beating until smooth. Add the sugars, butter & salt. Bring to a boil; cook & stir until smooth & blended. If serving immediately, place dumpling on serving plate & pour sauce over top.
Recipe Notes
  • These versatile dumplings can also be made with tart apples or mixed berries.
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Potato Cinnamon Rolls

When cinnamon, sugar and butter are mixed together, the result is something many people all over the world find irresistible.

The first cinnamon roll was created in Sweden, around the 1920’s. After World War I, several goods such as sugar, eggs and butter, which had been heavily restricted, eventually returned to the grocery shelves. The spice trade from Southeast Asia also led to the invention of the roll. Cinnamon was not grown locally in the European countries, hence the spice trade from Sri Lanka led to the development of cinnamon use in the European countries.  The influences of German baking techniques combine with Swedish and Danish ingredients can clearly be seen in the making of the cinnamon roll.

In Sweden, October 4th is ‘Kanelbulle’ day or national ‘Cinnamon Roll Day’. This holiday was originally created by the country’s Home Baking Council in 1999 to commemorate their 40th anniversary. Swedish cinnamon rolls are not as sweet and heavy as they are in North America. The dough contains a hint of cardamom spice and they are generally baked in muffin papers to make a more delicate treat.

Our family definitely enjoyed a lot of irresistible cinnamon rolls. As is everything that becomes the ‘norm’, you take it for granted until you no longer have it and it becomes a ‘taste of a memory’.

I recall my mother also making ‘potato’ doughnuts. The mashed potato seems to really add to the flavor of a yeast dough. In keeping with this Swedish ‘holiday’, I am making  POTATO CINNAMON ROLLS  or ‘Twists’.

 

Potato Cinnamon Rolls (Twists)
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Servings
12 twists
Servings
12 twists
Potato Cinnamon Rolls (Twists)
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Servings
12 twists
Servings
12 twists
Ingredients
Dough
Cinnamon/Sugar Mix
Glaze
Servings: twists
Instructions
Dough
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine lukewarm milk with yeast; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Allow to stand about 3 minutes or until foamy. Add warm mashed potato, melted butter, eggs, sugar, cardamom & salt; mix well. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic.
  2. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning dough to completely coat it with grease. Cover with plastic wrap; allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size. Punch down, turn out on a lightly floured work surface & let rest for about 10 minutes.
Cinnamon/Sugar Mix
  1. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar & cinnamon; set aside.
Assembly
  1. Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into a 14 x 14-inch square. Brush with melted butter & evenly sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture. Fold dough into thirds like a business letter, then roll again into a 14 x 8-inch rectangle. Facing the long edge, cut dough into roughly 18 -8-inch strips. Twist each strip several times, slightly stretching it as you do so. Take one end of the twisted strip & coil the dough around your hand twice, then over the top. Coil dough again & tuck the loose end in at the bottom.
  2. Arrange on baking sheets. Cover with plastic & allow to rise in a draft-free place, 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. Place oven rack in middle position & preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. If you prefer, you can brush rolls with egg wash & sprinkle with pearl sugar or chopped almonds instead of using cream cheese glaze. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. While cinnamon rolls are baking, make glaze (if you are using it). With a mixer, beat together cream cheese & butter until light & fluffy. Blend in powdered sugar & vanilla. Add enough milk to achieve a drizzle-like consistency. Drizzle on rolls while still warm.
Recipe Notes
  • Freezer Instructions:   Form cinnamon rolls into twisted shape & place several inches apart on baking sheet to freeze rolls individually. Once frozen, transfer to a resealable plastic freezer bag. When ready to bake, place on a lightly greased baking sheet & allow to come to room temperature before baking.
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Pumpkin Spice ‘Chai’ Latte

Fall has definitely arrived! The leaves are turning their beautiful gold and crimson colors and there is a chill in the air. Years ago, when Brion and I made the choice of what trees, shrubs and flowers to plant in our yard, our plan was to showcase the colors of every season. For me, being a farmer’s daughter, watching this seasonal beauty each year has been priceless.

The ‘flavor of fall’ brings pumpkin to mind. When I was a kid, I thought they looked great, made wonderful jack-o-lanterns but didn’t care for the taste at all. Then one day mom made a pumpkin ‘chiffon’ pie and I was hooked. 

In the winter of 2011, Brion and I traveled Turkey for a month. We were meeting our Trafalgar tour group in Istanbul. Arriving a day early gave us time to ‘snoop’ around a bit. Next to our hotel was a ‘Starbucks’, so we went in. When Brion ordered my coffee they gave me a ‘Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte’ by mistake. That pumpkin chai flavor was just incredible. I have been addicted to it ever since.

The Starbucks original pumpkin spice latte turns 14 years old this year. In January 2003, they started developing it to expand their line of seasonal winter drinks. In 2015, real pumpkin puree was added to the drink.

A stay in Istanbul would not be complete without a traditional and unforgettable boat excursion up the Bosphorus, that winding strait that separates Europe and Asia. Its shores are a mixture of past and present, grand splendor and simple beauty. Modern hotels stand next to shore-front wooden villas, marble palaces in contrast to rustic stone fortresses and elegant compounds neighbor small fishing villages. Since Turkey actually straddles two separate continents, its culture features strong elements and traditions from both east and west. At that point in time we found Turkey a relaxed country to travel in which made our time there very enjoyable.

I came across a recipe on a website called greatist.com  for a DIY version of Starbuck’s PUMPKIN SPICE CHAI LATTE.  I couldn’t resist trying it.

 

Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a small dish, combine 'Pumpkin Pie Spice' ingredients & store in a spice jar with a lid. In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together pumpkin puree, 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, milk, syrup & vanilla. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture starts to steam. Remove from heat & pour mixture into a blender. Cover, hold the lid on tightly; blend for about 15 seconds or until frothy.
  2. Brew the coffee. If you like extra milk foam on top, pour a few tablespoons of milk into a glass jar with a lid while coffee is brewing. Tightly seal & shake for 30-60 seconds. Remove lid & place jar in microwave for 30 seconds.
  3. Divide coffee & milk mixture between 2 mugs. Top with extra milk foam (if using) & sprinkle with a bit of pumpkin spice.
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Classic Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread (cake) is the perfect sweet/spicy dessert for fall and winter, flavored by a ‘strange lumpy little root’. I recall my mother baking gingerbread cake for our supper dessert. She would serve it warm with farm fresh whipped cream. For lack of a better expression, ‘it was to die for’. Strangely enough, I was never fond of molasses but certainly enjoyed that warm gingerbread cake!?

Gingerbread has been baked in Europe for centuries. In some places it was soft, delicately spiced cake, in others, a crisp, flat cookie. Then in other places, warm, thick, dark squares of bread served with lemon sauce or whipped cream.

At first, gingerbread was made with breadcrumbs and sweetened with honey, but as it made its way throughout the world it has been adapted to meet the taste of different cultures. In North America, along with the ground ginger we usually like to add cinnamon, and cloves. Molasses is usually labeled as ‘sulphured’ or ‘unsulphured’ depending on whether sulphur was used in the processing. The unsulphured molasses is lighter in color and tends to have a nicer flavor.

Brion does not remember ever eating gingerbread cake?? I’m going to try to bring back the taste of a memory  with this classic little cake and see what he thinks.

Classic Gingerbread Cake
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Applesauce is such a great addition in that it adds to the cake moistness.
Servings
9-12
Servings
9-12
Classic Gingerbread Cake
Yum
Print Recipe
Applesauce is such a great addition in that it adds to the cake moistness.
Servings
9-12
Servings
9-12
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together sugar & butter until lightened in color & fluffy. Beat in egg, molasses, applesauce & hot water until fully combined.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger & cloves. Whisk into wet ingredients, mixing ONLY until blended.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes until cake springs back when touched or a knife inserted comes our clean.
Recipe Notes
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