Pumpkin Liqueur Cupcakes with Pepita Oatmeal Topping

Love it or hate it, pumpkin  spice season is well underway. Every year our obsession with the ‘flavor of fall’ continues to grow with weirder, more unique, pumpkin themed products invading the bakeries, grocery stores, coffee shops, you name it—

It all started with the introduction of the famous Starbucks ‘Pumpkin Spice Latte’ in 2003. Strangely enough, as a kid, I wasn’t crazy about pumpkin at all. But that was then, now I’m one of those who loves everything pumpkin.

Some time ago, Brion had picked up a bottle of Pumpkin Cream Liqueur. It has a wonderful taste on its own but of course it only seems fitting that I would want to bake with it.

I believe one of the secrets of having incredible flavors in both savory and baked goods is with the use of alcohol. You can’t help but notice, over the last number of years how the humble little cupcake has been elevated to a whole new level. Many of these specialty cupcake stores that have popped up are featuring alcohol-inspired, adult-friendly options.

Now, today, I’m back to ‘recipe development’ to see what I can come up with.

Pumpkin Liqueur Cupcakes / Pepita Oatmeal Topping
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Pumpkin Liqueur Cupcakes / Pepita Oatmeal Topping
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Cupcakes
Pepita Oatmeal Crumble Topping
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper cups.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients & set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt & spices. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together egg, liqueur, milk & pumpkin puree. Stir into flour mixture JUST until moistened. Place a small scoop of batter in each cup. Divide topping. Using half of topping, divide evenly between cupcakes, creating the 'filling' for the cupcakes. Divide remaining batter between cups; top with remaining topping. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done. Remove from pan & cool on a wire rack.
Recipe Notes
  • Technically, pepitas and pumpkin seeds are the same thing. But pepitas (which mean “little seeds of squash” in Spanish) don’t have a shell and are found in only select pumpkin varieties.
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Apple & Sour Cherry Bread Pudding

Basic bread pudding is one of those desserts that has become lost in the shuffle it seems. Truly a comfort food for those of us that remember it from childhood days. Most of my memories are of the classic recipe— a simple mixture of eggs, milk, sugar, flavorings, raisins and of course, some stale bread.

Bread puddings date back centuries. For the vast majority of human history most people could not afford to waste food, so numerous uses for stale bread were invented.

Today, bread puddings are still being made but they are far more luxurious, often using gourmet breads, vanilla beans, bourbon, expensive cheeses and nuts.

Having a German heritage, German recipes and food history are especially interesting to me. It seems in Germany there are two versions of bread pudding, one with apples and the other with sour cherries.

It just so happens I have some of both which has inspired today’s blog recipe. All things are possible with bread pudding so if you don’t like either, just substitute blueberries, raspberries, canned peaches, pears, dried apricots, cranberries or whatever you like because you know its all going to be good!

Apple & Sour Cherry Bread Pudding
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Servings
6-8
Servings
6-8
Apple & Sour Cherry Bread Pudding
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Servings
6-8
Servings
6-8
Instructions
  1. Butter an 8 x 8-inch baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk together brandy, milk, eggs, sugar, butter, cinnamon, salt & vanilla. Add bread cubes, cherries & apples folding together with a rubber spatula. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish, flatten with spatula , making sure fruit is distributed evenly. Cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate for about 15 minutes so bread absorbs all the liquid.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake pudding about 55-65 minutes or until top is golden & center is set. Nice to serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
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Roasted Parsnip Loaf / Sticky Lemon Frosting

Root vegetable desserts aren’t exactly a new concept. Incorporating vegetables such as beets, asparagus, mushrooms and sweet potatoes can lend themselves to new creative dessert ideas if you start thinking ‘out of the box’. 

Parsnips, traditionally used in savory dishes, can bring a subtle sweet tenderness to your baked goods. When roasted or sauteed, their sugars caramelize richly and are well complemented by a variety of seasonings such as orange or lemon zest, ginger and cardamom. 

As the autumn weather turns cooler, root vegetables like carrots and parsnips convert their starch to sugar. After a few fall frosts, parsnips develop a higher sugar content than those harvested before the freeze.

My original idea was to make a loaf cake with shredded raw parsnips as you do with carrots when making  a carrot cake. Knowing how sweet they become when roasted, I decided to do that first. If you have any roasted parsnips leftover from a previous meal they would work just great.

I realize parsnips are not for everyone. It probably seems a bit odd to make them the ‘star’ in dessert but I have to say we both loved this cake. The tart sticky lemon frosting was truly the ‘icing on the cake’.

Roasted Parsnip Loaf / Sticky Lemon Frosting
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Roasted Parsnip Loaf / Sticky Lemon Frosting
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Ingredients
Roasted Parsnips
Cake
Frosting
Servings:
Instructions
Roasted Parsnips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Peel parsnips & quarter lengthwise; remove core. Chop into medium size pieces & place in a plastic bag. Add a little veg oil & shake to distribute evenly. Line a baking sheet with foil; place parsnips on it & sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool, then puree in food processor.
Cake
  1. Line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt. Using a mixer, beat eggs & sugar together. Add parsnip puree, oil, sour cream, vanilla & spices. Fold in flour mixture, combining gently until well incorporated. Fold in walnuts & chocolate, creating a marble appearance ONLY.
  3. Pour batter into loaf pan & bake for about 40 - 45 minutes or until it tests done. Remove from oven & cool slightly before topping with frosting.
Frosting
  1. While cake is baking, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon zest & extract in a small bowl. With hand mixer, beat until smooth. Frosting will be thick & sticky. Top loaf cake while it is still slightly warm. Slice when cool & serve.
Recipe Notes
  • I had personalized the spices in this cake but if my combination doesn't appeal to you, simply use 1/2 tsp each nutmeg & cloves with a teaspoon of cinnamon instead.
  • When purchasing parsnips, look for the small to medium size. Large parsnips are often bitter & have an undesirable woody quality.
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Fresh Pineapple Summer Cobbler

As a rule, when a person thinks of a ‘cobbler’ dessert, it means warm comfort food on a cool winter evening. But summer is here with all its fresh produce. There are dozens of simple variations on cobblers, and they are all based on fruits and berries, whatever is in season. The nice thing is, a cobbler relies more on the taste than fancy pastry preparation.

While they are not as show-stopping as a fresh fruit pizza, these easy desserts are perfect for summer barbecues. You can mix everything up, then pop it in the oven while everyone is eating barbecue outdoors. Dessert will be baked and ready for a big dollop of ice cream by the time everyone is finished eating. Fresh  Pineapple Cobbler  is the perfect ending to any spring-summer meal. Quick, easy and good!

Fresh Pineapple Summer Cobbler
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Fresh Pineapple Summer Cobbler
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Batter
Fruit & Topping
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In an 8 x 8 x 2-inch GLASS baking dish, melt butter, tilting dish to coat bottom. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon & salt. Add milk & extracts folding until smooth batter forms. Pour batter into baking dish over melted butter. DO NOT STIR BATTER INTO BUTTER. Distribute pineapple chunks evenly over the batter & sprinkle with brown sugar.
  3. Bake for about 40-45 minutes in which time the fruit will sink to the bottom of the baking dish & the batter will bubble & bake up to the surface in random spots. When baked, the cobbler will be golden & will spring back slightly when touched in center. Serve warm with a dollop of ice cream!
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Rhubarb Cheesecake Muffins

As usual, I can’t get enough of using rhubarb throughout its growing season. This year we started three new plants as our older ones are producing less and less. I think they are probably just becoming to shaded so we put the new ones in a great little spot on the south side of the garage.

Rhubarb’s awkward positioning between fruit and vegetable, sweet and tart, is a topic that’s constantly debated. It resembles sticks of celery dressed in their best pink Sunday attire, blushing from the first few washes of early sun peaking through its dense foliage after winter hibernation underground.

Pie remains the most common use for rhubarb, so much that older cookbooks called it the ‘pie plant’. While it generally is treated as a fruit, it has also been used as a savory ingredient, frequently paired with meats, cheese, stuffings, sauces and much more.

This is one of my favorite ‘sweet’ recipes from quite a few years ago. It has it all — rhubarb, cream cheese & streusal!

Rhubarb Cheesecake Muffins
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Rhubarb Cheesecake Muffins
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Stewed Rhubarb
Batter
Cream Cheese Filling
Servings:
Instructions
Stewed Rhubarb
  1. In a small saucepan, combine rhubarb, sugar & lemon slice. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar melts. Reduce heat & simmer about 10-12 minutes or until thickened & reduced to about 1/2 cup. Allow to cool.
Batter
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour & sugar. with a pastry blender, cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. In a small dish, measure 1 cup of the flour mixture & add walnuts & cinnamon. Set aside. To remaining flour mixture add baking powder, baking soda & salt. Set aside. In a third bowl, combine sour cream, vanilla & beaten egg.
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. In a small bowl, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 sugar, egg & lemon zest. Fold in stewed rhubarb.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper cups. Stir SOUR CREAM mixture into FLOUR/BAKING POWDER mixture until just blended. Do not over mix! Spread this batter evenly over bottom & up the sides of each paper cup. Place a spoonful of FILLING MIXTURE in center of each, then top with WALNUT MIXTURE & bake 12-15 minutes or until muffins test done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
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Swedish Apple Pie

Many cultures have embraced the ‘apple pie’ and put their own spin on it, so why is it known as the quintessential ‘American’ dessert. If your someone who hates making pie crust …. this pie is for you. Swedish Apple Pie is more like cake than a pie and very similar to a cobbler. You layer your apples in a buttered pie dish, whip up the batter, spread it over the apples and bake it. As it bakes, the batter fills in the spaces between the apples, creating cakey  goodness for each bite. 

This pie reminds me of an experience that seems quite comical when I think of it now. Before I had ever studied in the commercial food industry or made any amount of pies, a friend gave me a recipe for a ‘Swiss’ apple pie. Her instructions were to place the apple slices in a pastry lined pie pan. Next, pour vanilla pudding over the apples and bake. It sounded great! I purchased a box of Jell-O brand vanilla pudding & pie filling, made a crust and filled it with apple slices. I assumed you were supposed to cook the pudding before covering the apples with it for some reason. Wrong! What resulted was apples baked in a pastry shell with a ‘rubber top’. I guess we all have to start somewhere right?!

Nevertheless, I think you will enjoy this easy way to make an apple pie.

Swedish Apple Pie
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Swedish Apple Pie
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan.
  2. Peel, core & slice apples. Place in buttered pie plate. Sprinkle apples with 1 Tbsp sugar & cinnamon.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine cooled, melted margarine, 1 cup sugar, salt, egg, flour, extract & walnuts. Mix well. Gently spread batter over apples. Bake for about 45 minutes or until top is golden. Serve warm or cold with ice cream or whipped cream.
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Easter French Toast with Strawberry Compote

HAPPY EASTER!

Easter is synonymous with spring which speaks of new life and fresh hope. After the cold winter there is nothing we look forward to more than having a sunny day and seeing the flowers peeking up through the ground. Buds on the trees open up after having slept all winter. Leaves burst out of the buds in fresh green color when the sun gets brighter and warmer.  The season of spring really is a time of renewal.

Whether or not your religious, Easter has some pretty magical facets to it. I remember as a kid the ‘secret bunny’ leaving colorful eggs and little baskets filled with a few goodies. My sisters and I always got a new Easter dress and ‘straw bonnet’ to wear to the church service. Then of course, the wonderful Easter meal itself.

After having good luck with my Easter bread, we are having some for Easter brunch.                                                                                                                     ORANGE ANISE FRENCH TOAST w/ STRAWBERRIES & GREEK YOGURT — perfect!

Easter French Toast with Strawberry Compote
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Easter French Toast with Strawberry Compote
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Strawberry Compote
French Toast
Servings:
Instructions
Strawberry Compote
  1. Rinse, hull & slice strawberries. Zest & juice lemon. In a small saucepan, whisk together lemon zest & juice, sugar, water & cornstarch. Add strawberries, mixing gently while bringing to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly.
French Toast
  1. In a shallow bowl, beat eggs; whisk in milk, salt & cinnamon. Soak the slices of Easter bread in egg/milk mixture for 30 seconds on each side. Cook on hot griddle until golden brown on both sides & cooked through.
  2. Serve strawberry compote over french toast & Greek french vanilla yogurt.
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Kahlua Cinnamon Nut Roll

Today, March 28th, marks the date of my mother’s birthday. She passed away in 1978 at the age of 60. No matter how many years go by she will always be the never ending song in my heart. She had such a wonderful ability to make the everyday things more enjoyable. I have so many great memories of those times that I just took for granted and now realize how special they were. Her courage and strength to endure the harshness that farm life sometimes throws at you was nothing short of amazing. As we honor my mother today, we hold on to those precious memories that will never fade from our minds.

As I have mentioned so many times before, my mother was exceptional in her ability to cook and bake. Regularly, when she baked bread, one of the extra treats was a pan of cinnamon rolls. This Kahlua Nut Roll seemed perfect for today’s blog recipe. 

In 1986, a little recipe pamphlet was published by Maidstone Wine & Spirits Inc. using Kahlua liqueur. All you had to do was write to them and request as many copies as you wanted free of charge. It contained about 90 recipes all using Kahlua. What a great bit of ‘PR’ work!

The oldest proof of Kahlua’s date of origin is a bottle found by Maidstone. The bottle came from Mexico and was dated 1937. The word Kahlua was discovered to have ties to ancient Arabic languages and the old label, which bears similarity to the current label, shows a turbaned man smoking a pipe beneath a Moorish archway. The only obvious change in the current label is the man has become a sombrero wearing man, napping beneath the same Moorish archway and in some labels there is no man pictured at all.

My  Kahlua Cinnamon Nut Roll  was adapted from this great little recipe pamphlet.

                              WONDERFUL MEMORIES OF OUR BEAUTIFUL MOM!

Kahlua Cinnamon Nut Twist
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Kahlua Cinnamon Nut Twist
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Yeast Dough
Cream Cheese/Pecan Filling
Kahlua Syrup
Servings:
Instructions
Yeast Dough
  1. In a small dish, add yeast to lukewarm water; set aside. In a large bowl, combine milk, shortening, sugar & salt. Add 1 cup of flour; beat well. Add egg, yeast mixture & remaining 1 1/4 cups flour.; beat to form moderately stiff dough. Turn out on a floured work surface. Knead gently until smooth & elastic. Lightly butter bowl, form dough into a disk & cover with clean tea towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 50-60 minutes.
Cream Cheese/Pecan Filling
  1. In a bowl, combine cream cheese & butter until smooth. In another dish, combine pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon & salt. Set aside.
Kahlua Syrup
  1. In a small sauce pan, melt butter; add brown sugar & Kahlua liqueur. Bring to a boil; simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; reserve 1/3 cup syrup. Pour remaining syrup into a 9-inch round cake pan.
Assembly
  1. When dough has risen, turn out on a lightly floured work surface & roll into a 14-inch square. Spread dough with cream cheese mixture & sprinkle sugar mixture on one half. Fold other half over sugar & press lightly to adhere.
  2. Cut dough lengthwise into 5 strips. Beginning in the center of prepared pan, wrap strips in a spiral pattern, pinching ends together. Cover & let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake until golden & cooked through, about 25-30 minutes. Remove & let stand in pan 5 minutes. Invert onto serving plate; spoon reserved syrup over top.
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Avocado Oatmeal Scones

Most all muffin, scone and cake recipes will work just as well using mashed avocado as a substitute for butter. When they are pureed, avocados take on the texture of softened butter, which makes them easy to incorporate into the batter.

It’s hard not to love using avocados since they are the ‘good kind of fat’. To work out how much avocado you need in a recipe, simply halve the amount of butter  that is called for in the recipe. The calorie difference is huge. For example, 250 grams of butter contains 1750 calories (or more), where as 125 grams of avocado ‘butter’ only adds 200 calories.

Avocados have a mild, fresh, slightly sweet flavor which allows them to pair well with other ingredients. The combination of avocado, oatmeal, cinnamon, dates & walnuts give these scones a unique flavor that gets only better after a day or two.

A while back I noticed that you can buy frozen avocado chunks at the grocery store. They come in a 400 gram bag. What a great idea instead of having to buy them and wait until they ripen. Ready when you need them!

Avocado Oatmeal Scones
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Servings
40
Servings
40
Avocado Oatmeal Scones
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Servings
40
Servings
40
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon & salt. In a large bowl, cream together oil, avocado & brown sugar; stir in yogurt & eggs. Add oat mixture to avocado mixture & stir until combine. Fold in dates & walnuts.
  3. Using a scoop, transfer the mixture onto lined baking sheet, spacing scones 2 inches apart. Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
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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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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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