Easy Hermit Cookies

By:  Julie

Serves:  Makes 3 dozen cookies

Time:  10min mixing, 12 min baking.

My grandmother made hermit cookies that were one of my favourite treats.  When I think of them, I remember the sound of the screen door on the porch, the texture of the carpet under my bare feet, and the way the smell of raisins and spice hit you when you opened the door into the house.  She would be standing there in a crazy-patterened house-dress, one fist on her hip, stirring something and humming under her breath.  If you were really lucky she would be singing.  I’m shocked to say that these are actually better than hers, (which were almost sort of muffiny-fat dense cookies).  There is no dough- chilling involved, just mix and bake!  Perfect for homemade in a hurry.

I should tell you that I love raisins. I probably put them in more things than I should. Even if you’re not a raisin cheerleader like I am, I encourage you to try these.  The dough is sweet so the walnuts are important to provide balance, salt too.  Watch these carefully –  with the addition of the spices it’s hard to tell when the edges start to brown.  You want them to to be browned around the edges and slightly coloured on top.  If you over-bake them they will still be delicious… just dunk them in some milk!

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You Will Need:

  • 1 cup of butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinammon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 cups of raisins
  • 1 cup walnuts – toasted and chopped

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Cream the butter with the sugar and beat on high for 2-3 min.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in between.  Add the vanilla and beat for 2 min.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour with the salt, baking soda and spices.  Add to the cookie mixture a third at a time, beating well in between.  Add the raisins and the nuts and mix with a wooden spoon until combined.

Using a cookie scoop is a bit challenging since the dough is so fluffy.  You want 1 inch balls of dough dropped onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  This makes the perfect size cookie. Don’t flatten them out, they will settle as they bake.

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Bake at 375F for 9-12 minutes.  See that gaping hole below where once there was a cookie? I may have stuffed one in my mouth while they were still 375F, possibly burning the roof of my mouth and impairing my ability to taste for the rest of the day.

Worth It.

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Sparkling Grapefruit Pound Cake

By:  Julie

Serves:  1 5×9 pound cake

Time:  1 hr 20 min

If you have been toying with making a desert I’ve posted but can’t commit, I’d start with this.  Just make it. I promise, you won’t be sorry.  It’s moist, and sweet, and completely delicious.  I almost ate all of the batter raw, it was that good.

Today I had to hit the local Foodland for some ingredients for lasagna.  While I was was waiting in line at the checkout I perused the shelving at the end of the isle and found this:

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Grapefruit Italian Soda.  It was on-sale, unsurprisingly.  I can’t imagine there is a huge market in Dresden for Grapefruit Italian Soda. I had been toying with the idea of making a pound cake but somehow it seemed boring.  This, my friends, is not boring.  Its tangy and sweet and beautiful.  It was easy to prep and did I mention that we completely demolished the cake between 4 people?  There is a tiny portion left which I have hidden because I love all the people in my house and I would hate to have to maim one of them if they ate the last piece.

Pound cake gets it’s name because originally it had a pound of each sugar, flour, eggs, and butter.  I have seen this made.  It is a bad idea.  Martha Stewart even says so.  Martha herself makes pound cake with no leavening and depends completely on the beating of an enormous amount of eggs to create lift.  I don’t want to have a heart attack so the butter is cut back, as well as the eggs.  This recipe has a teensy bit of baking powder for lift because it only has 3 eggs. The base came from a Taste Of Home magazine and I tore it out intending to make it years ago… I’d say oops except I’m pretty sure fate was waiting for this soda to go on sale.

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You Will Need

  • 3/4 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 5-6tsp sparkling grapefruit Italian soda
  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar

Prepare The Batter

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a 5×9 baking pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.  Cream the butter and the sugar on high until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition.  You are adding air at this stage so don’t rush it.

In a separate bowl whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder.  Add about a third and mix.  Add a third of the soda, then mix.  Keep adding both the dry ingredients and the soda in thirds until the batter is well beaten.  It will be a beautiful yellow and be slightly foamy.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place in the center of oven.  Bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached.

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Allow to cool in pan for 10 min and then move to cooling rack.  Allow cake to cool completely before glazing.

For The Glaze

Combine icing sugar with 5 tsp of soda.  You want it to be fairly thick.  Just barely pour-able.  Pour it over top and allow it to drip over the sides.

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If you can wait long enough, allow the glaze to harden and serve.

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Coconut Brownie Bars

By: Julie

Makes 1 7×11 pan of awesomeness.

Time:  6 hours including chill time.

Last week, while eating the brownies I made I had a thought.  An epiphany really.  A dream of coconut and dark chocolate that would eclipse even the bountiful bounty bar.  And then I made these:

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If you are a fan of Nanimo Bars, these bars are right up your alley. They have a cocoa-brownie bottom, with a coconut filling and a dark chocolate top.  If you are in to rich chocolate and coconut, you will love these.

You Will Need:

For the brownie bottom

  • 10 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs

For the coconut center

  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut

For the chocolate top

  • 6 oz dark chocolate
  • 3 tbs butter

Prepare the Brownies

Preheat the oven to 320F and line a 7×11 pan with parchment paper (I haven’t tested it but I’m sure an 8×8 would work just as well).

Combine the butter, cocoa, brown sugar and salt in a pan and stir until combined and butter is just melted.  Remove from heat.  When the mixture is luke-warm, stir in vanilla, and then eggs, one at a time until well combined.  Add flour and stir until flour is incorporated.  Spread mixture into prepared pan and place in the center of oven for 18-20 min until just a few crumbs stick to a wooden skewer.

Allow to cool completely.

Make The Filling

Combine the coconut with the condensed milk and spread evenly over brownie mixture.

Make The Top

In a double boiler, melt chocolate with butter and stir until combined.  Remove from heat and allow to cool until mixture is close to body temperature, then pour over coconut.  Spread evenly and place pan in fridge.  Cool for two hours and transfer to freezer.  Freeze for an hour before cutting.  This will allow you to get a clean cut without smooshing the bar and having coconut ooze out.  Cut small, they are packed with a punch and are rich.

This dessert should be served cold and kept in the fridge to keep it’s shape and texture.

 

Chewy Brown Sugar Brownies

By: Julie

Serves: 9 brownies in a brownie pan or 1 8×8 pan.

When the whole salted caramel thing really exploded in the world of baking I was in heaven.    However, there is one problem with this.  I really hate making caramel.

So, in the interests of cheating, I decided to swap out the plain old white-granulated-sugar and replace it with some delicious brown sugar.  Brown sugar can back-fire easily… it can make things overly chewy and hard if over-baked.  However, that didn’t happen here.  The slight chew was pleasant and the outside of the brownies were crispy and delicious.  The brown sugar added a slightly caramelized flavor and I increased the salt to get the desired effect.  When I want chocolate I make brownies.  When I want brownies in a hurry I make them with cocoa powder instead of chocolate.  Don’t be afraid, I promise cocoa brownies are in now way inferior.

I used a special brownie pan that I have had kicking around, just waiting for an experiment like this.  This particular one is Pampered Chef but I have seen similar pans from other culinary companies.  I like it because the center of the brownies cooked through before the edges got too hard.  Also the edges were lovely and crispy (like muffin tops).

You Will Need

  • 10 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp of your best vanilla
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Make The Brownies

Preheat oven to 325f. If using a brownie pan, lightly grease.  If using am 8×8 pan, line with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.

In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter. Add the cocoa, brown sugar, and salt.  As soon as it’s melted and blended, take it off the heat.  It will be granular, but don’t worry – it will be lovely in the end.

When it’s still warm, but not hot (body temp is what you’re going for), add the vanilla and stir.  Add the eggs one at a time and stir until well blended.  Then add the flour and mix well.  Add the chopped walnuts and mix.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place in the oven.  Cook for 25-30 min until a skewer put into the middle comes out almost clean.  If using a special brownie pan, remove immediately from pan by inverting onto a cooling rack.  If using a square pan, allow to cool and remove from pan before cutting.

 

 

Linzer Cookies with Browned Butter Filling

By:  Julie

Time:  25 min plus chilling and assembly time.  Plan an afternoon of cookie making.

Serves:  3 dozen

This recipe comes from a Christmas edition of Taste Of Home Magazine. It’s basically shortbread with browned butter filling and some delicious preserves of your choice.  Luckily, Corinne has left me with a jar of Strawberry-Lavender Caramel, which was the perfect compliment to the rich butter flavor.  Maybe if we hint enough she will post it on here.  Forget the hinting, “Corinne, we need you to post your Strawberry Lavender Caramel!”

I have made these at Christmas for two years running and they are my most requested treat along with cheesecake and lemon bars… coming soon to a blog near you.

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You Will Need:

For The Cookie

A Linzer cookie cutter or your favourite cookie cutter with a small round biscuit cutter to remove the center.

  • 1 cup of butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups of flour

For The Filling

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup of your favourite preserve

Make The Cookie Dough

I make these in my mixed but they can easily be done by hand.

Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and the vanilla until smooth.  Add the flour, a little at a time, until incorporated.  Divide the dough in half and place each half in plastic wrap.  Smooth into a disc shape and place in the fridge for 2 hours.  This step is important.  You need the gluten to rest to make tender cookies and also you need cold dough to prevent the cookings from loosing their shape during baking.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment.  That way you can prep one while the others are baking.

Lightly flour the counter and roll out the dough until it is an 1/8th of an inch thick.  You want to try to make both halves of the dough the same thickness, otherwise your tops may not be the same size as your bottoms during baking.  Thinner dough will cook faster and shrink more.

Cut equal numbers of tops and bottoms from both halves of dough so that you have matched sets.  I used a linzer cookie cutter which cuts the tops out for me, but any floured cutter will work.  I found this at The Bulk Barn for about $6.  A worth while investment.  They are now starting to rust a bit but still work fine.

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I cut 12 cookies and place 1-2 inches apart on the first cookie sheet and throw them in the oven.  If the cookies have warmed up while you were cutting, be sure to place them in the freezer for 10 min before baking or they may loose their shape.  Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, depending on how thick you rolled them.  When they are baking they will puff up slightly.  When you see the puff dough start to relax in the oven they are done. The top will be pale while the edges are slightly golden.  They are much better when not over-baked.

While the first tray is baking, prep the second tray.  Keeping any excess dough in the freezer while you are working.  Place them in the oven when ready.

When the first batch is baked, allow to sit for a few minutes and then move to a cooking rack.  Throw the tray in the freezer to cool it down while you roll the next batch.

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Repeat until all cookies are baked and cooling.

Prepare The Icing

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat until browned.  This takes about 10 min.  Watch it carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn.  Black butter is NOT as delicious as browned butter.  Remove from heat and gradually add the icing sugar until combined.  You are looking for a spreadable consistency so if needed, add some water until you can spread it easily with a knife.  It will stiffen as it cools so you need to work quickly.

Spread on the bottoms of all the cookies and top with a dollop of the preserves. Place the tops on and press down gently.  You want the preserves to fill the hole in the top of the cookie but not leak out the sides or overflow out of the top.  Let them sit out on the cooling rack for about an hour until the icing stiffens and then place in an air-tight container.  These freeze really well (I have been known to eat them right out of the freezer… they are delicious).  They will also keep well on the counter for a week or so.

 

 

Rum and Eggnog Bread

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By Corinne

Rum and eggnog is perhaps the quintessential Christmas holiday drink. I felt like they would make a good match in a quick loaf, but unfortunately all the recipes I looked through either called for vanilla pudding mix or edible oil product flavoured coffee creamer, or only used artificial rum extract. Was it not possible to make a loaf with just… egg nog and… actual rum? It turns out that it is 🙂

And since you have the rum and eggnog and nutmeg out already, you know, you may as well make yourself a drink while you’re waiting for this to come out of the oven.

Makes: 1 loaf

Oven: 350F

Time: prep 10 minutes, bake 40-55 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean – baking time will depend a bit on the type of pan you use, and your individual oven. Check at 40 minutes – mine took 50 minutes.

You will need:

For the bread:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup spiced rum
  • 3/4 cup egg nog
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 2 tbsp spiced rum
  • 2 tsp egg nog
  • pinch of ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Using either a hand mixer or stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add 2 eggs, 1/4 cup spiced rum, 3/4 cup egg nog and 1 tsp vanilla extract to the butter and sugar and mix until thoroughly combined.

Add dry ingredients to wet, and stir together with a spoon until just combined. Batter should be lumpy. Pour into a lightly greased loaf pan.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 40-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Turn out and allow to cool completely before glazing.

For glaze, sift powdered sugar, and whisk in 2 tsp eggnog, 2 tbsp spiced rum, and a pinch of nutmeg. Drizzle over cooled loaf.

Creme Brûlée

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By Corinne

Creme brûlée used to be my go to going out dessert. It seemed like somehow it was really difficult to make, and since I’m not generally one for desserts, it took me several years to give it a go.

Then it became my favourite entertaining dessert (well, until I started making homemade icecream). I love that you can prep it the day before and then just add your sugar and brûlée it up before serving.  And despite a reputation for being finicky, it’s actually very simple. Only a few times have I not had it turn out and I’ve made this MANY times! Once when I tried substituting some half and half for some of the whipping cream (it didn’t set properly and was a bit runny) and another time when my eggs got a bit scrambled- it was still delicious, just not quite perfect 🙂 Despite the fairly detailed instructions, these are actually quite quick to make, and are pretty forgiving.

Time: 10 minutes prep, 20 min bake, 4-24 hours chill

Serves: 4-6 depending on the size of your ramekins

Oven:350F

You Will Need: 

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • scant 1/4 cup sugar + more for topping
  • 1 vanilla bean, or 2 tsp vanilla

Separate yolks from whites and set aside. Whisk 1/4 cup sugar with the egg yolks. Put the 2 cups of whipping cream into a heavy bottomed pot and set on medium low. You do NOT want your cream to boil. Split your vanilla bean, scrapping out all the seeds. You now have two choices, you can save your bean and add it to a few cups of sugar to make some vanilla sugar, you can add it to the beans in your jar of homemade vanilla extract – which one day I will get around to making, or to be super decadent, and creme brûlée is about decadence, you can add it to the pot of cream.

When the cream is steaming, add a tbsp or two at a time to the measuring cup that is holding the eggs and sugar. Whisk as you add it. Keep doing this until you have about a cup of egg and cream mixture in your measuring cup and then pour back into the pan, whisking constantly. The point of this is to ‘temper’ your eggs and to keep them from turning into scrambled eggs when you add them to the hot cream. Keep on medium low, whisking for another 2-3 min then remove from heat.

Divide mixture between ramekins. Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet, or another dish you can pour some hot water into- again, this will depend on the size/shape of your ramekins.  Fill the dish with water until it is halfway up the ramekin. Place (carefully!) in preheated oven. Mine are always done in exactly 20 min, but if you’re using deep ramekins it will take considerably longer. They are done when they have set but still ‘jiggle’. To test for doneness give the pan a gentle nudge. If they are done it won’t look like liquid sloshing around, but will still have some ‘jiggle’.

Cool for 4-24 hours UNCOVERED in the fridge. I find if you cover them before they are completely cooled you get condensation on the surface, and then when you try to add the sugar to brûlée them, the sugar just kind of melts into them but it’s hard to get that nice hard crack topping.

For the brûlée part, sprinkle 1/2 – 1 tbsp of sugar over each, and using a kitchen torch brûlée them up! I usually put mine back in the fridge for ~10 min to cool things down so you get a nice crack when you tap your spoon on your sugar crust. You can also do this step in the oven under broil- but you have to REALLY watch them- it will seem like nothing is happening and then they are done. Or burnt. So be very careful if you’re doing them this way. You must watch!