Sugar & Spice
Everything nice for your holiday baking
What’s cozier than a home filled with the scents of cinnamon, vanilla and warm chocolate?
There’s just something about the holidays that makes even the busiest among us want to fire up the oven and create tasty treats for family and friends.
The following five cookbooks can help you satisfy your urge to bake.
“Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Baking”
Edited by Chuck Williams
Published by Oxmoor House
For the crust
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup ice water
For the filling
3/4 cup light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
1/2 cup half-and-half or milk
Whipped cream, for serving
To make the crust, combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly to mix the ingredients. Scatter the butter over the top and pulse until the mixture forms coarse crumbs about the size of peas.
Drizzle the ice water over the flour mixture and pulse just until the dough starts to come together.
Transfer the dough to a work surface, divide it into 3 equal portions and press each into a flat disk.
Set 1 disk aside and wrap the other 2 in plastic wrap for future use.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out into a 12-inch round. Fold the round in half and transfer it to a 9-inch pie pan.
Unfold the round and ease it into the pan, patting it firmly into the bottom and up the sides.
Trim the edges to form a 1-inch overhang. Fold the overhang under itself and pinch to create a high edge on the rim of the pan.
Using a fork, prick the bottom of the dough a few times. Freeze the shell 5 minutes.
Bake until the crust is lightly gold, about 10 minutes. Let it cool completely on a wire rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. Add the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and salt. Mix well. Stir in the pumpkin puree and half-and-half until well blended.
Pour the mixture into the partially baked pastry shell.
Bake the pie until the filling is set and the crust is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.
Let it cool briefly on a wire rack.
Cut the pie into wedges, and top each serving with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired, and serve.
Makes one 9-inch pie.
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light-brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup light molasses
2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg and molasses and beat until smooth.
In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and allspice. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low speed until blended.
Drop level tablespoonfuls of dough onto the prepared sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart.
Bake until the cookies are browned and firm to the touch, 10 to 12 minutes.
Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets on wire racks 5 minutes, and then lift them off the sheet and transfer them to the wire racks to cool completely.
Makes about 40 cookies.
“Chocolate: The Sweet History”
By Beth Kimmerle
Published by Collectors Press
Chocolate Bread Pudding
4 cups day-old baguette or
Italian bread, cut roughly
into 1/2-inch cubes
3 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
Fresh, unsweetened whipped cream
Generously butter a 1-1/2-quart soufflé dish. Put the bread in the dish and set aside.
In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the half-and-half, sugar and salt over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is hot but not boiling.
Remove the mixture from the heat and add the chocolate. Let the mixture stand two minutes, and then whisk gently until smooth.
In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs and slowly add the chocolate mixture, whisking until combined. Stir in the vanilla.
Pour the mixture over the bread and let it soak at room temperature, pressing the bread down occasionally, about 1 hour.
Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Place the butter bits on top of the pudding and set the soufflé dish into a larger pan with a water bath (larger dish with several inches of water on bottom).
Bake in the oven in the hot water bath until the edge of the pudding is set but the center still trembles slightly, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Cool the pudding on a wire rack.
Serve warm with unsweetened cream.
Makes one pudding.
Lowney's Classic Cocoa Brownies
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch, square baking pan or coat it with nonstick pray.
In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the chocolate over lowest heat, stirring frequently, until nearly melted.
Immediately remove the chocolate from the heat, stirring, until completely melted. Let the chocolate cool slightly.
Using a large, wooden spoon and working in a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until well blended and smooth. stir in the chocolate until smoothly incorporated.
Stir in all the remaining ingredients until well blended.
Turn out the batter into the baking pan, smoothing to the edges.
Bake on the center rack 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let the brownies cool thoroughly in the pan on a wire rack.
Use a large, sharp knife to cut the brownies into squares, wiping the knife clean between cuts.
The brownies will keep several days sealed in an airtight container.
Makes about 16 brownies.
“Something Warm From the Oven”
By Eileen Goudge
Published by William Morrow
Maple-Cream Sandwich Cookies
For the cookies
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup firmly packed, light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons maple extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks
For the filling
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon maple extract
4 to 5 tablespoons heavy cream
For the cookies, place the flour, baking soda, salt and brown sugar in a food processor; whir to combine.
Add the eggs, maple extract and softened butter. Pulse until the dough comes together.
Scrape the dough into a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill several hours.
(Alternate method: In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the maple extract.Combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture, and beat on low speed until incorporated.Increase the speed to medium and beat until a dough forms. Chill as above.)
Shortly before rolling out the dough, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a ball. Return one of the balls to the refrigerator while you roll out the other one.
Place the dough on a floured pastry cloth and press it with the heel of your hand, shaping the edges to keep them even, to form about a 1-inch-thick round. Then, roll to a thickness of about 1/8 inch.
With a floured, 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut the dough into rounds. Repeat with the remaining ball of dough.
Gather up the scraps and roll and cut as above.
Bake the cookies in the oven 7 to 10 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer on low speed, blend the confectioners’ sugar, maple extract and 4 tablespoons of the cream.
Increase the speed to medium, and beat the mixture until smooth, dribbling in the remaining cream until the filling is spreading consistency.
Place a dollop of the filling on the bottom of 1 cookie, and sandwich with another cookie (bottoms together).
Use just enough to create a generous filling that won’t ooze out the sides when the cookie layers are gently pressed together.
Repeat with the remaining cookies.
Makes 32 cookies.
Caramel Apple Bread
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup (1 sitck) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup firmly packed, light-brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup Skor English Toffee Bits
1/4 cup unsweetened or sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8-1/2-by-4-1/2-inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, blend the egg, applesauce, 1/4 cup of the melted butter, the brown sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the wet mixture and beat just until incorporated (don't overmix!).
Stir in the toffee bits. Scrape into the pan and bake in the oven 35 to 40 minutes, until the center of the loaf springs back when lightly pressed.
Meanwhile, combine the coconut, granulated sugar and remaining 1/4 cup of melted butter.
Spread the mixture over the hot loaf immediately. Return the loaf to the oven 10 to 15 minutes more, until the topping bubbles and starts to brown. (Place a sheet of foil on the rack below to catch drips.)
Immediately after removing the oaf from the oven, run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan to keep the loaf from sticking as it contracts. Let the loaf cool 10 to 15 minutes, and then remove it from the pan and place it on a wire rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes one loaf.
By Dede Wilson
Published by The Harvard Common Press
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy whipping
1/4 cup finely ground (as for espresso)
French roast coffee
1 pound milk couverture chocolate, very finely chopped
1 ounce white chocolate in block form
2 teaspoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus more for your hands
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
80 small, fluted paper cups (optional)
Place the cream and coffee grounds in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until the mixture just comes to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let the mixture sit 10 minutes.
Reheat it to a simmer, remove it from the heat and immediately sprinkle the milk chocolate into the cream. Cover and let the mixture sit 5 minutes; the heat should melt the chocolate. Stir gently until smooth.
Pour the ganache into a shallow bowl. Let it cool to room temperature, cover it with plastic wrap, and then allow it to sit, preferably overnight, until the mixture is firm enough to roll. (Or, you may refrigerate the ganache until firm, about 4 hours.)
Grate the white chocolate on the largest side of a box grater. Toss with 2 teaspoons cocoa and the cinnamon in a medium-size bowl.
Coat your hands with cocoa and roll the ganache into 3/4- to 1-inch balls.
Toss the truffles in grated- chocolate coating. Place them in the fluted paper cups, if desired, and serve at room temperature.
Makes 80 truffles.
White Chocolate Fresh Mint Truffles
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh mint leaves, stems removed
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces white couverture chocolate, very finely chopped
10 ounces bittersweet couverture chocolate, very finely chopped
1/4 cup crystallized mint leaves (optional)
45 small, fluted paper cups (optional)
Very finely chop the fresh mint leaves. Place the chopped leaves and cream in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until the liquid just comes to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let the mixture stand 10 minutes.
Strain the mixture, pressing down on mint leaves to extract all the flavor. Place the strained cream back in the saucepan and whisk in 1 teaspoon of the chopped, drained leaves from the strainer. Discard the rest.
Reheat the cream mixture to a simmer, remove it from the heat and immediately sprinkle the chopped, white chocolate into the cream. Cover and allow the mixture to sit 5 minutes; the heat should melt the chocolate. Stir very gently until smooth.
Place the ganache in a shallow bowl. Let it cool to room temperature, cover it with plastic wrap, and then refrigerate until firm enough to roll, preferably overnight.
Coat your hands with confectioners' sugar and roll the ganache into 3/4-inch balls. Place them in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan and refrigerate them until very firm.
Temper the bittersweet chocolate. Line a jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil, shiny side up, smoothing out any wrinkles, or cover the pan with a piece of acetate. Dip truffles in the bittersweet chocolate, making as thin and even a coating as possible. Place truffles on the prepared pan. Sprinkle each truffle with a tiny bit of crystallized mint leaves, if using, while chocolate is still wet.
Refrigerate until firm. Place in fluted paper cups, if desired, and serve at room temperature.
Makes about 45.
By Camilla V. Saulsbury
Published by Cumberland House
White Christmas Cranberry Mallow Bars
2 cups white chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup coarsely chopped, honey- roasted almonds
1 cup chopped, dried cranberries
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 cups crisp rice cereal
Lightly spray an 8-by-8-by-2-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
In a medium saucepan set over low heat, melt the white chocolate chips and shortening, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from the heat.
Stir in the marshmallows, almonds, cranberries, orange zest and cereal, mixing until well coated.
Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Refrigerate about 1 hour until set.
Cut the set mixture into 24 bars. Store the bars in covered containers between layers of wax paper.
Makes 24 small bars.
2 cups crushed crème-filled vanilla sandwich cookies (about 24 cookies)
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup dark rum
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 cup chilled eggnog, divided use
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Line an 8-by-8-by-2-inch baking pan with foil; lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the cookie crumbs, melted butter and cinnamon with a fork or fingers until well blended. Transfer crumb mixture to the prepared pan. Press firmly into the bottom of the pan with a large square of wax paper. Freeze until ready to use.
Place the rum in a small saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over (do not stir). Let the gelatin stand 5 minutes to soften.
Add 1/4 cup eggnog to the saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Whisk until the mixture is hot but not boiling and the gelatin is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining eggnog. Let the mixture cool 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and nutmeg, with an electric mixer on medium speed, until creamy and smooth. Gradually add the gelatin mixture, beating until well blended.
Pour and evenly spread the mixture over the prepared crust. Refrigerate 3 hours or until firm.
Use foil lining to remove uncut bars from the pan to the cutting board. Cut into 16 bars.
Store, loosely covered with foil or plastic wrap, in the refrigerator.
Makes 16 bars.