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Filtering by Category: christmas

Cream Puffs

Patricia Reitz

Cream puffs are the perfect crowd-pleasing treat because absolutely everybody loves them. The pastry shells can be baked and frozen up to a month ahead of time, and the filling can be made and refrigerated a day or two ahead. When you’re ready to serve them, just whip up a batch of whipped cream, fold it into the pastry cream, and spoon or pipe it into the empty pastry shells. Finish with a quick sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar and get ready to be the hit of the party.

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We'll start by making the pastry which is technically called pate a choux (sounds like pot-ah-shoo).

In a 4-quart nonstick saucepan, heat water, milk, butter, salt, and sugar until it boils.

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While you're waiting for the mixture to boil, have the flour and eggs ready to go.

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Okay, the milk mixture is just starting to boil - time to add the flour.

Add all the flour at once...

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And stir vigorously until all the liquid is absorbed.

how to make cream puffs from scratch. cream puff recipe.

When all the liquid is absorbed, continue stirring constantly...

homemade pate a choux. homemade cream puff recipe.

Until a smooth paste forms and pulls away from the sides of the pan.  We're not quite there yet, but almost.

Just a few more moments and we're done.  Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer.

how to make homemade cream puffs.

Add the eggs, mixing one at a time, until no traces of raw egg remains. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can stir the eggs in by hand - it’ll take some time, but you can do it.

Transfer the mixture to a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (like this one).  I like to use disposable bags (like these).  Using a star tip helps the pastry dough expand evenly in the oven.

I piped long skinny shapes for eclairs as well as round mounds for cream puffs, but didn’t get photos of the cream puff mounds - oops. You’ll figure it out though.

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When the mounds are done baking, allow them to cool slightly, turn each puff upside down, poke a hole in the bottom with a paring knife or skewer, and allow excess steam to escape. Allow them to cool completely before cutting the pastry shells in half and proceeding with the recipe.

Note: if you plan to freeze the puffs for use later, flash freeze the cooled, uncut pastry shells for about an hour, then transfer to an airtight freezer-safe container for up to a month. Thaw overnight, in the refrigerator, inside the airtight container.

cream puff recipe

To assemble, cut the pastry shell puffs in half with a serrated knife and fill with a mixture made of 50% pastry cream and 50% sweetened whipped cream. You can spoon the mixture in, or you can use a pastry bag fitted with a pasty tip as shown.

how to make cream puffs from scratch. pastry puffs, pate a choux filled with creme patisserie, how to make cream puffs. cream puff recipe.

Once filled, sprinkle with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Items I used to make this recipe:


Cream Puffs

makes about 20

Ingredients

Pastry Shells:

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/2 cup whole milk

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon table salt

  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

  • 1 cup all purpose flour

  • 5 large eggs

  • confectioner's sugar for dusting

Filling (equal parts of each):

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450F and place rack in center position.

  2. In a 4-quart nonstick saucepan, heat the milk, water, butter, salt, and sugar until it boils.

  3. Immediately add the flour and stir vigorously until all the liquid is absorbed by the flour and a paste forms; continue stirring constantly until the paste dries out and forms a ball that cleans the sides of the pan.

  4. Transfer the paste to the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor and allow it to cool for a couple of minutes. 

  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated.

  6. Transfer paste to a large disposable pastry bag that has been fitted with a large star tip (I used Ateco #826).

  7. Pipe the paste into 3-inch round by 1-inch tall mounds on a silpat lined sheet pan; dust with confectioner's sugar.

  8. Bake in 450F oven for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 350F and continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes more.  

  9. Remove from oven and allow to rest until they're cool enough to handle, then poke a couple of vent holes in the bottom and allow to cool completely.

  10. When completely cool, fill with a mixture of 1 part pastry cream and 1 part sweetened whipped cream.

Snowball Cookies

Patricia Reitz

Whether you call them snowballs, Russian tea cakes, or Mexican wedding cookies, these melt-in-your-mouth cookies are a must for so many people during the holidays. It seems no cookie platter is complete without them. I like to make them with ground pecans, but feel free to substitute ground walnuts or almonds.

This cookie dough is extremely easy to make as long as you start with room temperature butter. Just place all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and combine until no traces of dry flour remain. If you use BeaterBlade attachment, you won’t have to stop and scrape down the sides of your bowl.

Tip: Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to microwave cold butter to soften it - melted butter and softened butter act very different in recipes so just be patient and wait until the butter reaches room temperature naturally.

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Use a #60 cookie scoop to portion out the dough.

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Place them evenly on a silicone lined half sheet pan and bake as directed below. If you like, roll the dough into balls (I don’t because they roll all over the place).

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Allow the cookies to cool for about 5 minutes before rolling in confectioner’s sugar.

Tip: I like to store used vanilla bean pods in my confectioner’s sugar. It really improves the flavor.

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Just remove the vanilla bean pods from the confectioner’s sugar while you roll the cookies so they don’t get in your way. Replace them when you’re done.

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Mmmm… your kitchen is going to smell like vanilla!

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Allow the cookies to cool completely and, if you like, give them a 2nd toss in the confectioner’s sugar. Enjoy!

Items used to make this recipe:


Snowball Cookies (aka Russian Tea Cakes or Mexican Wedding Cookies)

makes 48 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature (70F)

  • 1/2 cup (63g) confectioner’s sugar, sifted

  • 1 teaspoon (4g) pure vanilla extract

  • 2 1/4 cups (270g) all purpose flour

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup (90g) finely chopped toasted pecans (or walnuts or almonds)

  • extra confectioner’s sugar for coating the cookies

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and place rack in center position.

  2. Place the first 6 ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a BeaterBlade or paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until no traces of dry flour remain (if you us a paddle attachment, scrape down sides of bowl as needed).

  3. Use a #60 cookie scoop to portion 12 cookies per tray; bake one tray at a time for 8-10 minutes.

  4. Remove cookies from oven and allow to rest on tray for 5 minutes before rolling in confectioner’s sugar; return cookies to tray and allow to cool completely before rolling in confectioner’s sugar a second time.

Note: to toast pecans, place in a 350F oven for 5 minutes; cool completely before using.

English Toffee

Patricia Reitz

Seriously, is there anything better than caramelized sugar?  Ok, maybe caramelized sugar, a stick of butter, lightly toasted almonds, and a glorious robe of melted chocolate.  Heaven help me, this stuff is amazing!  

Before beginning, have ready a half sheet pan lined with a silpat liner.

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Also, make sure you have chopped chocolate ready to go.  I'm a huge dark chocolate fan, but you can certainly use milk chocolate if that's your thing.

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And another thing you need before you start is toasted, sliced almonds.  I place the almonds on an unlined half sheet pan and pop them into a cold oven.  Then I turn the oven on to 350F and slowly toast them until golden brown and fragrant.  

Allow the almonds to cool completely, then chop them into smaller bits in a food processor, being careful not to chop them too much.  You still want to recognize they are sliced almonds.

Alternatively, you can place the almonds in a resealable bag and crush with a rolling pin.

Ok, now that the half sheet pan is prepared, and the chocolate and almonds are ready to go, it's time to start cooking - in a 3 or 4-quart saucepan, heat butter, water, corn syrup, and dark brown sugar over medium-high heat.  

Have an instant read digital thermometer, pure vanilla extract, and baking soda nearby.

The toffee mixture should be stirred occasionally until it reaches the proper temperature.  Note that I used a nonstick pan for easy cleanup.

Stop cooking when the toffee reaches 285F.

English Toffee recipe with lots of how-to photos - ButterYum

Stir in the vanilla and baking soda; stir vigorously to combine.

Pour mixture onto silpat lined half sheet pan.

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Spread mixture with an offset spatula.  I like my toffee on the thin side so I spread mine out more than directed by the recipe. 

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While the toffee is still hot, evenly sprinkle the chocolate bits all over.

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Allow chocolate to rest on the hot toffee for 5 minutes.

Use an offset spatula to spread the melted chocolate evenly over the toffee.

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While the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle the toasted almonds evenly all over.

how to make English Toffee from scratch - recipe and how-to photos - ButterYum

Pop the whole tray into the fridge until the toffee and chocolate set.  Break into pieces and enjoy.


English Toffee

makes 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted and cooled completely

  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar (light or dark), packed

  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions

  1. Begin by lining a half sheet pan with a silpat liner (I have 6!) and measure out all the ingredients.

  2. Place toasted almonds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 2 or 3 times to break into smaller bits, being careful not to make the pieces too small. Alternatively, you can place the toasted almonds in a resealable bag and crush them with a rolling pin.

  3. In a 3 or 4-quart heavy bottomed, preferably nonstick, saucepan over medium-high heat, combine butter, corn syrup, butter, and water; heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 285F.

  4. Remove mixture from heat and vigorously stir in the vanilla and baking soda.

  5. Pour the mixture onto a silpat lined half sheet pan; use an offset spatula to spread thinly over the silpat.

  6. While the toffee is still hot, sprinkle the chocolate bits evenly all over; allow chocolate to soften from the residual heat for a few minutes, then use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate into an even layer (I like to stop just short of the edge of the toffee).

  7. Immediately sprinkle the almond pieces evenly all over the melted chocolate.

  8. Place the toffee in the refrigerator for 10 minutes; remove from fridge and break into serving pieces. Store at room temperature in an airtight container with waxed paper between layers.

Note: To toast almonds, spread in a single layer on an unlined half sheet pan and place in a cold oven; turn the oven on to 350F and allow the almonds to toast for 8-12 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant (watch them carefully).  Cool completely before using.

adapted from The Baking Bible

Pomegranate Fizz Mocktail

Patricia Reitz

Pomegranate Fizz Mocktail - ButterYum

Pomegranate Fizz Mocktail - ButterYum

Here's a festive mocktail that everyone will enjoy.

Pomegranate Fizz Mocktail

makes 4 servings

Printable Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups pomegranate juice, chilled 
  • 1 liter lemon-lime soda (or ginger ale), chilled 
  • optional garnish - fresh pomegranate arils (seeds)

Directions

  1. Combine one part pomegranate juice to three parts lemon-lime soda per glass.
  2. Garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds if desired.

Awesome Gingerbread Cookies

Patricia Reitz

Christmas is just around the coorner and it occurs to me that I've never shared my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe with you so here it is.  These cookies are soft and flavorful, but not too spicy and not too sweet.  They pair well with royal icing if you choose to add it, but they're perfectly tasty without.  The cookie dough is a dream to work with and it holds its shape beautifully when baked.  It's flexible too - good for small or large cookies.... and the dough can be made well in advance.  Love this recipe!  I hope you give it a try.

This cookie recipe starts in a very uncommon way - on the stove top. 

Sugar, molasses, water, and spices are brought to a rolling boil.  I do this in a heat tolerant "caramel pot" (see what I mean here).  The mixture is removed from the heat and butter is stirred in until completely melted.

While the molasses mixture cools a bit, flour, baking soda, and salt are whisked to combine.

Then the molasses and flour mixtures are combined just until combined.

My BeaterBlade makes quick work of the job and I don't have to stop to scrape down the sides of my mixing bowl. 

The mixture is soft and sticky - too soft and sticky to work with.  It needs to chill out in the fridge overnight before rolling and baking.  Place the mixture into a gallon-size zipper bag and pop it in the fridge.  The cookie dough will darken in color and firm considerably.

To-Die-For Gingerbread Cookies - recipe and how-to photos - ButterYum

The next day (or week), roll the cookie dough between 2 layers of wax paper to 1/4-inch thickness (I love using these Pastry Wands - all my cookies are exactly the same thickness).  I've also found these rolling guides very helpful.  Using wax paper eliminates the need to dust the cookie dough with excess flour, which makes subsequent cookies tough.  

how to make the best gingerbread cookie dough - recipe with how to photos - ButterYum

Cut desired shapes.  Here I'm using an adorable mini gingerbread house cutter.

I can't wait to see it assembled. 

This gingerbread cookie dough is a dream to work with - recipe and how to photos - ButterYum

Here are other mostly Christmas shapes.  I have a young nephew so I had to include a dinosaur or two

how to make gingerbread cookies from scratch - recipe and how to photos - ButterYum

And my favorite snowflake and frosty/gingerbread shapes.  Can't let a year go by without these little cuties. 


Awesome Gingerbread Cookies

Printable Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup molasses

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 4 cups all purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt

Directions

  1. In a large heavy-bottom saucepan, heat sugar, molasses, water, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.

  2. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves.

  3. Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted.

  4. Cool for 15 minutes

  5. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

  6. Pour flour mixture into cooled molasses mixture; stir until combined.

  7. Place dough in a gallon-size zipper storage bag; refrigerate overnight (or up to a week).

  8. Preheat oven to 350F.

  9. Roll dough between two layers of wax paper or parchment until dough is 1/4-inch thick.

  10. Cut desired shapes using cutters that have been dipped in flour.

  11. Place shapes on parchment or silpat lined sheet pans; bake 8-10 minutes for small to medium cookies (12 minutes or more for very large cookies).

  12. When cookies are cool enough to handle without distorting, transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Note:  Cookie dough can be stored in the fridge for up to a week before baking.  To make cookie dough even further in advance, freeze well wrapped in plastic.  Thaw wrapped cookie dough overnight in the fridge before rolling and baking.  

recipe adapted from The Pastry Queen 

Gingerbread Pancakes

Patricia Reitz

Pancakes are awesome any time of year, but these gingerbread pancakes are particularly good served during cold weather months.  The batter is a snap to make and leftover pancakes can be frozen for a quick treat another day.  Simply pop them in the toaster to reheat. 

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, and cinnamon.

Add the brown sugar and mix it in well, being sure to break up any clumps.

Combine the milk, egg, and pure vanilla extract.

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and combine - it’s okay if a few small lumps remain. Cook as you would any other pancake mix and enjoy!

Items used to make this recipe:


Gingerbread Pancakes

makes eight 3-inch pancakes

Printable Recipe

Ingredients

Directions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, and ground cinnamon; set aside until needed.

  2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla, brown sugar, and milk.

  3. Pour milk mixture into flour mixture and combine until all the dry ingredients are moistened. A few small lumps in the batter is fine.

  4. Preheat nonstick skillet over medium heat and add a little butter or canola oil.

  5. Place desired amount of batter into the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes until the edges are set and small bubbles start forming in the surface of the pancakes.

  6. Flip pancakes over and cook for another minute or two.

Notes:

  • Serve with butter and pure maple syrup or a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.

  • Pancakes can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the freezer. Simply pop them in the toaster to reheat.

Candied Pecans

Patricia Reitz

Hi Everyone.  It's time for this month's Secret Recipe Club, where each month, a group of bloggers are assigned a blog, and we get to choose a recipe from that blog to feature on our own blogs, then we all reveal our assigned blogs on the same day.

This month I was assigned the blog:  Smells Like Brownies by Melissa.  Melissa is a stay-at-home wife and mother of two, and her favorite thing to do is share delicious food with her family and friends.  

Melissa's blog is only 4 years old, but she has an impressive catalog of recipes to choose from.  I had a particularly busy week so I needed to find a simple and fast recipe to prepare for this month's reveal.  The Black Bean Hummus sounded really good, so did the Salmon Mousse (definitely going to make that one), and if I had had time, the Maple Coconut Granola has my name written all over it, and I would have tried the Homemade Mozzarella, but in the end, time was a huge factor so I chose Candied Pecans which I plan to share with family during the upcoming holidays.  These nuts are addictive - the only thing I'd do differently next time is make more!  

Thanks Melissa - these candied pecans are the bomb!

Start by lightly toasting the pecans in the oven.

Make a sugar praline-like syrup syrup.

Add pure vanilla extract (only the best!).

Add the toasted pecans to the caramelized sugar syrup.

Toss well to coat.

Pour coated pecans onto a silicone lined sheet pan; spreading them out into a single layer.

Bake in oven, tossing every 10 minutes until the sugar crystallizes. 

Totally addictive Candied Pecan Recipe w/PHOTOS

Totally addictive - sorry I didn't make a double batch!  

Items used to make this recipe:


Candied Pecans

makes 1 1/2 cups

Printable Recipe

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper or a Silpat liner and preheat the oven to 250F (yes, 250F).

  2. Spread pecan halves on prepared sheet pan and toast in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

  3. In a small saucepan (preferably nonstick, like this caramel pot) over medium-high heat, combine butter, sugar, water, salt, and cinnamon (use a silicone coated whisk if you have a hard time breaking up the clumps of cinnamon).

  4. As soon as the sugar is completely dissolved, stop stirring and insert a candy thermometer.

  5. Continue cooking, without stirring, until the temperature of the sugar syrup reaches 246F (soft ball stage).

  6. Remove sugar syrup from heat and stir in vanilla, followed by the toasted pecans; toss until pecans are completely coated.

  7. Pour coated pecans onto prepared sheet pan, spreading into a single layer.

  8. Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

  9. Remove from oven and cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Note

  • To check if your candy thermometer is properly calibrated, use this online calculator to see what the boiling point of water is based on the elevation of your zip code (US residents). Simply plug in your zip code to get your elevation. Once you have your elevation, use the same calculator to see what temperature water will boil at that elevation. For example, according to my zip code, my elevation is about 900 feet above sea level. That means my thermometer should indicate 210F at the point water boils. If my candy thermometer indicates a difference, I would have to add or subtract that difference from my target temperature.

Christmas Cookie Cutouts (No Futzing with Frosting)

Patricia Reitz

Aren't these cookies adorable?  And they are so easy to make, you won't believe it.  And you can make all different kinds.  (Thanks to Terri for coming up with the catchy tagline!)

To make the cookies, roll the cookie dough between 2 pieces of plastic wrap.  No extra flour is needed and you can reroll the scraps multiple times without it affecting the quality of the cookies.  To ensure all my cookies are the same 3/16-inch thickness, I use these Pastry Wands.  Love, love, love my Pastry Wands.

Now it's time to cut the cookies with the plunger cutters, but there's no need to push the plunger thingy down at this point.  Pop the cut dough in the fridge to chill so the dough hardens before transferring the cutouts to a sheet pan - this will keep the cutouts from distorting. 

I forgot to get a photo of the cookies going into the oven, but you know the drill.  I bake my cookies on a silpat lined half sheet pan

While the cookies are baking, knead the fondant to make it pliable and roll it to 1/16-inch thickness, again I'm using my Pastry Wands.  Use any fondant that you like - here I'm using Duff Goldman's (Charm City Cakes) and Fondarific.  I sometimes buy colored fondant, but most of the time I buy white and color it using gel colors or paste colors.  

When I cut the cookie dough, I didn't push the plunger down, but I will now.  

Then I away the scraps and save them in an airtight container to be used another time.  I let the fondant sit at room temp to firm up before placing them onto the baked cookies - if the room is warm, I pop them in the fridge for a couple minutes.  

Place the fondant cutouts onto the cookies while they're still warm from the oven.  This will allow the fondant to melt ever so slightly so it adheres to the cookie.  That's it folks.  Super easy.

And super cute!

I love them all, but the pink snowflakes are my favorite.  

Okay, go get some plunger cutters and make yourself some cookies!  Valentine's Day will be here before you know it - here's the heart cutter I'll be using.


Christmas Cutout Cookies

Printable Recipe

Ingredients

Directions

To make the cookie dough:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the BeaterBlade attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium high speed for 30 seconds.

  3. Add egg and vanilla; beat to combine.

  4. Add flour mixture and beat until incorporated.

  5. Remove dough from mixer bowl and wrap well with plastic wrap; chill for 1-3 hours.

  6. Preheat oven to 375F.

  7. Roll each dough portion to 3/16-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.

  8. Cut out desired shapes with floured plunger cutters, without plunging the design into the cutout.

  9. Chill dough before transferring cutouts to sheet pan to prevent distorting.

  10. Place cookies 2-inches apart on silpat lined sheet pan.

  11. Bake for 6-8 minutes; remove from oven and top with fondant cutouts that have the design pressed into them.

  12. Cool completely before serving. Store in airtight container between with wax paper between layers.

Note:  Recipe makes 40-60 cookies, depending on size.  Plan to use about 1/2 pound fondant (I like to buy white fondant so I can color it any way I like).  Fondant cutouts can be made a day or more in advance if stored on wax or parchment paper in an airtight container.  If cookies cool before fondant toppers are added, warm the cookies for a few seconds in the microwave.