Granola

Breakfast, Unfussy

This is my favorite granola recipe – adapted from an Alton Brown recipe. This time I used cashews, Craisins AND raisins because I don’t want to get on Big Raisin’s bad side.

  • 6 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed meal
  • 3 cups whole or chopped nuts
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups dried fruit

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Combine oats, coconut, flaxseed, nuts and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, maple syrup and vegetable oil. Pour over oat mixture and stir to combine really well, about 5 minutes- making sure the oat mixture is well coated.

Divide between two rimmed baking sheets and spread evenly. Bake at 250 degrees for 25 minutes. Rotate trays and bake for another 25 minutes. At this point I usually turn the oven off and let the granola cool down completely with the oven.

Toss dried fruit and granola together. This makes a large batch, but keeps in an airtight container for several weeks.

Cream Cheese Cookies

Cookies, Unfussy

This is a slightly adapted version of my Grandma Suzie’s favorite Christmas cookie. They are a not-too-sweet slice-and-bake cookie. The beauty (and problem) with them is that they can be eaten at any time of day or night, even if you are not hungry in the least.

  • 14 TBSP butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs green food coloring
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • red hots

Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and several drops of green food coloring (the color will fade significantly after you add the flour, so make it a little brighter than you’d like). Stir in flour, salt, and baking powder and mix well until a uniform dough is formed.

Shape into 2 rolls, each about 12 inches long. Wrap in wax paper and freeze until firm.

When ready to bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If desired, roll outside of dough in colored sugar. Slice about 1/4 inch thick and place on lined baking sheets, about an inch apart. Press red hots into center. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until firm to the touch.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Snowballs

Cookies, Unfussy

Man oh man are these good. My grandmother made these with all oatmeal and called them a humbler version of Mexican wedding cakes. I like to split the difference and do half oats and half pecans. I don’t think it’s possible to mess these up.

  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Toast pecans on a baking sheet in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Let cool completely.

Cream butter and sugar in a mixer with paddle attachment. Add vanilla and mix. Add flour, salt, oats and cooled pecans and mix until combined thoroughly.

Scoop or shape into balls and place on a lined baking sheet – only about an inch apart as these do not spread. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Coat in powdered sugar and let cool completely on cooling rack before storing.

Passion Fruit & Vanilla Marshmallows

A little bit fussy

Along with toffee, I make marshmallows to give away around the holidays. This year they were jazzed up with some passion fruit. Passion fruit is so hot right now.

  • 1/2 cup frozen passion fruit puree, thawed
  • 1/2 cup passion fruit juice 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin (3/4oz total)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup potato starch (or corn starch)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Special equipment: candy thermometer stand mixer with whisk attachment

Line a 13×9-inch pan with foil, letting some overhang to make lifting the marshmallow out easier. Coat lightly with non-stick spray or butter.

Combine the passion fruit puree and juice well. Pour 1/2 cup into bowl of stand-mixer. Sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand.

Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup passion fruit mixture in heavy medium saucepan (with a handle preferably). Over medium heat, stir super-gently with a heatproof spatula, or swirl the pan every so slightly, just for the first couple minutes to dissolve the sugar, being careful not to let any sugar granules stick to the sides of the pan (if they do, wash them down with a wet pastry brush).

Once sugar had dissolved, attach a candy thermometer and never stir it again until it reaches 240º, about 8 minutes. It will boil up the pan quite a bit as it gets going- just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over, adjusting the heat accordingly.

With the mixer running on low speed with the whisk attachment, slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatin in a thin stream, running down the side of the bowl so the whisk doesn’t splash it all over. Don’t worry about the syrup that sticks to the bowl.

Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until very stiff and cooled to lukewarm – it should take 10-15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to blend, about 30 seconds.

Spread the marshmallow into the greased pan and smooth the top as best you can. You can spray a piece of wax paper with non-stick spray and pat it over the top to smooth it out better. Let stand for at least 4 hours before cutting. Overnight is even better. Pictured above is one recipe of passion fruit marshmallow, topped with one recipe of vanilla marshmallow (https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/bakersanonymous.org/175) – after the passion fruit mallow is smoothed in the pan, leave it uncovered while you make the vanilla marshmallow and spread that on top. Then smooth with greased parchment. Sift starch and powdered sugar together and dust your work surface. Lift marshmallow out and cut into squares using a rotary pizza cutter dusted with sugar/starch. Or a large knife also coated. Roll in sugar/starch until all sides are coated before stacking or packing. ​

Toffee

A little bit fussy

During the month of December my house becomes a toffee factory. This is my mom’s recipe – she started this tradition. Some have said that toffee is “finicky” but I prefer to think of it as superstitious. I always use the same pot, same spatula, same brand of butter, etc. Just keep trying until you find the magic and don’t mess around.

  • 1 lb. salted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • about 2 cups chocolate chips
  • about 2 cups chopped walnuts

Very lightly grease a large rimmed baking sheet. Place a candy thermometer at the ready, or if you don’t have one, get a small glass of ice water and put it within reach.

In a medium dutch oven (or heavy-bottomed saucepan) combine butter, sugar and sliced almonds over medium-low heat. With a heat-resistant spatula, stir gently – making sure not to have rogue grains of sugar working up the side of the pan or spatula itself. Wipe them down or rinse off the spatula if it looks dicey. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly in a figure eight motion – pretty much leave the sides of the pan alone.

After the butter and sugar melt together, you may attach the candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Keep stirring constantly until the toffee reaches 285 degrees – it can go to 300 without burning, so don’t pull it off too soon. If you don’t have a thermometer, when the toffee looks dark golden brown (it may take 30 minutes, depending on the size of your pot), drop a little tiny bit into the glass of ice water, let it cool for a minute, then fish it out and test it between your front teeth. If it breaks cleanly, it is good to go. If it is still a little sticky/tacky, let it cook longer and try again.

Carefully and quickly, pour the toffee onto the prepared baking sheet. Smooth with an offset spatula (or just lift up the pan and rotate it around until the toffee fills in everywhere). Let sit for 5 minutes. Sprinkle generously with chocolate chips. Let sit 5 more minutes to let the chocolate melt. Smooth the chocolate over the toffee with an offset spatula and immediately sprinkle generously with chopped walnuts.

Let cool completely. Turn toffee over onto a flat surface and remove it from the pan by pressing down on the overturned baking sheet. Smack it with a metal spoon or spatula or something to break it into irregular pieces. Try not to eat an entire pound while you are packaging it up for others.

Gingerbread with Whipped Cream

Unfussy

It’s kind of a tradition in my family to make gingerbread the first weekend of December, usually on Sunday night. Isn’t that cozy? It’s best eaten fresh, but this makes a large pan, so I usually zap a piece in the microwave for breakfast the next couple mornings and it does just fine.

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup butter, softened, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13″ pan.

Combine butter, brown sugar and molasses in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and let stand for butter to melt and mixture to cool. Add eggs and mix well. Mix in dry ingredients, whisking well to blend, but do not overmix.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the gingerbread springs back in the center when touched.

Serve warm with whipped cream.

Baklava

A little bit fussy

This is a family recipe – some of the fuss is taken out of it because you pour the melted butter over the top of the constructed baklava instead of brushing all those layers. Bonus is that it uses an entire package of phyllo – just be sure to defrost it in the refrigerator the day before.

  • Syrup:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 14 whole cloves
  • Peel from one lemon (not zest, peel)
  • Nuts:
  • 1 lb. walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 TBS toasted sesame seeds, ground
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 lb. unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. phyllo

Make the syrup: combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer 20 minutes. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine the nut filling ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Skim off foam. Pour almost all the butter into a liquid measuring cup, but leave the milk solids behind.

Place 6 layers of phyllo in the bottom of an ungreased 9×13″ pan. Reserve 6 layers phyllo for the top. Sprinkle 1/4 cup nut mixture over phyllo. Place 2 layers phyllo over nuts, top with another 1/4 cup nuts. Repeat until all the phyllo and nuts are used (except the reserved 6 for the top). Top the last layer of nuts with the reserved 6 layers of phyllo.

Cut the baklava into diamonds with a sharp knife – cut parallel lines horizontally spaced about 2″ apart. Cut diagonal lines from the top of the pan to the bottom.

Pour melted, clarified butter all over the baklava.

Bake 45 minutes at 300 degrees. Increase oven to 350 degrees and bake another 15-20 minutes, until dark golden brown.

Remove from oven and immediately pour cooled syrup all over the baklava. Let cool completely (at least 4 hours) and cut through again to separate pieces.

This is best made ahead and keeps for many days at room temperature.

Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate and Ginger

Cookies, Unfussy

These are my favorite shortbread-style cookies – the dough is easy to work with for rolling and cutting out. Chocolate and ginger is a tasty combination, but you could put anything in there. Or nothing. Perfect for that card club you’re hoping will gain some traction.

  • 1 1/4 cups (142g) powdered sugar
  • 18 TBSP (255g) salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups (326g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (165g) chopped candied ginger
  • 1 1/2 cups (200g) chocolate chips

Combine sugar, butter, egg yolk, salt and vanilla in a stand mixer with paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add the flour and mix until incorporated. When the dough starts to come together, add the ginger and chocolate chips, stir until well mixed.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Remove from refrigerator and let dough soften for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out to the thickness of the chocolate chips, using extra flour to keep from sticking, if necessary. Cut in desired shapes, place on cookie sheets leaving about an inch between cookies (they don’t expand much at all).

Bake 15 minutes, until the edges just start to show some color.

This recipe is modified from King Arthur Flour