White Bread

Unfussy

This is as easy as bread gets and practically fool-proof. Makes 2 loaves so you can eat one right out of the oven and still have one left.

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 TBSP kosher salt
  • 2 TBSP vital wheat gluten
  • 1/4 cup dried skim milk
  • 2 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 stick butter, melted

Put everything in a stand mixer with hook attachment – just make sure not to put the yeast and salt on top of each other. Mix at low speed for 3-5 minutes, until a rough dough is formed. Turn off mixer and let rest 15 minutes. Mix again at low for 8 minutes until the dough is smooth and uniform.

Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size – about 45-60 minutes. Grease 2 bread pans. Divide dough into two pieces. Flatten each piece into a rough rectangle and roll up into a cylinder. Place in prepared bread pans and punch down to flatten. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double in size. About 45-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 35 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes in pan, then turn out. Try to wait 30 minutes before slicing.

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.

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.

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 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 1 hour.

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

Brownies

Cookies, Unfussy

These are everything I want in a brownie. My sister-in-law, Lindsay, kept trying different brownie recipes until she found her favorite, and her dedication paid off. Now it is the favorite of everyone I know. This recipe is from King Arthur. Himself.

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups dutch-process cocoa
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 TBSP vanilla
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose or a combination of all-purpose and whole wheat)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I used mint chips, pictured)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease, or line with a foil sling, a 9×13″ pan.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add sugar and stir until hot but not bubbling. Remove from heat. Stir in cocoa, baking powder, salt and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, and whisk until incorporated. Stir in flour and chocolate chips. (I opted to sprinkle mint chips on top… this time)

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the middle is set. Cool completely before cutting. Or not.

Chocolate Lush

Unfussy

This is as close as the Spencer fam gets to the microwave cake-in-a-cup situation. It gets the job done if it’s cold, late, and you need chocolate. Basically a chocolate pudding cake that makes its own pudding using pantry ingredients (no eggs even). I whipped it up this weekend when we had impromptu dinner guests. This recipe is one of many many favorites in the Pillsbury Family Cookbook from 1963 that my dad got as a gift for buying seed corn. If you can find one, you’ll know all my secrets.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP and 1/4 cup cocoa powder, divided
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 TBSP butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk flour, sugar, 2 TBSP cocoa, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Add milk, butter and vanilla and mix to blend well. Spread in an ungreased 8″ square pan. Combine brown sugar, remaining 1/4 cup cocoa and hot water. Pour over batter.

Bake for 45 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

This recipe can be doubled and made in a 9×13″ pan.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Cookies, Unfussy

These are my favorite peanut butter cookies. I wouldn’t kick you out of bed for putting chocolate chips in them. This recipe is from the Fannie Farmer cookbook, one of my favorite cookbooks of all time.

  • 1 cup salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup peanut butter (I prefer Trader Joe’s salted creamy)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (optional)
  • extra 1/2 cup granulated sugar for coating fork

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment or grease lightly.

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, and beat well, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add peanut butter and beat to blend. Add baking soda and flour and stir to combine well. Add chocolate chips if using.

Scoop onto cookie sheets, or roll into balls and place on cookie sheets – about 3 TBSP per cookie, spaced about 2-3 inches apart. Put extra sugar in a small bowl, using a fork, dip in sugar, then press down on each cookie into criss-cross pattern, smushing the cookie to flatten quite a bit (they don’t spread much when baking).

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to show some color, but do not over-bake.

Apple Crisp

Unfussy

Do you know what the problem is with apple crisp? Nothing. Not a thing. It’s easy, it’s delicious, and it makes as good a breakfast as it does a dessert. I can’t find a fault. You can of course have this with ice cream, or whipped cream, but if you can’t be bothered, do what we do and just pour half & half generously over the top.

  • 6 cups apples, cored, peeled and sliced. A mixture of different varieties is nice.
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • dash salt
  • 1 stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fill an 8″ square baking dish with apples, sprinkle lemon juice over them.

Make the crisp topping: Mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, oats and salt in a medium bowl. Pour melted butter in and stir to coat evenly – it’s okay if there are a few dry spots. Sprinkle topping over apples.

Bake 45 minutes, until topping is golden brown and apples are soft.