Holidays

Red Velvet Cookie Sandwiches

IMG_5203 I’m kind of obsessed with these red velvet cookie sandwiches. This is probably because I love red velvet anything. Red velvet is the perfect chocolate-ish combination. There’s just a hint of chocolate—far less than you’d use for a chocolate cookie. Plus, the cream cheese icing complements the cookie perfectly.

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Red velvet is festive. It reminds me of Christmas and celebrations. So, I knew these cookies would be perfect for Valentine’s Day. Plus, they’re super easy to make. I’ve certainly had my hands full since the start of the year. I’ve been planning a trip to Trinidad and Tobago for Carnival, as well as physically preparing for Carnival—smoothie bowls and cardio circuit training. I’ve also been busier than usual by becoming more active in my community. So, I haven’t had much time for baking, and I easily whipped these cookies up one evening. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Cookie Sandwiches

Makes 24 cookies, 12 cookie sandwiches

For Cookies:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon red liquid food coloring
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Icing:

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1 and ¼ cup powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Beat softened butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy, about three minutes. Add egg and food coloring; beat 30 seconds.
  2. Sift flour with next 2 ingredients in a small bowl. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed until combined. Stir in vanilla.
  3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Press each ball down into a round disc. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  4. Bake at 325°F for 10 to 15 minutes or until cookies are fragrant and dry. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack.
  5. Beat softened cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, until smooth and creamy.
  6. Place the icing in a piping bag. Pipe icing on half of the cookies. Place a second cookie on top to make a sandwich. Store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to three days. Serve at room temperature.

Cranberry Apple Pastry Tarts


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This Christmas-y tart is so easy and so good! It uses frozen puff pastry, high quality cranberry sauce, fresh apples and fresh cranberries.

It's a unique holiday dessert and the cranberries add a semi-tart twist to traditional apple pie.  I used store-bought puff pastry which is so buttery and good. Oh, and it's easy!! Making puff pastry from scratch is not child's play, but this tart is!

Cranberry and Apple Pastry Tart

Makes 2, Serves 8 in all

Ingredients

1 box of prepared puff pastry dough

4 tablespoons high-quality cranberry sauce

3 large apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh cranberries

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into pieces

1 egg lightly beaten

sugar, for sprinkling (coarse sugar preferred)

Method

Thaw out the puff pastry dough overnight. Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Roll out the dough to a large rectangle. Cut in half to form two equal squares. Prick all over with a fork. Transfer the dough to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Place the peeled and sliced apples in a bowl with fresh cranberries. Stir in the sugar and coat the apples and cranberries with the sugar.

Spread two tablespoons of high-quality cranberry sauce in the center of each square. Add the sugar-coated apples and cranberries to the center of each square. Dot the tops of the fruit with the butter.

Add one teaspoon of water to the egg and whisk until combined. Brush the egg wash over the exposed dough. Fold the dough over the fruit, leaving the center of the fruit exposed. Brush the egg wash over the dough. Generously sprinkle with sugar. Freeze for ten minutes.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 F and bake for another 25 minutes until browned and bubbly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for five minutes. Slice and serve immediately with ice cream.

Holiday Fudge Trio

img_3502 To commemorate Ghirardelli's "Baking Day" this past weekend, I prepared three types of fudge (which happens to be a no-bake treat!)  I prepared a maple pecan fudge, which combines white chocolate, maple syrup and toasted pecans.  I paired dark chocolate with pistachios for the second fudge, and semisweet chocolate with chocolate-caramel candy squares for the third fudge. The results were all delicious, and these recipes are surprisingly simple.

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I have made fudge once before with recipes that use marshmallow creme. I'm not sure what's in marshmallow creme, but I'm sure it includes tons of stabilizers that help give fudge that oh-so-creamy texture.  The fudge I made this weekend was slightly less creamy, but certainly decadent and free of all of those stabilizers. I actually liked the less creamy texture. It forced me to savor each and every bite. A little bit of this fudge goes a long way, so I suggest cutting them in small, bite-sized squares.

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Dark Chocolate-Pistachio Fudge

Ingredients 1/4 cup unsalted pistachios 1 1/2 cups 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips (I used Ghirardelli brand) 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk (half of a 14-ounce can) 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Method

Line a loaf pan (about 9 x 5”) with parchment paper. Allow some to hang over the edges, which will facilitate removing the fudge once it's set.  Place pistachios on the bottom of the pan. (You can reserve a few pistachios to sprinkle on top of the fudge, if desired.) Set aside.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in the top of a double boiler. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate.

As a “makeshift” double boiler, I place a medium pot on top of a small pot. The small pot has just one inch of water and the heat is on low. Add the chocolate to the medium pot and stir constantly, until almost melted. Remove the pot and continue stirring until all of the chocolate melts.

Once the chocolate has melted, stir in the softened butter and the condensed milk. The mixture will become very thick. Do not overstir, or the mixture will become oily. Once combined, pour the mixture into the prepared pan.  Allow to set, undisturbed, for four hours.  Once the fudge has set, remove it from the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut it into squares.  Store in a covered container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Maple-Pecan Fudge

Ingredients ¾ cup pecan halves, coarsely chopped and lightly toasted 3 tablespoons maple syrup 3 tablespoons condensed milk (sweetened) 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli brand) 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

Line a loaf pan (about 9 x 5”) with parchment paper. Allow some to hang over the edges, which will facilitate removing the fudge once it's set.  Set aside.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in the top of a double boiler. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate.

As a “makeshift” double boiler, I place a medium pot on top of a small pot. The small pot has just one inch of water and the heat is on low. Add the chocolate to the medium pot and stir constantly, until almost melted. Stir in the maple syrup, condensed milk, vanilla extract and brown sugar. Do not overmix, or mixture will become oily.

Once combined, pour the mixture into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle the pecans on top and lightly press them into the fudge.  Allow to set, undisturbed, for four hours.  Once the fudge has set, remove it from the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut it into squares.  Store in a covered container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Chocolate-Caramel Fudge

Ingredients 1 1/2 cups Semisweet Chocolate Chips 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk 1 tablespoon butter 6 chocolate-caramel squares (Ghirardelli makes a perfect chocolate-caramel square for this)

Method Line a loaf pan (about 9 x 5”) with parchment paper. Allow some to hang over the edges, which will facilitate removing the fudge once it's set. Place 3 chocolate caramel squares at the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in the top of a double boiler. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate.

As a “makeshift” double boiler, I place a medium pot on top of a small pot. The small pot has just one inch of water and the heat is on low. Add the chocolate to the medium pot and stir constantly, until almost melted. Remove the pot and continue stirring until all of the chocolate melts.

Once the chocolate has melted, stir in the softened butter and the condensed milk. The mixture will become very thick. Do not overstir, or the mixture will become oily. Once combined, pour half of the mixture into the prepared pan. Place the remaining three chocolate-caramel squares on the fudge, then pour the remaining fudge on top. Allow to set, undisturbed, for four hours.  Once the fudge has set, remove it from the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut it into squares.  Store in a covered container at room temperature for up to two weeks.