25 Days of Christmas

Pecan Pie Truffles

IMG_3882 I'm still in Louisiana--land of plenty pecans! My recent bourbon pecan pie has been such a hit, I decided to take things up a notch with these pecan pie truffles.  These truffles are basically the best part of pecan pie--salted caramel, roasted pecans and bourbon--enrobed in dark chocolate.  They were fairly simple to make, and the variations are endless! You can coat the in dark chocolate, or you can roll them in unsweetened cocoa powder, or make it meta and coat them in more chopped pecans!

making pecan pie truffles

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This portable dessert is perfect for a holiday party, since you can make them in advance and easily transport them. I made these for an annual get together with childhood friends, and I liked them so much that I'm making them for Part Two of my family's Christmas party this evening.  These decadent truffles are also a great gift. Just store them in an air tight container at room temperature, and they will last for a couple of weeks. The recipe below was adapted from NYTFood.

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Pecan Pie Truffles
Author: Vallery
Serves: 28 balls
Ingredients
  • 2 ½ cups pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (from 8 whole graham crackers)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or dark corn syrup
  • ¼ cup whiskey or bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 12 ounces Guittard dark chocolate
Instructions
  1. Stir together chopped pecans, graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and salt until well combined. Add maple syrup, bourbon and vanilla, stirring thoroughly.
  2. Form mixture into walnut-sized balls with your hands, then place on a cookie sheet and freeze for 1 hour.
  3. Melt the chocolate by microwaving it or in the top of a double broiler. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dip the frozen balls into the melted chocolate, then place onto prepared baking sheet. Let sit for 15 minutes or until firm.

pecan pie truffles

Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

making homemade bread pudding with raisinslove bread pudding but had never made it before.  It's just not a part of the many dessert traditions in my family. But, I knew this was something I wanted to try, so we made it for Christmas dinner. I really like bread pudding because it is a rustic, peasant-type dish that uses ingredients (day-old bread) that would typically be discarded.

Making this recipe could really not be simpler, plus no fancy equipment is needed! You simply break up the bread into pieces, but it in the baking dish, then pour a custard of milk, eggs, sugar, and spices over it. Then, bake it. But don't forget the sauce--this dish is best served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or drizzled with a sauce that you can make with rum or  whiskey. The sauce is a tad more complicated than the bread pudding itself--just don't forget the cornstarch (a thickening agent) and gently cook it until it is slightly thick. Also, I kind of hate raisins. So, I baked it without the raisins and then drizzled them on top for everyone else!

bread pudding

bread pudding with rum sauce

bread pudding recipe

Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 12 slices day-old baguette, cut into 3/4-inch
  • cubes
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • WHISKEY SAUCE
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup bourbon, whiskey, OR rum
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking dish. Spread the bread cubes in it.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until well blended. Pour in the milk and whisk until combined. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes. Let stand, pressing down on the bread occasionally, until it is evenly soaked, about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 350°F.
  4. Scatter the raisins evenly over the surface of the soaked bread and press to submerge them. Set the baking dish in a large, shallow roasting pan. Add very hot tap water to the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
  5. Bake the pudding until a knife inserted near the center comes out almost clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  6. PREPARE THE SAUCE
  7. In a 1-quart saucepan set over medium heat, combine the cream, milk, and sugar. Place the cornstarch and half the bourbon in a small mixing bowl and whisk to blend and make a slurry. Pour the slurry into the cream mixture and bring to a boil. Once the sauce begins to boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the salt, and stir in the butter and the remaining bourbon. Serve warm.

homemade bread pudding

Cinnamon Rolls with Louisiana Pecans

cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing I'm wrapping up my 25 days of Christmas with the cinnamon rolls I prepared for yesterday's Christmas breakfast. We had both Christmas breakfast and dinner in an attempt to accommodate numerous family members with their varied holiday plans! We didn't want to miss out on sharing special moments with anyone, so both our breakfast and dinner menus were curated to highlight family specialty dishes and also new dishes and desserts that we had never made before. I think that's how I approach life--a blend of the familiar and comforting with the riskier new and adventurous. 

Day 25: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls with Louisiana Pecans and Cream Cheese Icing

Difficulty: Impressive Challenge

These cinnamon rolls are a challenge because they involve making bread from scratch.  It is actually more difficult than making typical yeast dinner rolls. Instead of cutting out the rolls, you sprinkle the dough with butter, spices, sugar and pecans, then roll it up and cut it into rounds before letting the cinnamon rolls rise for a second time. Also, there is an additional step because you have to prepare the icing and ice the cinnamon rolls.

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homemade cinnamon rolls

But, this dish is certainly worth the extra steps and challenge. Like, seriously.  We had several other things on our breakfast menu--cheese souffle a la Julia Childe, fresh strawberries and oranges, and a grits and sausage casserole, but I found myself munching on these addictive cinnamon rolls throughout the day.  In fact, I ate so many of them that I was hardly hungry by the time we finally sat down for Christmas dinner.

I mixed a few different recipes, including my Great-Great Aunt Hester's yeast rolls recipes, but I'm sharing a superb recipe with you in case you want to try it (which you totally should!)

yeast cinnamon rolls recipe

cream cheese icing recipe

homemade cinnamon rolls recipe

homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing

Cinnamon Rolls with Louisiana Pecans and Cream Cheese Icing
Author: Vallery
Ingredients
  • 1 (1/4-oz.) envelope active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105° to 115°)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup bread flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup very soft butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • FOR CREAM CHEESE ICING
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Instructions
  1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a 1-cup glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.
  2. Beat 1/2 cup softened butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1 tsp. salt, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs and next 2 ingredients, beating until blended. Stir in yeast mixture.
  3. Combine 4 1/2 cups bread flour and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed 1 to 2 minutes or until well blended.
  4. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup bread flour onto a flat surface; turn dough out, and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes), adding up to 1/4 cup bread flour as needed to prevent dough from sticking to hands and surface. Place dough in a lightly greased large bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.
  6. Punch dough down; turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 16- x 12-inch rectangle. Spread with 1/2 cup very soft butter, leaving a 1-inch border around edges. Stir together brown sugar, cinnamon, and remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and sprinkle sugar mixture over butter.
  7. Top with pecans. Roll up dough, jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side; cut into 16 slices (about 1 inch thick).
  8. Place rolls, cut sides down, in 2 lightly greased 10-inch round pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85º), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
  9. Bake at 350° for 20 to 22 minutes or until rolls are golden brown. Cool in pans 5 minutes. Brush rolls with Cream Cheese Icing. Serve immediately.
  10. FOR CREAM CHEESE ICING
  11. Mix softened cream cheese with powdered sugar with a mixer until thoroughly combined. Add one teaspoon vanilla and continue to mix. Transfer the icing to a pastry bag, or use a spatula to spread over the cinnamon rolls. Enjoy!

 

Whiskey-Spiked Eggnog

  Homemade Spiked EggnogIf your only experience with eggnog is the store-bought stuff, you're missing out!  Making fresh eggnog is fairly simple. There are only five ingredients--eggs, sugar, milk, cream and nutmeg. The whiskey is of course optional ;)

Day 23: Whiskey-Spiked Eggnog

Difficulty: Piece of Cake!

Eggnog is somewhat of a family tradition that got lost for several decades. Eggnog was a specialty of my grandmother Leona, who is now 98 years old, so my mother grew up drinking eggnog. But by the time the 1990s rolled around, eggnog disappeared from the family holiday spread.

So, in an attempt to revive this lost family tradition, I decided to make a very traditional eggnog recipe. It is rather simple and a fun holiday project to liven a holiday party or Christmas dinner. This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown.

spiked eggnog

Whiskey-Spiked Eggnog
Serves: 6 cups
Ingredients
  • 4 eggs, separated (4 egg yolks + 4 egg whites)
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 pint whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 ounces whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they are pale yellow. Slowly add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Set aside.
  2. In a medium pot, over high heat, combine the milk, heavy cream and nutmeg and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and gradually pour the hot mixture into the egg and sugar mixture, whisking constantly (If you don't whisk it, the milk will cook the eggs and you'll have scrambled eggs!). Then return everything to the pot and cook until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from the heat.
  3. Stir in the whiskey and pour into a pitcher. Place pitcher in the refrigerator and allow it to cool completely.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. With the mixer running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Whisk the egg whites into the chilled eggnog mixture and serve.

 

Red Velvet-White Chocolate Cheesecake

Red Velvet White Chocolate Cheesecake Day 21 of my “25 Days of Baking” is the ultimate showstopper—a centerpiece-worthy dessert for your Christmas table. This five-layer cake, alternating between red velvet cake and cheesecake and enrobed in white-chocolate buttercream, is the most elegant Christmas cake I’ve ever made. This dazzling cake will leave you and your dinner guests in awe.

Day 21: Red Velvet-White Chocolate Cheesecake

Difficulty:  Impressive Challenge!

This special cake is certainly a “project,” but I enjoy challenging myself with creative, beautiful dishes.  Plus, the cheesecake is a natural pair to red velvet cake, and the white-chocolate buttercream ties everything together.  A dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream is an absolute must to accompany this intense cake.  The whipped cream adds a light and airy texture to contrast the dense cheesecake and red velvet cake layers.  The red velvet cake layers are denser than typical cake, because they have to be heavy enough to support the weighty cheesecake layers.

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assembling-the-red-velvet-white-chocolate-cheesecake

I made this cake over the course of two days.  The first day, I baked the cheesecake layers, which was relatively simple.  The second day, I baked the red velvet cake layers, made the white chocolate buttercream, and assembled the cake. This recipe is adapted from SL Mag.

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red-velvet-cake-with-white-chocolate-cheesecake-slice

Red Velvet-White Chocolate Cheesecake
Ingredients
  • CHEESECAKE LAYERS
  • 2 (8-inch) round cake pans (disposable OK)
  • 12 ounces white chocolate
  • 5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • RED VELVET LAYERS
  • 3 (8-inch) round cake pans (disposable OK)
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 c. all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 (1-ounce) bottles red liquid food coloring
  • WHITE CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM
  • 8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 c. boiling water
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 32 ounces powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/8 teaspoon dash of salt
Instructions
  1. Prepare Cheesecake Layers: Preheat oven to 300 F. Line bottom and sides of 2 cake pans with aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides; lightly grease foil.
  2. Microwave white chocolate morsels in a microwave-safe bowl according to package directions; cool 10 minutes.
  3. Beat cream cheese and melted chocolate at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating well. Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition. Stir in 1 Tbsp. vanilla. Pour into prepared pans.
  4. Bake at 300 F for 30 to 35 minutes or until almost set. Turn oven off. Let cheesecakes stand in oven, with door closed, 30 minutes. Remove from oven to wire racks; cool completely (about 1 1/2 hours). Cover and chill 8 hours, or freeze 24 hours to 2 days.
  5. Prepare Red Velvet Layers: Preheat oven to 350°. Beat 1 cup butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add 2 1/2 cups sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add 6 eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
  6. Stir together flour and next 2 ingredients; add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in 2 tsp. vanilla; stir in food coloring. Spoon batter into 3 greased and floured 8-inch disposable cake pans.
  7. Bake at 350° for 20 to 24 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks; cool completely (about 1 hour).
  8. Prepare Frosting: Whisk together chocolate and 1/2 cup boiling water until chocolate melts. Cool 20 minutes; chill 30 minutes.
  9. Beat 1 cup butter and chilled chocolate mixture at low speed until blended. Beat at medium speed 1 minute. Increase speed to high; beat 2 to 3 minutes or until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar and salt, beating at low speed until blended. Increase speed to high; beat 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth and fluffy.
  10. Assemble Cake: Place 1 layer Red Velvet on a serving platter. Top with 1 layer Cheesecake. Repeat with remaining layers of Red Velvet and Cheesecake, alternating and ending with Red Velvet on top. Spread top and sides of cake with White Chocolate Frosting. Store in refrigerator.

 

Eggnog Millefeuille with Blackberries

layered eggnog cream with puffed pastry Sometimes we must challenge ourselves, which is exactly what this "Christmas in Paris"-inspired dessert pastry was.  There is a fun twist because it doesn't use pastry cream like traditional pastry, but uses eggnog-sweetened whipped cream, which is great because whipped cream is quite simple to make.

Day 19: Eggnog Millefeuille

Difficulty: Impressive Challenge

The fresh blackberries in this dish truly complement the puff pastry by adding a light, fresh, slightly tart flavor. I always try a bite of something before writing about a dish, but I found myself devouring this pastry.

eggnog whipped cream

Luckily, I had extra cream and blackberries. I ate the millefeuilles deconstructed because it was less messy that way! So, as a fun serving option, you can create a few "millefeuille towers" and then the rest can be single layers with no top sheet, topped with fresh fruit. It's just easier to handle a fun twist on such a classic French pastry.

slightly thawed puff pastry, cut into rectangles

Baked puff pastry that was weighted down to prevent rising

Separate each rectangle into halves or thirds, the inner half will not be browned

SL Mag comes through on the holidays, and this recipe was no exception. Although, I admit I did have to tweak it quite a bit to get the puffed pastry to cooperate. I'm sure this is because not all puff pastry comes rolled out to the same thickness, etc. My baked puff pastry was so thick that I ended up carefully dividing it into thirds so that I would have enough. Dealing with the puffed pastry alone is enough of a reason to make this dessert an "impressive challenge."  (It is even more challenging if you make the puffed pastry from scratch!)

Pipe mounds of the whipped cream onto the puff pastry layer

Add an additional pastry layer

millefeuille

eggnog millefeuille

This classy dessert would certainly add pizazz to your holiday table, or you can save it as a special-occasion dessert for any holiday dinner.

Eggnog Millefeuille with Blackberries
Serves: 12-16
Ingredients
  • 1 (17.3-oz.) package frozen puff pastry sheets
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons rum
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated eggnog
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Let puff pastry sheets stand at room temperature 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, stir together blackberries, granulated sugar, lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons rum in small bowl. Cover and chill until ready to use.
  3. Unfold pastry sheets onto a lightly floured surface, and cut into 3 strips along fold marks. Cut each strip into 4 (2- x 3-inch) rectangles. Place rectangles in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Place parchment paper over pastry rectangles, and top with a second baking sheet to weight the dough.
  4. Bake weighted pastry rectangles at 400° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and discard top layer of parchment paper. Cool completely on wire rack (about 15 minutes). Using a small knife, separate each rectangle into 2 or 3 thinner pieces.
  5. Beat cream and eggnog at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until foamy; gradually add powdered sugar and nutmeg, beating until soft peaks form. Stir in remaining two teaspoons rum.
  6. Place whipped cream in a piping bag or large ziploc bag. Snip the tip of the bag.
  7. Place a pastry rectangle on a dessert plate. Pipe small mounds of whipped cream onto the pastry rectangle; top with second pastry rectangle. Pipe another layer of whipped cream mounds, and top with third pastry rectangle. Dust with powdered sugar. Repeat with remaining pastry rectangles and whipped cream. Serve immediately with fresh berries.

homemade millefeuille