Countdown to Christmas : Gingersnaps

December 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

Let’s continue with our Christmas baking! At Sweettablescapes, December makes for a snowy kitchen, what with the flour and powdered sugar that constantly coats our countertops and shelves!!

This recipe for Gingersnaps ( BHG, October 2013) is a must if you want to add this classic cookie to your repertoire: a delicious ginger flavor and, depending on how long you bake them… a snap when you bite!

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OLD-FASHIONED GINGERSNAPS:

You’ll need:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup unsulfured dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup coarse sugar (such as turbinado)

Orange Whipped Cream* (optional)
Preparation:

Position one rack in the upper third and a second rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. Set aside.IMG_8706IMG_8707
In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, molasses, brown sugar, granulated sugar, grated ginger, and egg. IMG_8708IMG_8709Add the flour mixture and stir together to combine thoroughly. IMG_8710IMG_8711Cover and chill dough for 1 hour.
Put the coarse sugar in a small, shallow bowl. Scoop up a nugget of the dough and roll between your palms into a ball 1 inch in diameter. When all of the balls are formed, roll them in the coarse sugar, coating them evenly. IMG_8714Arrange the coated balls on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.
IMG_8715Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the cookies until the edges are crisp and the centers are still chewy, 10 to 12 minutes. For even baking, at the midpoint, switch the pans between the racks and rotate them front to back. Remove from oven and transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool. The cookies can be made ahead, stored between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 weeks.IMG_8716 Serve with Orange Whipped Cream for dipping.

In a chilled mixing bowl beat 1 cup whipping cream, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel until soft peaks form.

Countdown to Christmas: Spiced Almond Cookies

December 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Here we are again, getting ready for a season of celebrating with family and friends; At SWEETTABLESCAPES, celebrating is seldom done without some sweet confections. Every year, we spend December baking treats for clients and friends alike. As usual, we’ll make Gingerbread men, Snickedoodles and other staples, but we also like to add new recipes and try all sorts of cookies. These Spiced Almond Cookies made it onto our list this year, and they’re worth it!!

The recipe is from Bon Appetit, January 2006 and the recommendation is to enjoy them “with a spot of tea!”IMG_8712

 

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped toasted almonds

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Using electric mixer, beat butter, 1/3 cup sugar, both extracts, spices, and salt in medium bowl. IMG_8702Beat in flour, then stir in almonds.IMG_8703IMG_8704

Using hands, roll dough into tablespoon-size balls. Place on large baking sheet, spacing apart. IMG_8705Bake until pale golden, about 25 minutes. Cool on sheet 5 minutes. Place remaining sugar in large bowl. Working in batches, gently coat hot cookies in sugar. Cool cookies on rack. Roll again in sugar and serve.IMG_8712

Countdown to Christmas: Cookie Ornaments

December 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

This year our tree will have a Woodland vibe with natural and neutral ornaments: wood, straw and….cookies!

At Sweettablescapes, that’s what we do all year round, cookies, cookies, cookies; so this year a little extra dough provides us with some lovely animal cookies that we hung on our tree. Easy, pretty, inexpensive and edible!!

Whatever theme you choose for your tree, just cut, bake and don’t forget to punch a small hole in your cookies (we use a lollipop stick) for the string! Enjoy!!

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Salted Pumpkin Caramel Thumbprints: make these your autumn staple cookies!

November 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

There is something about caramel that just brings any dessert to another level. Salted caramel is all the rage nowadays and rightly so. The added touch of sweetness, balanced by the little kick of salt make everything more interesting and flavorful. These thumbprint cookies are of the basic kind but when their cavity is filled with this unctuous, amber filling, they become extra special! Sweettablescapes loves them and you will too!

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Try this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens (November 2014 issue) for Thanksgiving and see smiles on everyone’s faces.

You’ll need:

2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons light-color corn syrup
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
Flaked sea salt

Directions

For Thumbprints

in a large mixing bowl beat 2/3 cup butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.

Add brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.IMG_8567

Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. IMG_8568Beat in flour. IMG_8569IMG_8571Cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until easy to handle.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll dough into 1-inch balls.IMG_8578

Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Press thumb into the center of each ball. IMG_8579Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned.IMG_8580

If cookie centers puff during baking, repress with the back of a measuring spoon. Remove and cool on a wire rack.
For Salted Pumpkin Caramel,

place granulated sugar, water, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan.IMG_8572

Bring to boiling over medium heat, swirling the pan to stir. Boil gently, uncovered, until browned.IMG_8574

Once sugar has browned to a medium amber color, about 5 minutes, remove from heat. Immediately add cream and 2 tablespoons butter. Mixture will boil and foam.IMG_8575

Stir well. Add the pumpkin spice and pumpkin and stir well to incorporate.IMG_8576IMG_8577

(Caramel may seem thin that’s OK.) Place in a bowl.

Cover and chill at least 4 hours. Spoon into cooled cookies; sprinkle with sea salt.IMG_8581

 

 

‘Tis the season for Pumpkin and Chocolate Swirl Cake!

November 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

Once you start baking with pumpkin this time of year, it seems you can’t stop! Every recipe beckons with its mix of spices, pumkin, and wonderful fall flavors! And your kitchen smells like heaven! This Dark Chocolate and Pumpkin Swirl Cake from Better Homes and Gardens, November 2014 is yet again a home run on a Sunday afternoon with a cup of coffee! Enjoy!

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You’ll need:

Nonstick cooking spray
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin
3 ounces dark chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
2 tablespoons milk or orange juice

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper and coat the parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.IMG_8511
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.IMG_8512
In a medium bowl whisk together eggs and sugar. IMG_8513Add melted butter, buttermilk, and vanilla. Whisk until combined. IMG_8514 IMG_8515Fold in pumpkin.IMG_8516 IMG_8517
Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients and whisk just until no lumps remain.IMG_8518
Divide batter in half. Add the melted chocolate and cocoa powder to half of the batter; stir to combine.IMG_8519
Add the two batters to the loaf pan, alternating between pumpkin and chocolate. (Oops, we forgot to do that, hence the lack of “marble effect” but it still looks pretty and it IS delicious!!)IMG_8520 IMG_8521  Using a table knife, swirl through the batter. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove and cool in pan for 20 minutes. IMG_8522Remove and cool completely on a wire rack.IMG_8523
In a small bowl stir together the powdered sugar, half of the orange peel, and enough of the orange juice to make of drizzling consistency. Spoon over cooled loaf. Top with remaining orange peel. (We usually skip the glaze but it’s always a nice decorative addition.)

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake: oh so pretty and tasty!!

November 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

SWEETTABLESCAPES was recently asked to bake an Upside Down Pineapple cake for a special birthday. The guest of honor wanted his favorite childhood cake to celebrate with!

We are glad to report that it “tasted like his grandmother’s” ! Mission accomplished.

If you want a beautiful looking cake, this certainly works, with the added benefit of a fairly easy preparation. It was not my grandmother’s recipe but still came from a reliable source (Martha Stewart) and we truly recommend this cake for all pineapple lovers out there.

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You’ll need:

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • Grated rind from 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 fresh, ripe pineapple, sliced, or one 20-ounce can pineapple slices
  • 15 pecans

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. IMG_8479           Add the oil and milk to the bowl and beat for 1 minute. IMG_8480IMG_8481Add the vanilla, egg, lime rind, and lime juice, blending just until well combined.IMG_8482IMG_8483
  2. In a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. IMG_8484Remove from the heat and sprinkle the brown sugar around the skillet. Arrange the pineapple slices and pecans on top. IMG_8485IMG_8486IMG_8487Pour the batter evenly over the top and bake for 45 minutes.IMG_8488
  3. Remove from the oven and cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes. IMG_8495Turn the cake out onto a circular platter.IMG_8496

Wine tasting ? you still need cookies!

November 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

When I am in the kitchen, my husband is usually opening a bottle of wine and enjoying it with the food or dessert we’re serving.

He imports french wines to the US and cannot go a day without at least one glass of “grape juice”!! So when business calls and he is planning a tasting, SWEETTABLESCAPES is all too happy to provide some sweet relief after all the cheese and crackers!!

With the holidays around the corner, remember that less is more and to plan a simple, yet crowd-pleasing party, nothing is easier than some antipasto buffet, a variety of cheese on a platter, some crunchy baguette and crackers. Add some wine and everyone is happy. Now, of course, for the perfect finish, we throw in a few cookies to match the theme:

LARGE ones for big appetites…

 

IMG_7235    IMG_7236IMG_7237and minis for the less ambitious…

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