holiday cookie round up: gingerbread and almond crisps

what kind of holiday season would it be without gingerbread?  this year, I decided to go simple with them, they are fluted rounds with a dusting of coarse sugar.  perfect for snacking or dunking and even suitable for stacking with a frosting filling.  need a recipe?  try this one from rose levy beranbaum’s book, rose’s christmas cookies.

on a recent trip to atlanta, my daughter and i made a stop at one of our favorite places, white windmill bakery.  they have so many cookies to choose from but these almond cookies caught my eye.  when i returned home, i began a search for the recipe and after several tries, i came up with these.  they do not look like much but if you love almonds, these things are addictive.

crispy and full of almonds, they are light and easy to make.

i must have made at least 3 batches.  for the gluten free cookie lover, they are easy to make with rice flour and every bit as tasty!  try this recipe, it is the one i started with but i did add a little butter and increased the almonds.  since it is a work in progress, i am not posting the recipe at this time.

gingersnaps; tuesdays with dorie

 this week, we tackled gingersnaps.  fitting choice given the season.  truth is, i love gingersnaps and gingerbread and will make either one at anytime in the year.  since gingersnaps are a favorite of mine, i was eager to try this recipe which was contributed by david blom and to see it, this is the link.

as always, i made a few changes to the recipe.  first of all, i very rarely use molasses.  how can that be you ask?  well, i live in the south and around here, we use sorghum.  so what’s the big deal about sorghum?  it tastes better than molasses and it is a pure product meaning that it is just sorghum syrup that is extracted from sorghum cane and cooked down.  no chemicals, no refining, nothing, just sorghum.  not familiar with sorghum, read a few facts about it here.  and for those of you with a diy fetish, here is an interesting article on just that, making your own sorghum.

 what other changes did i make to the recipe?  well, for starters, i added a whole lot more spices.  i quadrupled the ginger, doubled the cinnamon and added garam masala, cardamom and cloves to make a nice and spicy dough.  then i reduced the water a bit; i was making a batch that was 4 times the recipe and it would have called for 6 tablespoons of water but i only added 5.  thinking back now, i would reduce it even more, maybe just use 4.

when i roll out cookies, i use wooden dowels that are the exact thickness that i need to help guide my rolling pin and keep it all consistent.  i also brush off as much of the excess flour as possible.

my collection of cookie cutters is on the large side.  in the bins are several hundred shapes to choose from.  since these cookies are going to a christmas party, i chose a holly leaf, it was 2″x3″ and with a batch of dough that was quadrupled, i ended up with just over 60 cookies.

 the recipe was a bit unusual for gingersnaps.  it did not include any eggs and when the cookies were cut, they got a glaze made of molasses and water before going into the oven.  the recipe for the glaze could easily be cut back, i had a lot left over but again, i did multiply the recipe.  if you do the same, cut the glaze in half.  if you just prepare the recipe as it is, make the full amount.

 and just because i could, i gave the cookies a sprinkle of sanding sugar before they went into the oven.  no such thing as too much sparkle on a gingersnap.

the cookies took longer in the oven than the recipe called for.  a lot longer and about double the time if not a little longer.  considering that i made them only slightly larger than the recipe called for and that i baked them at 350 rather than 325 (because i didn’t read that…), i was surprised at how long they took to become “almost firm” in the oven.  the other surprising fact is that i had also reduced the water.  the cookies were a little on the soft and flexible side and once they finally baked, they were really hard once they cooled off.  those with sensitive teeth may want to dunk them first…

 perfect with a cup of hot tea or coffee, feel free to do just that, dunk them if you like.

 after a hectic couple of days at work, it was nice to come home and bake a batch of cookies.  it was well worth the time i spent that afternoon, almost comforting.

 as the afternoon sun slowly sank, the light changed in the room.  it seems that all of the classes and workshops i have taken suddenly came together in one quiet afternoon in my dining room.  the light became the focus, not the cookies.

 the magic hour.  you can see the shift in the light by looking at the top left corner of the photo.  suddenly, the pink/gold of sunset was creeping in.

this light is fleeting.  you must be just as quick to capture it.  here it glides across the pan from left to right.

 and now, it has moved.  so quickly the color changes.  
 and changes still.  the mood of the photo has changed as well.  
would i make these again?  meh…maybe.  with changes.  less water, no glaze.  love that they are made without eggs and could easily be a vegan recipe by switching the butter to a non-hydrogenated shortening, a vegetarian butter or coconut oil.  honestly, i have a wonderful gingerbread recipe and a damn good ginger snap recipe already so the likelihood is slim.  but that vegan factor will keep them on the maybe list.  to see how the other tuesdays with dorie bakers did with this recipe, visit the website.  to bake along with us, pick up a copy of the book and, register at the website and start baking!  the book can be found easily, it is still in print.  try bookstores, online, your local library or a friend.  whatever you do, just bake…

gingerbread beer bundt cake; a winner!

it’s a winner alright.  like everyone else, i love a good contest.  especially when i know i have the winning recipe.  isn’t it funny how that winning recipe never wins anything?  maybe not so funny, but it doesn’t stop me from trying.  and try i did when ran a best recipe with beer contest this month.  i knew i had the winning entry-who else would bake a cake with beer?  apparently, several entrants had the same idea.  but in the end, mine was the winner.  honestly, mind=blown.  one of the perks of the win, my cake got a glamour shot and a slide show which you can view on

one of my favorite ingredients goes into this cake; sorghum.  for those in the know, they understand why.  it is all the flavor of molasses without any of the bitter or the black color.  the syrup pressed from fresh sorghum canes is cooked slowly to reduce, clarify and concentrate the sugar as well as the flavor.   it is also a less refined product and is frequently made in amish and mennonite communities which can make it hard to find.  unless you live in the south, it is still pretty common here and we don’t have to look very hard to find it.  try looking in amish or mennonite stores, farmer’s markets or if you are lucky, the whole foods supermarket near you may carry it-they do in nashville.  
the syrup starts out as a bright green juice but by the time it is cooked, it is a rich amber shade.  it is never so dark that light cannot shine through it.  so my apologies to the folks at looks a lot like molasses in your photos!  looks like i am going to have to send you some southern love in the form of sorghum.

with my large collection of bundt pans, the hard part was choosing one.  

 spice cake with mustard, dos perros pale ale, chocolate glaze; nothing else needed exept a fork…
 the marbleized interior of the cake

for the complete recipe, visit  

gingerbread baby bundt cake; twd

when did they turn on the holiday season?  i could swear that it was summer yesterday and now, it is december.  wow…well, since it is tuesday, it must be time to bake with julia.  this week, our hostess, karen of karen’s kitchen stories is proud to bring us gingerbread baby cakes.  luckily, it is a simple recipe that did not require much work.  since i have so much going on this month-pr event, a daughter graduating, a trip to san francisco for said graduation and oh yeah, the guy in the red suit comes this month too, doesn’t he?  anyway, no time to spare and i will most likely be absent for the next roundup.  did i mention that i am trying to put together not 1 but 2 books???

so here it goes.  let’s start with the obvious.  baby cakes are small cakes; these are supposed to be 4″ rounds.  the husband is out of town for the week and i did not need a group of 4″ cakes for just me.  i made half the recipe and baked it in a fluted pan.  the recipe calls for dark brown sugar, i only had light.  the recipe also called for espresso powder.  i only use whole beans to make espresso, i opted to add more cocoa powder and keep moving.  then i realized that i was out of molasses.  what the hell kind of baker is out of molasses in december????  apparently, this one right here.  i used beet sugar syrup.

okay, it is interesting in a strange, chocolatey, fruity kind of way.  and moving right along, visit karen’s blog page for the recipe and all that.  visit the tuesdays with dorie page to see the hijinks of all the other bakers-most of whom probably had the proper ingredients and what not.  me, i’m pouring another glass of wine and plopping down on the couch with the cat.  i’ve had enough baking for today…

 (actually, it looks so chocolatey because i cut the recipe in half on everything but the cocoa powder-rrrrgggg!!!  but i think it works well)

gingerbread beer cake with bittersweet chocolate glaze

gingerbread.  beer.  chocolate… what more does anyone need?  mix it all up and bake it in a bundt and trust me, you will not need anything else.  i recently entered this recipe in a contest so wish me luck!  you can view the recipe here and use the photos below from the step by step to see what things should look like.

 when i know that i need to sift dry ingredients, i place a mesh strainer over a bowl and place all the ingredients to be sifted in it.  then i sift it into the batter a portion at a time.  the bowl makes it easier to contain and the stuff that falls through the strainer can be dumped in without the hassle of lifting paper…

 the two batters in the pan before swirling them

 swirling the batters carefully, so that you do not remove the grease/flour layer from the pan, is best done with a small spoon.  gently insert the spoon and stir and lift small quantities of batter to marbleize it.

 the cake after turning it out of the pan.  the hardest part-not cutting into it while it is warm!
 drizzle the glaze over the cake in a free form manner for the best look.

and that meeting i took the cake to-this was all that was left; two skinny slices of heaven…so this is in this weeks contest for your best chocolate and spice.  and as always, if you bake one, send me a photo and i will post it here!  bake on my friends, bake on…