Pecan Chews with Small Batch Bourbon

Season’s Greetings! Feliz Navidad! Merry Yule! Joyeux Noël!

Whatever it is you are celebrating this winter, I’m pretty sure it is an occasion where family and friends and cookies are involved.

Pecan Chews with Small Batch Bourbon~ Erin's DC Kitchen

I love doing traditional Christmas cookies this time of year. I’ve already posted some of my family favorites which I make literally every year, here and here and here. Um, what is there not to love about adorable little holly wreaths laced with marshmallow creme? Or buttery, flakey little cookies sandwiched with a whipped frosting tinted holiday colors? Nothing, that’s what.

But, my dear husband requested something “new and interesting”. I promptly informed him I would be making the traditional cookies as I always do, but suggested he pick out a recipe or two from my Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies special issue magazine and I would make it for him.

Pecan Chews with Small Batch Bourbon~ Erin's DC Kitchen

He zeroed in on these delightfully chewy, nutty and very grown-up cookies. These drop cookies come with an extra boost of holiday cheer from a key ingredient– small-batch bourbon. Not only are they yums, but small scale distilleries are all the rage right now (God, is that saying even used anymore? Apparently yes, and by me) so these cookies are a perfect gift for the boozy trendsetter in your life.

Okay, to the recipe!

Pecan Chews with Small Batch Bourbon

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • scant 1/4 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
  • 1/2 cup butter, soft
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup small batch bourbon, we used Four Roses
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped toasted pecans*

Combine flour, salt, spices and 1 cup of the chopped pecans in a bowl, set aside. In a small saucepan, warm the molasses and butter over low heat, stirring often until the butter is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool, then stir in the bourbon. I highly recommend not adding the bourbon when the mixture is too hot, it is will immediately cook off the alcohol. Take your time to let it cool, and you will be rewarded with a finished product that actually tastes a little boozy. 🙂

Next, whisk the brown sugar into the molasses-bourbon mixture and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Stir the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and chill the dough for 1 hour or more. The dough needs to be nicely chilled because it is too soft otherwise which makes rolling the dough into balls difficult.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Using a tablespoon size scoop of dough, roll it between your hands to shape a ball, then roll the ball into the remaining 2 cups of chopped pecans. Here is a picture of the pre-baked balls.

Pecan Chews with Small Batch Bourbon

Place on a baking sheet, allowing a little room between the cookies to spread. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes– cookies are done when the edges are browned and they have flattened out. The center may look slightly undone, but it is fine as long as the edges are browned. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack, as the warm cookies are very floppy. As the cookies cool completely, they will firm up, but still stay deliciously chewy inside.

*Note: To toast pecans, spread whole pecans in a single layer onto a cookie sheet and bake in 350° oven for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Once the nuts smell fragrant, take them out of the oven, the oils in the nuts allow them to scorch quickly.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Enjoy!

– Erin

Creamy Wafers

Happy New Year’s Eve ya’ll.  Did everyone have a relaxing and love-filled Christmas?

I did and now I’m having the typical (in my life) post-Christmas let down whereby I feel blue, have nothing to look forward to and pine for the magical days of Christmas past.

To deal with this I tend to find reasons to stretch out the holidays as much as possible. There are 12 days of Christmas after all, starting on the big day and ending on the Feast of the Epiphany, so what I’m doing is LEGIT!

In honor of the Sixth Day of Christmas, I’m sharing with you this cookie- Mom’s creamy wafers. These are delightfully light, buttery and delicate little sandwich cookies. The flaky cookies are sandwiched with a creamy butter filling that you can tint holiday colors.

Creamy Wafers  IMG_3466

Green and red are family favorites, but blue would be very wintery also. 🙂

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These are ridiculously simple in the amount of ingredients needed, but are somewhat fussy in that some assembly is required. The cookies are pretty and friends and family will be impressed by them so the little bit of extra effort is worth it.

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When I’ve given these out as presents along with a few other Christmas cookie varieties, people inevitably ask me for the recipe for the unassuming little sandwiches.

I cannot be the only one out there with post-Christmas blues, right?!  If you’ve got the bug, try baking these to rekindle the holiday glow. 🙂

Mom’s Creamy Wafers

For the cookie:

  • 1 cup soft unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups flour

For the creamy filling

  • Generous 1/4 cup soft butter
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • food coloring of choice

In a large bowl, combine the butter, whipping cream and flour. Mix well to combine dough. Cover and chill for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375°

Remove dough from the fridge, 1/3 at a time (keep the dough you aren’t working with at the moment covered and chilled), and roll out to 1/4 inch thick or more. Cut out small rounds using a 1 to 1 1/2 inch circle cookie cutter. Coat the rounds with white sugar (put 1 cup in a small bowl) and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Using the tines of a fork, prick each round three times. This releases steam while baking and creates a pretty pattern. Bake for 7-9 minutes, just until cookies are set but not browned. Cool.

For the creamy filling: Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together in a small bowl. If the mixture is crumbly, add in a dash of whipping cream to help it bind. Whip until fluffy. Tint the filling with a few drops of food coloring. Spread a small amount directly onto the center of one cookie. Place another cookie on top and gently press together- this will naturally push the filling to the outside- creating a perfect little sandwich.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Peanut Butter Thumbprints

Sigh. Is the busyness of the holidays catching up with anyone else? I’m feeling exhausted as I write this, and the mental list of things I need to do before heading to my parents is causing a bit-o-anxiety.

Peanut Butter Thumbprints

I had a thumbprint for dessert. It didn’t bring me inner peace…. but it was tasty.

Anyways, you aren’t here to listen to me complain- you are here for recipes!!!

Yesterday I posted a new cookie recipe I added to my arsenal; today, I’m going back to a traditional family one. These thumbprints have the right amount of peanut butter and a chewy, yet melt in your mouth texture. I find some p.b cookies to be dry and have a weird, crumbly mouth-feel that is off putting. Don’t worry about that here, just worry about how many ‘extra’ Hershey Kisses you’ll be popping while mixing up the dough.  I recommend not skipping the step of rolling the dough in sugar. This makes the cookies a little sparkly and contributes to the pleasant texture. Just some friendly advice 😉

Peanut Butter Thumbprints

Peanut Butter Thumbprints

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 18-24 unwrapped Hershey kisses
  • small bowl of white sugar for rolling dough

Preheat oven to 375°. In an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar for 3 minutes. Add in peanut butter, egg and vanilla and continue beating on medium speed for another 3 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  With the mixer running on low, gradually add in the dry ingredients to the wet.

Using a small spoon, scoop out dough and roll into 1 1/2 inch (or so) balls. Roll the balls in the white sugar, then place on a lined baking sheet.  Bake for 6-7 minutes, until the cookies are lightly cracked on top. 1 or 2 minutes into baking, quickly remove the cookies from the oven and gently press down a Hershey Kiss on each, put back in the oven and finish baking.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Question of the Day: How do you cope with holiday stress?

Russian Mint Cookies

Usually I reach for my recipe box for old family favorites or Martha Stewart’s 2010 Christmas cookie magazine special (totally awesome, best selection ever!) but I saw these in last week’s Washington Post and fell in love.

Russian Mint Cookies

When I pulled these out of the oven, they looked really fugly and I was concerned. Unless it is a sugar cookie decorated by your apple-cheeked 6-year-old niece, there is no place for ugly cookies at Christmas.

Standards people, get some. 😉

Drizzling these with some peppermint glaze really helped perk the cookies up.

Russian Mint Cookies

My only complaint with this recipe is the dough is very crumbly- almost like there is too much flour. I would take out 1/3 cup or so next time.

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Overall the mint flavor was awesome and the cookie was sweet and chewy, I will make them again!

Russian Mint Cookies

For the cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract (or more to taste)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt

For the glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/8 tsp peppermint extract
  • food coloring of choice
  • 4 tbl heavy cream

For the cookies: Combine the sugar, water and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in the peppermint extract and egg.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 baking sheets with nonstick cooking oil spray.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the cooled syrup mixture. Roll teaspoons of dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Transfer the balls to the prepared baking sheets. Use the bottom of a drinking glass to flatten the balls just slightly.

Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, just until the cookies are slightly golden and the tops have cracked a little.

While the cookies are baking, prepare the glaze: Combine the confectioners’ sugar, peppermint extract, food coloring, if using, and enough of the cream to create a thin glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the cookies while they’re still on the baking sheets. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Christmas Holly

Oh, by gosh, by golly, it’s time for mistletoe and holly. Thanks for the intro Frank, these treats deserve it. 🙂

Christmas Holly

Sticky, gooey, marshmallowy Christmas holly. Nom nom nom.

Christmas Holly

This recipe is first up on my list of oldie-but-goodie family recipes that I break out every Christmas. These treats are really easy to make- one pot on the stovetop is all it takes!

Don’t these add a lovely pop of color to Santa’s Christmas Eve cookie plate? He’s coming soon, stop reading this and go get in the kitchen!! 😉

Cookies for Santa

Red decorators frosting made the ‘berries’ on this holly treat, but you can go with Red Hot cinnamon candies if you wish.

Christmas Holly

  • 1 stick (1/4 lb) butter
  • several tablespoons green food coloring*
  • 35 large marshmallows (standard package)
  • 4 cups cornflakes
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • red frosting or red cinnamon candies

In a large pot, melt butter and marshmallows together, stirring often. Once smooth, add in vanilla and food coloring, stir. Dump in the cornflakes 2 cups at a time and mix well to coat. Drop by the tablespoon full onto greased, wax paper. Dot the holly with red candies while hot, or, wait until cooled and dot with red frosting to make berries.

Enjoy!

– Erin

*Note: You will need to use A LOT of food coloring, it almost seems like an unholy amount. But if you want a nice, deep green, don’t hold back!

Gingery Sweet Potato Pie

Happy December!

It’s not to early to start thinking about Christmas dinner, or more importantly, dessert.

Pie isn’t only for Thanksgiving, we always had several pies for Christmas when I was a kid. I usually went for the pumpkin- but this year I really wanted to try a sweet potato variety. Grating in a healthy amount of fresh ginger made this so much more than ‘ordinary’ pie!

Gingery Sweet Potato Pie

The sweet potato filling is so silky and smooth- different from the heavy thickness of pumpkin. (There is a time and place for that, don’t get me wrong!). Overall this is a much lighter pie, and when you’ve stuffed yourself so much that it hurts a little when you stand-up straight or breath, you need to finish the night with this!

Gingery Sweet Potato Pie

Gingery Sweet Potato Pie

  • 4 cups peeled and roughly cubed sweet potatoes (2 lbs or so)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbl melted  butter
  • Your favorite pie crust (1)

Steam the sweet potato cubes in a steamer basket over lightly boiling water until tender, about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°.  Put the cooked potato, cream, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt and eggs into a large bowl and mix with an electric mixer on high, until the potatoes are smooth and creamy. (If the potatoes are really hot, temper the eggs first). Stir in the melted butter and pour into the unbaked pie crust.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, the center should be set but jiggle a little bit. I had to cover my crust during the last 20 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning, so be careful! Let cool fully and serve with whipped cream. 🙂

Enjoy!

Erin

Holiday Brunch: Savory Sausage Bake

Thanksgiving is over and it’s time to start thinking about the next round of holiday guests that will be invading visiting your home.

Every Christmas we have this amazingly flavorful, savory bread pudding style casserole. It is perfect because it feeds a crowd, is easy to put together and literally everyone will like it- cheesy, fluffy like a souffle and just down right delicious.

Crispy edges, nom nom nom

We unwrap presents on Christmas morning while this bakes in the background. Generally Santa brings us some chocolates in our stockings that we nosh on during the festivities, so we are just about crashing from a sugar high when this baby is ready to come outta the oven.

Bread pudding is notoriously forgiving, so you can really add whatever you like to the dish as long as you use the same base of eggs, milk and bread.  I’ve toyed with the idea of using old bay or Cajun seasoning instead of  the dry mustard– but I’m such a traditionalist I just can’t bring myself to do it!

I really recommend trying the recipe as outlined below before tinkering… you probably won’t even want to once you’ve had a bite. 😉

Sausage Bake

  • 8 slices of bread, crust removed and cubed
  • 1 1/2 lbs Bob Evans sausage links, cooked, drained and cut in thirds
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup milk (just before baking)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup

Grease a 9 x 13 pan. Put in bread cubes, cheese and sausage pieces- mix with your hands. In a separate bowl, beat the 2 1/2 cups milk, eggs, cream of mushroom soup and dry mustard. Pour over the bread and press it down gently with a spatula. Cover and let stand in the refrigerator for several hours of overnight.

Preheat oven to 300°. Before baking, remove from the fridge and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup milk over the bread.  Bake for 1 hour and 3o minutes (up to 2 hours), remove when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and casserole puffs up and is fluffy.*

Enjoy!

*Note: I have cooked this for 1 hour 15 minutes in a 325° oven and was successful, but it didn’t retain it’s fluffiness quite the same.

Skinny Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Chilly weather, falling leaves, a steaming bowl of comforting soup.

This is a soup you can feel good about. It is rich and full of flavor from homemade chicken stock, not from heavy cream or cheese that can weigh down so many other chicken and rice soups.

Pair with a hunk of country sourdough bread.

Heaven.

Don’t be intimidated by the idea of making your own chicken stock. It is easy, honestly. Just follow these simple instructions, and you will be so happy you did- the homemade stock is so much richer, darker and flavorful than store bought! Your soups will start tasting even more amazing. 🙂

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock (see below)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 chicken bullion cube (or 2 tsp granules)
  • 1 cup turnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 3/4 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked wild rice
  • 3 cups roasted chicken (see below)
  • optional: bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste

Combine the stock, turnips, carrots and celery in a large pot. Boil the water and dissolve the bullion cube in it, add to the pot. Simmer gently over low heat for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare rice- I used 1/2 cup dry wild rice and cooked it in water, salt and butter. During last 10 minutes, add in the chicken. Just before serving the soup, stir in the cooked wild rice.

Homemade Chicken Stock (yield 4 cups)

  • 1 large leek, washed
  • 3 large carrots
  • 3 large celery stalks
  • 8 cups water
  • Sprinkle of Herbes de Provence
  • One 5-6 lb roasting chicken (yield 3-4 cups)

To make stock, you need bones. I like to roast a chicken in the oven and use the roasted meat in the soup and the leftover bones to make stock. Prepare a 5 or 6 lb roaster chicken by rubbing with olive oil and seasoning with rosemary and thyme. Roast at 400° for 25 minutes, then reduce temp to 350° for another 30 minutes, total time depends on weight of the chicken. When finished, let cool to the touch, then thoroughly pull all roasted meat off the bones. Set aside for the soup.

Strip any excess skin or large hunks of fat from the carcass and place into a large stockpot, along with the carrots, leek and celery. Pour in 8 cups of water. The chicken and veggies should be mostly covered, add in some more water if they are not.  Set a lid askew onto the stockpot and turn the heat to medium-low. When the water begins to bubble, turn the heat down to low. Cook for 5 hours at this temperature; the bubbling should be very slight, like 1 or 2 bubbles per minute. It will look like it isn’t cooking at the super-slow bubble, but it is.

DO NOT BOIL OR SIMMER.  Doing this will ruin the stock by incorporating the fat, resulting in cloudy greasy broth. When finished, pour the stock through a cheesecloth into airtight containers and refrigerate overnight. The fat will rise to the top; skim off with a spoon or by gently laying a paper towel over the top surface.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Question of the Day: Do you have any tips on how to make good meat or vegetable stock?

Autumn Festivus: Cake and the Airing of Grievances

Last Thursday, my coworkers and I organized a little party in our cubeland, christened the Autumn Festivus. We took over an abandoned cube and turned it into a secret den of deliciousness.

I brought in some Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake. Yum. Dense and moist with a hint of pumpkin spice; it is perfect to serve to holiday guests.

Check out the food spread, someone even brought in a crock-pot for hot apple cider!!

This Festivus for the rest of us was awesome.  It was a serious party- err, as serious as one can get without alcohol.

In true Festivus style, we had an airing of grievances. There was also some talk of turning the nearby coat rack into the Festivus pole, but it fizzled out as we happily munched away on bagels and sipped hot coffee and cider.

I liked #5

I know Festivus is mostly associated with the month of December. But really, I think it can be generalized- it is a holiday for the Every Man.

For the uninitiated, a short history of Festivus:

I know you are all wondering what my grievance is. How can someone seeming so chipper have grievances? HA.  I have a lot of problems with you people!

You people who hate on pumpkin spice. I know there are some Scrooges out there that abhor pumpkin spice anything and are very vocal about it (you know who you are!!).

It has become so ‘in’ to hate on pumpkin spice that the pumpkin-hating crowd is now as lame and bandwagon-esque as the crowd who does like pumpkin spice.

I cook what I like, and I like pumpkin spice.  Judging by the number of people at my office who gobbled up this coffee cake, I’m in the right here.

Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake

  • 2 sticks butter or margarine
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • generous 1/2 cup pumpkin puree*

Topping

  • 2 tbl sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

Do not preheat oven! Spray a bundt pan or angel food cake tin with cooking spray. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and eggs.  Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and mix into the butter and eggs, alternating with the sour cream. Mix in the pumpkin and vanilla last.

Mix together all the ingredients for the topping. Coat the bottom on the baking pan with the mixture. Pour in half the batter. Sprinkle the rest of the topping onto the batter, then pour the second half of the batter on top. Set oven to 350° and bake the coffee cake for 50 minutes to an hour. Check with a toothpick for doneness if you are unsure.

Let cool. Invert the cake onto a serving plate once cooled.

*Note: This is an adaptation of an old family recipe, if you don’t like pumpkin, simply use 1 cup sour cream and skip the pumpkin puree.

Enjoy!

– Erin