Holiday Baking Round-up

It’s December and my holiday baking is in full swing.  This week, I baked fig and orange sweet buns and made 8 dozen soon-to-be-on-the-blog hazelnut-orange cookies for the neighborhood cookie exchange (yes, orange plays a starring role in my holiday baking, as you will see below). I also picked up paper baking molds to try my hand at Panettone this weekend.  In addition to all of this baking, there’s some annual holiday treats that I would be remiss not to bake again this year…it’s tradition, after all.

A basket of Gibassier

Gibassier
Gibassier are a Christmas morning tradition in my house.  My sister and I originally discovered them during our Christmas escape to Portland in 2013.  Best consumed with a steaming coffee drink, these yeasty fists of dough are subtly flavored with olive oil and orange blossom water and studded with candied orange peel and aniseed.  Once they emerge hot from the oven, they are given a bath of clarified butter and coated with sugar, giving them a sandy crust worth licking from one’s fingers.  If I could pop one of these in my mouth every day along with my morning cuppa, life would be grand, but for the sake of my waistline, I limit baking them to once a year.

4 loaves of Stollen

Marzipan Stollen
In 2016, my sister, S, was inconsolable upon hearing I was forgoing the annual holiday Gibassier to try my hand at Christmas marzipan stollen. If this fruit-studded yeast bread didn’t pass muster, I’d receive coal in my stocking for sure.  Fortunate for me, it was a holiday triumph, the downside being that sis now expects Gibassier AND Stollen each Christmas morning.

A Plate of British Eccles Cakes

Eccles Cakes
An Eccles cake is a small, heavily spiced pastry filled with currants and candied orange peel wrapped in a flaky (rough puff) pastry.  The Eccles cake may have been created about 20 years before Dickens was even born, yet these are just the type of sweetmeat I imagine gracing Mr. Fezziwig’s overladen Christmas Eve party table. So, if you aren’t tired of candied orange peel after the Gibassier and Stollen, these may just be the ideal holiday treat for you.

Macadiamia Nut Pie

Coffee Caramel Macadamia Pie
If you aren’t planning to make figgy pudding to finish off your holiday meal, I’d like to suggest a slice of this oh-so-sinful tart as an alternative.  This pie is inspired by Hawaiian coffee-glazed macadamia nuts – a little salty, a bit sweet, with a dash of coffee to compliment the buttery richness of the nuts…all encased in a flaky pastry crust. A small slice is the ideal ending to a big holiday meal. And, no orange!

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Refreshing Pink Grapefruit Tart

Pink grapefruit transforms a citrus standard into a flavor combination that’s surprising, yet familiar. Set this recipe aside for Easter or Mother’s Day.

A pink grapefruit tart with whipped cream and shaved white chocolate

If you want your tart a little more “pink” try adding a dash of red food coloring.  I kept mine au naturale.

What does one make for a football and dessert party? Considering the season, my schemings first turn to creamy pumpkin, crisp apple, or juicy pear – the fruits of the season. And spices…oh, there should be spices! Cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger. Ah, gingerbread. Gingerbread…and pear. Gingerbread Pear Upside Down Cake, warm and comforting; a celebration of Autumn. YES!

How I got from those thoughts to a refreshingly light pink-grapefruit tart, I haven’t a clue. Oh, but I’m so glad I did!


Refreshing Pink Grapefruit Tart

  • Servings: One 9” Tart
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Pink grapefruit transforms a citrus standard into a flavor combination that’s surprising, yet familiar. A press-in crust keeps the fuss-factor down.


Ingredients

  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 9 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • ⅔ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pink grapefruit zest
  • ⅔ cup pink grapefruit juice
  • Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and melted butter. Pat dough on the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart pan. Bake about 20 minutes until beginning to brown. Remove from oven and cool 30 minutes.
  2. Beat together eggs, whipping cream, sugar, salt, grapefruit zest and grapefruit juice. Pour into tart shell and bake about 30 minutes or until filling jiggles only slightly in center.
  3. Let cool on rack for 30 minutes, transfer to refrigerator and cool completely. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Pumpkin Spice Couronne

Pumpkin Spice Couronne – a French sweet dough ring filled with pumpkin, warming spices and toasted pecans – just in time for autumn.

A ring of pumpkin spice couronne glazed with icing

“I have Pumpkin Kringle at my desk,” she confided conspiratorially. All I could envision was an obscene mishmash of holidays that somehow culminated with a roundly obese Santa Claus in a pumpkin costume shacked underneath her desk. “Who exactly,” I wondered, “is Pumpkin Kringle?”

“You know what pumpkin kringle is, don’t you?” she inquired when I responded with a blank stare. (Ah, thank goodness, she said “what” rather than “who.” Pumpkin kringle, whatever it was, wasn’t a person at all!)

A kringle, I discovered that day, is a ring of Danish pastry dough filled with nuts or fruit, in this case pumpkin, which is baked and then iced. Racine, Wisconsin is the mecca of kringles and, hers, thanks to Trader Joe’s, was an ideal specimen of Racine’s baking prowess.

Now please don’t be confused, the recipe below is decidedly NOT a kringle. The recipe below is a Couronne, a French filled sweet bread. I only mention the kringle because it was the impetus for my foray into couronne baking this weekend. After I nibbled a bit of the kringle…okay, full confession, after I devoured two thick slices, I started dreaming about enriched yeast doughs, I started dreaming about breakfast sweet breads, I started dreaming about Paul Hollywood’s apricot couronne (which I’ve been meaning to make!), I started dreaming about pumpkin spice season (now!) and well…this just happened.

There’s really nothing more lovely than hand-kneading a supple enriched yeast dough.  I love the texture of it under the heel of my hand, which is a good thing since my Kitchen Aid Pro Mixer died last week.


Pumpkin Spice Couronne

  • Servings: One Couronne
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A rich French sweet bread filled with pumpkin, spices and toasted pecans.


Ingredients

    Dough
  • 2 cups strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons fast-rising yeast
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon full-fat milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Filling
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup lightly-packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 Tablespoon white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground clove
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • Zest from ½ of an orange
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup toasted chopped pecans, plus more for topping
  • Glaze
  • ⅓ cup apricot jam
  • ½ cup powdered sugar

Directions


1. Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the salt to one side and the yeast on the other (salt can slow yeasts reaction so keep them separate in the beginning). Add the butter, milk and egg and stir to combine.
2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 6-7 minutes until the dough is smooth and supple. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rise until at least doubled in size (1-2 hours).
3. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a medium saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar and heat over medium heat until melted. Add puree, flour, cinnamon, ginger nutmeg, clove and salt and stir over medium heat until mixture is thick and sticks to the spoon. Remove from heat; add orange zest, vanilla and pecans. Set aside.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently roll the dough into a rectangle, 13” x 10”. Spread the pumpkin filling evenly over the dough to the edges. From the long end, roll up the dough tightly, jelly-roll style. Roll it back and forth lightly to seal the edge.
5. Cut the dough in half lengthwise, leaving it joined just at one end – like a pair of legs. Twist the two dough lengths together, somewhat tightly and then join the ends together to form a circle. Transfer to a baking tray and cover with plastic wrap or a plastic baking bag.
6. Let proof for at least an hour or until the dough has doubled in size. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes (internal temperature 185). Place on a wire rack to cool.
7. Heat apricot jam in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute, sieve and brush over the couronne to glaze. Mix the powdered sugar with enough water to make an icing. Drizzle over the couronne and sprinkle with remaining pecans.

Pecan Pumpkin Tart

The best of holiday flavors combined into one impressive dessert:  Pecan Pumpkin Tart with Ginger Crust.

Pecan Pumpkin Tart fresh from the oven

Oh, September…that month where food bloggers in all 50 states are posting pumpkin spice recipes…muffins, lattes, pies, soups – you name it, someone out there has “pumpkin spice-ified” it for Fall.

Just throw me onto the pile with the rest…


Pecan Pumpkin Tart with Ginger Crust

  • Servings: One 9” Tart
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Pecans, Pumpkin and Ginger...the best of holiday flavors combined into one impressive tart.


Ingredients

    Crust
  • 2 ½ cups finely crushed ginger cookies ( about 55-60 Anna’s Swedish Ginger Thins, for example)
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Pumpkin Layer
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • ¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pecan Layer
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup corn syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon ¾ cup pecan pieces

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. To make crust, combine ginger cookie crumbs with butter in a bowl and press along the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart shell. Wrap bottom in aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. To make pumpkin layer, beat together all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  3. To make pecan layer, beat together all ingredients except pecans in a bowl until sugar is incorporated. Stir in pecans.
  4. To make tart, spread pumpkin layer evenly over crust. Spoon pecan layer over pumpkin. Bake for about 45 minutes  or until center no longer jiggles and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool tart completely. Once cool, transfer to refrigerator until ready to serve.

Flatlay shot of Pecan Pumpkin Tart

Favorite Banana Bread

Years ago, I stopped searching for a better banana bread.  This recipe ticks all the boxes: easy, packed with bananas, and exceptionally moist.

Sliced Banana Bread with melting butter

It’s no secret I’m an Anglophile, especially in my choice of TV programmes (I couldn’t resist). My current favorite, to no one’s surprise, is the Great British Baking Show. Saturday mornings, before getting my own bake on, I treat myself to an hour of Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, a tent-full of amateur bakers and those classic only-in-Britain colloquialisms, such as “scrummy” and “oh my giddy aunt,” that I’m dying to introduce into the common American lexicon.

Before bed, when I’m brain-dead and in need of mindless comfort, nothing beats Escape to the Country; Brits house-hunting for their perfect “chocolate box” countryside cottage. I’ve picked up a few British idioms during my viewing of this show as well – like the aforementioned “chocolate box” as well as “homely.” “Homely” to the Brits doesn’t mean the same as “homely” in the states. It’s their term for homey, comforting, cozy. “The snug with wood-burner is quite homely.”

Combining the two shows leads me to this recipe, which can only be described as “homely baking” – I can almost imagine pulling freshly- baked tins of quick bread from my “range cooker” in my exposed-beamed Yorkshire kitchen, thatching optional.

Years ago, I stopped searching for a better banana bread. This recipe from Saveur ticks all the boxes – easy, packed with bananas, and exceptionally moist.


Favorite Banana Bread

  • Servings: One 9” x 5” loaf pan
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This moist banana bread is quick to make, packed with flavor and my go-to recipe when overripe bananas are on hand.


Ingredients

  • Butter for greasing pan
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup flour, plus more for pan
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • ⅔ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9” x 5” loaf pan with butter and dust with flour; set aside. In a small bowl, combine milk and white vinegar and set aside
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, curdled milk, vanilla, egg and egg yolk. Pour wet ingredients over dry and whisk until just combined. Fold in nuts and mashed bananas.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the loaf comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.