Everyone loves receiving a homemade gift of the food variety. Even more so when it tastes good! Here’s a quick round up of some of my favorite items to make and give.
Panic. Panic is setting in as I look at the calendar and realize that Christmas is in two weeks and I haven’t even sent out cards yet. But I did make a batch of holiday flavored cookies and my house smelt amazing the whole time. That should be all we need during the season, houses filled with the smells of cinnamon and ginger. And rum. Cookies should have rum in them too.
And I did that for my first time participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.
But you’re a cocktail blog! I know! But sometimes there are food goodies on here and this was for charity and also: I love cookies.
Right from the beginning of this challenge I knew I wanted to make molasses cookies. They ship well and combined with Black Strap Rum they are filled with deep, dark, molasses-y goodness. So that’s what I sent. Of course there was a hiccup; the first batch accidentally got much more cardamom then they should have and ended up in the garbage. Seriously guys, a little cardamom goes a LONG way. The next batch however was perfect: nicely spiced, smelled divine, and they were edible. The 3 recipients also got a couple extra cookies thrown in because they ended up being smaller than first anticipated and I am nice like that.
Let’s get to the baking!
Yields about 60 1″ cookies
Recipe inspired by Williams Sonoma
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1-1/2 tbsp. Cruzan Black Strap Rum
1/2 cup Valrhona Cocoa Nibs
1/2 cup white or clear sugar crystals
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg. Then beat in molasses, vanilla and rum. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing until blended. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat an oven to 350° F.
- Cover 3 half sized sheet pans in parchment. Using a 100 size disher, scoop out cookie dough onto sheet pans. Once dough has been scooped, by hand round out scoops into balls, toss in a small bowl filled with the sugar crystals and flatten out the ball into discs about 1/4″ thick. Refrigerated for 20 minutes.
- Move the sheet pans directly from refrigerator into the pre-heated oven and bake for approximately 12 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool on sheets for about 10 minutes and then transfer cookies to a cooling rack.
- Once cool, cookies can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to one week.
When I realized there was nothing to snack on at the house I went in search for a quick and easy recipe I could throw together with not much effort but be satisfied with the end result. I remembered I’d seen on Shutterbean a pretty straightforward brownie recipe that would accomplish both goals. But I wanted to put my own spin on it. Also, I wanted something my husband would want to eat and that meant throwing some kind of fruit into it and getting the walnuts out (otherwise I’d be staring the pan down with no regrets). Lately he’d been on a cherry kick and as an afterthought, I figured I would stick a couple cherries on top. Then I spotted the bottle of Angostura bitters and I had an idea. My first batch had a 1/2 ounce, but I found I wanted the bitters to be stronger throughout the brownies. Then I threw in a whole ounce and it was magic.
(recipe adapted from Shutterbean.com)
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1-¼ cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 oz. Angostura bitters
1 cup luxardo cherries (syrup drained off as much as possible)
Mix flour, salt, cocoa powder & baking powder together in a bowl. Set aside.
Place butter and chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water; stir frequently, until almost melted. Remove from heat; stir until completely melted.
Whisk in sugar until smooth. Add bitters and stir to combine. Whisk in eggs. Fold in cherries. Gently whisk in flour mixture until smooth (do not overmix).
Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached (they should form a ball when rolled between your fingers), 50 – 55 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
Use parchment paper to lift from pan; peel off and discard. Cut into squares (this is much easier to do with these brownies if you stick them in the freezer after they have cooled slightly for about 20 minutes).
I found that adding the bitters and the cherries made the batter a bit thicker and took more time to bake thoroughly. I would start checking on them at about the 50 minute mark and test every 5 minutes after. The end result is a fudgy brownie that has some super spicy notes from the bitters, and with the cherries, are reminiscent of chocolate covered cherry cordials. I decided to split the chocolate between semisweet and bittersweet to cut a bit back on the richness and try to highlight more of the spice. They really make a great holiday brownie too (I’ve now made this enough times over the past two weeks that I have the recipe memorized and could make them in my sleep).