Hello hello hello! Welcome to life after Thanksgiving, I hope you have all finally gotten your appetites back because I am now in FULL ON Christmas mode!! Up first? Gingerbread. But not the hard, dry gingerbread cookies with rock solid royal icing that make me sad, this is the real deal, from one of my mom’s old cookbooks that has been a holiday staple in our house for as long as I can remember. The recipe produces nine plush squares of richly spiced cake, and it’s a perfect complement to any topping you could possible want. Whipped cream? Check. Caramel? Check. Chocolate Sauce? Check!
EVEN lemon sauce, which is how this cake was designed to be served. However, because I love ~options~, I created a second sauce as well. I look forward to the Starbucks Holiday coffees all year round, and when I thought about the gingerbread latte, it hit me! Coffee glaze, too! It also reminded me of a classic bundt cake that my grandma used to make, which featured one half citrus glaze and one half coffee. The best slice was always the one that had some of each glaze!
Before you get started, here are some Holiday themed happys for you!! ONE. The debate on what goes best with a piping mug of Hot Chocolate- marshmallows or whipped cream. TWO. Getting all your present shopping done early. THREE. Driving past a car with a Christmas tree strapped to the roof. FOUR. Houses that really commit to their outdoor light display. FIVE. Recovering from post-Thanksgiving meal depression when you realize you get to do it all over again in a MONTH!!
Okay now that’s that, let’s GO!
Makes:9 squares, with approx. 2 cups of glaze Prep Time: 15 minutes Bake Time: 25 minutes
Ingredients adapted from McCall’s Superb Dessert Book
1½ cups all purpose flour
1½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 cup molasses
½ cup melted butter
½ cup hot water
2 cups powdered sugar, separated
2-3 Tbsp lemon juice
2-3 Tbsp brewed (cooled) coffee
½ tsp vanilla
ONE. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease an 8×8″ square baking pan.
TWO. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour with baking soda, salt, and all the spices. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg with molasses, melted butter, and hot water until well combined.
THREE. Gradually beat in the flour mixture until smooth.
FOUR. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and gently tap for bubbles. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into nine squares.
FIVE. Divide the powdered sugar into two small bowls. Add the lemon juice to one bowl and coffee + vanilla to the other, starting a tablespoon at a time until you have reached the desirable pouring consistency. Serve each slice warm with a generous drizzle of one glaze or BOTH get crazy!!
HERE WE ARE!! Welcome to Sweet D’s 50th recipe post! I simply can’t believe how quickly time flies, can you? It seems like 5 minutes ago that I was just starting out, wondering if I was going to give up after 2 weeks. I find myself getting bored so easily that a small part of me was worried I would be over it pretty soon, but heck no! 50 recipes later and I’m having just as much fun as when I started, more so even, now that I’ve found a rhythm. I have grown as a cook and a baker, challenged myself, and learned so much.
It seems perfect that this milestone comes the week of Thanksgiving, when I’m reminded of everything that I’m thankful for in this life. I know it’s so cheesy to say, but I’m going to anyway. I am so lucky to have the support of my family and my friends, all of whom push me to do my very best, and who are always there to taste test. I am also thankful for this love of food, and for those bloggers and professionals who have continued to inspire me. And last but not least, I am thankful for each and every person that reads Sweet D, because without you I would just be talking nonsense into the internet void, which would still be fun for sure, but not nearly as fulfilling.
It’s only fitting that I celebrate this little life victory with a cake, because is it really a celebration if you don’t eat one? Today’s cake is equal parts lazy and extra, much like myself. It’s lazy in that I baked a chocolate sheet cake and didn’t want to even remove it from the dish- no sides to frost, no trimming, no stacking! But its extra-ness comes from this glorious frosting. I came across this recipe for German Buttercream on Serious Eats, and I had never heard of it before!! I’ve heard of American, Swiss, and Italian buttercreams, but German? I just had to know.
Upon digging deeper, I learned that to make this style of buttercream, you essentially have to make pudding first, chill it, and then whip it with butter and voila! What’s cool is that you can infuse the milk with other flavors before you make the pudding, which got me thinking…what if the milk wasn’t just regular milk, but strawberry milk?? That beautiful, millennial pink stuff in the Nesquik bottles, reminiscent of childhood, its flavor a perfect compliment to chocolate cake. And so, an idea was hatched, and here we are. And, because I had to take it just another level higher, I conquered another fear and that fear is buttercream flowers. I’ll tell you that practice makes perfect for these, but some reference videos and a good set of piping tips surely helps as well. This frosting has 5 sticks of butter in it (trust me, it’s not a typo), so if you find the buttercream starting to get too warm as you pipe, throw it in the fridge for 15 minutes and then go from there!
Here is the video I found helpful from Wilton, just keep going, you can always scrape the flowers off and start again!! It turns out to be very calming; I put on some TV, got comfy, and piped away!
And because it wouldn’t be a Sweet D post without some happys, here are 5 things to be happy about today: ONE. The first snow of the year. TWO. Christmas Tree Farms THREE. Thanksgiving naps after too much turkey. FOUR. Watching the parade from under a cozy blanket with a nice cup of tea. FIVE. Early rising and productive mornings.
2 cups white sugar
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pan
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
½ cup flavorless oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup boiling water
½ cup very hot brewed coffee
Chocolate Sheet Cake Steps
ONE. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9×13″ baking dish and dust with cocoa powder.
TWO. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder + soda, and salt. Once combined, add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat this mixture on medium speed for 2 minutes. Lastly, add the boiling water and hot coffee, mixing slowly to combine without splashing (the batter will be very thin). Transfer to your baking dish.
THREE. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick/ cake tester comes out clean. For this recipe, I’m leaving the cake in the dish for serving, but if you’d like to remove it, allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes before flipping. Otherwise, allow to cool completely in the baking dish before frosting.
Strawberry Milk Buttercream Ingredients
1½ cups strawberry milk (or plain milk with strawberry powder/ syrup)
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla bean)
¾ cup white sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 eggs, cold
1 tbsp vanilla extract
5 sticks (I KNOW, trust me) unsalted butter, at room temp.
Strawberry Milk Buttercream Steps
ONE. Combine the strawberry milk and vanilla bean paste in a heavy bottom saucepan and heat on medium until steaming. Set aside to infuse the vanilla bean flavor for at least 1 hour.
TWO. To make the custard, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Once combined with no cornstarch lumps, whisk in the eggs.
THREE. Return the milk to a simmer. Ladle a rough ½ cup of the heated milk mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs without cooking them. Repeat with 2 more ladles, then transfer the tempered egg mixture to the pot with the milk.
FOUR. Cook on medium heat, whisking constantly, until the custard becomes thick and lumpy, it should be about 3 minutes. As soon as you see the first bubble in the custard (indicating boiling), set a timer for 2 minutes and continue to whisk constantly. Cooking the custard for these 2 minutes at a steady boil temperature neutralizes a starch-dissolving protein in the egg yolks and ensures a better frosting consistency.
FIVE. After 2 minutes and off heat, stir in vanilla extract, then pour the custard into a large baking dish to speed up the cooling process. Press a sheet of plastic wrap against the surface and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour. *Tip: take out your butter to soften now, so that when the hour is up your butter is also ready!
SIX. In the bowl of your mixer, beat the softened butter on medium speed until it’s light and fluffy, it should take about five minutes. Meanwhile, begin to “knead” your cooled custard with a rubber spatula. It will be a very thick consistency, and before adding it to the butter it needs to be mixed into a dough-like state. Once it’s properly mixed, add it to the whipped butter a tablespoon at a time, one right after the other, scrape down the bowl, and mix for a few more seconds to fully combine.
SEVEN. At this point, switch to a whisk attachment and whip on medium speed until the buttercream is airy and light.*
*Troubleshooting tips: if a buttercream is going to go wrong, it’s either because the mixture is too warm or the mixture is too cold. The good news is that neither of these are unfix-able so there’s no need to start over! Find your solutions below:
Problem: If your buttercream is too cold, it won’t whip up properly, it looks heavy and thick, not light and airy. Solution: Place the entire bowl in a warm water bath until the sides of the bowl are slick with melting buttercream, then pop back in the mixer and whip as normal.
Problem: The butter was too warm and now the buttercream is soupy and/ or runny. Solution: Pop the whole bowl in the fridge and chill for 15 to 20 minutes to firm everything up slightly, then try try again!
Okay everyone, full disclosure, I made these apple fritters WEEKS ago, and for some reason never got around to writing this down. My bad. Never fear however because it’s always the right time for apple fritters, specifically these ones. I’ll be honest, I’m only recently allowed to fry things in my house, apparently it was thought that I would somehow manage to burn the house down (love you mom!), but I fought for it and here we are, house still standing, fritters warming. This recipe is adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, and what interested me about these originally is that they’re fried in a cast iron skillet. I’ve shied away from other frying projects mainly when they include a huge dutch oven’s worth of oil, it feels wasteful and a little gross if I’m honest. But these beauties fry in only a half an inch of oil, meaning fewer burns for me and less ruined oil, without compromising the flavor and crunch of the fritters themselves.
I haven’t made many adjustments on the original recipe, however I had such a surplus of Honeycrisp apples and I was so in love with their flavor (I still can’t get over how they ACTUALLY taste like honey), and thought that the flavor would fry up nicely. As a result, I cut back some of the sugar, since the original uses Granny Smith apples which are much more tart. Still delicious though, and definitely something I’ll try next time. Also, I’m not the biggest fan of nutmeg, I find the flavor to be overpowering and I think a little goes a long way, so I cut that amount in half, but if nutmeg is your thing, feel free to use a full ½ tsp.
Okay, logistics out of the way, let’s talk about what is approaching. Next week, I’ll somehow be reaching my 50th Sweet D recipe post and I can hardly believe it. How fitting that it comes the week of Thanksgiving, my second favorite holiday! I certainly am thankful for this blog, thankful for anyone who has read since the beginning, for those who have provided me with the inspiration, and for FOOD because without a love of food none of us would be here would we. Anyway, I love everyone and everything and here’s to 50 more Sweet D posts times a hundred.
As is tradition, here are 5 things to be happy about today! ONE. The Radio City Rockettes. TWO. Ugly Christmas sweater parties. THREE. Maple-flavored coffee drinks. FOUR. Coming home to a package you weren’t expecting. FIVE. Having exact change.
2 Honeycrisp Apples, peeled, cored, and cubed
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1½ tsp cinnamon, divided
¼ tsp nutmeg + a pinch (for glaze)
1 cup apple cider
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 cups vegetable or peanut oil, for frying
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
ONE. Place your oven rack to its middle position and preheat your oven to 200ºF. As you finish frying the fritters, you’ll be transferring them to a cooling rack-lined sheet pan in the oven to drain excess oil and keep them warm. Spread your diced apples out in one layer on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and thoroughly pat them dry.
TWO. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg. In another bowl, mix ¾ cup of the apple cider (the remaining ¼ cup is for glaze), eggs, and melted butter until smooth. At this point, add the apples to the flour and toss until all apples are coated in flour. Pour the apple cider mixture into the flour and apple mixture and mix until all is incorporated.
THREE. Place a wire cooling rack in a rimmed baking sheet and line with paper towels. In a cast iron skillet or other pan suitable for frying, add the oil until it’s about ½ inch deep in the pan, and heat on medium until it reaches 325ºF. It’s pretty crucial to use some kind of candy thermometer here, as the oil temperature fluctuates as you fry and you’ll need to keep track to adjust as necessary.
FOUR. Using a 1/3 measuring cup, scoop and drop the batter in rounds into the oil, frying around 4 at a time depending on how large your skillet is. Flatten slightly with your spatula or a spoon and fry for 6 to 8 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remember, you can always cook for longer but can never take back cooking time, so start with three minutes on each side and then add more time if needed. Transfer finished fritters to the paper-towel lined sheet in the oven and repeat batches until all the batter is used.
FIVE. In a separate bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, remaining ¼ cup of cider, remaining ½ tsp of cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg until smooth. Drizzle about a tablespoon of the glaze over each fritter, and allow to set for 5 minutes (if you can bear it) before eating.
Wow this is a mouthful. Both phonetically and literally, huh? This week’s recipe is brought to you accidentally by Ina Garten again. I promise this isn’t a Barefoot Contessa-only blog all of a sudden, I’ve just been in such a mood and this bread pudding looked like exactly what I needed and I couldn’t get the thought out of my head once it was in there. Classic D.
This is the simplest of bread pudding recipes, altered slightly from Ina’s brioche to use challah from a local bakery, and because I like to give myself more work whenever possible, a side of Creme Anglaise to go with it. That sounds much fancier than it actually is, to be honest it’s really just vanilla custard, but for some reason it takes this dish to the absolute next level. I really don’t think you can ever have too much vanilla, and it makes me sad when people say it’s a boring flavor. Vanilla is my favorite, there, I said it!! Vanilla ice cream? I’ll take that any day. Vanilla tootsie rolls were clearly the best ones, vanilla cake is classic for a REASON people! Anyway, now that we’re all hungry, let’s get down to business. This recipe is really easy, although waiting an hour and a half to eat it will be the most difficult thing you do all day. While you’re waiting, might I suggest doing a face mask or some other form of self-care, watch an episode of your favorite show, and then make some Creme Anglaise (but not too early, otherwise you’ll want to drink all of it before the pudding is done).
Another fun thing to do while you wait is think of some things to be happy about, and speaking of which, here are your first five. I apologize in advance, I am my fullest form in the Christmas season and it begins NOW: ONE. The first Christmas song of the season. TWO. Drinking iced coffee long after it gets too cold to be acceptable. THREE. Peppermint hot chocolate. FOUR. Staying in for a movie night. FIVE. Half-priced Halloween candy on November 1st
Serves: 8 to 10 people Prep Time: 20 minutes Bake Time:1 hour 30 minutes
Bread Pudding Ingredients adapted from Cooking Like A Pro
1 Challah loaf plus another half loaf
3 whole eggs
8 egg yolks
4 cups half-and-half
1 cup whole milk
1¼ cups white sugar
2 tsp bourbon
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp vanilla bean paste/ seeds from 1 vanilla bean
Confectioners’ sugar; for serving
Crème Anglaise; for serving (recipe below)
ONE. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cut the half loaf of challah into roughly five slices ¾” thick and lay them on a sheet pan. Trim the crust off the full loaf and dice into roughly 1-inch cubes. Spread the cubes on a second sheet pan and toast both pans in the oven for 5 minutes.
TWO. To make the custard, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, half-and-half, milk, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean paste/ seeds in a large bowl. Set aside.
THREE. Line a 10 x 12 inch baking dish with the toasted slices of challah, trimming as necessary so that they fit neatly and cover the bottom of the dish entirely. Evenly distribute the cubed bread pieces on top. Pour the custard over the whole thing and gently press down so that the mixture is absorbed. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
FOUR. Place the baking dish in a roasting pan large enough that the dish fits flat, and add an inch of boiling water to the roasting pan (avoid getting water in the pudding). Cover the whole thing with tin foil, poking a few holes here and there to allow steam to escape. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Remove the tin foil and bake for an additional 45 minutes, until the custard is set.
FIVE. Serve warm, with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar and a generous drizzle of Crème Anglaise.
Crème Anglaise Ingredients
1 cup milk
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp bourbon (optional)
2 tsp vanilla bean paste/ seeds from 1 vanilla bean
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup white sugar
Crème Anglaise Steps
ONE. Add the milk, cream, bourbon, and vanilla bean to a saucepan and heat on medium until small bubbles appear around the edges and steam begins to rise. Separately, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and combined.
TWO. While whisking continuously, slowly drizzle the hot milk mixture into the eggs, a little at a time so as not to scramble the eggs, until all is incorporated. Then, transfer this mixture back to the saucepan.
FOUR. Cook this mixture on low heat. whisking constantly, until it becomes slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Strain the thickened mixture through a sieve and then allow to cool before serving.