Gingerbread Waffles

Chances are good that you have some extra molasses sitting around from holiday baking. Molasses keeps for a while but… why let it crowd your shelf? Why not make gingerbread waffles instead?

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I’m a big believer in gingerbread, and think its flavors work everywhere from breakfast to dessert. In this recipe, molasses is the star. You add a good number of spices, but the final waffle really gives off a rich, molasses taste. It’s intense, and satisfying, and delicious.

You’ll need to play around with your waffle iron a bit to figure out the right combo of settings and timing. My iron has 6 heat settings, and I turned it to 3.5 for these beauties. I also discovered that the waffles crisp up as they sit, so don’t worry if your waffles don’t look fully cooked when you take them out.

Gingerbread Waffles

Original recipe: Smitten Kitchen. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary.

Yield: We got 5 waffles out of this. Use my pictures for reference, since every waffle iron is different and the iron affects yield.

Total Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: Depends on your waffle iron and your yield! I spent about 15 minutes cooking these up

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt or table salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (Or use dry buttermilk, like I did. If you use dry buttermilk, make sure to follow the measurement directions on your specific package)
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted, plus extra for brushing waffle iron

Directions

  1. Use a large bowl to whisk your flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. If you’re using dry buttermilk, this is when you’ll add your powder, too.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk your buttermilk, molasses, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg and butter. Whisk until it looks fully combined. Your butter might firm up a bit and make white splotches in the batter–don’t worry about it!
  3. Pour your wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined. Make sure to check the bottom of your bowl before declaring yourself done: dry ingredients like to hide down there
  4. Heat your waffle iron to a middle eat. For me, that meant heating level 3.5 out of 6
  5. Spray your iron lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Don’t skip this step, or you won’t be able to get your waffles out later
  6. Fill your iron about 3/4 of the way full
  7. Cook according to your iron. My iron beeps when it thinks the waffles are done, and it’s usually pretty spot-on. The waffles crisped up a bit more once I took them out
  8. Open your iron, and let the waffles sit for about 30 seconds so they steam off a bit. Use tongs or a spatula to get the waffle out of the iron. They might stick a bit, so be patient and move slowly
  9. Use a separate plate for each waffle so they don’t stick together

You can dust these lightly with powdered sugar, or dunk them in maple syrup. They really don’t need any topping at all: they’re so delightfully rich and flavorful on their own!

The 2016 Baking Roundup

2017 is fresh out the gates! But before we kick off a new year of Sugarsmith, let’s take a look at what happened in 2016. Every year I write an “annual report” to sum up key facts and stats. I started doing the same thing for Sugarsmith last year–except here, it’s all about baking. Since I keep a super detailed log of everything I bake, it’s pretty simple to pull the numbers.

In 2016, I baked 68 times, including 60 new recipes. When I looked back at my 2015 report, I was sort of shocked that I only baked 39 times in 2015. That’s a 74% increase year-over-year! I wondered when all this baking happened, so I took a closer look at the dates in my baking log. Sometimes I bake in spurts: for example, I made 7 recipes for my birthday. But usually, I make one recipe at a time. How did that add up to 68?

Well, up until August I made 33 recipes. From August-December, I made an additional 35. That means I seriously picked up the pace in those final 4 months. And it makes total sense: I switched jobs in August and stopped traveling for work. Of course! If I’m home more, I bake more.

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My baking always skews to cookies and bars, because they’re easiest to transport and easiest to share. Every year I declare I’m going to make more breakfast and more cakes–but then it just doesn’t happen. Let’s hope for a step-change this year, at least.

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I was surprised that my cakes trended toward non-chocolate flavors. But then I remembered those amazing strawberry cupcakes, and the stellar buttermilk cupcakes I still haven’t shared with you (sorry!). I’ll never say no to chocolate in a cake… but I definitely don’t need it, either.

Top Posts on Sugarsmith for 2016 

My Personal 2016 Favorites

2016 Fun Facts 

  • Baking-related events I hosted: 3
  • Times my log mentions bringing baked goods to a social event I was NOT hosting: 17
  • Bags of chocolate chips currently in my cupboard: 10 (whoops)
  • Recipes made where I stuffed one thing into another thing: 10 
  • Baking fails recorded in my log: 6 (that’s 9% of the recipes I made!)
  • Favorite bloggers I got to interview: 1 (Molly Yeh, and it was awesome)

2017 Baking Resolutions 

  • Master my newly acquired springform pan (thanks, Jen!)
  • Play with matcha as an ingredient
  • Stop pantry loading specialty ingredients before I really need them (Only because I lack an actual pantry. If you have one, I strongly encourage pantry loading.)

Thanks for a wonderful year, dear readers! 

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Fudgy Chocolate Ricotta Muffins

Every January 1st, I make sure to have a special breakfast. It’s a relic of childhood tradition–and a delicious tradition, at that. Growing up, we went to the Rose Parade every single New Year’s Day. We’d get up at the crack of dawn and drive to Pasadena to make sure we got a great spot on the route. The parade is a fabulous spectacle of floats and entertainment. The floats are an incredible sight: often quite complex, and completely decorated with seeds, nuts, fruits and plants.

Our tradition didn’t stop at the parade. Naturally, there were traditional foods, too. Every December 31st my mom would bake up a storm so we’d have plenty of treats to enjoy the next day. The annual menu included zucchini bread, applesauce bread and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. We’d start nibbling on the goods as soon as we sat down at the parade route, and it definitely helped time fly by as we waited for the parade to start. Beautiful floats, great bands and cookies. What’s not to like?!

 

I haven’t been to the Rose Parade in years, but I still think January 1st deserves a special breakfast. This year, it’s going to be these delicious, fudgy chocolate muffins. They’re img_2245-2simple and don’t require any special equipment… so you could probably make them even if you’re in a, well, less than perfect state come the morning of January 1st. Or, make them the day before! These keep pretty well thanks to the moisture ricotta brings to the batter.

These muffins definitely don’t fall into the genre of “muffins pretending to be healthy” (though they do use whole wheat flour). They taste a lot like cake, and look a lot like cake too. They’re dense, fudgy and moist. You add ricotta right into the batter, along with a heap of cocoa. And a streusel topping adds a crumbly bit of sugar and cinnamon to every bite.

If you can’t get to these for January 1st, fear not. They’re a great “just because” breakfast whenever you have the craving for something a little special to start your day.

Fudgy Chocolate Ricotta Muffins

Original recipe: Vegetarian Adventures. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~24 muffins. The original recipe says it yields 16 but I got way more muffins out of this! 

Total Time: ~45 minutes 

Cook Time: 17-20 min

Ingredients

Batter 

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup whole ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Streusel topping 

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter

Directions

Get ready

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Line a couple muffin tins

Make your batter 

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder
  2. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. That means you want to create a little crater in the middle, so you can pour other ingredients in there–see pic below
  3. Fill your well with the melted butter, ricotta, eggs, milk and vanilla
  4. Whisk the wet ingredients within the well, until they’re mixed together
  5. Then, slowly start whisking your wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Definitely pay heed to the “slow” direction here so cocoa doesn’t land all over your counter! Whisk just until the ingredients are mixed–overmixing leads to tough muffins (which sounds like a great rock band name, but you don’t want actual tough muffins)

Make your streusel 

  1. Whisk together the brown sugar, cocoa powder and salt
  2. Using your hands, work the butter into the dry ingredients until a wet crumb has formed. The mixture should be wet and crumbly when you’re done mixing

Bake your muffins 

  1. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full with batter
  2. Sprinkle topping onto each muffin. I didn’t use all of my streusel but you definitely could if you put more streusel per muffin than I did
  3. Bake your muffins for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of a muffin. Mine took 17 minutes
  4. Transfer the muffins to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before you eat them. I liked these a lot better cooled vs. hot because the texture and taste settled a bit

 

Gingerbread Brownies

Looking for something a little different for your holiday dessert tray? Have I got the treat for you!

These Gingerbread Brownies combine the best parts of their namesake baked goods. You get the molasses depth of gingerbread, and the richness of chocolate. This is basically a brownie recipe, with molasses and brown sugar in there to create a new take on gingerbread. It’s a simple recipe, too: you just use a single saucepan to create these beauties.

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Remember how I waxed poetic about the spicy dough in last week’s gingersnap recipe? This recipe is pretty much the opposite take on gingerbread: molasses is now the star. The molasses flavor is pretty intense, so be warned if you don’t actually like how molasses tastes! You can use light brown sugar instead of dark to tone it down a bit, if you want… but I didn’t. Mine turned out super chewy and dense with an amazing chocolate start, and a deep, molasses finish.

I made these the night before a holiday event, and they kept just fine in an airtight container. The flavor got more intense over time. I didn’t mind that, but you might want to make these the same day you plan to serve them (or freeze them ’til you’re ready to enjoy!). While these aren’t cookies, you could probably get away with bringing them to a cookie exchange with some sort of logic about how gingerbread often IS a cookie. I don’t think people will reject your logic once they take a bite!

Gingerbread Brownies

Original recipe:  I heart eating. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: 16-25 depending on how you cut your brownies

Total Time: ~55 minutes

Cook Time: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed (dark brown for more intensity, light brown if you want to dial down the flavor a bit) 
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Use a large saucepan to melt your butter and chocolate together. Use low heat for this, and stir the mixture frequently so it’s properly mixed
  3. Once it’s fully melted together, remove the saucepan from the heat
  4. Add in your molasses, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Try to use a whisk, but be careful not to scratch your pan! I used a rubber whisk to play it safe and you’d probably be fine with a wooden spoon, too
  5. Whisk in your eggs until fully combined
  6. Add your flour, salt, cinnamon and ginger, then whisk again until the dry ingredients are just incorporated
  7. Grab a 9-inch square pan and grease it so your brownies don’t stick
  8. Pour your batter into the pan
  9. Bake for 30-35 minutes, depending on your oven
  10. Let cool fully in the pan
  11. Dust with powdered sugar right before you serve the brownies. If you do it too early, the sugar will dissolve and you won’t even see it!*

*I literally carried around a bag of powdered sugar all day so I’d have it to dust my brownies right before putting them out at an afternoon party. The things I do for baked goods…

 

Cookie Swap Tips and Tricks

Cookie swaps are one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. What’s better than seeing friends and eating cookies at the same time? I’ve hosted a few cookie exchanges over the years, and hope the tradition continues. But this isn’t Martha Stewart’s cookie swap: my take on this classic event is light on rules, and heavy on flexibility.

I host a few potluck-like events every year and my approach is pretty much always the same. I want to make it as easy as possible for people to come, enjoy themselves and want to come again. I’d rather someone show up to my party than worry about bringing the right dish for a theme, or following the right rules for cookies. So, I keep it simple.

Here are my tips for a fun holiday exchange with less stress… but lots of dessert.

It’s about nibbling, not gifting: Martha tells you to bring a dozen cookies per swap attendee so they can take home lots of cookies, and maybe even re-gift them later. That’s a lot of batches! Instead, I tell people to simply bring 1 batch of whatever they decide to bake, regardless of the yield. Trust me: there are always enough cookies to go around. And there are always extra cookies, too, which usually end up at my office the following Monday (you’re so welcome, team!).

old-cookie-swapMake it easy to contribute: I make sure to clarify that any kind of treat will do: homemade, semi-homemade or even purchased. No snobbery allowed! For some people, this is the only time they bake all year and they get really excited. Other people think baking sounds terrible, or they just don’t have the time– and I want them to come, too.

Label your goods: I put out paper so people can label their cookies. I don’t write out the full ingredient list, but of course you could. I do write if something is allergen-free, though, so those people know what’s safe to eat. This year we had a couple people who don’t eat dairy so I made these rosemary chocolate chip cookies with dairy-free chocolate, and labeled the batch “dairy free.”

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Tons of cookies… and meat

Ask some people to NOT bring cookies: My first year hosting a swap, I only bought one party-sized bag of Chex Mix to accompany all the cookies. Rookie mistake! You need to have some savory snacks on hand to balance all the sweetness. This year we specifically asked people to sign up for savory things to make sure we had a good mix–and people brought everything from jicama to hummus.

Help people get their cookies home: I’ve been providing baggies so people can take cookies home, but I do think Martha is right here, and boxes are better. Next year I’ll get boxes so the cookies aren’t smushed in transit.

Eat lots of cookies: This is obviously the most important rule! You don’t have to eat a full cookie of every single type. We usually end up cutting cookies into pieces and sharing them so we can try more varieties.

And one extra tip if you plan to bake a lot–plan, plan plan: Whenever I host an event, I contribute a lot of food. I made 5 different recipes for this year’s cookie exchange, so I carefully planned ahead. I am super organized about it, and think through the right order of operations  based on things like equipment needed, time to bake, prep needs, etc. I also look at which doughs have to chill, which cookies can be made the night before, etc.

Here are the recipes I made for this year’s cookie exchange, plus some past favorites:

And if you want even more recipe ideas, check out my Cookie Swap Season board.

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This year’s bounty

Nutella-Stuffed Gingersnaps

This is my all-time favorite gingersnap recipe. Yup, I said it: I’m playing favorites.

img_2578I’ve made many ginger cookies over the years, but this one takes the proverbial cake (cookie cake, maybe?). Because when it comes to gingersnaps, I like ’em spicy. And thanks to a generous dose of fresh ginger, this gingersnap gives a good bit of bite in every, well, bite. Fresh ginger, cloves and cinnamon work together for a truly excellent dough. Then you roll these cookies in sugar and ground ginger so they get a nice crackly top.

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Check out that Nutella center!

All that goodness… and we haven’t even talked about the Nutella middles yet! The gingersnap dough would be great on its own, but Broma Bakery blogger Sarah didn’t stop there: she also stuffed the dough with balls of Nutella. So every time you chomp into a cookie, you get your spicy ginger base and then a surprise wallop of hazelnut, chocolatey goodness.

Now, if you read this blog regularly, you know I love stuffing cookies. I’ve stuffed cookie butter, caramelsThin Mints–all winners! And yet, this Nutella-Stuffed Gingersnap is one of my favorite cookies of 2016. I brought these to a cookie swap last week, and my friends commented that it’s an unusual combo, but just makes so much sense when you think about it. So why don’t you think about it for a minute… then race to the store for some fresh ginger, and make these cookies!

Make sure to follow the step where you freeze your Nutella for a bit. This makes it much easier to stuff the cookies, since room temp Nutella can be a nightmare to work with. You can play around with the size of Nutella balls to achieve your desired cookie/Nutella ratio.

One last tip: If you have extra ginger when you’re done with these, go make these Chocolate Ginger Cookies next. You’ll be the hit of your next cookie exchange!

Nutella-Stuffed Gingersnaps

Original recipe: Broma Bakery. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: 18 cookies if you use 1/2 tablespoon of Nutella per cookie. Depending on your cookie/Nutella ratio, you’ll get a different number of cookies out of this. 

Total Time: 50 minutes, including the time to freeze your Nutella balls

Cook Time: 9-10 minutes 

Ingredients

Dough 

  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp Nutella
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup dark molasses
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp chopped, peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cloves

Topping 

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger

Instructions 

Prep your Nutella 

Line a flat plate with parchment paper. Scoop 1/2 tablespoon balls of Nutella onto the cookie sheet, squishing down each ball a bit so it’s a little flatter. Repeat until you’re out of Nutella. Put your plate in the freezer at least 15 minutes, until the balls are fully firm.

Make your cookies 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Prep your ginger: peel it, then chop it into tiny bits and measure it out
  3. In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, molasses, egg, vanilla and fresh ginger
  4. Use a separate bowl to mix your flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and cloves
  5. Fold your dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon until combine
  6. Take out your plate of Nutella balls, and let’s start stuffing!
  7. Scoop out about an ounce of dough and break it apart into two halves, then put the Nutella ball inside. Pinch around the edges so the Nutella is totally sealed in the middle. You might need to “patch” your dough with additional dough to get the Nutella totally sealed in there. Once it’s sealed, roll it in your hands a little to make sure it’s round. Then, place the dough mound on your cookie sheet and press down flatten it slightly. Each mound should be about 3/4 inch thick
  8. Repeat this process until you’re out of Nutella or dough… whichever comes first. I got 18 cookies, but had a couple extra Nutella balls because of the dough/Nutella ratio
  9. Mix together your sugar and ground ginger topping
  10. Dip each flattened cookie into the coating, then place it back on your prepared baking sheet. Try to do 1 cookie sheet at a time so your cookies crack properly
  11. Bake each sheet of cookies for 9-10 minutes. Mine took 9. Watch your bake time so the cookies stay soft!

Straight out of the oven, the Nutella is warm and gooey. These keep really well–the Nutella firms up a bit over time, but you can always pop it back in the microwave for a gooey center. These also freeze nicely so you can keep a few around for later!

I’ll share more cookie ideas next week, but you can check out my Cookie Swap Season Pinterest board in the meantime!

Web-Hopping vol. 25

I love holiday baking season. The gingerbread, the peppermint, the beautifully decorated cookies. There’s just so much to bake and taste!  I’ve already started digging into my holiday recipe collection. Some of these are really easy recipes… others, not so much. I know I can’t make it to everything on my list, but I’ve definitely set some priorities for where to start. Here are a few of the holiday baking recipes I’m most excited about this year, from complex desserts to easy breakfast treats.

Ginger apple molasses cake with mascarpone frosting: What an incredible flavor combo! This cake would be the perfect cake for a festive holiday meal. I just tried my first recipe from the Broma Bakery blog today and it was fabulous, so I’d definitely trust this cake recipe too.

Ginger cakes: The first time I tasted gingerbread was at Colonial Williamsburg, funnily enough. It was this soft, pillowy, cakey cookie and I’ve dreamt of it for years, but have never found gingerbread that comes close to that texture. So obviously I have to give this recipe a shot!

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From Cooking Classy

Funfetti shortbread bites: These adorable little cookies are ALL OVER Pinterest. I’m on Pinterest all the time for work (so tough, right?) and I just keep seeing these beauties pop out at me. So clearly they need to happen soon.

Fudgy mint brownies: I impulse bought mint Oreos the other day, and now I know what I’m going to do with them! Tossing them into brownie batter sounds awesome.

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From Baked in AZ

White chocolate peppermint crunch cookies: These would be fabulous for a cookie exchange! I love peppermint, and it goes so nicely with white chocolate.

Pumpkin gingerbread: I’ve actually made this before, but it’s been a few years so it is back on my list. Pumpkin and gingerbread go really nice together and this is a perfect breakfast treat.

Want more holiday recipe inspiration? Check out my Cookie Swap and Holiday Baking boards on Pinterest!