Recipe roundup: Valentine’s Day

I loved Valentine’s Day as a kid. It was an excuse to eat lots of candy, wear lots of pink and tell people nice things. What’s not to like?

I wish we did Valentine’s Day mailboxes at work, like we did as kids. Maybe I should make that happen next year. But in the meantime, I’m sitting here daydreaming about pink cupcakes and heart-shaped cookies and all the other lip-smacking Valentine’s Day desserts.

Here’s a roundup of the Valentine’s Day recipes I’m most excited about this year, plus some recipes from my blog that just might do the trick for your V-day needs.

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From Jo Cooks

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Scones: Start your day with a dash of red and a bit of sugar. These scones from Jo Cooks sure look scrumptious.

Olive Oil Cupcakes with Berry Buttercream: The base cupcake is an intriguing mix of almond, orange and olive oil. Top that with a mixed berry buttercream, and you have yourself a Valentine’s Day winner. These come from Molly Yeh, so you know they’re good!

Blackberry Lemon Cake: This cake from Natasha’s Kitchen gets its flavor from blackberry frosting and lemon simple syrup. It’s simple, sounds delicious and the blackberries make it a lovely shade of purply pink.

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From Bakers Royale

Watercolor Heart Cookies: I saw these gorgeous cookies from Bakers Royale in my Pinterest feed yesterday and can’t stop thinking about them!

Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting: I love frosted brownies, and this recipe from The Recipe Critic looks delightfully rich.

M&M Cookie Bars: A simple cookie bar recipe, jazzed up with seasonal pink and red M&Ms by No.2 Pencil.

Strawberry Thyme Cake: One last cake option for you, because I can never resist a bit of herbs with my dessert. This combo from The Cake Blog sounds delicious and looks great!

Conversation Heart Cookies: These cookies are so fun, especially because I Am A Food Blog strayed away from traditional V-day colors. As much as I love red and pink, it’s nice to have some other colors in the mix, too!

Recipes on this blog:

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Craving more ideas? Check out my Valentine’s Day Pinterest board.

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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!

 

Orange Zest and Brown Butter Hamentaschen

Baking lends itself well to traditions. Partly because treasured recipes can help define special moments- and partly because the actual process of creating something delicious can fuel great memories.

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I made a personal batch a couple weeks ago, too. This has guava, apricot and raspberry fillings.

A few years ago I decided to try making “hamentaschen” as a gift for my dad. Hamentaschen are triangular cookies filled with a variety of delicious things, from poppy seed to stewed apricots. They’re pretty easy to find at Jewish-inspired bakeries on the East Coast, but I don’t see them much in San Francisco. They’re technically associated with a Jewish holiday called Purim, though you can find them year-round. A quick history lesson: Purim is the commemoration of victory over Hamen, an Anti-Semitic Prime Minister back in 4th Century BCE Persia. Hamen was stopped from evil plans- and so Purim is a joyous holiday, accompanied by festive parties. The 3-cornered hamentaschen might be inspired by a couple different things: perhaps the 3-cornered hat Hamen was rumored to wear, perhaps money bags to represent Hamen’s attempt to buy his way to power.

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A mix of fillings on this sheet, from jams to cookie butter to got cheese

Regardless of their symbolism or the time of year- these cookies are delicious. And since my dad loves them, I decided to give them a shot. That first year, I invited a few friends over for a “fill and bake” party. I made the dough earlier in the day, then my friends brought tons of fillings over to finish the cookies together. It proved such a blast, we did it again the following year. We’re now on our 4th year of this great tradition and every year my friends get more creative with the fillings they bring over. It sort of becomes a science experiment to see which fillings work well, and which “explode” in the oven. A few hints: jam tends to bubble up and over if you put too much in a cookie; use thicker preserves so they don’t think out in baking; Nutella tends to burn; cheese actually goes really well with these.

I’ve been making the same dough for the past 4 years, but even after doubling my usual recipe I didn’t think I had enough dough for our expected headcount of 10 cookie bakers… so I made a second dough recipe, too. I’m so glad I did, because now I have 2 great base recipes to share with you today! The first recipe here is my annual go-to, and the 2nd is a new recipe I’m going to add into our tradition. Scroll to the very bottom for assembly and baking directions!

My friend Jaclyn took a lot of the photos in this post- you can tell which ones they are because they’re way better than mine! Thanks Jaclyn!

Dough 1: Buttery Dough with Orange Zest

Original recipe: Tori Avey 

Yield: ~35 cookies

Suggested equipment: Mixer, rolling pin 

Total Time: Dough takes 20 minutes; at least 3 hours chill time; filling takes 30 minutes; baking takes 20-25 minutes = about 4.5 hours overall

Cook Time: ~20-25 minutes 

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest (only need 1 orange for this) 
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-5 tsp water (if needed, but I don’t usually need it) 
  • Fillings of your choice

Step by Step Directions

  1. Cream butter and sugar in your mixer until they’re light and fluffy. This usually akes a few minutes
  2. Add egg, vanilla and orange zest to your bowl. Beat again until this is all creamy and well-mixed
  3. Sift flour and salt into the bowl
  4. Mix  it all together on low speed till a crumbly dough forms
  5. Knead the dough by hand until you have a smooth ball of dough. You want your dough to be smooth and slightly tacky, but not sticky- it shouldn’t be sticking to your hands. The original recipe author Tori notes that you can add water to dry dough to help it form- if you do, you should add 1 teaspoon of dough at a time, and knead it in to check the texture before adding any more water. I’ve never needed to add water myself. You can also add a bit of flour if the dough starts to get too wet
  6. Flatten your dough into a flat disk and wrap it up with plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least 3 hours, up to overnight

 

Dough 2: Brown Butter Dough

Original recipe: Smitten Kitchen 

Yield: ~35 cookies 

Suggested equipment: Rolling pin 

Total Time:  Dough takes 20 minutes; at least 2 hours chill time; filling takes 30 minutes; baking takes 20-25 minutes = about 3.5 hours overall

Cook Time: ~20-25 minutes 

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cups all-purpose flour
  • Fillings of your choice

Step by Step Directions

Brown your butter

  1. Use a medium saucepan for this. Throw your butter in the pan, and melt it over medium heat
  2. Keep cooking the butter until it starts to smell nutty and you see brown flecks appearing at the edges of the pan. This will take a few minutes but keep a really close eye on those flecks as they turn darker. Butter burns super fast so you have to be careful!
  3. Measure out 1/4 of this mixture and let it cool a bit. You may have a little extra so you can either freeze it, or find a way to use it in a filling…

Make your dough

  1. Once your butter is cool, pour it into the bottom of a large bowl (or use your mixer)
  2. Whisk in sugar and vanilla extract
  3. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time
  4. Whisk in salt and baking powder
  5. Switch to a spoon and add your first cup of flour, then stir to combine
  6. Add the second cup of flour, and then your 1/4 cup. At this point it might seem really hard to add in the flour. The original recipe noted the dough might get stiff- I sort of had the opposite experience, where it seemed like my dough just wouldn’t come together. So I started using my hands to help mix it in and found that helped a lot. You definitely want to make sure the flour is truly incorporated and not just sitting in pockets throughout your dough
  7. Add in the final 2 tablespoons of flour
  8. Divide dough into two flat disks and wrap them in plastic wrap for at least 2 hours, or up to a few days The recipe author, Deb, notes you can also freeze the dough for 20-30 minutes to get it firmed up enough 

 

Assemble and bake your cookies 

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350F
  2. Lightly flour a smooth, clean surface
  3. Set all your fillings out on a counter, along with teaspoons to measure the filling
  4. Put your dough on the floured surface and begin to roll it out. For optimal cookie ratios, you want the dough to be 1/8 inch thick or less. If you like “chunkier” cookies, you can leave the dough at 1/4 inch thick
  5. The dough will be really hard to work with at first since it’s chilled, so you may need to pound it a bit. Keep rolling, scraping it up and re-rolling until it hits that ideal thinness
  6. Use a 3-inch cookie cutter or the rim of a glass to cut circles out of the dough. Place circles on lined cookie sheets
  7. Now it’s time to fill the cookies! Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of each cookie circle
  8. To close the circles: Fold the left side of the circle toward the middle. Then, fold the right side of the cookie toward the middle. Then fold up the bottom, making sure to tuck it in “under” the left side of the cookie and “over” the right side of the cookie. This helps close the cookie together so filling doesn’t spill out. You should see a triangle of filling right at the center of the cookie
  9. The buttery dough needs about 11 minutes to bake, while the orange zest dough needs about 18-22. They will be slightly golden but should not be brown. They’ll firm up a little more after you take them out of the oven
  10. Let them cool on their sheet for a few minutes, and then move them to  a cooling rack. You can store these in a sealed container for a few days

 

And a few more beautiful photos from Jaclyn.