Tag Archives: holiday baking

Pie Week: Black & White Coconut Tart

The Theme Weavers are ringing in the holidays with PIE WEEK. Wahoooooo! I love pie. Love, love, love it. It’s my favorite of all of the Food Groups – Pie, Bacon, Cheese, Chocolate & Booze. If only we could all be in one room so we could face plant into all the glorious pies to be featured this week, it would be a dream come true. Also dreamy, this gorgeous Black & White Coconut Tart.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Banners

It starts with Kirsten’s ‘No Excuses’ pie dough recipe, pre-baked into the perfect vessel. Then it gets a schmear of hot fudge sauce (it’s okay… just breathe) and a luscious layer of coconut cream. Finally, it’s crowned with glorious mounds of whipped cream and toasted coconut. Have I mentioned that I love pie?

Let’s start at the beginning – a very good place to start. Pie dough. When I say this one is easy, I’m not joking. Made in the food processor, it’s ready in a flash and flawless every single time. It’s the only recipe I use.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Kirsten's Pie Dough

For this tart, I chose to use a vintage 8″ square baking tin I found while antiquing with Kirsten last May. Using the pan reminds me of her and proves two points – 1. food = love and 2. blogging friends are real (and are lots of fun).

Black & White Coconut Tart - Fitting Dough to Pan

One of my favorite pie tools – a pizza cutter. I love a good sharp edge when working with pie dough. There’s no better example of that than this next shot, where I decide to make a fancy braided edge for my tart. Curse you, Pinterest!

Black & White Coconut Tart - Braid Collage

Did I just hear you say “Whatever!”? Oooo… I’m gonna… Ha! Not really. Truth is, this trick is not as complicated as it looks. I found the key is pinching the ends together and pressing them into the countertop to anchor the strands. From there, it’s just a regular braid. When you’re done, pinch the other ends together to seal the deal, then apply it to the tart with a little egg white as glue.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Egg Wash Glue

Once applied, press gently to make sure it’s stuck, then pop then entire thing into the freezer for half an hour. Why? Because a frozen pie shell bakes much better than a room-temperature pie shell. More flaky layers; less shrinkage. After 30 minutes, remove it from the freezer, line it with parchment paper and fill it with dried beans or pie weights to keep the crust from falling into the pan while it bakes. My tip: cut two paper strips to create a sling instead of trying to fold parchment into the corners. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Before (L) and after (R) - the beans keep the dough in place.

Before baking (L) and after (R) – the beans keep the dough in place.

Bake in a hot oven until it’s a light golden brown, then allow it to cool for at least 15 minutes with the beans still in place. After 15 minutes, you can lift out the beans and allow the tart shell to cool completely. If you plan to put your dried beans back in the pantry for soup later, be sure to let them cool completely before you seal them into a container. If you don’t, they’ll create steam in the container which will cause them to mold later.

While my tart shell was chilling, I made a batch of coconut custard from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I chose this filling because it used coconut milk for extra flavor, which was a good call – it’s dreamy. Cooked on the stove, it comes together quickly. The hardest part is resisting the urge to eat it while it cools. Once it’s done and slightly cooled, the trick is to cover it with plastic wrap so it doesn’t get that tough pudding skin layer on top. Two words that should never be used together – pudding & skin.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Coconut Custard

So now you have a baked & cooled tart shell and a cooled custard. What’s next? Assembly! First up is a layer of your favorite fudge sauce, then a thick layer of coconut custard, and finally a piped dome of whipped cream sprinkled with lightly toasted coconut. Licking the spatula is highly recommended.

Black & White Custard Tart - Filling Collage

Days like this make me happy to be one of those people who plays with their food. This one was fun to put together. Have you ever made anything that turned out so perfectly you thought, “Man, I hate to cut this!” Yeah, me neither.

Black & White Coconut Tarts - A Slice

NANABREAD’S BLACK & WHITE COCONUT TART:

One recipe of No Excuses Pie Dough (use half, freeze half for later)
One batch of America’s Test Kitchen Coconut Cream Pie custard:

  • 1 14-oz. can coconut milk (not cream of coconut)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 2/3 cup sugar (divided in half)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold & diced)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

One batch of stabilized whipped cream topping:

  • one pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon instant vanilla pudding powder

One cup of your favorite hot fudge sauce (at room temperature)
One cup lightly toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, for garnish

To make the pie shell:
Roll the pie dough out and place in a lightly sprayed pie or tart pan. Flute or attach a decorative edge, then freeze for 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer, line the pie shell with parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dried beans, and bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes, or until the edge is a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool 15-20 minutes, then lift out the paper & beans and allow it to cool completely.

To make the custard:
In a heavy saucepan, bring the coconut milk, whole milk, shredded coconut, 1/3 cup of sugar and salt to a gentle bubble, stirring often. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly ladle about 1/2 cup of the hot custard into the egg yolk mixture, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps. Once combined, whisk the egg yolk mixture into the pan of custard and whisk to combine. Continue to simmer over medium-low heat until the custard begins to thicken. Whisk in the vanilla extract and turn off the heat. Move to a cold burner and allow it to cool for 15 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and allow it to cool, covered, until it comes to room temperature.

To make the whipped cream topping:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the heavy cream and sugar. Whisk on high until the cream just begins to thicken. Sprinkle in the instant vanilla pudding powder and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. Scrape into a piping bag with a large star tip and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

To assemble the tart:
Spread a 1/4″ to 1/2″ layer of your favorite hot fudge sauce into the tart shell, spreading it an even layer. Gently spoon the coconut custard onto the fudge sauce layer and spread it into an even layer. Top with whipped cream and shaved coconut and chill until ready to serve. Makes four large servings or six smaller ones, if baked in an 8″ x 8″ square pan as seen above. Keep refrigerated.

Black & White Coconut Tarts - My Slice

Before you face plant into that last shot, be sure and check out these Theme Weavers and their crusted contributions to Pie Week:

Monday, Nov. 18:
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Mile High Apple Pie
Anne @ From My Sweet Heart – Cranberry Cherry Ricotta Pie
Haley @ The Girly Girl Cooks – Coconut Cream Pie
Katie @ The Hill Country Cook – New Mexico Apple Pie

Tropical Tuesday, Nov. 19:
Mads @ La Petite Pancake – Pineapple Pie
Monica @ The Grommom – Papaya Pie
Jeanne @ Inside NanaBread’s Head – Black & White Coconut Tart (that’s me!)

Wednesday, Nov. 20:
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – Grandma’s Chocolate Pie
Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Chocolate Cream Pie
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Maple Sweet Potato with Swiss Meringue

Thursday, Nov. 21:
Shanna @ Pineapple and Coconut – Boozy Pumpkin Eggnog Pie
Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Sweet Potato Tartlets
Christina @ Buffy and George – Deep Dish Apple Pie

Friday, Nov. 22:
Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten – Sweet Potato Pie
Allison @ Decadent Philistines Save the World – Refrigerator Pumpkin Porter Chocolate Pie with Toasted Pumpkin Porter Marshmallow “Meringue”
Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain – Mini Butternut Squash Glazed Pie Stacks with Marshmallow Frosting

Saturday, Nov. 23:
Megan @ Country Cleaver – Biscoff Pie with Whiskey Mallow Fluff
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Berry Cherry Pie
Shanna @ Pineapple & Coconut – Persimmon & Pear Brandy Pie with Vanilla Bean Crumble

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Cookie Week: Turtle Thumbprints

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumprints - Drizzled
It’s Cookie Week! That’s great news if you’re a cookie lover; even better news if you’re a supporter of Cookies for Kids Cancer. This year, my blogging friends and I will again be baking to support this very worthy cause. For each cookie baked, sold, exchanged, or gifted Glad will donate $1 (up to $100,000). In addition, OXO (one of my favorite brands) has initiated the “OXO Matching Gift Program” and will match all proceeds from registered bake sales as part of their $100,000 pledge to Cookies for Kids Cancer. I’ve loved these brands for years, but I love them even more for their unwavering commitment to ending pediatric cancer. I’m sending a big thank you and hug to OXO & Glad.

And now on to the cookies! I chose Turtle Thumbprint Cookies this year. Risky, since I’ve never made them before, but when I saw them on Pinterest, I couldn’t resist. It’s one of my favorite flavor combinations – chocolate, caramel & toasted nuts. I love turtles – whether in cookie, brownie or ninja form. These are no exception. It all starts with a rich, truffle-like dark chocolate dough.

Dark Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies:
(adapted from The Kitchen is my Playground, and America’s Test Kitchen)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Hershey’s ‘Special Dark’ cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick of unsalted Land O’ Lakes butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, separated + 1 extra egg white
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups toasted pecans, finely chopped
1 jar of dulce de leche caramel, for filling
6 ounces of chocolate chips, for drizzling

For the cookie dough:
Combine the flour, cocoa & salt; set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolk, milk & vanilla; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Reduce the mixer speed to low and blend in the flour/cocoa mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least one hour). Once firm, scoop 1 tablespoon of dough into the palm of your hand and roll into a ball. Continue until all the dough has been rolled into balls.

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Tumbprints - Perfectly Shaped Dough Balls

To assemble the thumbprint cookies:
Whisk both egg whites until frothy. Place the chopped pecans in a separate bowl and keep nearby. Using a fork, lower each cookie ball into the egg whites, rolling to make sure they’re completely coated.

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - Finish Prep

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - Egg White Wash

Remove from the egg wash and immediately drop it into the bowl of nuts. Roll or toss until the dough ball is completely coated in nuts.

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - Pecan Coating

That last photo reminds me of “Where’s Waldo?” Can your find the cookie? Here’s an example of a perfectly coated cookie ball:

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - A Perfectly Coated Ball

Place the cookies 2″ apart onto cookie sheets (I recommend using a silicone mat or parchment). Using your finger or a round wooden spoon handle, press a divot into the top of each cookie. The bigger the divot, the more caramel it holds.

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - A Perfect Divot

Bake at 350F for 12-14 minutes, depending on your oven. You want them to just be done. Bake too long, and they’ll start to split and crack around the outside edges which will wreak havoc when you try to fill them with caramel. And we don’t want that. When they’re cooled to room temperature, grab your favorite dulce de leche caramel. I’m using this jar of unholy goodness sent to me by my friend Kat at Tenaciously Yours. It’s sea salt caramel from Trader Joe’s and it’s divine. Ima need a new jar soon. Or two. Or twelve.

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - Trader Joe Caramel

Spoon just enough caramel into each cookie to fill the divot without running over the top. They get really messy when they run over the top.

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumprints - Oh Sweet Caramel Goodness

Now grab your favorite milk chocolate and melt it; whisking until smooth. I like to scrape it into a plastic zip-style Glad bag so I can drizzle quickly and easily (plus it makes clean-up a snap). Just twist the baggie to press the chocolate into one corner, then snip the tip and drizzle like a pro. If you want to get all fancy-pants, you can top these with a toasted pecan. I tried it, but I’m not sure I like having my view of that sea salt caramel blocked. Caramel is meant to be seen.

Cookie Week '12 -  Finished Turtle Thumbprints

Notes from my personal experience with this recipe:
1. The dough balls (uncoated) can be made and frozen in advance in airtight freezer bags. Just thaw before coating with egg wash & nuts and baking.

2. The recipe called for regular cocoa, but I’m a dark chocolate lover so I substituted the Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa and it rocked.

2. Almonds can be substituted for pecans. And if you’re a Snickers fan, I’m betting peanuts would be pretty tasty, too.

3. The original recipe (as seen on Pinterest) called for using 14 wrapped soft caramel candies, melted down with 3 tablespoons of heavy cream. I chose the jar of sea salt caramel because I had it on hand and it’s delicious.

4. This recipe says it makes approximately 30 cookies. I tripled the recipe for a holiday cookie exchange and it worked perfectly. It made exactly 90 cookies. You’ve got to love truth in advertising.

Speaking of truth in advertising, are you familiar with the OXO brand? They make some of my favorite kitchen gadgets – including my digital scale, measuring & cooking utensils, mandolin, etc. Their Good Grips utensils are my ‘go to’ products. I love them, and that’s the truth. Last week, this box of goodies arrived via the OXO Blogger Outreach Program. It contains two OXO items that came in handy for cookie baking. Perfect timing!

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - OXO Box of Love

The box included the OXO “Be A Good Cookie” spatula and the cutest set of miniature measuring cups I’ve ever seen. First, check out this spatula.

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - OXO Good Cookie Spatula

Proceeds from the sale of OXO Good Cookie spatulas help support Cookies for Kids Cancer and the good work they do. If you’re looking for stocking stuffers for the cooks/bakers in your family, this is perfect. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. You know what else would make a great stocking stuffer? These adorable and highly useful miniature measuring cups. I just can’t get over these. And did I mention they nest? Love, love, love them!

Cookie Week '12 - Turtle Thumbprints - OXO Mini Measuring Cups

Stay tuned for updates all week long as other Cookie Week bakers share their holiday favorites. For instance, Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic kicked off our Cookie Week shenanigans yesterday with decorated shortbread cookies and a King Arthur Flour giveaway. You’ll want to check out that giveaway!

Other Cookie Week bloggers will include Megan at Country Cleaver, Kat at Tenaciously Yours, Mads at La Petite Pancake, Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World, Carrie at Bakeaholic Mama, and Madeline at Munching in the Mitten.

And if you’re baking for your friends & family and would like to join our alliance to fight pediatric cancer, drop me a comment with your cookie count and we’ll include it in our total number. Help Glad & OXO and bakers everywhere support Cookies for Kids Cancer – one sweet treat at a time.

Cookies for Kids Cancer Button

Monday: Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Decorated Shortbread & King Arthur Flour Giveaway

Tuesday: Mads @ La Petite Pancake – Honey-Glazed Lemon Yogurt Cookies

Wednesday: Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten – Chocolate Chunkers & Megan @ Country Cleaver – Homemade Mint Oreos & Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Maple Bacon Sugar Cookies

Thursday: Allison @ Decadent Philistines – Sesame Plum Thumbprints & Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – Colossal Cookies

Friday: Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Brown Sugar Toffee Cookies & Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Gingersnaps

Saturday: Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten – Salted Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies & Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Egg Nog Logs

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Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Food & Recipes, Things I Love

Cookiepalooza – man, that was fun!

Snowmen. Made out of Nutter Butters. Adorable!

I had 7 friends over yesterday to bake holiday cookies. Cookiepalooza – that’s what we called it. Instead of the standard cookie exchange, we decided it would be fun to spend an entire day together baking, visiting and playing cards. Turns out having 8 ladies in one kitchen making 9 different treats doesn’t leave much time for games. But don’t let that fool you. There was NO shortage of fun. There was no shortage of sweet treats, either. We made over 750 pieces of sugar-laden goodness yesterday. And my house smelled fantastic. Cookiepalooza rocked.

With Christmas carols playing in the background, we tackled cookie recipes one or two at a time until they were baked off and cooling. Then we would rotate in the next two recipes and work through them, and so on and so on. In all, we baked for 7 hours. We made 7 types of cookies and two treats in the ‘other’ category – Rolo & Pretzel Turtles and Nutter Butter Snowmen. I’ve made the Rolo Turtles before, but they seemed a lot cuter made from star-shaped holiday pretzels. Those 5-pointed little stars look like arms, legs and heads. Plus, they’re a snap to make. {Get it… snapping…turtles}

Rolo Turtles made with star-shaped holiday pretzels

The Nutter Butter Snowmen were new for me. I knew when I saw them on the Brown Eyed Baker’s Blog that I would make these. I couldn’t resist. They’re just too cute! Thanks to Jonah Bear, my 5-year-old grandson, I knew the wonders of fruit roll-ups, so I grabbed a box to add a decorative touch – scarves! Tip #1: use the multi-flavored striped roll-ups and cut them into strips with a pizza cutter. Tip #2: dip the Nutter Butter cookies one half (or end) at a time. The scarves get tied on at the center, so the dip line doesn’t show. Tip #3: to attach the scarves, wrap around the middle and twist like you would a twist-tie when buying produce. Then press gently on the twisted portion to stick them down. Tip #4: those tiny tubes of frosting in the baking aisle make perfect faces.

Striped fruit roll-ups make great snowman scarves
Some truths cannot be denied, and one of those truths is that my friend Kaki doesn’t bake much. Yesterday, she pulled a rabbit out of the hat that had us all shaking our heads. She made the most incredible homemade gingersnaps I’ve ever eaten. I’m not kidding. If there hadn’t been people around to see me do it, I could have eaten an entire tray with a 1/2 gallon of cold milk. Then she dipped them in white chocolate, and I passed out. Must have been the excitement and novelty of it all. Or maybe it was because they were so gosh-darned good and made my kitchen smell like heaven. Well played, Kaki. Well played.

Kaki's Homemade Gingersnaps

But wait! There was so much more. Here’s the rundown:

Linda – made a family recipe for pecan cookies
Pat – made her old-school orange slice candy cookies
Sheriee – made cowboy cookies, then dipped them in chocolate
Cindy – made chewy chocolate krinkle cookies
Judy – made buttery oatmeal coconut cookies
Cindy & Kaki – paired up to make those Rolo pretzel turtles

And I made coconut shortbreads from Cookie Week (from the Cookies for Kids Cancer Best Bake Sale Cookbook) and the Nutter Butter snowmen (with help).

I’d like to say the best part was all the cookies we made, but I can’t. There was no best part. It was ALL fabulous. We had a blast making all the cookies. We had a hoot decorating and dipping things in chocolate. We loved helping each other and watching timers and washing dishes and generally having each other’s backs all day long. No cookie went untouched or unloved by anyone. It was truly a group effort, the scale of which has never before been seen in my home. I’m not joking when I say we used every square inch of tabletop space in 4 different areas – the kitchen, the breakfast nook, the formal dining room, and even the foyer. Think I’m joking? Here’s my formal dining table as a cooling station:

Judy's coconut oatmeal cookies & turtles cooling in the dining room

And that’s just the dining table. This buffet table along the dining room wall was also used to cool cookies as they came out of the oven (hence the old bath towels layered under the waxed paper). And the cookies just kept piling up.

Chocolate Krinkles & Orange Slice Cookies by the dozens

But that’s not all. We cleared the stuff off the top of the table in my entry foyer and used it to stage cookies once they were cooled, bagged and tagged. This photo only shows less than half of what was made. It was insane, folks!

Cookies waiting to go home for the holidays

I wish my house could smell like this forever. I wish I could invent ‘scratch-N-sniff’ computing so you could smell it, too. And I wish you could all know my friends – they’re a fabulous bunch. And I also wish you could have joined us, but then I’d need a MUCH bigger kitchen. And a whole wall of ovens. And cookie tables in all my bedrooms, which I’m not entirely opposed to.

Cookiepalooza was so successful, there was immediate talk of making this an annual affair. I think that’s a great idea. The question is which of my friends would like to host; but we’ve got 12 months to think about that. Happy holidays, everyone. I wish you love and peace and joy, now and in the coming year.

Buh-bye now! Don't forget to grab a bag of cookies on your way out!

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Yup. It’s’ Thursday.

And that means Friday is just around the corner. Do you have any big plans for the weekend? Our family will be celebrating a birthday.

Happy birthday, Jonah Bear! You're five and I'm stunned.

Jonah (our grandson, if you’re a new reader) turns 5 next week. I can hardly believe it. I honestly remember the day he was born like it was yesterday. He scared the water out of us. We thought we’d have time to drive to Austin for the big day and be there to hold My Baby’s hand to see her through the birth of her first child. Instead, little Jonah Bear went into distress and an emergency c-section was performed. That drive from Houston to Austin was the longest 3 hours of my life. Don’t worry. The story has a happy ending. He ended up being fine and we got there just about the time our daughter was settled into a room. When we saw Jonah for the first time, he was pink and swollen and wearing a knit cap. He looked like a tiny boxer that lost a really long bout, and we immediately fell in love. Now he’s a healthy, happy, funny boy who absorbs every detail like a sponge. He has a heart as big as Texas and a smile that will melt your heart. He is one of our greatest joys in life (as is his spunky little sister, Lilly Bug).

Hang onto your hats! Lilly Bug is in da' house!

Be A Good Cookie Week benefiting Cookies for Kids Cancer continues! It started with Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic on Sunday night when she announced what our blogging circle of friends was up to via the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook. (Sidebar: For a great take on what we’re up to this week, click here). On Monday, she started the week with a walk on the savory side with Parmesan Cheese Bites laced with cayenne pepper. My mouth still waters just thinking about these little gems. They are on my holiday “to do” list for sure. My Toasted Coconut Shortbreads were up next (on Tuesday). I’m saving these for a cookie exchange playdate next week, and let me tell you – it has been a challenge not to dig into that tub-o-cookies in my fridge. Yesterday, Megan at Wanna Be A Country Cleaver knocked my socks off with German Chocolate Cookies. Coconut, nuts and German chocolate in a warm, gooey cookie? Yes, please! This morning, I awoke to Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies by Kat at Tenaciously Yours. Now THAT is a breakfast, my friend. And because oatmeal is involved, you can bet I would use that excuse to eat them at 7am. Or 8am. Or all day. Her 1-to-1 chocolate to cookie dough ratio rocks.

Still to come this week – Mads at Le Petite Pancake and Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what these ladies are baking. There’s a rumor going around that homemade gingersnaps may be in the works. GAH! Oh, and hey let’s not forget there are two giveaways going on for Be A Good Cookie Week! Click here to enter Kirsten’s giveaway and click here to enter mine. That’s two fabulous baking giveaways so you can bake your own holidays favorites and support Cookies for Kids Cancer at the same time. Better hurry – both giveaways end this weekend. You don’t want to miss your chance to win, or these fabulous recipes.

Parmesan Bites, Coconut Shortbreads, German Chocolate & Oatmeal Chocolate Chip

With all the decorating, shopping, baking and everything else that goes with the holidays, I’ve noticed that I’ve let a few things slide. For example, I really need to strip our beds and wash all the sheets. My pantry shelves are a mess and need to be emptied, cleaned and reorganized. Don’t even get me started on the closet in my sewing room. I’m afraid to even open that door. Most shocking, though, was what crawled out from under my sofa yesterday.

Hello, little dust bunny! If I weren't horrified, I'd think you're kinda cute.

Best thing about wood floors: they’re easy to care for.
Worst thing about wood floors: dust bunnies made of rug fuzz are highly visible.

Okay, kids. That’s all I’ve got. I’m off to strip beds, bake more cookies, and avoid closets at all cost. Hope you’re having a wonderful week, and that your weekend is even better.

PS – Did you hear about the reindeer that got loose on I-45 in Houston yesterday? Evidently, they busted out of their trailer and ran amok on one of the busiest freeways in town. Chaos ensued. Reindeer wranglers were called. No animals were harmed by their shenanigans, and all is well. I wish I’d seen it with my own eyes, though. Just the thought of it sleighs me.

And I’ll leave you with that golden nugget.

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Cookie Week: Coconut Shortbreads and a Holiday Cookie Baking Giveaway


**UPDATE: Congratulations to Mads from California. She is the lucky winner of my Holiday Cookie Baking Giveaway. Enjoy your goodies, Mads, and thank you for supporting Cookies for Kids Cancer. You are a Good Cookie!**

It’s Be A Good Cookie Week! Is there any more perfect holiday treat than cookies? They’re easy to make and fun to bake. It’s one of my favorite things about the holiday season. I can’t speak for all of the other little elves participating in this project, but I’m pumped. Cookie Week is going to rock! Much like Pie Week in November, my blogging inner circle was inspired by Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic to do something this holiday season that would bring us all together. In this case, she added a special invitation to help her bake for a cause – Cookies for Kids Cancer, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting pediatric cancers.

This organization started with a mother named Gretchen and her son Liam, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Unwilling to stand by and do nothing, Gretchen decided to hold a bake sale with the goal of baking 96,000 cookies with the help of family, friends and volunteers. Three weeks later, they had raised over $400,000 for pediatric cancer research. From there, it blossomed into something even she couldn’t predict. Cookies for Kids Cancer is now nationwide, and has captured the hearts of people everywhere.

Kirsten was the first in our group to jump on the band wagon and with good cause. She lost her little sister Cheryl to pediatric cancer. Needless to say, Cookies for Kids Cancer touched Kirsten in a very personal and profound way. I’m fortunate to have never experienced this personally, but because I love Kirsten and she loved Cheryl, and because parents everywhere may someday face this same challenge, I’m proud to join their efforts and bake for a cause this holiday season along with a special group blogging friends.

For Pie Week, we used Kirsten’s fabulously flawless “No Excuses Pie Dough” as our common thread. For Cookie Week, we each selected a recipe from the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook by Gretchen Holt-Witt. Yes, she’s the same Gretchen who started that first bake sale for her son Liam. All of Gretchen’s author proceeds from the sale of the book benefit pediatric research, just like her bake sales. More about the cookbook in a little bit.

For Cookie Week, I selected Toasted Coconut Shortbread Cookies. I knew as soon as I saw this recipe it was perfect for me. I love shortbread and coconut. Here is the original recipe from the Cookies for Kids Cancer cookbook:

1/2 cup of sweetened flaked coconut
2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup of powdered sugar
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups of flour
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt

But I tripled the recipe so I could bake extras for a cookie exchange next week. And because I can never leave well enough alone, I also tweaked it a little. You should know by now that I can never seem to make any recipe as written. Here’s my ingredient list:

2 cups of sweetened flaked coconut
2 cups of slivered almonds
6 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup of powdered sugar
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of almond extract
1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
6 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 bag of dark or semisweet chocolate chips for dipping

Pre-heat the oven to 250F. Spread coconut and slivered almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. In a food processor, pulse the coconut and almonds until finely ground (but not completely pulverized).

Place butter, sugars and extracts into mixer bowl with paddle attachment and beat until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the coconut and almonds to the butter & sugar mixture and beat on low speed until well combined. Gradually add the flour and salt. Mix until well beaten. (In my case, I had to remove the bowl from the mixer and stir the end of the flour in by hand. Triple the dough was a little too much for my 6 quart stand mixer.) Scrape out of bowl onto waxed paper or the counter top. If needed, knead the dough gently until it forms a cohesive ball. Divide and roll the dough into 1 1/2″ to 2” diameter logs. Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap & aluminum foil. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or freeze for up to 2 months.

To bake, slice cookie dough logs into 1/4″ slices and place them about 1″ apart on a lined cookie sheet. I use silpat mats, but if you don’t have them, use parchment paper instead. Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges start to turn a light brown. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheet. Remove to parchment paper or cooling racks and allow the cookies to cool completely.

At this point, you can stack them into airtight containers or layer them in rows into freezer bags. But why stop there? Let’s kick it up another notch by dipping them in dark or semisweet chocolate. Shall we? In a microwave safe bowl, microwave one bag of chocolate chips at full power for 1 minute. Stir and microwave again, in 30-second intervals, until the chips are melted. Whisk thoroughly to remove all lumps, and move to a flat surface for dipping. Spreading out a long strip of parchment or waxed paper, dip one shortbread at a time, covering about 3/4 of the cookie’s surface. Allow the excess to drip off, then scrape the bottom of the cookie off on the edge of the bowl. Place the cookie immediately onto parchment paper and allow to cool. If you’re really clever, put that parchment paper on a baking sheet, and you’ll be able to pop your cookies straight into the fridge or freezer until the chocolate is fully set.

There you have it. Toasted Coconut Shortbread Cookies from the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook with a NanaBread twist, baked in honor of Kirsten & her sister Cheryl, and Gretchen & her son Liam, and for kids everywhere who are facing cancers no child should ever endure.

Now on to the giveaway. Here is what one lucky reader will win:

You know you want to win this spectacular Cookie Week giveaway!

One copy of the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook
One OXO “Good Cookie” Spatula, benefiting pediatric cancer
One holiday print apron, handmade by NanaBread (that’s me!)
One cookie-themed holiday kitchen towel
One set of my favorite Nordicware mini-spatulas
One boxed set of sprinkles for decorating holiday cookies
Two sets (3 each) of colorful metal cookie cutters
Two sets of holiday treat sacks for sharing with others
Two silicone hot pads in red & green (to match your apron)
And lastly, one small Christmas Cookie candle by Yankee Candle Co.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Holy cow! How can I win this fabulous cookie baking giveaway extravaganza!” Well, here’s how you can do it. And the good news is, each of you has the chance to earn multiple entries.

A few quick rules & a disclaimer:
1. You must be a resident of the United States to participate.
2. You must provide a valid e-mail address so I can contact you if you win.
3. They call it ‘the honor system’ for a reason, so please play fair.
4. Entries must be posted by noon CST on Sunday, December 18, 2011.
5. All prizes are provided by me and paid for with my own money.

Required Entry: leave a comment & tell me your favorite holiday cookie

Bonus Entries: (a new comment must be entered for each of the following)

1. Buy a copy of the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook OR an OXO “Good Cookie” spatula, even if it is a holiday gift for a friend or family member, then return here and leave a comment telling me which item you purchased to help benefit pediatric cancer research.

2. Make a donation to Cookies for Kids Cancer at http://www.cookiesforkidscancer.org/donate.asp then leave a comment letting me know that you made a donation to support pediatric cancer research.

3. Tweet the following: “I entered to win a Cookie Week Giveaway in support of Cookies for Kids Cancer at http://www.insidenanabreadshead.wordpress.com @HeyNanaBread and so can you!” and return to let me know you tweeted.

4. Share the link to my blog post about Cookies For Kids Cancer on your Facebook page, then come back and post a comment telling me you did so.

5. Share a virtual cookie from Glad on Facebook, and come back and leave a comment on this post telling me you did so.

6. Visit the Glad website, official sponsor & supporter of Cookies for Kids Cancer, and register to have your holiday baking counted as a corporate donation. That’s right – Glad will donate 10 cents for each cookie donated, sold, exchanged or given as a gift this holiday season (up to $100,000). Just count your cookies, register your information, and come back here to tell me you signed up at http://www.glad.com/glad-to-give/bake/host/ to make your cookies count for the cause.

That’s seven (7) ways each of you can enter to win. Or seven potential entries for each overachiever who participates. It’s just that easy. And it gets even better. My friend Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic is also holding a giveaway for Cookie Week, so go to her blog (link below) and enter to win both giveaways! On Sunday, December 18th, I will select one winner randomly from the comments I receive. The winner will be e-mailed and must confirm, so be sure to use a valid e-mail address. Your e-mail address will be seen only by me, and will not be shared. Once a winner is confirmed, an update will be added to this blog post.

Don’t forget to check in this week with all of our Cookie Week bloggers. These little elves will be serving up their own selections from the Cookies for Kids Cancer Best Bake Sale Cookbook:

Monday – Kirsten from Comfortably Domestic – also having a giveaway
Tuesday – Jeanne from Inside NanaBread’s Head (hey, that’s me!)
Wednesday – Megan from Wanna Be A Country Clever
Thursday – Kat from Tenaciously Yours
Friday – Mads from La Petite Pancake
Saturday – Allison from Decadent Philistines Save the World

Happy holiday baking and thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping make pediatric cancer the ghost of Christmas Past.
-Jeanne

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For the record, I am not dead.


Although, if I were, it would make me supremely happy to know that this little guy was hanging out with me. I know it has been two weeks since my last post, and for that I sincerely apologize. It wasn’t until a reader checked in on me that it really sunk in. I’ve been a terrible blogger this month. The good news is this – I am not dead. I’m not even sick. My allergies are bugging me a little, but it’s Houston in the fall and that’s completely normal. Annoying, but normal.

Fact is, I’ve just been a little too focused on other things. We were out so much for our long vacation and a week visiting family for Thanksgiving and a long weekend with the grandkids that I kind of got busy trying to make up for all that. We got our broken attic door fixed, so The Complete Package and I were finally able to drag all the Christmas decorations down. I spent 2 days unpacking it all, putting the tree up, and decorating the family room. Contrary to previous years’ decorations, I decided to focus all my Christmas cheer on one room instead of the entire downstairs. It has worked out pretty well, since it’s the room we spend most of our time in. Or at least that’s what I’m choosing to believe this year. One room is enough. Nothing beats sitting in a room at night with the lights from the tree casting a warm glow around the room, especially if there’s a fire going in the fireplace at the same time. I love our family room during the holidays.

See? When I said I finished my Christmas shopping, I wasn't lying.

I mixed up a ton of shortbread cookie dough for Cookie Week, which just happens to start Monday over at Kirsten’s Comfortably Domestic blog. It’s like Pie Week from November, but with cookies and a cause instead. Six bloggers are selecting six recipes from the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook to feature on our blogs this week. My post will be up Tuesday, but please click here to check out Kirsten’s posts. She’s kicking it off Monday with a savory recipe and from what I understand, it was good enough to inspire snacking right out of the bowl – before they were even baked. Now that’s gotta be a good cracker. PS – I’m doing a giveaway with my cookie post and so is Kirsten. Here’s a sneak peek at what I’m giving away, so don’t forget to drop by Tuesday and enter. And visit Kirsten’s blog to enter her giveaway, too.

If you haven't tackled your holiday baking, you're going to want this.

Last week, The Complete Package and I spent two whole days sitting in a big tall building in downtown Houston for a retirement seminar. It’s hard to believe we’re attending stuff like this since he’s 54 and I’m 48, but the truth is this – you can never start planning for retirement too early. And frankly, even then it’s a crap shoot. But we enjoyed the seminar, and we learned some things we didn’t know and need to look into, and we feel like we’re better prepared to move forward. And that counts for something. Or at least it should.

We'll be THAT couple & TCP will probably honk and flip you the bird

The Complete Package made homemade pomegranate Turkish Delight last week. It was an experiment in recapturing his favorite sweet from our last vacation. It took one full week to ‘set up’ and the results were disappointing. Too soft – the texture just fell apart when you touched it instead of being the consistency of a soft gummy worm. But all is not lost. We have other recipes and techniques to try, and try again we will! As a bonus, we had leftover pistachios and we’re planning to try homemade pistachio ice cream soon. See? When God closes a door, he opens a window somewhere else.

Time to break out Christine again. She's evil; pure evil.

This weekend, TCP picked up one of his Christmas presents early. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, but it’s black and shiny and produces grilled and smoke meats in an outdoor setting. Okay, so that’s not so subtle a hint. The upside is that we’ll be enjoying smokey meat for years to come. The downside is that it came in a huge box and looked like the assembly instructions for an entire Ikea living room set. He spent 2 days assembling the darn thing. It’s up, it’s seasoned, and it’s ready to roll. Now we just need 200 pounds of cow or pig to fill it. I’m not kidding – this thing is a beast, and TCP is determined to tame it.

TCP's smokey pork ribs. I'll have what he's having.

I’m hosting a day of cookie baking with friends next week. We’re going to bake holiday cookies all day, with each of us making a different cookie. While it’s all baking we going to hang out and play cards and visit. When it’s all done, we’re going to divide it all up a la cookie exchange so everyone goes home with a jumbo tray of mixed goodies. I can’t wait. Something about this Christmas just seems shinier and brighter. Maybe it’s the colder weather we’ve been having. Maybe it’s that our decorations and tree are finally up. Maybe it’s Cookie Week with my blogging friends and our cookiepalooza day next week. Whatever it is, I’m all in. I’m looking forward to this Christmas more than any other.

My favorite band of holiday misfits in finger puppet form

How about you? Are you looking forward to the holidays? Will you be traveling to see family and friends? Are you listening to that radio channel that plays nothing but holiday music in your hometown, or dragging out your holiday CD collection at home? Are there any favorite TV specials or holiday-themed movies you just HAVE to watch every year for the holidays? And lastly – and this is an important one – do you drink eggnog, and if so do you add booze or no booze? Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of eggnog, but I could be persuaded… with the right recipe. If you have one, feel free to share!

What's the story with eggnog? Booze or no booze?

Happy holidays, everyone. Thanks for checking on me. I’m well. Everything’s fine. And I hope you can say the same. -Jeanne

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Filed under Family Stuff, Miscellaneous Thoughts

December 2010 – Let’s just call it the month of chocolate-dipped everything

Dig in or run away? It's the classic holiday diet dilemma.

This year, I’ve made more holiday goodies than ever. Maybe it’s because I’m filled with holiday cheer, or maybe it’s because I’ve fallen in love with barks. I mean, take just about anything you like and smother it in chocolate. How awesome is that? Easy + quick + chocolate = PERFECT in my book. But it’s not ALL about barks. I also made sausage balls, orange slice cookies (see the recipe in a previous post), toffee, jam thumbprint cookies & snickerdoodle bars this week, but mostly it’s been about the chocolate. First up, white chocolate gingersnap truffles that I whipped up based on a recipe for Oreo truffles.

Gingersnap Truffles - Oh, baby...these are fabulous!

In a food processor, I ground up a one-pound bag of gingersnaps with one cup of toasted pecans. I ground them into dust, or actually the texture of sand. Then I dumped in a large tub of store-bought cream cheese frosting and stirred until it was all perfectly combined. Using my cookie scoop, I scooped the gingersnap mixture onto a wax paper-lined cookie sheet, which I promptly put in the freezer for 20 minutes. While the gingersnap balls were freezing (okay, stop giggling), I melted a pound of white chocolate over a double-boiler. Using a skewer, I stabbed each one and drowned it in the melted chocolate, making sure to coat it heavily. It helps to spin it around a little so the excess can drip off. Then I placed each truffle back onto the waxed paper, making sure to fill the skewer hole with a little more chocolate. Once they were all dipped, I went back and sprinkled a little gingersnap dust on the top. Then they all went back into the freezer for another 20 minutes to set before they went into an air-tight container. These turned out great. They have so much flavor, and the subtle spice of the gingersnaps is a perfect complement to the creamy sweetness of the white chocolate. HELPFUL TIP – use a good quality gingersnap for the best flavor.

Next, I made two white chocolate barks. The first was planned. It’s the pistachio and dried cranberry bark from The Brown Eyed Baker. When I saw her photo, I knew I had to make it. When I thought about tart dried cranberries combined with white chocolate, I knew I had to make it. When I saw that it only had 3 ingredients, I knew I had to make it. It couldn’t have been easier. You melt a pound of white chocolate, stir in a cup of shelled pistachios and a cup of dried cranberries (I love Ocean Spray’s Craisin brand) and pour it into a foil-lined pan.

White Chocolate Pistachio Cranberry Bark

Pop it in the fridge for half an hour to set up, then cut it into squares and store it in an air-tight container. Done! Of course, Michelle used a 1/2 cup of pistachios and a 1/2 cup of dried cranberries, but I’m all about excess at the holidays. So sue me. The second bark was accidental, but awesome. I had leftover white chocolate from my first bark and the gingersnap truffles, so I dumped 2 cups of trail mix that had mixed nuts, raisins and M&M candies into a bowl with some leftover roasted cashews I found in my pantry and poured the extra white chocolate over the top. Once it was mixed well, I poured it into a 9″ x 9″ baking pan lined with foil, and pressed some dark chocolate M&M’s onto the top. Again, you just pop it into the fridge to set up, then cut it into squares and store it in an air-tight container. I like this one for several reasons – the raisins make it a little chewy, the nuts make it a little salty, and the dark chocolate M&M’s add a nice contrast to the sweetness of the white chocolate. Both barks were easy to make.

Trail Mix Bark - chewy, salty, nutty & crunchy

The last bark I made was a fabulous contradiction. For taste, it was a solid 10+ but for appearance, it’s a pathetic 2 at best. It’s my version of dark chocolate peppermint bark. I used two different bags of my favorite chocolate chips – Guittard. The first bag was my beloved Extra Dark Chocolate (so good I eat them straight out of the bag) and the second was a new one I hadn’t tried yet – Akoma Extra Semi-Sweet baking chips. I’m telling you, there is something magical about Guittard chocolate chips. They are just on a different level than other brands. I think they’re made by angels or something. But back to the peppermint bark. I melted these two bags of chocolate together over a double boiler, then spread the melted chocolate onto a wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Then I opened a bag of Andes red & white Peppermint Crunch baking chips and sprinkled them all over the top. My thought process was this – I don’t like hard peppermint candy bits getting stuck in my teeth, so why not use the softer Andes baking chips with the texture of a chocolate chip? I mean, it should be smooth, pepperminty and wonderful, right? Truth is, it WAS smooth, pepperminty and wonderful. The combination of the powerful dark chocolate with the super minty Andes chips is spot on. World class. Life changing. The problem? It’s just not pretty. In fact, it’s so ugly, I call it Bacon Bark. Ugh! See for yourself:

Bacon Bark - Okay, it's not bacon, but it sure looks like it!

I swear it looks like someone put raw bacon on top of melted chocolate. This is definitely one of those times when you have to suck it up or just close your eyes so you can enjoy it, because honestly it tastes amazing. It’s my new favorite chocolate candy concoction. If these make it to December 25th, it will be a Christmas miracle. It’s that good, and that addictive. Pray for me, please. Pray that I don’t kill The Complete Package for eating it all before I get a chance.

Last up was the Rolo Pretzel Bites from the Glorious Treats blog. This was another one that spoke to me when I saw it. Actually, I thought my son-in-law Bama Boy would love these. He’s a fan of turtles and toffee, so these should be right up his alley. They’re also easy to make, and only have 3 ingredients. It’s turning out to be my holiday theme – quick & easy with only 3 ingredients. I can’t thank my fellow bloggers enough for sharing their favorites. I’m really enjoying the fact that someone else is doing all the thinking for me. Thanks!

The 3 stages of Rolo Pretzel Bites construction

For this one, you’ll need a bag of the square-shaped pretzels, two bags of Rolo caramel-filled chocolate candies, and toasted pecan halves. What!?!…again with the 3 ingredients! I know, it’s awesome! First, pre-heat your oven to 250F. Then line a baking sheet with waxed paper. This is important…if you don’t use the waxed paper or foil, these will stick to the pan. Next, spread out the pretzel squares, then spend 30 minutes unwrapping the individually wrapped Rolos (it would help if you had little munchkins in your house to help with this step). Place a Rolo candy on top of each pretzel and top with a pecan half. Carefully slide the baking sheet into the oven, turn off the heat, and let them sit in there for about 4-5 minutes. The Rolos should soften, but not melt. To test one, press on the pecan half. If you’re able to press it down into the candy, they’re ready. Remove the pan from the oven, and working quickly, press each pecan half down into the candy, which will in turn press the candy down into the pretzel. (For a peek at the finished product, click on the link to the Glorious Treats website at the top of the paragraph.) Once they’re all pressed into place, slide the baking sheet into the freezer for 20 minutes to allow them to set up. Once firm, remove from the freezer and store in an air-tight container. If you love salty pretzels, milk chocolate, caramel and pecans, you’re going to love these. Think turtle candies with a pretzel base. Thank you, Glory @ Glorious Treats.

Okay, I’m done for now. My teeth are starting to hurt just talking about all this candy. Did I tell you my dentist bought a yacht for Christmas? Just kidding. Although, if I eat all of this I could probably make it happen. I’m sure he’d appreciate it. Forget it, Burt. I’m generous, but not that generous. Happy holidays everyone, and happy baking/making/sharing. I’m off to make a salad.

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