Archives for the month of: December, 2013

This was the most intensive endeavor BWF has undertaken yet! We built these the same day we did the Christmas wreath and let’s just say it was a baking EXTRAVAGANZA! Everything came out perfectly but it was no easy task! As you can imagine, to make gingerbread houses from scratch, you need to make the cookies, the icing, and gather the decorations you will use. But aside from that, each piece of the house must be pre-cut so that when the cookies are baked, they are already in the shapes needed to build the house. Don’t forget this important first step! Keep in mind, this recipe makes ONE gingerbread house. We tripled this recipe to make THREE gingerbread houses, one for each family (that rhymes!). I encourage you to enjoy this in the company with loved ones and it is bound to be a memorable experience!

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Ingredients

Gingerbread House Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light molasses or dark corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons water

Icing Ingredients

  • 1 pound (3-3/4 cups) powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
  • 1 to 2 large egg whites, or substitute 4 teaspoons packaged egg whites and 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract, vanilla or lemon juice

Decorations

  • Gumdrops, licorice, peppermint, and other decorations as desired

Directions

Gingerbread House:

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking soda together until the mixture is smooth. Blend in the flour and water to make a stiff dough. Chill at least 30 minutes or until firm. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut out the following paper patterns for the gingerbread house template:

  • Two rectangles, 3 by 5 inches, to make the front and back of the house.
  • Two rectangles, 3 by 5 1/2 inches for the roof.
  • Two pieces for the ends of the house, 3 inches wide at the base, 3 inches to the roof line, and slanted to a peak 5 1/2 inches from the bottom.
  • Four smaller rectangles, 1 1/2 by 1 inch for the roof and sides of the entryway.
  • One piece, 2 inches wide at the base, 1 1/2 inches to the roof line, and slanted to a peak 2 1/2 inches from the bottom for the front of the entryway.

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Roll gingerbread dough out to edges on a large, rimless cookie sheet. Place paper patterns onto the rolled out dough. With a sharp, straight edged knife, cut around each of the pieces, but leave pieces in place. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes until dough feels firm. Place patterns on top of the gingerbread again and trim shapes, cutting edges with a straight-edged sharp knife. Leave to cool on baking sheet.

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Royal Icing:

Mix all of the ingredients together using an electric hand mixer, until the icing is smooth and thin enough to be pressed through a pastry bag with a writing tip. Add more lemon juice, if necessary.

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Place royal icing into pastry bag with a writing tip and press out to decorate individual parts of house, piping on decorations, windows, door, etc., as desired. Let dry until hardened.

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Glue sides, front and back of house together at corners using royal icing. Place an object against the pieces to prop up until icing is dry (it only takes a few minutes). Glue the two roof pieces to the pitched roofline of the house. Then, similarly, glue the sides and roof of the entryway together with icing.

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Attach the entryway to the front of the house.

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Continue decorating the house, glueing on gumdrops, licorice and peppermint, as desired.

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First House

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Second House

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Third House

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BWF Extravaganza!

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ENJOY!

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My friend Rosie came home for the holidays with her husband and beautiful new baby girl! We decided to make a christmas wreath made out of cupcakes and gingerbread houses! Below is the cupcake wreath recipe (we did not make the sugared cranberries or cookies but both recipes are in the link with all recipes). Just a warning, the icing used here is buttercream and it takes more time than usual but worth it! You can use any cupcakes, but we used the one in the link (red velvet). Once all the cupcakes were made, we all took turns decorating them with the “grass” icing so it truly was a group effort, and isn’t that what wreaths are all about?! All the cupcake wreath recipes can be found here.

Rosie was also nice enough to make homemade hot cocoa for everyone! It was awesome!

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Wreath

  • 24 cupcakes (see recipe we used)
  • Green buttercream (see recipe below), for decorating
  • Holly leaf cookies (see recipe we did not use), for decorating
  • Sugared cranberries (see recipe we did not use), for decorating
  • Pastry bag fitted with large star tip

Red Velvet Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 stick(s) (3/4 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup(s) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup(s) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon(s) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup(s) milk
  • 2 tablespoon(s) (1 oz) liquid red food color (we did not have any but still tasted the same!)
  • 2 teaspoon(s) white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cup(s) cake flour (not self-rising)

Buttercream Frosting Ingredients

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 2 cup(s) granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 cup(s) (4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon(s) pure vanilla extract
  • Leaf green gel food coloring

Directions

Make red velvet cupcakes: Heat oven to 350°F. You’ll need 24 regular-size (2 1/2-in. diameter) muffin cups lined with foil liners. In a large bowl with mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and vanilla 2 minutes until creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until blended. Stir milk, food color and vinegar in a 2-cup measure until well blended. With mixer on low speed, beat in flour in three additions, alternating with buttermilk mixture in two additions, beating just until blended. Spoon a scant 1⁄4 cup batter over candy in each cup, keeping candy in center. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until a wooden pick inserted in center of cupcakes comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 5 minutes, then remove from pan to rack. Cool completely.

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Once they are in the oven, make the buttercream frosting. This takes some time but allows for the cupcakes to cool before starting to decorate. In a large metal or glass bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over (but not touching) a saucepan of barely simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are warm to touch, 3 to 4 minutes. (To tell if the sugar has dissolved, rub a little of the mixture between your fingers. It should feel smooth, not grainy.)

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Remove from the heat. Using an electric mixer, whisk on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff glossy peaks form and the bowl is no longer hot to touch, 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and gradually add the butter, a few pieces at a time. After adding all the butter, continue to whisk until the mixture begins to resemble softly whipped butter, about 3 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the vanilla. Mix for 3 to 4 minutes to remove some of the air bubbles. Tint the frosting green.

Assemble the wreath. Remember, if you make the holly cookies and sugared cranberries, be sure to allot time to those too. Assemble the cupcakes in a wreath shape (15 in outer circle, 9 in inner circle). Place the green buttercream in the pastry bag fitted with a large start tip and frost the cupcakes with green buttercream frosting to create a wreath, filling in any gaps between cupcakes with the frosting. Decorate the wreath with the holly leaf cookies and sugared cranberries (or other decorations you may wish to use, we used sprinkles and melted white chocolate). Enjoy!

We all took turns decorating some of the cupcakes with the buttercream frosting:

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My mom shared this recipe with me, which was passed down from my grandfather who learned it from my great-grandmother. There is something so special about recipes that are passed down and this is no exception. It is a recipe from Madeira, Portugal, where my grandfather is from, and eaten year-round, but most commonly enjoyed during the Christmas season. It has a strong taste but goes great with coffee and shared with family and friends!

Ingredients

  • 500g flour
  • 500g sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 stick Crisco
  • 1/2 cup Madeira wine (Porto wine)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cups white and brown raisins
  • 3/4 cups nuts
  • zest of one orange

Directions

Mix butter and sugar until combined, Add eggs and wine. Mix cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, and baking powder with the flour. Add raisins, nuts and orange zest. Mix flour mixture with first mixture. Add raisins and nuts on top for decoration. Bake in the oven at 350F for 1 hour. Toothpick will come out dry when ready.

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Christmas day, Laura and I made Gingerbread cookies! We had a gingerbread men and gingerbread women cookie cutters so we had gingerbread people! The cookies themselves are so soft and delicious and decorating them was even more fun! We used cinnamon candy balls, black gel icing, and powdered sugar/vanilla icing to decorate. Original recipe here.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°. Prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves until well blended. In a large bowl (KitchenAid’s great for this) beat butter, brown sugar, and egg on medium speed until well blended. Add molasses and vanilla and continue to mix until well blended. Gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth. Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours. (Dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, but in this case it should be refrigerated. Return to room temp before using.) Grease or line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place 1 portion of the dough on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle flour over dough and rolling pin. Roll dough to a scant 1/4-inch thick. Use additional flour to avoid sticking. Cut out cookies with desired cutter– the ginger bread man is our favorite of course. Space cookies 1 1/2-inches apart. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 7-10 minutes (the lower time will give you softer cookies– very good!). Remove cookie sheet from oven and allow the cookies to stand until the cookies are firm enough to move to a wire rack. After cookies are cool you may decorate them any way you like. You can brush them with a powdered sugar glaze but they look wonderful decorated with Royal icing.
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We also made (boxed) sugar cookies that day and made trees and stars! So much sweet goodness for such a great holiday! 🙂

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In preparation for Christmas, Cristina, Laura and I made these reindeer cookies! I’ll be honest and say that the cookies did not come out very well. I’m not sure if it was the recipe or if we missed something but I’m sure if you use any cookie recipe that does not raise too much in the oven, you can still make them look like reindeer by decorating them as such! Ultimately, the most fun part of this recipe is the decorating! You can see the original recipe here.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup smooth natural peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 32 chocolate chips (we used black gel icing)
  • 32 small pretzels
  • 16 cinnamon candy balls

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and sea salt. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the peanut butter and maple syrup until smooth. Add the peanut butter/syrup mixture to the flour mixture in the medium-sized bowl and mix until combined. Roll a tablespoon-size amount of dough in your hands to make a ball. Create a point on the bottom edge of the dough for the reindeer’s’ face. Place the dough ball onto a parchment lined baking sheet and press down slightly with your hand. Leave a 1 1/2 space between the cookies on the pan, as they will expand. Add 2 chocolate chips for the eyes, two pretzels for the antlers and a Swedish berry, dried cranberry or dried cherry for the red nose. Repeat to make 16 cookies. Place in the oven to bake for 8-10 minutes.

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The ears didn’t stick too well but the ones that did looked adorable!

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All the baking we did that night! More recipes to come!

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