Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cranberry Spice Biscotti - Crazy Ingredients Challenge

I am the worst cookie baker in the world. Yet knowing this, I forwent my initial plan to make biscotti for this month's Crazy Ingredients Challenge and tried my hand at shortbread. Big mistake. I know what you're thinking. Biscottis are cookies and shortbreads are the easiest cookies to make. Right on both counts. But you see, biscotti, doesn't mind being in the oven a little long. It doesn't need to come out before it's done. It's OK for biscotti to be hard. This is my kinda cookie. As for the shortbread being easy? I don't want to talk about that. There was a cupcake plan too but to be honest, after eating half a cake in fewer days than anyone should eat half of an 18000 calorie cake, making cupcakes just seemed like a bad (but oh so delicious) idea.

But let's rewind a bit. I have not actually introduced you to the ingredients for this month. This month cranberries and gingerbread spice won the poll. Festive! And so much easier than last year's gingerbread spice and onions. That one had me scratching my head and ready to quit. I didn't even know what gingerbread spice was. But thanks to our then host - Jutta - and Google, I learned. The mix really varies a lot but I decided to keep it simple. I went with 2 parts cinnamon, 2 parts ginger, 1 part nutmeg, 1 part allspice, 1 part cloves. Other mixes include other spices such as anise, cardamom and even black pepper.

I really enjoyed this biscotti and hope you do too. Within hours of baking and cooling, I had already eaten a significant number. I still have those cupcakes on my mind and think I may try to fit them into my schedule in the upcoming week.  Scroll down to see what festive dishes others came up with for this month's Crazy Ingredient Challenge!

Cranberry Spice Biscotti

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup - 1 cup of chopped dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line one large or two small baking sheets with parchment, non-stick foil or baking mats. 
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt
Whisk spices and brown sugar into melted butter then whisk in egg and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix just until the flour streaks disappear. Stir in chopped cranberries. Don't over mix. Dough will be very sticky.
Divide the dough into two. With floured or wet hands, pat each piece into an 11" x 2.5" smooth rectangle.
Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool for another 25 minutes then slice at 1/2 inch intervals on a slight diagonal.
Place the slices cut side up and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Turn the cookies and bake for another 5 minutes or until both sides are golden.
Cool completely.

You'll note that my ratio of cinnamon/ ginger to other spices is a bit more than 2 parts. I thought the biscotti could do with an extra cinnamon and ginger kick so I added an extra half teaspoon of each but didn't increase the other spices.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mint Tea Mini Bundts - #BundtBakers

I struggled with what to make for this month's Bundt Bakers. I knew that I would be baking myself a huge birthday cake and wondered if I should use the same batter for one of the layers of my cake and the Bundt. Laura, our host, chose mint for this month's theme  But that meant a mint chocolate layer and while I absolutely LOVE mint chocolate, I just wasn't feeling a mint chocolate layer this year. I was sipping a cup of tea when an idea struck. Perhaps I could use tea in my Bundt.

 I am not much of a hot beverage drinker. This is a fact that makes all my Jamaican friends give me the side eye. Poll several Jamaicans, and I can guarantee you that 99% of them will tell you that they always start their days with a hot beverage. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate (made from balls of pure chocolate), porridge. They just do not feel good without it. Pass me a cold beverage. Don't put porridge near me. However, if I am not feeling well, I will make myself some tea. I usually choose one of three options - mint, ginger or lime leaf. I know someone is raising his/her eyes at lime leaf. Hehe. Considering that most of the first page Google results for "lime leaf tea" are Jamaican, this might be a Jamaican thing.

The tea infusion worked better than I expected. The cake is has a light mint flavour and also a slight green tinge. I left the leaves in because my dried mint leaves were pretty small and I liked the look. but you could strain if you wish. I can't wait to try this with other teas. I meant to add an orange tea to this but opted to try just mint for now. orange and chai will come later.

There are lots of minty cakes and bread for you to drool over this month. Scroll down to see the list!

Mint Tea Bundt                                 
Recipe by: Kelster    Adapted from: Holy Vegan
Yield: 3 one-cup size mini Bundts
1/2 cup hot milk
1 teaspoon dried peppermint leaves
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1/4 cup butter
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
Thoroughly grease and flour 3 one cup capacity mini Bundt pans. Preheat oven to 350 F.
Place the tea leaves to steep in the hot milk. When cool, strain milk, if desired, and add the vinegar.
Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Alternate adding the flour and milk to the butter mixture and mix until well combined. Pour into prepared pans and bake 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in a cake comes out clean.
My peppermint leaves were pretty small so I left them in. You could strain the milk and add leaves that have been processed finely to the flour mixture. You could also place the leaves in a cheesecloth but squeeze well and you may need to add more milk after.
#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme.  Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on the BundtBakers home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Filling or Frosting

Every year, for the lat few years, I bake myself two special cakes - one for the anniversary of my brain surgery and the other for my birthday. Each year I tell myself that I am going to document the process (or the final result) on my blog but it never happens. Sometimes there's a minor hiccup with the cake that I just don't have time to fix (like an extremely sweet frosting in 2012). But most times it's because I am in a deep sugar coma and just can't get around to sorting through my endless cake notes.

This year after the annual "post on Facebook" ritual, someone asked for a recipe. So here I am, sorting through my notes. The cake has 4 layers - 2 brownies, one blondie and a cookie dough layer. These are then covered in a brown sugar Italian meringue buttercream. I'm going to take it one layer at a time. I know myself better than to try to write this up all at once. So first up is the chocolate chip cookie dough.

I adapted the recipe from Sprinkle Bakes. I used softened butter instead of melted butter and reduced the sugar a bit. I also did not add milk. See the recipe/notes for more information on that. Also, I opted for 2/3rds of her "I love a LOT of cookie dough" recipe. I do love a lot of cookie dough but there is a lot of cake here (18110 calories of it to be exact!). This made an approximately 0.8"  high layer when pressed into a 9" pan.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Filling or Frosting                                 
Recipe by: Kelster    Adapted from: Sprinkle Bakes
Yield: 1 batch

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
milk, as needed


Whisk together the flour and salt and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy then beat in vanilla. Slowly add in the flour mixture and beat until just combined and no flour streaks remain. Add milk by the tablespoon to get dough to preferred consistency. For a layer in a cake, you may only need about 4 tablespoons or less. For frosting, you may need up to 12 tablespoons. After desired consistency has been reached, stir in chocolate chips.
For a layer in a cake, spread the cookie dough into a plastic wrap lined 9" cake pan. Cover and freeze. To use, simply place the frozen cookie dough on a layer of cake.

  • One can also use mini chocolate chips.
  • I was happy with the consistency of my filling and did not use any milk.

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    Tuesday, December 9, 2014

    Garlic Multigrain Bread - #BreadBakers

    Talk to me, fellow bakers. Talk to me about your oven mitts. I've been using pretty standard oven mitts - nothing fancy. And they functioned well enough - until last Saturday morning when I removed this bread from the oven. Well, it was when I removed the cloche. I won a beautiful Emile Henry bread cloche and knew before it arrived that I wanted to use it for this month's Bread Bakers. Our host, Mirelle, chose quinoa as our theme and I knew pretty quickly that I would make a simple no knead loaf to test the cloche.

    Of course, when it was time to start baking, I started having second thoughts. Maybe I should try something else. I am in the midst of a serious chocolate craving and adding chocolate and making the bread in a loaf pan just seemed like the right thing to do. When one craves chocolate, one should make any and everything chocolate. It took several cookies and a huge brownie to talk me out me of that. But the chocolate craving rages on. (Two more days until a choclatey cake. A few hours until more brownies. I can make it. I hope.)

    I like adding things to no knead loaves. Let's be honest, if you have ever made a no knead loaf, you know that they can be pretty blah. I knew the quinoa would add texture but not a ton of flavour so I threw in some chopped garlic. Flax seeds were in my line of sight so they got added too. Then finally, I added a 5 grain cereal mix. Party in the mixing bowl! If I had beer, I would have added that too. Seriously. Cook's Illustrated recommends it. After a long rest, it was time to bake and time to test the cloche. I could have used a cold cloche (the instructions booklet mentioned several recipes starting with a cold one) but I wanted to test it preheated. And oh man was it heated.

    When I removed the cover some minutes into baking, my oven mitts threw up the white flag. I have taken a vessel out of a 450 F oven before but clearly, that was just pretending to be hot. The cloche was HOT and I felt it through the mitts.The mitts even scorched a bit.  So this is where I need some help. Clearly, I need new mitts. Mitts that can really stand the heat. My first thought was to get some silicone ones. Have you tried them? Do you have specific brand recommendations? I would hate to grab some that claim to be resistant up to 450 F and then find out that they really aren't. Because this cloche holds on to every bit of heat in that oven. Great for bread, not so for fingers.

    Here's my recipe for this garlicky loaf. But be sure to see how my fellow Bread Bakers used quinoa below. I even spy a loaf with chocolate!

    Garlic Multigrain Bread                                 
    Recipe by: Kelster    
    Yield: 1 loaf (~ 690 grams)
    400 grams all purpose flour
    1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
    43 grams quinoa, rinsed
    35 grams 5 grain cereal
    20 grams flax seeds
    15 grams garlic, finely chopped (~4 cloves)
    1 1/2 teaspoon salt
    300 grams water

    In a large bowl mix together flour, yeast, quinoa, 5 grain cereal, flax seeds, garlic and salt until evenly distributed. Add the water and mix until all the flour is moistened. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours. The dough is ready when it's risen and very bubbly. 
    Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and form it into a ball. Place the ball in a parchment lined (our heavily floured cloth towel-lined) bowl or skillet. Cover loosely and let rise until doubled in size - up to 2 hours. 
    At least 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 F. Place a heavy covered baking vessel such as a dutch oven, crock or cloche in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully transfer the dough to the hot vessel. You can simply place the dough in the vessel on the parchment paper or carefully turn the dough out into vessel.
    Bake covered for 25 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for an additional 15 - 20 minutes or until the loaf is well-browned and registers 200 F. Cool completely before slicing.

    • I used Bob's Red Mill 5 grain cereal. 35 grams is approximately 1/3 cup. You could substitute rolled oats or a mix of your choice. 
    • Don't feel like chopping garlic? I completely understand. Try garlic powder.
    • If you do not have a vessel with a cover, foil can be used to cover the vessel.

    Bread Bakers

    What is Bread Bakers? It’s a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Bread Bakers Pinterest Board. Links are also updated after each event on the Bread Bakers home page. How is the monthly theme determined? We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. Would you like to join in the fun? If you are a food blogger, send an email with your blog name and url to Stacy at

    Wednesday, December 3, 2014

    Eggnog Kringel - Foodie Extravaganza

    I have a confession to make. Up until last week, I had never tasted eggnog. No, no. I promise that I'm not (that) sheltered and eggnog is enjoyed in Jamaica. It's just that I don't drink milk and that "embargo" extended to all milky drinks. I'm not lactose intolerant either. I just have zero interest in the substance . Well, not zero, I do bake with it but otherwise it's never used.

    My mother said that I stopped drinking milk when I was a baby. I loved it. Then one day I would scream bloody murder if it was brought near me. She suspects that my nanny is responsible somehow. But she never made a big deal out of it. She doesn't drink milk or milky drinks either so she wasn't about to force her daughter. This means there was never milk around. Well, that's not true. There was always condensed milk available for coffee and hot cocoa. I don't think you'd ever find a Jamaican fridge without condensed milk. There are stories of children eating the stuff on bread and there's a desert made with just fruit and condensed milk. I can't vouch for the taste though because I pretty much ignored the condensed milk too.

    But back to eggnog. December is eggnog month and Foodie Extravaganza (through our host, Alexis) chose eggnog as the theme this month. So it was time to drop my eggnog "embargo" and have a sip. Luckily, the day I was brainstorming ideas, my grocery store had eggnog trifle samples. That was some good stuff. I was tempted to just replicate that until my bread baking side reminded me that I've been meaning to make another kringel for a while.

    The Estonian kringel is a beautiful braided bread that's filled with sugar, spices and often dried fruit. I took some liberties and used eggnog as the liquid and added nutmeg to the filling.Oh, this was some good bread. The eggnog flavour shone through and there was a lovely hint of rum. That's right - you really want to use a spiked eggnog. Plain eggnog will be good. Spiked eggnog will be amazing. This is best enjoyed warm and is at it's best on the first day. I probably will never pour myself a glass of eggnog but I'd be happy to use it as an ingredient in dessert. If you're looking for ways to use eggnog, be sure to scroll down and check out all the amazing recipes this month.

    Eggnog Kringel                                
    Recipe by: Kelster    
    Yield: 1 loaf
    375 grams all purpose flour
    7 grams active dry yeast
    28 grams oil
    24 grams sugar
    1 large egg yolk
    5 grams salt
    200 grams eggnog (See notes)

    3 tablespoons softened margarine
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    2 teaspoon cornstarch
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg


    Combine all the dough ingredients except the eggnog in the bowl.Start adding the eggnog and kneading. Add enough eggnog  to form a soft, non-sticky dough. Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a damp towel. Let rest until dough has doubled. This could take from 1 to 2 hours.

    After dough has risen, remove dough from the bowl and roll out into a 15" x 13" rectangle. If dough resists, let rest for a few minutes then continue rolling. Spread the dough with softened butter. Mix the remaining filling ingredients and sprinkle evenly over the dough.

    Starting along a longer edge, roll up the dough into a tight log. Gently, stretch the log out a bit. Using a sharp knife, split this log lengthwise. With the cut sides facing up, twist these two new pieces into a rope then form the rope into a circle. Seal the two ends together.

    Cover and let rise until almost doubled (30 minutes - 1 hour).

    Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce temperature to 325 F. Bake for another 20 - 30 minutes or until the kringel registers 190 F. If the kringel is getting dark too quickly, cover with foil.

    • Some eggnogs will be thicker than others. Start with approximately 3/4ths of the suggested amount and add as needed.  

     If you would like to participate in the next Foodie Extravaganza, just go to the Facebook page to join.  We would love to have you!
    Enjoy these 17 Eggnog Recipes!

    Gingerbread Eggnog Cookies - A Day in the Life on the Farm
    Nutty Nog Caramels - Culinary Adventures with Camilla
    Eggnog Rice Pudding - The Joyful Foodie 
    Peppermint Eggnog Hot Chocolate - Trial and Eater
    Eggnog Chocolate Chip Cake - Fearlessly Creative Mamas
    Eggnog Cookies - Sew You Think You Can Cook
    Fruity Eggnog Bread Pudding - Cindy's Recipes and Writings
    Chewy Eggnog Cookies - We Like to Learn as We Go
    Eggnog Waffles and Syrup - Making Miracles
    Eggnog Pound Cake with Eggnog Glaze - Food Lust People Love 
    Eggnog Kringel - Passion Kneaded
    Banana Chocolate Chip Eggnog Coffee Cake - The Sweet {Tooth} Life
    Eggnog Cupcakes - Baking in Pyjamas
    No-Bake Eggnog Cookies - Rhubarb and Honey
    Eggnog Mexican Flan - Pantry Friendly Cooking
    Eggnog Fudge - Mrs. Penguin
    Eggnog Creme Brulee - The Freshman Cook