Black Sticky Gingerbread

I've experimented with a good number of gingerbread recipes in the years since I highlighted Regan Daley's Black Sticky Gingerbread. There were single, double, and triple ginger gingerbreads. Cakes that were spice-kissed, and others with experience at first and second base. They're all good, really. But hers is the one I keep coming back to when it counts. And because it has been hiding in the archives for so long, I thought I'd run my updated version today complete with tweaks, and fresh insights.
Black Sticky Gingerbread
Back then, here's what I said, “…The Black Sticky Gingerbread comes together like the cake that it is – straight-forward, unfussy, with a bit of kick and attitude. Melt the butter with the sweeteners, stir in a few eggs, fold in the fragrant spices and flour, spike it with some freshly grated ginger, and pour the batter into the prepared pan. The cake is outrageously dark, dense, flavorful, and delicious. Not the prettiest cake you'll ever make, but one of the tastiest. The burnt-caramel-esque crust that forms on the top of the cake is outrageous, and that was the first part of the cake to go.”Black Sticky Gingerbread
It all holds true. I'd love to know if any of you give this a try over the holidays, or if you make any personalized tweaks to it! xo -h

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Triple Ginger Cookies

These are the ginger cookies you want to make. Little cookies spiked with lemon and three kinds of ginger. I can't get enough of them. Cracked and sugar-crusted on the outside, dense and moist within, these chewy, tender ginger gems invigorate the senses with every bite. Helped, no doubt, by the lively combination of freshly grated ginger, powdered ginger, AND minced crystallized ginger.
Triple Ginger Cookie RecipeTexturally they are far from being ginger snaps, but calling them ginger puffs wouldn't accurately describe them either – they maintain a certain heft that belies their tiny size. They pair nicely with cold, blustery afternoons. They pair nicely with hot tea.

I should also mention, these are the types of cookies I like to make for parties – the perfect grab-and-go sweet. I say this in part because they deliver a single bite of spicy deliciousness without being too-much – too sugary, too big, too fussy, too ornate, etc. And if that wasn't enough, the smell that emanates from the oven while they are baking is enough to make one swoon.Triple Ginger Cookie RecipeIt took me a while to get this recipe right where I like it – and I've found using one of two flours works best. I had great results using spelt flour, and great results using whole wheat pastry flour. The version you see in the photos is the whole wheat pastry flour.
Triple Ginger Cookie Recipe

Technique (A Little Secret)

And for those of you who read this to the end…my little secret when it comes to making these cookies is this – I mince the crystallized ginger to death. I go at it like I'm trying to turn it into some sort of paste. Some ginger is moister than than others, so you'll have varying results, but really go at it. A dramatic mince.
Triple Ginger Cookie Recipe

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Sparkling Cranberries

I've become convinced that these sparkling, sugared cranberries should be a part of every holiday spread. They glint and wink in the surrounding holiday lights, and lend a striking dash of red to the table. Another great thing is the way they effortlessly make the transition from savory course to sweet. So, for example, I've become fond of serving them as part of a cheese spread, but I imagine they'd be nice as the finishing touch on on a tart or clustered atop a crème brûlée or pudding of some sort.Sparkling Cranberries Recipesparkling_cranberries2.jpg

What Type of Sugar?

This is key, and I've experimented with a range of sugars here. Some work better than others. In the beginning, I wanted to make them with a maple sugar coating – but the cranberries looked like they had been dropped in dust. The same goes for raw cane sugar, coconut sugar, and Rapadura. So I gave up trying to do a less refined sugar version. Take note, extra-fine grain sugar didn't work well either – clumpy. Essentially, the best way to get a good sparkling sugar crust on your cranberries is to first roll them in an slightly-chunky organic sugar (something like this), and later toss them in regular granulated sugar. The small grains of the granulated sugar cling to any spots that are still sticky from the simple syrup.
Sparkling Cranberries Recipe

They are simple to make, but you need to do the first step the night before. I like to toss the cranberries in sugar the next morning, and off and on throughout the day so they have time to dry and crisp up. Enjoy, and happiest holidays!

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Fluffy Vanilla Nougat

To make great nougat, you really need to have a plan. You have to be legit focused. And(!), consider yourself warned, there are going to be a few minutes when you can't answer the front door, or even look at your phone – boiling hot sugar is no joke. I'm going to show you how to make a fluffy, cloud-like, vanilla nougat candy. Because if you're going to eat candy now and then, it might as well be homemade. You need to read through the recipe in its entirety before starting, so you have a sense of where you're headed. You'll also need a candy thermometer.

Vanilla Nougat Recipe

To the billowy, sweet, nougat base you can add all manner of flavors and spices. Or, stir in as many seeds, nuts, and dried fruit as the nougat will hold. The version you see pictured has vanilla bean, streaks of saffron, and a medley of nuts and seeds. The version in the video is slightly different. Part of the fun is experimenting with all the different ingredients you can add. A memorable favorite – lavender with loads of toasted white and black sesame seeds.

Vanilla Nougat Recipe

Vanilla Nougat Recipe

A few notes about this nougat recipe. A lot of nougat recipes use large amounts of corn syrup. The goal here was to get rid of as much corn syrup as possible, and preferably eliminate it altogether (I'm going to give variations with it, and without below). The version with a small splash of corn syrup is, quite honestly, less temperamental. But you can make nougat without it. What you see pictured here is a nougat made from honey, sugar, egg whites, and water as the base. Then there's vanilla bean, and lots of nuts and seeds beyond that.

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Super Tasty, Toasted Almond Sable Cookies

When I go to flea markets or stop by a neighborhood garage sale, I always find myself rummaging through weathered cardboard boxes looking for cookie cutters. Vintage ones, distinctive ones. You might imagine I have drawers full of them, but that's not actually true. I have two small shoe-box sized containers of cookie cutters. That's it. It doesn't actually feel like a lot to some who loves to roll and stamp cookies as much as I do, but the good ones are hard to come by. Beyond shape, I have a fondness for metal cutters with sharp edges, and good structure. Shapes that can cut cleanly through a currant or dried cranberry if need be. Today, I thought I'd show you a few of my scores, and share a favorite cookie-cutter friendly recipe as well.

Toasted Almond Sable Recipe

So, I love my Swedish heart cookie cutter. It's roughly the size of my palm and is perfectly symmetric. Here's the thing. Hearts are a popular shape for cookie cutters, yet each heart is an individual. Some plunge deep, some curve shallow and soft, some are wide and squat, some are tall and elongated…each one says something different with its shape. There are friendly hearts, serious hearts, sophisticated hearts. It's a personal preference, but I tend to like the hearts that are just about as wide as they are tall. Symmetrical, direct, with clean lines.

Toasted Almond Sable Recipe

Then there are the wild card cookie cutters that I can't pass up. Like this farmhouse collection. The shapes get a bit mushy over the years, but the primitive lines are charming and the patina on the cutters beautiful. The pig has apparently escaped – note to self to find him.

Toasted Almond Sable Recipe

I've been making tiny shortbread in the shapes of small hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs since I was a kid, and tend to prefer tiny cutters for butter-rich cookies. They're the type of cookies where a couple make the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon coffee or tea. Today's cookies qualify, and I picked the teardrop shape.

These toasted almond sable cookies are a take-off on Alice Medrich's charming Whole Wheat Sables, published in her book Pure Dessert a few years back. I love them, and make them a number of different ways depending on what I have on hand. This variation is hard to beat – toasty, nutty, peppered with dried currants. They're made with whole wheat and all-purpose flours, sliced almonds, and the best butter you can come by. That said, I made another variation with June Taylor's candied citrus peels for the Little Flower School class a couple weeks back – swapping finely chopped peel for the currants you'll see in the recipe below. The peel left lovely little slashes of color throughout the cookies, and bursts of citrus flavor. I really loved those too.

Super Tasty, Toasted Almond Sable Cookies

Toasted Almond Sable Recipe

For those of you who've made it this far. I made a note to myself for next time. I'm excited to try this recipe using Dorie's trick of using cultured butter – for a hint of tang. It might be the thing to put these right over the top.

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4 o’clock No-bake Energy Bites

Energy bites aren't a new thing, but if you're a person that grabs commercial power bars regularly, and you're not already on board, give these a try as a DIY alternative. I make them for a 4 o'clock late afternoon snack to reach for when I'm at the studio, but they're also a great travel option. Kids love them. Adults love them. The best part is that you're in control of the ingredients, and they're a breeze to make. That said, I deploy a few, small, but (I'll argue) significant personal preferences when I set out to make energy bites.
No-bake Energy Bites

Energy Bite Strategy

Most recipes tend to use raw coconut flakes, and raw oats. I find a light toasting of both is worth the slight extra effort. I also like chia seeds here, and tend to use them as my seed of choice, but I first beat them up in a mortar and pestle a bit before adding them to the mix. Also, feel free to swap things up a bit – trade in alternate seeds, use whatever sweetener you prefer, add spices if you like, or an alternative nut butter, or keep things simple, and just go with this version – Enjoy!

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A quick side note, I make these with whatever nut butter I have on hand. Typically peanut or almond butter, but in the video up above you'll see sunflower seed butter. All great!

No-bake Energy Bites

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