It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… (which is only 5 days away!!!!)
Today is a wonderfully white snow day in Metro Vancouver.
The fluffy white snowflakes began falling late last night and we woke up to roads blanketed in snow. Snow makes everything look beautiful.
I hope it sticks around for Christmas. We haven’t had a white Christmas in Vancouver for a few years.. oh how lovely it would be.
However, snow in Vancouver creates chaos. Unlike most people, I actually put on brand new all weather tires a couple months ago so I was pretty prepared for the cold weather and ice. Whereas a lot of people in Vancouver don’t have all weather/snow tires, and if they do they wait until after it is already snowing to put them on….
I’ve been watching Twitter all morning and the list of accidents/cars in the ditch keeps growing.. Stay safe out there people.
What better way to celebrate a snow day (if you’re lucky enough to be home today and enjoy it!) than to bake. A warm house filled with baked goods while snow falls outside is a perfect winter afternoon to me.
I have a certain love for ginger baked goods (such as these GingerStamp cookies) – the aroma is delicious. These are soft and chewy gingerbread people with a spicy ginger bite. To make them a little more personalized, without using royal icing, I used a small letter cookie cutter to imprint our family members initials on them. They would be great for table setting cards – or on top of presents.
Stay warm inside on this snow day and bake yourself a gingerbread army.
The dough itself is easy, and only requires about an hour to chill. Little kids can help with rolling out cutting out the cookies, and even decorating if you want to add frosting.
Soft and chewy personalized Gingerbread Men
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
- 1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices in a large bowl and set aside.
- 2. Beat butter and brown sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Mix in eggs and molasses.
- 3. Add flour mixture, mixing on low until just combined. Divide dough in half and wrap each in plastic.
- 4. Refrigerate until cold and firm, about one hour or up to two days.
- 5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. Cut into shapes of your choice, I used smaller gingerbread men cutters. If you want to personalized them, lightly press a small letter cookie cutter into center of the cookie. Place 1 inch apart on baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone baking mat.
- 6. Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
- Store in airtight container on counter for up to a week, or freeze.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Adapted from Martha Stewart
b a k e a h o l i c http://www.bakeaholic.ca/
I’ve mentioned before that Christmas Eve is a big tradition for Italians. In many ways Christmas Eve was more important that Christmas growing up.
For one thing, we opened up all of our gifts on Christmas eve. My brother and I were the first grandchildren on my Father’s side of the family – and we were for a few years until our other cousins came along. So on Christmas Eve Nick and I would have to stay up until midnight before we could open our presents i.e. we would be falling asleep on our Nonna’s couch. ‘Santa’ a.k.a my Nonno or Zio would dress up as Santa and come to my Nonna’s house at midnight to deliver presents.
Earlier in the evening we would eat our Feast of Seven Fishes dinner – Italians do not eat meat on Christmas Eve, only seafood. My brother and I were incredibly lucky to grow up with such amazing food and traditions. It was truly a feast to remember. We would begin with a seafood pasta course (usually tuna sauce my dad or nonna would make), followed by fish, prawns, mussels, clams, baccalà (salted cod), homemade calamari and other amazing dishes. It has always been my favourite memory of Christmas with my dads family.
As a child I remember stealing Pizzelles from the counter before dinner, when Nonna or Nonno weren’t looking. Pizzelles are incredibly thin, delicate waffle like cookies that are crisp and slightly sweet. You can eat about 6 in a minute flat. They were always the elusive holiday cookie that you would only get at Christmas or maybe Easter. Pizzelle makers were not popular so only my Nonna would have one therefore making it an even more treasured dessert that I looked forward to.
Now, I have my very own Pizzelle maker by a complete mishap that happened this summer. Long story short, the company Chef’s Choice sent me an e-mail on a completely different subject that lead me to respond and receive a response from a woman in their marketing department. After a few back and forth conversations about her daughter, myself and my family she offered to send me one of their products to make up for the mishap. Of course I chose the Pizzelle maker, as it meant I would not longer have to borrow my Nonnas. Also – that I could now make Pizzelle’s whenever I wanted.
I am also excited to be hosting my very first Christmas Eve dinner at our house this year. In honour of my Dad I hope everything turns out – though Christmas Eve has never quite been the same since he passed. Christmas makes me feel incredibly nostalgic. Nevertheless I am looking forward to having all of my family over to share a delicious seafood meal together – and Pizzelle’s will definitely be on the dessert counter. This time, I won’t have to sneak them.
Thin crisp waffle cookies
- 3 Eggs
- 1 3/4 cups Flour
- 1/2 tsp. Anise seeds (optional)
- 1/2 cup Butter or oil, melted
- 2 tsp. Baking Powder
- 3/4 cup Sugar
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 1. Turn on Pizzelle Maker. In a medium sized bowl beat together the eggs and sugar until frothy.
- 2. Add the cooled melted butter or oil, vanilla and anise seeds (optional) and beat again.
- 3. In small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add to the egg mixture stirring with wooden spoon.
- 4. Stir batter until well combined, it will be slightly stiff and dough-like. The dough should be stiff enough to drop by rounded spoonfuls.
- 5. Drop by spoonfuls in the centre of the Pizzelle maker. Be careful not to place too much dough, otherwise it will spill out over the sides. You want them to have delicate 'fingers' like lace.
- 6. Bake according to your Pizzelle Maker's instructions, usually only 20-30 seconds per batch. Carefully lift off using a fork. Place on cooling rack to crisp.
- Special Equipment Needed: Pizzelle Maker
- Pizzelle cookies last quite well. Place in airtight container (my nonna would always place paper towel over them) and store on counter for up to 2 weeks. You can also easily freeze them for ice cream sundaes, or ice cream sandwiches.
b a k e a h o l i c http://www.bakeaholic.ca/
Nanaimo bars were one of my favourite treats that my grandmother would make. Whenever we had a family get together, a baby shower, wedding shower etc. we would have Nanaimo bars. They are a treat that you don’t usually make unless it is for a special occasion, however, they are really quite simple to assemble and require no baking which would make them a great dessert for anytime.
While I was going to make them the traditional way – a three layer decadent and sweet square, I had an idea.
While preparing the custard layer I thought I might use a piping bag to pipe the filling on first, then spread it evenly on top with an offset spatula. Then it hit me – why not just use the piping bag to pipe the filling into rosettes and then cut them into squares before adding the chocolate?
One of the hardest things I find when making Nanaimo bars is cutting them once the chocolate has hardened. It’s difficult to make them into perfect squares because the chocolate cracks and breaks when you cut into it, especially once it is cold. However my aunt who is the queen of Nanaimo bars (and learned from my Grandma) always made them perfectly.
I thought it would be much easier to cut them before adding the chocolate, then drizzle it on top as a decoration. I also find that because the filling is so sickeningly sweet sometimes that the extra slice of chocolate on top almost sends you into a sugar coma. This way you still get the combination of chocolate and custard filling, only on a much smaller scale.
And truthfully – my favourite part was always the base. I love the combination of coconut, chocolate, graham crumbs and walnuts. I could just eat the base without the sweet toppings.
These bars as extra special because they hail from a small town on Vancouver Island, Nanaimo, which the dessert was named for (although there have been other claims). However at the end of the day a Nanaimo bar, is a Nanaimo bar.
This is the recipe my grandmother and aunt use and it is my favourite. Of course, you can still make it the traditional way by spreading the filling then pouring the chocolate over top and slicing it into squares. In my opinion, they look much prettier this way.
Nanaimo Bar Bites
A modern take on a traditional classic - Nanaimo Bar Bites are a decadent twist on the beloved three layer square with a chocolate cookie crumb base, custard filling and chocolate drizzled top.
- 1cup Unsalted Butter
- 1/2 up Sugar
- 10 tbsp. Cocoa
- 1 Egg beaten
- 1 ¼ cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
- 1 1/4 cups Chocolate Cookie Crumbs
- 3/4 cup Walnuts, chopped
- 2 cup coconut
- ½ cup Unsalted Butter
- 2 Tbsp Almond Milk
- 2 Tbsp. Birds Custard Powder
- 2 cups icing sugar
- 4 squares Dark Chocolate
- 1/2 Tbs. Butter
- 1. In the top of a double boiler (if you do not own one, place a glass or metal bowl over top of a sauce pan filled with simmering water) melt together the butter, sugar and cocoa.
- 2. In a small bowl beat the egg. Slowly whisk it into the melted butter and cocoa mixture. Continue to whisk until it thickens.
- 3. Remove from heat and stir in the crumbs, coconut and chopped walnuts.
- 4. Press mixture into an ungreased 9"x13" pan and place in fridge.
- 5. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment whip the butter until pale and creamy. Add the cream and custard powder and continue to beat. Slowly add the icing sugar and whip until the consistency of frosting.
- 6. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star tip.
- 7. Take the chilled base out of the fridge. Using a sharp knife, score the top of the base in 1" sections, drawing lines horizontally first then vertically.
- 8. Using the piping bag, pipe rosettes on to the middle of each 1" scored square section. Repeat until entire surface is covered. Place in fridge, covered.
- 9. Allow to set in fridge for about 45 minutes to an hour. You want the base to set and harden completely. Once it is hardened, remove it and use a dough scraper or sharp knife to cut the bars all the way through, then lift them out carefully with a fork.
- 10. Finally, after you have sliced the bars fully into squares place them onto a cooling rack with a piece of parchment paper underneath. Melt the Chocolate and butter in the microwave in 1 minutes intervals, stirring until fully melted. Spoon the melted chocolate into a ziplock bag or piping bag and snip off the corner. Drizzle the melted chocolate over top of the bars. Place aside to allow chocolate to set.
- To store the bars, place them in an airtight container in the fridge separating the layers with parchment. Alternatively, you can place them back into the 9x13" pan and cover.
- The bars also freeze very well.
- ** To make traditional bars double the ingredients for the Custard and stop at Step 5, then spread the Custard layer evenly over the base and cool. Melt the chocolate (You will need slightly more chocolate to cover the top) and spread evenly over top, allow to set in the fridge. Cut into bars/squares **
b a k e a h o l i c http://www.bakeaholic.ca/