Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Day Brunch

Everyone is getting ready for big New Year's Eve parties, but I prefer to stay low key tonight and celebrate tomorrow with a New Year's Day brunch! Brunch is my favorite meal and a great one to host. You can make it as easy or as complicated as you'd like. I prefer to try to do as much as possible ahead of time, serving coffee cakes, muffins and other baked items I can make the night before. Here are a few tips and recipe ideas for your own brunch celebration:

Tip #1: Bake items the night before. Choose items that can be made ahead so you can enjoy your guests. Muffins and Coffee Cakes are a great choice.

Tip #2: Consider Pot-luck: You can ask other guests to bring things so you aren't spending too much time in the kitchen. Again, the idea is to be able to enjoy your guests. If you want to do the baking, you can ask guests to bring an egg, meat or vegetable dish. Or just ask them to bring some fresh fruit, which is always a great part of any brunch.

Tip #3: Even if you are making everything yourself, choose dishes that can be made ahead of time and kept warm in the oven. Things like egg casseroles, french toast, or hash browns are good options. Cover with tin foil and put in the oven at 250. Or you could make MOST of the meal ahead of time and have just ONE item that needs to be made on the spot - pancakes, eggs to order, etc.

Tip #4: Have several drink options - Coffee, Tea, (and Decaf coffee or tea) as well as a variety of juices. Some brunch cocktails can be great too - Mimosas and Bloody Marys can be made by the pitcher quickly and easily just before serving the food. Sure, it's nice to make individual drinks, but we're trying to keep it EASY here! :)

Here are some Menu Ideas. Just click on the link for the recipe:

Go British with fancy teas and freshly made Scones:
Great Coffee Cakes you can make ahead:
I also make a cranberry almond coffee cake by adding
one cup chopped fresh cranberries to this recipe.
Muffins can also be made ahead and are a healthier option:

(okay, so these ones are not as healthy as the
ones above, but they are my favorite!)
Or do traditional breakfast fare with these Homemade Pancakes:


You can even "carmelize" some apples to put on top - just peel and slice 2-3 large apples, put them in a sautee pan, add 1 Tbsp butter plus 1 Tbsp brown sugar, and cinnamon (or other spices to taste) cook on medium heat until the apples have softened and the sauce is syrupy like caramel.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Ornament Cupcakes

These Ornament Cupcakes are festive and not very difficult to make. They do take a bit of time, but I think they are worth it. Here is what you do:
1) Bake your favorite cupcakes in sturdy paper or foil cups and let them cool.
2) Make (or buy) fondant, and color it in whichever shades you like (it is good to do different 3-4 colors. You only need a little of each color).
3) Roll out the fondant and cut it into circles with a large round cookie cutter.
4) Place the fondant circles into the holes of a mini half-ball pan and press gently, working the fondant into the domes to make it fit. (You can purchase a mini half-ball pan at most cake decorating stores or craft stores. If you do not know what a half-ball pan is, here is a link: Wilton Mini-Ball Pan
5) Let the fondant sit overnight to set.
6) Frost the cupcakes with any stiff buttercream. Soft or gooey frosting won't work here.
7) Put the fondant domes over the tops of the cupcakes, pressing down gently.
8) Brush the domes with lustre dust (shimmery edible dust available at Cake Decorating stores).
9) If desired, make a half batch of Royal Icing and pipe designs on your ornaments.
10) Make some hook and loop attachments out of fondant and attach them with royal icing (you can color it gray or just form them out of white fondant and then paint them with silver lustre dust afterward).

This post is featured on Wicked Good Wednesdays at 365 Days of Baking. See more here:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Spicy Gingersnaps

If you like your gingerbread spicy and crisp, these will be your favorite. These gingersnaps have a BOLD spicy ginger flavor, which is how a gingersnap should be. If you like a softer cookie instead, try my Soft Gingerbread Cookies which are the same cookies with some minor tweaks to keep them soft instead of crisp.

1 1/2 Cups Shortening
2 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup Molasses (dark or light - it's up to you)
2 eggs
4 Cups Flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon

Melt shortening in a medium saucepan on low heat. Cool a little. Add Sugar, Molasses, and Eggs (it is important to let the molasses cool a little so it doesn't curdle the eggs). Beat good. Have all dry ingredients mixed together in a separate bowl, then mix into the wet ingredients and stir until well blended (you can transfer it into a kitchenaid mixer to do this part if you'd like). Chill the dough for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

On a generously floured board, roll the dough thin and cut into simple shapes like circles (no intricate shapes because they spread). Do not be afraid to flour the board generously, this dough can handle it since it was originally meant to be a chewy cookie. When they are rolled out, you can sprinkle them sith sanding sugar if you'd like, pressing it in gently to help it adhere. Bake at 375 degrees for 7-10 minutes until the center looks set and the edges are getting browner than the rest of the cookie. Cool completely before stacking or packaging.