Thursday, December 24, 2015

Gingerbread Pancakes

I have lists and bookmarks and files of recipes for all kinds of delicious confections that are perfect for the holidays. When Thanksgiving flies by and Christmas comes in, I find it difficult to fit those exciting things into my schedule, or, really, my calorie budget. And so, I find simple ways to get holiday flavors into more or less everyday dishes. Such is the case with these Gingerbread Pancakes.

All I did here was take my usual buttermilk pancake recipe and doctor it up with the flavors of gingerbread: molasses, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. I also substituted the buttermilk with a mixture of yogurt thinned with milk, just because that’s what was in the refrigerator, and part of holiday simplicity involves limiting trips to the grocery store.

The mix and balance of flavors in these pancakes were exactly what I was looking for, especially for the ease in which they came together. They’re warm and comforting, delicious and satisfying. They’re full of the great taste of gingerbread, just right for Christmas breakfast.

Merry Christmas!

Gingerbread Pancakes
You could substitute the yogurt-milk mixture with an equal amount of buttermilk.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon fine salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
¾ cup plain or vanilla yogurt
¼ cup milk
1 egg
1 tablespoon canola oil (or other neutral oil)
2 tablespoons molasses

1. Preheat an electric griddle to 350 F or a large skillet on the stove to medium heat. Preheat the oven to 200 F (to keep the pancakes warm for service). In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder, baking soda, salt and brown sugar. Whisk together to combine. Set aside.

2. In a measuring cup (or in a small bowl) combine the yogurt and milk. Stir together until smooth. Set aside.

3. In a medium-size bowl, combine the egg, oil and molasses. Whisk together until very smooth. Whisk in the yogurt mixture. Pour into the flour mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are just moistened. The batter will be somewhat thick. If it is too thick, add some additional milk.

4. Pour a little oil into the preheated griddle or pan or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Pour a scant ¼ cup batter into the pan for each pancake. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the edges of the pancakes look dry and the tops are bubbly. The bottoms may appear quite brown, but don’t worry. Flip the pancakes and cook on the other side until browned and cooked through. Repeat with all the remaining batter. Keep warm in the preheated oven. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Makes about 8 4-inch pancakes, about 2 servings.

Other recipes like this one: Gingerbread Muffins, Butter Pecan Pancakes

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Butter Frosting for Sugar Cookies


If I did a lot of frosting, this would be my go-to frosting. It’s good on cakes and cupcakes, but, of course, I’ve most recently used it to decorate Christmas Sugar Cookies. I was so happy with it there, that I don’t know why I never did such a thing before!

This is a very simple frosting, known as “buttercream” in the book from which I adapted it. While I’ve seen other frostings called buttercream, this is what I usually think of when I’m looking for buttercream. The recipe below makes a fairly small quantity, but it can be easily doubled (and then used to frost a layer cake). It’s sweet and easy to spread when at room temperature, and lasts quite a while in the refrigerator if you don’t want to use it all at once.

I think this frosting could be flavored just about any way you like with different flavored extracts or liqueurs. You could also add cocoa powder or melted chocolate to make a rich chocolate frosting. Citrus juice or instant coffee crystals would also be good additions. Of course, the plain frosting can be tinted with food coloring as desired as well. 

I loved this frosting plain and simple on my Christmas cookies. I decorated them with pretty sprinkles on top the frosting (I put mini M&Ms on some, too). The toppings will stick well to the frosting when it’s first applied, then will hold on as the frosting dries ever so slightly (it stays light and fluffy if the cookies are well wrapped). This quick and easy, creamy, sweet frosting is just the thing to make simple cookies into festive treats for the holidays.

Simple Butter Frosting

This recipe is easily doubled.

1/3 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy.

2. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat until very well combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

3. Add the milk and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until the frosting is smooth and fluffy. Refrigerate any unused portion.

Makes a scant 2 cups.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas Sugar Cookies

I have no memory of making any kind of Christmas cookie when I was a kid, except cut-out sugar cookies. We never frosted them, but just dusted the unbaked dough shapes with colored sugar, or, occasionally, some other sugary sprinkles. My brother and I got better at attractively distributing our red and green sparkles as we got older, at least a little bit. I don’t think any of my childhood Christmas seasons went by without these sweet treats.

For some reason, I don’t have my mom’s cut-out Christmas cookie recipe. I don’t suppose there’s much difference between the satisfactory recipes. I got this one from the Food Network, but I altered it a bit. I settled on this recipe so long ago, that I don’t remember why I made the changes I did. They were good changes, I think, so I see no reason to go back.

These cookies have some brown sugar in them, along with the usual white sugar, which makes both the dough and the finished product just a bit softer. Usually, to save time and preserve patience, I shape the dough into logs and slice it into rounds to bake rather than rolling it out and cutting shapes with cookie cutters. The dough is a little stickier when rolling it out, so be prepared to take a little extra time and re-chill a dough as needed.

I really wish I’d had the time and space to cut out stars and bells and Santas and trees and reindeer with over-browned antlers. I had great visions of beautiful photos of them. I did make a butter frosting, however, with which to decorate my pretty round cookies (more on that soon), and that will have to do. It may never snow, I may not have much Christmas vacation time, I might not have my Christmas shopping done, but I do have pretty, sweet, delightful Christmas Sugar Cookies in the house, and so it’s Christmastime. And all is well.

Sugar Cookies

This cookie dough can be shaped into logs and sliced or can be rolled out and cut into holiday shapes. Use your favorite method to decorate them.

3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar (for the work surface if rolling the dough out to cut into shapes)
Colored sugar, sprinkles, icing or frosting to decorate

1. In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk or sift together to combine. Set aside.

2. Combine the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes or until fluffy and light in color. Add the egg and vanilla and beat in until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

3. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating on low speed until all the mixture has been incorporated and the dough comes together. Gather the dough into a rough ball. Shape the dough into two logs about 3 inches in diameter, or shape into 2 disks. Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours (or place in a freezer bag and freeze for a couple months).

4. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease cookie sheets. Remove one dough log or disk at a time from the refrigerator. Slice disks a scant ¼ -inch thick from the logs or roll out the dough ¼ -inch thick on a work surface dusted with powdered sugar and cut into desired shapes. Arrange the dough on the prepared cookie sheets leaving at least 1 inch between them. If not frosting, distribute colored sugar or sprinkles over the unbaked cookies

5. Bake at 375 F for 7-9 minutes or until the cookies appear dry on top and gently brown on the bottom. Cool on the pan about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Cool completely if decorating with frosting or icing.

The number of cookies in this batch will depend on how large your cookie shapes are.