Thursday, December 21, 2017

Holly Jolly Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods

With just a handful of days to go until Christmas, many of us are shuffling to get everything done that needs done during this crazy time of the year. The shopping. The gift-wrapping. The decorating. The party-planning. The baking. {And, the list goes on.} So, it's helpful to have a few quick shortcuts in our arsenal. Perhaps the kids need something for a holiday class party. Or, you need some simple goodies to hand out to co-workers, neighbors, etc. ... these festive sweet and salty snacks just may be the perfect solution.

They utilize minimal ingredients and come together rather easily. No baking is required. They require that very little - if any - dishes be dirtied up. I, literally, did not dirty one dish while making these. {I used wax paper to lay the chocolate-dipped pretzels on. I used a plastic spoon to help coat the pretzels. And, the chocolate came packaged with a melting tray that popped right into the microwave as-is.} So, it's a pretty easy project. And, it's one, too, to get the kids or grandkids involved with.

{Just be ready to grab the broom to sweep up all those sprinkles that'll inevitably end up on the floor by the end of the task, however.}

Yields 30 pretzel rods.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Cranberry Chocolate Bread Pudding with Citrus Butter Sauce

I always delight in taking an old-school recipe and giving it a twist. Bread pudding is no exception. I have several different versions here on the blog like, my Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Apple Cider Butter Sauce, my Blueberry Vanilla Bean Bread Pudding and my Apple Pie Croissant Pudding with Caramel Butter Foam Drizzle. In this version, fresh cranberries, chunks of chocolate and fresh oranges come together to make the ultimate holiday bread pudding that can be served for breakfast, brunch or even as a dessert.

What I love most about bread pudding is that the options are pretty endless with regards to the type or types of bread used. I've made it with leftover raisin bread, a day-old French loaf, croissants and sandwich bread. I actually prefer a combination of something hearty and something soft. So, in this recipe, I used mostly day-old French bread cubes with a few slices of soft sandwich bread cubes.

To prepare this recipe, the bread cubes get placed in a greased baking dish. Then, you'll be making a quick custard in a mixing bowl. After sprinkling on fresh cranberries and chocolate chunks, you'll pour the custard over it all. Next, you'll want it to soak for twenty minutes, at least, but you can store this in the fridge at this point - covered - until you're ready to bake it. {I have kept it overnight in the refrigerator at this point for an easy pop-in-the-oven breakfast option.} After baking, the bread pudding will need to rest slightly while you whisk up a quick, buttery, orange-infused powdered sugar sauce. This will get poured over the bread pudding at the time of service.

The result is a perfectly-spiced, custard-y center with a slightly crisp top. The cranberries impart a slightly tart component while the chocolate lends just the right amount of sweetness - it's a beautiful flavor balance between the two. And, the citrus-y sauce packs a magical punch of brightness and sweetness to finish everything off.

Yields 6 - 8 servings.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Cranberry and Double Chocolate Biscotti

I am a biscotti junkie. And, even though I have found some in cafes and stores that I do enjoy, I've come to really love making them at home. Besides turning out amazing every time, I love that I can play around with the add-ins when making my own batches.

I put off attempting to make biscotti from scratch at home for many years because I thought it would be a complicated process. Not so at all. The recipe is almost the same as making like, chocolate chip cookies. {Actually, I find making biscotti a little simpler, but that's probably because I get impatient while shuttling cookie sheets in and out of the oven when making cookies.} The dough will turn out a little thicker than regular cookie dough. But, the recipe, basically, calls for the same ingredients and mixing process. From there, the dough gets formed into "logs," baked a bit, removed from the oven, sliced and baked again. That's it.

Biscotti - by the way - are sweet Italian biscuits or cookies that get double-baked and are often served up with the intention of being dunked into beverages. They are typically oblong. Due to the double-baking, the end result is a crunchy, dry baked good that keeps well for a longer period of time than traditional soft-baked cookies.

I've chosen to bring together dried cranberries and mini chocolate chips in this version. Then, I've drizzled the cooled biscotti with melted chocolate. But, you can experiment with other mix-ins if you'd like ... chopped nuts, different varieties of chocolate, various dried fruits, etc. Also, I have used almond extract in place of vanilla extract in the past ... that is, also, really good.

Yields 28 - 32 biscotti {depending upon thickness of your dough and cookies}