Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Cranberry Ginger Muffin Tree

Make anything in the shape of a wreath or a tree at this time of the year and instant celebration! So I present this lovely and charming muffin tree for the holidays. It’s bound to bring a smile to the faces of your breakfast companions, and I love how fun it is to serve it right on the baking sheet and let everyone tear-and share.

These treats are something of a cross between a muffin and a scone (a scuffin?) and I think best served just warm, though they are still lovely at room temperature. I chose to flavor these with seasonal cranberries and tangy ginger which works so beautifully with the Christmas tree theme. But honestly,  you can use you imagination with any combination of dried fruits and perhaps some chopped nuts. Add whatever spices appeal – nutmeg and cinnamon would be holiday perfect. The muffins themselves are not overly sweet, with the flavor coming from the cranberries and ginger. The streusel top adds a hint of sweet. I add a purely optional glaze, for a little extra sweet and a pretty flourish. Using cranberry juice adds a festive pink tinge, but you can use just cream of milk, or a tiny drop of food coloring. I promise, making the tree shape is easy but don’t get too caught up in perfect – the delightfully homemade, rustic look is part of the charm.

Cranberry Ginger Muffin Tree

For the Streusel:

4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 Tablespoons light brown sugar

¼ teaspoon ginger

2 Tablespoons butter, melted

For the Muffins:

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup diced crystallized ginger pieces

2 cups buttermilk

For the Glaze:

2 teaspoons cranberry juice

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Milk, cream or water

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

For the Streusel:

Mix the flour, sugar and ginger together with your fingers, breaking up any lumps. Pour in the melted butter and use a fork to blend it together until crumbly. You may want to finish blending with your fingers to create a damp rubble.

For the Muffins:

Put the flour, baking soda, ginger and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low a few times to blend. Mix in the cranberries and ginger pieces. Cut the cold butter into small chunks and add the flour, tossing them around with your hands to separate. Mix on medium low to rub the butter into the flour until there are just very small pieces of butter left – you can help it along with your fingers if needed.  Add the buttermilk all at once and mix just until combined. If there are some dry ingredients stuck at the bottom of the bowl, knead those in with your fingers.

Use a large cookie scoop and run it under water to just wet the surface – shake it out so there is no pooled water and wet the scoop a few times while forming the tree to help keep the dough from sticking. Scoop one ball of dough at the top of the sheet, then two beneath it. The balls should touch. In the next row, center a ball between the two above, then put one on either side. Next row put four balls across, then five, then two centered at the bottom for the trunk. I sometimes have enough dough left for two or three more muffins, which I bake on a separate lined baking sheet.

Carefully sprinkle some of the streusel on top of each muffin ball. Some will get on the baking sheet, but try and keep that to a minimum, returning it to the top of the muffins, with some falling between the gaps is fine.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the muffins are firm and golden. Leave to cool for about 15 minutes.

For the Glaze:

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl and whisk it with the cranberry juice to blend, then whisk in just enough milk, cream or water to produce a drizzle-able glaze. Drizzle over the muffin tree, then sprinkle over a little powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Makes 16 – 18

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Pomegranate Glazed Cocktail Sausages

Pomegranate Glazed Cocktail Sausages

Don’t laugh. I really like cocktail weenies. I know, they seem a little outré, like those memes of horrible recipes from the past that go around. But I have made many versions of glazed cocktail sausages for parties, particularly at Christmas, and people’s eyes light up and they are devoured. Now, I say I love these, but I have also seen them go horribly wrong. I mean, I’m sorry, but grape jelly has no place here. I have tried to make them a little bit more sophisticated and a little less kitsch, and this seasonally appropriate pomegranate version is perfect for Christmas cocktail gatherings.

This makes a great big batch perfect for parties. Like I said, they do get devoured. Pomegranate molasses is sort of an amazing ingredient that is more and more available, and always available online. Search recipes for it, or just drizzle it over hummus for a treat. If you don’t have it, you can substitute regular molasses or maple syrup. I serve these in a chafing dish, but if you don’t have one, serve them in an attractive stove to table pot and just rewarm over low heat occasionally. Serve with plenty of cocktail napkins and toothpicks, and remember to put out a bowl or dish for used toothpicks!

Pomegranate Glazed Cocktail Sausages

2 cups 100% pomegranate juice

½ cup light brown sugar

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons whole grain mustard

2 Tablespoons pomegranate molasses

2 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter

3 (12—ounce) packages beef cocktail sausages

Pour the juice into a 3-quart pot, then whisk in the sugar, mustards and pomegranate molasses. Bring to a low boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently then reduce to a simmer and cook until the glaze is reduced by half and thickened and slightly syrupy, about 15 minutes. Watch carefully and do not turn the heat to high – you do not want this to overboil. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter until smooth and melted. Add the sausages and stir to coat. Turn the heat back on to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sausages are nicely burnished with the glaze and heated through, about 20 minutes. 

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausages to a chafing dish and cover it with foil to keep the sausages warm. Bring the glaze in the pot to a hard boil, stirring constantly, until the glaze has thickened a bit. Spoon some of the glaze over the sausages and gently stir to coat. You may not use all of the glaze – remember people will be eating these with toothpicks, so you don’t want them too drippy.

Serve in a chafing dish with toothpicks.

Serves a crowd!

Mulled Wine Brownies

Mulled Wine Brownies

I love all the silly sweets at Christmas. This rice crispie treat wreaths, cupcakes with red and green sprinkles, those little pretzel reindeer. It’s the kind of fun the holidays are all about. But sometimes it’s nice to present something a bit more grown-up. As the children in my life are turning into adults (faster than I like), I find more reason to try out those sophisticated things a bit more. That’s where these brownies come in. They are deep and rich and chocolatey with a complexity from the red wine and a perfectly seasonal twist from the spices. I usually serve these cut into small squares – they make a fabulous take along to a holiday party. But they would work equally as well cut into large squares served with ice cream or a swirl of whipped cream on a plate, maybe with a little drizzle of chocolate sauce. These would also make a lovely gift.

Don’t use best wine – but this is great for the tail end of a bottle. Check the bulk spice section at a grocery store to buy small amounts of these spices if you don’t keep them on hand. You could also use them to make mulled wine to drink. Or simply put them in a pot of water bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and let the lovely spicy smell fill your kitchen.

Mulled Wine Brownies

1 ¼ cup red wine

¼ teaspoon allspice berries

¼ teaspoon whole cloves

¼ teaspoon whole coriander

½ cinnamon stick

1 star anise pod

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

¾ cups (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter

1 ¾ cups granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ baking soda

¼ kosher salt

Pour the wine in a small saucepan. Tie the allspice, cloves and coriander in a small cheesecloth bundle (or use a mesh tea ball). Add to the wine and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and bubble it away until it is reduced to exactly ½ cup. Cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9 by 13 inch brownie pan with parchment paper or nonstick foil, with some overhang to lift out the brownies when cooked.

Make a double boiler with a large glass or metal mixing bowl set over a pan with an inch or so of water, not touching the bottom of the bowl. Put the chocolate and the butter in the bowl and heat over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until both are melted and smooth and well combined. Remove the bowl from the pot and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar until completely combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and stir until very well combined. Stir in the reduced wine until combined – it will be very loose. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and soda and salt and stir just until the batter is combined and there are no streaks of dry ingredients visible.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan smoothing the top and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs clinging. These are nice and fudgy, so don’t worry if they’re a touch soft. Cool and cut into squares.

Makes 16

Flatbread with Cranberry Onion Jam and Brie

I had this idea for a flatbread appetizer with cranberries and caramelized onions. I put together a version for a simple friends gathering and I felt like I wasn’t quite there yet, but it got absolutely gobbled up. That’s how I knew I was on the right path. I worked out this amazing cranberry onion jam, which has become a house staple for all sorts of things, and tweeked the dough to be easy and make-ahead. I made it again for another gathering a week or so later with some of the same people, and you would’ve thought I’d invented the wheel for the raves. Best of all, it was an all ages hit. Two friends asked for the recipe because their kids loved it so much. And it does make a stunning display.

I have quite a few helpful notes on this one. First, the jam is really versatile. It would make a fantastic alternative to cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, and/or would be amazing on a leftover turkey sandwich. It takes a little time to cook but can be made a few days ahead and held in the fridge. With the flatbread dough, my trusty recipe makes a crust for 2 pizzas or flatbreads, so I fiddled around with cutting it in half, but in the end decided that was unnecessary, because the easy to make dough can keep in the fridge for a few days or the freezer for up to a month. So why not make a whole recipe and have some on hand, because it can be used for any pizza or flatbread combo you like. I love the creamy, mellow taste of brie, but you’ve got options here too. Taleggio is magnificent but a little spendy. Camembert is lovely or get really tangy with some crumbled blue cheese. This recipe makes a lovely meal with a green salad, but I like to serve it as a party appetizer. Make the jam and the dough ahead, assemble it all before your guests arrive, pop it in the oven as they pull in the driveway. I shape the dough to fit a wooden cutting board for a rustic serving presentation. Don’t worry about perfection – the handmade look is a special touch.

Flatbread with Cranberry Onion Jam and Brie

For the Cranberry Onion Jam

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds yellow sweet onions, finely diced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup pure cane sugar or granulated sugar

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 stalk fresh rosemary

2 cups fresh cranberries

1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

For the Flatbread Dough:

2 packets active dry yeast

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon honey

1 ¼ cup warm water

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Assembly

4 ounces brie cheese

¼ cup dried cranberries

Flaky salt and black pepper

For the Jam:

Pick out a medium sized, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, and make a paper lid for stewing the onions by cutting out a circle from a piece of parchment that will fit tightly over the surface of the onions. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the diced onions. Stir to coat the onions in oil, then cook for about five minutes until the onions begin to wilt and color slightly at the edges, stirring frequently. Sprinkle over the salt and stir to combine. Turn the heat to medium low. Place the parchment paper circle over the top of the onions pressing directly on the surface.  Cook the onions until soft and caramelized and golden brown, removing the paper once or twice and stirring, replacing the paper lid, about 20 minutes. If the onions are catching on the bottom of the pan, stir in a couple of tablespoons of water and scrape up ant browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the liquid is evaporated and replace the cover and continue. When the onions are a lovely toffee color, add ½ cup water, the sugar and vinegar and stir. Tie the rosemary in a little cheesecloth bundle or put it in a tea ball and add to the pot, then add the cranberries. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the berries begin to pop and split. When you are stirring, press on the berries with your spatula or spoon to break them up. You don’t want any whole berries in the finished product. When you’ve got a thick, dark spreadable jam of a deep wine color, about 20 minutes of cooking and stirring, remove the pan from the heat, remove the rosemary and stir in the chopped sage. Leave to cool.  The jam can be made up to two days ahead, cooked, covered and refrigerated.

For the Flatbread:

Put the yeast, oil, honey and water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Give it a stir with the hook, then add three cups of flour and mix until the begins to dough come together, pulling the mass of dough off the hook a couple of times as needed. Add the remaining one cup of flour a little at a time, incorporating it into the dough as you go, pulling the dough from the hook as needed. At times it won’t look like it will combine, but it will. When you have a nice cohesive mass, continue to knead the dough on medium speed for seven minutes, stopping the mixer and pulling the dough from the hook if needed. When the dough is a nice, smooth elastic mass, put it in a bowl lightly brushed with olive oil and leave it in a warm dry place to rise for 30 – 45 minutes until it is doubled in size. Divide the dough into two equal halves. If you are not using it immediately, wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for two days (see note). When ready to use, bring one half of the dough to room temperature. 

Brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough about ½ inch thick. Use your creativity here – you can roll it to fit completely in an 11 by 7 inch pan, or to fit a 12-inch round pizza pan, or go free form for a rustic look. When you have the shape you want, transfer the dough to the oiled pan and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Assembly:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Bring the jam to room temperature. Slice the brie round into thin strips. Spread the jam over the prepared crust, getting pretty close to the edges. Top with the sliced brie, then sprinkle over the dried cranberries. Season well with some flaky salt and generous grinds of black pepper. Bake the flatbread for 10 – 12 minutes, until the crust is golden at the edges, the jam is warmed through and the cheese is melted. Let rest for a few minutes, then cut into pieces.

Note: Wrap the dough halves tightly in plastic. You can keep one half in the refrigerator to use for the recipe. If you’d like, place the other wrapped half in a plastic ziptop freezer bag and freeze for up to a month. Thaw overnight in the fridge before using, then let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling.

Baked Camembert with Hazelnut and Cranberry Crumble

When I was in school in England many moons ago, the chic appetizer on menus all over the country, from bistros to pubs, was fried camembert with a cranberry relish. Small wheels, or sometimes wedges, of camembert were breaded and fried and served with anything from a canned-type cranberry sauce to complicated cranberry relishes. One English grocery store even (to this day) sells a heat and eat version with a little tub of cranberry jelly. I loved it, and ordered all the time. But the likelihood of me coating and frying cheese has always been pretty slim. I tried coating the top of a wheel with breadcrumbs one time, but that was not very successful. But I love the combination of gooey cheese, crunchy crumbs and tart-sweet cranberry. Hence, this was born. A cheat’s version that truly rivals the inspiration.

A melty wheel of creamy cheese makes a wonderful appetizer that never fails to please. I love the funky depth of camembert, but you could certainly use brie or another creamy cheese. I like to bake it until it is really runny, so the cheese picks up the crumble when you swipe a server through it. Hazelnuts are the perfect winter partner for the cheese, but walnuts or pecans would work well. The cranberries and rosemary give this a festive look. Serve melty hot with baguette slices.

Baked Camembert with Hazelnut and Cranberry Crumble

2 ounces hazelnuts

3 sprigs rosemary

2 sprigs marjoram

1 clove garlic

1 ounce dried cranberries

Flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 8 ounce wheel of camembert cheese

Put the hazelnuts in a dry skillet and toast for a few minutes over medium heat just to warm them through. Transfer to a tea towel, then fold over the towel and rub the hazelnuts around to loosen the skins. Don’t worry about getting every piece of skin, just the majority of it. Roughly chop the hazelnuts, either with a knife or in a mini food processor. Put about five rosemary leaves aside, then finely chop the remainder. Finely chop the marjoram. Cut the garlic clove in half and very finely mince one half. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in the skillet, then add the chopped herbs and the hazelnuts. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently just until the nuts start to take on a little toasty brown color. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. When the nuts are little browned, add the garlic and stir and cook for 30 seconds. Immediately put the mixture in a bowl, then add the cranberries and generous pinches of salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat to oven to 350°. Place the camembert in a small, lightly greased baking dish. Rub the cut side of the remaining garlic half over the top of the cheese, the use thin knife to make several slits in the top of the cheese. Poke the reserved rosemary needles down into the slits in the cheese. Bake the cheese for 15 – 20 minutes, until it is warmed through, soft and runny. Sprinkle over the crumble and heat for a further three minutes. Serve immediately with baguette slices.

Chocolate and Chestnut Terrine

I adore chestnuts and when they start to turn up in the shops around the holidays, I go a little nuts (pun intended!) and stock up. What I mean here are the ready peeled and cooked version, sold vacuum packed or in jars. They are so easy to use and so very wintery and festive. I use them in lots of savory recipes, like this lovely Roasted Chestnut Bisque or a hearty Pasta with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Sage. But chocolate and chestnut is a wonderful, rich combination with a very indulgent and celebratory feel. It has, to me, a sort of old world, old fashioned charm that is perfect for the festive season. And this dessert delivers.

This is everything you want in a holiday dessert. Rich, decadent, elegant and it can be made ahead – like five days ahead – and tucked in the fridge. In the photo here, I brushed the top with some edible gold powder, but the decorative options are endless. Candied chestnuts, curls of chocolate – white or dark – fancy glitter or sprinkles, powdered sugar, a sprig of holly. Small slices are rich enough (thought there is nothing wrong with a big piece) and very rich, but you could add a dollop of whipped cream to the plate. I tend to call this elegant because it is stunning on a silver tray and fine china dessert plates, but it would look just as attractive on a wooden slab served on pottery dishes as a more rustic sweet.

Chocolate Chestnut Terrine

For the Filling:

14 ½ ounces roasted and peeled chestnuts

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

4 ounces 70% dark chocolate

3 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons cognac, brandy or chestnut liqueur

For the Ganache:

4 ounces 70% dark chocolate

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 Tablespoon heavy cream

Process the chestnuts and sugar in the bowl of a food processor until fairly smooth. Put the butter, chocolate and milk in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter and chocolate are melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla and cognac. Add to the chestnuts in the food processor and process until the mixture is smooth. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, smoothing it out as much as possible. Leave lots of overhang to wrap the top fully. Scoop the filling into the pan and smooth the top, pressing It down to fill the corners. Cover the top with the plastic, then chill for at least 24 hours.

For the topping:

Melt the chocolate, butter and cream in a small saucepan, stirring frequently, until smooth. Unwrap the top of the filling and then invert it onto a serving platter. Spread the chocolate ganache over the top and sides. Place in the fridge, uncovered, until set, then loosely cover with plastic wrap and keep for up to four days.

Serves 8

Nutella Cake with Chocolate Ganache

I cut out a recipe from a magazine ages ago that has become a real emergency staple for me – Nutella Cookies. It is literally a jar of Nutella, a cup of flour and an egg beaten together, rolled into balls and rolled in granulated sugar. It’s the perfect last minute recipe because its easy to have those ingredients always on hand. I send them to my nieces at college in care packages, and whip them up if I need to take a last minute treat to a friend. Eventually, this got me thinking about baking other treats with Nutella, and I landed on a Bundt cake. I found several simple recipes on the internet, and with some tinkering ended up with a version that I really liked.

That being said, the first time I made this, I served it straight up and it was delicious, but I felt like I wanted something a little more decadent. Unadorned, it felt more like a breakfast or a snack cake than dessert to me. So I have since added this rich, glossy chocolate ganache. It takes it from a playful little sweet to an elegant dessert worthy of the best parties. You could even get fancy and call it a chocolate and hazelnut or gianduja cake if you want! I also love that the ganache holds onto the lovely shards of hazelnut with their amber and taupe autumn colors. That’s also why I make it in a tube pan – I find the flat top allows for a deep layer of frosting and the delicate hazelnut garnish. You can certainly make it in a bundt pan instead. One of the many attributes of this cake is that it serves a crowd, so it is perfect for a party.

Nutella Cake with Chocolate Ganache

For the Cake:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

1 cup Nutella (1 jar)

2 ¾ cups flour

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk

For the Ganache:

5 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate

¾ cup heavy cream

¼ cup chopped hazelnuts

For the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a tube pan with baking spray.

Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer to break it up, then add the sugar and beat on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the Nutella until completely combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the flour, baking powder and salt alternately with the milk and beat until smooth and combined, again scraping the bowl. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top, then bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 – 50 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert on a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Ganache:

When the cake is cool, break the chocolate into a small bowl. Heat the cream until it is almost boiling, just bubbling away around the sides, then pour it over the chocolate. Leave it for a minute or two, then stir vigorously until the chocolate is melted, thick and smooth. Spoon the ganache slowly over the top of the cake, letting a little drip down the sides. While the ganache is wet, sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over the ganache so they adhere to the surface.

Serves 12

Egg Nog Custard Tarts

In the busy, crazy holiday season, necessity is often the mother of invention, and this recipe is proof of that. Some years ago, after a trip to Portugal with a group of girlfriends, I worked out a recipe for Portuguese Custard Tarts. It was really an attempt to recreate a memory for my friends, but they are so easy to make and lovely to serve, that they became something of a staple for me. I always seem to have the ingredients in the house.

Until last year at Christmas, a last minute event was added to an already busy calendar and I was tasked with bringing something sweet. These delicate tarts immediately came to mind. But alas, I had no milk. It being the whirlwind of the season, however, I had a bottle of egg nog from a local dairy in the fridge (as I usually do in December) and I thought why not give it a go. And the results are as lovely as the original, with an added holiday flair. This version is a little sweeter than the original because there is some sugar in the egg nog, but in the holiday season I like my sweets sweet, so I think it is a perfect result.

As with the original, these tarts are perfect all on their own – with just a little dusting of nutmeg on top, but they are also versatile. You could still try a drizzle of dulce de leche, and the little hollows on the top are a perfect cradle for a pretty, wintery dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. And I’d like to try a sweet cranberry sauce on the top for a very festive dessert.

Egg Nog Custard Tarts
Yields 18
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Ingredients
  1. 3 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  2. 3 eggs
  3. 2 cups granulated sugar
  4. 2 cups dairy egg nog
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  6. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, plus more for sprinkling
  7. ¾ cups flour
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°.
  2. Put the butter, eggs and sugar in the carafe of a blender and blend until smooth. Add 1 cup of the egg nog and blend, then add the flour and the remaining egg nog, vanilla and nutmeg. Blend until smooth.
  3. Spray 18 muffin cups with cooking spray. Spray them really thoroughly right before you pour the batter in. Pour the batter into the cups, filling them ¾ full. Sprinkle a little nutmeg on top of each tart. Bake the tarts on the upper and middle shelves of the oven for 40 – 45 minutes until firm and golden in the center. Do not bake less than 40 minutes. If using two muffin trays, swap them from the top shelf to the bottom after 30 minutes of cooking.
  4. Cool the tarts in the tins, then use a plastic knife to loosen the tarts and remove them carefully from the muffin cups. (A plastic knife won’t scratch the surface of the tin). These want to stick, but be patient and gentle and ease them out.
  5. The tarts keep remarkably well for several days in an airtight container.
Notes
  1. I used a nifty little fluted muffin tin I happen to have which adds a pretty touch, but plain tins work beautifully.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Gingerbread Cake with Cookie Butter Frosting

I didn’t really grow up eating gingerbread, though there is a long history of gingerbread cake in the South. I mostly knew those classic gingerbread men cookies, which I have never much liked. I think they dry out too much and never have enough spice for me. But over the years, I started to experiment with various gingerbread recipes, both cookie and cake form, and it is now an essential part of the holiday season to me. And I think gingerbread and spiced cookies just scream holiday. So I’ve combined them in to one moist, delicious dessert that feeds a crowd, perfect for holiday entertaining. I love a good 9 by 13 cake for serving at a party, either in large slabs on a dessert plate or smaller squares on a bigger spread.

The joy of gingerbread is that not only the taste, but also the wafting fragrance of sugar and spice while it’s in the oven. It’s like a nice extra gift. I sprinkle crushed cookie crumbs on the top, but I have been known to add a little gold glitter to jazz things up. I once had some little reindeer cake picks that have unfortunately disappeared, which is a shame, because they would be adorable marching across this cake.

Gingerbread Cake with Cookie Butter Frosting
Serves 12
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Ingredients
  1. 4 cups all purpose flour
  2. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  3. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  6. 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  7. 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  8. 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  9. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  10. 1 1/2 cups molasses
  11. 1/2 cup water
  12. 2 eggs
  13. 2 cups buttermilk
For the Frosting
  1. 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  2. 3/4 cup cookie butter spread, such as Biscoff
  3. 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  4. 3 cups powdered sugar
  5. 3-4 Tablespoons milk
For the Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 13x9 pan.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the melted butter and molasses, mixing until combined (the batter will be thick). Add the water, mixing until everything is loosened. Beat in the eggs and buttermilk then until evenly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Pour the batter into the pan and bake 45-50 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
For the Frosting
  1. Beat the softened butter and the cookie butter together in the bowl of the stand mixer until smooth and combined. Beat in the powdered sugar at low speed 1 cup at a time. Drizzle in the milk a little at a time until you have a spreadable icing. Spread the icing over the top of the cooled cake.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins

Cranberry Oatmeal MuffinsThe holidays are filled with so much sweet and sugary (not that I’m complaining), so sometimes it’s nice to have a treat that’s seasonal and festive, but not as cloying or overly sweet. These muffins hit the spot. Hearty with oatmeal and moist from yogurt, these muffins are filling and comforting with a nice holiday kick. Perfect for a Christmas morning buffet or as a little early morning present opening snack before the big meal. They make a great gift, wrapped up in a pretty gift bag or napkin.

These muffins are not overly sweet and have a tangy kick from the fresh cranberries. That means they are the perfect vehicle for sweet spreads like apple butter or pumpkin butter, or try my Egg Nog Butter for a nice holiday feel. They are also great in a bread basket with a main meal, with a little smidge of butter.

Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup rolled oats
  2. 1 cup whole yogurt
  3. ½ cup canola oil
  4. 1 egg
  5. ¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  6. 1 cup flour
  7. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  8. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  9. ½ teaspoon salt
  10. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  11. ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  12. ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  13. 1 cup fresh cranberries
Instructions
  1. Stir the oats and the yogurt together in a large bowl, making sure all the oats are covered. Set aside for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400. Grease 12 muffin cups.
  3. Add the oil and the egg to the oat and yogurt mixture and stir well to combine. Stir in the brown sugar until combined, then add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices and stir just until well combined and there is no dry flour visible. Fold in the cranberries.
  4. Divide the dough between the muffin cups – I like to use a large cookie scoop for this – then bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the muffins have browned and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn out onto a rack to cool. The muffins will keep for one day in an airtight container.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/