Date: December 3, 2019 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Lauren Cerrato |
Homemade gingerbread and peppermint sticks are as much a part of the holiday season as Christmas carols and presents under the tree—that’s why we asked three Arkansas foodies to share their recipes for delicious holiday treats. From tried-and-true cookies to tiramisu, here are five ideas for your own table
Recipes by Sole Icaza, Amarantha Baked Goods
Walnut and Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
Serve Sole’s Walnut and Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread on Christmas morning while little ones open stockings from Santa.
In addition to ingredients listed below, have extra flour and butter on hand to grease pans
3 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs (room temperature)
2½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 15-ounce can solid pumpkin
1 cup canola oil
²⁄3 cup orange juice
¾ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup chocolate chips
Yields 2 loaves
Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift flour, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, and salt into one bowl and set aside. Combine eggs, sugar, and vanilla in another bowl and blend at medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until smooth. Mix in canned pumpkin, oil, and orange juice.
Fold sifted dry ingredients into wet mixture until well combined, then add most of the chocolate chips and all of the walnuts. Pour mixture into two greased and lightly floured loaf pans, and top with remaining chocolate chips. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool before serving.
Note: You may substitute walnuts for pecans or omit nuts entirely. This recipe can also yield one bundt cake instead of two loaves.
Traditional South American Alfajores
In addition to ingredients listed below, have milk and extra flour on hand
1¼ cup cornstarch
1¼ cup self-rising flour
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
10 tablespoons powdered sugar, divided
1 13-ounce can dulce de leche (Sole suggests looking in the Spanish food aisle of your grocery store)
Yields approximately 50 alfajor cookies
Combine cornstarch, flour, butter, egg yolk, and 6 tablespoons powdered sugar in a food processor and pulse several times until a dough is formed. Consistency should be firm enough to roll out, similar to pie dough. Add 1 tablespoon of milk if necessary; repeat until correct consistency is reached. Cover dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 330°F. Roll refrigerated dough out on a floured surface until ¹⁄8-inch thick. Using a 1-inch round or fluted cookie cutter, cut dough into circles. Place cookies on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake for 17 minutes, or until cookies are firm to the touch and a light golden color. Allow to cool.
For filling, spread dulce de leche on one cookie, keeping the amount of filling about as thick as each cookie. Put another cookie on top to form a sandwich and sprinkle finished alfajores with powdered sugar.
Sole Icaza, a Chile native, runs Amarantha Baked Goods (@amaranthabakedgoods) from her home in Cave Springs. Find out more about Sole and her confections on our blog.
Recipes by Abby Turner, A Tabletop Affair
Peppermint Chocolate Brownie Cookies
1 box brownie mix (Abby recommends Betty Crocker Triple Brownie Fudge Mix)
½ cup flour
½ cup mini chocolate chips
5 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon water
¼ cup chocolate or vanilla almond bark
8 candy canes or peppermint sticks
Yields 12 cookies
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine brownie mix, flour, chocolate chips, oil, water, and eggs in a large bowl. Form dough into 12 cookies and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 6-8 minutes, being careful not to over-bake.
While cookies cool, crush peppermints in a plastic zip-close bag. Melt almond bark in the microwave for approximately 2 minutes, or until smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals. Drizzle melted bark on cooled cookies and top with crushed peppermint.
Gingerbread Forest Cupcakes
Abby’s Gingerbread Forest Cupcakes are an easy (and adorable!) upgrade to two readily available store-bought ingredients: sugar cookie dough and vanilla cupcakes.
1 16.5-ounce roll of refrigerated sugar cookie dough
3 tablespoons molasses
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 package white frosting (Abby recommends Wilton Cookie Icing)
12 vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting
12 sprigs rosemary
1 cup candied cranberries
Yields 12 cupcakes
To make the gingerbread cookies, crumble cookie dough in a large bowl. Stir in molasses, then remaining ingredients (except frosting); mix thoroughly with hands. Divide dough in half, forming into two discs. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until thoroughly chilled.
Heat oven to 375°F. Take one chilled disc of dough and roll it out to ¼-inch thick on a floured surface. Cut with mini, floured gingerbread cookie cutters. Place cookies 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 7-9 minutes, or until cookies are set and light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on cookie sheet for 3 minutes, then move to cooling rack to cool completely. Outline the cookie with your favorite cookie frosting, adding designs and features as desired.
To garnish cupcakes, firmly place gingerbread men in the frosting of each cupcake. Add 3 candied cranberries in front and a sprig of rosemary behind the cookie. Sprinkle shredded coconut and cinnamon on top.
Note: To make candied cranberries, coat fresh cranberries in a simple syrup. Let cool, then roll in sugar and allow time for them to harden. To simplify this recipe further, Abby recommends store-bought candied cranberries and Pillsbury’s Gingerbread Cookie Mix.
Abby Turner founded her food and entertaining blog, A Tabletop Affair (atabletopaffair.com), as an outlet for sharing recipe ideas and inspiration for gatherings. Find out more about her passion for easy entertaining on our blog.
Recipe by Matcha Norwood, Cinnalightful
The addition of chocolate to the custard in Matcha’s Mocha Tiramisu gives a holiday twist to this decadent dessert.
In addition to ingredients listed below, have extra cocoa powder on hand for a final dusting
8 egg yolks
½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 pound mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder
Soaked Lady Fingers
1½ cup warm water
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant espresso
1 tablespoon coffee liqueur (optional)
32 ladyfinger cookies
Yields 12-16 servings
To make custard, whisk egg yolks and sugar with a stand mixer on high speed until mixture is thick. (Mixture should be pale in color and falling slowly off the whisk.) Melt chocolate chips and heavy cream in the microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until melted. Pour melted chocolate, mascarpone cheese, and vanilla extract into egg mixture. Whisk on medium speed until well combined. Pour custard in a large bowl and set aside.
To create cocoa whipping cream, whisk heavy cream, sugar, and cocoa powder with stand mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute, then turn up to high until mixture forms stiff peaks. (Pro tip: Put a kitchen towel over the mixer to avoid splatter!) Fold cocoa whipping cream into the custard until well combined, being careful not to stir.
In a small bowl, whisk warm water, cocoa powder, instant espresso, and coffee liqueur until combined. Dip ladyfingers one by one into the mixture, then arrange in a single layer in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour half of the custard mixture over the ladyfingers and distribute evenly.
Place another layer of soaked ladyfingers on top and distribute the rest of the custard mixture over the second layer of ladyfingers. Use a small sift to dust the whole dish with cocoa powder. Cover the dish, making sure it is airtight, and refrigerate overnight before serving.
Matcha Norwood lives in Little Rock, and she provides a traditional Italian tiramisu to Bruno’s Little Italy every week. Find out more about Matcha’s baking business, Cinnalightful, and how she started baking on our blog.