Bakery-Style Kolache

I have hemmed and hawed about posting this Kolache recipe. It’s not that I don’t want to share it with you…I do! But it’s one of those recipes that I have been working on perfecting and have made many, many times in the process. I feel like I’ve finally got them exactly right and with the holidays approaching, I figured now would be a good time to share it with you. These bakery-style kolaches are perfect for a Christmas morning breakfast, to share over a Thanksgiving weekend or to make for a family brunch. You don’t even have to frequent a bakery to get the tender crumb and sweet or savory filling.

What is a Kolache?

Traditionally Kolache has its origins in the Czech Republic. I lived there as a child and my Czech Babicka would make kolach which I inhaled as a kid. Kolach is basically a pastry that holds fruit surrounded by puffy dough. My Babicka would cut her Kolach into slices with a plum filling and a streusel topping. It was my favorite Czech pastry and I have many fond memories of this delicious treat. 

Americanized Kolache

Czech Kolache was brought to Texas by Czech immigrants and over the years has become “Americanized.” Now you can find kolache in bakeries throughout different parts of the United States that specialize in these little filled pastries. Kolaches can be filled with anything you can dream up, but the traditional filling is fruit. I use homemade jam in the center of my kolaches. Some I make with plain jam and others I add a cream cheese layer and then the jam. We also love a maple pecan kolache that is reminiscent in flavor of a cinnamon roll. Many kolache shops will add seasonal fillings. These fillings should give you a good starting point if you want to create a bakery-style kolache of your own.

What is the Difference Between Kolache and Klobasnek?

Kolache are technically a pastry with fruit and surrounded by fluffy dough. If you want to fill your kolache dough and enclose the filling inside the dough, then you are actually making a klobasnek. Klobasnek are typically filled with meat and are an Americanized version of a Czech sausage roll with kolache dough. Klobasnek are absolutely delicious and I am including a recipe for my favorite breakfast Klobasnek as well. It is probably one of my favorite foods…ever!

Overnight Kolache Dough

Kolache dough is enriched with A LOT of butter and A LOT of egg. It is a pretty sticky dough and because of that, I find that it benefits from a long overnight rise in the refrigerator. This makes the dough much easier to handle, shape and work with so that it is not over-floured and tough. I actually prefer this method because I can whip up the dough the night before, sleep while my dough rises and then shape and bake in the morning. The overnight rise is one of the keys to the success of this recipe. 

Shaping the Dough

Once the dough has risen overnight, pull it out the next morning and cut the dough into 24 pieces. Yes this makes a lot of kolache. Yes, it is worth it! The kolaches will freeze or they are perfect to share with loved ones or neighbors. Once you have your 24 pieces of dough, decide which you will make into kolache and which you will make into klobasnek. I usually split them into 8 klobasnek, 8 jam filled kolache and 8 cinnamon maple filled kolache. The recipes for the filling below reflect that. The processes for shaping kolache and klobasnek is different as outlined below:

How to Shape and Fill Bakery-Style Kolache

Roll the kolache into a ball and set them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let them rise until just about doubled in size. While they rise, mix up the fillings for your kolache. I like to put the cream cheese mixture in a piping bag, prepare my egg wash and get my homemade jam or cinnamon sugar mixture ready. Once the kolache have risen, take the bottom of a jar (I’ve found a 16 ounce ball jar to work really well) and press down in the center of each kolache. The sides will rise up a bit and it will form an indentation for you to put the filling in. If using the cream cheese mixture, take your piping bag and pipe a circle on the inside of the outer edge of dough. Fill the center of the dough with jam or cinnamon sugar. Brush with egg wash and bake.

How to Shape and Fill Klobasnek

If you are planning to make klobasnek, you will want to make the filling mixture before pulling your dough out of the fridge. I will often make my fillings the night before along with the dough and refrigerate them. Then I just have to pull them out the morning of and fill my dough. Roll each klobasnek into a ball and then, using a lightly dusted surface and rolling pin, roll the dough out into a circle. Add a scoop of filling to the middle of the dough, and then bring the sides up and pinch them closed, completely encasing the filling in the kolache dough. Set each klobasnek on a parchment-lined baking sheet to rise. Once risen, brush with egg wash and bake.

My Takeaway Tips

Let the dough rest overnight in the fridge. It makes for a night and day difference when working with the dough.

Make the fillings the night before. This saves time when assembling them in the morning and the Klobasnek filling is best when used chilled.

Save your egg whites! This recipe uses a whole lot of egg yolks. Save the egg whites and use them in the Klobasnek filling. 

You can mix up the fillings for Klobasnek. Add bacon, mushrooms, veggies, whatever you want.

Don’t forget the egg wash at the end. I’ve done this many times because I’m so excited to bite into one of these amazing pastries, but the egg wash really does give it a finished, golden color that will remind you a bakery-style kolache. You will want this. Trust me!

I forgot the egg wash on these. Still completely delicious but no golden brown shine.

If you don’t have homemade jam, use a favorite jam or make your own fruit filling (though this may take a little bit longer)

Fruit Filling Recipe:  Blend or mash 2 cups of strawberries (or other berries). Add them to a saucepan on the stove and over medium to medium-low heat, simmer the berries with ½ cup sugar, 2 Tablespoons cornstarch, a pinch of salt, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice until thickened and jam-like (about 15-20 minutes). Cool in the fridge before using.

So without further ado: the best Bakery-Style Kolache recipe (better than kolache from a bakery and totally worth the overnight chill in the fridge). Enjoy!

Kolaches

A light, tender and delicious pastry made three ways. Maple Cinnamon Pecan, Fruit-filled and sausage, egg and cheese: this recipe details how to make all three delicious Kolaches.
Prep Time 40 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Overnight Rise 10 hrs
Course Bread, Breakfast
Cuisine American, Czech
Servings 24 kolaches

Ingredients
  

Kolache Dough

  • 2 cups milk, warmed 2% or whole milk
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 egg yolks reserve the whites to use later if making Klobasnek
  • 1 cup unsalted butter melted
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg yolk reserve the white to use later if making Klobasnek
  • 1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon maple flavoring reserved for cinnamon cream cheese mixture
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon reserved for cinnamon cream cheese mixture

Cinnamon Filling

  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter melted
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon water as needed
  • 24 pecans for topping

Fruit Filling

  • 1/4 cup favorite jam strawberry, raspberry, mixed berry, blueberry, lemon curd, etc…

Sausage, Egg and Cheese Klobasnek Filling

  • 1/2 to 1 lb breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • a sprinkle of ground pepper
  • 7 egg whites reserved from making the dough and
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups shredded cheese cheddar works well here

Egg Wash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water or milk

Instructions
 

Kolache Dough

  • To a liquid measuring cup, add the milk. Warm it in the microwave (or on the stovetop) in 30 second increments. Stick your finger down into the middle of the milk to check the temperature. If it is the temperature of baby’s bath water, you are good to go. If it’s too cold, warm it a little longer. If it’s too hot, stir it until it is warm and not hot.
  • To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the warm milk, yeast and sugar. Let it sit while you crack the eggs.
  • Using two bowls, crack and separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. One bowl should hold the yolks and the other holds the whites. Set the whites aside to use later on.
  • Add the egg yolks to the yeast mixture in the stand mixer. Pour in the melted butter (make sure it’s not too hot! You don’t want to kill the yeast). Then add the salt.
  • With the stand mixer running, add the flour a cup at a time and mix. Once the dough comes together, continue kneading the dough for about 7-10 minutes. I like to set a timer and let the mixer do its thing while I start preparing the fillings.
  • After the dough has kneaded, it will be very sticky. This is normal. Don’t worry and don’t add more flour (unless you feel it needs just a few extra Tablespoons).
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container that has room for the dough to at least double in size. Cover the container and stick the dough in the fridge to proof overnight. The overnight proof will help solidify the butter in the dough, which will make it easier to work with the next morning.

Cream Cheese Filling

  • Using a hand mixer, whip together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, egg yolk (you can add the white to your bowl of egg whites from making the dough), flour and vanilla extract. Whip until completely incorporated and thick and creamy, about 3 minutes.
  • Stick a piping bag (or ziplock works too) into a glass and fold the edges over the glass. Transfer half of the cream cheese mixture into the piping bag.
  • To the other half of the cream cheese mixture, add maple extract and ground cinnamon. Mix together. Stick a second piping bag or ziplock into a glass and fold over the edges. Transfer the rest of the cream cheese mixture into the piping bag and close.
  • Refrigerate the piping bags of mixture overnight and pull out the next morning to come to room temperature when you pull your dough out of the fridge. If you want to make the filling the morning of shaping, there is no need to refrigerate the filling.

Cinnamon Sugar Filling

  • Put the softened or melted unsalted butter in a small bowl. Add the powdered sugar, brown sugar and ground cinnamon and mix together with a fork. It may be a little crumbly. Add a teaspoon of water until it forms a thick paste. Cover and let sit at room temperature before using.

Sausage Egg and Cheese Klobasnek Filling

  • To a skillet, brown the breakfast sausage. Add the onion powder, garlic powder and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference. Transfer cooked sausage to a medium-sized bowl.
  • To the reserved egg whites, add two eggs with their yolks and scramble in the same pan as the breakfast sausage. Season to your preference with a little salt and pepper. Pour the cooked scrambled egg on top of the sausage.
  • Add 1 ½ -2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese on top of the scrambled eggs and sausage. Using a large spoon, mix it all together until the cheese, egg and sausage is evenly distributed throughout.
  • Cover the mixture and stick in the fridge until ready to use. It should be cool before being used to fill the Klobasnek.

Shaping (8-12 hours later)

  • After an 8-12 hour rise in the fridge (overnight), pull the dough out and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Go ahead and pull the fillings out of the fridge at this time too, the cream cheese fillings and egg filling.
  • Separate the dough into 24 pieces using a bench scraper or sharp knife.
  • Line three baking sheets with parchment paper (you may be able to get away with two if making all kolaches but if you are also making the Klobasnek, you will want three baking sheets).
  • Shaping Klobasnek: Lightly flour the surface and a rolling pin. Roll one piece of dough into a circle shape, about 5-6 inches round. Take about ½ cup of the sausage, egg and cheese filling and place it in the center of the circle. Pull the sides of the dough up and around the filling in a circular manner and pinch together, enclosing the egg mixture in the dough. If any filling seeps through, patch it with dough from the bottom of the Klobasnek. Place on the baking sheet and repeat with seven more balls of dough. Let rise until puffed up about an hour.
  • Shaping Kolache: Roll each piece of dough into a ball using a little pinch of flour if needed. Place the balls of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 8-12 balls of dough per sheet. Let them rise in a warm place for about an hour until puffy and almost doubled in size. Using the bottom of a 16 oz canning jar, press down firmly on top of each ball of risen dough, forming a large circle indentation and higher sides. Take the cream cheese mixture and snip the end off the piping bag. Pipe a circle around the outer edge of the kolache dough, repeating until all eight kolaches are filled. Repeat the process with the cinnamon sugar cream cheese filling. Using your favorite jam, place about a teaspoon of jam in the center of the cream cheese mixture. To the cinnamon maple kolaches, place about a teaspoon of the cinnamon sugar filling in the center.

Baking

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Egg Wash: Crack an egg in a small bowl and whisk it with a teaspoon of water. Using a pastry brush, brush the outsides of the kolaches with the egg wash.
  • Bake the Kolaches for about 12-15 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly. Add 3-4 pecans on top of each cinnamon maple kolache when they come out of the oven. For the Klobasneks, bake about 18-22 minutes until baked all the way through. Enjoy warm!

Notes

Recipe Notes:
This recipe makes 8 cinnamon maple Kolache, 8 fruit Kolache and 8 sausage egg and cheese Klobasnek. You can change the fillings around to make more or less filling depending on your favorites.
The cream cheese mixture is meant to be divided in half. Add the maple flavoring and ground cinnamon to half of the cream cheese mixture and put in a piping bag (or ziplock bag). Take the other half of the cream cheese mixture and put in a different piping bag. You will end up with two bags of the cream cheese mixture. 
I like to make the dough and fillings the night before baking the Kolaches. The morning of, I shape the dough and fill it. It is possible to make the fillings the morning of if that works better for you.
Keyword kolache,

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas Cookies

In our house, it is not Christmas until we have made our traditional Christmas cookies. My family has been making them ever since I can remember (and long before that). These Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas cookies are the ultimate holiday cookie. Buttery shortbread-style crust with a luscious caramel, chocolate and pecan topping. What isn’t there to love about these? The festive star-shape makes them a Christmas cookie you will want to make on repeat at your house every year. 

Jump to Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas Cookies Recipe

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas Cookies: The History

When my mom was little, she would make Christmas cookies with my grandma. I don’t know if she just liked these cookies the best or if they won out over all the cookies my grandma made but for whatever reason (and good reason in my opinion) this was THE cookie. Originally many cookie cutters were used to cut out the dough for these cookies but the star-shape always turned out the best. From then on, my family made hundreds of these cookies every Christmas. Truth be told, I didn’t even know people made many different kinds of cookies. This chocolate caramel pecan cookie is the one cookie you will want this Christmas too!

Buttery Shortbread-Style Cookie Dough

This dough is a dream to work with. It rolls out beautifully (just add a tiny touch of flour to the rolling pin if needed) and is so easy for little fingers to cut and help shape. I always make a little extra dough (double the recipe) and pull out my cookie cutter collection so they can make whatever shapes they want. We bake them up and the kids love eating them plain or decorated. While they are occupied, I go to town rolling the dough and cutting the star-shaped ones to give away to friends and neighbors. I’ve found rolling the dough to about ¼ inch thickness and using a 3-3.5 inch star-shaped cookie cutter (affiliate link) works best for these cookies. This recipe will give you 24 beautiful star cookies.

Baking Time

The cookie bases bake for about 10-12 minutes depending if you use convection or regular on your oven. I’ve waxed poetic about convection ovens before, so you know my preference but I’ve made them for years before having a convection oven and in many different countries with different ovens and they always turn out amazing. Be careful on the time as you bake these because these cookies are really divine if you don’t over bake them. They will puff up just a little bit but keep their star-shape. If you let them go too long or have rolled them out too thin, the edges will start to brown just a bit and you will know they went a little too long in the oven. Still delicious, but much better without the browned edges.

Caramel, Chocolate and Pecans

The toppings are what really set this cookie apart. Caramels are melted down (I use the microwave but you could also do this on the stove if you watch very carefully) with butter and evaporated milk and then stirred with sifted powdered sugar and chopped pecans to give the most amazing caramel topping. The pecans help the caramel to set up to a little ball on top of the cookie which makes the perfect base for the thick chocolate topping. I love the richness the semi-sweet chocolate chips bring to this cookie and any extra topping we have from these cookies we save to eat on ice cream or…by the spoonful. It is so good. A whole pecan tops the cookie for a finished look.

Sift. Sift. Sift that Powdered Sugar

One note about sifting. Please, please, please sift your powdered sugar. One year when I was a college student, I was making these Christmas cookies (yes, I made these every year…even while I was in the midst of college finals, they are that nostalgic for me). I decided to forgo the sifting and it was a BIG MISTAKE. I had chunks of powdered sugar all throughout my caramel sauce. Even though I did everything I could to get those chunks combined, they just wouldn’t combine well. My caramel still tasted okay but it didn’t look very good with little white chunks throughout what should have been a smooth caramel. So learn from my mistake and get yourself a sifter if you don’t have one. 

Gluten-Free Option

If you need to make these cookies gluten-free, good news. They are absolutely amazing gluten-free. My sister eats gluten-free and makes them every year with Cup4Cup flour (affiliate link). It is really hard to tell the difference between the gluten-free version and the regular version. Just sub the flour in the cookies for the Cup 4 Cup flour and they should turn out amazing.

A Cookie Job For Everyone

I make over 200 of these cookies every year for Christmas. This is our family tradition. We spend a few days doing the entire process. One day baking the cookies. One day making the toppings. One day assembling everything. When we finally get to the assembly portion, everyone has a job to do. My kids have now graduated to being able to help put on the caramel and chocolate toppings. The youngest in our crew is usually relegated to “pecan sorting” and putting nuts on top of the cookies. I love that these cookies have a job for everyone. We have such fun every year blasting Christmas carols, making cookies and sneaking a cookie or two.

Caroling and Cookies

The cookie bases freeze well (actually the whole cookie does) and it makes it easy for us to make plates of cookies to deliver to friends and neighbors. We love caroling, bringing along our Christmas card and a plate of these cookies. It’s a tradition that began when I was a kid and has continued on with my family and the families of my siblings. And after all the deliveries…we get to enjoy eating our star-shaped cookies. The funny part is that if you ask each of us, we all have a different way to eat the cookie. Some of us eat off all the star points first leaving the gooey middle. Others pull off the pecan and eat off all the topping first. I love having these fun traditions to look back on every year 

I love all cookies. Chocolate chip, candy jar, gluten-free oat cookies, but these chocolate caramel pecan Christmas cookies are a standout favorite. Full of nostalgia, lots of butter, chocolate and caramel, they are the ultimate holiday dessert. Whether you are looking for cookies to give, cookies to eat or cookies to leave out for Santa, these chocolate caramel pecan cookies are the perfect indulgent holiday cookie. I wish I could bring you a plate! From my family to yours…Merry Christmas!

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas Cookies

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas cookies are the ultimate holiday cookie. A star-shaped buttery crust with a luscious caramel, chocolate and pecan topping. They will be on repeat at your house every Christmas.
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 10 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 24 cookies

Ingredients
  

Cookie Base

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour

Caramel Topping

  • 8 oz caramel candy Kraft caramels are the ones we traditionally use
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar sifted
  • 1 cup pecans finely chopped

Chocolate Topping

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar sifted

24 whole pecans

    Instructions
     

    Cookie Base

    • Using a stand mixer or a handheld mixer and large bowl, cream together the softened butter and powdered sugar until thick and creamy.
    • Add vanilla extract, evaporated milk and salt. Mix well until completely incorporated and creamy.
    • Add the flour and mix gently until combined. Be careful not to over-mix the dough, but you do want it to be fully incorporated.
    • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees convection or 325 regular and place parchment paper on two large baking sheets.
    • Separate the dough into two portions and roll the first ball of dough out on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick.
    • Use a star-shaped cookie cutter about 3-3.5 inches to cut out the stars from the dough. Transfer the cutouts to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
    • Bake for 10 minutes convection or 12 minutes regular until just baked. Watch the cookies so they don't brown. The bottoms of the cookies should still be light.
    • Cool the cookies completely. At this point you can move forward with topping the cookies or freeze them to top later.

    Caramel Pecan Topping

    • Combine unwrapped caramels (or kraft caramel bits), evaporated milk and unsalted butter in a microwave-safe bowl.
    • Microwave in 1 minute increments, stirring with a spoon. Alternate stirring and microwaving until the caramels are completely melted and mixed together. This can take upwards of 10 minutes.
    • Sift in the powdered sugar and stir until completely incorporated.
    • Finely chop the pecans (I pulse them a few times in the blender) and add them to the caramel topping. Mix.
    • Set the caramel aside while you make the chocolate topping. At this point you can also refrigerate the caramel for up to a week before using.

    Chocolate Topping

    • To a microwave safe bowl, add the chocolate, butter and evaporated milk. Microwave in 30 second increments. Alternate stirring and microwaving until the chocolate, butter and evaporated milk are melted and combined.
    • Stir in the vanilla extract. Sift the powdered sugar into the bowl and mix until completely combined. Set aside the chocolate topping to assemble the cookies. You can also refrigerate the topping for up to a week before using.

    Assembly

    • Lay out all the cookies on a flat counter space.
    • Place a dollop of lightly warmed caramel topping on the center of each cookie (about 1 Tablespoon).
    • Place a smaller dollop of lightly warmed chocolate topping on top of the caramel (about 1 teaspoon).
    • Add a whole pecan on top of the chocolate quickly before the chocolate hardens.
    • Let the cookies cool completely before moving to a cookie tray, sharing with friends and neighbors, freezing or setting out for Santa on Christmas Eve. Enjoy!

    Notes

    Freezing Tips: These cookies freeze very well. The fully assembled cookies can be frozen after the toppings have cooled and pulled out to thaw when needed. The process can also be split into multiple days; making the bases one day (then freeze them) and the caramel and chocolate topping a different day. 
    Sifting: It is really important to sift the powdered sugar into the caramel and chocolate. If you don’t, the caramel and chocolate will have tiny lumps of powdered sugar in them that won’t fully incorporated. They will taste okay but not look as good.
     
    Keyword caramel, chocolate chip cookie, Christmas cookies, cookies, pecan

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    Gingerbread Snack Cake with Sourdough Discard

    Gingerbread has always been one of my favorite holiday flavors. As a kid living in Europe with my family, I grew up going to German Christmas markets: stalls filled with nutcrackers, handmade trinkets and intricately iced “Lebkuchen” (gingerbread). I was always intrigued by the sweet and spicy smell and the delicious flavor. This sourdough gingerbread cake evokes so many of those Christmas childhood memories and will make your whole house smell like Christmas. It is a soft and tender crumb, jam-packed with gingerbread/molasses flavor and uses up a bunch of sourdough discard. My kids especially love this sourdough gingerbread snack cake and always ask for extra whipped cream. It takes me back to my childhood Christmas memories and is the perfect snack cake to eat all winter long.

    Jump to Gingerbread Snack Cake with Sourdough Discard Recipe

    Sourdough Discard in Gingerbread Cake

    A word of warning: not all sourdough discard is created equal, age makes a difference. The discard that has been sitting in my fridge for a week or two gives a lot more “tang” to this cake. For some recipes you will want to taste that sourdough flavor. For this recipe, I prefer to use sourdough discard that is only a day or two old, so it cuts down on the tang. My family didn’t even know there was sourdough in this recipe. You can also use bubbly sourdough starter if you want in this gingerbread snack cake and it should work well. If you want to taste the tangy sourdough along with the gingerbread spices, go ahead and use up that 2 week old discard from your fridge. It will still taste delicious.

    Blackstrap Molasses

    Molasses is made out of sugar cane, and it is categorized depending on how many times the sugar cane syrup has been boiled and then extracted. The first boiling/extracting is light molasses. Second boiling/extracting is dark molasses and third boiling/extracting produces Blackstrap molasses (affiliate link). It is the most concentrated molasses and has a bittersweet flavor on its own. Typically you will find the “light” molasses in a regular grocery store. Health food stores and some grocery stores will often carry blackstrap molasses due to the concentrated nutrients found in it. In this cake, I love the flavor the blackstrap molasses brings when combined with the sugars. It gives a depth of delicious molasses flavor that pairs so nicely with the spices. If you don’t have blackstrap molasses on hand, you can substitute it for regular molasses (it just might not have as “punchy” of a flavor).

    A Few Gingerbread Snack Cake Tips:

    1. The first step in making this gingerbread snack cake is to mix very hot (nearly boiling) water with the molasses. This helps break down the sugars in the molasses and lets it fully incorporate into the cake batter. 
    2. I use one bowl for this gingerbread snack cake. I add my spices directly to the center of the bowl and mix them in before adding in the sourdough discard and flour. I like to go with “less cleanup”, and with four kids, we always have a lot of dishes. You can find some of my other favorite one-bowl recipes: here, here and here.
    3. I like to bake this cake at 400 degrees for the first ten minutes and then reduce the temperature and continue the bake. This hot temperature activates the baking powder in the cake, giving it a beautiful domed top. 

    Deep Gingerbread/Molasses Flavor

    If you really want the deep gingerbread flavor, this cake needs to cool completely before serving. As the cake cools, the flavors bloom and turn into the perfect mix of molasses/gingerbread heaven. If I am making this cake for my family, we will often snack on a piece fresh out of the oven…and then wait for it to cool and have another slice. We like to top it with whipped cream (fresh is best, but we don’t always have heavy whipping cream on hand), and it is just delicious. I hope you enjoy it too!

    Gingerbread Snack Cake with Sourdough Discard

    A soft and tender crumb, jam packed with gingerbread/molasses flavor and uses up a bunch of sourdough discard: the perfect Christmas snack cake.
    Prep Time 15 mins
    Cook Time 40 mins
    Course Dessert, Snack
    Cuisine American
    Servings 1 cake

    Ingredients
      

    • 1/3 cup very hot water
    • 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses can substitute regular molasses
    • 2/3 cup light brown sugar can also use dark brown
    • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
    • 1/3 cup vegetable oil any neutral flavored oil works
    • 1 egg
    • 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 3/4 cup sourdough discard see note
    • 1 cup all purpose flour

    Instructions
     

    • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat an 8 by 8 pan with cooking spray or a parchment sling.
    • To a liquid measuring cup, add 1/3 cup water. Microwave it until very hot or almost boiling. You can also do this on the stovetop. Add the molasses to the hot water and mix together. Set aside.
    • To a medium-sized bowl, add brown sugar, granulated sugar and oil. Mix together with a wooden spoon. Add the egg and mix.
    • Add the molasses/water mixture, mixing as your pour it in (this helps temper the egg if the molasses mixture is still very hot). Continue mixing until completely incorporated.
    • Add the salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and cloves directly to the middle of the bowl and mix together, taking care not to splash any of it out of the bowl.
    • Add the greek yogurt and sourdough discard. Mix together. Then add the flour and mix until just combined.
    • Pour the mixture into your greased pan and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
    • After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 30-40 minutes until the center is no longer jiggly and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
    • Allow to cool before serving. This gingerbread snack cake deepens in flavor as it cools. Serve with a sprinkling of powdered sugar or fresh whipped cream. Enjoy!

    Notes

    Not all sourdough discard is created equal. For best results, use discard that is only a few days old at the most. You can also substitute ripe, bubbly sourdough starter for the discard in this recipe.
    Keyword gingerbread, sourdough

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    Homemade Snow Day Donuts

    Back when I first started this blog…almost ten months ago (crazy!), I wrote about one of my favorite kid traditions on a snow day. Snow Day Donuts are the donuts that I make just about once a year. I don’t own any fancy donut equipment or even a deep fryer, so these donuts can be made using the things that I have in my own kitchen. Typically on the first snow day of a year when school is cancelled and there is palpable excitement in the air…we play in the snow, drink cocoa, make donuts and share with our friends and neighbors.

    Jump to Our Favorite Snow Day Donuts Recipe

    A Weird Year

    This year, thanks to COVID, the kids are doing virtual school and we aren’t having friends over right now. This would have been one of those easy traditions to by-pass…but the fact that our first big snow landed on the 1st of December was too magical to miss. We mixed up our donut dough, welcomed our Elf on the Shelf, went sledding, ate far too many donuts and fit in our virtual classes for the day. Whew! And I’m glad we kept the tradition alive this year, even if it wasn’t quite the same.

    Plan for about 3-4 hours

    This donut dough is very good. It is light, airy and easy to work with. It does take time for the dough to rise, and the frying process takes a little extra involvement too. Plan for about 20 minutes to mix up the dough, then a rise of 1-1 1/2 hours. Cutting out the donut shapes takes another 20 minutes and then another hour rise before frying. I usually whip up the dough while the kids are putting on their snow clothes and let it rise for our first venture in the snow. Then I’ll come back in and cut out the shapes with whoever has had enough of the cold for the time being. All the kids come in for frying/topping. I have actually been eyeing a donut recipe that refrigerates the dough overnight, which I think would give an even better-tasting donut. With that said, I never know if we are going to have a snow day…it’s usually not called until the morning of, so those recipes wouldn’t work well for our snow day tradition. Instead we stick with this recipe, our tried and true favorite that is ready to fry when the kids come in from playing in the snow.

    Use What You Have

    I am a big proponent of using what I have in the kitchen and not buying a new appliance unless I really think I’ll use it a lot. In the case of donuts, I just don’t make them all that often. I typically make donuts about once a year…on the first snow day of the year. So I don’t have a fryer or donut cutters. I’ve found that plastic tops to water bottles work really well for cutting out the center of the donuts. I also use the lid of a canning jar to cut out the donut shape. Round cookie cutters work well too. Just make sure to press down hard.

    Donut Holes, Filled Donuts and Apple Fritters

    Once the dough is rolled out, it shouldn’t be re-rolled. If you want to make filled donuts, I take a little bit of the dough, roll it up into a ball and let it rise. Once it is fried, we fill them with frosting, jam or any creamy filing you want. When cutting the donuts out, cut as close together as possible to use up all the dough. I use a large cap to cut out donut holes from the scraps of dough, and when there is no more dough to cut out, with just scraps left over, I cut up an apple and make some apple fritters. The process for this is pretty easy:

    1. Break the scraps of dough into small pieces (using a knife or pulling pieces apart with your fingers so there aren’t long stringy pieces).
    2. Dice an apple (I like Granny Smith) and add it to the scraps of dough along with some brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and a touch of lemon juice.
    3. Scoop handfuls of the mixture together and squeeze together, forming a ball-like shape.
    4. Set aside to rise a bit.
    5. After you have fried all the donuts, fry the apple fritters (invariably apple pieces will get into the oil).
    6. Cover with glaze after they cool just a bit.

    Frying Donuts

    I don’t fry very many things and guess what? I don’t use a thermometer to check the temperature of the oil. This goes back to using what I have. Instead I like to heat my oil up to medium heat, throw in a little donut hole and watch it. That donut hole will tell me if my oil is hot enough and ready for my donuts. It will also tell me if I need to turn the temperature up or down a little bit. If the donut hole takes forever to turn brown, turn the heat up. If it browns too quickly, turn it down. The donut hole should sizzle with little bubbles forming around it and take about 30-45 seconds to brown on one side. Once that happens, I know I can start frying my donuts. Donuts take about 2 minutes per side, then flip to cook on the other side. Be careful about adding more oil to your pot or skillet. If you add more oil, it will cool down your oil and you will need to re-heat it to the correct temperature before continuing to fry your donuts.

    Glaze and Toppings

    My kids’ favorite part of making donuts is the toppings. We set up different glazes and sprinkles and let the kids go to town! I have recipes listed for a traditional glaze, chocolate glaze and a maple glaze. All are wonderful on their own and all are great topped with sprinkles. I’m dreaming of topping the maple donut with crispy bacon, that glaze is so good! However you top them, these donuts are best eaten warm. For donuts that are made the same day…these can’t be beat. I hope you enjoy them on a snow day or any day that calls for a homemade donut.

    Snow Day Donuts

    The perfect donuts to share with friends on a snow day. Light, airy, fluffy and sweet. These donuts hit the spot with a cup of cocoa and are perfect to pile high with glaze and toppings.
    Prep Time 30 mins
    Cook Time 3 mins
    Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
    Cuisine American
    Servings 30 donuts/fritters

    Ingredients
      

    Donut Dough

    • 1 3/4 cup milk, warmed to the temperature of baby's bath water
    • 2 Tablespoons instant yeast
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/3 cup shortening, melted or unsalted butter
    • 5 1/2 – 6 cups all purpose flour

    Frying

    • 48 ounces vegetable oil shortening works well here too

    Apple Fritters

    • Scraps of Donut Dough
    • 1 Granny Smith apple chopped
    • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

    Powdered Sugar Glaze

    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1/3 cup heavy cream or milk thinned to your liking
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Chocolate Glaze

    • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted semi-sweet is my favorite
    • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 2 teaspoons corn syrup
    • 2 teaspoons water
    • pinch of salt

    Maple Glaze

    • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
    • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon maple extract
    • pinch of salt

    Toppings

    • various sprinkles

    Instructions
     

    Donut Dough

    • Warm the milk (it should be the temperature of a baby's bath water) and pour into a stand mixer. Add the yeast and sugar. Smell for the yeasty smell that tells you your yeast is active.
    • Next add the salt, eggs and melted shortening (make sure it's not too hot so it won't kill the yeast).
    • Add one cup of flour and turn the mixer on. Continue mixing while adding flour a cup at a time until you've added 5 cups of flour total. Reserve the last cup of flour to add as needed.
    • Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes until it is slightly tacky to touch but clears the sides of the bowl. Check out this post for tips on how to know when the dough is ready. Add extra flour as needed (you may need up to 6 cups of flour but you may also be fine with 5 1/2 cups).
    • Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover it and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
    • On a very lightly floured surface (you may not need any flour at all), dump the dough out and roll out until about 1/4 inch thick.
    • Use a circle cutter or the top of a mason jar or bowl to cut out donuts. Cut out a small circle in the center of the donut and transfer to a baking sheet to rise.
    • Cut out donut holes and make apple fritters with the donut scraps if desired (instructions for the apple fritters are in the blog post).
    • Let rise again until puffy and almost doubled in size.

    Frying Donuts

    • Heat 48 ounces of oil in a large pot or skillet. Keep the temperature steady and around medium heat.
    • Toss a small donut hole into the oil when you start to see bubbles and watch how long it takes the donut hole to fry. If it starts sizzling, bubbling and takes about 30-45 seconds to brown on one side before flipping it to the other side, your oil is ready to fry donuts in. If you add more oil, that will change the temperature of the oil and you will need to use another "donut hole tester."
    • Fry the donuts a few at a time for about 2 minutes per side until golden brown.
    • Remove donuts from the hot oil onto a baking rack. Let cool for a few minutes before dipping in glaze, toppings and sprinkles. Enjoy warm!

    Glazing Donuts

    • For the glaze, melt together the ingredients and whisk together. If the glaze hardens before or during the process, thin out with a bit of water.

    Notes

    Recipe Notes:
    *Donut dough should not be re-rolled to form more donuts. Instead use the scraps to make donut holes or apple fritters.
    *Donuts should be glazed after they’ve had a few minutes to cool so the icing doesn’t run right off them.
    *Once the donuts are fried, the oil should not be poured down your sink drain. Instead, pour it into a container with a lid and dispose of it in the trash. 
     
    Keyword donut, doughnut

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    Family Favorite Cinnamon Rolls

    I’ve been making these rolls for many, many years every Thanksgiving.

    You may be wondering why I am sharing a cinnamon roll recipe right before the week of Thanksgiving. I should be sharing my favorite pie or telling you about this roll recipe that is perfect for your turkey leftovers. But instead, I am waxing poetic about cinnamon rolls. The best cinnamon rolls. Cinnamon rolls that I have been making and perfecting for many, many years. These rolls are tender, fluffy and filled with an ooey gooey cinnamon mixture then topped with a delicious “light on the cream cheese” frosting that is absolutely amazing. These cinnamon rolls are our family favorite and I have been sharing them with family and extended family every year over our Thanksgiving holiday.

    Jump to Our Family’s Favorite Cinnamon Rolls Recipe
    Missing this view this year! We’ll be back next year 🙂

    My extended family has been going to the coast of Oregon for Thanksgiving every year for the past 50 plus years. We enjoy pot-luck style feasting for many days, lots of family time, long walks on the beach and I especially love making new and favorite recipes fit for a crowd. These cinnamon rolls are a part of our family Thanksgiving week every year. I sometimes make these rolls twice during the week…we love them so much. The dough is substantial, yet soft. The middles are gooey but baked through. The icing takes these rolls to a whole new level of glorious cinnamon rolls. Basically, our whole family loves these cinnamon rolls. 

    Because of Covid this year, Thanksgiving looks a little different and my little family isn’t going to the Oregon Coast. It’s been a tough year for so many and I’ll be honest and say, writing out this cinnamon roll recipe has been hard but good if that makes sense. It’s hard to know we won’t be there to carry on this tradition this year but also good because I love looking back on the many memories I have of cinnamon rolls shared and consumed for so many years. 

    Enough of the walk down memory lane…Let’s get to the details. Here are some of my pro tips for my family’s favorite cinnamon rolls.

    The Dough

    This dough is a dream to work with. I like to use a stand mixer (affiliate link…but check your local Costco for a good deal if you’re looking for one) or Bosch mixer but you could also make this dough kneading by hand. Just knead for about 10 minutes…until your arms are screaming at you to be done. All the butter and eggs in the dough enrich it, which can make it take longer for this dough to rise. To help combat this issue, I use instant yeast in the dough. This is my favorite yeast (affiliate link). It doesn’t need to be proofed and it helps an enriched dough rise a little more quickly.

    Filling Cinnamon Rolls: Cinnamon-Sugar Paste

    Throughout the many years of making this recipe, I’ve learned a few tips that have upped my cinnamon roll game. Many cinnamon roll recipes will have you spread butter over the dough and then add the cinnamon sugar mixture on top. Instead, I like to mix together softened or melted butter in a bowl and mix cinnamon, brown sugar and a little bit of flour into the butter. Then I spread the cinnamon-sugar paste over the roll dough. I think this gives a more even flavor and that little extra flour helps keeps the rolls from gaping open when baked. If you want to add nuts or raisins into your rolls, you can add them right on top of the cinnamon-sugar paste and roll them right up. I sometimes top some of the cinnamon rolls with toasted pecans. Yum!

    Shaping Our Family Favorite Cinnamon Rolls

    This recipe makes 12 large cinnamon rolls. I roll out my dough on the counter, spread on the filling and then roll up, pinching the seam together. To cut out the cinnamon rolls, you can use a sharp knife, bench cutter or even dental floss. If you have any wispy cinnamon roll ends, go ahead and tuck them under the roll so they don’t come loose during the bake. I also prefer baking these rolls six or eight to a pan because they rise a lot on the pan and in the oven while baking. I do know that’s not always possible or ideal (especially when I’m doubling this recipe to feed a crowd), so you can cram 12 to a pan if you want, though they may not rise quite as much.

    Add A Little Heavy Cream

    One other tip that ups the ooey, gooey factor in a cinnamon roll is the addition of warmed heavy cream. I like to take ¼ cup of lightly warmed heavy cream and pour it over the tops of the cinnamon rolls right before baking. You want the cream a little bit warm so it doesn’t impede the rise of the rolls. This little addition keeps the rolls extra tender and gooey, while still being baked through.

    Just drizzle the warm cream right over the top of the risen rolls. Yum!

    Baking the Cinnamon Rolls

    A word of caution on baking the rolls. Ovens all bake differently. Some ovens bake hotter in the back and cooler in the front. If you want an even bake on your rolls, rotate your pan 180 degrees after the first ten minutes of baking. This will keep half of your rolls from getting too dark and the other half being too light. Check the center of one of the cinnamon rolls once the pan is baked to make sure that the middle isn’t raw. Sometimes you need to let them go a minute or two longer just so they are completely baked through.

    The Best Cinnamon Roll Frosting

    The frosting on these rolls is amazing. There’s no other way to describe it. I’m not a huge fan of overly “cream cheesey” tasting frosting, and the ratios on this icing are just perfection. More butter than cream cheese, all whipped together take these rolls to an ethereal level. I also highly recommend adding in the maple flavoring that really give a unique flavor to the entire cinnamon roll. It is just divine! Whip the frosting until it is thick and creamy. Let the cinnamon rolls cool about 5 minutes before spreading a large dollop on each roll.

    How to Make Cinnamon Rolls Ahead of Time: A Few Options

    1. Mix up the dough, fillings and frosting the night before. Stick the dough in the fridge for the first rise and let it rise overnight. The next morning, shape the cinnamon rolls, let rise and bake. This would probably be my first choice if I wanted the freshest cinnamon rolls for a special morning breakfast.
    2. Make and shape the cinnamon rolls. Place them on a sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge. Pull the rolls out the morning of and let them come to room temperature and puff up a bit before baking and frosting. You may have a little bit of leakage from the cinnamon sugar mixture, but they should bake up well and taste delicious.
    3. Make the cinnamon rolls completely without adding the icing on top. Freeze them in ziplock bags. Warm them up and add icing on top when serving.
    4. Make the dough and increase the amount of yeast to 1.5 Tablespoons of yeast. Shape the cinnamon rolls and freeze them immediately. When ready to use, pull them out of the freezer, let them warm up to room temperature and puff up a bit and bake. The freezer can kill off a small amount of yeast in un-baked dough, so you add more to counterbalance this.

    Have I convinced you yet? You need these cinnamon rolls in your life. And your family does too. I usually double this recipe to feed a large crowd at our Thanksgiving celebrations. This year I wasn’t planning to make these cinnamon rolls but my kids looked at me with those sad eyes of “too much has been cancelled in the name of COVID” and this mama has a hard time saying no right now, so I made them. And guess what? I am grateful I did. For the memories. For the traditions. For the look on their faces. And for the amazing gooey deliciousness that is sitting in my kitchen right now. I hope you love them too! Enjoy!

    Family Favorite Cinnamon Rolls

    All the cinnamon-sugar goodness rolled up in a tender, light & fluffy roll and covered in practically perfect icing. These cinnamon rolls are ooey-gooey perfection and our family's favorite treat.
    Prep Time 30 mins
    Cook Time 20 mins
    Total Time 3 hrs
    Course Bread, Breakfast, Dessert
    Cuisine American
    Servings 12 rolls

    Ingredients
      

    Cinnamon Roll Dough

    • 2 cups milk warmed (2% or whole milk works best)
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 5 1/2 – 6 1/2 cups all purpose flour

    Cinnamon Roll Filling

    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter very soft or melted
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 Tablespoon all purpose flour

    Cinnamon Roll Frosting

    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
    • 2 oz cream cheese softened
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream or half and half can also substitute milk in a pinch
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon maple extract
    • a pinch of salt

    Instructions
     

    Cinnamon Roll Dough

    • Warm the milk in the microwave (about 1 1/2 minutes full power) or on the stove. To the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, add the warmed milk and melted butter. Feel the mixture with your finger (make sure you feel in the center of the milk/butter mixture) and make sure it is not too hot. You want the temperature to feel like a baby's bathwater. If it is too hot, let it cool a bit before proceeding.
    • Add the sugar and instant yeast to the milk/butter mixture. Stir. Look for the yeasty smell that tells you the yeast is activating (should happen within 10-20 seconds) and then proceed with the recipe.
    • Add the eggs, salt and a cup of flour. Turn on the dough hook on in your stand mixer and continue adding the flour a cup at a time until you have added 5 cups of flour. Knead for 1 minute until all the flour is fully incorporated. Check the dough by rolling it into a ball in your fingers to see if you need more flour. If the dough is too sticky to roll into a ball, continue adding flour 1/4 cup at a time, kneading for 1 minute after each addition. This process will make sure you don't over-flour the dough. Once you can pinch off a piece of dough and roll it into a ball with just a little sticky residue on your fingers, you can stop adding flour. Knead for a total of 5-7 minutes.
    • Lightly oil (or spray with cooking spray) a large container and dump the dough in the container. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel and set in a warm place to rise. I like to turn my oven into a "proofing box" with the oven light turned on. This is a nice warm spot for my dough to rise and speeds ups the process a bit. Make sure the oven is NOT turned on during this process.

    Cinnamon Filling

    • While the dough rises, make the cinnamon filling.
    • To a small bowl, add the softened or melted butter. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon and flour. Mix together until fully combined and set aside.

    Cinnamon Roll Frosting

    • While the dough rises, whip together the butter and cream cheese until fully mixed and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, heavy cream, vanilla extract, maple extract and salt. Whip together using a mixer until light and fluffy. Set aside.

    Assembling the Cinnamon Rolls

    • Prepare two half sheet pans (18 by 13 inches) and cover with parchment paper.
    • Once the dough has doubled in size, move it from the bowl to a clean space on the counter. The dough will be soft and not overly sticky. Pat the dough out into an approximate 18 by 12 rectangle.
    • Spread the cinnamon filling all over the dough with your fingers, making sure to cover up to the edges of the cinnamon roll.
    • Starting with the dough closest to you, roll up the cinnamon roll and pinch together the seam. Flip the cinnamon roll over, seam side down.
    • Cut the long log of cinnamon roll dough into 12 equal pieces.
    • Place the cinnamon rolls on the parchment paper, six or eight to a pan, leaving plenty of space to rise. Full disclosure, I often cram twelve to one pan, but I think they bake up better and have a better rise if they are placed six or eight to a pan.
    • Cover the rolls again and let rise for thirty minutes to an hour (depending on how warm your kitchen is).

    Bake and Enjoy

    • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    • Once the rolls have puffed up and almost doubled in size, they are ready for the oven. If you want an extra gooey cinnamon roll, warm up some heavy cream and drizzle it over the top of the cinnamon roll before sticking in the oven. Bake the cinnamon rolls for 10 minutes. Then rotate the pan and bake for another 8-10 minutes until just starting to brown.
    • Check the middle of one of the cinnamon rolls by using a butter knife to pry up a bit of the roll and make sure it is baked to your liking (the center will tell you if it needs more time or is perfectly baked).
    • Let the rolls cool for 5 minutes before covering with frosting.
    • Freeze any extra frosted cinnamon rolls in a ziplock bag. To re-heat, place on a plate and warm in the microwave for 30 seconds (time will vary depending on microwave) and enjoy!
    Keyword cinnamon roll

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    Erika’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Erika is known for her chocolate chip cookies

    My sister, Erika, is known for making chocolate chip cookies. She has baked thousands of these cookies…to rave reviews every time (and she always triples the batch!). This summer I asked her to make them for me and I’ve made them myself a time or two since. If you want a chocolate chip cookie recipe that comes out perfect every time, this is the one. I have made hundreds of batches of chocolate chip cookies and many, many different recipes. Sometimes they turn out great, other times I’m left wondering why they don’t hold their shape. This recipe is basically the quintessential chocolate chip cookie recipe. Perfect shape. Perfect bake. Little bit crispy on the outside with a nice soft and gooey middle and literally you can have one in your hands and belly within 20-30 minutes. 

    Jump to Erika’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

    The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

    So many versions of the perfect chocolate chip cookie are out there. Every person is going to have their own view (or nostalgic memory) of what the perfect chocolate chip cookie is to them. This cookie is my definition of the perfect bake-at-home chocolate chipper. It takes 20-30 minutes TOPS from mixing dough to baking to eating. The chocolate chip cookie holds its shape with just a little bit of crispy edges (not too crispy), but a soft and gooey middle. They are divine eaten warm after a few minute rest, but are also amazing frozen and snacked on straight from the freezer. If this is the kind of cookie you are looking for, look no further than this recipe. 

    A Mix of Butter and Shortening

    I admit it. For years I have kind of turned my nose up at this cookie…trying to find a better one because I did not want to bake with shortening. The truth is, the shortening is the key to this cookie. The mixture of equal parts butter and shortening (butter flavor or regular shortening is fine) is what helps this cookie hold its shape while increasing the tenderness of the cookie. Baking with shortening decreases the gluten production in the baked good resulting in a tender cookie AND gives you a taller cookie which makes it chewier. Butter on the other hand tends to give a crispier cookie and a richer flavor. All that said, equal parts of shortening and butter mixed together will produce the best homemade chocolate chip cookie. Can you substitute butter for the shortening, you may wonder? You can, but your cookie will be a little more crispy and a little less tender. 

    Should I use Convection Bake?

    This question deserves its own post. I believe that if you have a convection oven, your cookies should always be baked with the convection setting. Convection ovens have a fan and exhaust system that blow hot air around the food and then take it back out through a vent. This makes food cook more evenly and quickly than normal bake. For cookies this results in the perfect browning, a little bit crispy edges with a gooey middle. You can also cook many pans of cookies at a time in a convection oven and don’t have to worry about moving pans around halfway through the bake. Moral of the story: use it for cookies!

    A Few Rules For Convection Bake

    If a recipe does not specifically call for convection bake, the rule of thumb when using the convection setting is to reduce the temperature by 25 degrees and bake for a little less time. In this recipe, these cookies bake at 350 degrees convection bake for 9 minutes. If you don’t have a convection oven, that is okay! You can still bake cookies and have them turn out amazing. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees on the standard bake setting (25 degrees higher than on convection bake) and bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes (depending on how well done you like them). They will still taste amazing.

    This is an example of cookies on left baked with convection. Cookies on the lower right are baked at the 375 degree temperature. They are a little darker, a little flatter but still delicious. The convection-baked cookies on the upper left look like perfection. If you have convection, use it!

    Let the Cookies Rest

    Another one of my cookie rules is to let the cookies set up just a bit on the pan after baking before moving them to a counter area. I usually like to give my cookies about 5 minutes resting on the pan to get them set up before moving them. The way the cookies cool helps set their shape. This in no way means you can’t snatch one up and eat a hot-off-the-pan cookie, but for the cookies you want to gift, freeze or eat a little later, give them a few minutes on the pan to set up and your cookie will be perfect. 

    How to Freeze and Thaw Cookies

    This recipe makes about 36 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie scoop (a favorite medium sized one linked, affiliate), but once the cookies are cooled, they can be frozen. I use a gallon-sized ziplock bag or a large Tupperware to freeze my extra cookies. They thaw well and I’ve even had kids (who am I kidding…I do it too from time to time) eat them slightly frozen from the freezer. You can give them a quick zap in the microwave to thaw or set them out a few hours before you need them, covered with plastic wrap, and they will be perfect. You can also freeze the cookie dough. I like to let the dough thaw before baking, but you can also bake from frozen, just add a minute or two to the bake time.

    Does this recipe mean I’m done with searching for chocolate chip cookie recipes? No it doesn’t! I will always try any chocolate chip cookie recipe and keep testing and sampling new ones. But, this recipe is one I will bookmark and keep for the days that I need a quick and perfect chocolate chip cookie. They are so good. I hope you love them too!

    Erika’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Quintessential chocolate chip cookies: Perfect shape. Perfect bake. Little bit crispy on the outside with a nice soft and gooey middle and only 20 minutes start to finish.
    Prep Time 10 mins
    Cook Time 10 mins
    Course cookies, Dessert
    Cuisine American
    Servings 36 cookies

    Ingredients
      

    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
    • 1/2 cup shortening butter flavor or regular
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    • 2 1/2 cups chocolate chips

    Instructions
     

    • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. If you have a convection setting on your oven, use that instead and preheat to 350 degrees with convection.
    • Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, mix together the softened unsalted butter and shortening.
    • Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar. Mix until light and fluffy, usually a couple minutes.
    • Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Mix again until light and fluffy.
    • To the center of the bowl, add the baking soda, salt and one cup of the flour. Mix gently. Continue adding flour until all the flour is incorporated and mix until just combined. Feel the dough. If it feels too greasy/sticky, add another Tablespoon or two of flour. You want the dough to feel light and fluffy but it should not be overly sticky on your fingers.
    • Add the chocolate chips and mix until just combined.
    • On a parchment-lined baking sheet, drop spoonfuls of cookie dough using a cookie scoop (affiliate link). Each parchment-lined sheet should hold 12 cookies per pan.
    • Bake for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees OR bake for 9 minutes using the convection setting until the edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool on the pan for a few minutes to set up before transferring to the counter to cool. Enjoy!
    Keyword chocolate chip cookie

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    Sweet Swirled Brioche

    I posted one of my favorite brioche recipes a few months ago. It makes amazing, rich brioche. But you know what’s even more decadent? Sweet swirled brioche. Brioche itself is already rich and delicious (hello copious amounts of butter!) but adding a swirl of cinnamon or chocolate takes this brioche over the top. Two of my favorite recipes for the sweet swirl I like to add in my brioche are listed for you below as well as a little tutorial on how to shape the brioche dough.

    Jump Directly to Sweet Swirled Brioche Recipes

    Cinnamon Swirl or Rich Chocolate…Take Your Pick

    If you are looking for a decadent filling for an already decadent brioche, take your pick! Both of these swirl options make a delicious loaf of bread. The first time I made these loaves, they were devoured by hungry kiddos before I could turn around and ask what their favorites were. Needless to say, we liked both the chocolate and cinnamon option. Whenever I make brioche I often double the recipe so I can make different kinds of brioche and usually one or both of these swirl flavors makes an appearance on our kitchen counter.

    Cinnamony Swirl Goodness

    The cinnamon sugar in this cinnamon swirl bread pairs perfectly for a sweet swirl throughout a tender brioche. I like using a Tablespoon of cinnamon here so you can taste it. There’s nothing worse than cinnamon bread without any cinnamon flavor. The little bit of water in the filling helps the cinnamon sugar mixture adhere to the bread and not come spilling out when the dough is cut and twisted. Don’t leave that out.

    Rich, Deep Chocolate Flavor

    Alternatively, you can make this chocolate fudge swirl to add to your brioche. It bakes beautifully into the bread and gives a deep chocolate flavor. There’s not much better than slicing into a piece of brioche swirled with chocolate fudge. I love this filling because it is not overtly chocolate and doesn’t overpower the brioche, but works together to make a delicious loaf.

    Assembly

    Sometimes it’s hard for me to choose which swirl to use. At times like that…I make them both! This brioche recipe makes two loaves of bread which is perfect for one cinnamon bread and one chocolate swirl. Assembly is fairly easy, but can sometimes be a bit messy. Roll the brioche dough out as you would dough for cinnamon rolls. Cover the brioche dough with one of the swirl mixtures and roll back up, cinnamon-roll style. Using a knife, cut the dough down the center to the end of the roll. Twist the two sides around each other forming a beautiful (and somewhat messy) swirled loaf. Check below for a step-by-step guide:

    Roll out the Cold Brioche Dough Into a Rectangle

    Spread the Swirl Mixture on the Dough

    Roll the Dough Up: Cinnamon-Roll Style

    Use a Sharp Knife; Leave a Small Space to Keep the Dough Connected and Cut the Center of the Log all the Way Through as Pictured

    Twist the Two Strands Around Each Other to Form a Swirl Bread

    Place in a Parchment-Lined Loaf Pan

    Let Brioche Rise and Bake According to Recipe Directions

    Showstopper

    This loaf is a showstopper. It makes the most delicious french toast, dipped in an egg mixture and fried in butter of course. Swirled brioche is the perfect gift to take to a friend or neighbor as a thank you or a “just thinking about you” treat. I hope you’ll #sharealoaf with a friend, family or neighbor soon. And keep one for you…just saying. It’s so good.

    Cinnamon Swirl

    Cinnamon Swirl to add to your favorite brioche dough
    Prep Time 5 mins

    Ingredients
      

    • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar
    • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon water

    Instructions
     

    • Mix together the powdered sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and water in a bowl. It will be a little crumbly. Add a spritz of water to the rectangular-shaped dough and pour on the cinnamon sugar filling. Shape as directed in blog post.

    Chocolate Fudge Swirl

    Chocolate fudge swirl for your favorite brioche dough
    Prep Time 5 mins
    Course Bread
    Cuisine American

    Ingredients
      

    • 1/3 cup heavy cream
    • 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate
    • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt

    Instructions
     

    • Warm the heavy cream in the microwave or on the stove. Melt the semi-sweet chocolate into the cream and mix to combine. Add the melted butter and mix. Add the flour, vanilla and salt. Stir to combine. Let the mixture cool completely before assembling the brioche.

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    Fried Apple Hand Pies

    One of our favorite spots to visit, go for lunch and hang out for an afternoon is a local orchard near our home. It has land as far as the eye can see, pick-your-own fruits as the season permits and apple orchards brimming with blossoms and fruit in the fall. They make incredible fried apple hand pies filled with fresh apple (and sometimes strawberry rhubarb, and peach when the season permits). Hot from the fryer and dipped in a sweet sugar glaze, these apple hand pies are always a favorite of anyone who visits. If they make it home, we like to reheat them a little and add a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top for a practically perfect fall treat. 

    Jump Directly to the Recipe for Fried Apple Hand Pies

    Turning Farm Fresh Apples into Fried Apple Pies

    This fall we enjoyed apple picking as a family and decided to try our hand at making our own delicious hand pies thanks to the excess number of apples we picked. Our resulting hand pies may just rival those at our local orchard. These pies are flaky, soft and oozing with delicious apples. The pie crust itself is worthy of a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar and eating plain…yes it’s that good. Eaten warm or left to cool a bit before devouring, these hand pies are just decadent, delicious and worth the calories in every. single. bite. 

    Is the Dough Sticky? Don’t Worry!

    The dough for these hand pies may start out pretty sticky. Depending on the size of your egg, you may need to add more or less flour to the dough. Once the dough is mixed up, liberally flour your workspace (about ½ cup of flour). Pour the dough on top of the flour mixture and knead a few times (no heavy kneading, but enough to incorporate some of the flour into the dough and keep it from being too sticky). Add more flour as needed. I like to lay down a piece of parchment paper on my workspace and shape the dough on the parchment paper for easy clean-up.

    Chilling the Dough

    I am not always a super patient baker. I like to test the limits when it comes to my time. With that said, this dough is definitely better if you give it a full hour to chill in the fridge. If you really want to speed up the process, chill it for 20 minutes in the freezer (take it out before it’s frozen), but give it that time to chill. This helps the butter in the dough solidify which gives flakiness to the dough when you fry it. Chilling the dough also makes it easier to roll out and work with as you shape the pies.

    Cooking the Apple Mixture is the Key to Bold Flavor

    The filling of these apple hand pies is just perfect. I like using a combination of apples for the pie filling, usually one type that is a bit more tart (ie: Granny Smith) and one type that is a little more sweet (we used Gala and Golden Delicious). Cooking the filling down before putting it in the pies is another trick that makes these pies perfect. The apple filling is delicious stirred into oatmeal, crumbled with oats or eaten by the spoonful with a bit of whipped cream (don’t ask me how I know 🙂 ). The apples are peeled and then simmered in a mixture of butter, sugar and spices before adding in flour to thicken it up.

    Fry or Bake…or Both?

    If you are really going for the real deal fried apple pies…frying is the way to go. I don’t fry pastry very often, but these pies are worth it. If you are a technical baker, you will want to heat your oil to about 375 degrees. I am not very technical sometimes…so I just throw in a small piece of dough and see what it does. If it browns too quickly, I turn down the heat. If it takes a long time to brown, I turn the heat up a bit. Be careful when adding more oil as that will change temperature and you will need to add a little more time for the oil to heat up again. You can also flash fry these pies, giving them about 20 seconds per side and then baking them in the oven the rest of the way. I haven’t tried using an air fryer, though I think that would probably work. Lastly, you could probably bake the pies for an oil-free and “healthier” alternative. I haven’t tried it but I would probably give them about 10 minutes at 350. Let me know in the comments if you go this route.

    Shaping the Pies

    These hand pies are fun for the whole family to get involved with. We used a bowl to cut out the pie shape, but you could use a large round cookie cutter or make smaller pies with a smaller circle cut-out. My kids love helping shape the hand pies, and the dough is very forgiving for little fingers.

    Glaze. Glaze. Glaze.

    The last step in making these pies is pouring the glaze over the warm pies and trying to keep all the little fingers away from snatching bites throughout the day. These apple pies are fun for the whole family to make and the reward is delicious! I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

    Fried Apple Hand Pies

    Amy
    It's apple picking season and these fried apple hand pies are at the top of the list for treats to make in September. Flaky, soft and bursting with apple flavor, these hand pies will rival your local orchard's and are fun for the whole family to make and eat.
    Prep Time 30 mins
    Cook Time 10 mins
    Course Dessert
    Cuisine American
    Servings 12 pies

    Ingredients
      

    Pie Dough

    • 2.5 cups all purpose flour plus more for rolling out/shaping
    • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
    • 1/4 cup shortening, butter flavor regular
    • 1/2 cup milk see recipe notes
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream see recipe notes
    • 2-3 cups vegetable oil for frying see recipe notes

    Apple Pie Filling

    • 4 cups chopped apples about 4 apples peeled, cored and chopped
    • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 Tablespoon water
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 Tablespoon all purpose flour reserved

    Glaze

    • 2.5 cups powdered sugar
    • 1/4-1/3 cup milk more or less depending on how thin you want the glaze to be
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Instructions
     

    Apple Pie Filling

    • Peel about 4 medium-sized apples (I love this apple peeler, affiliate link). Chop into small chunks.
    • In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the butter, apples, cinnamon nutmeg, sugar, water and salt. Simmer until the apples are softened, about 10-15 minutes.
    • Add the flour and cook down a little more until a thick filling is formed.
    • Allow the filling to cool to room temperature until ready to use in the hand pies (you can cool quickly in the freezer or fridge if needed). The filling will also last a day or two in the fridge or about 3 months in the freezer.

    Hand Pie Dough

    • Mix together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl.
    • Add the butter and shortening to the bowl. Cut in with a pastry cutter (affiliate link) until it looks like a fine crumb.
    • To a liquid measuring cup, mix the milk and heavy cream together. Add an egg and mix until combined.
    • Add the liquid mixture to crumbled butter/flour mixture, a little at a time. Use a fork to fluff the mixture and combine together until it forms a dough. The dough will be a little sticky. Don’t worry!
    • Liberally flour (about ½ cup or more of flour) a piece of parchment paper or workspace. Pour the dough out onto the counter and knead a few times until the dough comes together and is not overly sticky.
    • Pat into a thick rectangle and wrap in parchment paper. Stick in the fridge for at least an hour to chill (you can leave it in the fridge up to 24 hours if you wish).

    Hand Pie Assembly

    • Take the chilled dough from the fridge. Liberally flour a counter and roll the dough out on the counter to about ⅛ an inch thick.
    • Press out circles of dough with a large, circular cookie cutter or small bowl. I like to use a bowl around 5 inches wide, so the pie is of a decent size. Continue pressing out circles until you have 12 circles of dough. If you have extra pieces of dough, you can press them together and form a circle with your fingers.
    • To each circle, add about 1-2 Tablespoons of apple pie filling, right in the center of the circle.
    • Wet your finger and lightly rub your wet finger around half of the pie dough. Fold the other half of the dough over (to form a semi-circle) and seal by lightly pressing a fork down on the edges to crimp them closed.
    • Continue with the rest of the dough circles until you have about 12 apple pies.
    • In a small bowl, whisk together the glaze: powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth and set aside.

    Frying

    • Heat about 3 cups of vegetable oil in a large saucepan* over medium heat until hot (drop a little piece of dough in the oil and watch it to see if it’s ready. If it darkens and browns immediately, turn the heat down. If it stays light, up the heat  a little. You want a medium brown color.
    • Place about 3 apple pies at a time in the pan and fry for 3-4 minutes. Flip over to the other side and fry for an additional 2-3 minutes. If you notice your pies browning too quickly, reduce the temperature and flip over.
    • Cool on a cooling rack.
    • When they are cool enough for you to touch them, dip them in the glaze mixture, covering the entire pie. Put them back on the cooling rack for the icing to solidify.
    • Eat warm, with a scoop of ice cream if desired. Enjoy!

    Notes

    *You can substitute 1 cup of half-and-half for the heavy cream/milk mixture in the pie dough.
    To flash fry: preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fry each side for about 20 seconds and then remove the pies and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 5-7 minutes until cooked all the way through. Top with glaze.
    You could also use an air fryer or bake these pies. I haven’t tried them that way, but I’m sure they would be delicious. Let me know in the comments if you choose to do this!
    Keyword apple pie, fried pie, hand pie

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    One Bowl Pumpkin Spice Muffins

    You guys. These muffins. They are what I want to serve to a big group of friends (you know, when we can have a big group of people over again). These pumpkin muffins will fill your kitchen with the aroma of pumpkin spice. “Hello Fall! Please come stay and play awhile” is how these muffins welcome the season. They have the perfect sweetness and are filled with all the spices I associate with the leaves changing and the holidays approaching. Not only are these muffins the perfect way to usher in September, they are super simple and only require one bowl!

    Jump Directly to the Recipe: One Bowl Pumpkin Spice Muffins

    One-Bowl. Easy Peasy.

    I have four young kids. That translates to A. LOT. of dirty dishes and a dishwasher run at least once if not twice a day. I basically do everything in my power to not use up “one more bowl” or dish unless absolutely necessary. In an ideal scenario, should I mix the dry ingredients together before adding it to my wet ingredients? I probably should, but you know what? Sometimes you gotta do what is best for your sanity…and to me that is often not dirtying One. More. Bowl. I’ve found that if I add my baking soda, baking powder and salt directly to the center of the liquid mixture in my bowl and mix it in thoroughly before adding my flour, these muffins turn out great. Every time. If you don’t mind dirtying another bowl, go right ahead and mix the dry ingredients together and then the wet ingredients together and then mix the two together. But for me. I’ll be over here mixing in one bowl as long as I can, and these muffins are amazing either way.

    Pumpkin Spice Topping

    One of the things that makes these muffins stand out is the pumpkin spice topping that is added after they come out of the oven. I got the idea from these cinnamon sugar muffins and thought they would work perfectly on a pumpkin version…and boy was I right. Take your muffin after it has cooled a bit, dip the top in melted butter and then dip it in a pumpkin spice mixture to give a crunch, sweet, over-the-top delicious factor to a pumpkin muffin. My kids love helping dunk the muffins and put the finishing touches on these shortly after they come out of the oven. It’s the perfect activity for little fingers to get busy in the kitchen.

    Recipe Doubles and Freezes Well

    This recipe for one-bowl pumpkin spice muffins is an easy one to double. With school starting up again, I’m always looking for quick breakfast ideas. I like to make a double batch (then I can use one 15 oz can of pumpkin instead of the half a can this recipe calls for) and freeze them. I let the muffins cool and then place them in a ziplock gallon-sized bag. I’ll pull them out of the freezer one at a time for a quick re-heat in the microwave, or sometimes I’ll add them frozen to my kids lunchboxes, so by lunchtime they have a perfectly moist muffin. Sometimes I’ll omit the sugar topping and we eat them plain. Still delicious. Pick up a can of pumpkin on your next trip to the grocery store and give these easy muffins a whirl. 

    One Bowl Pumpkin Spice Muffins

    Amy
    Fall is in the air with these one-bowl pumpkin muffins topped with pumpkin spice cinnamon sugar.
    Prep Time 10 mins
    Cook Time 20 mins
    Servings 18 muffins

    Ingredients
      

    Pumpkin Muffins

    • 1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 3 eggs
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1/2