December 20, 2013

gingerbread & chai latte bars, oh my

Holiday Baking Final copyFriends, I have a special treat for you today. Kelsey’s sister, Caitlin, posted a picture of some scrumptious looking gingerbread men on Instagram the other day, and as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have the recipe. Fortunately for us, she was willing to share, so I’m turning the blog over to Cait and her yummy baked goods. Have a good weekend. (And thank you Caitlin!!)

I have always had a love for baking. I’ll go awhile without baking a thing, and then all of a sudden I have an urge. Next thing you know, there are three different kinds of cookies, flour in my hair and dishes in the sink.

Cupcakes are my favorite. I like cakes and cookies, but there is something so desirable about cupcakes. The perfect ratio of cake to frosting, and there are a million different flavors you can mix and match. My favorite is chocolate peanut butter, but really, anything chocolate will do. My best friend and I started a small (and shortly after rather sad) business called Sarah and Cait’s Cupcakes when we were in high school. My love for baking started here, with a couple of recipes, a Cuisinart mixer and a friend to experiment with.

The holidays call for all types of sweets, but cookies in particular. Each year, I try to bake cookies that I’ve never made before. Twenty-one years old and many years of baking under my belt, I am sad to say I have never once made gingerbread until just the other night. As I was standing there mixing, I felt confused looking down into the bowl. The mixture of molasses with cinnamon and eggs, something about it was foreign to me. Not until the little gingerbread men, or as my mom would cleverly say, gingerboys, came out of the oven did I question why I had never made them before. So festive and aromatic those gingerboys are, two bites of sweetness and I was sold.

The chai latte bars are equally as good and something different from the ordinary cookie. They are easy and simple to make and taste like Christmas, you know, that pinecone, eggnog, spicy kind of taste. Happy baking!


Gingerbread Men

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large egg yolks
Cooking spray
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
Nonpareils or sprinkles for decorating (optional)

Whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Beat the brown sugar, molasses, melted butter and egg yolks in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low; add the flour mixture and beat, gradually increasing the speed to medium high, until the dough comes together, about 3 minutes.

Roll out the dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper coated with cooking spray until 1/8 inch thick. Freeze until firm, 30 minutes.

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Cut out cookies using 2-inch cutters; arrange 1 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Gather the scraps and chill until firm, then reroll once to cut out more cookies. Refrigerate the cutouts until firm, 20 minutes.

Bake the cookies, switching the pans halfway through, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Make the icing: Beat the confectioners’ sugar, meringue powder and 3 to 4 tablespoons water in a bowl with a mixer on high speed until smooth and thick. Transfer to a resealable bag and snip a small corner. Pipe onto the cookies and sprinkle with nonpareils. Let set 30 minutes.

Chai Latte Bars

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons malted milk powder (original or vanilla flavor)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
9 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
Nonpareils, for decorating (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on 2 sides. Butter the parchment. Whisk the flour, oats, malted milk powder, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a large bowl.

Beat the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low; beat in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake until the top is golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the white chocolate, then return to the oven until the chocolate softens, about 45 seconds. Remove from the oven and spread the chocolate into a smooth layer. Top with nonpareils. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely, then lift out of the pan using the parchment; cut into squares.