Cardamom Berry Braid

I pulled this recipe from last year’s Bake from Scratch, holiday edition, and I wanted to make it based solely on its appearance. It’s absolutely stunning. The original recipe calls for  a homemade cranberry filling, but going with the Scandinavian flavors here, I opened a bottle of nice lingonberry jam instead. I liked the flavors tremendously, and I liked saving myself a step, too. I really recommend following suit! I also made a big batch of candied orange peel for the Christmas season, so I used that as well, but if you aren’t inclined to make your own, a purchased one could also work, as could just the zest of an orange grated into the jam. I ended up serving this bread Christmas morning (I baked it a few days in advance, froze it, defrosted it overnight, and then warmed it the morning of Christmas in the oven). I loved this bread (I ate it over the Christmas Kringle we had), and I hope to make it for many years to come. It also got the distinguished title from my father-in-law as “the best thing you’ve ever made.” Has a nice sound to it, doesn’t it?

Cardamom Berry Braid

  • ¾ c. (180 grams) whole milk
  • ½ c. (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • ¼ c. (57 grams) unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • 1½ t. (4.5 grams) kosher salt
  • ½ c. (120 grams) warm water (105°F/40°C to 110°F/43°C)
  • 1 T. (6 grams) instant yeast
  • 2 large eggs (100 grams)
  • 5½ c. (688 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. (2 grams) ground cardamom
  • Lingonberry Jam or Cranberry Filling (recipe below)
  • Storebought or Homemade Candied Orange Peel, diced
  • Vanilla Glaze (recipe below)
  1. In a small saucepan, bring milk to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat; add sugar, butter, and salt, stirring until completely incorporated. Set aside until cooled to 120°F (49°C) to 130°F (54°C).
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine ½ cup (120 grams) warm water and yeast. Add warm milk mixture. Stir in eggs. With mixer on low speed, add flour and cardamom, beating until combined. Increase mixer speed to medium-low, and beat until smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough in bowl, turning to grease top. Cover directly with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (75°F/24°C) until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 24×12-inch rectangle. Spread Lingonberry Jam onto dough, leaving a ½-inch border on all sides. Sprinkle with diced Candied Orange Peel. Starting at one long side, roll up dough, jelly roll style; press edge to seal. Place on prepared pan.
  5. Using a serrated knife, cut roll in half lengthwise. With cut sides facing up, carefully twist dough pieces around each other. Form into a circle, pinching ends to seal. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm, draft-free place (75°F/24°C) for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  7. Bake until golden brown and internal temperature registers 190°F (88°C), about 40 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Drizzle with Vanilla Glaze. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Cranberry Filling (optional)

  • 1⅓ c. (171 grams) dried cranberries
  • ⅓ c. (67 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 T. (14 grams) unsalted butter, cubed
  • ½ t. (1 gram) ground cardamom
  • ¼ t. ground cinnamon
  1. In a small saucepan, bring cranberries and water to cover by 1 inch to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, and cook until cranberries are softened, about 20 minutes. Drain cranberries, reserving 2 tablespoons (30 grams) cooking liquid.
  2. In the work bowl of a food processor, place warm cranberries, reserved 2 tablespoons (30 grams) cooking liquid, sugar, butter, cardamom, and cinnamon; pulse until mixture has the texture of jam. Let cool completely. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Vanilla Glaze

  • 1 c. (120 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • ¼ c. (60 grams) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 t. (4 grams) vanilla extract
  • ½ t. (1.5 grams) kosher salt
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until smooth. Use immediately.

Swedish Gingerbread

While my memory serves me, and before winter expires, I’m chronicling some of the more memorable holiday baking I did. Hopefully this will make next year easier, unless I decide to reinvent the wheel, like usual.

We did a couple of things this Christmas to celebrate my family’s Swedish ancestry, including a family gathering that spotlighted Swedish Christmas food. I had clipped this recipe from a Saveur magazine years ago, but hadn’t yet made it, so it was finally time. There were a lot of desserts at the gathering (that’s how we celebrate!) so I was surprised to see that so many of these delightful cookies had been eaten. I worried that the amount of cloves would deter the kids, but quite the opposite: it made them distinctive and delightful. I can’t wait to make them again. A new Christmas favorite! Saveur reports getting this recipe from an 80-year-old bakery in Stockholm called Vete-Katten. Worth a visit!

swedish gingerbread saveur

Swedish Gingerbread Cookies

34 c. flour
3 t. ground cloves
12 t. ground cinnamon
12 t. ground ginger
14 t. baking soda
11 T. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
12 c. golden syrup or dark corn syrup
12 c. heavy cream
2 c. confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 t. fresh lemon juice
1 egg white, lightly beaten

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and baking soda; set aside. In another large bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and golden syrup using a handheld mixer set to medium speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, 1–2 minutes. Add the reserved spice mixture and the heavy cream in 3 alternating batches, beginning and ending with the spice mixture, until the dough just combines. Transfer dough to a work surface, divide in half, and shape each half into a flat disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 1 hour. (Can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, and in fact, we still rolled some out 5 days later, and they were great.)
  2. Heat oven to 350°. Unwrap 1 disk of dough and place on a floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll dough to a 1⁄8″ thickness. Cut out cookies using the cookie cutters of your choice and place cookies 2″ apart on parchment paper–lined baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough, rerolling scraps. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until browned and set, about 12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
  3. To make an icing, if you like, whisk confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and egg white in a medium bowl until smooth. Transfer icing to a resealable plastic bag (or a pastry bag). Snip off a bottom corner of the bag and pipe icing onto cookies in a decorative pattern.

Cranberry-Jalapeno Cream Cheese Dip

cranberry-cream-cheese

My sister brought this dip to a little family get together a couple years ago, and I just thought it was so incredible. Bright and beautiful, with interesting flavor. Kind-of the perfect foil to the many heavy party dips that usually accompany winter. So, I woke up early in January thinking about it, and happily found it quite easily. I was surprised that there was so much sugar (1 cup!!!) and decided to start with less and see how I liked it. I actually love it with less sugar–I’ll continue to take it down from what I now do at 1/3 c. and see if I can get it even lower, but for now, I love this dip. Really. I’ve made it three times in the last three weeks, and can just sit and enjoy it with a spoon, and even no cream cheese, all by myself. I’ve slightly adapted this recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.

Cranberry-Jalapeno Cream Cheese Dip
  • 12 oz. fresh cranberries (I’ve used frozen, which bleed a little, but taste fine)
  • 4-5 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/3 c. sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 t. cumin
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 2 (8 ounces each) packages cream cheese, light or regular, softened [I use less, just to make a thin layer at the bottom of the dish, or none at all]
  • Crackers or Tortilla Chips, for serving

  1. Pulse the cranberries in a food processor or blender until coarsely chopped (alternately, you can do this task by hand). Add the green onions, cilantro, jalapeno, sugar, cumin, lemon juice and salt and pulse until the ingredients are well combined and finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a covered bowl or tupperware and refrigerate for 4 hours (or up to overnight) so the flavors have time to develop and the cranberries lose a bit of their tartness.
  2. When ready to serve, spread the cream cheese in an even layer on a serving plate or 9-inch pie dish. Top with the cranberry-jalapeno mixture, spreading evenly over the top of the cream cheese.
  3. Refrigerate for up to an hour before serving. Serve with crackers or tortilla chips.

Chocolate & Cream Yule Log

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The Christmas and New Year Season has died down, the kids and my husband and I are all back in school, and I’m finally getting a moment to record the fun baking we did at Christmas this year. My favorite part: the Buche de Noel. This Christmas cake is a tradition my dad brought home with him from France, and he’s usually the one who bakes it each year, but I was excited that he let me make it this year.

I found this recipe in one of the funnest baking books I own, called Baked. I will include their directions, though I changed them a bit. I’m not as big of a fan of malted milk balls as they are, so I substituted chestnut paste  (which is a more traditional French flavor) and I also made it into the more traditional log instead of a stump. Otherwise, I was super happy with how it turned out. Hope it goes this well again next year!

Chocolate & Cream Yule Log

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1/4 cup of hot water (I would cut this down to 1 T. next time. I thought it was the dominant flavor as is)
  • 1 dozen large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Malted Buttercream and Dark Chocolate Buttercream
  • Meringue mushrooms, candied cranberries and candied rosemary sprigs, for garnish (optional; see Note)

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter two 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheets and line them with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on all of the short sides. Butter the paper and dust with flour.

In a small bowl, whisk the 1 cup of flour with the cocoa and salt. In another small bowl, combine the chocolate and espresso. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the egg yolks with 2/3 cup of the sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk and beat at high speed until the yolks are pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate mixture along with the vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl.

Thoroughly wash and dry the mixer bowl and the whisk. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on moderately high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2/3 cup of sugar and continue beating at high speed until the whites are glossy, about 2 minutes longer. Whisk one-fourth of the egg whites into the cake batter, then fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain.

In a small bowl, whisk the melted butter with 1/2 cup of the batter; fold this mixture into the batter. Working in 2 batches, sift the cocoa powder mixture over the batter and gently fold it in. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, spreading it out to fill the pans. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the cake feels springy and dry; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer the pans to racks to cool completely. Run the tip of a knife around the edges, cover with parchment paper and a baking sheet and invert; peel off the parchment on top.

Spread the Malted Buttercream over the cakes. Using a ruler, cut each cake precisely in half lengthwise, cutting through the paper; you should have four 6-by-17-inch strips of cake. Roll one strip into a tight coil, leaving the paper behind. Roll the 3 remaining cake strips around the coil in the same way to form a very wide, short jelly roll. Set the cake on a large plate, spiraled end up. Frost the outside of the cake with the Dark Chocolate Buttercream. Refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours. Decorate the cake with meringue mushrooms, cranberries and rosemary sprigs and serve, cutting the cake into wedges or horizontal slices.

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Chocolate & Malted Buttercream

  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup malt powder, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of hot water
  • 12 malted milk balls, crushed (I used chestnut paste instead. Or, I think I would just use vanilla bean paste)

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are just warm to the touch. Return the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk. Add the vanilla and beat the egg whites at high speed until firm and glossy, about 5 minutes. With the machine on, whisk in the butter a few tablespoons at a time. If the mixture begins to look curdled, continue to beat until smooth before adding more butter. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the buttercream to a bowl and whisk in the melted chocolate. Beat the dissolved malt powder into the remaining buttercream, then beat in the milk balls.