Tag Archives: make ahead

Top Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Christmas Cherry Pecan Cookies

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DAY 1: Christmas Cherry Pecan Cookies

Happy December and the first day of No Empty Chairs’ Tenth Annual “Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies”. This year, I am reaching back into the blog-files to share twelve of our family’s very favorite Christmas cookies.

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First up is a shortbread style cookie studded with candied cherries and pecans. This is a great make-ahead dough that you can pull out and slice anytime. Bake just a few at a time, or a whole batch.

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Roll the dough into a log and it can be stored in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to bake.

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Use a sharp knife to slice dough into rounds that are about 3/8” thick.

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ORIGINAL BLOG POST (2011): Christmas Cherry Pecan Cookies

Christmas is a wonderful season to both spend time with family and loved ones and to reach out beyond our normal sphere of influence. See below for ideas on how you can light the world in all areas of your life.

#LightTheWorld

Light the World 2018

 

RECIPE:

Christmas Cherry Pecan Cookies

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1 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
1 cup pecan halves
2 cups red and green candied cherries, halved

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Cream butter and powdered sugar; blend in egg and vanilla. Mix in flour and then add pecans and cherries. Chill dough for 1-2 hours. Shape into 2  logs with about 2” diameter. Roll in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Chill for at least 3 hours. Cut into slices about 3/8” thick and bake for 13-15 minutes. Do not let cookies brown.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

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Crescent Dinner Rolls

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Looking for the perfect rolls to serve for Thanksgiving? Or more importantly, to use the next day to make turkey/cranberry sauce sandwiches?

Look no further: these rolls are amazing. They are soft and tender, but also hold up to slicing and using as a sandwich bun.

Leftovers are always the best part of a big holiday dinner. I love cooking once and then repurposing dinner for the next few days. And rolls are the perfect food to make ahead of time, freeze, and then reheat in the oven just before serving.

To help elongate the crescent rolls and keep them from being too thick in the center, I cut a slit in the wide edge, separate the slit slightly, and then roll the dough into a crescent shape.

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This gives longer ends that are easier to curve into a rounded crescent.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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I posted about these rolls previously, but I have adapted the recipe this time to use instant yeast, which doesn’t require proofing before adding to the dough. You can find the original recipe, using regular yeast HERE.

RECIPE:

Crescent Dinner Rolls

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2 ⅔ cups whole milk
½ cup sugar
6 Tbs butter
1 Tbs kosher salt
1 heaping Tbs instant yeast
8-8 ¼  cups all-purpose flour
3 beaten eggs
Melted butter (about 4 Tbs; for brushing on top of cooked rolls)

Combine milk, sugar, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until butter melts and sugar completely dissolves. Remove from heat and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow to cool to lukewarm.

Add 4 cups of flour and the instant yeast to the warm (but not hot) milk mixture. Use a dough hook to mix on low speed for 30 seconds, then scrape the sides of the bowl. Mix on high speed for 3 minutes.  Mix in eggs.

Knead in as much remaining flour as needed to make a soft dough. The dough should be very soft–it will be coming away from the sides of the bowl, but it will still stick to your finger when you touch it. Remove the dough hook and cover the bowl with a clean towel. Place the bowl in a warm place and allow dough to rise for 45-60 minutes, or until doubled.

Grease large baking sheets, or line with parchment paper or silicon mats.

Punch down dough. Lightly oil  your work surface (USE OIL, NOT FLOUR, TO KEEP THE DOUGH FROM STICKING TO YOUR SURFACE). Divide dough into 3 balls and place one of the thirds onto the lightly oiled surface. Keep remaining dough covered until ready to use.

Roll each dough ball into a circle and cut into 12 wedges. Cut a ½” slit in the wide end of the wedge, separate slightly and roll  into crescent shape and place on prepared pans.

Cover rolls with a clean cloth and allow to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes. When dough has about 15-20 minutes to go, preheat oven to 375°F.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden-brown. When done, remove from oven and brush lightly with melted butter.

Yield: 36 rolls

**To prebake (and freeze)  for serving another day: Bake rolls on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until rolls just barely begin to brown. Remove from oven. (Do not brush with butter) Cool completely. Place in Ziploc freezer bags. Freeze.

On serving day: Place frozen rolls on a baking sheet, bake at 350°F for about 7-10 minutes, or until hot and golden brown. Brush tops with melted butter.

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Thanksgiving: White or Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

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These white rolls are incredibly light and fluffy. Perfect for sopping up gravy, or spreading with cranberry sauce and filling with leftover turkey. The recipe is from one of my favorite food blogs: Our Best Bites. You could also shape them into crescents before baking.

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For a heartier roll: try this recipe for
Whole Wheat Honey Pull-Apart Rolls
:

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The whole wheat recipe is a simpler recipe than the white rolls, as it uses instant yeast (which only requires one rise) and there is no need to heat and then cool milk. But as they are made with 100% whole wheat, they are not as light and fluffy. I happen to prefer a hearty roll, but my kids prefer the white ones.

When making rolls for big gatherings I like to prepare and prebake them a few days ahead. To make and freeze: Bake rolls on a large parchment paper lined baking sheet, leaving a little more space between rolls than if they were in a 9×13”pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until rolls just barely begin to brown. Remove from oven. Cool. Place in Ziploc freezer bags. Freeze.

On serving day: Place frozen rolls on a baking sheet, bake for about 7-10 minutes, or until hot and golden brown. Brush tops with butter.

RECIPES:

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White Dinner Rolls
————(from Our Best Bites)

2 cups whole milk
½ cup + 1 Tbs sugar, divided
1/3 cup (5 1/3 Tbs) butter
2 tsp Kosher salt
2 pkg active dry yeast (or 4 1/2 tsp)
2/3 cup warm water
8-9 cups all-purpose flour
3 beaten eggs

Combine milk, 1/2 cup sugar, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until butter melts. Remove from heat. Allow to cool to lukewarm.

While the milk mixture is cooling, dissolve the yeast and 1 Tbs sugar in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour and milk mixture. Beat on low for 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl constantly. Add yeast mixture and beat on high for 3 minutes. Add beaten eggs.

Stir in as much remaining flour as needed to make a soft dough. This dough should be very soft–it will be coming away from the sides of the bowl, but it will still stick to your finger when you touch it. Place the bowl in a warm place and cover with a clean towel; allow to rise 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Lightly flour your work surface and turn dough out onto surface. Divide in half.

Spray 2 9×13 glass pans with cooking spray. (You can also use large baking sheets) Shape each half of dough into 12 balls and place in prepared pan. Repeat with remaining dough in the second pan. (Dough can also be formed into crescent rolls by rolling each dough half into a circle and cutting into 12 wedges, then rolling up in crescent shape)

Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes. When dough has about 15-20 minutes to go, preheat oven to 375°F.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden-brown. When done, remove from oven. Rub a stick of cold butter over the tops of the rolls.

Yield: 24 rolls

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Whole Wheat Honey Rolls

2 ½ cups warm water
2 eggs
6 Tbs honey
¼ cup olive oil
5 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat gluten
¼ cup dry milk
1 Tbs salt
1 Tbs instant yeast ***
1 – 2 cups additional whole wheat flour

In a large mixing bowl (preferable a stand mixer), add wet ingredients. Add 5 cups flour, gluten, powdered milk, salt and yeast. Mix until well combined. Knead in enough additional flour so that dough just begins to form a ball. Knead for 5-6 minutes. Let dough rest for 10 minutes before shaping rolls.

Shape into balls (or other shape: knots are my favorite). Place in greased pans; brush with oil, cover and let rise until doubled in size. For a shiny roll: brush with slightly beaten egg  just before baking (or brush with butter immediately after removing from oven). Bake at 375°F for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown.

***Note: If using instant yeast, the dough only needs to rise once (after being shaped). If you are using regular yeast, allow dough to rise before shaping dough, then rise again in pans before baking.

Yield: about 3 dozen rolls

**To prebake for serving another day: Bake rolls on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving a little more space between rolls than if they were in a 9×13”pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until rolls just barely begin to brown. Remove from oven. Cool. Place in Ziploc freezer bags. Freeze.

On serving day: Place frozen rolls on a baking sheet, bake for about 7-10 minutes, or until hot and golden brown. Brush tops with butter.

 

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Thanksgiving: Roasted Garlic Stuffing

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When it comes to stuffing, I stand firmly on the “outside of the turkey” argument. I am not a fan of soggy stuffing straight from the bird. Or that you have to overcook your turkey in order to bring the stuffing to a safe temperature.

The problem with this can be: how do you fit everything in the oven that needs to be baked and have it all hot at serving time. Especially when you only have one oven. I am experiencing some serious Dual-Oven-Envy at my house. Especially at holiday times.

Solving the problem of competing oven-needing foods is doable with a little advance preparation. Pies can be cooked the day before. Rolls can be prepared and partially pre-baked (more on this later this week). But what about things that need to be cooked same day?

An appliance that can be used to your advantage here is your Crock Pot. With stuffing, however, I really like the crispy bread edges that you can only get in the oven. So I compromise: early in the day, before I put the turkey in the oven, I bake my stuffing at 400°F for 30 minutes, ensuring perfectly crispy edges. I then transfer the stuffing to my crock pot, set it on the lowest heat possible, and keep it warm in the crock pot while the turkey cooks. If you are not making a huge amount of stuffing, some oval casserole dishes will fit directly into the bottom of a large crock pot. If not, just scoop the stuffing into the crock pot, trying to keep the crisp top edges on the top in the crock pot as well.

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This is a pretty standard bread stuffing recipe, with the addition of roasted garlic and dried cranberries. I love the contrast between the smoky flavor of the roasted garlic and the sweet tang of the cranberries. Need help roasting garlic: click through to How To . . . Roast Garlic. It is pretty simple.

You can also add mushrooms, but I usually leave them out to appease my Mushroom-Hating-Children. Occasionally, however, I will chop them finely in the food processor, and then no one is the wiser.

You can use store-bought bread cubes, or make your own (highly recommended). Cube several different varieties of bread: white, wheat, rye, English muffins, bagels—all those ends that no one wants to eat. Spread in a single layer on large baking pans. If you have the time, and the humidity is not too high, just leave them sitting on the counter for 2-3 days to dry out. Stir them around occasionally. Be careful though: these sandwich ends that no one wanted to eat yesterday become just like candy to little fingers when they are turned into bread cubes. So start with more bread than you think you will need. Also: the bread will shrink as it dries, so start with more fresh bread than the dried cubes called for in the recipe.

If you are short on time, dry them in the oven at a very low heat (200°F max), stirring often. It will take about 1 hour to dry the bread in the oven.

RECIPE:

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Roasted Garlic Stuffing

½ cup butter
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup sliced or finely chopped mushrooms, optional
1 head of garlic, roasted (about 10 cloves)  <see How To. . . Roast Garlic>
12-13 cups dry bread cubes
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 Tbs fresh sage, finely chopped or 1 tsp dried sage
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped or 1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp marjoram
1 ½ – 2 cups turkey or chicken broth
1 cup dried cranberries, optional

Sauté onion, celery and mushrooms in butter. Crush roasted garlic cloves and stir into skillet. Pour vegetables over bread cubes in a large bowl. Mix in seasonings. Stir in enough broth to moisten. Stir in cranberries, if desired. Place in a covered casserole dish and bake at 325°F for 1 hour (or 400°F for 30 minutes).

COOKING TIPS: Stuffing can be prepared the day before and refrigerated overnight. If oven room is a problem, cook stuffing early in the day (before you put the turkey in the oven) for 30 minutes at 400°F. Transfer stuffing to a crock-pot and heat on very low heat until serving time.

Yield: this makes a lot! About 15-20 good-sized servings

 

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