Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Potato Pancakes – Our Hanukkah Latke Recipe

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Here at Pacific Merchants we love the holidays, and we’re pretty equal opportunity when it comes to celebrating. Why? Because we’re a pretty diverse group and learning about each others’ customs is a blast. So we figured, before we dig in on Christmas-mania, early December would be a good time to share our favorite Hanukkah recipe: a simple recipe for latkes that is beyond delicious.  Plus, we’ve scoured the net for some other delicious variations on  potato pancakes. Because nothing says good times like fried carbs, fascinating traditions, bright lights, miraculously efficient oil lamps, and great friends.

I’m sure you know that latkes are traditionally served at Hanukkah, but I’ve served them at parties all year long. When made on the smaller side and topped with a bit of sour cream and a slice of smoked salmon, you’ve got a beautiful, and totally crowd-pleasing appetizer. Some other favorite toppings include: Traditional sour cream and applesauce, brie and cranberry sauce, sour cream and bacon (clearly not for those who keep kosher,) fried eggs and chives, and even peanut butter and jelly. I’ve occasionally even used hem in place of an English muffin in eggs Benedict. SO good. But suppose you want to keep it traditional and serve latkes for Hanukkah? Well, first, when is Hannukah? Unlike Christmas, it changes every year. Hanukkah 2014 is December 16-December 24. Now that you know the dates, it’s as easy as whipping up a batch of these tasty treats.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Pounds of Russet potatoes
  • 1 small white or yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2+ Tablespoons of flour (you can sub out matzoh meal for Passover or coconut flour to make it gluten free.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Oil, chicken fat, or butter for frying. I’d suggest bacon fat, but that’s not kosher.

Instructions

  1. Peel your potatoes and your onion. Either in a food processor or by hand with a box grater, grate your potatoes. If you’re using a box grater, be wary of your knuckles.  I wasn’t, and I regretted it.
  2. Line a wire mesh strainer with cheesecloth or a clean dishtowel. Put all your potato and onion mixture into the dishtowel.
  3. Twist the cloth to squeeze moisture from the potato mixture, and let sit for 15 minutes to drain.
  4. Transfer the drained potatoes into a bowl and add the garlic, eggs, 2 Tablespoons of flour, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.  If the mixture seems too wet, add more flour (you can always do this after cooking a test latke.)
  5. Latkes are best when eaten fresh, so about 14 mintues before you’re ready to eat, pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees, and heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add about 1/4 inch of oil to your skillet.
  6. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil.  It should spread out, so  leave room between latkes.
  7. Cook the potato pancakes 3-4 minutes on each side. Both sides should be golden and crisp.
  8. Eat right away or keep warm in the oven.

There you have it – a delicious treat for the eight nights of Hanukkah in eight easy steps. Now that you know how to make potato pancakes from scratch, something tells me you’re going to be doing it all year. It’s super-easy, after all, and incredibly delicious.  But let’s just say you wanna try a different recipe. . .

 

These sweet potato latkes are from our blog – we posted them last year when looking for a sweet potato recipe for Thanksgiving, which just happened to fall on the first night of Hanukkah.

These rainbow latkes from What Jew Wanna Eat – Not only are they incredibly fun to look at, but they’re a great way to get an extra serving of veggies in. Each one is made from different produce, and is naturally colorful.

These Gluten Free Carrot Scallion Latkes from Elana’s Pantry. We love that Elana thought to make a paleo-friendly version of a latke, and we love the way the scallions and carrots taste together. A perfect combination!

These super-flavorful Zucchini and Green Garlic Latkes from Sassy Radish – I’m a little obsessed with green garlic, and I always seem to have a surplus of zucchini, so to me, this is the perfect latke recipe.

 

Apple Latkes - Photo Credit: Smitten Kitchen

Apple Latkes – Photo Credit: Smitten Kitchen

If you want to make it sweet, these Apple Latkes from Smitten Kitchen are AMAZING, especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. What a nice way to end a meal.

Have a happy Hannukah, Friends. I hope you enjoy it!

A Pumpkin Bread Recipe You’ll Fall in Love With!

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

At this time of year, pumpkin is king! You see it in your ice cream, cookies, cakes, soup, salad and even your coffee.  One of our favorite pumpkin treats is pumpkin bread. While it’s delicious, I’m not talking about the pumpkin bread that reminds me a little of banana bread and is readily available in a certain chain coffee shop. I’m talking about this subtle, spiced, yeasted pumpkin bread recipe. When shaped into rolls, they’re perfect for Thanksgiving (especially if baked in one of our tear and shares, naturally) but I sometimes braid this bread like challah or even shape it like a rustic loaf. On its own, this is a fantastic vegan pumpkin bread recipe, but if you want to push it a little over the top, you can fill each roll with a bit of cream cheese for a tangy surprise.

Ok. Are you as psyched as I am? Let’s get baking. Get ready for your entire home to smell like heaven.  Seriously. This pumpkin cream cheese bread recipe is BEYOND delicious, with or without the cream cheese. Made into a loaf, it’s heavenly for turkey sandwiches. . . especially those great Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches. Full disclosure: This recipe is loosely based on a recipe by King Arthur Flour. The proportions are theirs, the tweaks are all ours.  Suggestions for making this recipe vegan are in italics.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons instant or active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk (or orange juice)
  • 2 large eggs (or just increase the pumpkin puree to 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups puréed pumpkin, either fresh or canned
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 1/2 cups  Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • zest of 2 oranges, divided in half
  • 1/2 lb cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp sugar

Instructions

  1. Ok, that may look like a ton of ingredients, but it’s easy, I promise. Even easier, this first step is only if you want cream cheese filled rolls. In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, half the orange zest and the teaspoon of sugar.  Just mix it together well, and when combined, transfer to saran wrap. Roll it into a snake (it’s like Kindergarten art class folks) about an inch thick and stash the whole thing in the fridge. You won’t need it for a while.
  2. In a large bowl (I seriously suggest breaking out our bread baking set or a Mason Cash bowl if you’ve got them) add the milk or oj, checking that it’s not too hot – should be just around body temperature or a little higher. Add in the maple syrup and the yeast and stir well to combine.  Leave the mixture alone for 5 or so minutes. If you see it foaming, you’re good. If not, your yeast is dead and you should buy fresh and start over. You can’t make happy bread with sad yeast.
  3. Once you’ve double checked that your yeast is alive (see image above) It’s time to make that bread dough. Whisk the eggs (if using,) pumpkin puree, and vegetable oil into the yeast mixture until completely combined. Add the spices and orange zest (but not the salt.)  It’ll look less than beautiful, but trust me, it all comes together in the end. Plus, it smells totally awesome, doesn’t it?
  4. At this point, add in about 4 cups of the flour,  mixing with a spoon or your well-floured hands.  When it’s combined, and probably still a hot mess, pour a generous amount of flour on a cutting board or counter top and turn the dough out.
  5. Flour your hands even more, then add the salt and about a cup of flour to the dough and begin kneading (here’s how.) If the dough begins to come together as a smooth, soft dough (it should still be sticky, but not too sticky to handle) then you’ve got enough flour. If not, add more, kneading between additions. Just don’t add more than the 6 1/2 cups the recipe calls for, or you’ll get a disappointingly dry dough. Once your dough is well kneaded (here’s one good way to check) place it in an oiled bowl. Cover with a lid (see bread baking set) or a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm place until its volume has doubled. It’ll take a little over an hour – the perfect time to re-watch your favorite episode of Game of Thrones. . . or whatever.
  6. Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly oiled work surface.  Break it in half and decide how you’re going to shape it.  This recipe will either make two loaves, a loaf and a tear and share, or a large batch of rolls. Shape as desired.  If you want to put that cream cheese mix from step one in the rolls, now is the perfect time. Simply divide the dough into rolls, flatten each roll, place a chunk of the cream cheese inside it (no larger than about 1″ x 1″ and shape the roll around the cheese, double-checking that it’s sealed well. If you’re skipping that step, just shape the bread. A bread form for loaves works, as does shaping a rustic round loaf, or even braiding it. If you’re doing rolls, I suggest baking them in a tear and share or casserole dish for crisp tops and super moist sides. Just place them about an inch apart.

  7. Once your bread is shaped, cover the pans and set it aside to rise until almost doubled in size. This will take between 35-45 minutes, so preheat the oven to 350 and use this time to wash the dishes. Unfortunately, this isn’t Beauty and the Beast. They’re not going to wash themselves.
  8. Bake the bread about 30-35 minutes (20 minutes for the rolls)   until it sounds hollow when tapped, is nice and crusty on top, pulls away from the pan a little, and a digital thermometer inserted into the center registers about 190°F. At that point, let your bread cool. This will be the most difficult part. It’s going to smell absolutely amazing but you can’t touch it until it’s just a little warmer than room temperature or the whole loaf will fall apart, and that would be sad. Once it’s cool, enjoy. If you’re serving it to guests, make sure you grab a piece before serving – the whole loaf will be gone in a blink of an eye. It’s that good!

Well, friends. There you have it. An easy pumpkin bread recipe that you’ll find yourself totally addicted to. It’s the perfect thing to serve with a holiday meal, or to grab a thick, buttered slice of at 2 in the morning. It’s also super-delicious on a cheese plate with cheddar or brie! Enjoy! I know I did.

 

How To Make Apple Pie Filling – And How to Can it!

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Have you noticed how good apples are right now? It’s because they’re actually in season. The rest of the year, those fresh apples you’re eating were actually picked ages ago, kept chilled and under-ripe, and gassed to ripeness, which is why you’re more likely to get a mealy, sour or bland apples in the spring or early summer. Since apples are SO crazy good right now, I try to take advantage of the season. I go apple picking or hit up my farmer’s market for the freshest, ripest, most flavorful apples. I buy bushels of them and preserve as many as possible. I make applesauce, reduce apple cider to syrup, apple butter, shred apples in with my sauerkraut  (it’s crazy good), pickle them, preserve them in syrup, make jam, and, most importantly make liter after liter of apple pie filling. Why? Homemade apple pie is amazing, and when you make it with apples at their peak it’s a magical and beyond flavorful experience. It’s worth canning gallons of apple pie filling even if you just make 2 or 3 pies a year. It’s great on vanilla ice cream as a quick dessert, good swirled into yogurt or oatmeal as breakfast, and SO good as an accompaniment on a cheese plate. Brie and apple pie filling on baguette? Pure, unadulterated bliss.

If canning is still a little intimidating, check out our basic canning tutorial – We made really delicious jam and talked you through it step by step.  You can also check out the fantastic Food in Jars blog – SO much good stuff.  Whether you’re a complete canning newbie or an old pro, I think you’re gonna like this recipe – It’s crazy easy, quick, and delicious. Plus, it multiplies and divides well so you can make as much or as little apple pie filling as you want.  Ready to make pie filling? Ready to become obsessed with canning and convert that spare closet into a canning cellar? Let’s go!

Ingredients – Recipe makes 3 quarts – enough for 3 Apple pies!

  • 10 cups peeled and sliced apples
  • 4 1/2 cups apple juice
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown  sugar
  • 3/4 cup Clear Jel (a cornstarch-derived thickener)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 Teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Peel, Core and slice those apples, then toss them in half the lemon juice and water to keep them from browning.
  2. Prepare 3 1-liter jars or 6 1/2 liter jars by sterilizing them.
  3. In a large pot, combine the apple juice and the rest of the lemon juice. Bring to a simmer.
  4. While it heats, whisk the Clear Jel, sugar, cinnamon, allspice and salt together.
  5. When the juice mix is simmering, gradually stream the sugar mixture (step 4) into the pot, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.
  6. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.
  7. When the mixture thickens, add your apples, tossing to combine.
  8. Fill the jars, leaving about a generous inch of headspace (this filling expands.)
  9. Wipe the rims, apply the lids, and process in boiling water for 25 minutes.
  10. Remove the pot from the heat and let jars sit in water an additional 10 minutes.
  11. After 10 minutes, remove the jars and let cool! Check the seals. If sealed, these keep up t0 6 months in your cabinet, or 3 weeks open in the fridge. Like it’ll last that long. . .

Some tips

  • Whatever you do, don’t use red delicious apples for pie. Them’s eating apples. I have the best luck using a variety of apples in my pie. I use a mix of granny smith, pink lady, braeburn, and golden delicious for a super-appley, complex tasting filling. Yummmm.
  • If you can’t find Clear Jel, don’t use thickener. Just whisk in cornstarch right before making the pie.
  • Wanna peel an apple quickly? This guy has a brilliant idea. Alternately, peeling top to bottom is more efficient than going in circles

    Peeling Apples fast

    There you have it. Apple pie filling that you can make while apples are in season and enjoy all year long.  Or, if you feel like giving the gift of pie (because seriously, everyone likes pie)  Consider wrapping these up with pretty labels and ribbons and giving them as gifts!  They make a great Christmas gift, or a Thanksgiving hostess gift. Plus, if you make it yourself, I hear the calories don’t count!

Mother’s Day Breakfast: How to Make Pancakes from Scratch

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Mother’s Day already? Yep, Mother’s day is on Sunday, May 11 – Just 2 weeks away. If you need help figuring out how to plan a great Mother’s day, we’re ready to help you out. Our trick: Start the day right!

Easy Pancake Recipe to wow your mom

If your mom is anything like mine, she taught you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So help your mom start her day off right with a stunning, easy to make breakfast: homemade pancakes, made with love.  We’ve even put together a pancake breakfast kit so you can make mom’s breakfast as beautiful as it is tasty.  So let’s get cooking.

Whether you’re an experienced cook or just learning how to make pancakes from scratch, this buttermilk pancakes recipe is as simple as it is delicious.  As is, it’s the perfect basic pancake recipe, and with a few tweaks (see suggestions at the end of the recipe) it can become a unique, unexpected, highly delicious breakfast experience.

Make Pancakes for Mother's Day!

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted plus extra for griddle
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar (either white or brown
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1.5 to 2 cups buttermilk
  • Optional ingredients: vanilla extract, lemon zest, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, almond extract, blueberries, chocolate chips*

Buttermilk pancakes, Blueberry Pancakes, from scratch pancake recipe

Instructions:

  1. Get ready for an easy pancake recipe. Very few ingredients, very simple process, great results. It may seem like a lot of steps, but trust me. each step is easy!
  2. In a large bowl, like the Counter Grip Bowl from our Pancake Breakfast Set, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until thoroughly combined.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the buttermilk and eggs. Whisk to combine.
  4. Add the butter and whisk, or stir until just combined. Some lumps are good – DON’T whisk til smooth. If it seems too thick (like mine above) add more buttermilk.
  5. Heat an electric griddle to 375 or a pan to medium high heat.
  6. When skillet or griddle is hot, add butter. Let it melt and bubble.
  7. Add a drop of pancake batter to the pan. If it sizzles, it’s hot enough.
  8. Using a ladle, pour pancake batter into the pan. You can make your pancakes as big or small as you want, but I find that 5″ – 6″ diameter pancakes both cook evenly and are easy to flip.
  9. Leave the pancakes alone for 1-2 minutes. Seriously, don’t mess with them.
  10. When to flip pancakes: Flip the pancakes when they appear set around the edges and bubbles are rising to the surface throughout.
  11. How to flip pancakes:  Grease your spatula. Wiggling it a little, slide it under the pancake all the way. Lift and turn over quickly.
  12. Let cook another 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat.
  13. Serve immediately, drizzled with maple syrup or keep warm in the oven. No one likes cold pancakes.  We suggest a stack of 2-3 pancakes per person, served with a side of sliced fruit.

How to make pancakes for breakfast

*  About the optional ingredients: Consider amping up the flavor of your pancakes to make them extra special for mom.  Play with flavor combinations and think about what your mom likes. My mom’s favorite pancakes have orange zest and nutmeg in them.  Vanilla and lemon zest is also great as is cinnamon and almond extract.  With any herbs, spices, extract or zest, add them to the pancake batter with  your liquid ingredients.  I like letting my citrus zest sit in my melted butter. I think it gives a stronger flavor.   For bigger add-ins like blueberries, fresh bananas or chocolate chips, add them in when the first side of the pancakes are almost set – RIGHT before the flip.

There you have it. Delicious pancakes that are perfect way to kick off a beautiful Mother’s Day.  This recipe is literally the best pancake recipe. It is adaptable if you want to make blueberry pancakes from scratch, great for chocolate chip pancakes, and super-easy.  If you plan it right, these pancakes are the perfect breakfast in bed entree: Easy to cut and eat with a fork, comforting, and delicious.  Sure, you run the risk of getting syrup on the sheets,  but if mom loves breakfast in bed, it’s totally worth it.

Learn How to make Pancakes from Scratch!

A Very Homemade Christmas – Christmas Feast, and the Best Mashed Potatoes Ever!

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Well, we’ve talked sweets, we’ve decked the halls, made the gifts and generally gotten you ready for Christmas. But what Christmas would be complete without a really awesome Christmas dinner?  Whether you’re stuck in a rut, ready to spice up some classics, or hosting for the very first time, we’ve got some insanely delicious options for you.  So break out your serving platters and mixing bowls. We’re going to make dinner!

Mushroom Soup for Christmas

I love to start my holiday meal with soup. I make it the day  before and reheat it, so it doesn’t take much time.  My family absolutely adores this mushroom soup recipe from Food and Wine! It’s easy to make vegetarian (swap the chicken stock for veggie and you’re there,) is hearty and warming, and compliments the rest of the meal perfectly. It’s a rich soup, so I don’t serve massive bowls of it. Instead, I serve it in cheery red tea cups. Everyone loves the presentation and I love using dishes that can go through the dishwasher for a big meal.  We often end up serving the soup in the kitchen while everyone puts finishing touches on their dishes, so using handled mugs makes for really easy eating. Plus, they’re perfect for little hands.

Holiday Roasts

Whatever your dietary preference, consider doing a roast as the Christmas entree. I got sucked into this article on the New York Times site this weekend that reminded me how universally crowd pleasing roast meat is, and how easy it is to serve a crowd without a ton of work. We always serve a standing rib roast for Christmas, with a second entree for vegetarians (see below.)  I love putting my rib roast on a big acaciaware serving platter and garnishing it with fragrant fresh rosemary, roast onions, and caramelized lady apples. So elegant.  So easy.

Pot Pie

For my vegetarians, I’m doing a vegetarian pot pie. I may make individual pot pies in pudding basins or tea cups, or I may whip out a beautiful baking dish and make a huge one to share. It all depends on the final guest count (plus, the meat eaters love this dish as well!).   I love this recipe from A beautiful  mess. It works with pretty much any vegetable, and using pre-made puff pastry as the crust really saves time.  I just weave the puff dough into a lattice for a more polished look.  I change up the veggies based on what’s in season. Sometimes it’s butternut squash and mushrooms, sometimes the classic potato and carrot. This year, I’m going root vegetables with carrots, potatoes and turnips. YUM!

sprouts

I do try to vary my sides so I’m not having Thanksgiving side dishes twice in just under a month. Sure, I keep the mashed potatoes (see my insanely rich recipe at the end of the post,) but everything else is different. I replace my Green Bean Casserole with a big serving bowl of The Pioneer Woman’s Brussels sprouts with balsamic and cranberries. They’ve got this awesome sweet/salty tangy balance that I can’t seem to resist, so I don’t.

roast onions

I swap out my mom’s creamed onions for a really stunning roast onion recipe from Martha Stewart.  I  make triple what I think I’ll need, use some to decorate my roast platter and there’s never anything left at the end of the meal, which, in my mind, is the mark of a perfect dish. Even the pickiest eaters at our table wolf this one down.

apple-thyme-wild-rice-stuffing

To update my stuffing recipe, I swap out the Thanksgiving cornbread for wild rice and rock this recipe from Fork Spoon Bacon. There’s something about the combination of apples and thyme that really compliments my Christmas menu. I bake it in the biggest baking dish I have and my family pretty much devours it all.

Sweet Potato Latkes

One thing I’m not nixing from my Thanksgiving menu is the Sweet Potato Latkes I made this year. Everyone LOVED them, they were easy, and they’re a great alternative to that over-done sweet potato casserole.  Kids loved them, adults loved them, and the leftovers are really good in a sandwich.

So there you have it. A pretty-simple, super easy Christmas menu that’s absolutely a crowd pleaser.  I find that by keeping all the side dishes vegetarian, it’s really easy to put together a meal that fits with a variety of dietary restrictions! And, since I promised, here’s my incredibly easy, incredibly rich Mashed Potato recipe.  They’re the best mashed potatoes. I make it the day before and reheat it in a slow cooker on Christmas day so I have more time to spend with my family.

Kate’s Mashed Potatoes (serves 8) – They’re the best mashed potatoes ever!

  • 3 1/2 pounds yukon gold or russet potatoes
  • 4 oz sour cream
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3/4 cups half an half
  • salt and pepper
  1. Place potatoes (whole, skins on) and a tablespoon of salt in a large pot. Cover completely with cold water.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and let simmer for 30-35 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
  2. Drain, and let potatoes cool until you can handle them. Rub off the skins (they should come off pretty easily) and cut the potatoes into quarters. Return them to the pot.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine butter, half and half and sour cream. Heat over medium heat until just warm, then add to the potatoes.
  4. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher. I use a cheap one from the grocery store. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be fancy to do the job.
  5. Stir constantly until smooth and heated through. Add salt and pepper, tasting as you go.  Transfer into a big bowl and serve immediately or reheat the next day (just add a little extra liquid before re-heating.)

We hope you have an especially Merry Christmas this year! If you’re stuck on desserts to go with your Christmas feast, check out our Sweets post, or go the extremely classic route and make a Bouche de Noel (yule log) cake!

A Very Homemade Christmas – Christmas Sweets and Treats

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Let’s get to the heart of it.  The best part of the holidays (aside from time with loved ones, of course) is the food! On today’s Homemade Christmas Roundup, we’re talking cookies and caramels and SO much more. That’s right – it’s Christmas Sweets time!  Below you’ll find some of our absolute favorite holiday recipes to give as gifts, and some of the knockouts we serve for Christmas dessert. Get ready to drool, folks.

Smitten Kitchen Apple Cider Caramels

First up, Apple Cider Caramels from Smitten Kitchen (photo above is hers as well.)   These are the perfect little treat to tuck into stockings, to place in small bowls throughout the house, or to give jars of as gifts. The apple cider adds a richness and a tang, the recipe includes a hint of saltiness and the lush, buttery caramels are beyond perfect. Plus, they’re simple to make.  Check out the blog post over on Smitten Kitchen, break out your jars and labels, and get cooking. Trust me. You DO NOT want to miss this one.

Bake Christmas Cookies

Next up, Christmas Cookies! Whether your go-to is a sugar cookie, gingerbread men, chocolate peppermint cookie, or something else entirely, break out your mixing bowls, measuring cups, and cookie cutters and go wild! Half the fun is decorating them yourself.  Gelow are my top 10 Christmas cookies (though I don’t like to limit myself.) All of the recipes below have been tried and tested by yours truly, hence the extra time at the gym this week.

Molasses spice cookies with orange sugarLinzer cookiesChocolate Espresso SnowcapsGlittering Lemon Sandwich CookiesCitrus Sugar CookiesGingerbread CutoutsPecan PralinesPeppermint Bark BrowniesChocolate Chip Cranberry CookiesToffee Squares

Easy-Cinnamon-Rolls-simple-vegan-minimalistbaker

Another absolute favorite of mine is Cinnamon Rolls. We always serve them on Christmas morning, and they make the whole house smell heavenly.  I use this killer recipe from Minimalist Baker to make the simplest, most delicious cinnamon rolls ever. I bake mine in a flower shaped tear and share pan, which not only looks super-festive, but helps the rolls cook evenly and helps create a nice crispy bottom crust.

1209_LittleFlowerShop-149_1024x1024

I’m an absolute hot chocolate addict, and there’s nothing I like more with my hot chocolate than big, fluffy homemade-style marshmallows. Once I bought the Little Flower Cookbook and was able to make my favorite marshmallows at home, there’s been no stopping me.  The folks at LA Weekly were kind enough to publish this recipe from the bakery so you can make the marshmallows that I’m addicted to. This time of year, I find myself putting peppermint extract in the mix in place of Vanilla for some really rich peppermint hot chocolate.  Making marshmallows is shockingly easy Once you try, you’ll never go back to jet puffed.

Chocolate+Gingerbread+Fudge+02

I absolutely love fudge. It’s one of those perfect, little goes a long way desserts.  This chocolate gingerbread fudge from Cupcake Project is the perfect way to incorporate those fragrant, spicy seasonal flavors in unexpected ways. I mean you bite into fudge expecting a burst of chocolate, and with this stuff, you get that chocolatey flavor along with ginger, cloves and cinnamon. It’s really perfect for the holidays I know I can’t stop at one little square.

external-post-image-9400-SpicyChocolate2

OK, so this is going to be a new tradition. This year I became madly addicted to  the chocolate covered potato chips at Trader Joes, so when I stumbled across this chocolate potato chip bark from Brit + Co, I pounced. I’ve been through an entire batch this week (with some help) and I’m definitely mailing it out with my holiday cookie boxes this weekend!  It’s a totally perfect sweet and salty balance, with a hint of spice.  I love breaking it into long narrow pieces that fit upright in a jar and giving jars of it!

231009

If you want to put together a treat that absolutely looks like a Christmas ornament, consider fruit jellies. They glow and sparkle like ornaments, are easy to make in bright colors, and taste really darn good.  Plus, they look darling stacked in a jar and tied with a bow! I love this recipe for pear-cranberry jellies from epicurious. So perfect for this time of the year, so festive tasting.

Now that I’ve got you drooling, I’m going to my kitchen and bake up a mess of cookies to send to my family.   Check back next week for some more treats, sweets, decor, and Christmas Merriment!  And let me know: What’s your favorite Christmas sweet of all time?

Cyber Monday!

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Clay Cooker MondayHappy Cyber Monday!  If you’ve been exploring our site, you’ve noticed that we’ve got a TON of awesome specials up on our website! It’s a great day to get ahead on your holiday Bowl Mondayshopping.  We’ve got gifts that are perfect for home cooks, bakers, chefs, entertainers, canners, gardeners, and so much more.  Check out our sale page to see the specials! Discounts from 15%-40% are available. Free Shipping on all orders over $50 for TODAY ONLY!

Our specials include our best-selling Mason Cash Bread Baking set! This set includes a Glazed terracotta mixing bowl that’s perfect for kneading and proofing bread and an unglazed terracotta lid which, when flipped upside-down, doubles as a baking stone!  The terracotta stone makes for a perfectly crisp, crackling crust on every loaf you make, and its ability to retain moisture assures that your bread will have a tender crumb.  The Mason Cash Bread Baking set comes in a full color gift box with a recipe. Any baker would be thrilled to unwrap it on Christmas morning or on any of the eight nights of Hanukkah.

Also on sale are beautiful gift-wrapped acaciaware sets, our Clay cooker,  and even all of our Kilner labels! Sure, they may not be the best gift, but if you’re making jams, jellies, or Bread Set Mondayeven candies to give as gifts, they’ll make for really cute wrapping and awesome presentation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Festive Fall Kilner Jar Cookies – Cookie Mix in a Jar

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Fall Kilner Jars

Need a hostess/host gift going into the fall holidays?  I’ve been making and gifting a lot of these awesome “cookie kilner jars” this autumn. They’re super easy to make, and consistently receive a great response.  Plus, the clip top jar perfectly stores the cookies after they’re baked, or leftovers this Thanksgiving.  Thanks to Very Best Baking for their recipe.  We substituted dried cranberries for nuts, although you can totally customize your cookies however you’d like.  Perfect fall flavors with Turkey Day in mind.

What you’ll need:

(1) 1 Liter Kilner Round Clip Top Jar (You can also use the 1 Liter Preserve Jar)

-2/3 cup all-purpose flour

-1/2 teaspoon baking soda

-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

-1/4 teaspoon salt

-1/3 cup packed brown sugar (Add a little more for added chewiness)

-1/3 cup granulated sugar

-3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or butterscotch chips (or go half and half!)

-1 1/2 cups quick or old-fashioned oats

-1/2-3/4 cup dried cranberries (can put more or less to taste)

Get started:

Round Kilner Clip Top Jar 1 Liter

1. Clean your jar! We always recommend making sure your jar is clean before storing any food in jars.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in the Kilner Jar, and whisk until thoroughly blended.  Lightly tap jar on counter or with hands to create a more even layer after each ingredient.

gif creator online

Kilner Jar Kitchen Storage

3. Layer remaining ingredients, making sure each layer is firmly packed in the jar.

Kilner Jar Cookies

4. Seal, wrap, and include a recipe card (online recipe card download Via Cottage-Industrialist)!  It’s important to tell your recipient what to do with the cookie mix you just gave them…I’ve forgotten before, and it’s a sad situation. No cookies, no fun.

Recipe Card Kilner Jar Cookies

It’s super easy to make these jars look amazing.  Tie a bow around the top of the jar, add the recipe card, or seal with decorative paper.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Oatmeal Craisin Kilner Jar Cookie

Thanksgiving DIY Kilner Jars

Enjoy!  Share your experiences with this project in the comments below.

Halloween Treats – It’s a Cake in a Jar!

Friday, October 11th, 2013

Cake in Kilner jars

Happy Friday, folks!  With Halloween less than three weeks away, we here at Pacific Merchants have been crafting and cooking Halloween projects and recipes like mad people. I spent yesterday afternoon making delicious cakes with our Kilner Jars in preparation for Halloween.  For a more refined, friendly, and cute take on the Halloween spirit, this baking project proves a great family activity, but is easy enough to whip up on your own for a party or your home.  Surprisingly easy with great opportunity to satisfy everyone’s creative Halloween ideas, and of course, your sweet tooth.

What you’ll need:

  • -1 box white cake mix or your favorite cake recipe (white cake is great because you can add food coloring to change the color!)
  • -Non-stick Spray
  • -1-2 tubs whipped white frosting
  • -Food coloring
  • -Halloween Sprinkles
  • -(3) 0.5 Liter Kilner Round Clip Top Jars. You can also use preserve jars, but I love the look of clip tops for this.
  • -1-3 Mixing bowls, if you’re making more than one color batter or coloring your frosting.
  • -Piping Bag/tips (or you can just spread the frosting on)

On to the instructions.  Step one: Put a cake in a jar. . . I kid. But really. . .

1.  Make sure your jars are clean.  It’s really important when using any canning or preserve jars to make sure they’re clean: You don’t have to sterilize them like you would if actually canning something, but just make sure you clean them before baking in them.

2. Preheat oven according to your box or cake recipe.

3. The only part of these jars that shouldn’t go in the oven is that orange rubber seal.  See it? It’s super easy to remove: just pull at the tab and it should pop right off. If you’re using preserve jars, just leave the lids out of the oven.

4. Grease your jars!  Easy to forget, so I’m putting this step up front.  Non-stick spray comes in handy here as jars are harder to grease than an open pan.

5. Batter time!  I used white cake to match any frosting or decoration I would later adorn the cake with.  I kept the batter white, but try making some green, purple, or red batter for a more intense Halloween cake experience!  I dyed the frosting, hence why I recommend using white frosting as well.  Our Mason Cash Mixing Bowls are great for batter making. They’re easy to clean, big enough to mix up a huge batch of batter, and the white interior makes it easy to see when all your color is blended in (if you’re coloring your dough.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

6. Pour batter into Kilner Jars, filling up about half way.  The cake will expand and rise in the oven, bringing the top of the cake right above the lip of the jar.  If you want to be able to close the clip top jars completely including frosting/decorations, pour batter a little less than halfway full. Making cakes in jars that you can close makes for a great hostess gift, school lunch treat (use a smaller jar) or holiday gift!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA      OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

7. Place jars on a baking sheet or pain, and stick ‘em in the oven.  I kept mine in for 43 minutes.  The batter densely sits in these jars, so I followed directions for a bundt cake on my boxed cake mix, versus a 8” or 9” pan or cupcakes.  Plus or minus a few minutes won’t hurt anyone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

8. Keep an eye on the cakes when they’re in the oven.  They’re ready when you can stick a toothpick or knife through the center of the cake and it comes out clean.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

9. Take out, and let cakes cool completely before going to town with icing/decorations.  We don’t want messy melting icing (unless you do).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

10. Once cakes are cool, frost those babies.  I put whipped white frosting in a piping bag with a professional piping tip to get that cool star effect.  You can also just use a hefty zip-top bag with a professional tip, or no tip, just cut the corner off; it just won’t have that star effect. You can even just use a butter knife and spread the icing on smoothly. Two of the cakes I frosted with plain white frosting, and the third cake I frosted with my own mixed green frosting.  Get creative here!  Mix and match your cake color with your frosting color and/or decorations.  Decorate with sprinkles, candy corn, sugar eyeballs, or cupcake flags.  Most kitchen supply stores and even some big craft stores like Michaels have awesome sugar bats, pumpkins, ghouls, etc.  Drip with red food coloring for a more gruesome cake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

11.  Grab two spoons, a scarfing partner, and go to town.  Or just tackle that cake solo; that may or may not have been what I did. Enjoy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tune in next week for some awesome Halloween roundups and DIY projects, brought to you by yours truly.  Now go have a craft-tastic weekend!

Celebrating National Pizza Month – How to Make Pizza Dough

Friday, October 4th, 2013

indexgaegOctober is National Pizza Month!  If you’re anything like us, you don’t really need an excuse to grab a slice, but having a whole month to celebrate one of the most delicious foods in the world is a great reason to get in the kitchen, roll up our sleeves and make pizza from scratch!index6at

While there are a lot of components to homemade pizza, it’s actually pretty easy to make.  We start with a simple dough recipe, featured below, add on our favorite sauce, whatever toppings we happen to have on hand, some great cheese, and we’re good to go. The hardest part is making the dough, but with a little planning, even that comes together easily. Ready to learn how to make pizza dough? Let’s go.

Here’s our favorite dough recipe. It makes enough for one small, thin crust pizza for 2 – the perfect size to bake on our Mason Cash Baking stone.  If you’re making more pizzas, or like a thicker crust, go ahead and double or even triple the recipe.  Another nice thing about this recipe is that it only uses one bowl, so you’ll have fewer dishes to do later!

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flourmyo_Pizzaalt1
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon active dry yeast – This is about half a packet
  • ½ cup lukewarm water. You may need a tiny bit more
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, including the yeast. Stir in the olive oil and water with a wooden spoon or spatula, trying to get the mixture as combined as possible. I love using a Mason Cash Mixing Bowl for this recipe (and all bread-dough recipes, really) since the bowls are roomy enough to knead in and glazed to make cleanup easy.

Knead the dough right in the bowl until it is completely combined and uniform, then knead an additional two minutes.

Lightly oil the bowl, cover it in plastic wrap, a damp towel, or your baking stone, and let the dough sit in a warm place for an hour or two, until doubled in size.  If you want to make this the morning before, let the dough double in the refrigerator instead of in a warm place. Heat just speeds things up.

unnamedOnce the mixture is doubled in size, gently press the air out of the dough with the palms of your hands. Shape the dough into a ball and let it sit, covered for 10-20 more minutes (the perfect time to slice any veggies you’ll want as a topping!)

Sprinkle your baking stone or a baking sheet (it’ll work, but the crust won’t get as crisp) with cornmeal, put it in the oven, and heat your oven as high as it will go. Mine tops out at about 525 degrees.  Roll out the pizza on a floured countertop, making sure it doesn’t stick to the counter.

Top your pizza with your favorite toppings. If you’re using a lot of toppings, make sure they’re sliced very thinly. Meats should be pre-cooked, but vegetables can normally be put on your pizza raw.

Using a large spatula, the back of a cookie sheet or a pizza peel, gently transfer your pizza to the hot baking stone.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until slightly blistered and very melt-y. 16546_1_zpsd5a1b5e1

If you’re worried about transferring your pizza from the hot counter to a hot baking stone, go ahead and shape your pizza right on your stone, and put the whole thing in the oven. The crust won’t get quite as crisp at the bottom, but you’ll still have an incredible homemade pizza.

We hope you have a fantastic time celebrating National Pizza Month, and we really hope that you take the time to make pizza from scratch. It’s a lot of fun, the pizza is outstanding, and it’s something the whole family can do together!


© 2021 Pacific Merchants Trading Company. All Rights Reserved.