Haunted Gingerbread House

Haunted Gingerbread House

Start gingerbread season a little early this year with a spooky display for Halloween. Make gumball pumpkins, chocolate tombstones and a scary (but candy-sweet!) monster hiding inside the house. …

Level: Advanced
Total: 4 hr 

(includes chilling and setting times)

Active: 1 hr 45 min
Yield: 1 gingerbread house

Ingredients:

Gingerbread Cookie Dough:

3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap and preferably golden, mild or sorghum molasses)

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Decorations:

12 ounces white candy melting wafers

1 cup ready-made chocolate frosting

12 cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed to fine crumbs

2 cups woven corn cereal squares 

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

12 ounces black candy melting wafers

Candy buttons

Black food color marker

3 ounces green candy melting wafers

1/4 cup green sanding sugar

 

Chocolate sprinkles

2 chocolate chews

3 to 4 round gumballs

3 ounces orange candy melting wafers

3 chocolate-filled rolled wafer cookies

Black sanding sugar

4 pretzel sticks

3 chocolate snack cake cupcakes

2 mini break-apart chocolate bars

Directions:

Special equipment:  a 14-inch cake board or large serving platter and 4 disposable piping bags

1. Make the cookies: Sift 3 cups of flour, the ginger, cinnamon, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the brown sugar and molasses. Mix until combined. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until a thick dough forms. If the dough is sticky, mix in the remaining flour a little at a time until the dough can easily be handled without it sticking to your fingers. You may not have to use all of the flour.

2. Gather the dough into a ball; divide in half. Roll each dough piece flat to 1/4-inch thickness between parchment paper sheets. Transfer the dough inside the sheets to the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

3. Position a rack in the center of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. Print the Haunted Gingerbread House Walls and Roof Template (link below) and cut the shapes out with scissors. When the dough is well chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and peel back the top sheets of parchment. Lay the templates on the dough and cut around them using a flat-edged knife (do not discard the templates). Transfer the dough shapes to the prepared baking sheets. Leftover dough can be re-rolled and cut into cookies, or you can shape it into a baton and store it in your freezer for up to 1 month.

5. Bake the shapes for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges. While the cookies are still warm, lay the templates on top of the baked cookies and re-cut them using a knife. This will help the shapes fit together perfectly when you are assembling the house.

6. Assemble the house: Place the white candy wafers in a heatproof bowl and cook at 100 percent power in the microwave at 30-second intervals. Stir well after each interval until the candy is smooth (this should take about 1 minute total cook time). Transfer the candy to a disposable piping bag with a small hole in the end snipped (you may also use a zip-top bag with the corner snipped). Use cans from your pantry to help prop the house pieces up as you work. Glue the sides, front and back of the house together using the white melted candy. Let stand until dry, about 10 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, prepare the landscape: Spread half of the chocolate frosting over a 14-inch cake board or serving platter. Sprinkle the surface with the cookie crumbs and press them down slightly with flattened palms. Save leftover cookie crumbs and frosting for later use.

8. When the candy holding the gingerbread walls together is dry, gently lift the assembled house and place it in the center of the prepared board. Pipe white melted candy along the top edges of the house and attach the roof; hold the pieces steady with your hands until they hold on their own, about 2 minutes. Pipe extra candy around the roof edges and walls to fill in any visible gaps.

9. Place the corn cereal in a bowl or zip-top bag and add the cocoa powder. Mix together until the cereal pieces are well coated with cocoa. Pipe a line of candy on the bottom edge of a roof piece and place cereal pieces end-to-end in a single layer to make roof tiles. Pipe another line of candy just above the first row of cereal and add another row, slightly overlapping the first. It’s okay to use broken cereal pieces, as this will add to the character of the haunted house. Cover the entire rooftop with cereal. Pipe candy on the front and back top edges of the house and line with cereal squares. Allow the house to stand at room temperature until the candy is set, about 15 minutes.

10. Make the windows and door: Print the Haunted Gingerbread House Windows Template (link below). Place the template on a flat work surface and cover it with a large sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Melt the black candy wafers in a heatproof bowl and cook at 100 percent power in the microwave at 30-second intervals. Stir well after each interval until the candy is smooth (this should take about 1 minute total cook time). Transfer the candy to a disposable piping bag with the tip snipped. Pipe the candy over the black boxes (windows and doors) on the template. Use a toothpick to push the candy into small corners and to fill in gaps. Make as many windows as you wish for your haunted house by moving the template under a new sheet of parchment paper. Place candy buttons in each of the smaller windows before the candy is set. Use a food color marker to draw on eyeballs. Allow the candy to stand until set, about 15 minutes at room temperature or 5 minutes in the refrigerator. Peel the candy boxes with eyes off of the parchment and use a little melted candy to attach them to the top front of the house. Position each window tilted inward slightly. Attach the larger candy rectangle below the 2 windows to create the door. Use the white melted candy (reheat if necessary) to pipe dots on the top and bottom edges of the door. Use a toothpick to pull the melted candy into points to create fangs.

11. Make the monster arms: Melt green candy wafers as previously directed with the white and black candy wafers. Transfer the candy to a disposable piping bag with the tip snipped. Lay a sheet of parchment on a work surface. Pipe a 4-inch L shape on the parchment paper with the green candy. Use a toothpick to smooth the candy into an arm shape. Use the toothpick end to pull the bottom of the L shape into fingers. Pour green sanding sugar over the top portion of the arm, leaving the hand uncovered. Place a chocolate sprinkle on each finger to create long claws. Allow the shapes to set until firm. When the candy is firm, peel it off of the parchment and shake the excess sugar off of the arm. Repeat this process with a backwards L shape so that you have 2 monster arms. Attach a candy window with melted candy to each side of the house and hold until set, about 2 minutes. Attach an arm to each window and hold until set. Further decorate the sides and back of the house with more windows. 

12. Create boards for the windows: Knead 2 chocolate chews together and roll flat with a rolling pin (if the chews are too firm to flatten, heat them in the microwave for 5 seconds). Cut small board shapes (about 1/4 inch by 1 inch) from the candy using a knife. Use the end of a toothpick to striate the pieces. Use the pointed end of the toothpick to poke 2 small holes in each end, creating nail holes on the boards. Attach the pieces over the windows using melted candy.

13. Make candy pumpkins: Carefully poke holes in the gumballs using a metal skewer or knife, and thread them onto the pointed ends of toothpicks. Melt the orange candy wafers as previously directed. Dip the gumballs into the candy and place them on parchment paper. Remove the toothpick. Use leftover chocolate chews to fashion small pumpkin stems. Place them standing upright on top of the pumpkins. Allow to stand until set, about 15 minutes.

14. Make spooky trees: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use the black melted candy (reheat as needed) to pipe 3 well-spaced lines on the cookie sheets. Place a rolled wafer cookie on top of each line. Use the black candy to completely cover the wafers. Draw tree branches with the candy coming off of both sides and the top ends of the wafers. Cover with black sanding sugar. Let stand until firm, about 15 minutes.

15. Meanwhile, make the pretzel ladder: Break 2 of the pretzel sticks in half. Place 2 whole pretzel sticks parallel to each other. Attach the broken pretzel rungs to the whole pretzel sticks using melted candy. Let stand until set. When firm, lean the ladder against the house, preferably leading up to a window with eyeballs peering out.

16. When the trees are firm, lift them from the parchment and shake away excess sugar. Place each snack cake on the cake board upside-down and press a candy tree in its center. Cover the snack cakes with leftover cookie crumbs, if desired.

17. Make tombstones: Place leftover chocolate frosting in a piping bag. Break the chocolate bars at their perforations. Pipe a small dot of frosting onto the crumb-covered cake board and press an upright turned chocolate piece into the frosting. Repeat with remaining chocolate pieces to create a graveyard.

18. Finishing touches: Use melted white candy to pipe spider webs onto the house. Use the food color marker to draw cracks on the house, and spiders near their webs. Place the pumpkin decorations on the landscape and around the house as desired.


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Mummy Hand Pies

Mummy Hand Pies

This easy, Halloween-inspired recipe can be made ahead and served later as a scary-good party dessert.

Level: Easy
Total: 55 min
Active: 25 min
Yield: 6 hand pies

Ingredients:

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Kosher salt

 

2 refrigerated pie crusts, thawed if frozen

All-purpose flour, for dusting

1 large egg

12 raisins

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, optional

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

 

  • Add the pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and a pinch of salt to a medium bowl and stir to combine.

 

  • Roll out 1 pie crust on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin to form a rectangle about 9 inches by 12 inches. Square off the crust with a knife, reserving the scraps for decorating. Cut the pie crust into 6 equal rectangles, each about 3 inches by 6 inches. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

 

  • Roll out the other pie crust to the same thickness as the first. Cut into thin strips about 1/4 inch wide and 7 inches long. Repeat with the reserved dough scraps. Transfer the strips to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

 

  • Add 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling to the center of each rectangular crust. Use the back of a spoon to spread out the filling, leaving about a 1/2-inch border around the edges. 

 

  • Lightly beat the egg with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to brush the edges of the pies with the egg wash. Layer the strips of dough, varying the angle of each strip to create a “mummy” look. Seal the edges with a fork and use a paring knife to trim the overhang. Lightly brush the tops of the hand pies with the egg wash. Add 2 raisins to each hand pie for the eyes. ‘

 

  • Bake, rotating the pan halfway through for even color, until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a baking rack slightly, about 5 minutes. 

 

  • Serve as is or decorate with a simple icing. Combine the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl with 1/2 teaspoon water. Stir until smooth and glossy. Transfer the icing to a resealable plastic bag and snip off the corner. Pipe the icing onto the hand pies using the stripes of pie crust as a guide. Serve.

Mummy Hand Pies
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Honey roasted fig & almond tart

Honey roasted fig & almond tart

Delicious, sweet and fruity pud, great served with cream or ice cream – make the case with bought pastry

ready in 1½ -1¾ hours, plus chilling time

MORE EFFORT

SERVES 8

Ingredients

 

500g pack shortcrust pastry at room temperature, thawed if frozen

8 ripe figs, stalks trimmed

finely grated zest and juice of one large juicy orange

 

 

1 tbsp clear honey

200g softened butter

200g golden caster sugar

200g packet ground almonds

2 medium egg yolks

Method

1. Preheat the oven to fan 180C/ conventional 200C/gas 6. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface and use to line a shallow loose-bottomed 25cm flan tin. Make sure the pastry comes above the rim – it may shrink in baking and the filling could spill. Chill for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cut the figs in half lengthways and sit them cut side up on a roasting tray. Mix the orange juice and honey in a bowl, pour over the figs and roast for 10-12 minutes until just soft. Drain off any juice into a saucepan and reserve.

3. Prick the base of the chilled pastry case all over with a fork, then line with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to fan 130C/conventional 150C/ gas 2. Leave the pastry case to cool slightly before filling.

4. Cream butter and sugar in a food processor or with an electric beater until smooth and pale. Tip in the ground almonds and zest and whizz briefly to combine. Add egg yolks and 1 tbsp of the reserved fig juice and whizz again until smooth. Spread evenly over the pastry case.

5. Gently press the figs cut side up into the almond mixture. Bake for 11⁄4 hours or until it’s golden all over (don’t worry if the centre still seems soft – a little gooeyness is good). Leave in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove sides and transfer on its base to a wire rack to cool.

6. Before serving, take the tart off its base and transfer to a flat platter or board. If you have juice left from roasting the figs, bring it to the boil and simmer for 1-2 minutes until sticky and syrupy. Brush this over the figs and serve as soon as possible, while the syrup is still glossy on the figs (it will start to seep through into the filling if you leave it too long).


Honey roasted fig & almond tart
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Cheesy Ensaymada – Filipino Brioche

Cheesy Ensaymada – Filipino Brioche

Ensaymada is one of my favorite Filipino treats.  It has been a popular Filipino roll for over 4 centuries ever since it was adapted from the Spanish pastry called Ensaimada which originated is Mallorca, Spain.

There or many versions of this Filipino roll which like a brioche is sweet and fluffy.  Many bakeries specialize in this yummy pastry, a couple of my favorites are Goldilocks and Red Ribbon.  Unlike the brioche which has no topping Ensaymadas are slathered in butter, dipped in sugar and sprinkled with cheese, in many cases “queso de bola” the Filipino name for Edam.

Since it’s a family favorite it’s no wonder that the aunties have their own favorite recipe.  In fact there are one or two aunties who are known for making Ensaymada, a treat which they bring to most family gatherings.

But one can’t rely on the aunties to make this favorite roll, specially since we all live so far apart.  That’s why I’ve started making Ensaymada at home, using auntie’s recipe of course!

The ensaymada dough is rolled and placed into tart pans, it’s the best way to ensure uniform size and shape.  I use these 5″ aluminum tart pans I buy from Amazon.  I’ve found it was the least expensive way to buy them.  And of course being Asian I wash and reuse them!

If I can’t find Edam cheese I use grated cheddar cheese instead.  The other ingredients are things you probably already have in the pantry and fridge.  It also calls for a dozen egg yolks, I know you’re left trying to figure out what to do with the egg whites!  How about making Pavlovas?  Here’s my Pavlova recipe, it’s definitely worth a try!

The Ensaymada recipe is pretty easy, but it does take several hours because the dough has to rise.  I usually start early in the morning and am done sometime in the afternoon, depending on how fast the dough rises.  I use the dough hook on my stand mixer to knead the dough, but you can also knead it by hand.

Homemade Ensaymada may take time and patience, but it is definitely worth the effort!

Cheesy Ensaymada

Ingredients:

1 Cup Warm Water

2 Tbs. Sugar

2 Tbs. Yeast

8 Cups Flour

1 1/2 Cup Whole Milk

1 Cup Sugar

12 Egg Yolks

1 Cup Butter softened

24 Tsp. Grated Edam

Topping:

1 Stick Butter softened

1/2 Cup Sugar

Grated Edam

Directions:

Mix Warm Water, 2 Tbs. sugar, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer or a large bowl.

Let stand in a warm place for 20 minutes, it should be foamy.

Add 1 Cup of flour to yeast mixture and mix well.

Let stand in a warm place for 30 minutes, set your timer so it doesn’t over rise.

Add milk, 1 cup sugar, egg yolks, and butter to the yeast mixture, mix well.

Add remaining 7 cups of flour 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix well between additions.

Knead dough until flour is all combined, do not over knead.

Divide dough into 24 balls working 1 tsp. cheese into each ball.

Flatten each ball with a rolling pin to about 1/2″ thick then roll into a cigar shape that’s about 10″ long rope.

Coil rope into each tart pan.

Place in a warm place and let rise for 3-4 hour.  Top of roll will be above tart pan rim.

Pre-heat over to 325 degrees. Once it reaches temperature wait 10 minutes then put ensaymada in the over.  (I place tart pans on a large baking sheet and slide the whole sheet in the oven.

Bake 7 Minutes then rotate pan 180 degrees and bake for another 7 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Remove from pans and brush tops with softened butter.

Dip each roll in sugar then sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Wrap each roll in plastic wrap.

Rolls may be frozen by placing wrapped rolls in a freezer bag.  Warm frozen rolls in microwave for about 1 minute.

They are delicious for breakfast!


Cheesy Ensaymada - Filipino Brioche
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Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Chocolate Chips are probably the most popular cookies in the world.  I know they’re my favorite.  I also know that there are many recipes out there and we all have our favorites.

The original creator of the chocolate chip cookie is said to be Ruth Graves Wakefield.  She first made it in the late 1930’s when she and her husband owned the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts.  The Inn was a popular restaurant known for its home cooking and desserts.  She created the cookie to serve to her guests, the recipe was published in the Boston Herald-Traveler and she was featured on a radio program hosted by Marjorie Husted aka Betty Crocker.  She later gave her recipe to Nestle and was paid with a lifetime supply of chocolate.  The recipe was also published in the 1938 edition of her cookbook “Ruth Wakefield’s Tried and True Recipes”.  It rapidly became a favorite cookie in American homes.  As they say the rest is history.

As much as I love homemade chocolate chip cookies (I have several favorite recipes), I’m not too fond of making them.  Actually I’m not a great fan of making any type of cookie, not because it’s difficult, more so because I find it tedious.

I find that dropping, cutting, or pressing cookies on to sheet and baking for less than 10 minutes is tiresome.  The only time I really enjoy making cookies is when I do my Christmas baking when I devote a couple of days in the activity with my grandchildren.  That’s why I absolutely love bar cookies!

Cookie bars are so easy to make.  You mix the dough, spread into a pan, bake, cool, and cut into bars.  It’s a wonderful way to get your homemade cookie fix without spending the day in the kitchen.  And chocolate cookies are no exception.  Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars are just as yummy as any Chocolate Chip Cookie you can make.  So here’s a recipe so you can make some today.  You probably already have all the ingredients in you kitchen!

One thing I’ve found when baking chocolate chip cookies, or actually when baking anything, that’s to use the best and freshest ingredients available.  I never use generic brands so for this cookie stick with Nestle’s Toll House Semi-Sweet chips, Guittard, or Gharadelli brands.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Ingredients:

2 1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour

1 Tsp. Baking Soda

1 Tsp. Salt

1 Cup Butter, softened

3/4  Cup Sugar

3/4 Cup Packed Brown Sugar

1 Tsp. Vanilla

2 Eggs

1 12-0z Package Semi Sweet Chocolate chips

Nuts are optional, but if you want to add them use 1 cup of the nut you prefer, chopped up of course.

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees

Lightly oil a 9 x 13 baking pan

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.

Cream together butter and both  sugars using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer.  If you don’t have a stand mixer you can use a hand mixer.

Add vanilla and mix  until creamy.

Add in eggs one at a time while continuing to mix.

Gradually add in dry ingredients making sure to mix it well.

Stir in chocolate chips and nuts if you’re using nuts.

Spread evenly in the pan.

Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool for about 10 minutes then cut into bars.

I use flip the pan over onto a large sheet and use a pizza cutter to cut it into bars.  I find it easier to cut into even pieces.

 

 

 

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Key Lime Pie Recipe

Key Lime Pie Recipe

Key Lime Pie is my favorite.  It’s sweet tartness is very refreshing, specially in the summer.

The first time I had Key Lime Pie was at a small local restaurant in Key West, Florida.  It was love at first bite!   Of course there it’s a very popular dessert; Key West has long claimed the pie originated on their tiny island using the small thin skin limes associated with the island.

You might be wondering what makes the Key Lime so special.  It’s a citrus hybrid that is smaller, rounder, and seedier than the usual larger more oval limes.  Key Lime, also known as Mexican Lime, Omani Lime, and West Indian Lime, also have a stronger aroma, more acidic, and thinner rind than its larger counterpart.

Whatever the case may be as the famed ingredient in Key Lime Pie it’s delicious!  Of course you can substitute other limes to make Key Lime Pie, but seriously it isn’t quite the same.  But in many places finding fresh Key Limes is not always easy. However you can buy Key Lime Juice in some stores and definitely on Amazon.  Living in Hawaii I rarely find fresh Key Limes and must resort to using the bottled juice.  I do garnish my pie with a slice of fresh lime, whatever type I manage to find.

There are many Key Lime Pie recipes out there, and believe me I’ve tried more than a few.  But for me easy is best.  This mean I do not like to make pie crust, it’s one chore I avoid whenever possible.  Now Key Lime Pie is usually made with a Graham Cracker crust, of course you can make your own, there are many recipes for this, or be like me and use store bought Graham Cracker Crusts.

You also need Whipped Cream, which of course you can buy spray cans of in your grocer’s dairy section.  That would be the easiest.  But although I’m always looking for the easy way, I make my own whipped cream.  I prefer homemade whipped cream simply because I love the taste of freshly whipped cream.  I like to pipe the whipped cream on top of the pie using a large star tip, or sometimes just around the outer edge and a large dollop in the middle.  But if you don’t what to make your own whipped cream the spay cans will do just fine, you won’t even need a star tip and piping bag to decorate the top of your pie.

So having said all that here’s my recipe, it includes instructions on homemade whipped cream.

Key Lime Pie

Ingredients:

1  9″ Graham Cracker Pie Crust (homemade or store bought)

1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk

1/2 Cup Sour Cream

3/4 Cup Key Lime Juice

1 Cup Fresh Heavy Whipping Cream – cold

1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar

1 Tsp. Vanilla

Fresh Lime Slice

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Whisk condensed milk, sour cream, and lime juice together in a medium bowl.

Whisk until smooth.

Pour into prepared crust.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool on counter for about 30 minutes.

Chill pie in refrigerator at least 3 hours.

Before serving make whipped cream:

Using the whipping attachment to your standup mixer or the beaters of a hand held mixer beat cream and sugar until stiff peaks form.

Beat in vanilla.

Pipe on top of chilled pie.

Garnish with a slice of lime if desired.

 


Key Lime Pie Recipe
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