Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cinnamon Chai Shortbread with Cinnamon & Vanilla Bean Glaze #Creative Cookie Exchange

This is my first post for The Creative Cookie Exchange group I just recently joined and I'm really excited about it. First of all, I LOVE cookies. Cookies are my favorite snack, dessert, comfort food et al... I eat them when I'm happy, I eat them when I'm sad, I'm eat them when I'm mad. Seriously, shouldn't there be a Dr. Seuss book about cookies already? I could totally write it...
But back to these cookies. The theme for this month's Creative Cookie Exchange was cinnamon. I happen to think cinnamon and chai pair perfectly together, maybe that's a bit redundant because cinnamon is an ingredient in chai, but oh well..
While searching for cinnamon inspiration, I found fell in love with this blog called i bake he shoots. Amazing photography and great recipes. I was captivated by Mondo's Chai Shortbread and knew I wanted to make these for the cookie exchange with a few modifications. I decreased the orange zest, omitted the anise (didn't have it) and added vanilla bean paste to the glaze. Can I just tell you how amazingly delicious these cookies are? The flavor of the warm spices complimented by the zing from the orange zest make you want to slap your mama cuddle up in your favorite armchair with a cup of tea, a fuzzy throw and a good book. 
Make them for the holidays. Everyone will love you.
Cinnamon Chai Shortbread with Cinnamon & Vanilla Bean Glaze
Makes 18 2" cookies
Cookie Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh orange zest
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
Glaze Ingredients:
1 cup powdered sugar
dash of cinnamon
splash of vanilla bean paste
3-4 teaspoons of milk or cream
Whisk together the flour, spices and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Place the sugar and orange zest in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and using your finger tips squeeze the orange zest into the sugar to release the oils and create orange "scented" sugar. The sugar should smell really fragrant.
Add the softened butter and mix at medium speed until fluffy (approx. 2 minutes), scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined.
Place the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet and place another piece of parchment on top. Roll into a disk about 1/4" and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Remove dough from refrigerator and preheat oven to 350f.
Line 1-2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using a cookie cutter (mine was a 2" square cutter with scalloped edges) cut about 18 cookies.
Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets (they don't spread) and bake for approx. 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Remove from the oven and carefully place on a wire cooking rack to cool completely.
While the cookies are cooling, make the glaze by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisking with a fork or whisk until smooth. Start with only 3 teaspoons of milk/cream and mix well to check the consistency. Gradually add more milk/cream little by little (stirring well after each addition) until you reach desired consistency.
Drizzle or dip your cookies into the glaze as desired.
Leftover cookies (if any!) can be stored in an air tight container for 2 days.
Are we the only ones who start craving cinnamon when the weather gets colder? We can't be! And we are talking anything sold under the word cinnamon--cassia, "true cinnamon", Ceylon cinnamon, Vietnamese Cinnamon--if it is sold as cinnamon, it is what we want! Check out all of our cinnamon cookies below! Hint: A lot of them could be used for your holiday cookie table!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Maple Bacon Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars with Pecan Shortbread Crust

While I have always been more of a cookie or cake person, I recently discovered, after making 15 pies for a former co-worker's wedding, that I love to bake pie.

There's something homey and comforting about pie. The process of making the dough and prepping the fillings is actually pretty relaxing. It's amazing how a few simple ingredients can be transformed into something beautiful and delicious.
To support my new-found love for pie baking, I recently joined a Pie Baking Group on Facebook (thanks Karen!). For the month of November, Karen challenged us to bake a Pecan Pie. I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of pecan pie, there's something about the gooey texture (and corn syrup) that doesn't appeal to me, but I found a way to put my personal spin on the challenge and that involved 2 of my favorite baking ingredients....bacon and bourbon! Hence these Maple Bacon Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars with Pecan Shortbread Crust were born!
If you love pie, want to learn more about pie or just want to look at drool-worthy pie photos, I encourage you to join the group. I guarantee you'll be ins-pie-erd.
Maple Bacon Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars with Pecan Shortbread Crust
Makes 9-12 bars depending upon size
Crust Ingredients:
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
Filling Ingredients:

2 slices thick cut bacon cooked and chopped (I baked my bacon at 375 for approx. 20 min. Baking the bacon renders the fat more evenly)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon bourbon
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, room temp
1/2 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray a rectangular tart pan with removable bottom with non-stick cooking spay or line a 9"x9" baking pan with non-stick foil (or spray regular foil) leaving a slight overhang to use as handles to easily remove the bars from the pan.

Place the flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar and pecans in the bowl of your food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until combined and the pecans and small. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like course crumbs (a few small chunks of butter remaining is ok).

For the tart pan: press the dough mixture into an even layer over the bottom and all the way up the sides of the pan. Place on a baking sheet.

For the 9x9 baking pan: press the dough evenly over the bottom and a little way up the sides (approx. 1").

Bake at 350 for approx. 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from oven. If the crust has puffed up a little, press it down with a spoon.

Make the filling:

Combine the melted butter, maple syrup, bourbon, vanilla, salt, brown sugar and egg in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture over the baked crust.

Sprinkle the pecans, chocolate chips and bacon evenly over the filling.

Bake at 350 for approx. 20-25 minutes or until set.

Remove from oven.

If using the tart pan - allow to cool for approx. 1 hour before releasing the tart from the pan. Keep the bottom of the pan on until completely cooled. Then remove the bottom of the pan and cut into bars.

If using the 9x9 baking pan - allow to cool for approx. 30 minutes then remove the bars from the pan using the foil overhang. When completely cool, cut into bars.