Red Velvet Cheesecake Factory Style

Two of my favorite desserts are red velvet cupcakes and cheesecake.  Fortunately the Cheesecake Factory makes a fabulous cheesecake the combines both of these flavors, and for Christmas I decided to recreate this famous dessert. Fortunately several other bloggers had already tried to create the Cheesecake Factory's dish, so I had some good guidelines to follow.  

So, how did it come out?  Not only did it look beautiful and festive but it tasted incredible!  The red velvet with the cheesecake and cream cheese frosting came together perfectly.  The NY Style cheesecake recipe I used is the best I have ever made.  I will definitely be adapting for other cheesecakes.  
Besides taking a while to make, because you need to make a cheesecake and a red velvet cake, this was actually not a very hard dessert.  You just need to make sure you give yourself enough time to bake and assemble.  I recommend baking the cakes and cheesecake the night before serving then assembling several hours before serving. This will give you plenty of time to allow the cheesecake to chill together before being served to guests.

I had leftover royal icing from all the Christmas cookies, so I topped the cake the white and red trees make it extra festive for Christmas.   And you might want to start working out before making this.  The cake weighted almost ten pounds when assembled.  All the layers of cake, cheesecake and frosting added up.  

If you are looking for a dessert to wow your guests, this is the cake.  It may be time consuming, but it is well worth it. The red color, juxtaposed with the white cheesecake is very dramatic and your friends and family will be very impressed that your cheesecake came from your kitchen and not the restaurant.  

I have divided the recipe into how to make the red velvet cake, cheesecake, and frosting separately, followed by how to assemble the cake.  At the very end is how to make the royal icing trees.  Read the entire recipe through first.  

Because you putting together the cake and cheesecake you will need pans that are the same size.  I made the red velvet cake first, then used my two cake pans for the cheesecake.  The cheesecake needs to sit overnight to firm up, which works out well since the red velvet cake is frosted best when cold.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Factory Style 
Red Velvet Cake
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons dark Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon red food coloring, or 1/8 teaspoon red gel cake color

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray or butter one 9 inch square baking pan, In a small bowl, whisk buttermilk and vanilla, and set aside. Blend flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking soda and salt together in another bowl, and set aside. Cream the sugar and oil together on medium - high speed in a large bowl fitted with a whisk attachment. Add one egg at a time and whisk. Add vinegar and food coloring or gel, and beat the batter well. With mixer on low - medium speed, add half the flour and cocoa mixture to the batter, alternating with the buttermilk, and scraping as needed between additions. Mix until batter is nice and smooth with no lumps. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake cake for 40 minutes, or until a pick comes out clean.  Cool cake for 10 - 15 minutes before loosening, then remove them from the pans, and cool completely. Wrapped cake and refrigerate until ready to assemble cheesecake. 

NY Style Cheesecake 
4 packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 egg whites
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9 inch cake pans or springform pans. (To keep the cake uniform you will want to use pans the same size as the red velvet cake.)  If using cake pans, layer the pan with foil, so that the edges come over the pan.  This will make it easier to lift the cheesecake out of the pan when cool.

In a mixing bowl on medium speed, beat cream cheese until smooth, about 3 minute, scrape down sides as needed. Add sugar and cornstarch and beat again, scraping a few times. The mixture should be smooth. Add vanilla, eggs and egg whites 2 at a time. Beat until creamy. Slowly add the cream and beat only enough so there are no lumps and the filling is nice and fluffy. Scrape as needed. Divide batter evenly into prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Assembling Cheesecake
Carefully remove chilled cheesecake layers from pans. Place one cheesecake layer on a serving plate, and spread with a very small dab of frosting for the "glue". Top with frosting. Place the Red Velvet Cake layer, on top of frosting.  Frost the Red Velvet Cake. Top with the last cheesecake layer and frost the top.  Frost the Red Velvet Cheesecake with an offset spatula, smoothing top and sides. Using the filled pastry bag, pipe a border of frosting all around the edge of the cake top. Chill Red Velvet Cheesecake until time to plate and serve.

Adapted from Donna Diegel; Frosting from Paula Dean

How To Make Royal Icing Trees
Royal Icing
3 tablespoons Meringue Powder
4 cups confectioners' sugar sifted 
6 tablespoons warm water
Beat all ingredients until icing forms a peak (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer).  
Source: Wilton
Fit a pastry bag with a #2 tip and fill with icing.   On a piece of parchment paper, outline a tree. (Basically a long narrow triangle).  Change to a larger tip, #4 or #5.  Fill triangles with icing.

Sprinkle triangles with sanding sugar.
Add red sugar pearls. Distribute randomly on triangles. 
Let dry for 24 hours.  Gently peel trees from parchment paper and place on cake.

Eggnog Christmas Cake with Rum Frosting

My love affair with eggnog continues.  This year for Christmas I made an eggnog cake with rum buttercream frosting. When I saw the red and green cake on Bakingdom's blog I knew that it would be perfect.  To say that it got rave reviews is an understatement.  Everyone loved this cake.  Not only was it festive, but it was delicious. It had a rich eggnog flavor, great texture and was super moist.  Mr. Apron even loved it, and he normally doesn't like non-chocolate desserts.   The red and green made it extra festive and elicited many "ooooohs" and "ahhhhhhhhs".

There is still plenty of eggnog is the stores, so go ahead and it it try before it runs out. You could easily change up the colors and make this for New Years!
Eggnog Christmas Cake
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup eggnog, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 16 pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, eggnog, and vanilla; set aside. n a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. With the mixer on medium low, add the butter one piece at a time until the mixture looks sandy, and just start to come together. Add half of the eggnog mixture and mix on low until it just comes together. Increase the speed to medium high speed and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce mixer speed to medium, and add the remaining egg mixture in a slow, steady stream. Continue mixing until thoroughly combined, scraping the bowl, as needed.  

Remove half the batter into another bowl. Pour the red batter into a pan and the green into another. Place both pans in the oven on the same rack and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before assembling and frosting. 

To assemble, cut the green and red cakes into two even layers. Place a layer of red cake on a serving dish.   Spread rum frosting (recipe below) on top of red layer.  Repeat with remaining cake layers, alternating between red and green. Frost outside of cake with remaining frosting.  Garnish with sprinkles if desired.  I used sanding sugar on the cake to give it some sparkle and topped it with two sugar cookies.

Adapted from Bakingdom

Rum Buttercream Frosting
2 cups (4 sticks) butter, softened
4 cups confectioners
4 tablespoons dark rum (can be reduced)
2 tablespoons eggnog
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Place butter in a bowl of electric mixer and beat on high until smooth about one minute. Add in sugar and nutmeg and mix at a medium speed until incorporated about 2-3 minutes.  Add rum and eggnog and beat on high until frosting is fluffy about 4-5 minutes.  

A Pink Apron Baker Original

Holiday Cake Batter Cookie Dough Truffles

I hope that everyone is having wonderful holiday season.  I don't know about you, but I am still full from all the holiday parties, Christmas cookies, and Christmas dinner.  My kitchen is only starting to looking normal, after all the cookies have been given away and cakes have been eaten.  I think later today it will get a heavy duty scrubbing.

Every year I make cookie boxes to give out to friends and family for Christmas.  I always include decorated sugar cookies in my boxes and I vary the other cookies from year to year.  Every year my cookie list seems to get longer and rather than making more types of cookies this year I ended up making less cookie varieties and more of each cookie type. This year I made eggnog cookies, oreo truffles, holiday biscotti and holiday cake batter cookie dough truffles.

For those of you that love cookie dough but worry about raw eggs, the cake batter cookie dough truffles are for you.  They have the texture of cookie dough, but taste like yellow cake batter, and because there are no eggs, you do not have to worry about getting sick.  These truffles are also so quick and easy, you can make them with very little hands on time.  I like to make the dough one night, and dip the truffles the next night- an easy week night project. And who doesn't like making something delicious and easy during the holidays.

Cake Batter Cookie Dough Truffles
1 ½  cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup yellow cake mix
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons red and green sprinkles 
16 ounces white chocolate chips
red and green sprinkles for garnish

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes until light, fluffy, and pale yellow. Mix in salt, flour, cake mix, sprinkles, and vanilla. Add water one tablespoon at a time, mixing after each, until you reach cookie dough consistency. Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  Roll prepared dough into one-inch balls. Place each ball on prepared baking sheet and refrigerate for at least one hour, but preferably overnight. Melt chocolate using a double boiler. Remove dough balls from the refrigerator. Dip dough balls into the chocolate, coating the entire ball. Place truffle on cookie sheet. Garnish with red and green sprinkles. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm, about one hour. Store in refrigerator.

Adapted from Willow Bird Baking

And for those of you that don't follow me on twitter or Facebook, I had a feature on the Food Network UK Blog on Christmas Eve featuring my decorated sugar cookies!  No I wasn't on TV, just the blog. Nevertheless, you can check it out here

A Charlie Brown Christmas Sugar Cookies

In case the title or the Snoopy cookie didn't give it away, the theme of this year's Christmas sugar cookies is A Charlie Brown Christmas.  This was my favorite Christmas TV Special when I was a kid, and it is still my favorite to this day.  Mr. Apron and I own the DVD and it is one of the first Christmas movies we watch after Thanksgiving to put us in the holiday spirit. 

When I found a Snoopy cookie cutter I knew I had to make these cookies.  But I didn't want to just make Snoopy cookies.  When Mr. Apron and I were watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, I came up with the idea of adding other cookies also inspired by the movie.  I had so much fun with this year's theme, Mr. Apron and I have already been making suggestions about what show should be next year's sugar cookie theme.

The Snoopy Cookies were not hard to make.  The biggest challenge I had was that the cutter was plastic, not metal, making it very hard to cut the dough.  I actually had to pound the cutter with my rolling pin to make an impression in the dough. 

For the colored lights on the dog house I used sugar pearls.  The rest of the cookie is simply royal icing. I outlined and flooded Snoopy first, then the house. Once that was dry I did the details on Snoopy and the lines and lights on the dog house.

The Snoopy cookies are final cookie in this year's theme. I hope that it is a bit more clear how my first two cookies fit into the Charlie Brown Christmas theme.  But just incase, here is how I came up with the idea for each cookie.

The first cookies were the snowflake cookies. And I will admit, these were not much of a clue and could have come from many different Christmas shows.  But I was really inspired by Charlie Brown.
There were two scenes that gave me the idea for the snowflake cookies.  The first is the scene where Linus and Charlie Brown are sitting at wall talking.  The vibrant blue sky and white snowflakes is where I drew the colors for the cookies.  I also thought that the blue was similar to the color of Linus' blanket.
The second scene that gave me the idea for snowflake cookies is when Lucy, Linus and friends are catching snowflakes on their tongue.

The second cookie was Christmas Trees in green, pink and blue.  These cookies did elicit some guesses.  None of the comments on the blog were correct, but several of my co-workers did guess correctly.  I really enjoyed having people coming up me in the halls with guesses or wondering if I would fill them. It's nice to know that my friends do read this!
The pink and blue trees were based on the colorful trees that surround Charlie Brown and Linus when they go to the tree lot.

You can see more of this scene here. 

And of course the green trees were inspired by the dressed up Christmas tree in the final scene.
I hope you enjoyed my Charlie Brown Christmas Cookies as much as I enjoyed making them and sharing them with you.  This will be my last post before Christmas.   I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday.  I will be back next week with new posts featuring the many desserts I will making for Christmas and Christmas Eve.  Happy Baking to all, and to all a Good Night. 

Christmas Tree Cookies

Christmas Tree Cookies are the second installment of my Holiday Sugar Cookies for 2011.  This year's cookies were all inspired by a classic holiday show (yet to be revealed).   Yesterday my first cookie was snowflakes and the final cookie will be on Friday.   Each cookie I decorated this year was somehow based on this well known show.
I made a similar Christmas Tree Cookie last year, but when I came up with the idea of doing several cookies based on a show, I knew that they would fit in perfectly with this year's theme with the addition of the pink and blue trees.

To make the dots I used the wet on wet technique with the royal icing.  This is actually very easy and creates a nice affect.  To make dots after flooding drop a dot of thinned out icing onto the wet icing using a #1 or #2 tip.   I usually work in batches of three or four cookies.   I'll flood four cookies, and then go back to the first cookie to start the dots. 
I know the snowflake cookies would have been from almost any Christmas show, but the trees should give you a much bigger hint. I really think that these cookies actually are a pretty big clue as to what show inspired me.  Mr. Apron said they look just like the trees on the show.  Any guess what my inspiration was?  My third and final cookie will be posted on Friday!  Hopefully how I came up with the ideas for these cookies will all make sense then.  Happy Baking!

Snowflake Cookies

This is the first installment of my Christmas Sugar Cookies for 2011.  This year I made cookies based on a classic Christmas special. Each of the three cookies were inspired by this well known show.  To make it a little more fun, I am not going to say which Christmas Special the cookies were based on.  Instead I will post each of the cookies and let you guess what my inspiration was.  The second installment will be tomorrow and the third and final post will be on Friday.  The cookie I am posting on Friday makes the show very obvious, which is why it will be last.  The first two are a bit more subtle.  There is no prize in guessing correctly, except bragging rights, but feel free to guess in comments. All be revealed on Friday.
My first cookie is obviously snowflakes.  I stuck with the blue and white color scheme that I used for the cupcakes I made last week.  I don't know what it is about the blue and white but I love how the look together.  I also pulled colors from the part of the scene in the show that snowflakes were inspired by.

Each cookie is a little different, since no two snowflakes are the same.  I used the #3 tip for the outlines and a #2 tip for the details and finished the cookies with white sanding sugar and a sugar pearl in the center.

I know the cookies are a simpler design, but after doing some very detailed cookies, I am really starting to appreciate more simplistic designs.  My wrist is also appreciative!  But in all honestly sometimes less is more. 
The second cookie will be posted tomorrow.  Hopefully you will enjoy these cookies as much I enjoyed making them.  When I reveal the final cookie on Friday I will explain how I pulled inspiration for all the cookies.

So what Christmas Special is my cookie inspiration?  Feel free to guess in the comments!  Happy baking!

Rice Krispie Treat Pops

Looking for an dessert that is easy to make, and is great for kids and adults?  Well look no further.  Rice Krispie Treat Pops are a great option if you are hosting a group and you want to serve something different on your dessert table.  I made these for a recent holiday party and all the adults loved them. Most of them haven't had a Rice Krispie Treats in years and having them dipped in chocolate only improves upon the classic dish! 

Beside being a new take on a childhood favorite, Rice Krispie Treats do not require baking.  Most of the time required to make these pops is waiting for the chocolate to set.  And you can definitely make these bars ahead of time, so all you have to do when you company arrives is pull them out of your refrigerator.  I will definitely be making different version of these for future holidays and parties.

Rice Krispie Treat Pops 
3 tablespoons butter 
4 cups mini marshmallows 
6 cups Rice Krispies 
16 ounces semi sweet chocolate or white chocolate 
red and green sprinkles 
12 lollipop sticks  

Lay wax paper or parchment paper in a 13x9 inch pan so that the edges are hanging over each side.  (You will want enough paper hanging over to pull the bars out later).  In a large saucepan melt butter over a low heat.  Add marshmallows and stir and melted.  Remove from heat.  Add Rice Krispies, stir until well coated.  Press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan leaving edges of the wax paper exposed.  Place pan in refrigerator to cool. 

Once cool, pull the bars out of the pan by lifting the parchment paper.  Place bars on a cutting board.  Using a pizza cutter or very sharp knife, cut the bars into 12 squares.  Insert the lollipop sticks into one side of the bars. 

Melt the chocolate chip in a double boiler.  Dip the tops of the bars in the melted chocolate, garnish with red and green sprinkles.   Place decorated pops in a glass or small vase in the refrigerator so that the bars will set upright.   Once chocolate is set the pops can be served!   Store in refrigerator.

Snowflake Cupcakes

This week I attended a holiday party and of course I brought dessert. I made snowflake cupcakes using a simple devils food cake recipe and vanilla buttercream.  I was making these whem Mr. Apron needed his cookie swap cookies which is why he was on his own (with close supervision) for making his cookies.  (Holiday parties always seem to fall on the same day!)

I had seen snowflake cupcakes last year on one of my favorite blogs Glorious Treats and I had bookmarked them to keep in mind for this year.  I thought that they were so pretty and surprising change from all the red and green.  These are such an easy cupcake to make.  You can use any type of cupcake you want and just about any flavor icing.  I used vanilla so that I could add some pretty blue coloring to make the snowflakes standout.  You could even mix it up by adding more pastal colors, such as doing half light blue and half light pink. 

If you want to make your own snowflakes, Glorious Treats has a great tutorial.  I happen to see pre-made snowflakes in the store I grabbed them to save myself sometime.   
After using the same devil's food recipe for a while, I decided to mix it up for these cupcakes and I am glad I did!   I think the addition of sourcream  made these cakes supermoist and gave it a great flavor. These cupcakes also have coffee which gave the flavor so much more depth.  I will be sticking with this devil food recipe for a while.  

Devils Food Cupcakes
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot brewed coffee
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 16 muffin cups with liners.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over hot, not simmering, water. Remove the pan from the heat.   Sift the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt together into a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the hot coffee, sour cream, and vegetable oil. Gradually whisk in the eggs, then stir in the chocolate. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all the ingredients are smoothly blended.  Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Source: Epicurious

Vanilla Buttercream
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6  cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. 

Mr Apron Bakes: Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

After a long hiatus- mostly due to a post-Thanksgiving tryptophan low I'm back with a new post and surprisingly it's about baking!

So there is only one baker in our house and it is not me (I have managed to mess up boxed brownie mix twice- apparently when they list oil as an ingredient it is not a suggestion but a requirement). So when a need for baked goods comes up and the Pink Apron is previously booked I am at a loss. Luckily the Pink Apron has some tricks up her sleeves and has simple ideas that even I can handle. Such an idea was sorely needed when I needed three dozen cookies for a cookie exchange at work.
Fortunately these cookies couldn’t be any easier. All you will need is mini muffin pans, packages of break and bake cookie dough, and mini peanut butter cups. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and while it is heating up unwrap peanut butter cups (you’ll need 1 peanut butter cup per cookie). Spray your mini muffin pans to prevent sticking and place one cookie dough square in each muffin cup. Place in the oven for approximately 10 minutes. Once fully baked pull out and immediately push a peanut butter cup into the middle of the cookie while the dough is still pliable. Let cool completely and enjoy!
I should be back next week!  I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season. 
-Mr. Apron

Holiday Biscotti and the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

This year I participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  Food Bloggers from all over the contry made three dozen cookies and sent one dozen to three different randomly selected bloggers, and in return received cookies from three different bloggers. This was the brilliant idea of Lindsay at Love and Olive Oil and Julie of the The Little Kitchen.
For the swap I made Holiday Biscotti with chocolate chips and cranberries drizzled with white chocolate.  Part of the reason I picked biscotti is that it last a while and they are sturdy so I knew they would ship well.  I also love biscotti and the white chocolate makes them a bit more festive for the holiday season.  For me, biscotti is perfect with a cup of coffee for dipping.  I also love the taste of chocolate and cranberry.  The sweetness of the chocolate and the tartness of the cranberries make for the perfect combination.
My Holiday Biscotti were packaged up and sent out three different bloggers: Jessica at My Baking Heart; Alex at yums and loves; and Joanne at Eats Well With Others.  I hope that everyone who received the biscotti enjoyed eating them as much as I enjoyed making them.  
Once my cookies were sent, all I had to wait for cookies that were sent to me to appear at my door.  Everyday Mr. Apron and I would come home to see if any packages has arrived.  The cookies came at different times during which made the anticipation last all week and they came from around the country.

I must say Food Bloggers really are the nicest people.  All the cookies I received were fabulous and totally different.  Each blogger completely out did themselves sending me wonderfully packaged treats for the Holidays.  Here is a peak at the delicious goodies I received!
I received amazing white chocolate cranberry macadamia nut cookies from Stephanie at Okie Dokie Artichokie in Michigan.  I love macadamia nuts but rarely buy them, so these were such a treat!  And if the cookies I made didn't clue you in, I am a big fan of white chocolate and cranberry.
Allie at Allison Eats sent beautifully packaged Anise-Scented Fig and Date Swirls.   These cookies came to me from Philadelphia.  What I loved about these cookies is that they were more savory than sweet and completely different than anything I normally make. 
And the third box I received was from Erin at The Spiffy Cookie.  Erin sent me Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies and Mr. Apron loves Andes Mints.  He started eating these ones right away so I didn't even get a chance to take a picture of the pretty packaging.
I had so much fun with this year's swap I definitely want to do it again next year. If you are interested in participating in next year's Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap or learning more you can subscribe to the newsletter here.    

Here is the recipe for the biscotti that I made for the swap.  Happy Baking!

Holiday Biscotti
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup chocolate chips
3/4 dried cranberries
12 ounces white chocolate, chopped

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper.  Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend.  With an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, and lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl to blend.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Add the flour mixture and beat until just blended.  Stir in chocolate chips and cranberries. Form the dough into a log on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake until lightly golden, about 40 minutes.  Cool for 30 minutes.

Place the log on a cutting board.  Cut the log with a sharp knife on a diagonal into slices.  Arrange biscotti cut side down on the baking sheet.  Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes.  Transfer the biscotti to a cooling rack. 

Once biscotti are cool, place on parchment paper evenly spaced out.  Place the chocolate in a heat safe bowl over a pot of simmering water until chocolate melts. Pour melted chocolate into a squeeze bottle and drizzle white chocolate over biscotti. Let set until firm about one hour. 

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Boston Bruins Cookies

I am so excited to share these cookies with you.  If you follow me on Twitter I have mentioned that I have been working all week on a new cookie design and these are what I have been hinting about!

It is no secret that I live in Boston and of course Boston is a HUGE sports town.   Last year the Boston Bruins brought another championship title to Boston by winning the Stanley Cup and since another winter sport has been on hiatus, I thought it was time for some Bruins cookies to go along with the Red Sox ones I did a while ago.
I knew these cookies would be a bit more challenging than the Red Sox cookies since the Bruins jerseys are much more detailed, but I love how they came out.  Normally cookies take me about three days, but because of all the different layers these cookies took four. Orginally I was going to half jersey and half pucks but the pucks started to look like tires (even Mr. Apron who loves everything I make, said they looked like tires) so the decision was made to stick with just jerseys.
These cookies are just the beginning was what I have store for the holidays.  As I mentioned on Tuesday, I have been super busy making dough and preparing cookies for cookies boxes.   On Monday I will have my recipe and reveal what I made for the Great Food Blogger Cookies Swap

If you are looking for my sugar cookie and royal icing recipes you can get them here

I can't wait to share it with you.  Have a good weekend I hope you are enjoying the start of the Holiday Season!

How to Make the Holidays A Little Less Stressful

It's been a week since my last post and despite the fact I have have been super busy in the kitchen since Thanksgiving, I have no new recipes to least not yet.  In case you haven't figured it out yet, I am a bit of a planner.  I like to make things ahead, plan out my meals for the week and figure out how I can use leftovers in future meals.   This is especially true around the Holidays.   

The closer it is to Christmas the more baking I need to do.  Parties always seems to fall around the same time and Christmas week I like to deliver my cookie boxes.  Unfortunately it is just me in the kitchen and even with Mr. Apron's help doing dishes and last minute runs to the store, there is only 24 hours in a day and I have a fulltime job.  This leaves only so much time for baking and cooking.

In order to make sure I have time to enjoy myself, watch Christmas movies, and fullfill all my baking desires I start planning and preparing for Christmas baking and cooking around Veterans Day.   In mid November I made a bunch freezer-friendly meals that I can easily put into the oven in December.  I am lucky to have a second refrigerator and  right now the freezer is stock full of Pilgrim Pies, Beef Stew, and Stuffed Shells, just to name a few.  Mr. Apron and I eat all these pre-made meals between now and Christmas. I also will utilize my slow cooker as well.  This planning might seem crazy but  it makes weeknight dinners a breeze during the holidays, without resorting to take-out, and it is one less thing to worry about during this busy time of year.  

Once Thanksgiving is past my focus is on baking, especially Christmas Cookies.   I typically give out boxes full of Christmas Cookies during the week leading up to Christmas.  The hard part is the weekend before usually is a busy time for Holiday Parties and other events, and I don't want to miss out on seeing my friends and family, but I don't want to forgo Christmas Cookies either.  In order to create a cookie-social life balance I look for recipes that allow me to make the dough and freeze it and cookies that can be frozen until they are given.  Eggnog cookies are a good example of a dough that can be made ahead, then I simply have to bake them later in the month.  Truffles can be made well ahead of time, and then frozen until they are ready to be eaten.

I also start baking sugar cookies in early December and freeze them.  Baked sugar cookies that have not been decorated can last over two months in the freezer.  My freezer currently has several dozen cookies that I made this weekend that will be decorated closer to Christmas.  

I realize not everything can be pre-made and decorating sugar cookies takes time.  But if you have pre-make weekday meals and do not have to worry about cooking a full dinner, it is amazing how much time you will have on your hands to complete everything on your holiday to-do list.

This is what works for me, and of course everyone is different so this might not be what works for you and your family. But hopefully I've provided you some ideas on how to help plan ahead as Christmas approaches.  What do you do to help with your Holiday planning? 

I can't wait to show you everything I have been working on this past week, including what I made for the Food Blogger Cookies Swap!