Happy almost 2018, friends! It’s that strange in-between week after Christmas but before the new year where we’re half easing back into everyday life, half hanging onto the holidays because they’re not quite over yet. And thank goodness! Because I have one more festive recipe to share for the season, and it’s perfect for ringing in the new year if champagne isn’t your thing. If you’ve never had a brandy alexander, it’s a smooth and creamy blend of Cognac, Creme dé Cacao and fresh cream shaken with ice until it’s nice and chilly. The combination of strong, spicy Cognac with sweet, chocolatey liqueur is pure bliss and the cream makes it a little more mellow and immensely sippable. I infused the cream with Stash Orange Spice Tea for a kick of citrus that makes this brandy alexander even more perfectly suited for winter-yum! The whole thing is topped off with a sprinkle of freshly ground nutmeg for extra spice.
Food & Drink
Happy December, everyone! I know preparing for the holidays can be a source of stress – everywhere you look, it seems like friends and family are ahead of the game with decorations, party planning, sending cards… It’s enough to make anyone want to just take a big long nap until January is here. So this year, at almost eight months pregnant, I’ve made the decision to only take on a little bit this holiday season, and so far it’s been the most wonderfully relaxed and stress-free one I can remember! We’re hosting just one holiday party at our house and it’s going to be a casual potluck. We’re sitting out far away family gatherings because long car rides make me queasy, so there won’t be the usual running around. Scaling back leaves me with the time, energy and sanity to actually enjoy the holidays this year, and for me that means lots of leisurely baking while listening to Christmas music!
This gingerbread cake is my first bake of the season, and everything about it says holidays. It’s loaded with rich molasses and lots of wintry spices for a dose of nostalgic gingerbread flavor, then coated in silky Stash Chai Spice Tea-infused buttercream.
If you’re in the market for an easy to make, crowd pleasing dessert this holiday season I’ve got you covered with these fudgy, maple tea-frosted brownies. They’re perfect for Friendsgiving potlucks when you don’t want to be the fourth person to bring pie, and you can make them a day or two ahead of time; they’ll still be plenty fresh, rich and chocolatey when you serve them. I think brownies should be very dense and chewy, and that’s exactly what these are. Anything else is just chocolate cake in my book! Brownies also mean plenty of decadent chocolate flavor and these won’t disappoint the most avid chocoholics at your table (after all, I made them by melting down a whole bag of chocolate chips).
These also have seasonal flair thanks to a generous layer of Stash Maple Apple Cider tea-infused buttercream. I love flavoring buttercream with tea because the butter readily absorbs the tea’s flavors, so the end result is like a sweet and creamy version of my favorite cup of tea. It’s tastier and much more interesting to serve than your typical vanilla buttercream and can make an everyday dessert something uniquely tasty and worthy of your holiday table. Maple apple cider is one of my favorite Stash teas to drink this time of year; I love it for its naturally sweet maple, cinnamon, apple and caramel flavors so it only makes sense to turn it into dessert. I think my Thanksgiving guests will agree!
A lot of the past week has been spent dealing with a water-leaking-through-the-ceiling-and-subsequent-costly-repair situation. Normal me would be a little stressed but calm and collected. Increasingly pregnant and emotional me, however, has a much lower threshold for meltdowns and seeing our 90% remodeled living room torn down to the studs almost pushed me over the edge. Honestly, when Bisou started meowing like crazy to alert us to the indoor rain my first impulse was to lay on the floor and cry. My second impulse was to distract myself with pie, and that’s the one I acted on. Whew! I filled a buttery crust with a mountain of fresh apples, lots of cinnamon and a hefty drizzle of homemade caramel, then baked it to golden, mouth watering perfection. And it was gooooood. So good, in fact, that we temporarily forgot all about the plumbing disaster and that’s saying something!
You may have seen me post about these pink apples a couple weeks back on instagram; they’re called mountain rose apples and you can find them at a handful of Hood River orchards and Portland-area markets in the fall. They have sweet, bright pink flesh (really, they’re that pink in real life!) and a satisfying, crisp bite. I look forward to them every year and have been dreaming of turning them into pie since last fall (when I used my supply in this baked oatmeal). If you can’t get your hands on pink apples, any sweet-tart, crisp apple will work perfectly for this pie. I mean, what apple wouldn’t go with gooey salted caramel and a buttery, flaky crust? You can’t go wrong.
It’s been cold, gray and rainy here in Portland and when dreary weather hits the Northwest, there’s only one thing to do: embrace it, because it’s not going anywhere for the next several months! To me, that means bundling up, staying inside and eating and drinking everything cozy and indulgent – like this rich and silky black forest hot chocolate. If decadent, made-from-scratch hot chocolate isn’t made for this season then nothing is. This one’s a mix of melted chocolate, cocoa powder, vanilla and milk that’s been infused with Stash’s Black Forest tea. It warms you up from the inside out and is the perfect accompaniment to wool socks, a good book or your latest Netflix binge (anyone else excited about the new season of Stranger Things?).
This was my first time trying black forest in non-cake form and I’m happy to report it’s just as tasty in a mug! The tea’s chocolate and cherry flavors aren’t overpowered in the hot chocolate–instead, you get a nice, subtle taste of black forest in every sip. It’s a black tea, too, and I very much appreciate the little caffeine kick now that the days are shorter and I have trouble staying awake past 5 pm. This hot chocolate is super rich thanks to the melted chocolate I stir in, so I like to keep the other flavors on the subtle side. But feel free to add a few more tea bags when you infuse the milk for even more black forest flavor! The same goes for the whipped cream–I only used a couple tea bags to infuse the cream because I didn’t want it to turn “tea” colored, but for a stronger flavor you can always use more. The lesson here is that you can’t go wrong with chocolate, cherry and vanilla. Mmm.