First Signs of Christmas – mini pecan coffee cakes, apple tartlets and espresso shortbread

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Every year my extended family on my dad’s side gets together to celebrate Christmas. This year we celebrated early because one family is going to Australia this winter. They couldn’t make, they were sick.

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We had wonderful desserts, courtesy of me, and my grandma. I brought apple hand pies, espresso shortbread and mini pecan coffee cakes.

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Every year we play a game of white elephant with the family. Everyone brings a gift, it can be as silly as you want it to be, and everyone has a number and picks a gift from under the tree and opens it, ones going first, then we all go around again and trade, starting with ones and going in order. I brought cake!

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We played card games and ping pong in the basement, had dinner and dessert and had our gift exchange. So I will share the desserts. Because YUM!

So first, there’s the espresso cookies, which were a hit. Who doesn’t like coffee cookies dipped in coffee sugar and covered in chocolate?

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I got the original recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but I trashed it up a bit with icing and more chocolate!

ESPRESSO COOKIES

3 tablespoons instant espresso, or coffee powder
3 tablespoons boiling water
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (plain, or a toffee variety), finely chopped
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Dissolve the espresso in the boiling water, and set aside to cool to tepid.

Using a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the 2 sticks of softened butter and confectioners’ sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Beat in the vanilla and 2 tablespoons of the espresso, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate with a sturdy rubber spatula.

Using the spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Leaving the top open, mold the dough into a rectangle about 2 inches wide. As you shape the dough, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

5. Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag). Cut the dough into half inch thick squares, or, if you want mini cookies like I made, first cut the dough in half lengthwise then continue to cut them into half inch rectangles. Transfer the cookies to the baking sheets.

6. Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be very pale–they shouldn’t take on much color. Transfer the cookies to a rack.

Make the coffee icing!

Combine the powder sugar, remaining instant coffee, and butter together.

Once the cookies are cooled, dip them halfway into the icing and sprinkle with chopped chocolate. Or get your brother to do it, turning it into an exciting game of dip and sprinkle.

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Izzy, my brother, made triple chocolate cookies and put them in a Christmas cookie jar. Super cute
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And that is my chocolate cake with cranberry Swiss butter cream.DSC_0972

It wouldn’t have been a party without the frantic search for the iphone!

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He loves his owl, and I don’t blame him. It was very comfortable!DSC_1127

My aunts dog Mishka and my cousin Lauren, they look so cute together!

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Enough pictures for now, it is time for a recipe!

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Mini pecan coffee cakes!
3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugr
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease mini cupcake holders, or normal sized ones for a bigger, yet still mini cake.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, then add the sugar and beat for 4 to 5 minutes on medium speed until fluffy, scraping down the sides if needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well for a minute or so after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat well. Beat in the sour cream, again scraping down the sides if needed.

Gradually add the dry ingredients with the mix on low speed until they are just incorporated.

Stir in the pecans. Scoop batter into greased muffin tins and add whole pecans on top

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool on a wire cooling rack

For the icing

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons milk
cinnamon for dusting

Mix together the pumpkin pie spice, cream cheese, and milk together.

Dip each pecan cake into the icing, then sprinkle the cinnamon on top

Gobble it up! Or Share!

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There was ping pong in the basement. I was creamed by anyone and everyone who attempted to play me. What happened to all my ping pong talent? We never should have gotten rid of our ping pong table!
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Ribbon is always very popular at Christmas parties. At least it is when kids are involved!DSC_1097

OK. Dessert #3. I guess I don’t even have to tell you what it is since it’s so nicely displayed in the picture. Yes I do realize it would have been easier to type out a-p-p-l-e h-a-n-d p-i-e-s rather than right these ENORMOUS sentences.
But you’re just going to have to live with it!

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Alright APPLE HAND PIES! Yum.

Make the crust…

2 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks butter, cold and diced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cream

Mix together the flour, butter, sugar and salt, cutting the butter with a pastry blender until there are only small chunks of butter left and it is mostly incorporated, visible butter gives the crust flakiness. Add half of the cream. Mix together with the pastry blender until just combined. The dough won’t completely come together as a dough with the pastry blender. You have to use your hands for that. You do not want the dough to feel wet, so make sure to try to bring it together into a dough, it needs to hold together, just shouldn’t be too wet. If the crust still is not holding together, add the rest of the cream. Mix together and wrap in plastic wrap. Let rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

For the filling
2 medium apples, chopped small
1/2 a lemons worth of lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

Mix together.

Assembly
1 egg, beaten
sugar for sprinkling
cinnamon for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Roll out half of the dough very thin. using a wide rimmed glass or jar, about 3-4 inches across, cut as many circles as you can fit into the dough. Add filling, you won’t need much to fill it. Fold the dough in half and seal around the edges using a fork. Using a paring knife, cut 3 small slits into the top of the pie. Brush with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Repeat with the rest of the rounds, then roll out the leftover dough and repeat until there is no longer any more dough.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

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I promise you won’t regret making any of this delicious food!
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Merry Christmas!

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