A Star is Born
Get Your Glow On
Shining brightly as a beacon of hope and guiding light, stars hold a heavy symbolic weight with their ethereal luminescence. When it comes to Christmas specifically, it’s the crowning jewel on top of a majestic evergreen tree, the pinnacle of the holiday spirit itself. Why not add a little bit more star power to the whole season, starting with your plate.
What Is Star Bread?
Gold Star Bread is a glorious, glowing ode to brioche, cinnamon rolls, monkey bread, and coffee cake all wrapped up in tender outstretched rays. The dough itself is soft and buttery, rich and warmly spiced, infused with the flaxen hue of ground turmeric. That alone could be turned into a luscious loaf. For a special occasion, though, we might as well go all out. Mocha infuses each twist and turn as a sweet wake up call. Ease into a festive day ahead with your very own golden star leading the way.
Sharing pull-apart bread with loved ones is a whole different experience from whacking off a simple slice. You eat with your hands, drop all pretenses, and can surrender yourself to the tactile sensation of the warm, freshly baked dough. While it makes for a showstopping breakfast or dessert, the assembly is no more complicated than any other yeasted treat.
Filling Ideas for Star Bread
If you’re not a coffee person, you’ve got plenty of flavorful options.
- Easiest of all, simply omit the coffee powder and keep it cocoa.
- Swap the coffee and cocoa for ground cinnamon.
- Use brown sugar and chai spices.
- Add roughly chopped pecans, walnuts, and/or crystallized ginger.
The sun may hide away on some winter days, but the stars will still come out to guide your way. Hold on to that golden glow through the holidays and beyond.
Christmas isn’t for everyone. The forced merriment and artificial optimism, sour memories that fall short of Hollywood-produced nostalgia, stressful family gatherings topped off by unnecessary expenses; it’s enough to make the most joyful person into a real Scrooge. Even the most committed holiday reveler would struggle to maintain the same level of enthusiasm in this harsh reality. You know what is for everyone, though?
Chocolate cut-out cookies, to be precise, will never disappoint. With a batch of homemade cookies, you can express how you really feel about the holiday season without coming off as a miserly curmudgeon. No one ever said they had to be decked out in colorful sprinkles or intricate icing, so why not keep it simple, classic, and versatile?
This particular recipe may just be a new staple in your repertoire. You’d never know that they’re gluten-free or vegan by their soft, toothsome texture or rich cocoa flavor. The dough comes together quickly, rolls out like a dream, and never judges you for your low spirits.
Like any good cookie dough, this one is as versatile as Christmas carols are grating.
Easily change up the flavor by switching out the extract.
A few tried-and-true additions include:
- Peppermint extract
- Almond extract
- Orange zest or extract
- Instant coffee powder
- Coarse or flaky sea salt
No cookie cutters? No problem!
You may need to cut back on the snark without such clear messaging, but you don’t need to forgo a sweet treat altogether. Simply roll out the dough as instructed, then use a sharp knife, pizza cutter, or fluted pastry cutter to slice squares or rectangles of any size. Think of this approach as the dessert equivalent of making crackers, if that procedural reference helps you visualize the steps.
Don’t succumb to the Christmas crazies. Celebrate at your own speed, even if that means staying home and keeping holiday content completely off the program. Just don’t forget to treat yourself while you’re at it. Holidays come and go, but a good recipe for chocolate cut-out cookies is forever.
Ube On My Mind
If pumpkin is for autumn, ube is for winter. Replacing subdued, smokey orange with bold shades of purple, there’s no denying that the vibrant hue alone is a huge attraction. Naturally sweet with subtle hints of vanilla and toasted nuts, ube is the clear winner when it comes to dessert. Start your annual holiday cookie platter with Ube Thumbprint Cookies, glistening like jewels in a sea of browns and whites, for a stand-out homemade gift that no one can refuse.
What is ube?
Let’s start by clarifying what ube isn’t. Ube are different from taro and purple sweet potatoes, despite the common misconception. Ube are yams, most commonly found in Filipino cuisine and particularly popular in desserts. Their vivid magenta pigmentation creates brilliantly colored treats, and as such, can be found as powdered and liquid extracts. Fresh ube can still be tricky to find in the US, which is why ube extract comes in handy for all your essential baking needs.
While most commercial ube extract does have added artificial flavoring, it’s the easiest, most accessible way to add that unmistakable essence whenever and where ever you crave it. When it comes to recipes with a delicate balance of dry and liquid ingredients, it’s the best way to infuse the goodness of ube without throwing off the texture.
What else is ube extract good for?
Once you have a bottle, the potential for ube extract is endless. It’s particularly well-suited for use in:
- Ice cream
- Frosting and icing
- Pudding and custard
- And of course, cookies!
When it comes to cut-out cookies, these are the GOAT. Easy to make, shape, and bake, this dough is a dream to work with. More importantly, the soft, tender bite and balanced sweetness makes an ideal base for any festive flavors. Beyond the ube base, put your own personalized finishing touch on each batch with any jam, marmalade, or fruit preserves you fancy. Mix and match to make every bite a little bit different!
A few fruit flavors that pair particularly well with ube are:
Put a flavorful twist on tradition this year and invite ube to your cookie swap. It won’t take long before it becomes the life of the party.
Strongly associated with robust savory flavor, AKA umami, mushrooms across the board are prized for their meaty qualities. Not all mushrooms are created equal, much like people, and some stand out as particularly unique. Candy cap mushrooms are the outliers of the fungi kingdom, delicate and fragrant, with a distinctly sweet taste. How is it possible that such earthy edibles could earn the name of “candy”? Mother Nature works in mysterious ways.
What are candy cap mushrooms?
Unless you’re an avid forager on the west coast, you’re unlikely to find fresh candy caps anytime soon. They’re fragile, highly perishable, and very difficult to cultivate. Thus, most people encounter dried candy cap mushrooms sold in specialty or gourmet grocery stores in small quantities. A little bit goes a long way, so even though it feels like a substantial investment upfront, the price constitutes a considerable value for any food explorer.
What do candy cap mushrooms taste like?
Maple syrup is the most common descriptor of the uniquely sweet flavor and aroma; woodsy, subtly nutty and smokey, with an mistakable sugary aftertaste, despite containing no quantifiable sugar content. Other notes you may detect include butterscotch, brown sugar, caramel, and fenugreek.
What’s the best way to cook with candy cap mushrooms?
Unlike their umami brethren, these mushrooms are best suited for desserts. Ice cream and custard are very popular options, since the rich cream base is a great carrier for the flavor, easy to infuse without having large mushroom chunks in the final treat. Some people simply candy the mushrooms themselves in sugar syrup for a self-contained confection. Personally, I have a hard time taking the beaten path, so I had to look farther afield to honor my rare fungi.
Chocolate gravy is a southern staple, so why not take that concept and run with it? Remove the cocoa and use candy caps for both flavor and texture; the result looks alarmingly like sausage gravy while having the unnerving essence of maple pudding.
How can you serve candy cap gravy?
It’s an ideal breakfast companion for smothering all of your favorite comforting staples, such as…
Take a walk on the wild side with foraged flavors that only nature could create.
Coming Up Roses
Time after time, across the years for decades, if not centuries, surveys have shown that recipients always prefer sweets over flowers on Mother’s Day. No contest here; whether we’re talking about a classic box of chocolate or a more elaborate dessert, appetites tend to win over aesthetics.
What if there was a way to get the best of both worlds? Give your mother and all the maternal figures in your life an edible bouquet this year, even if you’ve been sleeping on the event. These quick treats will have you seeing the situation through rose-tinted glasses. Simply wrap up apple slices infused in blushing beet syrup with flaky puff pasty for a beautiful treat that will blossom in the oven.
Versatile enough to present as a breakfast in bed, surprise midday snack, or nightcap to end the day on a high note. Just a little bit of effort goes a long way, in both baking and family relations.