Holiday Baking: Two Breads and a Cookie

You know the thing you have to have or it just isn’t Christmas? That’s what this post is about. Every year around Christmas my mom would make Cranberry Pumpkin Bread. Nothing super-wham-a-dam fancy…just a nice, basic holiday bread…but it is so “Christmas” for me.

She would make huge batches of it…some to keep and some to give away. I can vividly remember eating it for breakfast well into January…toasted with big globs of butter on it.

I decided I was going to make multiple batches of it this year to give to my son’s teachers and to use for our family holiday goodie swap. Which was a good decision because it is so easy to make.

I just love that pumpkin color. And then when you add the bright cranberries…it screams “holidays” to me.

I baked one batch in some mini-bundt cake pans so they would look a little bit like wreaths. And if I were a better blogger, I would have remembered to take a photo of the cute little loaves BEFORE I wrapped them up as gifts. But I’m not, so I didn’t.

But you probably still get the idea, right?

Clear plastic baggies, some snowflake stickers and ribbons…

…and how cute are those little Christmas-themed brads on the gift tags? I found them in the scrapbook section at the craft store. Voila! Teacher gifts.

For my family party I baked the pumpkin bread in mini loaf pans and I also added some gingerbread cakes. I had never made this recipe before…but I figured if it didn’t work out, I could just give them the mini loaves and they wouldn’t know the difference.

This recipe is a little different from other gingerbread I’ve seen. It has crystallized ginger in it…which means the ginger flavor is more pronounced than usual. Which is great if you like ginger…and not so great if you are like my husband who said, “Too much. It’s bitter or something.”

There’s the batter, dark with molasses, and the ginger and chocolate chips being added at the end. I knew they wouldn’t be very sweet because there’s not much sugar in them…perfect batter for tea cakes. To be eaten with coffee or latte or hot cocoa or tea or whatever other hot beverage you prefer. Or even Mountain Dew, as my father suggested.

He loved them, by the way. Of course, now that I’ve shared the Mountain Dew pairing advice, you are probably skeptical about his taste. 

One thing we can all agree on – they are cute little cakes.

Once paired with the mini loaves of pumpkin bread, my family swap gifts were ready.

And I got to use more of those cute little brads on these tags, too.

That’s two breads. One old. One new. Both yummy. (Unless you are my husband, and then just one is yummy.)

Now for the cookie.

This is also a holiday tradition from my childhood. And my father’s childhood. And it’s him who makes them every year.

That’s another tradition I remember vividly…my mother trying to be nice about the mess he always made in the kitchen…she wasn’t always very successful and he always made a mess!

I’ve rarely gone without these cookies in December. Even when we lived in Seattle, I would get a little tin of them in the mail.

Aren’t they cute? You can practically pop a whole one right in your mouth. And I don’t know about you, but that’s a plus in my book. They also have a fun sort of surprising ingredient. OK, it’s not so surprising if you know the name of the cookie. Pfeffernüsse.

Well, these are a version of pfeffernüsse, anyway. Roughly translated (German, Danish, Dutch) into “peppernuts.”  There’s no shortage of different versions of these little cookies – they’ve been around forever and each family tended to have their own spin on them. More typical is the peppernut that is in a small ball, rolled in powdered sugar. My family’s version puts the powdered sugar in between in the form of icing. But they all have pepper in them. That’s right. Ground black pepper. A delightful foil to the sweet, nutty flavor of the molasses.

My father remembers getting a tin every year from his grandmother. We’ve always had them. Just isn’t Christmas without them.

MY MOM’S CRANBERRY PUMPKIN BREAD

2 slightly beaten eggs

2 cups sugar

½ cup oil

1 cup solid pack pumpkin

2 ¼ cups flour

1 TB pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 cup chopped cranberries

Combine eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin – mix well.  In a large bowl mix flour, pie spice, soda and salt.  Make well in center and pour pumpkin mixture in – mix just until dry ingredients are moist.  Stir in cranberries.  Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 8x 3 ¾ x 2 ½ in. aluminum loaf pans.  Bake for 1 hour at 350. (Adjust time to 40 minutes for mini loaf pans. Test center until done.)

CHOCOLATE GINGERBREAD TEA CAKES

2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour (or 2 cups all-purpose flour)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. each cloves and nutmeg

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup molasses

1/4 C. water

1 large egg

1 C. buttermilk

1/2 cup diced crystallized ginger

1 cup mini chocolate chips

Grease and flour a mini muffin pan. (Or a 9×9 pan) Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Melt the butter in a heatproof measuring cup. Add the molasses to the cup, and pour into the dry ingredients, mixing to moisten. Add the water, stirring until everything is moistened. Whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Stir into the batter until it’s evenly combined. Stir in the crystallized ginger and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 15-18 minutes, depending on the size of your muffins (30 to 35 minutes for a 9×9 pan) or until the cake just begins to pull away from the edge of the pan. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

PFEFFERNÜSSE (PEPPERNUTS)

1 cup sugar

1 cup molasses

1 cup butter (1/2 lb.)

1 cup hot water

1 tsp. baking soda

1 scant tsp. ground black pepper

1 scant tsp. cloves

1 scant tsp. ginger

1 scant tsp. salt

about 5 cups flour

Put baking soda in hot water. Cream sugar, molasses, butter together. Add soda water mixture. Mix well. Add sifted dry ingredients (pepper, cloves, ginger, salt.) Then add enough flour for a spoon to stand. (Usually about 5 cups.) Let batter stand overnight in refrigerator.

Roll and cut into small circles. Bake 6 minutes at 400 degrees.

ICING

½ cup soft butter, margarine, or shortening

1/8 tsp. salt

About 3 cups sifted confectioners sugar

About 1/8 – 1/4 cup milk or light cream

1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Mix butter, salt, vanilla and 1 cup sugar at medium speed. Add milk and rest of sugar alternately until very smooth. Spread icing on half of cookies and make into sandwiches.

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2 thoughts on “Holiday Baking: Two Breads and a Cookie

  1. Jennifer Rieck

    Your Dad has given us those cookies in the past. They are good!

    I’ve tried two new pumpkin bread recipes this year but always seem to prefer my old standby but I’ll try yours next time I make some. I always make some for our neighbor across the street — she loves it.

    Thanks!

    Merry Christmas Jen!

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