’Tis the season to tie on your apron, crank up the holiday tunes and do some serious baking. These desserts are designed to be shared, so embrace the holiday maxim “It is better to give than to receive.” Not to worry: You’ll receive plenty of compliments for these cheery confections.
Bridie McCulla / Executive Pastry Chef
3211 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
Toasty Apricot Cookies
Servings: 24 to 28
Start to finish: 1 hour
Patrons of the coffee shop and its award-winning pastry program will recognize these jammy thumbprint cookies. With a bull’s-eye of sunny apricot preserves and rich with toasty tones, they are sure to warm you up from the inside out on a cold winter’s day.
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons wheat germ
11/4 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
21/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup apricot jam
Preheat oven to 325°F. Place wheat germ on a rimmed baking sheet, and toast in preheated oven until golden brown and nutty smelling, about 7 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Set wheat germ aside to cool.
Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until it’s semi-glossy and holds peaks. Add sugar, and beat on medium-high speed until butter and sugar are light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract until fully combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, toasted wheat germ and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, and beat on low speed until just combined. The cookie dough should clump easily, but it shouldn’t be sticky to the touch.
Scoop dough in rounded tablespoons, and roll into balls. Flatten into pudgy disks, and press an indentation into the center of each cookie with your thumb, smoothing edges with your hands if necessary. Arrange cookies 11/2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Fill indentation in center of each cookie with a small amount of apricot jam. Bake at 325°F until edges of cookies turn golden brown but centers are still pale, about 15 minutes, rotating pan after 8 minutes.
Transfer cookies to a wire rack, and let cool before serving.
Katherine Thompson / Pastry Chef and Owner
124 N. Washington St., Falls Church
Eggnog Panna Cotta
Start to finish: 35 minutes, plus 8 hours chilling time
Thompson’s goal is to take classic Italian dishes and reimagine them through an American lens. Case in point is this eggnog-inspired panna cotta that is packed with warming spices, hiding a splash of bourbon and tarted up with candied cranberries. It’s definitely not a dessert your nonna would make, but that’s the point.
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup fresh cranberries
Eggnog Panna Cotta
11/2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
11/4 cups creme fraiche
1 tablespoon bourbon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 Biscoff or speculoos cookies, crumbled
MAKE THE CANDIED CRANBERRIES: In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until sugar has dissolved, and remove pan from heat. Add cranberries, and stir to coat in syrup. Return pan to very low heat, and cook until cranberries are soft but not bursting, about 5 minutes. Do not allow mixture to boil. Transfer cranberries and syrup to a heatproof container. Let cool; cover and chill until ready to serve.
MAKE THE EGGNOG PANNA COTTA: Place 1/4 cup heavy cream in a small bowl. Sprinkle with powdered gelatin. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes to soften; stir with a fork to break up clumps.
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine remaining 11/4 cups heavy cream, sugar, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon, and cook, stirring regularly. Add gelatin mixture, and stir to combine. Do not allow mixture to boil.
Place creme fraiche, bourbon and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Pour hot cream mixture over creme fraiche mixture, and whisk together until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Divide mixture among 6 individual glass serving containers, such as highball glasses. Let cool. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
To serve, garnish panna cotta with a tablespoon or two of candied cranberries in syrup. Sprinkle generously with cookie crumbs.
Salis Holdings / Sidekick Bakery
Vincent Griffith / Corporate Pastry Chef
4238 Wilson Blvd., Suite 1130, Arlington
Holiday Salted Caramel Yule Log
Makes 2 large Yule logs
Start to finish: 3 hours, 40 minutes
The holidays are a good time to tackle a dramatic baking project to wow your family and friends. These showstopping Yule logs will definitely compel your loved ones to take a picture before they take a bite. Packed with decadent salted caramel buttercream and enrobed with dark chocolate ganache, expect posts about them to be hashtagged #bestdessertever.
Vanilla Roulade Cake
Nonstick cooking spray
13 egg yolks
6 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3½ egg whites
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons bread flour, sifted
Salted Caramel Buttercream
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup store-bought caramel sauce, such as Ghirardelli
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Dark Chocolate Ganache Glaze
8 gelatin sheets
31/3 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
¾ cup cocoa powder
¾ cup heavy cream
MAKE THE VANILLA ROULADE CAKE: Preheat oven to 400°F. Line an 18-by-13-inch sheet pan with parchment paper, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed, beat egg yolks, 3 tablespoons sugar and vanilla extract until thick and light in color, about 10 minutes. Transfer whipped egg yolk mixture to a large bowl.
Clean mixing bowl and whisk attachment. Add egg whites to bowl, and beat on medium speed until frothy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until medium peaks form.
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold one-third of beaten egg whites into whipped egg yolk mixture. Gently fold in remaining egg whites. Gently fold in bread flour.
Using an offset spatula, very gently spread batter evenly into prepared sheet pan. Bake in preheated oven until cake springs back to the touch, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating pan after 4 minutes.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on top of cake, and place a sheet pan on top of parchment paper. Flip cake upside down to unmold it. Let cool.
MAKE THE SALTED CARAMEL BUTTERCREAM: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter on high speed until fluffy and light, 5 to 6 minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle during the process.
Reduce mixer speed to low. With mixer running, add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, scraping down the bowl and paddle between each addition.
Add vanilla, caramel sauce and salt. Beat until fully incorporated. Increase speed to medium; beat 2 minutes. Set aside until you’re ready to assemble the Yule log.
If you’re not using the salted caramel buttercream right away, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. When you’re ready to use it, bring it back to room temperature and rewhip until it’s a creamy, soft consistency.
MAKE THE DARK CHOCOLATE GANACHE GLAZE: Soak gelatin sheets in a medium bowl filled with ice-cold water until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Squeeze out excess water, and set gelatin aside.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, water, cocoa powder and heavy cream, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly to ensure mixture does not burn.
Add gelatin to pan with sugar mixture; stir until gelatin has fully dissolved. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool. (Glaze should be about 90°F when you pour it over the cake.)
ASSEMBLE THE YULE LOGS: Place cooled vanilla roulade cake on the counter or on a flat cutting board surface. Spread salted caramel buttercream evenly over entire cake. Cut cake in half lengthwise. Roll each cake half into a very tight roll. Place cakes on plates or on a platter, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze 2 to 4 hours.
Place a wire cooling rack on a sheet pan, and transfer frozen cake rolls to rack.
Pour dark chocolate ganache glaze over cake rolls to cover thoroughly and evenly. Let ganache set, and allow cake to soften to room temperature before serving.