Four Fabulous Treats, One Fabulous Source / by Julie Schumacher

I've said it at least 101 times but the recipes Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks shares are so spot on delightful that I regularly scoot on over there whenever I need something that is juuust right (plus she's a photographer and a traveler, I do think we'd be great pals).To compliment the pomegranate bark and spiced apple caramels, I went with three favorites and a new adventure in baking: saffron.

saffron

Saffron vanilla cookies

A last minute find in my continuing obsession with savory elements infused in sweet. The flavor is really unexpected. Well, it's not unexpected if you know saffron well but it is still surprising to taste something so earthy and still very much a cookie.

I balked at first because, holy dang, saffron can be expensive as can vanilla beans. But Trader Joe's has reasonable enough vanilla beans and adorably cute corked jars of saffron that I then used for gifts. Winner! Plus you get to use a mortar & pestle. PLUS they are just the most divine hue. And they're great to freeze for future use. They bake large, which makes them seem even more decadent.

The instructions are long, but don't let the length of the recipe scare you, these were surprisingly easy to make, though you do need a candy thermometer.

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Another savory surprise anytime I make it is Heidi's Rosemary Olive Oil Bread with Dark Chocolate.

I make it in two regular loaf pans. This is constant delight for fall and winter...rich and decadent but not overly sweet. (Pretty please ignore the travel dent...the tupperware of cranberries got too cozy in the car ride.) I love decorating that round wooden cutting board with big springs of rosemary.

cupcakes

Ginger Cupcake with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

My tips:

  • I follow Heidi's recommendation and don't use crystallized ginger in the frosting. I like it to be super smooth and lovely.
  • Cutting crystallized ginger is a bear. I've read that keeping your chef's knife sprinkled with sugar can keep it from getting gloopy. I beg my husband to chop it as he doesn't seem to get infuriated like I do. So, sugar or spouse. You pick.
  • Make them just a dash more decadent by using extra crystallized ginger for a sculptural finish.

cranberriesSparkling Cranberries

These have been a go-to for holiday parties for me for a couple years. So easy, so sparkly. And eating them is this incredible head-on collision of sugar and tart. Yum! My only recommendation is to buy more cranberries than you need. Because you are eating them individually (and not baked in something that may forgive some sins) you want to sort and sort aggressively, getting rid of any that you wouldn't want to eat yourself.

Enjoy y'all! Any of these are worthwhile efforts for a holiday event.

Kelly's macaron post will be up on Thursday....I know you're excited!