Guess what? Finals are over! Winter break is here, and all that is left of the year is to await Christmas with bated breath.
(It really is the most wonderful time of the year.)
To kick things off, this week we have a twist on a holiday classic. I used make gingerbread houses every single year from those awful box kits when I was little – the early days of the fancy dessert obsession. Granted, there was nothing awful about the building part of the operation (except for maybe the cleanup bit), but inevitably, after a week of oohing and ahhing over my beloved(ly lopsided) creation, I would bite the bullet, literally, pry off the roof, take a bite, and promptly spit it back out.
As guilty as I feel about wasting food, cookies were just not meant to sit in a cardboard box for that long and still be deemed fit for human consumption. I don’t know what Hansel and Gretel were thinking – a gingerbread house really isn’t really worth risking death by child-eating witch.
To circumvent my protesting conscience, this year I’m doing a throwback to the gingerbread houses of ye olde days (fun fact – “ye” is actually just “the” because of the way antiquated letters rendered in print) in caramel gingerbread trifle form. Gone are the sad stale walls of old, making way for crispy-chewy gingersnaps paired with caramel cheesecake filling and vanilla whipped cream. You also get to serve it in extra fancy wine glasses for individual-sized portions.
Also, you get a ton of leftover cookie dough (because it’s just awkward to write a recipe around half an egg) to theoretically bring to a cookie swap (I’ve never heard of anyone actually going to a cookie swap, even though it’s a thing that is rumored to exist?) or binge on during your Christmas movie marathon. Your call!
So as you’re building your gingerbread village of dreams this year (or not), whip up a batch of caramel gingerbread trifles for something a little fancier than laser cut biscuits stuffed into a box probably back in February to get your ginger cookie fix. Your taste buds will thank you. Hope you enjoy!
Caramel Gingerbread Trifle
Makes 2 individual trifles
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup (1 1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup crystallized ginger pieces
Granulated sugar and ground ginger for rolling
Caramel Cheesecake Filling:
4 oz cream cheese, regular or low fat
8 soft caramel candies
1/2 cup + 3 tbs heavy cream
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 tbs granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 soft caramel candies
1/4 cup heavy cream
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
- In a stand mixer or with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until fully incorporated.
- Mix in the flour mixture into the liquid ingredients until fully incorporated, then fold in the crystallized ginger.
- Wrap the dough in saran wrap and chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 375 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- After chilling, form the dough into small balls about 1.5″ in diameter. Mix about 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tbs ground ginger in a shallow plate, and roll each of the dough balls to cover with the ginger sugar.
- Space out the cookie dough balls about 2″ apart from one another on the lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes until the edges are firm but the center is still slightly soft. Set aside to cool, then crumble about 6 of the cookies and set aside for assembly!
Tip: This recipe makes about 36 cookies, which is way more than you need for the trifles. Fortunately, the cookie dough freezes really well, so feel free to bake up just 6 for the trifles (or more for a little snack) and freeze the pre-chilled cookie dough balls before rolling in the ginger sugar in a quart size freezer bag for a rainy day.
Caramel Cheesecake Filling:
- In the microwave, melt together the caramel candies and 3 tbs heavy cream in 15 second intervals to form a mixture with the consistency of honey. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more cream to thin it out. Allow the caramel mixture to cool completely.
- In a stand mixer or with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add in the cooled caramel mixture and beat until fully incorporated.
- In another bowl, use an electric mixer to whip the remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream to firm peaks. At this stage, when you lift out the beaters, you should see peaks with small tips that curl over slightly.
- In 2 additions, fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until fully incorporated. Set aside for assembly!
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, whip together the cream and sugar until the mixture holds stiff peaks. At this point, when you lift out the beaters, you should see sharp peaks that do not curl over.
- Load about 1/3 of the whipped cream into a piping bag with a closed star tip (I used the Wilton 2D), leaving the remaining whipped cream in the bowl. Set aside for assembly!
- In the microwave, melt together the caramel candies and heavy cream in 15 second intervals until fully dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly for assembly!
- Using a large wine glass (or serving vessel of your choice), add about 1/4 of the cookie crumbs to the bottom of each wine glass. Add on a thick layer of the caramel cheesecake filling, then a thick layer of whipped cream from the bowl.
- Repeat, adding a second layer of gingersnaps, then caramel cheesecake filling, leveling out the top of each wine glass with a large metal spatula.
- Using the piping bag, pipe a small swirl of whipped cream on top of each filled wine glass, then drizzle on the caramel with a small spoon. Enjoy!