Thanksgiving is merely a few weeks away and we gotta get ready! Today I couldn’t be more excited to share these Cacio e Pepe Mashed Potatoes with you all. They’re buttery, peppery, slightly tart and utterly perfect.
For this post, I teamed up with Le Creuset!! Woohoo! I have always loved my Le Creuset cookware and have used it all up on this blog over and over and over again. Le Creuset is truly my kitchen ally. I love it for numerous reasons but here are just a few:
– My Le Creuset cookware is incredibly multi-functional. I use the Dutch ovens to make everything from arroz con pollo to soups to—in this case—boiling potatoes.
– Since Le Creuset is so beautiful, it’s easy to take it from oven or stove directly to the table.
– The enamel coating on the inside of their cookware make them super easy to clean. A few light scrubs and BOOM…squeaky clean, looking like new!
In this post, I’m using their gorgeous Dutch oven in the color Truffle. And while I absolutely think it’s possible to put the Dutch oven on the table, it was a bit dark inside and wasn’t photographing the way I wanted so I transferred it to the 2 1/4-quart braiserin Persimmon.
These fall colors are a gorgeous addition to my Thanksgiving autumnal table.
I think it’s time to jump into the mood!
What is Cacio e Pepe?
Let’s tackle the basics: Cacio e Pepe which literally translates to “cheese and pepper.” It’s a dish that hails from Rome, italy and it’s typically super simple. It involves a bucatini pasta tossed in a simple sauce of Pecorino Romano, black pepper, salt and starch water from boiling the pasta. It’s ridiculously simple but like all simple dishes, the technique and precision is everything.
These Chocolate Cardamom Morning Rolls are it!
The autumn shift is happening all around us! Pumpkins and gourds are starting to show up at the markets, watermelon is now very bland and lacks any sort of sweetness, melons are slowly fading, and while LA has temperatures that are still kicking, there have been a few mornings that have felt brisk. Autumn is so close!
I wanted to kick this season off with these Chocolate Cardamom Morning Rolls with Artisan Collection by Nestlé® Toll House®. Their two luxurious options are: Extra Semi-Sweet and Extra Dark. Both are really delicious. I’ve used them in a few baked goods and the chocolate is rich and has amazing deep flavor. These baking chips are made from single-origin chocolate from Ghana and are available now! Ghana is fortunate in having wonderful rich soil, making it ideal for its top exporter: cocoa beans. The chocolate is really high-quality and pairs with all sorts of flavors like caramel, walnuts, cinnamon, honey and more!
I love this Coquito Cake so much!
Let’s start with the basics:
What is coquito?
Coquito is often described as a Puerto Rican eggnog but I’ve always felt like that comparison doesn’t do it justice. First of all, it’s MUCH better than eggnog. And secondly, it usually doesn’t have egg in it (some families’ recipes do use egg, but most don’t).
Coquito is a coconut-based drink that usually has sweetened condensed milk, regular milk, lots of rum and a hint of spices like cinnamon and cloves.
My family is not Puerto Rican so I didn’t have it until I was a teenager, living in South Florida. I remember someone handing it to me at a party and I was like, DANG WHAT IS THIS?!?!
It’s way better than eggnog in my opinion. The texture and weight is way lighter than eggnog (my usual issue with drinking it), which I love. The combination of rum and coconut is just the best, especially with the spices added in.
Now, Let’s Incorporate Coquito Flavors Into a Cake!
I took those flavors and implemented them into this cake! I thought of doing a tres leches but I’ve made a lot of tres leches cakes in the past so I was looking to do something a lil’ different.
This cake is kind of like a soaking cake because of the rum syrup that is brushed it on top. When we were developing this cake, we sort of asked ourselves, How do we put the rum into it? We thought about a lot of options but none of them sounded all that great. Soaking it in a rum syrup sounded like the absolute best way. The butter in the rum syrup, adds a nice gentle richness. It’s like a buttered rum…but not.
The sheet cake itself is a nice fluffy coconut cake that uses coconut cream (a must in coquito). I used the brand Goya. This can is usually sold at liquor stores (a lot of mixed drinks use cream of coconut) or you can check any grocery store in the Hispanic Section.
I also used coconut extract because it really packs that coconut flavor punch that we love so much. (I tested it without the coconut extract and the flavor didn’t come through enough; you really need that!)
Let’s make a Cozy Gingerbread House!
Did you ever have a Barbie Dream House? I think I asked for one for my eighth birthday (if I remember correctly) and I imagined myself being a grown-up in it. I had dogs (of course), I had a husband (Ken) whose head I shaved because I thought his blonde hair was ugly (I dunno) and a few kids who were ok. But most importantly, I had a pool with a slide and a trampoline. I also had a siqqq car that was bright pink that I’d use to pick up my friends so we could go to the movies and Disneyland.
When I got the insane idea that I should built a gingerbread house, I started to think: What should it look like? What should it include?
I remembered my Barbie Dream House and decided maybe that should be my inspo? I decided to leave out people because I don’t think I can make realistic versions of gingerbread humans.
Let’s start from the beginning…
What You Need to Build a Gingerbread House!
The first step to making my gingerbread house was planning the dimensions like the architect that I AM NOT.
I started crunching numbers and ended up using old Amazon boxes that were in the recycling for my templates. And XACTO knife comes in real handy in this instance.
Making Dough for a Gingerbread House
Erin McDowell’s recipe is by far the best. I thought about developing my own recipe but I was short on time. And honestly, hers works wonderfully, no surprise there. It’s fragrant, gingery and perfectly spiced with ground ginger and brown sugar, resulting in perfect gingerbread house pieces. I made extra dough to make my life easier and I didn’t regret doing so!
I happened to have shortening in my pantry because of these biscuits and it ended up making life SO much easier. I surprisingly had all of these ingredients in my pantry and just whisked the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, spices) on hand before and then combined it with the shortening–super easy! Her tips, btw, are absolutely brilliant. She over-bakes her gingerbread to make it sturdier. I did the same and I found that really helped, too.
Another great thing with this dough is you can make it ahead of time. Just be sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge or freezer.
If you like, you can roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment, but I had luck just rolling it out with a bit of flour and a rolling pin.
Royal Icing Is Important
Royal icing will act like the glue between the gingerbread house walls. It’ll also act like glue to stand up a corgi, trees, or whatever else. Royal icing is typically egg white and powdered sugar, beaten together until light and fluffy. But I frankly refuse to do it that way and instead opt for meringue powder. You can find it at any craft store like Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. I prefer it over egg whites because it’s much neater and skips a huge step (separating eggs).
You can make royal icing ahead and store it in the fridge in an airtight container. Just be sure to bring it back to room temperature and give it a good stir before adding it to any piping bag.
I decided on an almond-shingled roof. I LOVE the results.
If you’re interested in a true zen experience, glue on a million perfectly slivered almonds for two hours. Truth be told, I actually enjoy these types of things. I mediate and zone out and think about my life. Sometimes I even cry—it’s fun! These roof pieces ended up being total stunners and highly recommend them!
Creating Stain-Glass Windows!
Last minute I felt like I needed to create some dimension and lure to the cozy gingerbread house so I cut out some windows on each side of the house and the front.
I baked the sides of the house FIRST and then filled a few of the windows on the side and in the front with crushed up Jolly Ranchers.
I baked them for maybe around 5 to 6 minutes and the Jolly Ranchers ended up melting in the oven and making the prettiest pink windows.
Making an Edible Pool!
The pool is made from gingerbread dough that I cut out into an oval. I filled it with a piece of foil and crushed blue Jolly Ranchers to replicate the look of frozen water. I added a diving board because that’s what I would want in my own backyard.
Building Amelia’s Dog House!
Amelia’s Dog House is obviously just for show because she wouldn’t think of ever sleeping outside. She prefers to sleep on beds and pillows. But it is cute. I used this gingerbread mini house cookie cutter.