Christmas Sugar Cookies

I might be a week late with these, but here’s proof that I did make Christmas cookies! :)

I excitedly drew up plans (which I did deviate from a bit) on my lunch break one day, and went to work the week before Christmas on these bad boys!

I was so excited to use pearl dust for the tree trunks. I mixed a little bit with some vodka, and just painted it on after the flood icing dried. It leaves a really pretty shimmery finish!

If you’re curious about the recipes and techniques that I use to make these happen, check out my tutorial here.

Rolled Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread is one of those cookies that is just a standard to have during the holidays. They are spicy, chewy and can be cut in cute holiday shapes! My siblings and I used to get the Little Debbie gingerbreads and fight over them at the house. :)

I decided to include these in my coworker’s baked goodies tins because they looked easy and it was something new to bake. Being that I’ve never worked with molasses, I have to admit, I thought it was going to smell like brown sugar or something similar. No way folks…this has a very different smell than imagined. In fact, I thought I had a batch of bad molasses, but I kept going with the recipe and it turns out that molasses do indeed smell unpleasant normally.

This recipe is easy to work with and yields a delicious gingerbread cookie. You will not be disappointed at all.

Rolled Gingerbread Cookies
Source: Cookie Craft

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda (if using this recipe to make a gingerbread house, omit the baking soda)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • zest of one orange
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup molasses

Directions:

  1. Cream together the butter and sugar for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and mix until blended.
  2. Put the flour, spices, baking soda, salt and orange zest in a medium bowl and whisk mixture together.
  3. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry mixture to the wet mixture until the two are well blended.
  4. Put the dough in 3 even portions, formed into a rough disk and chill the dough in the fridge for a few hours.
  5. When you are ready to bake the dough, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Cut the dough into desired shapes and place on a parchment/Silpat lined cookie sheet. ( I dipped one side of the cookie in sprinkles before placing on the cookie sheet.)
  7. Bake in the middle rack of your oven for 12-16 minutes for larger cookies; 7-9 minutes for smaller cookies or until the dough darkens a little along the edges.
  8. Cool cookies completely for decorating.

Makes about 36 3″ sized cookies, which equates to almost one double batch of sugar cookies.

Baking Gifts

Coworkers are typically difficult to buy for. In college, I would really only buy for fellow female student coworkers. It was easy…Starbucks gift cards, bath stuff, etc. When I graduated and got thrown into the real world, I was introduced to working in a primarily male field. I can’t shop for males, at all. I have enough trouble shopping for  my husband, father and brother! So, I started making edible gifts.

Last year, I bought cute Christmas chinese take-out boxes and put decorated sugar cookies, oreo truffles and chocolate covered pretzels in them. This year, I branched out from those ideas just a little bit.

I had my first adventures of making homemade peppermint marshmallows. The KA definitely was put to use here! I couldn’t have even fathomed making these last year with a $10 hand mixer.

Another recipe from Cookie Craft that I’ve been wanting to try is their rolled gingerbread cookies. These did not disappoint.

Of course, the oreo truffles made an appearance, and this time, instead of putting a bunch in one bag, I bought cutesy Christmas foils to wrap them in!

Adorable right? I love you Hobby Lobby.

Of course, here is a small picture of the packaging in action. I will say my kitchen was a big ol’ mess after this, but it was worth it! My coworkers seemed to love the goodies. Of course, the easiest recipe (oreo truffles) became the hit of the gifts!

Tutorial: The Basics of Decorated Sugar Cookies!

These cookies are usually impressive when I bring them to a party. Sure, it’s time consuming, but all in all, very easy and cheap to do yourself!

Your cookies might not come out as perfect as you would like the first time, but give it 3-4 times, and you will see your skills improve and your creative juices start flowing with new cookie ideas. (Just in time for the holidays!)

Supplies you need to decorate:

  • Wilton icing tip(s) 2 and/or 3- Ultimately, it depends on how small or detailed the cookie shape is. Tip 2 is smaller, but tip 3 doesn’t show shaky hands as easily. So either of these two work.
  • Couplers- These are great to use, because let’s say you are doing tiny details, as well as  broad outlining with white icing, you can easily change out tips when you use these, rather than having to make a whole new bag of icing.
  • Decorating Bags- Pick your poison, basically. If you are feeling green, feel free to buy a couple of reusable bags. Royal icing is VERY easy to clean, since there is no grease in the icing, so this is a good option. There are also disposable plastic or parchment triangles to use as well. I use plastic disposables, because I can deal with many colors at a time without worrying about running out of reusables.
  • Squeeze Bottles- These bottles just make working with flood icing a lot easier, in my opinion.
  • Toothpicks – These will quickly become your cookie decorating miracles, and you will see why in this post.

First, of course, you roll and cut your sugar cookies. This is my favorite recipe.

Rolled Sugar Cookies
Source: Cookie Craft

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest

Directions:

  1. Whisk the flour and salt together in a bowl.
  2. Using a mixer, cream butter and sugar together for about 2 minutes, until it is light and fluffy. Add the egg and extract/zest and mix until blended.
  3. Gradually add the flour/salt mixture to the wet mixture until the two are thoroughly combined.
  4. Divide the dough into 2-3 portions and form them into a disk shape. Then, wrap each portion in wax paper and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  5. Once chilled, roll dough out into desired shapes and place on a Silpat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-16 minutes, until cookies start to turn golden along the edges.

Then, whip up some royal icing (This is the recipe I use, and I sub 2 tsp. of almond extract for 2 tsp. of the water called for in the recipe.). Really mix it well until it gets fluffy and stops looking shiny. It takes a while, especially with a hand mixer (I’ve been there…), so if you are using a hand mixer, be prepared to mix for a good 10 minutes.

Of course, color your icing the colors you want. Flood icing is simply royal icing with a little bit more water added until it’s fairly liquidy. The best way to find out if your icing is the right consistency is to mix it well and let it drip from a spatula or whisk, into the bowl. If the icing holds its shape in the liquid for about 5 seconds, it’s good to go! Then, just pour it into your squeeze bottles.

Now that all of your icings are prepared, fill your icing bag about a quarter of the way full. This allows you to maintain good control of your icing, and overfilled bags can really be strenuous on your hands to squeeze. Depending on the complexity of the cookie, choose tip 2 or 3. Tip 2 is good for more detailed cookies, but I used tip 3 for the below cookie since the shape is fairly simple.

Then, pipe your outlines. If you happen to mess up, use a toothpick to guide the icing to the right spot. Make sure there are no gaps in your icing, because if you leave gaps, flood icing will spill right out of your cookie.

After all of your cookies are outlined, start squeezing your flood icing in.

After you squeeze a fair amount in, use a toothpick to spread icing into the corners of the cookies.


Now, your cookies should look something like this. If you have detailing to add, like I did, allow the flood icing to set for a couple of hours so that it just doesn’t sink into the flood icing.

I can’t stress this enough: Allow your cookies to dry for 24 hours. I tried 12 hours once, but one good squish crunched the flood icing in, revealing some flood icing that was still very wet underneath.

I hope this helps those of you who were curious about royal icing decorating. It’s not that bad at all, and the results are really awesome!

Cool cookies on a cooling rack.

Grandma’s All Occasion Sugar Cookies

sugarcookie

This was the final cookie that I placed in my Operation  Baking Gals box. I figured that this would serve as a good excuse to try another sugar cookie recipe. I’ve seen quite a few food bloggers use this for rolled (shaped) cookies and rave about it, but the problem I have with this recipe is that they did spread a little. Spreading wouldn’t allow a cookie to keep it’s original cutter shape, so I’m going to stick with my go-to recipe for rolled cookies.

My husband did really like these, and I will admit that they have a great flavor.  This recipe is also from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From my Home to Yours.

Grandma’s All Occasion Sugar Cookies
Source: Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking From My Home to Yours

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • sugar and/or cinnamon for dusting

Directions:

  1. Using a mixer, beat the butter until it’s fluffy. Add in the sugar and mix for 2 minutes until the mixture is pale. Add the egg and yolk and beat for another minute or two; beat in the vanilla. Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together in a separate bowl. Then, with the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture until it’s just incorporated. From then, finish mixing with a spatula until it’s mixed well.
  2. Place the dough on the counter and divide it in half. If you want to make roll-out cookies, shape each half into a disk and wrap in plastic. If you want to make slice-and-bake cookies, shape each half into a chubby sausage (the diameter is up to you-I usually like cookies that are about 2 inches in diameter) and wrap in plastic or wax paper. Whether you’re going to roll or slice the dough, it must be chilled for at least 2 hours. (Well wrapped, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)
  3. Preheat the oven to  350 °F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
  4. If you are making roll-out cookies, working with one packet of dough at a time, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper to a thickness of 0.5 cm/1/4 inch, lifting the plastic or paper and turning the dough over often so that it rolls evenly. Lift off the top sheet of plastic or paper and cut out the cookies. Pull away the excess dough, saving the scraps for rerolling, and carefully lift the dough onto the baking sheets with a spatula, leaving about 4 cm = 1 1/2 inches between the cookies. (This is a soft dough and you might have trouble peeling away the excess or lifting the cutouts; if so, cover the dough, chill it for about 15 minutes and try again.)
  5. After you’ve rolled and cut the second packet of dough, you can form the scraps into a disk, then chill, roll, cut and bake.
  6. If you are making slice-and-bake cookies, use a sharp thin knife to slice the dough into 0.5 cm = 1/4-inch-thick rounds, and place the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 4 cm = 1 1/2 inches of space between the cookies.
  7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the sheet at the midpoint. The cookies should feel firm, but they should not color much, if at all.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and dust the cookies with sugar or cinnamon sugar, if you’d like. Let them rest for 1 minute before carefully lifting them onto a rack to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

World Peace Cookies

worldpeacecookies

In addition to the snickerdoodle biscotti, I decided to make a couple of recipes from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours for my Operation Baking Gals package this month. I looked for recipes that seemed like they would keep a couple of days, and I found this one: World Peace Cookies.

I know Tuesdays with Dorie did this a while back, and the cookies looked delicious, so I decided to give this a try. I mean, what soldier wouldn’t like chocolate??

I was also glad to use this recipe as an excuse to dig into my box of salty goodness that I received from Marx Foods a while ago. They sent me a sampler of specialty sea salts for free, so I figured this recipe would be perfect to add a little coffee flavor to. Instead of the salt suggested in the recipe, I used this gorgeous espresso salt!

Thanks again, Marx Foods! I can’t wait to play with the other salts too!

espressosalt

I did try a couple of cookies, and I have to say that this is a fantastic recipe! I’m sure the soldiers I sent these to will truly enjoy them!

World Peace Cookies
Source: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (used 1/4 tsp. espresso salt)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Using a mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together in another bowl.
  2. Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the mixer to avoid flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. If there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix using a spatula only until it’s incorporated.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)
  4. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone mats.
  5. Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.
  6. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Skinny Holiday Baking: Snickerdoodle Biscotti

snickerdoodlebiscotti

Since it’s unbelievably less than 8 weeks until Christmas, I’m finding myself more and more in the mood to bake. Be sure to check this blog every Monday leading up to Christmas for some baked goods that are also SKINNY!!

I spent this weekend making another package for Operation Baking Gals, and happened to find this recipe trying to find a spiced biscotti. I was glad to find that I wouldn’t feel too guilty tasting this recipe to make sure it came out fine since this is a recipe from Cooking Light.

That being said, this was a pretty difficult dough to work with. It’s extremely crumbly, and you really have to work it well to get it to form into logs. In the end, though, this was a pretty good biscotti, and it’s definitely worth a try!

Snickerdoodle Biscotti
Source: Cooking Light (found on Recipezaar)

Ingredients:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large egg white

Directions:

  1. Preheat Oven to 350.
  2. Measure flour into a large bowl and add 1 C. Sugar, Baking powder, and salt.
  3. Mix oil, vanilla and the eggs in a small bowl and add to the large bowl, your dough will be dry and very crumbly.
  4. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead 7 or 8 times. It may take a while, but the dough will eventually come together.
  5. Divide in half. Shape each portion into a roll about 8 inches long, and place them a six or so inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Flatten each roll to 1 inch thick.
  6. Combine the 2 Tbsp. Sugar and cinnamon, then gently brush the tops of the rolls with the egg white and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  7. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove from the sheet and cool for 15 minutes.
  9. Cut diagonally into 1/2 inch slices and lay them cut sides down on the cookie sheet again.
  10. Reduce oven temp to 325 and then bake 10 more minutes, turn over and bake 10 more. They’ll be soft in the middle but will harden as they cool. Cool completely on a wire rack.

The Skinny: per serving, makes 30

Calories: 83
Fat: 1.1 g
Fiber: 0.4 g

Halloween M&M Biscotti

biscotti

Here is part 2 of the bake-palooza. I decided to make biscotti for my Operation Baking Gals package, since biscotti is a pretty sturdy cookie. I knew it would hold up well for shipping!

A few months back, when I was actively blogging for Weddingbee, I saw a fellow blogger use this recipe for making possible edible favors. I starred it, but as usual, I forget about my starred recipes. I’m obviously making it a goal of mine to look back and make these recipes!

So, I decided to give this recipe a shot. It’s a little different than my normal go-to biscotti recipe, which uses olive oil instead of butter. However, this came out beautifully. I added crushed Halloween M&M’s to make it more seasonal instead of the chocolate chips that were called for.

Chocolate Halloween M&M Biscotti
Source: Epicurious, via Weddingbee blogger, Mrs. Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (subbed 8 oz. crushed M&Ms)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate baking chips (omitted)

Directions:

  1. Line large baking sheet with double thickness of foil. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl to blend. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then vanilla. Beat in flour mixture. Stir in semisweet and white chips (or M&Ms).
  2. Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheet in two 10- to 11-inch-long strips, spacing 3 inches apart. Using metal spatula or wet fingertips, shape strips into 11- by 2 1/2-inch logs. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake logs until tops are cracked and dry and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes; cool 10 minutes.
  4. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Using foil as aid, lift logs onto work surface. Line baking sheets with clean foil. Using serrated knife, gently cut warm logs crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange half of slices, cut side down, on each prepared baking sheet. Bake biscotti until just dry to touch, about 8 minutes. Turn biscotti over. Bake until top is dry to touch, about 8 minutes. Cool on sheets.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

cookiebrownie

I think I’m pretty brilliant. I have to be. I mean, who in their right minds would join Weight Watchers the week before bake-palooza was going to happen at their house? That’s right, me. There WAS a plan here, I promise!

Bake-palooza happened this weekend for me, because I joined a team on Operation Baking Gals for the first time. I’ve been ITCHING to just have a weekend of baking bliss, and this was the perfect opportunity. My brilliance kicks in even more, because I got to give away all of this food to people I think completely deserve a little something to remind them of home. In other words, I only had one sliver out of this pan vs. eating half of the pan had it been left home with me for a couple of days b/c I felt that the box needed to be filled to the BRIM with goodies for these wonderful soldiers!

However, brilliance did meet with stupidity. Stupidity was this happy baker going to Albertson’s on a Saturday morning to get butter and eggs on sale. Not just ANY Saturday morning…the morning of an away game for LSU. Usually Saturday mornings are so slow, but no, this Saturday involved standing in long lines on Saturday morning surrounded by baskets of ribs, Doritos and LSU colored Bud Light. It took me 15 minutes of waiting in self-checkout (shortest line, or so I thought) to get out of the store, but I had my supplies in tow! I was ready to bake!

I decided to bake three things for the soldiers. This first recipe was featured on Bakerella in the beginning of the year. I’ve had this bookmarked for quite some time, but never got around to making it. I’m glad I did. These turned out to be some very sturdy (shippable) brownies, and the one sliver I tasted was so yummy!

Oh yeah, and these aren’t from scratch. Yeah, I broke a couple of rules here, but it was, after all, game day. Shortcuts needed to be taken since these were thrown together during half time!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies
Source: Betty Crocker (via Bakerella)

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Betty Crocker Original Supreme brownie mix (w/ chocolate syrup pouch)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pouch Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookie mix
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 container Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy chocolate frosting (omitted for shipping reasons)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350ºF. Spray bottom only of 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray, or grease with shortening. Make brownie mix as directed on box, using oil, water and 2 eggs. Spread in pan.
  2. Make cookie mix as directed on pouch, using butter and 1 egg. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls evenly onto brownie batter; press down lightly.
  3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from side of pan comes out almost clean. Cool on cooling rack 30 minutes. Frost with frosting. For brownies, cut into 8 rows by 6 rows.

Stay tuned for what I made after the game! :)

Baby Sheep Cookies

cookie1
My fellow blogger friend from Taste of Home Cooking is expecting a baby girl in a few short weeks!

I wanted to send them a gift card to Target, but doing only that seemed impersonal since we are both food bloggers. Looking for any excuse to bake, I decided to make her some cookies! As I was looking through my cookie cutters, I found a sheep one, and thought aww, baby sheep.

Then, the icing ideas started flowing. I ended up making a good bit, but I was picky and wanted to make sure they got the prettiest ones. My husband was anxiously awaiting the rejects, since he kept smelling almond extract throughout the day!

I made these using the recipes for cookies and royal icing from Cookie Craft. I can’t recommend this book enough! It’s so great for ideas and how-to’s. Even Bakerella recommends it! I’m not a pro, but I’m getting better with my cookie skills.

I think the mom-to-be was really surprised! Congrats! :)

cookie2