Baby Sheep Cookies

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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! :)

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Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies

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I love Oatmeal Raisin cookies. It’s one of those things that makes me feel like I’m eating a healthy cookie, but I’m sure with all the butter, it’s not so healthy after all. I saw this recipe on Picky Palate’s blog, and I had to immediately star it in my Google Reader. I LOVE that Raisinets combines the idea of Oatmeal Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin cookies. These were another cookie that I brought over for labor day and they were definitely enjoyed! This is such a yummy cookie, and I will definitely be making these again.

Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies
Source: Picky Palate

Ingredients

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 Cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 1 1/2 Cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup quick oats
  • (2) 3.5 oz boxes Raisinets

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place butter and sugars into a stand or electric mixer; beat until light and fluffy. With mixer on medium add egg and vanilla until well combined.
  2. Place flour, soda, salt and oats into a large bowl. Slowly add to wet ingredients until just combined. Add raisinets; stir to combine, being careful not to crush the raisinets.
  3. With a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

Sugar Cookies

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Happy Labor Day everyone!

While I do enjoy decorating sugar cookies, sometimes the hubs and I crave a chewy sugar cookie. I wanted to make these for the hubs and his family for Labor Day and thanks to a recommendation from Bridget of The Way the Cookie Crumbles, I think this will be our go-to recipe for sugar cookies!

This was originally a recipe for Snickerdoodles, but all I needed to do was omit the cinnamon (another tip from Bridget) and we were set. I was a little skeptical about no vanilla extract, but I trusted the recipe and it still had a really good flavor.

Sugar Cookies
adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles (via Betty Crocker’s Big Red Cookbook)

Ingredients

  • 2¾ cups (13.75 ounces) unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar minus 1 tablespoon (10.35 ounces total)
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar (for rolling)

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk the flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Beat butter and sugars (except the ¼ cup granulated sugar for rolling) until creamy; add eggs and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.
  3. Mix ¼ cup sugar and the cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out cookies and roll into a ball; roll ball in sugar. Repeat with remaining dough, placing balls 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet.
  4. Bake until cookies are just set and turning golden brown at edges, 10-12 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 2 minutes; then, using a wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

After baking 2 dozen of the cookies, I decided to stop baking and freeze the rest for another day. Yet another reason I love my FoodSaver. So easy to just bag and freeze!

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Conquered THE CHEWY!

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One of my favorite Food Network shows is Good Eats. I’m a science geek, and I love how Alton goes into the science and details of why things cook/bake up the way they do. I especially love baking, so when I saw the episode when Alton made the different varieties of the ever so popular Chocolate Chip cookies, I knew I had to try one. I love chewy cookies the most, so naturally, that’s what I went with!

Unfortunately, the first time I made these, something went terribly wrong. The Chewy baked up SUPER flat and greasy. I’m not one to give up, so I decided to try again. This time, being very careful and mindful about each step. (I’m usually not so cautious with cookies!) This time, they baked up super well and I sampled 1 2 of them. They get a thumbs up from me!

The Chewy
Source: Alton Brown

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
  3. Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Chill the dough (I chilled for 2 hours), then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets with a #20 sized scoop, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes (mine took 12 minutes) or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

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This is one of the no-fail recipes that I like to refer back to for Chocolate Chip Cookies. I tried making Alton Brown’s The Chewy before, but something went TERRIBLY wrong with it and they all turned out flat. (Alton, don’t worry, I will try your recipe again.)

So, when my nephew showed his mad swimming skills last weekend, I promised him his favorite cookie. Without hesitation, he said CHOCOLATE! So, I made these cookies for him and they were a hit!

I posted about these cookies before, so definitely give this recipe a shot next time you are in the mood for some yummy CCC’s!

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Save the Tatas!

I haven’t touched royal icing in months. There was a reason though. My hand mixer had settings of fast and faster. It really grated my nerves when I had to make this icing, because it would result in large powdered sugar clouds that took over my kitchen, resulting in the need to REALLY clean our kitchen. (I’m talking on my hands and knees because the floor was so sticky!)

So, now I have my precious KA mixer from my grandmother as a wedding gift. I was mentioning to my best friend that I needed a reason to bake, because I really wanted to break my mixer in. She said I could make her sugar cookies (she was joking). I wasn’t — so I now have the task of making her 2 dozen breast cancer awareness cookies.

Let’s just say icing making in the KA mixer is a DREAM. In fact, it’s making me want to enroll in Wilton Course 3, to finish off the series. (I took 1, 2 and 4 already…there are cake examples in this blog if you’re interested!)

I used my no-fail recipe from the ever-so-wonderful Cookie Craft book. I don’t like to share recipes out of books, because of potential copyright infringement. I don’t want to get in any kind of trouble here!

However, just to let you know, I highly recommend this to anyone needing inspiration and ideas for making pretty rolled cookies. I used the royal icing recipe from the Wilton website.

Pardon my icing skills, by the way, I’m VERY rusty!

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Wish me luck on shipping these bad boys to Dallas. I’m going to be using some tips that I starred from The Hyper Homemaker’s blog (which is no longer up, sadly, but will always be handy in my Google reader!).

Spring Funfetti Cookies

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Here is how behind I am on posts. I made these for Easter. Yeah….sorry!

My mom used to make these ALL the time when I was a kid. They were our favorite! In fact, I remember we would all take boxes of funfetti and throw them in the cart, only to get busted by mom.

Anyway, this is an extremely simple recipe and tastes pretty amazing from a mix, if I do say so myself! :)

Even DH (then FI) couldn’t stop eating them! That’s a success story right there!!

Funfetti Cookies
Source: Pillsbury.com

1 pkg. Pillsbury Funfetti cake mix
1/3 cup of oil
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until thoroughly moistened.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls, and place 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.

Bake for 6-8 minutes or until the edges are a light golden brown.

Cuccidati (Italian Fig Cookies)

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(Yeah, those are Christmas sprinkles. I was too lazy to go get regular nonpareils!!)

These are my ultimate childhood memory. I love these cookies more than words can say, and I heavily depended on one bakery to give me these cookies 364 days/year.  The other day, March 19, I could depend on a St. Joseph’s altar for these tasty treats. My dad is half Sicilian, so of course, he got me stuck on italian cookies early on.

I decided around Christmas to look up this recipe, because I wanted a challenge in baking. If it didn’t work out, I still had my trusty Italian bakery. If it did, though, there would definitely be a mini-baking victory in order! Let’s just say  there’s a mini-baking victory in order! These cookies came out JUST like the ones I know to love!

Cuccidati
Source: Gourmet through Epicurious

Ingredients

For filling

  • 1 cup packed soft dried Mission figs (8 oz), hard tips discarded
  • 3/4 cup raisins (3 3/4 oz)
  • 3/4 cup mild honey
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest (used Meyer Lemon zest)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (for next time, this will be omitted.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup whole almonds (4 oz), toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup walnuts (3 oz), toasted and coarsely chopped
    **For the nuts, I toasted and food processed them into a powder, since I never noticed nuts in cuccidati filling before.**

For pastry dough

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange or lemon zest

For icing
(didn’t use this for the recipe. The cuccidati that I’ve eaten have only had nonpareils on them.)

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • Garnish: multicolored nonpareils

Directions:

Make filling:

  • Pulse figs and raisins (and nuts) in a food processor until finely chopped, then stir together with remaining filling ingredients in a bowl. Chill, covered, at least 8 hours.

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Look at those pretty dried figs.

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Fig filling. Mmm…

Make dough:

  • Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and blend with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Add eggs, milk, vanilla, and zest and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms. Halve dough and gather each half into a ball, then flatten each half into a rough 6- by 4-inch rectangle between sheets of plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least 8 hours.

Form cookies:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Roll out 1 rectangle of dough (keep remaining dough chilled) into a 15- by 14-inch rectangle on a well-floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Trim to a 13- by 10-inch rectangle (chill trimmings), then cut into 4 (10- by 3 1/4-inch) strips. Arrange 1/3 cup filling in a 1-inch-wide log lengthwise down center of each strip, then fold sides of each strip up over filling to enclose it, pinching edges together to seal. Turn rolls seam-sides down and press gently to flatten seams. Cut logs crosswise with a floured knife into 1 1/2-inch-wide slices and arrange 1/2 inch apart on buttered large baking sheets. Make more cookies in same manner with remaining chilled dough, trimmings (reroll once), and filling.

**Just a note. This dough becomes very sticky when room temperature. So roll this dough out as quickly as possible. I did this between wax paper sheets, flipping the dough often. **

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Adding fillingimg_7277
Rolling dough
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Slicing cookies

  • Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven until golden around edges, 16 to 20 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool until warm, about 10 minutes. Make icing while cookies bake.
  • Whisk together confectioners sugar, vanilla, and enough orange juice to make a pourable icing.
  • Brush icing on warm cookies and decorate with nonpareils (if using), then cool completely.

Notes:

• Filling can be made 1 week ahead and chilled, covered.

• Dough can be chilled, wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil, up to 3 days.

• Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment paper, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.

I’m submitting this post to this month’s Tasty Tools events from Joelen’s Culinary Adventures! Go check out her blog for other fun challenges!!

Foodie Christmas Presents!!

This Christmas, I decided to give a bunch of homemade presents. I love the thought of gifting something that is homemade. It feels more personal, and who hates food?

For some family members, I gave spice baskets with homemade vanilla extract and sugar. For the extract, I found very reasonably priced bottles (that you didn’t have to buy in bulk or pay a TON for shipping, since they were glass) at American Spice Company, and I simply used mason jars for the vanilla sugar. To give it a cuter touch, I purchased label sheets at Office Depot and designed the labels for them myself. Check them out!

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I also made some homemade peppermint bark to put in the baskets. This is very simple…just place some parchment on a rimmed baking sheet and pour in melted semi-sweet or milk chocolate. Pour melted white chocolate on top (and swirl a little, if you’d like). Then, before the chocolate hardens, sprinkle crushed candy canes on top. Once everything hardens, break the bark off into large chunks and place in bags.

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I thought that my family would enjoy some spice mixes, and I decided to give them our favorites from Penzeys: Northwood seasoning and BBQ 3000.

As for our coworkers, I baked sugar cookies using this recipe. I would say this book is a definite read for anyone who is interested in learning to decorate cookies! I adapted it to add almond extract, in addition to the vanilla extract and lemon rind called for in the recipe. It gave the cookies more of a sugar cookie flavor and less of a butter cookie flavor. This was the first homemade sugar cookie recipe that my fiance loved too! I FINALLY ended the search for the perfect recipe! :)

This recipe barely spread, allowing the cookies to keep their great crisp shape. It also rolled VERY easily. I never had a sticking problem, which is something I experienced with some previous recipes.

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To show how well they hold their shape, the cookies on the left are not cooked, while the ones on right are cooked.

I also made candy bark coated pretzels with Christmas M&Ms on top. This was a SUPER easy recipe. Just melt candy melts or bark, spoon into the middle of the store bought pretzels (laid out on wax or parchment paper) and top with 3 M&M’s.
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Last, but not least, I made the infamous Oreo Truffles. To make more, I used 1/2 tsp. as a measuring tool for how big the truffles should be. These made a more decent sized truffle, and I made about 80 with the recipe this time.

Then, I put each treat in holiday cellophane bags, as pictured.

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These went in cute little holiday take-out boxes that I found at Michael’s for $1 each. I absolutely love how these all came out! They were also well-received, so I’m definitely going to keep making edible gifts for future holidays!
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Chocolate Shot Cookies

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The What’s Cooking board recently had a Holiday Treat recipe exchange. Thanks so much to Tara from Smells Like Home for organizing this!! I submitted the cranberry white chocolate pistachio biscotti I recently made, and received this interesting recipe for Chocolate Shot cookies.

The original submitter, The Milkman’s Wife of Milk & Honey mentioned that while these cookies don’t seem like much, they are amazing. I was really surprised! These are thin little cookies with a nice crunch and taste to them. You can’t even tell there is oatmeal in them!!

Chocolate Shot Cookies
Source: The Milkman’s Wife’s mom, Nadine M.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup uncooked oatmeal (rolled oats or quick oats – whichever you prefer)
  • Chocolate sprinkles for rolling

Directions:

  1. With electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar, beating until fluffy. Add vanilla and mix until combined.
  2. Stir together the flour and baking soda; add to butter mixture, beat until combined. Stir in oatmeal and mix well. Chill dough for a half hour. Shape dough into log and roll in chocolate sprinkles. (so that when you slice the cookies you have a border of chocolate sprinkles around the edges of every cookie)
  3. Slice cookies about ¼ inch thick and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.