December 10: Snowflake Meringue Cookies

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An easy recipe even JDub can’t screw up. I brought some to the beauty parlor (yes, I’m 80) yesterday, and these were my manicurist’s favorite.

Except, they are supposed to be shaped like snowflakes.

And I’m still not that good with a decorator bag.

Nailed it.

So I settled for wreathes. Yes, white wreaths. Deal with it.

Snowflake Meringue Cookies
(from The Spirit of Christmas Cookbook, Volume 4)

Ingredients:

4 egg whites
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 t. almond extract
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. cream of tartar
decorating sugar

Directions:

1. Cover baking sheets with waxed paper.
2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add powdered sugar, almond extract, cinnamon, and cream of tartar; beat until very stiff.
3. Spoon meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a small star tip. Make snowflake design. Add decorating sugars.
4. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

My notes:

Well, sure, you can let them sit at room temperature…for 24 hours. I did one batch like that. The rest, I got impatient and used my oven on the lowest setting for 5 minutes, then turned off the oven and let the cookies rest.

Oh, and these are very fragile. The tin fell off the counter, and now I have meringue wreath bits to give people.

Stats:

This batch: 152 cookies
Total so far: 567

December 9: Peanut Butter Blossoms

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Yes, yes, the iconic peanut butter cookie with the Hershey Kiss in the middle. It’s just not Christmas unless these bad boys are in a tray.

Because I promised my new friend Alex some gluten free cookies this year, I made half the batch with gluten free flour. Normally, you’re supposed to use Xantham, too, but I figured these cookies have enough grease in them to keep them together without it. That, and I don’t have the foggiest idea where to buy Xantham.

Two different bowls for regular and gluten free cookies. First ingredient in gluten free flour? Garbanzo bean flour. Have fun with that, Alex and Stephen.

(The next trick will be getting them in the mail before they go bad. And get them to Atlanta in one piece.)

My kids, by the way, all turned their noses up at peanut butter cookies…yet, they hold a new personal record for the eating of an entire batch of cookies in one day.

Peanut Butter Blossoms
(from the Hershey Chocolate website)

Ingredients:

  • 48 HERSHEY’S KISSES Brand Milk Chocolates
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup REESE’S Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Additional granulated sugar
 
Directions:
 
1. Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each
cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

My Notes:

You have to put the kiss on the cookie pretty much immediately, otherwise the cookie falls apart.

Stats:

This batch: 38 cookies
Total so far: 415

Catching up…tomorrow

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I made cookies the last two days, I’m just behind in posting. We had an unscheduled houseguest (with unscheduled car issues) and I had to drive him halfway to meet his other ride.

Pictures and blogging tomorrow. Tonight, I collapse.

December 8: Almond Rosettes

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(Otherwise known as carpal-tunnel cookies.)

These are good. So good. I love almond almost as much as I love lemon and caramel (read: a lot), and these are full of almond-y goodness. I tried this recipe out last month, on a day I was cheating on my diet, and wow. Cookies like these are the reason I was 50 pounds heavier.

As good as they are, though, my hands pay the price. Every cookie needs to be piped through a pastry bag with a star tip, and I don’t think my star tip is big enough. It takes awhile to get used to the motion, but once your hands go numb, you stop caring.

My hand may permanently be “the claw,” but they’re so worth it. 

These are one of the few cookies that actually turn out like the picture.

(By the way, the book this comes from is so awesomely 80s, I could assume my grade-school self and watch Smurfs with my side ponytail and kid-sized Jordaches.)

Almond Rosettes
(from The Spirit of Christmas Cookbook, Volume 4.)

Ingredients:

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg
3 T. milk
1 t. almond extract
2 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
sliced almonds to decorate

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg, milk, and almond extract. Beat until smooth.

2. Combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl and add to creamed mixture; stir until a soft dough forms.

3. Transfer about 1/3 of dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip. Pipe 2″ diameter rosettes onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Press an almond slice in the center of each cookie.

4. Bake 8-11 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

My Notes:

I would eat this raw and have no regrets.

My Stats:

This batch: 75
Total so far: 377

December 7: Sugar Cookies

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My plan for the day was to bake the cookies in the a.m. and decorate them in peace in the afternoon before my kids got home. Except, I had to go shopping for the decorator tips, and then, of course, do a little more shopping “since I was out.” I didn’t start baking until 12:30.

Oh well.

A friend and her daughter stopped by as I was cutting out the cookies. I wish I would have taken a picture of Juni (said daughter) sitting across the table from me, deciding which cookie cutters I should use.

They are Christmas lights, not bowling pins.

By the time I got the kids from school, the cookies were all baked, but not frosted. They had no interest in helping, either?

::sniff:: Where does the time go? I thought for sure they’d be all over me to help.

Disgruntled Husband decided we were going out to dinner in the big city, and by the time we got home, it was near 10:30. Of course, I decided this was the perfect time to finish frosting my cookies.

Armed with Wilton decorating tips, a few pastry bags, and a shiny new box of Wilton gel food coloring, I made magic. Unfortunately, magic is messy.

And, in the words of M’Lynn Eatenton, “I can’t even begin to think how you make grey icing.” It was hard. Harder than I thought, for sure. Too much black dye, and you have, well…black. Too little and it’s something in the purple family. Props to you, Aunt Fern and your armadillo. I figured out that if I took some of the black icing and mixed it with more white frosting, I got grey. Score one for me.

I called it a night at 11:30, exhausted, disheveled, and hands dyed various colors. I still had seven cookies to go, and I made the executive decision to save those for Sunday when Mini Me has a friend over.

Sugar Cookies
(from Gooseberry Patch’s Old Fashioned Country Cookies)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar
1 c. butter
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract
2 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cream of tartar

Directions:

1. Cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg and extracts. Blend dry ingredients and stir in.
2. Refrigerate 2-3 hours. Divide dough in half and roll out. Cut out desired shapes.
3. Bake at 375 for 7-8 minutes.

My Notes:

I love candles, but hate the Sugar Cookie scented one. And I know why: it smells nothing like sugar cookies. My house yesterday afternoon smelled like sugar cookies.

And when rolling out the dough, don’t roll it too thin…that’s what makes them brown too quickly and break. A nice 1/4″ is fine and makes cookies brown very little…just on the edges.

My Stats:

This batch: 38 cookies
Total so far: 302 cookies

December 6: FAIL

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My husband assured me that even though the look awful, they tasted pretty good. “Just a little…crunchy.”

Okay, so that wasn’t really the name of that cookie. The real name was Chewy Ginger-Cardamom Cookies. My friends Jeanne and Mike make them every year with rousing success.

I wasn’t as fortunate.

This post was going to be one where I made fun of the audacious directions and pretentious ingredient list. (Organic Cane Sugar? Vietnamese Cinnamon?) I even have a picture of me massaging the orange zest into the sugars.

“Massaging” the zest. I couldn’t get us an appointment with Sven for a Hot Stone, so this is what I resorted to.

The batter came out fine. I made it the night before, knowing it needed to chill and also that I had a monumentally busy day ahead of me. After I got the kids from school, I scooped out 12 portions and rolled them in sugar, then putting them in the oven for 8-10 minutes.

And then it happened: my epic cookie fail. I haven’t had a cookie fail since I was 8 and had trouble with fractions and didn’t know the difference between self-rising flour and all-purpose flour.

To start, I used my cookie scoop, which I thought was my problem. The recipe says to use teaspoon size balls…my scoop is probably more tablespoon-sized. And this is what happened:

Crap.

Into the garbage it went. The next batch I used smaller balls, and it was okay. It was okay. It was all okay…until it wasn’t.

I tried one more time, and got the same result.

On the phone with Jeanne, she was shocked to learn what baking atrocities were transporting in my kitchen. These cookies are her and Mike’s favorite. But then she let me in on a little secret: you have to keep a close eye on them, because it can all go wrong quickly, and you have to take them out of the oven and let them sit for a while before you get them to a cooling rack.

With this new knowledge under my belt, I’m determined to try again. But not today.

Ingredients and Directions: (Yes, I’m that lazy today. Thanks to Mike for scanning it for me, and to Jeanne for emailing it to me.)



My Notes: All of the aforementioned things, and it despite my failure, it made my house smell awesome! Disgruntled Husband commented on that when he walked in the door.

(Oh, and this is posted late because we had a Christmas party last night, where I may or may not have enjoyed a couple of festive cocktails called “The Naughty Elf.” We were home by 9:30, I was asleep by 9:45.)

My Stats:

Cookies this batch: 18 were salvageable (and we’re using that term very loosely)
Total: 264

December 5: Christmas Cranberry Roll-Up Cookies

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I made these last year, and they were ta-a-a-sty. I love cranberries, and the fact that these are made with Wisconsin’s State Fruit should make every Cheesehead proud.

And, for the first time in my life, I rolled out a perfect rectangle.

It was pretty much an anomaly, because look at the second one.

But, I figured it out. Probably 25 years of rolling out dough, I finally figured it out: if I want a rectangle, start it out as a rectangle, not a circle.

Boom. Mind. Blown.

Christmas Cranberry Roll-Up Cookies
(from Gooseberry Patch’s Old-Fashioned Country Cookies)

2 c. fresh cranberries
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. orange peel
1/4 c. finely chopped almonds
2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 t. cardamom. (That’s right! I found another recipe. Suck it, $12.48 worth of a useless spice!)
1/2 c. unsalted butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla

Directions:

1. In a saucepan, combine cranberries, 1/4 c. sugar and zest. Add enough water to partially cover. Cook about 15 minutes, or until berries pop and most of the water has evaporated. Cool mixture.

2. Combine flour and spices. Cream butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Add flour mixture.

3. Divide dough in half and chill.

4. Roll dough into 12″x7″ rectangle on parchment paper. Spread cranberries and almonds on each rectangle and then roll each like a jelly roll. Wrap in parchment paper and chill for at least 2 hours (at this point it can be frozen.

5. Slice roll into 1/4″ slices and bake 1″ apart on lightly greased cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Cool completely.

My notes:

Despite my awesome rolling and then jelly-rolling, the innards are just too heavy to make it perfectly round. Oh, wait. Scratch that. Once you cut them, if you turn the roll on its side and wait a few minutes for it to thaw, they turn out more circular. Again, I’ve blown my own mind.

Stats:

Cookies today: 45
Cookies so far: 246

December 4: Buttered Rum Meltaways

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This is a new one, coming from the Queen of Cookies herself, a Ms. Martha Stewart.

All hail the Martha.

The recipe is pretty simple, especially considering that it is a product of the Martha. Though, I regret to say that I used regular table salt instead if coarse salt, and in lieu of fresh grated nutmeg, I opted for McCormicks.

But hey, someone has to slum down her recipes.

One part of her instructions I can’t understand is when she says to beat the butter and powdered sugar until “pale and fluffy.”

Uh, what?

That pale enough for you, Marty?!

Come on, Marty. (What I’m sure her close, personal friends call her.) Butter is yellow, sugar is white, and when I mix them together, the color may change to lighter yellow, but probably not pale.

The really amazing thing though (besides not calling for any eggs, but 1/4 cup of dark rum) is the my hands smell after rolling the dough. I think I’m going to make this my new signature scent. And the smell as I baked them? Yankee needs to get on THAT candle.

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup dark rum
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

1.Whisk flour, cornstarch, spices, and salt in a bowl. Put butter and 1/3 cup sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in rum and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, and gradually mix in flour mixture.

2. Divide dough in half. Place each on a piece of parchment paper; shape dough into logs. Fold parchment over dough; using a ruler, roll and press into a 1 1/4-inch log. Wrap in parchment. Chill in freezer 30 minutes (up to 1 month).

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap logs. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds; space 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until just golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool 10 minutes. Gently toss warm cookies with remaining 2/3 cup sugar in a resealable plastic bag. Cookies can be refrigerated in airtight containers up to 2 weeks.

My notes: Nothing, other than what I said above. These are pretty much rock stars. It’s taking a lot of self-restraint not to try any.

(Nope, haven’t tried any cookies at all!)

Stats:

This batch: 43 cookies
Total this month: 201

December 3: Gingerbread Cookies

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Today’s cookie is from my old standby, Gooseberry Patch Old Fashion Christmas Cookies. I bought this cookbook at Cracker Barrel with funds from my very first paycheck ever. On the inside cover, it says “J. Frank 11/94.”

Seeing as it is 18 years old, it’s looking a little ragged.

I set it on the stovetop of my college oven while I baked once, and the spine melted. Many of the pages have grease splatters and dried batter on it.

I tried to decorate them as gingerbread men. Really, I had such good intentions. And my first one turned out like this:

Angry Gingerbread Man hopes you fall in a well and die.

So then I decided to turn them upside down and make them reindeer, which I was totally proud of myself for, until my kids came home and couldn’t tell what they were.

Come on, they totally look like reindeer…right?

(These kids have a way of bringing my ego back down to earth.)

And then I let them do frosting shots with what I had leftover.

(I’m pretty sure frosting shots are all they will remember about my cookie baking craziness.)

Ingredients:

1/2 c. shortening
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. molasses
1 egg
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves

Ingredients for Powdered Sugar Icing

1 c. sifted powdered sugar
1/4 t. vanilla
1 T. milk

Directions:

1. Beat shortening until softened. Add molasses and egg, beat again, and add spices and soda. Beat again and add half the flour.
2. Add the rest of the flour, mixing well.
3. Refrigerate for an hour
4. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out cookies.
5. Bake at 375 for 7-8 minutes, ice with powdered sugar icing.

My Notes:

It said to chill the dough for 3 hours. I don’t have time for that. It was good after an hour. Also, I used way more frosting than the recipe calls for…about double. I used chocolate chips for the eyes of my almost-reindeer.

And boy, does my house smell good!

Cookies today: 38
Cookies this month: 158

December 2: Chocolate Almond Shortbread

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This is also a new recipe. A couple weeks ago, there was a “Holiday Idea Book” in my local paper, and since I didn’t need to line any bird cages or start some campfires, I decided to look through it.

(I used to work for the paper. I don’t have much remorse for saying such things.)

There were actually a couple interesting recipes in it, although it’s obvious it was just compilation of other recipe books. (One could argue all recipes and cookbooks are compilations of others before them.)

This recipe originally had hazelnuts. I hate hazelnuts. But I also live in Wisconsin, where my hazelnut tree (bush? vine?) just didn’t perform up to expectations. So I used almonds, of which my local grocer has an abundant supply. So, I had to change the name.

The recipe calls for 1/2c. skinned toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped. So I took my sliced almonds and a piece of Pampered Chef stoneware and toasted them myself. (Really, it’s so easy. You can even do it in the microwave, which I used to do when I was a Pampered Chef consultant. This time, I used the broiler, which you’re probably not supposed to do with stoneware, but it worked and nothing broke. Just make sure you stir it up every few minutes or so.)

I used a coffee grinder to grind the almonds. The first batch was pretty fine, the second was okay, but by the third, I figured I should balance things out and I did a rough chop.

Chocolate Almond Shortbread
(Holiday Idea Book, 11/18/12…stolen from Bake or Break, courtesy of Go Bold With Butter)

(Note: Now, I TOTALLY want to go bold with butter.)

Ingredients:

3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c packed light brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 t salt
1/2 c. toasted almonds, finely chopped
2/3 c. semisweet chocolate

Directions:

1. Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla. Gradually add flour and salt, and mix just until combined. Stir in almonds.
2. Form dough into disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
3. Pre-heat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
4. Roll out dough into a disc about 1/4 inch thick. Using a sharp knife, cut out cookies into 1×2-inch bars. Carefully transfer cut out cookies onto prepared pans.
5. Bake, one pan at a time, for 12-15 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool on pans for about 10 minutes. Then, transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
6. Place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in microwave at half power in 30-second increments until chocolate melts when stirred. Dip cookies partially into chocolate or drizzle chocolate over cookies. Allow chocolate to set completely, refrigerating cookies if necessary.

My Notes

This also made a very crumbly dough, so I added a little water and melted butter to get it to the right consistency. Also, I used WAY more chocolate to dip than 2/3 cup. Oh, and then I put some pretty sprinkles on it.

 
Stats:
Today’s cookie count: 55
Total for the month: 120