December 1, 2017–Italian Sand Cookies

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Whoa, is it that time of year again? My tree is up, Elf is on prime time, and I have a pile of final exams to grade. Yup, it must be December!

It was a little up-in-the-air whether or not I’d do this, and in the spirit of openness, the way I was feeling in December, I didn’t know if I could ever get in the Christmas Spirit again. But I’ve prevailed against the doldrums, and here I am.

I’m starting the season off with one of my favorites–Italian Sand Cookies. I got this recipe a few years ago off the internet and they are always a crowd-pleaser.

Tonight, as I was starting to bake, I couldn’t find cornstarch. So, despite my best efforts, I was not prepared, and back to the store I went. Sigh.

Mixed it all together and piped it on a cookie sheet (I also didn’t have parchment paper, which I discovered after I got home from the store for the second time today. I was not about to return for a third.)

Now, when I lived in Wisconsin and made these, the piping came through a lot better.

See?

Now, I don’t know why it is that these have spread out so much the past few years, but my inclination is that it has something to do with humidity and general Louisiana-ness. (50th in everything, except humidity.) If you happen to know the real reason, please let me know.

To celebrate my first day (night?) of holiday baking, I picked up a little something at Albertsons when I went for corn starch.

No, not the cat. That’s Zelda, and she’s a new addition. I’m talking about the glass of Prosecco, also a new addition of sorts.

When they were cooled, I melted some milk chocolate with a little coconut oil and dipped them, and then added the mandatory sprinkles.

My best friend once caught a glimpse of all the sprinkles on my shelf via FaceTime and made me count them for her. There were 20 different kinds. This was a few years ago, and the collection has indeed grown. I don’t have a problem; I can stop any time I want!

Welcome to December friends. Now would anyone like to write a 20 page paper for me this weekend?

SAND COOKIES

(from www.cheftessbakeresse.com)

1 1/2 cups flour (we used AP)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar *
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 eggs
*(we also liked 3/4 c. conf sugar & 1/4 c. granulated which made them a slight bit sweeter)

Creaming method. Put through bag with large star tip. Bake @ 375 F for 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown. Decorate with choc chips, sprinkles or leave plain and dip half in melted choc., etc.

The Best Damn Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

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My first batch of 2016 was to pay off a debt.

No, no. The local casinos aren’t taking cookies as currency, nor has my bookie Vito figured out where I live.

I probably shouldn’t call it a debt actually. It was a thank you gift…because my cats are assholes. Over Thanksgiving, my friend came over to take care of my cats Mo and Gil, and at least one hid from him a good chunk of the time, causing him to worry that he’d lost one of my cats. This was all unbeknownst to me until I got back. I felt bad he had worried so much over these two jerks, and I know he enjoys cookies. img_0017

I made these last year (December 13: Chocolate Chip Cookies) and they never disappoint.

(The recipe is one I found on Pinterest a few years ago, which makes me want to point out that I started doing this nutty cookie thing in 2004, before Pinterest. You know, pointing this out is like when I tell my students that I went to college before Google–I think I am making a point of how awesome and smart I am, but really I’m pointing out just how old I am.)

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Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

(from http://www.smells-like-home.com)

 

  • 2 cups plus 2 tbsp (10 5/8 oz) all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed (7oz)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar (5oz)
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 – 1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions.Preheat oven 325°.Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.With electric mixer, or by hand, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly combined.Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined.Add dry ingredients and beat at low-speed just until combined.Stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Roll a scant half-cup of dough into a ball.Holding dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull apart into two equal halves.Rotate halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, place formed dough onto cookie sheet, leaving ample room between each ball.Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy (approximately 11-14 minutes).Do not overbake.

 

 

December 9: Peppermint Meltaways

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These were a big hit last year, and because I pander to the general public for attention, I decided I had to make them again.

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And the mess begins. Because this recipe calls for more corn starch than I used to use in battling my kids’ diaper rash, it got a little out of hand. And cup. And counter. I’ve clean it all up three times now, and I’m still slipping on the floor where it happened.

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I added some green Wilton food coloring to the batter this year, because I think you all know by now that my policy is “the more artificial colors there are, the better the cookies will taste.” This is the Kelly Green, and I think it turned out really well.

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With my handy-dandy (sorry, left-over from the kids’ Blue’s Clues days) cookie scooper, I doled out a dozen slippery spheres. And Hoover, my middle guy, decided it was his job to lick everything once I was done.

Hoover, making sure no leftover batter went to waste.

Hoover, making sure no leftover batter went to waste.

Let the cookies cool on a rack while you make up the frosting.

Gandalf kept an eye on these for me. (Don't worry, Mom, he didn't go on the table.)

Gandalf kept an eye on these for me. (Don’t worry, Mom, he didn’t go on the table.)

I used the recipe for the frosting, and had to actually make it twice because I ran out half-way through. I found it a little thick, so keep that in mind. And, of course, more food coloring. This time, it was from AmeriColor and it’s their “Super Red.” I wanted Wilton to go the distance for me, and in all colors but red they have. I needed something to put Santa to shame this year, and I’ve found it.

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I threw it (again) through my pastry bag with a big star tip and just plopped a big dollop on the tops of all of these cookies. I didn’t think about it at the time, but they have a certain rose-resembelance now.

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The fun part was crushing the candy canes. I put these guys in a ziploc bag–still with the wrappers on–and closed it. Then I took my super-heavy Pampered Chef meat tenderizer and crushed the hell out of them.

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Side note: I made these last year the same way. Since then, I have noticed a notch missing from my stove. I could not figure out how this happened. Well, as I pounded this years brave peppermint soldiers, I figured it out. I must have hit the side of my stove with the meat tenderizer last year, because I did it again this year. So now I have a bigger notch missing from my stove, but fewer questions as to why.

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I sprinkled the candy cane ashes over my cookies as a garnish and boxed them up. These will certainly be the first cookies my kids devour in full this year.

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Peppermint Meltaways

(from tasteofhome.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • FROSTING:
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons 2% milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 to 3 drops red food coloring, optional
  • 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies

Directions

In a small bowl, cream butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in extract. Combine flour and cornstarch; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.

Shape into 1-in. balls. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

In a small bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Add the confectioners’sugar, milk, extract and, if desired, food coloring; beat until smooth. Spread over cooled cookies; sprinkle with crushed candies.

Store in an airtight container. Yield: 3-1/2 dozen.

Cookies today: 41

Cookies this year: 376

December 6: Gingerbread Men

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I venture to say that Gingerbread men and women are one of those things that it’s “just not Christmas until…”they show up in a box of cookies.

Now, to that end, I have made them today–but I really don’t like them. I don’t know why. I like molasses. I like ginger and cinnamon and all the other Christmas spices. But somehow, I only like the smell of these.

But that little red-headed girl of mine just loves them. So I make them.

I start with shortening. Now, if you’re a novice baker, let me tell you that shortening means Crisco. You can use butter or margarine if that’s all you have, but generally if a recipe calls for shortening, you best find the white grease and use it. Because my mom is southern, I grew up with Crisco and thought everyone knew what it was. Since growing up and moving to Wisconsin, I have discovered that this is simply not true.

While my shortening was being beaten, I dug out the two jars of molasses from my fridge. I use molasses two times a year–when my mom is visiting (because you dip biscuits in molasses if you’re from North Carolina) and when I make gingerbread cookies.

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It takes a while to get all the molasses out. I have two jars because a few years ago, I decided it was easier to just get a new unrefrigerated bottle and use that than it was to pry open the bottle in my fridge and attempt to pour it out.

But enough about my problems.

Once I add the molasses, sugar, and egg, I get my gingerbread voodoo spices out and go to work. Spices and baking soda goes in, and then the flour. Most people would stop the mixer to add things.

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Not me. Nope. It’s just not worth it unless I can try to time the beater’s revolutions with the adding of the flour. Sometimes it gets messy. (Okay. It’s most of the time.)

Throw it in the fridge and attempt to get the rest of your Christmas crap done.

Fail miserably, and three hours later, roll out your choice of gingerbread shapes.

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I am a purist and go for the men and women, but there’s no law saying you need to.

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While you are busy rolling out the second tray of cookies, yell at your kitten for jumping on to the first tray sitting on the table, throw out those cookies, and mumble under your breath.

A naughty kitten did this.

A naughty kitten did this.

Once they are cooled, you can decorate them. I use a Wilton bag and a small round tip. Sadly, this year I didn’t make any anatomically correct gingerbread people because my kids were home. I mean, not that I’ve ever made them in the past…

Mini Me was sad when she got home from school, and this particular gingerbread man had a frown instead of a smile.

Mini Me was sad when she got home from school, and this particular gingerbread man had a frown instead of a smile.

Mom’s Gingerbread Cookies
(from Gooseberry Patch Old-Fashioned Country Cookies)

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, sugar, 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 three hours
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

Cookies today: 35

Cookies this year: 281

December 1: Chocolate Chip Cookies Without Chocolate Chips

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Well, we have returned from Chicagoland and none of my pants fit, which generally means that Thanksgiving has come and gone, and now we are on to December.

It’s that time of year again, folks.

New website, new Youtube channel (more on that later), new Pinterest board (I’ll figure out how to put the link on here later), and a few new recipes to try.

Chocolate Chip Cookies Without Chocolate Chips. There has to be a better name for these.

Chocolate Chip Cookies Without Chocolate Chips. There has to be a better name for these.

To ease us into the cookie season, I’m starting with a relatively easy one: Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies. Except, I have a friend that requested these without any chocolate chips, so that’s what I’ve done.

Mixed it all up, plopped it on a cookie sheet, and baked them. I did try to make them festive by dying the dough red, except it looked more like bubblegum, and by the time they came out of the oven, they were kind of flesh-colored (my flesh color anyway).

I’m trying something new this year (and I don’t know how long I’ll stick with it), but I made a video of myself (unshowered with no makeup, mind you) making these cookies.

This is our new kitty Gandalf. Nothing to do with cookies, but isn't he cute?

This is our new kitty Gandalf. Nothing to do with cookies, but isn’t he cute?

Here’s what you didn’t see in the video: my boys upstairs with me, Larry Potter asking if our kitten had his vet appointment this week. (New kitty is Gandalf, and he’s getting neutered on Tuesday.) I said he was, to which Hoover asked what was going on. LP described the procedure in as much detail as he could imagine, and then he and Hoover got in a discussion about what that would mean for Gandalf’s reproductive future.

Larry Potter, right before he held sex ed class in my kitchen.

Larry Potter, right before he held sex ed class in my kitchen.

And then, my smart eldest son decided to teach his little brother all sorts of biologically-based terms and phenomenon. Yeah. So now all that I’m going to remember about these cookies–Hoover skipping down the stairs shouting words that will surely have his teacher calling me about this week.

Nestle Tollhouse Cookies

(from https://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/18476/original-nestle-toll-house-chocolate-chip-cookies/)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks)  butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2  large eggs

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Cookies today: 62

Cookies this year: 62