December 10: Italian Sand Cookies

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Note: Because of illness, I got behind. Now that I can at least sit upright for more than a few hours, I am catching up. But with that, these are going to be more bare-bones than in the past.

Italian Sand Cookies

(courtesy of Chef Tess Bakeresse)

Ingredients:

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)

Directions:

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.

So, in making these, I realized too late that I was out of my traditional red, white, and green sprinkles. So, the Italian Sand Cookies this year represents my vast sprinkle collection. Well, at least the ones that show up on chocolate.

These don’t last very long in my house, even with my threats to the kids.

December 17: Peanut Butter Blossoms

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I woke up at an ungodly hour this morning. Actually, I’m not sure I ever fell asleep last night. Either way, I was up to see the sunrise. I wrapped presents in the dark. I organized my shoe rack. And then at 7 a.m., I decided it was a perfectly acceptable time to make cookies. 

About 10 minutes after sunrise. This is not something I normally see.

So, as my children were starting to get up for school, I was creaming together shortening and peanut butter. Because my loathe of mornings is something to be taken quite seriously, I think I alarmed all my kids. “Mom, are you okay?” I heard about a dozen times before they left for school.

I think by now we all know the deal with Peanut Butter Blossoms. It’s a peanut butter cookie that you stick a Hershey Kiss in the middle of when they come out of the oven. I used the traditional Hershey recipe, and as always, it’s posted at the end of this entry. 

However, when it came to the part where you roll it in sugar, I wanted to try something fun. I got out my red sugar and green sugar, and rolled them in that instead, just to make them more Christmas-y. I did this last year with Snickerdoodles, and that worked like gangbusters, so why not try with these?

Obviously, the pattern is for all of you. Although, I only took one picture of a tray, and I did the same alternating pattern on the next tray too, so maybe it’s not just about you. 

And as I drank my morning coffee, I was unwrapping Kisses. I remember one year I was doing this while drinking spiced wine at night. It was almost the same, minus the delightful buzz.

I was almost done baking when my daughter texted me, asking if I could bring her eyedrops to school (don’t ask), so I took it as the perfect opportunity to pack up some cookies for the office staff at the middle school. For as much time as I spend there, I need my own parking space and a place on payroll. 

I get asked a lot what I do with all the cookies. I do this. Teachers, neighbors, mailmen, friends…and whatever is left, I bring to my family Christmas at my dad’s house. 

Officially, I was done with cookies at 8 a.m. this morning. I feel like a Marine, only way less important and with way more sprinkles at my disposal.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

(courtesy of Hershey’s)

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 
  • 1/3 cup additional granulated sugar for rolling

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. Makes 48 cookies.

December 14: Chocolate Zingers

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Jeanne and I have been friends since we were 10 years old. Now that we’re almost 40, that means we’ve lived nearly 3/4 of our lives being friends. Wow. That sentence made me feel old. 

Anyway, Jeanne came over this afternoon to be my special guest star. She forwarded me one of her favorite recipes a few days ago and I made sure I had the right ingredients on hand. 

Jeanne, my friend for nearly 30 years. She’s the keeper of the secrets and baker of the cookies with pepper in them.

Well, most of them. 

Because this recipe calls for both black pepper and cayenne pepper, and I only saw the black pepper part, I had to go to the store once Jeanne got here. Eh. It happens. 

Once I got back from the store, we were able to finish the recipe.

Jeanne and her husband Mike always have the most fun recipes to share (and parties to attend…and twins to play with…and…well I guess they are just fun people in general). Like I said above, this one has two kinds of pepper in it, but it works in the recipe. It’s not spicy, it’s more like a heat that you get in the back of your throat. And it’s definitely more chocolatey than other chocolate cookie recipes!

(This is the recipe as Jeanne sent it to me.)

December 7: Italian Sand Cookies

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Yesterday was my last day of the semester, so now it’s just grading to get done and I’m free until January! Well, minus my other gigs and parenting and general adulting. But I’m not worrying about those things today. Today, it was sleeping in, cleaning, and making Italian Sand Cookies. 

I found the recipe for this years ago on Pinterest, and ever since, they’ve been a staple in my December cookie baking. However, during the three Louisiana years, they didn’t turn out quite right. I’m not sure if it was the humidity or my own distraction (you know, leaving the mixer on too long while I write another paragraph about Elizabeth Barrett Browning), but they spread out way too much there. We still ate them, so I’m not exactly sure what I’m complaining about. 

Again, the recipe amuses me. It lists all of the ingredients, and for the directions, it says, “Creaming method.” If you don’t know what that is, it’s mixing together the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. 

It’s pretty simple really. Then you add the cornstarch and flour, and mix it all together. Again, I needed more flour than the recipe calls for…I used about another 1/3 of a cup. And when I was all done mixing, I looked for my beater-lickers, but alas, they were all at school.

So I guess I had to do it. It’s a sacrifice I was willing to make.

I piped them with a star tip onto my baking sheet and put them in the over. I also kinda burst the bag because I don’t know my own strength, and then had to put my finger over that part so the dough wouldn’t come out there. These are the behind the scenes things you don’t get with professional baking blogs.

They baked up wonderfully and looked the way they were supposed to look.  After they cooled, I dipped them in melted chocolate (chocolate chips with a little crisco to make it thinner), and topped them with sprinkles. These take a while to dry, so I set them outside on my back step for 15 minutes. (Thanks 21 degree Illinois day!)

Italian Sand Cookies

(courtesy of Chef Tess Bakeresse)

Ingredients:

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)

Directions:

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.

December 4, 2017 — Soft and Chewy Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I’m in the throws of finishing a beast of a paper, so instead of telling you how I made something, I’m just going to post a few pictures and the recipe. It’s that sort of week around here.

The Best Soft & Chewy Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies (from thedomesticrebel.com)

Ingredients
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (I like to use Madagascar Bourbon)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar & white sugar with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and egg to combine. Lastly, beat in the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and pinch of salt until a soft dough has formed. Stir in the cranberries and white chips by hand.
  2. Refrigerate the cookie dough for AT LEAST 1 HOUR. You can chill it overnight if you’d like, but one hour chill time is mandatory to prevent cookies from spreading and to create that light, soft and chewy texture.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone liners or mist lightly with cooking spray. Remove chilled dough from fridge and roll into Tablespoon-sized balls. Place onto the cookie sheets about 1-2″ apart from one another.
  4. Bake for approx. 8-10 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time to ensure an even cook. Cookies may appear slightly undone, but do not over-bake them! They will continue to set up more as they cool. Allow cookies to set on the baking sheets for about 10 minutes or so before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. If you’d like to make them prettier, garnish cookies with additional white chips on top of still-warm cookies before serving.

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.

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

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Greetings and Salutations! So for those playing at home, baking generally involves the oven. Okay, technically it ALWAYS involves the oven. But what if you don’t have an oven? Or any aptitude to work an oven? (I’m looking at you, J-Dub.)

Or, what if you’re like me and it’s not the oven issue you need to overcome, but that you maybe run a cookie blog and your KitchenAid mixer bowl is in the fridge because you have another recipe that needs to chill in it for a few hours and you have a few spare hours that you could squeeze in another recipe?

I know there are a lot of you with this exact situation.img_0025

Anyway, no bake cookies exist, and this is a good one to try. I like to ask my friends what their favorite cookie is (I get a lot of great ideas from this, actually) and this is one friend’s favorite.

No Bake Chocolate Cookies

  • 1 cup sweetened coconut
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. In a large bowl, stir the coconut and oats and set aside.
  2. In a pot over medium heat, stir the sugar,cocoa, butter and milk together. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil for about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
  3. Immediately pour into the bowl of coconut and oats mixture.
  4. Working quickly, drop spoonfuls onto wax paper and let stand until cool.

 

December 13: Chocolate Chip Cookies

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(I took a week mental health break, but I’m back at documenting what was made. And they were made!)

It’s the old standard. The cookie everyone lists as their favorite. The kind that will evoke happy memories of home and love and deliciousness.

I try not to do a Chocolate Chip cookie for the blog, as I know there are so many others out there that beg for airtime. But, as I was home in Wisconsin for a weekend, two friends invited me to their home for Friend Christmas. They insisted I needn’t bring anything. I was okay with that, but thought I should bake a batch of cookies. Another friend, hearing all of this, went on a 10 minute spiel about what the perfect Chocolate Chip cookie was like. I was amused. After that, how I could I not make Chocolate Chip cookies?

I found this recipe a few years ago on Pinterest, looking to make a different kind of cookie. Well, the base for it (it was one of those “s’mores inside a chocolate chip cookie” cookie), is this recipe. The s’mores cookie turned out fine, but the real star was the Chocolate Chip cookie recipe.

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One of the key differences for this recipe is that it calls for 1 1/2 sticks of butter, melted, and then cooled off. It’s a weird request, and had the recipe not held up, I’d totally would have made fun of it. It holds ups, therefore, I hold my tongue.

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In went the rest of the ingredients into Nichole’s highly superior KitchenAid.

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And I balled up the dough and baked them.

Now, the recipe does have some pretentious instructions as to how to bake these. Follow it, don’t follow it, it’s up to you. I’ve done the whole “break it apart, put the jagged edges up, turn every 5 minutes” thing, and I didn’t see much of a difference.

I don’t have too many pictures for this recipe, as I was making it while waiting for my ride to the party. My ride was also the friend that gave me the cookie specifications he expected, so he was the first one to sample. He said, “Mmm. Hhghgg. Orrr!” Which was loosely translated to “You got it right.”

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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 6: Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

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So, we’re at the end of the weekend now. Generally, by the end of the first weekend of December, I have at least one frosted cookie in the bunch.

But now I’m a grad student. I don’t have time to frost any cookies (nor make any cookies that take hours) until I finish my last assignment for the semester. It’s due Tuesday, and I wrote my first paragraph and thesis statement last night. I want to hammer out the rest today and be done with it.

Here’s my desk:IMG_4251

And during the downtime of baking, here’s my make-shift work space:

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Yes, that’s the table my cat’s eat on. I hope they like reading academic journals.

(Oh, the working title of my last paper is: “Constricting Ideals of Femininity Lead to Feminism in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind,” but I toyed with the idea of comparing Scarlett O’Hara to Regina George. My friend Andrew talked me out of this, saying he didn’t think Mean Girls was academic enough. He’s probably right. But, come on, wouldn’t that have been a rad paper?!)

(Aren’t you glad you asked?)

Also, I keep hearing this speech in my head as I bake and research:

I left a stick of butter out to soften and when it was ready, I combined it with my brown sugar and eggs. And then the piece de resistance:

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Combined the rest of my ingredients and rolled little balls of chocolate goodness into powdered sugar.

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Then I placed them on to a cookie sheet and into my oven.

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If T.S. Eliot measured out his life in coffee spoons, then I supposed I measure mine in minutes on the oven timer.

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(While I waited between batches, my yellow magic marker and I tackled the JSTOR reading.)

Chocolate crinkles completed, I am now back at my desk, determined to crank out several pages of brilliance.

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Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

(from http://www.somethingswanky.com)

INGREDIENTS:

 

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with paper or a silicone baking mat.

Cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs.

Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Mix just until soft dough forms.

Scoop by rounded tablespoons and roll each ball in the powdered sugar, evenly coating each one.

Bake until cookies are set and the tops cracked, about 13 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.

December 4: Italian Sand Cookies

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I saw this recipe on Pinterest, but wasn’t going to make it. I liked reading about the search to get this “secret” recipe right, and it brought back memories of also getting this cookie in bakeries over my lifetime. (Note: I have yet to meet a bakery I didn’t like.)

But this recipe was like an ear-worm, only it was in my brain. I couldn’t stop thinking about it–remembering the cookie myself, and then the blogger’s quest to find the recipe. It’s something I can understand doing (To this day, I fantasize about a cookie I had a few years ago and can’t find the recipe. I’m sure one of these days I’m just going to try to figure it out for myself.)

You may have eaten these in the past, too. When I was a kid, they were in the top shelf of the display at Kings’ Bakery, in the tray closest to the front. They aren’t anything fancy, but boy were they good. The ones they had came with some rainbow sprinkles on them.

So, the good people (or person..I think it’s just one fabulous lady) at Chef Tess Bakeresse went in search of the recipe. There’s a whole post devoted to the mission at http://cheftessbakeresse.blogspot.com/2010/06/evil-italian-butter-cookies.html and it really is adorable.

"Creaming method" adding of the flour.

“Creaming method” adding of the flour.

I love how the instructions are simply “creaming method,” as if it’s saying “if you don’t know what we mean, then you probably should stick with ready-made cookies.” It’s just an easy way to say mix the butter, shortening, and sugar together, then add the vanilla and eggs, and then finally the rest of the ingredients.

(I will say though that my dough was a little to sticky when I followed the recipe. I could have chilled it, but instead I added a little more flour–about another 1/3 c. In hindsight, it probably could have been a little less, but they turned out just fine.)

Once that is done, you get out a big star tip and a pastry bag, and fill it with the dough. Pastry bags are nothing to fear. It’s just a matter of getting the right tip with the right consistency of dough. And, like this recipe, most of the time it will tell you which one to use.

My tasty little Italian babies, all ready for the oven.

My tasty little Italian babies, all ready for the oven.

I piped circles on the parchment paper and filled them in. There are two schools of thought on this…either go from the inside out, or the outside in. Either way, they will taste the same, so do whatever makes you happy.

After they came out of the oven and cooled, my kids were home from school. And of course, I had a little helper. After I melted the chocolate chips (with just a little bit of coconut oil for consistency reasons), Mini Me informed me she was the official sprinkle-putter-onner. That lasted for one tray of cookies. She abandoned me for Sofia the First, and I had to sadly finish the cookies myself.

A simple recipe that tastes like a million bucks!

A simple recipe that tastes like a million bucks!

I let the cookies dry on wax paper, but then decided to speed up the process by throwing the cookies (stilon wax paper, now back on cookie sheets) into the freezer for 10 minutes.

After trying one, Disgruntled Husband had a look of shock on his face and said, “These are REALLY good.”

(Thanks for the vote of confidence, dear.)

The (much shorter) video about said recipe:

 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.

Cookies today: 37

Cookies this year: 230