December 14: Meringue Cookies

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Note: I got behind because of illness.. 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.

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.

I think these may be my kids’ favorites all around. They ask about them more than another cookie. When they smell the batter in the air, suddenly they are three obedient kids who get along fabulously and do any chore I ask of them.

I did something a little different this year. At the end, I put a little gold or white sprinkle pearl at the top of them, just for a little pizazz. And they stuck!

So maybe when these disappear, my kids will at least feel fancier as they snarf them down.

December 11: Stroopwafels

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Note: I got behind because of illness.. 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.

Stroopwafels

(from http://www.food.com)

Ingredients

Waffle cookies

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water

Filling

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons dark corn syrup

Directions

Preheat a pizzelle iron.
To Make Waffles: Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Cut butter into the flour. Mix in the sugar, cinnamon, eggs and yeast mixture. Mix well and set aside to rise for 30 to 60 minutes.
Roll dough into 12 small balls; Squeeze each ball into the preheated pizzelle iron and bake for about 30 seconds. Cut the waffles into two thin waffles and spread with filling.
To Make Filling: In a saucepan boil the brown sugar, the remaining one cup of the butter, cinnamon (this is a must-have ingredient), and dark corn syrup until it reaches the soft ball stage (234-240°F, 112-115°C), stirring constantly.

I haven’t made these the past couple of years, mainly because I like to try different recipes and something has to go. Generally that means something with yeast, because it takes too long.

But I love these. They are definitely in my Top 3 faves. You can buy them out in the wild; I’ve seen them more and more in places like Trader Joes and even Target. Which is how I was reminded that I haven’t made this in a few years.

There’s something about the cinnamon caramel in the cookie…it’s so welcoming and homey. You’re supposed to heat this on top of a steaming cup of coffee or tea, which definitely makes the cinnamon caramel filling become gooey and wonderful.

I use a pizzelle iron, because I can’t find a stroopwafel iron for less than three figures. (If you find one, let me know!) So if you have a pizzelle iron, give these a shot. It’s a different process and a different flavor, but in the end it’s another cookie, and that’s always a good thing.

December 5: King Cake Cookies

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Confession: Today’s cookie was actually started last night so I could let the icing dry. I hope you forgive me.

We spent the last three years in Louisiana while I went to graduate school. It was a big change from Wisconsin, where we moved from, and it took some getting used to. I didn’t always like it there, but last year around this time, I told my friend Lauren (who was also in graduate school with me) that we would come to miss that place and she agreed. My last semester, the place kinda grew on me. When we graduated and were getting ready to move (me to Chicagoland, Lauren to get her PhD in Florida), she gave me this. 

She painted it herself and when she was packing up to move, she asked if I wanted it. I did. I never thought I would, but I did. Now, it’s a tad dirtier in my possession than it ever was in her’s, because this lives in my kitchen, behind my kitchen sink where I see it a dozen or more times a day. Splatters happen.

I knew I wanted to make a Louisiana cookie, and I ordered a cookie cutter in the shape of the state. When it arrived, I needed to think of the proper cookie for it. I knew I wanted to be able to decorate it, so it had to be a roll-out cookie. And I knew I wanted to incorporate some of the flavor of Louisiana in it. The answer was clear:

I’m obviously kidding. Anyone that knows me knows that I am not a fan of spicy foods and was living in the wrong part of the country. My grad school friends especially like to tease me about this, citing the time I thought green beans at a restaurant there were too spicy. (And they were!) But there was a piece of Louisiana cuisine I did enjoy: King Cake.

Our director Amy would bring in a different king cake every week to our Thursday workshop during Epiphany (the time between January 6 and Lent). They were generally filled with things, like pecans, strawberries, cream cheese, blueberries, and once, boudin (a special sausage). The base of the cake is generally a cinnamon dough, and it’s covered with frosting and sprinkles.

So for this dough, I wanted to find something that had three things: cinnamon, cream cheese, and pecans. I came close to a recipe online but doctored it up a bit. It’s posted at the end of this post. 

Oh it’s cold. Trust me.

The original recipe calls for your butter and egg to be cold. I’m not sure what difference it made, but I made sure they were.

I added a half cup of finely chopped pecans to this recipe, as well as added a tablespoon of cinnamon, just to try and get the king cake feel I was looking for. And for my Louisiana readers, no I did not put a baby in the cookies. (My kids asked.)

I chilled my dough in a ball of cling wrap for a couple hours while I did other things. When it came time to roll them out, I had to move this pretty boy. 

Gilligan, the three-legged cat.

He’s such a good boy. 

After I rolled out the dough and cut the cookies, I put them on a cookie sheet and then sprinkled cinnamon on them. I tried the dough and I didn’t think it was cinnamon-y enough, so this was my solution.

After they cooled, I took my pastry bag filled with yesterday’s (now) successful royal icing and outlined the cookies. After they were dry, I filled them in. 

I did half white and half green, and then let them dry overnight. This morning I finished the decorating. I thought about putting the traditional king cake colors on them, but even with all my sprinkles, I only had light purple and I needed dark purple. I know, I know…these are real problems.

King Cake Cookies

(adapted from 6 Cakes and More)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces full fat cream cheese, room temperature 
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cool, not room temperature 
  • 1 c. granualted sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 T vanilla
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped pecans
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • extra cinnamon to sprinkle on dough
  • 4 c. all purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add your cream cheese, cool unsalted butter, sugar, and salt. The temperature of the butter and the fact that you use unsalted butter matter here.
  3. Turn your mixer on the lowest speed available. We don’t want to incorporate any air into the dough. Air will cause spreading! We only want to mix this until it starts to incorporate. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. 
  4. Add the cold egg and the vanilla. Again, the temperature of the eggs matter. You want to use them cold.
  5. Again, turn your mixer on to the lowest speed and mix just until the eggs and vanilla have incorporated into the other ingredients. Scrape down the bottom and sides of your bowl. If you need to, mix for a few more seconds. You will see small pieces of butter and that’s okay!
  6. Add the tablespoon of cinnamon and 1/2 cup pecans to your wet ingredients.
  7. Add the flour to your wet ingredients.
  8. Once more, turn your mixer on to the lowest setting, and mix until it all comes together. It will to gather onto the paddle. It doesn’t take long, so don’t walk away from it. Turn the mixer off and touch the dough. If you can leave an imprint with your finger without the dough sticking to it, it’s ready.
  9. Turn the dough out on to a piece of cling wrap and wrap it into a ball. Put it in the fridge for at least an hour.
  10. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch and cut your shapes. 
  11. Once your shapes are on the baking sheet, sprinkle cinnamon on all of them.
  12. Bake your cookies at 350 for 12-14 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack completely before icing.