December 15: Almond Butter Sticks

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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.

Almond Butter Sticks

(courtesy of Saving Dessert)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon (divided)
  • 6 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg, separated (white reserved for glazing)
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sugar for topping

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl combine the sugar and almond extract; cover and set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder.
  5. In a large mixing bowl combine 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter and cream cheese. Beat on low until blended. Add the egg yolk and blend until smooth. Add half the flour mixture and beat on low until combined. Add the remaining flour and blend just until the dough starts to come together.
  6. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Knead by hand about 25 strokes until the dough is pliable. Roll or press into a 12×12 inch square. Spread with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.
  7. Cut the dough in half and place one half on the prepared cookie sheet, butter side up.
  8. Spoon the sugar mixture to within 1/2-inch of the dough edges all the way around. Place the remaining dough half, butter side down, over the sugar. Press the edges tightly to seal.
  9. Brush the dough with a lightly beaten egg white. Sprinkle with almonds and coarse sugar.
  10. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. It’s best removed from the oven when you think it needs one or two more minutes.
  11. Cool at least 30 minutes.
  12. Cut the pastry in half lengthwise and then into 1/2 to 1 inch strips crosswise.
  13. Store in an airtight container.

Somewhere in the original recipe for this, it says that the author likes that these don’t immediately appeal to children, and therefore are leftover when cookies trays are passed.

I feel this in my soul.

These are my hands-down favorite fave cookie that I make. I love almond extract. I love butter and cream cheese and sugar and actual almonds, and I love making a cookie so good, it flies under the radar like a spy drone.

Here’s the link to when I made them last year, if you need the play-by-play. I doubled them last year, because I don’t like sharing. I still don’t like sharing, but I only had one brick of cream cheese left in my fridge and it’s supposed to be 10 degrees outside tonight.

No problems at all making these, as usual. Even with the rolling out and measuring going on here, these are pretty straight forward. By far, the biggest challenge with these cookies are hiding them from my kids, because they’ve caught on how awesome they are.

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 13: Nate’s Eggnogg 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.

Nate’s Eggnog Cookies

(adapted from Cooking Classy)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg , plus more for topping
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter , at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp rum extract
  • 1/2 cup eggnog

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter , at room temperature (I used 1/4 cup salted and 1/4 cup unsalted butter)
  • 3 – 5 Tbsp eggnog
  • 1/2 tsp rum extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon for 30 seconds, set aside. 
  2. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. 
  3. Mix in egg yolks one at a time, blending just until combined after each addition. Mix in vanilla extract, rum extract and egg nog. With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix just until combined. 
  4. Scoop dough out by the heaping tablespoonfuls and drop onto Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 2-inches apart. 
  5. Bake in preheated oven 11 – 13 minutes. Allow to rest on baking sheet several minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely then frost with Eggnog Frosting and sprinkle tops lightly with nutmeg.

For the Eggnog Frosting:

  1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter until very pale and fluffy. Add in rum extract and 3 Tbsp eggnog and mix in powdered sugar. Add additional eggnog to reach desired consistency.
  2. Recipe Source: slightly adapted from allrecipes.com and inspired by Parent Pretty

Many years ago, my precious first-born came to me at 7 o’clock at night on a school night, and said, “Mom, I read a cookbook for my book report, and I have to bake cookies for it. Oh, and it’s due tomorrow.”

Ahhh…here’s that sweet boy, and how that turned out. That’s right, I was the meanest mom in the world and made him make his own cookies.

And in the seven years since this fateful night, it turns out I have not gotten any nicer and he hasn’t gotten any better and forethought.

Nate had a cookie exchange at school in his AP Chemistry class. He told me the night before, and I said cool, get a recipe and go at it.

He acted like he was annoyed, but I could tell he was into it. Well, until the mixer turned on for the first time. There might have been a jump and a scream. And by might, I mean there was.

This is the cookie he found for me last year, that properly demonstrates his love of eggnog. I brought the eggnog home and the other two kids were so excited! Until they found out Nate would be making cookies with it. I’m the mom in these parts, so I’m sure I’m not privy to all that happens here, but I’m pretty sure the other two made credible threats to their brother for not sharing the eggnog.

I think he did a pretty good job. I said I’d frost them if he mixed up the frosting for me, which he did.

And I hear the cookies were a hit at school, too.

December 12: Kolaczki

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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.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb. margarine or butter
  • 3 1/2 c. flour
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • pinch of salt
  • Solo filling of your choice, like Raspberry, Cherry, Almond, or Apricot

Directions:

Allow shortening and cream cheese to soften before beginning. Mix cream cheese and butter; gradually add flour and salt. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours. Set out 1 hour before rolling out. Roll very thin (1/4″), cut, fill, and press seams closed. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

I’ve never made kolaczki before, because as I’ve said before, my family has about as much cultural heritage as a piece of loose leaf paper. Though I have enjoyed these through the years. Fruit filling? Powdered sugar? Yes and yes.

Man Friend’s mother had this recipe, typed, that she would make at Christmas. She was nice enough to share it with me a few weeks ago.

I consider myself pretty good at the cookie baking. Every now and then, one challenges me. And these were challenging for me.

Here’s why–I have no sweet Polish or Hungarian or Czech grandmother to show me how to make these. I had two grandmothers, both lived a 1000 miles away, and while one definitely could bake, the only thing I ever saw the other make was a reservation. And I don’t remember really being around Granny (the baking grandmother) before Christmas. (Not that she made kolaczki…but she would make delish southern things.)

Anyway.

I had a heck of a time getting these to stay closed. After two trays and many words I wouldn’t want my children to say, I finally looked up a video on how to fold these. There’s water involved to have them stick together, and way less filling than I was hoping for.

And no, I took no pictures of my failures. But they were delicious just the same.

Now, one word on filling. Jam and preserves still seep out the cookie, so use the Solo filling. Also, as much as I love almond things, almond filling — at least in this cookie — tasted the way play-doh smells. And no one wants that!

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.