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. 

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.

Soft Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies

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When I think of the flavors I love, the top two are lemon and caramel. (What, you don’t sit around and think what two flavors you would want if you could only have two flavors for the rest of your life? Yeah…me either…) And since I live in the south now, sometimes I am blessed with a bag of lemons straight from someone’s tree. img_0028

(You can grow LEMONS and other citrus fruit down here! It still blows my Northern Girl mind!)

Mini- Me’s friend’s grandma gave us a bag of lemons and satsumas before Thanksgiving, and I thought there had to be a recipe out there for a deliciously lemon cookie.

I found one on Pinterest and went to work. Though as tasted the dough, I realized that it was not lemony enough for my liking. And then this Northern Girl realized that the lemons that grow down here are Meyer Lemons, and not as sour as your everyday lemons. Oh well.

To try and rectify my sourpuss sensibilities, when it came time to make the lemon icing, I improvised a little. Instead of just powdered sugar and water, as the recipe calls for, I tried to make a sour lemon icing with the juice from the Meyer Lemons and sugar, boiled and reduced in a pot, and then added to powdered sugar.

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The result? Lemony icing, but still not sour enough. Oh well. They still taste good to the non-lemon flavor purists out there, and that’s a success in my book.

 

Soft Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies

(from Swankyrecipes.com)

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 – 2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Icing (as they wrote it, not my 24daysofcookies.com variation)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup powdered sugar

Combine butter and cream cheese in a bowl fit with a paddle attachment of a mixer. Cream together for about 1 minute. Add granulated sugar and continue to mix. Add egg and vanilla extract and continue to beat on medium to high speed until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Add half the flour, all the baking soda, salt, cornstarch and lemon zest. Add lemon juice and the remaining flour. Mix to combine until the dough starts to form like a ball. Add a little more flour until slight ball starts to form. Cover and refrigerate dough at least 2-3 hours or up to a few days.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare baking sheet and spray with cooking spray or parchment paper. Using a cookie scoop, scoop about 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie dough. Roll cookie dough between hands to get a nice round ball and place on prepared cookie sheet.Bake for 8-10 minutes, removed from oven and while still hot, slightly press down if desired. Allow cookies to cool down completely before transferring. Cookies will slightly harden overnight a little more so don’t bake them much longer.

To make the glaze, combine powdered sugar and water together in a small bowl. Whisk fast until ingredients are combined with no lumps. Dip cookies upside down into icing or drizzle icing over the top and allow to harden.

December 18: Meringue Cookies

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I had a little help making these.

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Larry Potter–now a fully grown 13 year-old man-boy–wanted to make some cookies unassisted. The four egg whites needed to make this recipe turned into about 8, due to some mistakes in de-yolking. But he finally did it.When the egg whites were whipped, he added the rest of the ingredients and left. It’s okay. I told him to. The next step involved a pastry bag, and I make a big enough mess as it is.

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Now, here’s the awful truth: it’s nearly impossible to make meringue cookies in 100% humidity. They need to be whipped and dried, and the barometric pressure just doesn’t care. Even still, we (or at this point, I) forged on. About 15 minutes later (WAY longer than it should have taken), my mixture was stiff enough to pipe on to cookie sheets.

The recipe says to leave them out at room temperature. That was not going to happen.

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Even for Louisiana, it’s a weird and too warm Christmas. I put the trays in the oven at 200 and checked on them frequently. After about 20 minutes, I had some cookies.

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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.

December 15: Orange Drop Cookies

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This cookie comes with a story. I mean, they all come with a story, but this one comes with a recent story.

We had an apple tree at our old house in Wisconsin. We got it (and another one that didn’t make it) many years ago when our city cut down our large tree for power line reasons, and we got three new trees out of the deal. (Other one was a beautiful Blaze Maple.) Hoover, our middle son, loves apples, which is why we chose an apple tree.

Fast forward to now, and we live 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, where we have no apple trees (I don’t know if they grow here or not, but we don’t have access to one anymore).

Hoover has always been obsessed with seeds and planting and all sorts of stuff. He used to save his orange seeds in Wisconsin to try and plant orange trees. Guess what; it didn’t work.

But, do you know what does grow in Southwest Louisiana?

The other day, our grandfatherly neighbor came to the door with a grocery bag full of oranges from his tree. Hoover’s enthusiasm seemed to charm him, and he then offered Hoover the chance to pick oranges whenever he liked. Hoover and I went to his side yard and encountered a 20 foot Satsuma Orange (or tangerine, possibly…jury is still deliberating what a Satsuma really is–other than a scent at The Body Shop) tree.

Walter (not the neighbor’s name, but it’s something like that) is lousy with oranges, and looks to be quite sick of them, much like my dad was when he had two giant apple trees. He emphasized that any time he wanted to pick oranges, Hoover (and his brother and sister) could and should, otherwise they’d just go to waste.

Didn’t have to tell this kid twice.

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He asked me if I could make orange cookies with the oranges. Many years ago, I made Orange Drop cookies, so I knew I could. And how can you resist fresh oranges?

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This is some of Hoover and Mini-Me (my daughter)’s second stash, after they juice a half-gallon of juice by hand. (And then drank it.)

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Luckily, I had a helper in juicing.

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Had to strain it so I’d just get the juice.

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Chopping a half cup of walnut, graciously given to me by my poetry professor Amy!

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Into the oven it went. Now, I’ll say this. These cookies come out looking light and airy if you do it right. I did it right. 🙂

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Seriously, don’t they look like meringue tarts?

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The frosting involved a pound of powdered sugar, and more orange juice and zest. This is probably the tastiest frosting I make, and the fresh ingredients only enhance it!

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As my kids noted, they aren’t all that orange. When I’ve made these with regular store-bought juice, they aren’t all that orange, either. But, they sure do taste (and smell…holy smokes, the smells in my kitchen…) great!

Orange Drop Cookies

(I’m sorry, I can’t remember where I got it from! If you do, let me know and I’ll credit it accordingly!)

1/2 c shortening                                   2 1/2 c flour

1 c sugar                                             1/2 t salt

2 eggs                                                 1 T grated orange peel

1/2 c orange juice                                 1/2 c walnuts

1 1/2 t baking powder

Cream together shortening and sugar, add eggs one at a time and beat well. Add orange juice and mix. Blend in dry ingredients. Drop onto cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Orange Frosting:

6 T Butter                                              2 t grated orange peel

1 lb. bag of powdered sugar                    2 T orange juice

1 1/2 t vanilla

Cream together butter and orange peel; gradually add about half of the sugar, blending well. Beat in orange juice and vanilla. Add enough sugar to make spreading consistency.