Christmas Themed Sugar Cookies

It’s Christmas Eve and I am happy to say that all of my Christmas baking is officially done. For my final cookie post before the holiday – check out my Rainbow Cookies and Gingerbread Men from earlier in the week – I am going completely traditional with sugar cookies decorated to reflect the holiday!

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After sifting together cake flour (yes, you read that correctly, cake flour for cookies), baking powder and salt in a large bowl…

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I then mixed together butter and sugar in a separate bowl and then added in an egg and vanilla extract and continued mixing until all of the ingredients were incorporated.

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Next I added in the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 2 additions.

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Once the dough came together I divided it in half and wrapped it in plastic wrap and refrigerated it until it was firm – the recipe stated at least an hour but I left it in the fridge overnight and just let it sit out for a few minutes before rolling it out.

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Whereas the recipe said to roll the dough to about a 1/8-inch thick I found it to be thin to work with and the few cookies that I did manage to cut out at that thinness ended up over-browning when I baked them so I went with the standard 1/4-inch thick.

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I decorated a few of the cut-outs with sanding sugar prior to refrigerating them for 30 minutes before baking them in a 350 F preheated oven.

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After letting the cookies cool it was time to spruce them up with royal icing, sanding sugar and sprinkles.

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These snowflakes were by far my favorite and I must say that the cake flour produced a sugar cookie that was much more delicate than and not as crunchy as your typical sugar cookie. I definitely think this will become my go-to sugar cookie recipe from now on.

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Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

Sugar Cookies

Makes 24 to 36 cookies

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for dusting

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

1. Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt onto a piece of parchment paper or into a medium bowl; set aside. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture in 2 batches until just incorporated. Divide between 2 pieces of plastic wrap; shape into disks. Wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. (The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before rolling.)

2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out the dough on a floured surface, dusting with flour as needed, until about 1/8 inch thick*. Cut out shapes with 2-to-4-inch cookie cutters; arrange 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. (If the dough becomes too soft as you work, return to the refrigerator until firm.) Gather the scraps and refrigerate until firm; reroll once to cut out more cookies. Chill the cutouts 30 minutes.

3. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Bake, switching the pans halfway through, until the cookies are slightly puffed and just golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely before icing.

*I rolled out my cookies 1/4 inch thick.

Gingerbread Men

So, I have a confession to make, prior to making these cookies I had never had a gingerbread cookie. I’m not really sure why that is. Possibly because it’s never been the cookie I reach for when I see a platter of assorted holiday cookies and also I had never tried baking them. This year though I decided to add it to my holiday baking.

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I began these cookies by sifting together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice into a bowl.

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In another bowl I first mixed together melted butter and shortening, light brown sugar and molasses and then added in an egg.

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Next I beat the flour into the molasses mixture.

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Once the dough came together I divided it in half and wrapped it in plastic wrap and patted it down to about 1/2 inch and refrigerated it. While the recipe stated to refrigerate it for at least 2 hours I ended up refrigerating it overnight and just let it sit out for a few minutes before rolling it out.

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Once the dough was soft enough to roll, I rolled it a 1/4 inch thick and began cutting out some gingerbread men.

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After placing them on a parchment lined baking sheet I decorated them with some mini M&M’s and round sprinkles.

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I then placed the cookies in the refrigerator for 15 minutes and then baked them in a 350 F preheated oven for about 10 minutes and then transferred them to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Then the fun began, well, that depends on whether or not you like to decorate cookies. I’m still on the fence about that one. I made a batch of royal icing and gave my Gingerbread cookies some faces and some squiggles!

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So, did I enjoy my first Gingerbread cookie? Well, yes and no. With my first cookie I thought the flavor was an acquired taste. The molasses was really standing out to me, but, the following day I tried another one and I definitely had other sentiments about it. It’s tasty but not something I could have two or three of in one sitting as with other cookies.

Perfect Gingerbread Men

Makes 2 to 3 Dozen Cookies

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon allspice

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon shortening, melted

2/3 cup light brown sugar

3/4 cup molasses

1 egg

Directions:

1. In a bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice; set aside.

2. In another bowl mix together the butter, shortening, sugar and molasses, then beat in the egg. Beat in the flour mixture in two additions. Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic and pat to 1/2 inch thick. Chill 2 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. On a floured surface roll out each piece of dough to 1/4 inch think, dusting with flour if needed. Cut into 3-to-5-inch gingerbread men and arrange 1-inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Brush off the excess flour and chill 15 minutes.

5. Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool, then decorate.

 

Royal Icing

Ingredients:

1 lb. box on confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoons meringue powder

5 tablespoons water

Directions:

Whisk the sugar and meringue powder in a large bowl. Add the water and beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until soft glossy peaks form, adding up to 1 more tablespoon water if necessary. Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel and plastic wrap until ready to use to prevent the icing from drying out.

Easter Eggs

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend. Ideally I would have liked to get this post up yesterday, but time got away from me. Since it is Easter Monday  though, I’m not all that late.

I had decided a while back that I wanted to make decorated Easter cookies for the holiday (the decision was easily made after I got this egg cookie cutter from my local craft store.)

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As opposed to Valentine’s Day when I used a package mix to make my decorated cookies, this time I was determined to make them from scratch. (While I do enjoy making things from scratch, rolled out cookies are among my least favorite things to make since I inevitably roll them out too thin or too thick which can lead to the baking time to be off which can then lead to a cookie that is inedible. Maybe it’s time to invest in some rolling pin rings.)

I opted to use the Roll-Out Cookie recipe on the back of the cookie cutter packaging since it didn’t require the dough to be refrigerated prior to rolling (I’m all about saving time whenever possible.)

To begin I mixed the flour, baking powder and salt in one bowl.

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In the bowl of my stand mixer I beat together butter and sugar until it was light and fluffy and then added in vanilla and almond extracts and an egg.

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I then incorporated the flour mixture into the butter mixture one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.

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It wasn’t long before the dough came together, which I then divided into two balls in preparation for rolling.

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Once I rolled out my first ball and cut out the cookies I placed them on an ungreased cookie sheet and sprinkled them with Easter themed sprinkles. After baking for about ten minutes in a 350 F preheated oven they were done.

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I baked my second batch without sprinkles since I was planning on decorating them with royal icing.

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Once the cookies cooled completely I whipped up a small batch of royal icing.

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And after some dyeing, dotting and sprinkling my cookies were done.

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Along with Easter Egg Cookies I decided to make some actual Easter eggs. I haven’t dyed eggs in quite some time, but after seeing the directions for marbled eggs in a few different magazines this past month I decided I had to try it.

And this is what I ended up with. I really liked how the inside of the shell looked more than anything.

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And if you’re curious about Easter Eggs and some fun facts about them check out this article that was in the USA Weekend newspaper magazine this past weekend. Here are a few of my favorites…

-Before those little dissolvable capsules, egg dyes were made from a variety of materials, including onion peels, tree bark, flower petals, and vegetable and fruit juices.

-The PAAS Dye Co. launched its popular product in the 1880s in Newark, N.J. The first packets contained five colors for 5 cents. The company now claims to sell more than 10 million kits annually (no longer just dyes, but also paints, stickers, glitter and more) and says that consumers use them to decorate 180 million eggs.

-Many Easter eggs aren’t actually eggs but are formed from chocolate. In Scotland, a popular treat sold in fish-and-chips shops is deep-fried chocolate eggs.

-“Easter eggs” are found in numerous videogames and movies. That’s a term for an inside joke or hidden message planted by the creator. The term was coined at Atari after a programmer put his name in a hidden room in the game Adventure, released in 1979.

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Roll-Out Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoons almond extract

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and extracts. Mix flour, baking powder and salt; add to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Do not chill dough. Divide dough into 2 balls.

On a floured surface, roll each ball into a circle approximately 12 in. wide and 1/8 in. thick. Dip cookie cutter in flour before each use. Bake cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet 8-11 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.

Valentine’s Day Treats

Happy Valentine’s Day! Many have coined this day a Hallmark Holiday, for me, I personally believe that we shouldn’t have to designate a specific calendar day to show the one’s we love how much we love and appreciate them (If you’re curious here’s a little history on the origins of the day.) We should take a lesson from my friend’s four-year old daughter who will ask me to call her mom while I am baby-sitting her just so she can tell her that she loves her. I will say though that Valentine’s Day does bring about some delicious treats available in stores. I highly recommend the Heart Shaped Brownie Batter Donut from Dunkin’ Donuts… It’s delicious! Something else that is available in stores… an array of baking items so you can bake up your own delicious treats. I definitely couldn’t resist quite a few of those…

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While I would have loved to bake up a batch of sugar cookies from scratch I had to settle on using a bag mix since I was short on time and couldn’t afford to wait the hour or so for my dough to be refrigerated.

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After following the mixing directions on the package for cutout cookies I rolled out the dough and used my heart-shaped cookie cutters to cut out cookies and then popped them in a 350 F preheated oven on an ungreased cookie sheet for six minutes. I got a jump start on decorating a few of them by sprinkling sprinkles on them prior to baking. I then let them cool completely before finishing my decorating.

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While the cookies cooled I made some cupcakes using Pillsbury’s Valentine’s Day Funfetti Cake Mix. How can you resist the Pillsbury Dough Boy on a Valentine’s Day themed cake mix box!?!? Once they cooled I frosted them using store bought vanilla frosting. I was planning on whipping up a batch of vanilla frosting from scratch, but, after shoveling snow for the umpteenth time this year I just wasn’t in the mood.

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I tinted half of the frosting pink and then sprinkled some Valentine’s Day sprinkles on them.

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And finally something I did make from scratch… Royal Icing to decorate the cookies.

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I used a squeeze bottle to decorate the cookies with icing and then once again used sprinkles to finish decorating them.

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And finally my Valentine’s Day treats were done and ready to be shared…

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