Christmas Cookies-A Recap

That’s it. Nothing too out of the ordinary.  I decided to make some Christmas cookies when I realized I otherwise wasn’t going to get through the Modern Baker Challenge chapter on cookies, and that this was the perfect motivation.

Then, weeks passed and I realized that it’s was going to be really hard to make the more challenging raspberry sandwiches as opposed to making the very simple sugar cookies. I also had a hard time imagining the more fancy cookies in the shapes of dancing reindeer and glitter. Williams Sonoma have some great cookie cutters and stamps and rollers that you can roll into the dough after you cut the shape. Christmas trees, ornaments, and snowflakes. Gotta love em. If anyone is inspired by these amazing cookies (hmph) then Sara’s favorite King Arthur Flour also has a great selection available for the future holidays. Every holiday seems to have a cookie shape now. Take your pick.

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I would say the hardest part of making these cookies was the icing. I really thought that I could ice them just like the box picture. Not so. Not so. The more fun I had rolling stars and bells in the cookies, the more I was cursing under my breath to get the icing in the right lines. The easiest ended up being the snowflakes with the straight lines believe it or not. Squiggly lines are so easy to mess up if they aren’t symmetrical and straight lines are easy when there is a indentation to follow.

Either way the best part of the entire project was bagging them in the clear baggies. I got to put these really cute gift tags on all of them (for my friends in NYC) and they covered up the flaw here or there. Also a handful of M and M’s at the bottom of the bag doesn’t make anyone upset so why not?

Maybe next year, I’ll graduate up to a Modern Baker cookie. 😉

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Recipes

Sugar Cookies:

Below is the recipe that I got right from the William Sonoma website! I also bought the food dye from William Sonoma. A couple people have asked what type of dye I used. At William Sonoma it’s called “Food Paste-Vivid Color.” Before I refrigerated the dough, I divided it into three parts and re-blended the dough with the color (only about 2-3 drops) in the mixer. The color turned out fantastic and I’m excited to use them again.

16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room
temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 piece vanilla bean, about 2 inches long, or
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Colored sugars and decorating pens

Directions:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and, using a small, sharp knife, scrape the seeds into the butter mixture. If using vanilla extract, add it now. Mix well.

In a sifter, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Sift the flour mixture directly onto the butter mixture. Reduce the speed to low and beat until well mixed.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball, then flatten the balls into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (The dough can be prepared up to 3 days ahead.) Let it soften slightly at room temperature before continuing.

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 2 large baking sheets.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out a dough disk 1/4 inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes. Transfer the cutouts to the prepared baking sheets. Gather up and reroll the scraps and cut out more cookies. Repeat with the remaining dough disks.

Bake until the cookies are golden on the edges, about 8 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and let cool completely. Decorate the cookies as desired with colored sugars and decorating pens. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Makes 24 to 30 cookies, depending on cutter size.

Royal Icing:

So I have been searching for the exact recipe I used for my royal icing. Sad to say, I can’t find the exact one.

Here is a variation:

1lb of confectioners sugar
2 egg whites
Lemon juice from one lemon

Mix it up and taste. It’s fabulous……
If it’s too runny just add more sugar until it’s stiff. It’s then easy to add to the frosting bags. I used the smallest tip possible for the lines on my stars but then my arms got tired and when I went to my trees and ornaments, I mixed things up in order to finish quicker!

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Butterscotch-Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies, a la mode: Pre-race dessert

A few months ago, I ran the Eugene 1/2 Marathon.  Due to my laziness, I failed to secure a hotel room before they were all booked up.  Fortunately for me my friend Annie lives in Eugene and is always kind enough to put me up for the night.

She did so once before prior to a long-distance swim last August at Dorena Lake — the swim was a total let-down, for reasons other than the recent algae bloom.  On that occasion, I made her watch the epic Twilight.  She wasn’t exactly into Vampire Movies, but I was making my way through the series which I liken to junk food.  You start it, you know it’s terrible for you, but you just can’t stop until the entire bag of doritos/oreos/jelly beans is gone.

To make amends or maybe to supplant that previous bad memory, I decided to cook dinner for us (her husband was away that weekend with some ultimate frisbee tournament — is it called a potlach?).

For dinner, I did my usual — some kind of whole wheat/wholesome pasta with a marinara sauce enhanced with more onions, garlic, spinach, and tofurkey sausages (seriously — they are good!).  But for dessert, I was a little creative.  I made oatmeal cookies, per the instructions on my Quaker Oats package and instead of the raisins, I add one bag of butterscotch chips and 1/2 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I’ve found in the past that the chocolate oatmeal combo is a little overpowering and the saltiness of the butterscotch balances everything out.

Now the ala mode part.  I made a hot fudge sauce, I combined 3 Tbsp of cocoa powder, 1/2 c of sugar, 1/3 cup of milk, 1 Tbsp of butter, and 1 tsp of vanilla in a sauce pan, over low heat.  I brought the mixture to a boil and then let it simmer till in thickened.

Okay, maybe I was a little impatient for the 1st helping because it was a little think when I drizzled it over the ice cream and cookie, but for my 2nd helping it was deliciously thick and not surprisingly decadent.

As for my run, I had a great race, so that’s cause enough to repeat the dessert right?