December 28, 2009

Christmas Cookies

This Month's Easy Bake cOven recipes were Sour Cream Sugar Cookies or Herbed Focaccia bread chosen by our member Laura.

Laura is an amazing cookie baker (she does this for a living) and was kind enough to share one of her favorites with us. I wasn't able to fit in the focaccia but it turned out Emily (also a member of the club) brought it to our Christmas party. I made some cookies to share at work and also for the party since the recipe made so many. I may have gone a little overboard decorating all of them. It was my first attempt at large scale cookie decorating with Royal Icing. I had great intentions of making a gingerbread house this month so I made a huge batch of Royal Icing for it, but I ran out of time to make one. Instead I used it for the cookies - rather than using the cream cheese frosting that comes with the recipe. I think most Decembers are like this.... You have to finish all of your shopping, while attending ten holiday parties, and preparing for company or travel, and on top of it all you want to bake six different recipes - some new some old - all making your kitchen a disaster. December was a like this for M and I. I actually appreciated getting snowed in in Ks this year because it forced us to do nothing for a while. (We did get a little stir crazy mind you).

I hope all of you have had nice holidays and enjoyed company, and have averted sugar comas. If you are still attempting to eat as much sugar as possible, do try the cookies! 

Be sure to check the cOven for other entries for December! 

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. margarine
2 egg yolks
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sour cream
5 c. flour

Mix ingredients in this order, adding one at a time. Make dough and chill at least 2-3 hours or over night. Roll out on a floured surface and cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 350˚ for 9-12 minutes, depending on how soft you like sugar cookies. I baked mine for about 10 minutes each with 1 minute on the cookie sheet before cooling on a wire rack. 

After the cookies are completely cool, decorate with Cream Cheese Frosting recipe below. You can also use Royal Icing if you prefer. Decorate with candies as desired. 

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 lb powdered sugar
1/2 c. margarine
8 oz. cream cheese
1 T. vanilla
water, to desired consistency
food coloring, if desired

Royal Icing 
Courtesy of Alton Brown and the Food Network

3 ounces pasteurized egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar
In large bowl of stand mixer combine the egg whites and vanilla and beat until frothy. Add confectioners' sugar gradually and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated and mixture is shiny. Turn speed up to high and beat until mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks. This should take approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add food coloring, if desired. For immediate use, transfer icing to pastry bag or heavy duty storage bag and pipe as desired. If using storage bag, clip corner. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

December 22, 2009

Pumpkin Extravaganza Continued

I know it has been a while since I posted about pumpkin or posted anything for that matter, but that doesn't mean I haven't been using it (it just means I'm really busy). I still need to use up the rest of my pumpkin but it may have to wait until after the holidays.

I have a recipe for pumpkin cookies that I really like a lot. They are easy to make (I haven't tried it with fresh pumpkin yet) and taste like little pumpkin cakes. Amazingly, they get better over time. I wanted to pack some up and send them far across the sea to my brother in law for Christmas but I didn't know if they would make it a week in the mail. (I sent fudge and candied pecans instead!) The original recipe came from Allrecipes and I have managed to edit it to my liking. They were originally supposed to be glazed, but this reminds me of the pumpkin scone at Starbucks - drenched in frosting and sickeningly sweet, eew. I like sweet but sweet overload in a two bite cookie is a little much. Anyways, these are always favorites among friends so I invite you to try them! And apparently I've never taken a photo of these so try and picture the the cutest little puff of pumpkin cookie you can imagine....

The other pumpkin journey I traveled on was Pumpkin Butter - think Apple Butter - not creamy butter spread. It is a very simple combination of ingredients you probably have on hand (and you can use canned or fresh pumpkin) and stores for about a week. This would make a lovely present for holiday hosts, or you can keep it for yourself in a pretty little jar. I've been secretly dreaming of owning some canning jars by WECK for a while now. I want to try canning sometime and I'd like to as who wouldn't with these pretty little products.

I made some bread too. I meant to make some Italian Feather Bread (Beard's bread book) but ran out of time. Instead, I tried it on some nice white bread-machine bread. A huge slice perfect for toasting. I coated it generously with butter, and topped with a thick layer of Pumpkin Butter. This would make a nice light breakfast, or a great snack with coffee or tea (or hot cocoa). I will admit I tried it while waiting for M to get home from work. I was hungry, what can I say. If only there was a toaster at work, I think my co-workers would enjoy this treat.

Pumpkin Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350˚. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt. 

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet with a cookie scoop or tablespoon. 

Bake for 12-15 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool on parchment or waxed paper and store in an airtight container. 

Pumpkin Butter
adapted from Pioneer Woman

1 C fresh pumpkin puree (or canned)
1 C plain yogurt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 heaping C powdered sugar (more to taste)

Mix ingredients together and add more sugar to taste. Let sit for at least 3 hours or overnight in an air-tight container. Use liberally! Stores for about a week in the fridge.

December 13, 2009

Mint Brownie Chip Ice Cream

I'm pretending to be Ben (or maybe Jerry). Picture me lounging on the couch reading cookbooks, wishing ice cream would appear out of thin air. If only I owned a multi-million dollar corporation with an endless supply of ice cream at my fingertips.  I do this often (the part about reading cookbooks I mean). I am pretty sure I have read 90% of each cookbook I own, but I can't remember all of those recipes so I visit them often in search of inspiration. I was craving some ice cream recently and since it was M's turn to choose the recipe he made it very difficult and said "mint with chocolate." Ben and Jerry know ice cream, but so does David Lebovits. Oh, how do I choose with all of those beautiful ice cream photos?

I have a slight tendency (ok a huge tendency) to not make decisions... mostly to questions that don't matter too much, like "where do you want to eat?" or "did you have any place in mind for drinks after work?" which I typically respond with either "I don't really care" or list off three places that may work. I'm trying to be better, it is just a tough habit to break. I am very decisive when it comes to work related stuff, but baking is a different creature. There are too many options, and usually too many recipes I want to make all at the same time. Faced with the vague comment of "mint with chocolate" I turned to my two ice cream cookbooks and found nothing. Haha. It is true. Nothing really sounded good. I kept pestering M with more questions to try and force some legitimate information from him (like chocolate chips or shavings) and he wasn't very much help. He has similar tendencies... what a couple we make! 

In the end I finally decided I wanted to make something with brownies and chocolate chunks. Chunks in ice cream are very important, chunks in jello we could all live without. I used the Ben & Jerry's Sweet Cream base for this one and added my own slightly larger portions of mix-ins than the recipe called for. It turned out wonderful. I might have liked more brownie chunks and less chocolate chips, but the mint and chocolate combination was successful. Next batch is my choice... wish me luck... or tell me your favorite ice cream and maybe I'll make it. 

December 6, 2009

Cookies and a Start on Christmas goodies

I don't make cookies very much any more. I'm not sure why, because I usually have lots of cookie ingredients on hand and they are so quick. I had some leftover oats from a breakfast I cater at my church every now and then (oatmeal for 160 women!) and I was inspired to make chocolate chip cookies - with oatmeal of course. I used a recipe from the biggest book of cookies possibly ever published and changed it a bit to suit my taste. The recipe made so many I had to send a bunch to work with M and myself. Always a hit. I think people just love baked goods, or possibly just sugar. 

I'm going to try and make some fun Christmas cookies this year and I'll be sure to keep you updated on the progress. I probably won't come close to the amount of cookies M's aunt makes (tradition for her to make at least 10 probably more - varieties for their Christmas party each year). I think I'll include some favorites for you all to try. Candied Pecans, Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies, and Candied Orange Peel - they make a great gift and they will disappear before you know if left out for holiday guests to enjoy.  

What are you making for Christmas this year? 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 C butter 
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 C flour
2 C rolled oats
1 C semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375˚. Cream butter for 30 seconds, add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add baking powder, soda, and spices. Beat in eggs one at a time and then the vanilla. Add in as much flour as possible with the mixer. Stir in oats and chocolate chips. Drop onto cookie sheet and bake for 9-10 minutes. cool on sheet for one minute before moving to a wire rack (or a sheet of parchment). Makes a ton of cookies! about 5 dozen cookies. 

Candied Pecans
1 egg white
1 T water

one 1 lb bag raw pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
1 C sugar

Preheat the oven to 250˚ and center the rack. Whisk the egg white and water until frothy. Add to a large ziplock bag. Add all pecans to the bag, close, and shake vigorously until all of the pecans are coated. Whisk together the cinnamon and sugar and add to the bag. Shake again until pieces are coated evenly. Spread onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 1 - 1 1/4 hours stirring every 15 minutes. 

Candied Orange Peel
I used the step by step ingredients from Use Real Butter and the recipe below adapted from the food network.

6 thick-skinned Valencia or navel oranges
4 1/2 cups sugar, plus extra for rolling
1 1/2 cups water

8 oz dark chocolate 

Cut tops and bottoms off of the orange and score the orange into quarters, cutting down only into the peel and not into the fruit. Peel the skin and pith of the orange in large pieces, use the orange for another recipe. Cut the peel into strips about 1/4-inch wide. Put the orange peel in a large saucepan with cold water to cover, bring to a boil over high heat. Then pour off the water. Repeat 2 more times. Remove the orange peels from the pan.
Whisk the sugar with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 8 to 9 minutes
(If you took the sugar's temperature with a candy thermometer it would be at the soft thread stage, 230 to 234 degrees F.) Add the peels and simmer gently, reducing heat to retain a simmer. Cook until the peels get translucent, about 45 minutes. Resist the urge to stir the peels or you may introduce sugar crystals into the syrup. If necessary, swirl the pan to move the peels around. Drain the peels, roll the peels in sugar and dry on a rack, for 4 to 5 hours. Melt Chocolate in a double boiler and dip orange peels in chocolate if you wish. If you roll them in sugar first be ware that some of the sugar will fall into the chocolate. You can also dip just the end in the sugar and the rest in chocolate if you like the look. 

Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Cookies
These are one of my favorite! 

1 1/2 C flour
1/2 C cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 C butter
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C peanut butter
1 egg
1 T milk
1 tsp vanilla

3/4 C sifted powdered sugar
1/2 C peanut butter

sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350˚. Combine flour, cocoa and soda and set aside. Cream butter, sugars, and peanut butter until combined. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in milk and vanilla. Add as much flour as possible and beat any remaining with a wooden spoon. If the batter is too sticky to roll add in more flour until you can roll a ball without it sticking to your hands. 

For the filling, beat powdered sugar and peanut butter until it also can be rolled into balls. 

Dive each of the doughs into 32 equal pieces and roll into balls. Take a ball of chocolate and flatten it out into a nice round patty. Add a peanut butter ball to the center and close the chocolate ball around it sealing up the edges. place on an ungreased cookie sheet. dip the bottom of a glass into the sugar bowl and slightly flatten each cookie. Bake for 8 minutes or until the surface just starts to crack. Cool on cooke sheet for one minute and cool on a sheet of parchment. 

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