Thursday, December 25, 2014

COOKIES: SUGAR, GINGERPEOPLE, SHORTBREAD AND MORE!

Merry Christmas to you all! I have never blogged on Christmas Day, but it seemed like the right thing to do this afternoon. None of these cookie recipes are exclusively for Christmas, although they are traditional. If you are cutting the sugar cookies into shapes, you could fashion for any occasion.
OLD FASHIONED SUGAR COOKIES
This recipe came from Betty Crocker. They are easy to put together and roll out and looked great on our tree! It was also fun eating them off the tree if you get a sugar craving during the festive holiday season!
I sometimes struggle with rolled cookies, but these have so much butter in them they rolled very easily. Plus another hint is to make the dough the day before and keep chilled in fridge overnight until ready to roll. Just let them sit out a bit before rolling next day.
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter (that's 2 sticks) softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar

Preparation:
In large bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, the butter, 1 tsp. vanilla, almond extract and egg until well blended. Stir in flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight.
Heat oven to 375. Divide dough in half. On lightly floured surface, roll each half of dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into assorted shapes with cookie cutters; free-form; or use patterns from children's books or Christmas motifs. If cookies are to be hung as decorations, make a hole in each 1/4 inch from top. I used a skewer and then when they came out of the oven reinforced the opening of each hole. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 7-10 minutes or until light brown. They get browner as they cool. Remove from cookie sheet to rack. Cool completely--about 30 minutes and then decorate either with frosting or colored sugar or let your imagination run wild. My decorations were not very sophisticated or fancy, but the cookies tasted great.

GINGERBREAD COOKIES
One year I made anatomically correct Ginger People. I decorated my tree that year with the cookies and it was so fun watching people's reactions as they viewed the tree and realized these Ginger People were without clothes! This year I made only Men and put little pants on them. I also made some Ginger Flowers.
Ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
1 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 cup molasses
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest (optional; but I used it)

Preparation:
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves until well blended.
In a large bowl beat butter, brown sugar, and egg on medium speed until well blended.
Add molasses, vanilla, and lemon zest and continue to mix until well blended.
Gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth.
Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours. I refrigerated overnight and then let stand at room temp for about 1/2 hour before proceeding.
Preheat oven to 375. Prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment. I skipped that step and just put the rolled and cut Ginger People onto the baking sheet.
Place 1 portion of the dough on a lightly floured surface. I rolled each of these recipes right on my counter.
Sprinkle flour over dough and rolling pin. Roll dough to a scant 1/4 inch. This dough was not as forgiving as the Sugar Cookies, but look at the butter ratio! Use additional flour to avoid sticking.
Cut out cookies with desired cutter-Gingerbread, of course, being the most traditional.
Space cookies 1 1/2 inch part. Bake 1 sheet at a time for 7-10 minutes. Lower cooking time means softer cookies so depends if you like them crispy or soft. I like them crispy.
After cookies are cooled decorate as you like.

I thought these 2 batches would do it, but my husband asked if I would make MORE...so I made a shortbread cookie and melted 2 different types of chocolate on top.

CLASSIC SHORTBREAD COOKIES
Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp, cut into chunks
1 tsp. water

Preparation:
Add flour, salt and powdered sugar to food processor and pulse to combine. This is a case where you really do need to use your food processor. Add vanilla, butter and 1 tsp. water. Pulse together just until dough is formed. Put the dough on a sheet of plastic and roll into a log about 2 1/2 inches in diameter (I wish I had taken a picture of this because it looks awesome all rolled up in plastic!). Tightly twist each end of the wrap in opposite directions. Chill dough in fridge at least 30 minutes. I chilled for about 5 hours.
Slice the log into 1/3 inch thick discs. Arrange on nonstick cookies sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake until the edges are just light brown--about 7-10 minutes; rotating the pans half way through the baking process. Remove from the oven and if topping with chocolate add 1 square per cookie and pop back in the oven for a few seconds. Remove and swirl chocolate. I used Ghiradelli semi-sweet and Ghiradelli white chocolate with peppermint bark. Let cool completely on racks and then start eating! Next time I am going to add toasted pecans to the dough before forming.

Closing today with the dessert we are having with our own Christmas dinner. My husband loved his Boston Cream Pie birthday cake so much he asked if I would make another for Christmas. I decided to make a Boston Cream Yule log using the Pastry Cream (see previous blog recipe, but note I forgot to say how much sugar to use in the Pastry Cream. Use 1/2 cup.). I made a Jelly Roll for the cake base, rolled it with the Pastry Cream and frosted with Karen's fabulous Chocolate Ganache. I should've used the traditional Mocha butter cream my Mom used to make with her Yule log. Because a Jelly Roll is basically sponge cake, it totally absorbed the sauce. It doesn't look that pretty, but I assure you it is insanely delicious!
Here's the Jelly Roll right out of the oven.
Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup cold water
2 tsp. vanilla

And here's me spreading the Pastry Cream into the Jelly Roll sponge cake.
Preparation:
Preheat oven to 375. Spray a cookie sheet (11 x 15) with Pam. Fit with waxed paper (it's good to have a little overhang on short sides) and spray again with Pam or any cooking spray.
Whisk eggs, sugar, vanilla and water until light.
Mix in dry ingredients. Pour the very thin batter onto the baking/cookie sheet.
Bake about 10 minutes until the sponge is golden and springs to the touch.
Turn out on a dishtowel wrung out in cold water.
Remove the waxed paper immediately. I got a phone call just as I was about to remove. Because the cake keeps cooking even after out of the oven, do not wait to remove the waxed paper. Let cool slightly and then fill with either jelly, jam, or in this case Pastry Cream!
The dishtowel will help you begin the process of rolling. It really is easy as the cake is super-moist and very pliable. I then topped with the Chocolate Ganache (see previous blog recipe) and decorated with a little colored butter cream frosting. A cake decorator I am not!, but I do love playing with food so had a ball putting this Yule log together for our festive Christmas dinner.

I hope you have all had a warm and wonderful Christmas filled with love, family, good food and holiday cheer.

Until next time...

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS!
 
ALL THE BEST OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON!



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