Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Aftermath

Hello!  I hope you and yours had a lovely Christmas!  We sure did!  And now that the flour and powdered sugar have settled, and the mess is (almost) cleaned up, here is a little recap of our days leading up to Christmas.

First I decorated some more sugar cookies.  I copied the "Joy" idea from Sweet Sugar Belle , but hers were much better.  I forgot to decorate the letters.  And I was in a hurry.  I may have mentioned I went for simple this year?  It was because I needed to decorate a LOT of cookies, fast.

So anyway, those were terrible.  I changed up the snowmen after the first run.  However, I made the change after I had already piped on the little hats.  I decided to do stick arms instead of snow arms.  But after I piped the modified body outlines for the snowmen with stick arms, I realized the hats were now waaaaay too big.  *sigh*  I'd be dangerous if I planned ahead.

I almost forgot the gingerbread men.  I used Glorious Treats' gingerbread recipe .  Um, yum!  I have now found my new go-to gingerbread cookie recipe.  Thanks, Glory!

Here we are: Classic Gingerbread Men!

And my favorite, the Very Angry Gingerbread Men!

They totally make me giggle.  The Boy wanted to take them to school for his Christmas party.  He was very particular about their faces.  He wanted them to be looking straight ahead, not at the bite marks, as I usually make them.  He wanted them to have angry eyebrows.  And the mouths had to be straight, not curved down and frowny.  What can I say, the boy knows what he wants.

Anywho, after the cookies were dry, it was time to make the gift "baskets".  My BIL found some glass terrariums at Michael's, and thought they should be filled with cookies.  I agreed, so after work on the Thursday (OK, technically it was REALLY early Friday) before Christmas, I came home from work, bagged the cookies and filled the jars.

Here is a picture of my kitchen table at approximately 2:00a.m. (It's not as bad as it sounds...I work evenings, so I keep odd hours.)

At about 3:30a.m.: order from chaos.

And on to filling!  This was the easy part.  A mini pumpkin bread went in the middle, surrounded by drop and filled cookies.

Next, iced sugar cookies and gingerbread/ninjabread men were stacked, facing out.

And the whole she-bang was topped off with the candy and the bar cookies.

All the way to the top.  Mmmmm...cookies...

I thought they came out kind of cute.

And I tied ribbon around the top and called it a day.  This was around 4:30a.m. 

Later that morning, BIL and hubby drove around town and delivered them to whomever was getting one.  One of these days I'm going to start selling these. 

So, again, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!  And as the holiday season winds down, please keep in mind the greatest gift of all:

Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Grandma's Sugar Cookies

Here's another cookie recipe that has been passed down from my grandmother.  These are old-fashioned sugar cookies, and they are no good for icing.  But they are delicious.  And not nearly as frustrating as the stuffed cookies!

First things first...measure out some shortening.  I don't like to measure shortening because it's messy.  I had one of those fancy measuring cups that you slide to adjust, and you can push the messy stuff out into the bowl, but my hubby melted it in the dishwasher one day and I have not found a replacement.  So I use the plastic wrap method now.

Much less muss and fuss.  Line the cup with plastic wrap, then pop it into the mixing bowl. 

Now cream your shortening and sugar until fluffy.

Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well-incorporated.

Sift together the dry ingredients and add, alternately, with milk.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and roll it into a nice log.

Divide the log into thirds.

Next, divide one of the thirds in half.

Grab some red and green food coloring.

And color the dough.  My mom, and I'm assuming my grandmother, did not have access to gel colors, so their cookies were more pastel, so I usually go easy on the coloring because that's what I'm used to.  If you make these, dye them as dark as you like.

Wrap all of the dough in plastic and chill for at least half an hour, maybe a little more.  When it's well-chilled, roll the uncolored dough 1/4 inch thick and cut into circles.  Fill as many cookie sheets as you have with circles, just don't bake them yet. 

Next, roll the colored dough and cut smaller shapes and place the smaller shapes on top of the circles, like so:

Bake at 350 F for 8-10 minutes.  They will still be fairly pale.  Don't overbake unless you like crispy cookies.

As soon as you remove the cookies from the oven, coat them liberally with table sugar.

Wait a few minutes, then knock off the excess sugar and move the cookies to a cooling rack.  Save the extra sugar for the next batch. 

I usually run out of uncolored dough before I use all of the colored dough, so I make tie-dye cookies with the leftovers.  The kids love them. 

 When they're done, stack them up and put them away.  The baked cookies freeze well , but I don't like to freeze the dough.  I think it's the shortening, but the dough doesn't freeze solid.  Which kind of weirds me out a little.

And, since I don't believe you can readily find this recipe, either, here it is (keep in mind, the dough in the photos above is a triple recipe...this is a very small batch as written):

Grandma's Sugar Cookies

2/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 tsp milk

Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix until well-incorporated.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt.  Add alternately to creamed mixture with milk.  Divide dough into thirds.  Color one third of dough.  Chill for at least half an hour.

Roll out 1/4 inch thick.  Cut white circles and top with colored shapes.  Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

That's all for today.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Grandma's Stuffed Cookies

These particular cookies are very near and dear to my heart.  And I hate them with every fibre of my being.  How is that possible?  I love to eat them.  I hate to make them.  But if I don't make them, no one else will.  And my brother would never speak to me again.  And since I've only got the one brother, I bite the bullet and make the stinking cookies.

My grandmother used to make these cookies every year, back when she still made cookies.  Then my mom made them every year, until she passed the torch to me.  I have done a little research, and I have never found another stuffed cookie recipe quite like this one.  I don't know where it came from, so if anyone happens to read this blog, and you know the origin of this cookie, please let me know.  It may be English, since Grandma's family is from England, but that's just a guess.

The first thing you will need to do is make the filling.  It can be made on the same day or a day or two before you plan to make the cookies.  Just keep it in the 'fridge until you're ready to use it.

Cook sugar, flour, raisins, dates, lemon juice, salt and water in a small saucepan until thick and bubbly.  The filling with thicken upon standing, as well.  I made this filling a day in advance, and forgot to take a picture of the process. 

Next, mix up the dough.  Nothing complicated. And no fancy ingredients.  It's a very simple recipe, actually.

But here comes the infuriating fun part.  Prepare to roll!

I use my handy dandy Do-Bord.  Well-floured.

Roll about 1/8 inch thick.

And here's where the fun comes in.  I don't know what is up with this dough, but it's horrid to work with.  It's crumbly, but not dry, so adding more liquid doesn't help.  Adding more flour makes it tough, and so defeats the purpose.  I believe I mentioned in a prior post that I make three batches of everything at Christmas.  I make one batch of these. (Take note of the spatula in the above photo.  We'll refer to it later.)

Cut out the shapes you want.  I used circles for demonstration purposes.  Any shape will do, as long as it's got enough room in the center to add filling.  A candle, for example, would not work.  Mittens work nicely, as do rocking horses, boots, stockings, bells, stars, etc.  But circles are easiest.

I have found that the best way to get the dough onto the cookie sheet, aside from rolling it on the sheet, which I can't do...and that's why I have a to use a sharp metal spatula to lift them.  Then they're only slightly mangled when you put them on the cookie sheet.

Anyhoo, repeat until the cookie sheet is full.  Then add about a teaspoon of filling to each cookie. 

Go through the whole rolling ordeal again, and add tops to the cookies. No need to add water to the edges, or anything.  They stick just fine.  Just press down firmly to seal, or they'll leak in the oven.

Bake at 400 F for 6-8 minutes, or until the cookies are just starting to turn golden around the edges. 


And there you have it.  Grandma's Stuffed Cookies!  I have found it necessary to refuse to tell people what they are stuffed with until AFTER they eat one.  Because people generally love them.  But they hear the word "dates" and they freak out.  It's weird.

Because you can't get the recipe anywhere else, here it is!  I hope I'm not violating any secret family code by posting this.

Grandma's Stuffed Cookies

1 cup sugar
1 Tbs flour
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped dates
2 Tbs lemon juice
pinch salt
3/4 cup water

Combine all ingredients in saucepan.  Cook over medium-low heat until thick.  Cool.

4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbs milk

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  Cream shortening.  Blend in sugar.  Add eggs and beat until smooth.  Add vanilla.  Add dry ingredients alternately with milk.

Roll out 1/8 inch thick. Cut out two cookies and use about 1 tsp of filling (sandwich fashion).  Press edges firmly to seal.  Bake at 400 F for 6-8 minutes, or until edges just start to turn golden.

Well, that's all for now.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree...and More

I had trouble deciding what kind of decorated cookies I wanted to do this year.  I wanted something simple.  But not too simple.  Last year was ornaments, and the year before that was snowflakes, but I wasn't happy with the cookies either year.

So I decided to do random Christmas shapes.  Trees, snowmen, snowflakes, mittens, stockings, candy canes.  To tie them all together, they would all be outlined in black.  But I needed a focal point.  Then it hit me.  Why not a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree?

What do you think?  It was the first one, so I'll do more and they'll be better.  The girl thought it was so cute that I put a tomato on the little Christmas tree.  :-\

Anyway, here are some of the others in the collection:

There you have it.  Like I said, nothing fancy.  I'll be doing more later this week, so I'll post photos if the computer allows.


Remarkable Fudge

Really, that's its name. Remarkable Fudge. It's in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. My husband tells me it's the best stuff ever. I don't like fudge *gasp*, so I don't really know.  

You don't need a candy thermometer for this one.  You may need burn ointment.  That's up to you.

Let's boil some sugar, shall we?

That's butter, sugar, salt, and some evaporated milk.

Bring to a boil and let it boil for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

That's why I only make candy once a year.  Too much standing and stirring.  The toffee nearly did me in.

Once that's good and thick, add some cholocate chips, a chopped up chocolate bar, marshmallow fluff and vanilla.

The recipe says the candy bar is optional.  But it's really not.  The fudge is not remarkable without the candy bar.  (I used a hershey bar...yum...)

Stir it all up...

And pour it into a foil lined, buttered 9x13 baking dish.  Let it set up and cut into one inch squares.  Store in an air tight container in the fridge.

Or put it in a bag and hide it in your chest freezer in the basement so your husband doesn't eat it all while you're at work one night, forcing you to have to rush and make another batch for your co-workers.  Did I mention this recipe makes about four pounds of fudge?


Anyhoo, that's all for now. 


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Butter Toffee

I'm most  of the way through my Christmas baking list.  On my list this year are:

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Gingerbread Cookies
Sugar Cookies (iced)
Sugar Cookies (not iced)
Stuffed Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookies
Oatmeal Carmelitas
Butter Toffee
Peppermint Patties
Pumpkin Bread

The more run-of-the-mill items I won't bother posting about.  If anyone is curious about a recipe, just drop me a line and I'll share.  No secrets here.

In order to keep everything as fresh as possible, for the drop cookies I make the dough, portion it out, freeze it on a cookie sheet, and when it's hard, put it in a resealable freezer bag.  Then, when I need some cookies, I bake off  a few, and they're fresh from the oven with a minimal amount of fuss. 

I do have a KitchenAid Professional 600, which makes my life easier because it holds about three batches of dough at once, depending on the recipe.  And since I usually make triple batches of everything at Christmastime, that means I only have to mix once. 

So...where were we?  Oh yes, butter toffee!  I lifted this recipe off of the Pioneer Woman's site.  It's fabulous.  My husband hates it, though.  He's odd.  Anywhoo, original recipe here .  Use it responsibly.

You'll need a candy thermometer.  Really. And burn ointment.  Don't ask.

Put melted butter (one pound!), sugar (one pound!), salt and water in a saucepan and heat to boiling.

Stir gently until it reaches 298 degrees F.  This is just about right.

And this is too much.  Throw it out and start over. 

Just an FYI: Those last 10 degrees go really fast.

Ok, so once it reaches 298, stir in the vanilla and immediately spread the hot candy onto two parchment-lined baking sheets and let it cool.  Forget to take a picture while you're at it.  Once it's cool, blot off the excess butter then spread melted chocolate on top of the candy, and forget to take another picture.  Finally, sprinkle sliced almonds on top of the chocolate.  Press them down for good measure.

See, I'm not a complete airhead!  Break up the candy into bite-sized pieces when everything is all set.  Keeps for a long time in an air tight container.  And it's SOOOO good.  You should make some. 

That's all for now.