Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Cutout Cookies

Merry Christmas, everyone! I'm not going to post an entire recipe today. Instead, I'm simply going to refer you to the King Arthur Flour website, where you can find the recipe for the Christmas Cutout Cookies some friends and I tried this year.

The dough rolled and cut pretty nicely, but other than that, they were your typical butter/sugar cookies.

Here is a photo of a few of the ones we decorated:

Yes, that is a mini tree cookie inside the large snowglobe and a mini snowman cookie inside the middle snowglobe.

We used the King Arthur recipe for royal icing. While this recipe was a little easier to make than the traditional royal icing I make (using the Wilton recipe), it certainly wasn't any easier to work with. In fact, I found it to be rather a pain. My right hand cramped up so bad from squeezing the icing bag that I couldn't fully open my fingers for a half hour or so after decorating.

If I make sugar cutout cookies again, I think I'm sticking with buttercream icing. It takes longer to dry, but it goes on more smoothly and (in my humble opinion) tastes better.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Cookies: Candy Cane Snowballs

I've made several different cookies over the years that require crushed candy canes on top. These are pretty good. I don't know if they are my favorite of the candy cane cookies (I think I may actually like these better), but I do like the white chocolate instead of the icing on top of these.

Candy Cane Snowballs

2 cups butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chopped pecans
8 oz. white chocolate chips
1/2 cup crushed candy canes

Cream butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and then gradually add the flour. Stir in chopped pecans. Refrigerate 3-4 hours for easier handling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes until lightly brown. Cool on wire rack.

Melt white chocolate in the microwave until smooth. (The package directions suggested one minute at 70% power, stir, and then 15 second increments as necessary.) Dip the top of each cookie into the chocolate and then the crushed candy canes.

Instead of always dipping the cookie in the chocolate, I tried putting the melted white chocolate in a decorating bag and squeezing it on top of the cookies. That was a little easier than dipping them. I also tried just sprinkling the candy canes on top, but I think dipping the cookies in the crushed candy canes actually resulted in better coverage.

Yields: about 5 dozen cookies

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chocolate Candy Cane Cake

I adapted this recipe from the Kraft website. The original version had candy canes in the cake itself. I was worried about the cake ending up crunchy. They also suggested using cool whip for the icing. I used buttercream icing with peppermint extract.

The cake was made to celebrate a special occasion at work, so I didn't add the crushed candy cane decorations until it was time to serve it. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so the only photo I have is one of the last piece that was left and I was able to take home. (Update: a co-worker has sent me a photo she took with her phone--I've added it to the end.)

Chocolate Candy Cane Cake

Ingredients for cake:
1 Devil's Food cake mix
1 instant chocolate pudding packet
8 oz. sour cream
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Ingredients for icing and decorating:
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (e.g. Crisco)
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 tablespoons water
4 cups powdered sugar
about eight small candy canes, crushed

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray cake pans with cooking spray. In a mixer, beat the first six ingredients until thoroughly blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour into prepared cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto wire racks.

Once cake has cooled completely, make the icing by beating together the vegetable shortening, margarine, vanilla, peppermint extract, and water. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.

To decorate the cake, I first iced the bottom layer and sprinkled a few crushed candy canes on top. Then I placed the second layer on top and iced the entire cake. The final candy cane decorations were not added until just before serving because I didn't want them to bleed into the icing.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Apricot Pinwheels

I wanted to use up some apricot preserves so I used a recipe for "Sweet Jam Swirls" (which you can find here) as the basis for this recipe.

The cookies turned out pretty well, but I think they'd work better with a very thin layer of jelly as opposed to the preserves I used. Still tasty, though!

Apricot Pinwheels

1 package (18 ounces) refrigerated sugar cookie dough
8 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup flour
8 rounded teaspoons apricot preserves
2 tablespoons sugar

Soften cream cheese (an hour at room temperature or 15-20 seconds in microwave). Let cookie dough set out at room temperature for 15 minutes.

In large mixer bowl, beat together cream cheese, cookie dough, and flour until well blended. Divide dough into four equal pieces. Wrap each in plastic wrap and freeze for an hour.

Removing one piece at a time from the freezer, roll into a square about 5 or 6 inches wide. The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick.

Spread two rounded teaspoons of preserves on the square. Leave a half inch bare at the end you will roll toward since the preserves tend to ooze.
Roll into logs, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheets with baking spray. Cut logs into 1/4-inch slices. Place on greased sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on sheet for one minute before removing to cooling rack.

Yields: about 4 dozen.