At first I was kind of bummed when I got assigned Neuro-Psych for my second rotation block – namely because I really wanted to get one of the very time intensive, 10 week long rotations out of the way earlier in the year. However, I’m learning that everything works out in the end because I have truly loved having some free time to enjoy the fall. (Remind me of this when I am waking up for surgery at 4:30 and driving through a snowstorm). Beyond the obvious fall cooking adventures, I have really enjoyed running in the park, which has been continuously blanketed with colorful leaves for several weeks now. Every time I enter Wildwood I think, ” I wish I could take my camera on runs” or “I really need to get John out here to see this before its gone”. (He gets a little reluctant to go running….well usually…..but especially when the weather drops below 70º ). I’ve managed to get him out a few times though and it has been truly gorgeous.
In celebration of the wonderful season, we had the pleasure of attending a bon fire and a halloween party. I really wanted to impress with my improving cookie decorating skills, but unfortunately I forgot how long it takes to work with royal icing. I managed to finish a few cookies to bring over, but if you really want to use royal icing, plan on making the cookies the night before. Nevertheless, I thought that these were a perfect autumn treat- just a hint of spice, but enough to remind you of fall. I’m hoping to make them again to take down for thanksgiving (especially because the 3 cookie cutter set I bought also came with a turkey!) Any icing will work for these, but if you plan on using royal icing check out my tutorial for instructions.
Brown Sugar and Spice Cookies
Makes about 40 cookies depending on the size of your cutouts
- 3 c unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)
- 1/8 tsp allspice
- 1/2 c granulated sugar (I use sugar that I’ve stored vanilla beans in)
- 1/2 c light brown sugar (packed)
- 2 sticks butter
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and spices, set aside.
Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and extracts and mix until well-blended.
Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom. (The dough will be quite thick…you may need to knead in stray bits of flour from the bottom of the bowl by hand.)
Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes.
Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. Refrigerate or freeze tray for about 5 minutes if you want to insure that cookies will retain shape. Bake for 10-12 minutes
Let cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute. Then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Ice the cookies as desired.
Recipe barely adapted from Bake at 350°
On a side note, I was really excited about these containers. 40% off Hobby Lobby is the best…
Ina Garten’s Shortbread
- 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
1) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Divide the dough evenly into 3 separate bowls. Using gel food coloring color 1 bowl of dough orange, 1 bowl yellow and leave one uncolored. Mix until the colors are thoroughly incorporated.
3) Press the plain colored dough into the bottom of the pan, spreading to an even layer. I did not fill the entire length of the pan because I wanted slightly taller cookies. Continue with the orange and then the yellow layers.
5) Slice the the dough into a 1/2 inch wide slice. You may also want to cut a straight line across the top yellow layer in order to get a more finished look. Then cut diagonally through the slice in order to get 5-6 pieces of candy corn. You may have some small, not perfectly shaped pieces at the edges, but that’s okay – they still bake up nicely and someone will eat them.
6) Preheat oven to 350º
When I first started this blog, I remember thinking that a great first post would be black and white cookies. I had even started writing about how great they were and why I loved them, but then for some reason I never got around to actually making them. Then when I saw these cookies on 2 of my favorite blogger’s sites a few weeks ago, I decided that I absolutely had to make them.
I have a long history with the black and white cookie, which began at a coffee and bake shop near our college campus called Mad Hatters. I used to go to this place from time to time to get away from the usual drone of the library, and it became a favorite place to study one summer when I was taking organic chemistry. You might wonder why I would decide on a plain black and white cookie when there was an entire case full of delicious baked goods to chose from. Well that’s simple – as a poor college student an absolutely gigantic cookie (like small dinner plate size), complete with both chocolate and vanilla icing icing that cost less than $1.50 was pretty much too good to pass up. (In fact it might have actually been been too good to be true, because according to mad hatter’s website, it seems that they no longer offer this cookie. Sad.). Now in all honesty, when I first bought this, I definitely thought it was just a simple sugar cookie with icing on top. I think I might have been slightly disappointed when I first ate it and realized it was more cake like than the dense and buttery cookie I was expecting. However, it quickly became one of my favorite cookies of all time.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures to show you of the steps getting up to the final product because I got slightly discouraged about halfway through making these. I was sure they were going to turn out terribly, but once I got to the final product, I ended up loving it and decided I definitely needed to share! A few hints so that you don’t get discouraged like I did: First the original recipe called for 20 minutes in the oven. I pulled them out a few minutes early and they were still slightly overdone, so I really think 15 minutes would be more than enough baking time. Secondly, I let the un-iced cookies cool slightly and then packaged them into a ziplock bag. When I took the cookies out the next morning they were stuck together, and when I pulled them apart it left an uneven surface on the cookies. Therefore, I would recommend not stacking the cookies, or using parchment paper between them. And finally, I ran out of icing and had to heat up some more about 3/4 of the way through. I adjusted the recipe below so that it should be more than enough icing to cover the cookies.
With those suggestions, I think that these are a fairly simple to make cookie that gives a delicious and stunning result. The slight lemon flavor is a perfect complement to both the vanilla and chocolate icing. It also makes a great study snack. It’s just dangerous having more than 1 of these easily available, so be sure to share.
Black and White Cookies
Yield: about 2 dozen large cookies
For the cookies:
- 4 cups (16 oz.) cake flour (found in a red box)
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 sticks butter, softened but still cool
- 1¾ cups (12¼ oz.) sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. lemon extract
- 1 cup milk
For the glaze:
- 3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
- 1/3 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 7 ½ cups (30 oz) powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- a few teaspoons of milk
To Make the Cookies:
1. Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats.
2. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine, and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. With the mixer on medium-high add in the sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Blend in the eggs, vanilla and lemon extracts at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds.
4. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and then the milk, alternating about 3 times until just combined. Batter will be thin.
5. Using a ¼-cup measuring cup or an ice cream scoop, place mounds of dough several inches apart on the baking sheet. I could only fit 6 per sheet. With moistened fingers, spread the mound of dough into a disk about 2½ inches wide and ¾ inch thick, it will spread more as it bakes.
6. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, until the edges just began to brown. Cool on a baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the icing:
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the corn syrup and water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until combined.
2. Melt the chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from the heat and set aside. Transfer 1 cup of the vanilla icing to the bowl with the melted chocolate and whisk to combine. Add a few teaspoons of milk to the chocolate icing and whisk until it is a similar consistency to the vanilla glaze.
3. Using an offset spatula, spread about 2 T. of vanilla icing over half of the cookie. Scrape the edge of the cookie to catch any excess icing. Place the cookies on a wire rack set over waxed paper and allow to harden for about 15 minutes before using the chocolate icing.
4. Repeat icing the opposite side of the cookie with chocolate. If either icing begins to harden, add a few more teaspoons of milk and whisk to combine.
I had something entirely different to share with you today – it was going to be a meal of sustenance, instead of another dessert. However, after serving these little delicacies last night, I decided that I must get this recipe out ASAP so that you can make them ASAP. I’m pretty sure these made both the gator’s and the buckeye’s losses yesterday seem less painful (at least to the people who might be pained by that sort of thing).
These treats were the perfect way to start off October. They are sweet, nutty and flakey. As a true candy lover, I think part of the reason I like these is because the brown sugar becomes caramelized on top as it mixes with the pecans, creating an almost toffee like texture on the outside with a sweet and melted inside. Because I only had enough cupcake pans to make 24 of these at a time, I ended up running out of filling for the last tray. While you’d think that extra filling would always be a good thing, it seemed like most of that extra filling just spilled out onto the pan and made a mess. Therefore I would recommend measuring out half of the filling if you are making these in batches, so you have a better idea of how much to use.
Basically these are like a miniature pecan pies, with a slightly more solidified filling and an amazing crust. They also smell amazing while baking. And I’m pretty sure they would perfectly complement a nice big glass of apple cider. So go ahead and enjoy a few (or 10) for dessert, or for breakfast (like I did today). Happy Fall!
Pecan Tassies (Mini Pecan Pies)
– Makes 48 mini cupcake sized tassies
For the Dough:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 6 oz cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat because that’s what I had)
- 2 cups flour
For the Filling:
- 1½ cups light brown sugar, packed
- 1 heaping cup chopped pecans, plus more for sprinkling on top
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1. To make the dough: beat butter and cream cheese together until combined. Add the flour and mix until incorporated. Roll the dough into 48 individual balls (each ball should be a little smaller than a quarter). Place the balls on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.
2. To make the filling: combine all ingredients (brown sugar, pecans, eggs, butter, vanilla) in medium bowl and mix to combine. Divide this into even halves if you are making this in batches.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly grease mini muffin pans.
4. To assemble: Take a ball of dough and roll it out into a flat circle. Place inside a mini muffin cup and repeat with remaining dough. Alternatively you can simply press the dough ball inside of the mini muffin tin to create a cup. I was worried about the crust being uneven, which is why I chose to roll the balls out, but to save time you can use the other method.
5. Fill each cup with a heaping teaspoon of filling. Top each with a sprinkle of roughly chopped pecans. The filling puffs up while baking, so it is not necessary to fill to the brim of the cup, in fact this tends make a mess because the filling overflows.
6. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Let cool slightly in pans, then transfer to a cooling rack. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.
Source: Brown Eyed Baker, originally adapted from “old firehall ladies auxiliary cookbook”.
There’s something about those store bought, frosted, cake-like sugar cookies that just makes you want to eat one. I actually remember the first time I tried one I thought to myself, “This might be the most artificial tasting cookie I have ever eaten”, yet for some reason I continued to eat them, with their chemical preservative taste and all. I think they must put something in them that just makes you fall in love, despite the fact that you are eating a “fresh” cookie with a shelf life of 3 months. Well, if you have become addicted to those cookies, consider this your saving substitute. These cookies taste like a better, preservative free version of the store bought cookies. Granted, there is still quite a bit of artificial dye in the frosting :-).
I made these to take in for my last day in the hospital on my family medicine rotation (sad to leave that place!). My motivation for making these was in part because I really did want to thank everyone who was so helpful on my rotation, and in part because I love having big groups of people to eat my baked goods! I enjoy the actual process of baking even if I don’t eat the end result, but with just the 2 of us here, baking becomes a dangerous habit. I chose blue and aqua for the colors because I wanted something summer-ish and these colors reminded me of the pool. With a heat index nearing 115°, I think we all have water on the mind.
You can really pick any mix-match of colors to dress these cookies up for just about any holiday, but I do have a few suggestions as far as the actual cookies are concerned. First, I substituted 2 oz of cream cheese for some of the butter, mostly because I don’t think you can ever go wrong with cream cheese; however, if you happen to only have butter, or you aren’t a cream cheese fan just use 3 full sticks of butter and leave the cream cheese out. Secondly, I was trying to plan ahead, so I made the cookie dough the night before and refrigerated it for about 24 hours. If you decide to make the dough ahead of time, just make sure to flatten the cookies out to the desired shape before baking because they will not spread on the pan if the dough is too cold. Finally, for some reason, I was worried that I wasn’t going to have enough icing… so I went kind of light on some of the cookies. Then I ended up throwing away a bunch of leftover icing. Don’t skimp like I did. After thinking back to the ones at the store, the icing should be almost as thick as the cookie.
Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
Makes about 36 cookies
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 1/4 cups (2.5 sticks) butter, softened
- 2 oz cream cheese (about 1/4 cup) *Low-fat is fine
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 5 tsp. vanilla extract
For the Icing:
- 5 cups (1 lb, 8 oz) powdered sugar, sifted
- 6 T. butter, melted (3/4 stick)
- 1 T. vanilla extract (use clear if you want white icing)
- 7-8 T. milk plus more if needed
- Food coloring, sprinkles (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Then beat in vanilla. Slowly add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix until evenly incorporated. Chill dough for 30 minutes, or overnight.
To bake, preheat oven to 350˚ F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of dough into your hand and roll into a ball, repeat. Place balls on a cookie sheet 2-3 inches apart. Using your hand or the bottom of a glass flatten each dough ball into a circle. (*Again depending on how chilled your dough is, the dough may or may not spread. If your dough is very chilled, you will need to flatten it into the shape you desire before baking). Bake for 10 minutes. (Cookies should not look brown). Let cool slightly on baking sheet and then move to a cooling rack.
Frosting: Place powdered sugar in a medium bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the melted butter, vanilla, and milk to the bowl and whisk or stir on low until smooth. Add additional milk if necessary. Tint with gel food coloring if desired. Using a spatula, frost the cookies generously with the icing. While still wet, sprinkle with desired toppings. Icing will harden slightly to allow for easier storage. Keep in an airtight container.
Decorating cookies for every holiday is starting to become a tradition, and I’m more than okay with that! I have my final test of pre-clinical medicine next Tuesday (hooray!), but that makes going home for Easter weekend a little tricky. So what did I do instead? I went home this past weekend, and celebrated Easter a little early. We had a great visit, and collectively decided that decorating cookies is WAY more fun than decorating eggs. John even joined in on the fun, and he may have actually won the award for best cookie decorator (yes, this was hard for me to admit :-)).
While I was ridiculously excited about this set of 4 Easter cookie cutters I found, I think next time I might just stick to making eggs. The chicks and bunnies were cute, but there wasn’t very much room for creativity with them – I ended up just wishing that I had some more eggs to try out all the ideas I had. My favorite thing to do was to drag a toothpick through lines on the cookies, and create fun designs.
I made a double batch of royal icing (using a full 2 pound bag), and it was more than enough! To get started just see the tutorial I posted earlier. We actually had a lot of icing left over, but I wanted to make sure I had plenty to make 6 different colors (white, green, aqua, pink, violet, and yellow).
I made the sugar cookies dough one day, then rolled it out the next, and then the next day we decorated the cookies back at home. Spacing out the project really makes it a lot less of a project, and more of a fun family activity. So instead of dying boiled eggs – try decorating some egg cookies this year! Finishing with an iced cookie is a lot tastier than a hard boiled egg :-)!
So maybe St. Patrick’s day isn’t considered a major holiday for most people, but those people didn’t grow up in my family. In my (half) Irish family, St. Patty’s day is probably the next big holiday after Thanksgiving and Christmas. I had been wanting to decorate St. Patty’s day cookies pretty much since I finished the Valentine’s Day ones. It worked out perfectly, because my festive mother was here to help me decorate them! I mentioned earlier that I really wanted to try to get good enough at royal icing to post a “How to” – and I think I have just about reached that point. I’ve made it enough times now that I have it down to a science. It’s kind of addicting, so be careful. My mom and I are already planning next year’s St. Patty’s Day cookie decorating, and we were even brainstorming about Easter….
A lot of people wonder – “Why use royal icing?….Doesn’t buttercream taste better?”. And I’ll say, yes if you are eating icing by itself, buttercream is definitely the way to go – but with a buttery cookie underneath royal icing adds a perfect amount of sweetness without being too rich. Plus the royal icing seals in the moisture of the cookie, so your cookies can be made ahead of time, and will last a lot longer. More importantly, it’s just not possible to decorate with buttercream the way you can with royal icing. Ever wonder how professional cookies get that completely smooth surface with multiple colors and no “spread marks”? That’s right – they use royal icing.
So here’s the recipe, followed by a long tutorial. I tried to include as many pointers as possible, but for the most part you can figure out what to do looking at the pictures.
- 4 cups Powdered Sugar (About 1 Pound)
- 2 Tablespoons Meringue Powder
- 5 Tablespoons Water (to start)
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low (Speed 2 or 4) for 7-10 minutes, or until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance. It will be too thick to use at this point so you will be adding more water later; however, getting it to this texture makes a difference in the final product.
How to Decorate with Royal Icing
- 1 -2 batches of Royal Icing and Sugar Cookies
- Small plastic containers with lids
- Pastry Bags (I like disposable so you don’t have to clean them)
- Couplers and Decorating Tips (I use size 3)
- Gel Food Coloring
- Miniature Squeeze bottle (optional)
First, start by planning out what colors you will want to use, and how much of each. For these cookies, I made 5 colors: Green, Light Green, Orange, Black, and White. According to color need, divide the white icing into the containers. Add about 1 additional teaspoon of water to each container. Stir to incorporate. You may need to add another teaspoon or 2 in order to get a good consistency for piping. The key is to get the icing thin enough that you can easily pipe a smooth line, but thick enough that the icing will still dry quickly.
Using toothpicks, add a little bit of gel food color and stir with a spoon. Continue adding color until you achieve the desired tint. For dark colors, like black or red, you will need a lot of gel.
Prepare your pastry bags by cutting about 3/4 of an inch from the tip. Place the coupler inside the bag, and secure the appropriate tip. I prefer size 3 for edging the cookies, but I used a mix of sizes 2-4, because that’s what I have. If you do not have pastry bags and tips , you can try using a ziploc bag and cutting the corner to make a VERY small hole. I only spent about $10 for all the couplers, tips and bags, but if you are only going to make these once, it might not be worth it.
Fold down the edges of the pastry bags, and using a spoon or knife, scoop the icing into the pastry bag. You only need a very small amount of icing to edge the cookies, but I think it’s easier to work with if you have a moderate amount of icing in the bag. Also, it’s easy to simply squeeze the left over icing back into the original container when you are finished.
Pipe the icing around the edges of each cookie to make an outline. To get the smoothest line possible you do not want the tip to be touching the cookie.
I think it’s better to work quickly and let the icing lie smoothy, than to try to get an absolutely perfect shape for the outline. If you look at these, some of the cookies have a smoother outline, and some are more squiggly.
Once the cookies are lined, squeeze unneeded icing back into the container. Now it’s time to thin the icing for flooding. Add 1 teaspoon water at a time to each icing, stirring after each addition. You want the icing to be thin enough that when a spoonful of it is poured back into the container, it takes about 4 seconds for it to disappear into the pool of icing. It is better to err on the side of too thick of icing than to thin. If you accidentally make the icing too thin, add a little bit of powdered sugar to get it back to a normal consistency.
You should now let the icing set for about 5 minutes in order to get the air bubbles to rise to the surface. The first time making this, I didn’t do this, and you end up with air bubbles on what was supposed to be your smooth surface cookie. Once the air bubbles have risen to the surface, gently stir the icing through once, just to pop them.
If you are using mini squeeze bottles, this would be the time to transfer the icing into the bottle. It’s easier to do if the icing is in a flexible plastic container, because you can bend the container to funnel the icing in. This was my first time using squeeze bottles, and it does make it a lot easier to flood the cookies, but it also makes one more thing to clean when finished.
If you are not using squeeze bottles, spoon the icing onto the top of the cookie, and then spread it to the edges using a toothpick. 2 pointers: 1) If you spread the icing over just over the edge of the piping, it will help to blend the piping with the flooded icing. 2) It looks a lot better if you over-flood the cookies, so that the icing ends up creating a dome look on top of the cookie. If you under-fill them, the center will sink down and the outer edge piping will be very visible.
If you want to decorate the cookies with sprinkles, as I did with the pots of gold, it’s best to put this on while the icing is still wet. If you want to pipe a design on top of the cookies, it’s best to let the cookies dry for at least 45 minutes (or overnight). For the “plaid” effect on the cookies, I cleaned up while letting the cookies dry, and I just used the little bit of icing I had left in my pastry bags and piped perpendicular lines over several cookies in a row.
Let let the cookies dry for several hours or overnight before packing them up. The cookies should then be stored in an airtight container or cellophane bags. These cookies will last for at least a full week, and once the icing has dried, it is very sturdy. Therefore these cookies can be made in advance and are great for mailing.
Inspired by Annie’s Eats