Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Cookies for the Kids

You would think that with all of the baking I've been doing this past month, I would not have an ounce of energy left to bake anything else.  Well, if we're talking about my niece and nephews, then this uncle will do his best to bake and mail out uncommonly good Christmas cookies without a moment to lose. To be honest, this is the the baking I like best.  Every moment that I spend in my kitchen making cookie doughs, rolling out the slabs, cutting out the shapes with those collectible cookie cutters of mine, and then icing the festive shapes, is always a pleasure, because I know that my little ones will be dazzled by each and every creation that arrives.

Although I didn't style these cookies for photography like I normally do (remember, these had to fly out the door!), I still managed to take a few photographs before mailing them.

Cookies bundled in sets of 2 were placed into clear cellophane bags and were tied with a pale mint-green grosgrain ribbon.  A mixed set of Christmas trees, candy canes, little penguins, stockings, cottages and mittens were iced with a minimum of fuss.  That beautiful gingerbread Christmas tree was simply flooded in white icing and was sprinkled with red, green & white nonpareils.  

The candy cane was iced in a typical red & white theme, but was then flocked with clear sanding sugar to make it sparkle.  If you must own one candy cane cookie cutter, buy this particular one with that beautiful swirled top.  Click HERE and have it shipped to you.    

This adorable penguin was shown at my Williams-Sonoma Christmas Cookie demo and the kids went crazy over it.  I created this black one and one in an ice-blue color.  Isn't it adorable?  

Holly-leaved mittens, Christmas stockings (my favorite) and those gingerbread cottages are on their way to my little ones as we speak.  I think they're going to like them.  

Christmas stockings and mittens are simple shapes, yet they are very much of the season.  The stocking in the middle of the photograph was iced in white royal icing and was then given a nonpareil-covered cuff and multi-colored buttons along the length of the sock.  

Christmas Cookies for the Kids

Baking has always been an important tradition in my family and it is one that I plan on handing down to my niece and nephews when the time is right. With only a handful of ingredients, some patience and clear instructions, anyone can make homemade treats that are worthy of tradition.  Take a moment to bake at least one batch of cookies before Christmas this year and let friends & family partake of your treats.  

Enjoy sharing the season's best!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Winter Holiday Cookies

A great way to decorate cookies this Christmas or for any other winter occasion, is to keep the designs simple and beautiful.  With a handful of seasonal shapes, cut out sugar cookies, spice cookies or even gingerbread cookies will take on that festive quality if the right colors are paired with one another.

Winter Holiday Cookies

You have no idea how long I've been wanting to own a mitten cookie cutter just so that I could make adorable cookies in December.  Well, I finally got my wish a few weeks ago when I spotted one.  I absolutely love it!

For the set of cookies you see here, I wanted to keep the icing uncomplicated and quick to execute, yet I wanted each one to feel extra special because they were going to such a worthy cause.  These winter holiday cookies were created especially for the fundraising event I helped out with at Williams Sonoma this December.  People couldn't get enough of them and several individuals took home more than one while I was giving my cookie decorating demo.  All proceeds went to St. Jude Children's Hospital.  Knowing full well that these cookies were going to charity, I made sure each one was special.

Mitten, snowflake and peppermint candy cookies will have everyone wanting more than one.  I promise you will have a grand old time making a batch of my Winter Holiday Cookies, because they are so simple to create.

Make one of my cookie doughs (chocolatesugarsugar & spice or gingerbread) and at least a batch or two of that perfect royal icing. When the cookie decorations have dried and set, package them up into beautiful bundles and send them on their way.

Everyone is going to love them!

For the snowflakes, use a diamond-shaped cookie cutter to cut out cookies.  In a pinch, you can bend a square cookie cutter to form a diamond shape.  Flood the bases of each cookie using the color of your choice and while still wet, pipe snowflake designs using a compatible color, however you see fit.  I kept every single snowflake design exactly the same.  If you wish, add pearl candies to the wet icing along the intersections of each snowflake branch.  Easy!

Snowflakes & Mittens

This is my mitten technique.  Click on the photograph to enlarge and get the easy how-to.

Mittens & Peppermint Candies

For these peppermint candy swirl cookies, click on the photograph for the how-to.  I love these cookies!
I also included a two-tone peppermint design for the fundraiser at Williams-Sonoma.  Aren't these simple?

Use my designs as guides or create your very own Christmas cookies this winter.  Once you start icing a few of these, you'll come to realize that cookie decorating doesn't have to be complicated in order to create beautiful cookies.  Have fun making these!

Merry Christmas!  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Gingerbread Cookies

What would winter be without some gingerbread cookies?  December baking for the Christmas festivities and for gift-giving has to include some form of gingerbread cookies, whether they are snaps or iced treats cut out in seasonal shapes.  I like both and make them every single season.  There is nothing like the aromas that permeate the house for the entire day after I’ve baked dozens of these cookies.  I’ve shared a Gingersnap Cookie recipe with you already, but I haven’t developed a gingerbread cookie formula until now.  I’m so glad I did, because we all need a reliable recipe to go back to year after year.

The dough that I’ve developed has all of the flavors we’re after, but nothing is over-the-top or overpowering.  The cookies aren’t exactly sweet, since the recipe only calls for one cup of light brown sugar, but with the addition of unsulphured molasses (don’t use blackstrap), the gingerbread will be what you want it to be.  You can leave the cut out shapes just as they are or you can enhance them with a sprinkling of sanding sugar or some Royal Icing with great success.

Keep in mind that gingerbread dough is almost always a challenge to roll because it is quite soft, but with proper chilling and rolling between pieces of floured parchment, this task can be done without any problems.  Now is the time to bring out those cookie cutters in the shapes of snowflakes, cottages, candy canes, snowmen, gingerbread men & ladies, trains, sleighs and ornaments.  Bake these cookies by the dozen and give yourself ample time to decorate each one wherever your creativity takes you.

  • 5-1/4 cups {745 g.} all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons {12.5 ml.} ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons {10 ml.} ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon {2.5 ml.} ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon {1.25 ml.} ground cloves
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon {7.5 ml.} baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon {5 ml.} fine sea salt
  • 12 tablespoons or 1-1/2 sticks {170 g.} unsalted butter , room temperature
  • 1 cup packed {240 g.} light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup or 8 oz. {237 ml.} unsulphured molasses

Yield: approximately two dozen 3-5” cookies.
  1. In large bowl, measure out the flour.  With a sieve set over the bowl, sift the spices, baking soda and salt into the flour; whisk to combine thoroughly.  Set this aside.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream the butter on medium speed until malleable, 1 minute (A).
  3. Add the light brown sugar and continue beating on medium speed until light, about 3-4 minutes (B).  Add the egg and beat until combined.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and paddle at least once during this process.
  4. Add the molasses on medium-low speed until combined (C).
  5. Add the dry ingredients on low speed and mix until a dough has formed (D).
  6. Divide the dough in half and wrap between two pieces of plastic wrap.  Press the dough down with the help of the plastic wrap and form disks.  The dough must chill for at least two hours before rolling out.
  7. Note: dough can be frozen for up to one month wrapped well in a freezer zip top bag.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  9. When ready to roll out between two pieces of parchment paper, lightly flour the bottom piece of parchment paper.  Using the dough straight from the refrigerator, roll out evenly to 1/4" in thickness.
  10. Cut out shapes and arrange them on silpat-lined or parchment-lined baking sheets.  Space shapes evenly on baking sheets, giving them 2” of clearance; approximately 6 cookies per baking sheet.  If at any moment the dough softens too much, place the entire slab into the refrigerator to chill.  Gather any scraps, chill them and reroll.
  11. Chill cut out shapes for 30 minutes.
  12. Bake each baking sheet for 12-14 minutes, just until the cookies have set and feel firm to the touch.  Let cool on sheets for 2 minutes before transferring them onto cooling racks.
  13. Let cool completely.
  14. Note: baked cookies will keep for up to 1 week well wrapped.
Ice as desired.

Don't forget to leave St. Nick a plate of these gingerbread cookies.  
I think he's going to adore them. 

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Hanukkah

For everyone celebrating the Festival of Lights, I want to wish you and your family a Happy Hanukkah.  May your season be filled with good health, prosperity, blessings and joyous occasions shared with friends and family.

Hanukkah cookies decorated for the holiday.

I made these cookies for my Hanukkah Cookie decorating class at Williams Sonoma.  Dreidels were iced in shades of blue, white and yellow, and were given the characters for: Nun, Gimel, Hay & Shin. For that beautiful Star of David, I flooded the base in royal blue icing and let it dry.  With a fine #1 tip, I piped a snowflake design for a wintry effect.

Star of David Cookies

For the top-left, top-right and bottom-left of Star of David Cookies, flood the bases with royal blue-colored royal icing.  If you're going to pipe a double Star of David (top-left), do it in white while the base is wet.  Let the bases dry. For snowflakes, pipe designs using a #1 tip with white icing.  Add corresponding dots or pearl candies.

The special multi-colored Snowflake (bottom-right) requires a few more steps.  Outline and flood the points of the star in white icing and drop Star of David candies in the middle.  Flood the middle of the star in royal blue.  Let this base dry.  Outline and flood, in ice blue royal icing, a hexagon shape in the middle of the cookie, leaving a 1/4" clearance to expose the royal blue. Let dry.  Pipe an ice blue bead of icing around the perimeter of the larger hexagon and pipe a white snowflake using a #1 tip on the ice blue 'pillow'.   

 Star of David Snowflakes

For the royal blue Star of David Cookie (top-right): Pipe a bead of royal blue icing along the border of the star.  Immediately flood the entire cookie with white royal icing.  While the icing is wet, pipe a royal blue Star of David in the middle.  Let the icing sink in and dry completely.

Dreidel Letter Cookies

Dreidel Cookies are easy to make.  Flood the bases of your cut out dreidel cookies in aqua, white, royal blue and yellow royal icing.  Let these dry. Trace the outline of the shape in a corresponding color and pipe the dreidel letter.  Simple!

Star of David Snowflakes

These cookies are my favorite from this entire batch.  Using pale aqua and teals, I created dotted Stars of David Cookies and Stars of David Snowflakes. With the techniques I've detailed, above, let your imagination create memorable designs.

Happy Hanukkah!