Monday, December 22, 2008

Stained Glass Cookies

I first discovered this recipe in my Better Homes & Gardens 100 Best Cookies magazine last year around Christmastime and decided that they were something that i had to try. They're actually called "Sugar Cookie Cutouts" in the magazine, but look like pretty stained glass. They looked so gorgeous in the magazine picture, but this recipe was definitely the most problem-recipe I used this Christmas. After making the recipe that came with it though, I think next time I'll use my never-fails-me-sugar-cookie-recipe for the cookie part. This recipe made dough that was way too soft to handle (even after adding extra flour), and the cookies spread to much during baking (even after re-chilling the cutouts right before baking. Oh, and next time I'll use smaller cut-outs too - the large ones were pretty, but there was definitely too much candy in the cookie. These ones were definitely more for decoration than for eating.

1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
Crushed Jolly Ranchers, Lifesavers, Butterscotch, etc. (I used Jolly Ranchers and some leftover Butterscotch candies I had in the pantry)
Meringue Powder Icing

In a medium mixing bowl beat butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, and a dash of salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon. Cover; chill for 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with the foil with cooking spray. On a lightly floured surface roll one portion of the dough at a time to a 1/4" thickness. Cut with cookie cutters. Place cutouts on lined cookie sheet. Using small cookie cutters or hors d'eouvre or fondant cutters, cut shapes from the center of the cookie. Fill cutouts with crushed candies (be careful not to get candies onto the cookie where you don't want them or they will bake into it).

Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are very light brown. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. Frost cookies with Meringue Powder Icing.

CREDIT: Better Homes & Gardens Special Interest Publication - "100 Best Cookies - Our Most Popular Holiday Recipes", p.106, c. 2007

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

I first made these sugar cookies last year, and they are absolutely delicious! I have since used this recipe a few other times for cut-out cookies and it never fails me. Perfect, soft, easy-to-work-with sugar cookies! The hint of lemon in the cookies keeps them from being too sweet.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp finely shredded lemon peel
3 1/2 cups flour**
Meringue Powder Icing

**Note that the original recipe only calls for 2 1/2 cups of flour - I find that I need 3 1/2 cups each time I make them.

In a large mixing bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and dash salt; beat until combined. Beat in sour cream, egg, vanilla, and lemon peel. Beat in as much of the flour as you can. Stir in remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Cover; chill for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°. On a well-floured surface roll half of the dough at a time to a 1/8 - 1/4" thickness. Using cookie cutters, cut into desired shapes. Place cutouts 1" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for 7-8 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool.

Spread cooled cookies with Meringue Powder Icing; let dry completely. Using a small clean paintbrush, paint designs on each cookie with food coloring.

CREDIT: Better Homes & Gardens Special Interest Publication - "100 Best Cookies - Our Most Popular Holiday Recipes", p.69, c. 2007

Gingerbread Men

I've been making this recipe now for a few years and can't remember where I got it from. The dough is usually extremely easy to work with, but we had such a wet winter that I had to add a couple of extra cups of flour because they were so sticky from the humidity. This is my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe.

1/3 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (12-oz jar) dark molasses
2/3 cup cold water
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp crushed cloves
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Decorations (raisins, red-hots, M&M;s, etc)

Mix shortening, brown sugar, and molasses thoroughly. Stir in 2/3 cup water. Blend flour, soda, salt, and spices; stir into molasses mixture. Chill for about 1 hour (up to overnight).

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough about 1/4" thick. Cut with cookie cutters and place on prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes. Cool slightly, then remove from baking sheet. When completely cool and ready to decorate, use Meringue Powder Icing as "glue" for the decorations.

Cookie Party!

I threw a cookie decorating party at my apartment today to help with some of the time-consuming decorating. Last year my family (except for one sister) traveled to Texas to spend Christmas with extended family. Our family tradition has always been to celebrate and open presents on Christmas Eve night. Since my sister and I were the only siblings still here in Georgia, Ashley and her husband came over and the 4 of us had a nice Christmas Eve dinner together. Afterward Ashley and I decorated some cookies I had baked. We had so much fun we decided that we need to make sure to have a Cookie Party the following Christmas with the rest of our sisters (there are 4 of us girls!). Tonight we decorated Gingerbread Men and Sugar Cookies.

My sister's boyfriend, Travis, posing with the undecorated cookies.


Stacey was in charge of dipping the pretzels in chocolate.

Ashley putting the finishing touches on a nutcracker soldier cookie.

Vikki's humorous snowmen.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Buckeye Cookies

These have got to be my all-time favorite cookie recipes! They're technically called "Peanut Butter Munchies" but I re-christened them "Buckeye Cookies". My mother-in-law makes fantastic buckeyes every year at Christmastime and these cookies remind me of them. They are a little time-consuming to make (I enlist a baking partner to help roll them out), and I would highly recommend investing in 2 different size cookie scoops if you plan on making these - I use a small (2 tsp) cookie scoop and a medium (1 1/2 Tbs) cookie scoop made by Oxo - they're absolutely wonderful and you'll wonder how you ever baked cookies without them!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 Tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tbs granulated sugar (to flatten cookies with)

Preheat oven to 350º. In a medium bowl stir together flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In a large bowl beat together butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and the 1/4 cup peanut butter until combined. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; beat well. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can. Stir in remaining flour mixture. Form the chocolate dough into 32 balls** about 1 1/4" in diameter (This is where I use the medium 1 1/2 Tbs cookie scoop, and they're not exactly 1 1/4" in diameter). Set aside.

For filling, combine powdered sugar and 1/2 cup peanut butter until smooth. Shape mixture into 32** balls about 3/4" in diameter (This is where I use the small 2 tsp cookie scoop - as with the chocolate dough balls, these are not exactly 3/4" in diameter).

On a work surface, slightly flatten a chocolate dough ball; top with a peanut butter ball. For each cookie, shape the chocolate dough over the peanut butter filling, completely covering the filling. Roll dough into a ball.

Place balls 2" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Lightly flatten with the bottom of a glass dipped in the 2 Tbs granulated sugar.

Bake cookies in preheated oven for 8 minutes or until just set and surface slightly cracks. Let stand 1 minute. Transfer to wire racks and cool.
**NOTE: Using the Small and Medium cookie scoops, I usually only get about 24 cookies from this recipe. Make sure that you have the same number of chocolate dough balls as you do peanut butter dough balls.

CREDIT: Better Homes & Gardens Special Interest Publication - "100 Best Cookies - Our Most Popular Holiday Recipes", p.68, c. 2007

Peanut Butter Blossoms

This is my Mom's recipe that she used to make every year at Christmas. Of course, I have to carry on the tradition! I made a double batch this year since my mother didn't have time to do any Christmas baking (oh, the humanity!!) and gave her a batch. Soft, moist, chewy, and deeee-lish!

1 can condensed milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 cups Bisquick
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar (for rolling)
1 pkg chocolate kisses

Preheat oven to 375º. In a large mixing bowl, beat condensed milk and peanut butter until smooth. Add Bisquick and vanilla; mix well.

Shape into 1" balls (I use a 2 tsp cookie sand roll in sugar. Place 2" apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until LIGHTLY browned (do not overbake). Immediately after removing from oven, press a chocolate kiss into the center of each ball. Let cool. Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.

CREDIT: My mother!

Christmas Toffee Bars

Christmas Time! My favorite time of year! It's a ginormous excuse to bake lots of cookies!! The Christmas Toffee Bars were a new addition to my holiday repertoire this year. They came out of the Holiday Cookies edition of Cuisine at Home - one of my favorite cooking magazines (although they don't typically have a lot of baking recipes in there, they offer tons of handy tips, reviews, and beautiful photos - I love to find yummy-looking photos of meals for Hubby to make for dinner!) My mom got me the special Holiday Cookies edition as a stocking stuffer but decided to give it to me before Christmas so that I could use it! :) These were a cinch to make and were delicious!

2 cups vanilla wafer cookies, crushed
3/4 cup brown sugar, divided
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or almonds), toasted


Preheat oven to 350º. Butter a 9" x 13" glass baking dish.

Crush vanilla wafers in a resealable plastic bag using a rolling pin. Combine crushed cookies with 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup melted butter in a bowl.

Press the mixture into the prepared dish, using a measuring cup to "tamp" it down. Bake for 8 minutes, or just until set.

Melt 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar together in a saucepan, stirring to blend. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil 1 minute without stirring.

Immediately pour the mixture over the hot crust, then return the pan to the oven. Bake an additional 10 minutes, remove, and cool for 2 minutes.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the toffee and let stand until they're glossy, about 5 minutes. Spread the chocolate over the toffee using an offset spatula, then sprinkle the nuts on top. Cool bars completely.

Remove toffee from the pan. To break it into pieces, insert the tip of a paring knife into the toffee and twist the knife.

CREDIT: Cuisine at Home's Holiday Cookies - Gifts From Your Kitchen, p. 86, c. 2006