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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tasty Traditions!

I've been wanting to do Christmas goodies for years, but whenever mid-December has hit, it just hasn't happened. This year, however, I was determined to start the tradition once and for all! I can hardly think of anything more enjoyable than gathering my little ones in the kitchen for some Christmas baking. Sure, it's a common tradition among families, but still one I wanted to (and did) initiate this year. As Christmas music played in the background, Chloe and I happily slaved away a good portion of the weekend, mixing, baking, icing, sprinkling, and "testing" all sorts of scrumptious goodies. Neil even poked his head in to help here and there, and together the three of us created some very happy memories.

In my opinion, you can't have Christmas without good old sugar cookies! Chloe and I made two batches! It's a lot of work but so worth it in the end! I could eat an entire batch in one day if I let myself! Perhaps that's why we made way more than we could (or would) ever give away. I used Dayna's recipe because frankly, it makes the best dang sugar cookies I've ever tasted!

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SUGAR COOKIES

Ingredients:
1 stick of butter, softened (or 5 T. butter, 3 T. shortening for even softer cookies)
1 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
2 1/4 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

Directions:
Beat butter at medium speed until creamy; gradually add sugar, followed by egg and vanilla; beat well.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until blended (if the dough is dry and crumbly, add 1-2 T. milk until you have the right consistency). Shape dough into a ball; cover and chill 1 hour.

Divide dough into thirds. Work with 1 portion of dough at a time, storing remaining dough in refrigerator. Roll each portion into 1/8-in. thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut with a 3-inch cookie cutter and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet (or line the cookie sheet with parchment paper - it makes a HUGE difference for me).

Bake at 375 for 6-8 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. I always check them after 6 minutes, and generally take them out when they are still extremely soft, as they continue to bake even after they're out of the oven. They harden up just right after a few minutes, and that's when I generally transfer them over to the cooling rack.

I use powdered sugar frosting (powdered sugar, milk and a dash of vanilla). Yummmy!!

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CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

I found this recipe on Allrecipes website. It had good reviews and looked promising, so I gave it a shot. I'm not huge on chocolate chips, but I got a thumb's up from Neil, Brady and Brett, who all tested them for me shortly after they came out of the oven. :)

Ingredients:
1 stick of butter, softened
1/2 c. shortening
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used half semisweet and half white chocolate with green and red swirls to give them a more festive look)
2 c. all-purpose flour

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine butter, shortening, white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Beat in egg. Gradually add flour mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips.

Roll into 2 in. balls. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 8 or so minutes.

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OREO TRUFFLES

Ingredients:
1 package OREO cookies
1 8oz. package cream cheese, softened
2 8oz. packages BAKER'S semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted

Directions:
Crush oreos (I first put them in a ziploc bag and used a rolling pin, then threw them in a bowl and crushed them even more with a potato masher - you'll figure out what works for you). Add cream cheese; mix until well-blended (I used an electric mixter). Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1-inch in diameter.

Dip balls in chocolate; place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour (doesn't take more than a half hour, really). I drizzled white chocolate over the top (microwaved white chocolate chips in a ziploc bag for 1 minute, then sliced a small hole in the corner of the bag). The hole was too big though, so rather than "drizzles" the chocolate looked kind of like "goops," as you can see above. Oh well, it's the taste that matters, right?

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CHOCOLATE-CANDY CANE COOKIES

Ingredients:
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
4 squares BAKER'S semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
1 6 oz. package BAKER's premium white baking chocolate (I just used white chocolate chips)
12 hard peppermint candies, crushed (I just used red and white peppermint sprinkles)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Beat cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add flour and baking soda; mix well. Blend in semi-sweet chocolate.

Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into 52 balls. Roll each ball into 3-inch-long rope. Place, 2 inches apart, on baking sheet, bending top of each slightly to resemble a candy cane.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned; cool 5 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to wire racks; cool completely. Microwave white chocolate as directed on package; drizzle over cookies (or goop it on, like I did - hehe). Sprinkle with crushed candies. Let stand until chocolate is firm.

I actually wasn't real thrilled with the flavor (don't get me wrong - they didn't taste bad, but at the same time they weren't anything special). The thing I found appealing was their shape, and the potential fun kiddos could have with them. At this point, Chloe was more interested in just eating them, but I bet next year she'll get pretty excited when she recognizes that they're shaped like candy canes!

Here's a link to a step-by-step instructional video.

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RANDOM BAKING TIPS:
*Parchment paper is my friend! It makes baking much easier and cookies oh-so-soft! I highly recommend it over a greased baking sheet.
*As mentioned before, using shortening in place of some of the butter (example: 5 T. butter, 3 T. shortening vs. 8 T. butter) is another guarantee for softer cookies!

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I'm so grateful to have had my little helper to keep me going all weekend. Last night we put her to bed at 8:00, and at 10:30 she was STILL WIDE AWAKE, just chattering away in her crib! I finally went and got her, thinking if I let her run around for fifteen minutes she might wear herself out. Upon discovering what I was doing, however, she wanted only to be a part of the kitchen action! She was such a joy to have around both yesterday and today, as she played with measuring cups, spatulas, and other random utensils that were within her reach. Whenever I'd ask what she was doing, she'd say, "I cookin'!" She'd often find something in a drawer, such as a can opener or carrot peeler (always something of little or not use to me), hold it up and say, "Here ya go, Mommy!" What a sweet little treasure she is! We made some deliveries to neighbors and friends tonight, and will do a second round tomorrow evening. I love starting new traditions with my family, and look forward to many more years of building on these traditions as our family grows.
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3 comments:

Paula said...

Too much fun! I wish I loved to bake, because that is a great tradition. Maybe when Kya is older and wants to help, we'll get into it. Cute pics!

Natalie said...

Wow that made me hungry looking at all of your treats! Too bad we don't live closer I would love to have you as one of my neighbors so we could be taste testers for you! I love all of the pics. It looks like a lot of fun!

Mamma K said...

HOLY SUSIE HOMEMAKER!!! Good Idea, Addie would totally LOVE IT!! I have to try a few of those out!