Paw Print Cookies

Last week I sent my favorite little Maryland girls two stuffed bobcat toys, and what better to accompany them than some paw print cookies? Not having a paw print cookie cutter – and not wanting to send frosted cookies through the mail – I got a bit creative. I’d seen charming polar bear paw cupcakes on Pinterest a while back that used chocolate chips and miniature peppermint patties, so I adapted that concept and just used chocolate candy melts for the main part of the paw print instead.

Cake mix is a great option for these cookies; I might try a scratch-made cookie next time, but these were quick and easy to bake. I went with milk chocolate chips and candy melts, but you could use dark if you prefer, or even white if you went with a chocolate cookie.

Ingredients

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • Milk chocolate chips
  • Milk chocolate candy melts*

*I used Baker’s Dipping Chocolate, which is available at most grocery stores and Target

Preparation

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, vegetable oil, eggs, and almond extract. Mix until completely combined and chill for 2-3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place chocolate chips in a small bowl and place them, along with the candy melts, in a cool place nearby (not right next to your oven).

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop portions of dough and roll into balls. Place about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, until the edges are just golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately press 1 candy melt in the center of each cookie for the center paw pad, then press 4 chocolate chips above it for the toe pads. Move your baking sheet to a cooler place and allow cookies to cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely. The chocolate does take some time to set; you can pop the cookies in your fridge for a few minutes to speed the process if you like.

Once chocolate is set, store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Advertisements

Easter Chick Cookies

These cookies are really adorable…and I sincerely hope they make it to Maryland for Maureen and Margo’s Easter in one piece. Baked as two balls of dough baked side by side so they form one cookie, they’re at risk of separating, particularly in transit. To explain the potential carnage, I already alerted their mom to the potential that they might lose their cute little heads en route despite my careful packaging. Cross your fingers that I don’t scar my nieces for life, please.

Adapted from a recipe I found at The Gold Lining Girl, these treats feature cake mix as their base. While the original recipe called for lemon cake mix, I used Pillsbury Butter Yellow mix and added some vanilla and yellow food coloring to the batter along with the other ingredients. Full disclosure: I made them way too big, so next time I’ll scale back the portions. I’d also recommending making their beaks and feet a bit darker orange. You’ll have a lot of royal icing left over from the recipe below, so you can use it to decorate other Easter cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1 box Pillsbury Butter Yellow cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Yellow food coloring
  • Chocolate chips (for eyes)
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 1 cup plus 2 heaping tablespoons powdered sugar
  • About 1 1/2 tablespoons warm water
  • Orange food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cake mix, eggs, shortening, and vanilla until combined; add yellow food coloring to your desired shade.

To form each cookie, scoop balls of dough for the head and body, making sure the body is bigger than the head. Place the dough balls next to each other on the baking sheet so they’re just touching, leaving space between each cookie so they have room to spread a bit.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until edges are set and tops are just barely golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately press chocolate chips into the top ball for eyes; allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make royal icing for beaks and feet, place meringue powder, powdered sugar, and water in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for about 7-10 minutes, until peaks form.

Fit a piping bag with a plain tip and pipe beaks in triangles, then add feet. Allow the icing to set before storing; royal icing will keep at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Before re-using, beat the icing with a paddle attachment to soften it.

Makes 12 cookies.

Lemon Raspberry Macarons

Now that I’ve become a macaron-obsessed baker, I bake several batches of them at a time. It’s practical, actually, because you’ve got your food processor out already and you may as well get a few batches done at once.

It’s also practical for me because I’ve used store-bought egg whites, rather than fresh egg whites, for most of my batches. While store-bought egg whites aren’t recommended for macarons because they may not produce a meringue that’s as fluffy, I’ve found great success with them in terms of macaron texture. Store-bought egg whites last about 10 days in the fridge, so that’s another reason to bake more than one batch of macarons at a time – you can use up all your whites without any waste. These lemon raspberry macarons – one of my favorite flavor combinations of all time – turned out very well.

Ingredients

For the shells

  • 120 grams egg whites, at room temperature (from 3-4 large eggs)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 40 grams superfine sugar, sifted (about 3 tablespoons)*
  • 200 grams powdered sugar (about 2 cups)
  • 100 grams almond flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • Yellow gel food coloring

For the filling

Preparation

Line three large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine powdered sugar and almond flour and pulse for about 30-45 seconds. Sift into a large bowl, discarding any large bits, and set aside.

Place egg whites and salt in clean, dry, grease-free bowl. Using the whisk attachment, whip egg whites on low speed, then increase to medium/medium-high speed and whip until egg whites are foamy and no longer translucent. Slowly add superfine sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, whipping until stiff peaks form. Add lemon extract and a few drops of your desired food coloring. Whip again to combine, but be careful not to over-whip; you still want stiff peaks but don’t want to take the meringue too far and have it become grainy.

Add 1/3 of your dry ingredients at a time and fold in with a spatula, turning the mixture about 15 times with each addition, being very careful not to over-mix. The batter is mixed enough when it is sticky and smooth, and you can make an unbroken figure 8 with the batter as it drips off your spatula.

Place batter into a large piping bag fitted with a plain tip. Holding the bag upright, pipe rounds of batter about 1 1/2 inches in diameter onto the parchment, leaving about 2 inches between each circle. Gently tap or drop your baking sheets onto a counter top or table to release any air bubbles.

Let batter sit for about 30-60 minutes; the tops will form a skin that becomes dry to the touch.

To bake the macaron shells, preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bake one sheet at a time, for about 17 minutes, checking halfway; the macarons should form “feet” on the bottoms, but have smooth tops. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets.

Once macarons are cool, flip half the macarons onto their tops and pipe or spread filling on the bottom, then top with another macaron. Store in an airtight container at least overnight before serving.

Coconut Lime Macarons

What’s the difference between a macaroon and a macaron? In a few words, coconut and almonds…and also how you say it. Macaroons (mac-uh-ROONS) are coconut-based, either made by folding coconut into meringue or combining it with sweetened condensed milk. Macarons (mac-uh-RONNS) are almond-based, made by folding a combination of finely sifted powdered sugar and almond flour into a meringue.

I’ve made coconut lime macaroons before, so why not coconut lime macarons? These treats have a wonderful flavor profile, and were a big hit with Mike’s coworkers.

Ingredients

For the shells

  • 120 grams egg whites, at room temperature (from 3-4 large eggs)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 40 grams superfine sugar, sifted (about 3 tablespoons)*
  • 200 grams powdered sugar (about 2 cups)
  • 100 grams almond flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • Green gel food coloring

For the lime curd filling

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons lime juice
  • zest of 2 limes
  • 6 tablespoons butter

Preparation

Line three large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine powdered sugar and almond flour and pulse for about 30-45 seconds. Sift into a large bowl, discarding any large bits, and set aside.

Place egg whites and salt in clean, dry, grease-free bowl. Using the whisk attachment, whip egg whites on low speed, then increase to medium/medium-high speed and whip until egg whites are foamy and no longer translucent. Slowly add superfine sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, whipping until stiff peaks form. Add coconut extract and a few drops of your desired food coloring. Whip again to combine, but be careful not to over-whip; you still want stiff peaks but don’t want to take the meringue too far and have it become grainy.

Add 1/3 of your dry ingredients at a time and fold in with a spatula, turning the mixture about 15 times with each addition, being very careful not to over-mix. The batter is mixed enough when it is sticky and smooth, and you can make an unbroken figure 8 with the batter as it drips off your spatula.

Place batter into a large piping bag fitted with a plain tip. Holding the bag upright, pipe rounds of batter about 1 1/2 inches in diameter onto the parchment, leaving about 2 inches between each circle. Gently tap or drop your baking sheets onto a counter top or table to release any air bubbles.

Let batter sit for about 30-60 minutes; the tops will form a skin that becomes dry to the touch.

While your macarons are resting, make your lime curd. Lightly beat egg yolks and pass them through a fine sieve to remove the albumin. Set aside in a medium bowl close to the stove for easy access; thoroughly wash your sieve and place it nearby for a second straining once the curd has cooked.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together cornstarch, sugar, lime juice, and lime zest until completely combined. Add butter and cook on medium heat until thickened and bubbly.

Working quickly, pour about half of the hot lime mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to temper. Pour egg mixture back into the pan and cook and stir for 2 minutes more.

Pour mixture through your sieve to remove the zest. To cool the curd quickly, I pour mine onto a rimmed baking sheet and spread it out, then once it’s cool I place it in an airtight container.  According to various food safety websites and other food blogs, lemon curd should last in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

To bake the macaron shells, preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bake one sheet at a time, for about 17 minutes, checking halfway; the macarons should form “feet” on the bottoms, but have smooth tops. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets.

Once macarons are cool, flip half the macarons onto their tops and pipe or spread filling on the bottom, then top with another macaron. Store in an airtight container at least overnight before serving. You’ll have some filling left over, so you can save it for something else (or just spread it on graham crackers, which is what I usually do with leftover frostings/fillings).

Almond Meringues

Last night I had three leftover egg whites, but not the energy to make macarons. So I made meringues instead, and now I wish I’d just gone ahead and made macarons because, truth be told…I’m not that big a fan of meringues.

Yes, yes, I totally need meringue practice. It’s good to work with things that aren’t as familiar, and I admit that the combination of egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, flavoring, and sugar that becomes an ethereal cloud of meringue-ness is something with which I need much more experience. But flavor and texture-wise, they’re not something I’d necessarily choose if there were other treats nearby.

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • dash of salt
  • 2/3 cup superfine sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites, almond extract, cream of tartar, and salt on low, then medium speed, until foamy. Slowly add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, whipping on medium-high speed between each addition. Continue adding the sugar slowly and whipping until meringue is glossy and forms stiff peaks; this can take about 7-10 minutes.

Fit a large piping bag with a star tip and carefully spoon meringue into the bag; you don’t want to knock all the air out of it. Pipe meringue onto parchment in 2-inch blobs, leaving about 1 to 1 1/2 inches between each cookie. They won’t spread, but you want enough room for the heat and air to circulate around them.

Bake meringues for 40-45 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave them inside for another hour. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets; store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes about 30 cookies.

 

Clover Bites

Once again, shortbread comes through as a versatile treat. One of the things I like most about my shortbread recipe, which is based on one from King Arthur Flour, is that it’s delicious on its own but also so easy to dress up. Add extract of nearly any flavor, toss in some citrus extract, tint your dough a fun color, add sprinkles, drizzle it with chocolate; no matter what you do, you really can’t go wrong.

These clover bites – flavored with almond, tinted green, and sprinkled with green sugar – are on their way to Maryland for my favorite little leprechauns as part of their (slightly belated) St. Patrick’s Day package. Shortbread ships very well because it’s fairy sturdy, but I strongly recommend padding your container with some waxed paper, or even bubble wrap, to prevent breakage.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 5 ounces (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) flour
  • Green gel food coloring
  • Green sugar sprinkles

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, salt, and almond extract. Add flour and beat to combine completely, then add enough food coloring to reach your desired shade of green. The dough will be ready when it pulls away from the sides of your mixing bowl, but you may need to knead it a bit with your hands to make sure the food coloring gets distributed evenly.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough and roll into balls, placing about 2 inches apart on your baking sheets. Flatten each ball with the palm of your hand and sprinkle with green sugar.

Bake for 25-27 minutes, until edges are set. Remove from oven and cool for about 3 minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes about 16 cookies.

Princess Shortbread

Princess shortbread sounds like a character from a children’s story, right? Perhaps she’s a plucky royal who prefers spending her time baking than learning to knit or play the harp and would pacify a dragon by baking him a fancy cake rather than getting some prince to slay him. Then the dragon could help provide the fire for her ovens, and they’d be lifelong friends.

Anyway…this princess shortbread is named because of the princess cake and cookie flavor I used in it, a lovely combination of vanilla and citrus available from King Arthur Flour. I tinted it pink for Valentine’s Day, and it is now on the way to my favorite little Maryland girls along with some other Valentine gifts, including Captain America and Aquaman dolls (because they only have one Ken for their Barbies, and the Ken selection at my local target was quite lacking). I like to think perhaps Princess Shortbread would hang out with Captain America and Aquaman, but that’ll have to be a story for another day.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon princess cake and cookie flavor
  • 5 ounces (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) flour
  • Pink gel food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch round cake pan.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, salt, and princess cake and cookie flavor. Add flour and beat to combine completely, then add enough food coloring to reach your desired shade of pink. The dough will be ready when it pulls away from the sides of your mixing bowl, but you may need to knead it a bit with your hands to make sure the food coloring gets distributed evenly.

Press the dough into the bottom of the cake pan, using the palm of your hand to create an even surface. Prick all over with a fork.

Bake for 32-35 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and gently loosen the sides, then allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Gently flip onto a cutting board and slice into 16 wedges, then place wedges on a wire rack to cool completely.