Reindeer Cookies

reindeer-cookiesMy goddaughter Maureen and her little sister Margo went absolutely insane for the chocolate bat cookies I sent them for Halloween. According to their mom, they practically licked the crumbs off the table. So what did I bake them for Christmas? Another batch of chocolate sugar cookies, this time in the shape of trees, stockings…and reindeer.

To make these adorable treats, I used a gingerbread man cookie cutter, then flipped the cookies upside down to make reindeer heads. This is another popular item on Pinterest this year, and I admit that I looked at several cookie designs before settling on this one. You could certainly give them Rudolph-esque red noses if you like, but I went with a standard brown, as well as chocolate chip eyes.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation 

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract, beating until well-combined.

Slowly add flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl often and beating until a very well-combined, soft dough forms.

Gently knead the dough a few times to make sure it comes together; roll dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees; line three baking sheets with parchment or foil.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with a bat-shaped cookie cutter; if using different shapes, be sure to bake the same shape on one cookie sheet. Baking different-sized or differently-shaped cookies on the same sheet can lead to uneven results; some of your cookies might be underdone while others will be overdone.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until edges are set. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheets for 1-2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Zella’s Icing

Ingredients

  • 1 egg white
  • 3 tablespoons shortening
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1-2 teaspoons water, if necessary
  • Brown food coloring
  • Miniature chocolate chips, for eyes

Preparation

Combine egg white, shortening, salt, and one cup powdered sugar in a mixing bowl.  Beat on low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium, then high, and beat for one minute.

Add additional cup powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed for one minute.

Add vanilla and almond extracts.  Beat on high speed for one or two minutes, until very well combined.

Check the frosting’s texture; it should be like very, very soft peanut butter and very easily spreadable.  If necessary, add one to two teaspoons of water to thin the frosting and beat well to combine.

To frost your cookies:

Turn gingerbread men upside down so the feet act as the antlers.

Reserve a small portion of white frosting for the eyes, then tint the remaining frosting light brown for the faces.

Frost the faces using a small offset spatula, then tint the remaining frosting darker brown. Fit a piping bag with a small plain tip and pipe on antlers, the insides of the ears, and the noses.

Use white frosting to pipe two eyes, then place a miniature chocolate chip in the center of each.

Let frosting set for about 30 minutes; store in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper for us to 3 days.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Advertisements

Gingerbread Cake with Molasses Cream Cheese Frosting

gingerbread-cakeThis Christmas, I wanted to make something different for dessert, and I found this amazing recipe on Pinterest. Sometimes you never know with Pinterest recipes – but this one is top-notch.

Adapted from a recipe at Great Grub, Delicious Treats (which was adapted from a recipe from Better Homes & Gardens), this cake and frosting are absolutely delicious. I added allspice and cloves to my batter in addition to the ginger and cinnamon, and I’m very glad I did. My mom and I couldn’t decide whether we liked the cake or the frosting best, and Mike is yet to weigh in. Either way, this cake was a huge hit after our Christmas dinner yesterday.

I cut the original recipe in half for a single layer for just the three of us, and I cut the frosting recipe in half as well, but it was still far too much. The measurements below are adapted further for what I believe would be an appropriate amount of frosting for a single layer 9-inch cake; I have a ton left over in my fridge, which will probably go in cupcakes this week.

Gingerbread Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan and line with a circle of parchment; lightly grease the parchment.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl well. Add molasses and egg and beat well to combine.

Add flour mixture and water alternatively in three batches, starting and ending with the flour and mixing to combine between each.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 28-32 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Be careful not to over-bake this cake, as the sides can easily burn.

Cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Molasses Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Preparation

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese until combined, about 2-3 minutes.

Add molasses and vanilla, beating well to combine. Scrape down your bowl well.

Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating to completely combine; continue to beat for 1-2 minutes, scraping the bowl well, to reach an easily spreadable consistency.

Frost top and sides of cake.

Store in the refrigerator, but let the cake sit at room temperature for about 30-45 minutes before serving.

 

Spritz

spritz-iWhen I was a kid, my mom and my grandma Zella both made almond cookies using a cookie press. How easily the dough popped out, shaped like trees and wreaths and pinwheels. Tinted green at Christmas, topped with sprinkles or colored sugar, these cookies were a staple in our holidays.

I have never had such luck with the cookie press.

I tried valiantly this time with a spritz recipe I found at Land O’Lakes, and while I did manage one good batch of trees (pictured here), I admit that my dough softened too much and refused to cooperate for the wreaths and pinwheels. Instead of fighting my dough (or chilling it a second time, which I should have done), I rolled it into balls, flattened them with my hand, and baked them as buttons. Since spritz are so named for the German word “spritzen,” which means “to squirt,” I can’t say the buttons were true spritz cookies…more like absolutely delicious butter cookies. Either way, the results of this recipe are supremely tasty.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • Colored sugar, if desired

Preparation

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, sugar, egg, and salt. Cream together until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Add flour and beat at low speed until well-combined. Cover dough and chill for about 30-45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line three baking sheets with foil.

Fit a cookie press with your desired shape and fill with dough; press onto cookie sheets about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with colored sugar, if desired. Alternatively, roll dough into 1-inch balls and flatten with your hand, then sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 6-9 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheets, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container for 4-5 days.

Note: the recipe will yield different amounts depending on the shapes you choose; my recipe made about 3 dozen.

Gingerbread

gingerbreadYesterday we put up our Christmas tree, and it seemed appropriate to make gingerbread. Not gingerbread cookies, despite how delicious (and adorable) they are – but actual gingerbread loaves, which I’d never made before.

I found a great gingerbread loaf recipe from Pillsbury and adapted it slightly to include a thicker glaze than the original.  You could leave the loaves plain if you like, but I highly recommend glazing them – although you might not expect it, lemon glaze adds a wonderful dimension of flavor to this rich, spicy bread. It would also be easy to cut this recipe in half to make just one loaf, or to bake the whole recipe in smaller loaf pans to give as gifts (which I’m totally going to do).

Ingredients

For the gingerbread

  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • Generous 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

For the glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 8 x 4 loaf pans (or spray with baking spray).

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and set; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each until the mixture is smooth.

In a 4-cup glass measuring cup, combine molasses and boiling water, stirring to combine. Add baking soda and stir; mixture will become foamy.

With the mixer running on low, slowly pour the molasses mixture into the butter mixture, beating until combined. Add flour in three batches, beating until just incorporated after each; stir by hand until well-blended.

Divide batter evenly between the pans and bake for 45-60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean; my loaves only needed about 45 minutes.

Cool in pans for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

To make the glaze, place powdered sugar in a medium bowl and add lemon juice 1 tablespoon at a time; you want a thicker glaze texture. Pour over loaves, spreading to the edges. Allow glaze to set before serving.

Red Velvet Cookies

red velvet cookiesDo you think of red velvet as a Christmas treat? I didn’t, until my friend Erika mentioned that she likes red velvet at this time of year. After all, Santa’s suit is kind of red velvety, and there are plenty of red velvet bows to go around.

These cookies are a delicious twist on the classic red velvet cupcake, and they were extremely popular in my office this week. You could add frosting to them, but I’d recommend just dusting them with powdered sugar once they’ve cooled; although this photo doesn’t do them justice, they have a beautiful red velvet color beneath the powdered sugar.

I also advise using a spoon to scoop your dough, instead of a cookie scoop, as my one-inch scoop met its maker with this dough.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1 egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar for rolling, plus more for dusting

Preparation

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add brown sugar and white sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

Add beaten egg and beat until combined.

Add melted chocolate, vanilla, and red food coloring and beat until combined.

Add flour mixture in three batches, beating well between and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about 1 hour, until easier to handle.

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

Place powdered sugar in a small bowl.

Using a spoon, scoop out 1 tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball, then dip in powdered sugar, tossing to coat. Place about 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 10-11 minutes, until tops are cracked and edges are set. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Once cookies are cool, dust with more powdered sugar.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Chocolate Peppermint Crinkles

chocolatepeppermintcrinklesNow and then my Aunt Liz sends me recipes in the mail, clipped from magazines or newspapers. This Thanksgiving she came to Pittsburgh bearing a copy of Southern Living magazine with recipes she thought I’d like, and boy, was she right. The issue features page after page of beautiful cakes, desserts, and cookies for the holidays, including these chocolate peppermint crinkles.

Chocolate crinkle cookies are a Christmas staple, and these chocolate peppermint crinkles are a delicious twist on the classic. If you’re not a peppermint fan you can easily substitute the peppermint extract for vanilla extract. This batch makes 18 cookies and could be easily doubled for a larger batch.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 eggs
  • About 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Preparation

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder; set aside.

Combine baking chocolate, butter, and salt in a small saucepan and melt over very low heat, stirring well to combine.

Pour mixture into a medium bowl and add sugar, stirring well.

Add peppermint extract and eggs; stir very well to combine.

Add flour mixture and stir until completely combined; mixture will thicken.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour, until easier to handle.

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

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, scoop generous portions of dough and roll into balls, then dip in powdered sugar and toss to coat very well.

Place cookies about 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake for 11 minutes; remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheets for about 4-5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Tip: if you don’t want a huge mess on your counter tops, place a kitchen towel or paper towels beneath the cooling racks to catch the excess powdered sugar while your cookies cool.

Peppermint Meltaways

peppermintmeltawaysIt’s peppermint season! With just a few weeks to go until Christmas, peppermint-flavored treats are everywhere…including my kitchen.

Peppermint is my favorite plant in the mint family, and not just because it pairs very well with chocolate. Peppermint calms headaches, soothes sore throats, tames upset stomachs, and can lower anxiety associated with depression. A pretty powerful little plant, when you think about it.

These peppermint meltaways are adapted from Taste of Home, one of my favorite recipe sources. They’re lighter than expected, perhaps due to the cornstarch in the dough. Next time, I think I’ll swirl together white and red frosting for a candy cane look. This makes a relatively small batch of 2 dozen, but they’d be a nice addition to your Christmas cookie platter.

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

For the frosting

  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • About 2 1/2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • red food coloring, if desired

Preparation

In a small bowl, combine flour and cornstarch; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 1 minute, then add powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

Add peppermint extract and beat to combine.

Add flour/cornstarch mixture in three batches, beating well and scraping the sides of the bowl after each. Chill dough for about 20 minutes, until easy to handle.

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

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

Bake for 11-12 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown. Be careful when checking – these cookies are very soft and crumbly until they’re cool.

Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for about 3 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat butter for 1 minute, then add 2 tablespoons milk, peppermint extract, and 1/4 cup powdered sugar. Beat on medium speed until combined, then add remaining powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time, beating well. Check your consistency; you want a spreadable frosting that isn’t too thick or thin, like the consistency of peanut butter. If necessary, thin your frosting with the remaining milk. Add food coloring, if desired.

Frost cookies and store in a single layer in an airtight container at room temperature.