Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I just wanted to share an alternative to this White Chocolate Cranberry cookie. Just follow the recipe the same way, but substitute chopped up dried cherries for the cranberries and semisweet chocolate chunks for the white chocolate. It makes for a really yummy flavor combination!

Food on the Table

To me, white chocolate and cranberry are food soul mates. They just belong together. And they make for perfect Christmas treat bedfellows. You can make just about any dessert white chocolate-cranberry and not only would people love it, but it would look super festive on any table or cookie tray.

These are just a twist on a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe which I usually adapt from Nestle.

Fun Fact: The chocolate chip cookie was invented by a woman named Ruth Graves Wakefield in 1938. She owned a restaurant called the Toll House Inn. During WWII, soldiers from Massachusettes (where the Toll House Inn was located), shared the chocolate chip cookies from their care packages with other soldiers. Soon they were requesting them from their families who then inundated Ms. Wakefield with requests for her recipe! After her recipe became so popular, she contacted Nestle and struck a deal: they…

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Shortbread (Scotland)

Believe it or not, this was my first time making shortbread cookies. I’ve made shortbread-like crusts before, but for some reason I’ve never made the actual cookies. I figured it would be really simple. Basic shortbread is made of a whopping three ingredients: 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, 3 parts flour. You can make additions and adjustments from. How easy is that, right?

My first time making this delectable, buttery cookie absolutely did not go as planned. In fact, it went the opposite. And I was lured into a false sense of security while I was at it. I thought it was going well until the end product came out of the oven in a big ol’ mess. I mean, it still tasted good, but visually? Not so much…

I think I may have put a little too much butter in the dough because the shortbread spread out a lot. I also think I rolled it out a bit too thin. I should have left them on the thicker side so they would have been a bit more biscuit like. As I said, they still tasted good, but they just didn’t come out the way I’d visioned.

Now, a little history:

Shortbread originated in Scotland back in the Medieval times, but the first printed copy of a recipe wasn’t until the early 1700s. It began as more of bread that was twice-baked and coated in sugar and spices until it was hardened into a sweetened biscuit. Eventually, the yeast in the bread was replaced with butter and became closer to what we know it as today. Shortbread was expensive at the time so it was considered a luxury and saved for special occasions such as Christmas and Hogmanay (Scottish New Year’s Eve celebration). Now a days you can get shortbread year-round and all over the world, but it is still very much associated with the holidays.

Even though my didn’t turn out visually like I wanted, I will still share my recipe. I really do think I added too much butter, so I removed the extra half a stick I added at the end, so hopefully that will help. I also made everything in a bowl with a pastry cutter, but I wonder if using a mixer would have been better to incorporate everything a bit more.

Shortbread

½ cup sugar

1 cup butter, cut into pieces

2 cups flour

a splash of vanilla extract

green and red sprinkles

In a bowl, mix together your sugar and flour. Add your butter and vanilla and cut the butter into the flour-sugar mix until it looks like coarse crumbs. Using a stand mixer may make this easier and better combined. I will try that next time.

Dump the dough out onto a surface, add your sprinkles, and begin kneading the dough together. This takes some patience and is a great arm workout.

Once everything is together and formed into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Roll out the disk into a larger piece. I made mine about ½ an inch and I really think I that ended up being way too thin. Aim closer to about an inch thick.

Cut into the shapes you want (small bite-sized squares, longer rectangles, circles, whatever) and put on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake at 325 for about 20 minutes.

Hopefully the minor adjustments I made to the recipe will help the end result, but even if it doesn’t, it still tastes great! Just don’t enter it into a cookie beauty contest!

Spritz Cookies (Germany)

I’ve been making spritz cookies with my mom since I was a kid. They are very similar to a shortbread in that they are very butter and a bit on the fragile side.

The name spritz is actually a shortened version of the German word Spritzgebäck. These cookies originated from Germany and Alasace (which the French region right along the German border) and they are very popular at Christmastime. Many families have their own recipes that get passed down from generation to generation.

Spritzen translates to squirt in English, which describes how these cookies are made. The dough is put into a cookie press and then extruded through the holes in the disk that fits into the press. You can also use a pastry bag fitted with various nozzles. The cookie press my mom gave me comes with a variety of designs to make different shaped spritz cookies.

Full disclosure, when I was making this dough, I lost track of how much flour I had put in, so I accidentally added too much. The dough was a bit hard to extrude through the press and didn’t stick to the baking sheet like it was supposed to when I pressed it out, so I had to do it by hand. The dough should be a bit on the sticky side and a rule of thumb to keep in mind is don’t refrigerate the dough before you use it. It should feel a little wetter than most cookie doughs. That’s just been my experience for a better spritz cookie.

The extra flour didn’t hurt the cookie much. It still tasted great and I was able to keep them all together, but it just made everything a little harder to get out of the press. The moral of the story is don’t get distracted while making cookies!

Spritz Cookies

1 ½ sticks of butter, softened

½ cup sugar

1 egg

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

2 ¼ cups flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

Food coloring (optional)

In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and both extracts. 

In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix into the wet ingredients. Add food coloring here if you want. I made snowflakes and Christmas trees, so I just took out half of the plain dough and made the snowflakes and then added green coloring to the other half for the trees.

Put the dough into a cookie press fitted with whatever shape you want.




Press each cookie onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes.

 

If you don’t have a cookie press, you can use a pastry bag.

I forgot to take a picture of them being pressed onto the baking sheet, but I think you get the idea.

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

To me, white chocolate and cranberry are food soul mates. They just belong together. And they make for perfect Christmas treat bedfellows. You can make just about any dessert white chocolate-cranberry and not only would people love it, but it would look super festive on any table or cookie tray.
 

These are just a twist on a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe which I usually adapt from Nestle.

Fun Fact: The chocolate chip cookie was invented by a woman named Ruth Graves Wakefield in 1938. She owned a restaurant called the Toll House Inn. During WWII, soldiers from Massachusettes (where the Toll House Inn was located), shared the chocolate chip cookies from their care packages with other soldiers. Soon they were requesting them from their families who then inundated Ms. Wakefield with requests for her recipe! After her recipe became so popular, she contacted Nestle and struck a deal: they would print her recipe on the back of all their chocolate bars (she originally used a chopped up bar of chocolate and they used to include a chopping tool with each bar) and she would get a lifetime supply of chocolate. When Nestle started producing chocolate chips for the purpose of cookies in 1941, they printed her recipe on each bag. The recipe you see on the bag now is Wakefield’s original recipe.

Now, on to the recipe:

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

¾ cup brown sugar

¾ cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup dried cranberries

½ bag of white chocolate chips

In a bowl, cream together your butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. One at a time, add your eggs and vanilla.

 

In a separate bowl, combine your dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt. A little at a time, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well combined.

Finally add in your white chocolate chips and cranberries until evenly dispersed in the dough.

 

You can then drop by spoonful onto a lined baking sheet and bake. I, however, love to use an ice cream scoop. It makes for a bigger cookie and they always come out perfectly soft and loaded with whatever mix-ins you are using in your cookie.

Either way, bake at 375 degrees for 9-11 minutes or until done.

 

Let cool as long as you can hold out and then devour.

Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprint Cookies (Poland/Eastern Europe/Sweden)

I had plans to bake this weekend. Big plans! But as usual, other commitments got in the way and I got off to a late start. Tomorrow will be a baking extravaganza, but for today, I got started with my Rocky Road Fudge and these thumbprint cookies. 

Thumbprint cookies may not necessarily be strictly part of a holiday culture, but they don make great holiday cookies because they are so pretty to look at and the flavor combinations can vary greatly. 

There is some dispute about where these cookies actually come from. Some say they originate from Poland, some say they were the creation of Eastern European Jews. Others still say they are a variation of the Swedish cookie Hallongrotta which translates to “raspberry cave” because of the placement of the jam.

Thumbprint cookies are named because you form the dough and use your thumb to create a divot where the filling goes. Fillings are usually jam but can really be anything.

For this particular recipe, I took the easy way out. I don’t know about you, but my schedule tends to get packed around this time of year and making multiple batches of cookies and treats makes me want to take some shortcuts here and there. That’s why these are so perfect.

I simply made a variation on cake mix cookies

I used 1 box of chocolate cake mix, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and an extra 1/4 cup of flour. Mix together until combined. 

Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use your thumb to lightly press the balls down. Since these aren’t normal thumbprint cookies, the indent won’t actually stay, but the slight flattening is what you want anyway.

Bake at 375 degrees for 9-10 minutes.

While they are still warm, press in a peppermint Kiss. They will start to melt, but leave them alone and as they cool, the Kisses will solidify again.

This is a fun job for the kiddos.

I made 2 dozen cookies in about 30 minutes this way and they taste delicious so no one will know that you took a shortcut. But even if they did, no one would care.

They would just ask for more! 

Minion Mania!

This past Wednesday, my first born turned 6. Six years old. It’s still so weird to say: I have a 6 year old.  I know it’s totally cliche and every says it, but it is so true that time just flies by so fast. It’s gone even faster since we had our second one 2-1/2 years ago.

I’m not going to lie: I’m having a bit of trouble letting him get older. I know it is inevitable, but he’s my baby. He’ll always be my baby. I love so much the little kid he’s becoming, but at the same time, I miss the little boy he used to be. But ah, such is life with children. They eventually grow up and you can only hope you’ve done a good enough job that they feel confident to spread their wings, but still know they can always come back to their roots.

Something I’ve always loved doing for my kids’ birthdays is making their yummy treats. For JJ’s 6th birthday, he decided on a Minions theme. I would personally like to thank whoever created the Minions because their design makes it very easy to create minions out of lots of different foods!

We started with cupcakes:

Get some Twinkies (probably the only time I will ever buy Twinkies. I’m not snobby about junk food, I’m just more of a Ding Dong girl, myself.)

Cut them in half.

Using black decorating icing and a basic round tip (can be found at any grocery or craft store) and candy eyes (also can be found at any grocery or craft store) make the little minion faces.
  

Make basic cupcakes using your favorite recipe or box mix. Frost with blue frosting and place the twinkie minions on top. Let them set in the icing. DONE!

Next, is the cake.

Make two 13×9 sheet cakes, again using your favorite recipe or box mix. Let the cakes cool and flip one layer upside on the serving tray. Spread a thin layer of frosting, then top with the second cake. See that little crack? Don’t worry about it, it will get covered up and you’ll never know it was there. Now you can cut around it a little bit to shape it how you want.

Next, using an off-set spatula, which I highly recommend getting because it really does make a huge difference when frosting cakes, apply the frosting where you want it to go: blue on the bottom for his pants, yellow on top for his body, with a large yellow circle in the middle for his eye. Seriously, this was all very easy to separate out because of the off-set spatula.

Finally, add the details. I just used the same black decorating icing I used on the Twinkies. and… DONE!

The last treat I made was candy coated Milanos. Get Milano cookies (whatever flavor you want. I know they can be expensive, but I got a 40 pack at Costco for $8.99, so totally a good deal!)

Get these colored candy melts at the store (grocery or craft), and melt them in a bowl over simmering water.  You can do this in the microwave too, but I like the double boiler method because it keeps the candy warm and melted for the whole process.

Dip the cookies in the candy.  For the bottom, I just dipped, for the yellow top, I used a spoon to help keep the colors in their right spots.
  

Finally, decorate the faces the same way you did the Twinkies above. And, again… DONE!
  

This may seem like a lot, but each treat was actually very easy. I did all three in one day, stopping for a workout with the hubby, lunch with the hubby, and stopping to pick up the kids from school.

Hopefully the kids enjoy them as much as I did making them!

Happy birthday, to my sweet, crazy, silly, wonderful son. You stole my heart 6 years ago and you can keep it. xoxo

Sugar Cookies 

My mom makes some pretty stellar sugar cookies. I always loved making sugar cookies with her growing up, but I’m sure she probably could have made more cookies out of each batch if I wasn’t around. You see, I’m a dough eater from way back. I just can’t help myself, salmonella be damned.


That’s how I knew these cookies were going to be delicious: the dough. They had the perfect amount of sweetness where you could eat them plain or put sprinkles or frosting on them. I played around with the amounts a little, but I think I hit just the right note with the amount of sugar and vanilla. The vanilla is what really makes these, I think.

For this batch I made fox cookies. My son’s elementary school’s mascot is the fox and my husband is on a softball team made up of dads from the school (the “Foxy Dads”) and I made these for the last game of the season. When I saw this fox cookie cutter at Williams-Sonoma, I knew I had to have it. I figured, by the time both kids have gone through 5th grade, we’ll have been involved in the elementary school for about 8 years so there will be plenty of opportunities to use it. I’m not sure what the middle school mascot is, but the high school is the Centaurs. Maybe by the time my kids are in high school, Williams-Sonoma will have come out with a half man-half horse cookie cutter. I’ll have to keep my eyes open…

Sugar Cookies

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and egg and mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add this a little bit at a time to the mixer and mix until well combined.

Separate the dough in half (to make it easier to work with). On a floured surface, roll out your dough to about a 1/4″ thick. I like my cookies on the softer side, so I make the dough a bit thicker. If you like a crisper cookie, make the dough a bit thinner.

Use whatever shape cookie cutter you want to cut out the cookies.

Put the cut out cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about 8-9 minutes. If you do a thinner cookie, you’ll probably want more of a 7-8 minute baking time. Start on the lower end and then if you need to add more time, you can.

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Move the cookies to a rack to cool before frosting.

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For decorating, if you want to add sprinkles, you can do this before you bake them. If you want to frost them, you can do it your usual way or try my trick. When I don’t make my own frosting, I like to take the canned kind from the grocery store and put however much I need in a bowl. Then microwave it in 15 second increments until it is just melted.

Then I just sort of smooth it on with the back of a spoon. I just really like how smooth the frosting comes out when I do it this way.

These were so good. I will definitely be making these in Christmas shapes later. And probably in other shapes all year round for whatever reason I can come up with. Like a party or another holiday. Or, you know, a Tuesday.

*Bonus: you can freeze the dough to use later. Just make sure it is wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and put in a freezer bag. It should be good for about 2 months