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Food Blogger Cookie Swap: Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing (plus a chocolate version!)

December 11, 2013

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Happy Cookie Day! Once again I took part in the Food Blogger Cookie Swap with a bunch of other amazing bloggers. The funds raised from the cookie swap goes toward kids cancer research. Cookies and a great cause? I’m in! If you want to participate in next year’s swap, you can sign up for updates here.

I’ve actually been really behind on baking cookies and desserts this year. Christmas just came up way too fast this year! We’re having a Christmas open house on Sunday night, so I’ll be getting my holiday baking on very soon. These sugar cookies were the first bit of holiday baking I did all season. Although I typically hate decorating Christmas sugar cookies, I had so much fun making these fun sugar cookies, inspired by Bon Appetit magazine. They’re ultra simple, buttery and delicious – pretty much the prefect classic cookie.

If you’re afraid of decorating cookies, don’t be! The secret is having the right type of icing. Although royal icing isn’t the tastiest type of icing, it produces the most beautiful results. Just place the icing in a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip and get creative! As you can see, below, I made a bunch of different looking cookies.

In case you’re looking for some great cookie recipes, I also received a bunch of awesome goodies from these ladies:

Joanne from Joanne Eats Well with Others
Devangi from Pistachio Doughnuts
Erika of The Pancake Princess

Thanks so much, ladies, for sending me such great cookies! They were enjoyed by all at my house.

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit December 2013

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon hazelnut or almond extract
1 recipe Royal Icing (below)

Heat oven to 325°F. In large bowl, combine salt, baking powder and flour until well combined.

In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar until smooth and well combined. The mixture doesn’t need to be fluffy. Beat in the egg, egg yolk and hazelnut or almond extract. Add flour mixture to wet mixture and beat until just combined. Form dough into two discs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Let dough sit at room temperature until softened slightly, about 10 minutes. Place on lightly floured surface and roll to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes (I stuck with circles and stars for simplicity) and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake 10 to 14 minutes or until edges are just lightly golden brown. Cool 5 minutes on cookie sheets. Transfer to wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Royal Icing/Decorating
Recipe from Bon Appetit (method adapted slightly)

Using electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar and 2 large egg whites until white, thickened and tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Add water by the tablespoonful until icing no longer holds a peak. Place some of the icing in a pastry bag fitted with a very small round tip. Outline the cookies with the icing.

Add an additional 2 to 4 tablespoons water to the remaining icing until it is slightly softer and runs a little more freely. Spoon a small amount of icing into the center of each lined cookie. Tilt the cookies around so icing in center completely fills the outlined cookie. Immediately cover with desired sprinkles. Allow cookies to set, about 30 minutes.

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Painted Chocolate Sugar Cookies
To make the chocolate sugar cookies, swap out 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour for 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. Make as directed.

Painted Decorating Method
I was in love with the method in Bon Appetit when I first saw it on the cover. However, I made a few tweaks that gave me a little more success the second time I made them. To make the “paint” combine 1 teaspoon luster dust (I purchased mine at Michaels in the cake decorating section) with a couple drops of alcohol, such as vodka or amaretto. The original recipe called for using lemon extract, but I found that the flavor of the lemon extract was overpowering with the cookies. Use a small paint brush to paint desired decorations on cookies decorated with royal icing.

Happy Baking!

Peppermint Patty Ice Cream

August 1, 2011

I bopped into Williams-Sonoma a couple weeks ago to make a few returns and came out with this amazing ice cream book. I was on the hunt for David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, but when they didn’t have it, I settled on another option that looked equally as impressive: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams At Home.

Upon browsing through the ice cream recipes, I was immediately struck by the fact that most of the recipes were different than those I had seen before. The recipes didn’t use egg yolks and required that you create a slurry made of milk and corn starch to thicken the ice cream instead.

The results were amazingly delicious. Ice cream that was some of the creamiest I’ve ever tasted without any of the ice crystal formation or grainy texture that’s typically associated with homemade creamy desserts. And by making at home, it allowed me to fill the ice cream with big chunks of chopped peppermint patties, a quality I find most commercially-produced ice creams to be lacking.

With that said, I’m off to go finish watching a movie with Joey before an absolutely crazy week of work. It appears that a hectic July is only going to transfer over into a manic August!

Peppermint Patty Ice Cream
Adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams At Home 

*2 cups whole milk
*1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon corn starch
*1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
*1 1/4 cups heavy cream
*2/3 cups sugar
*1 teaspoon mint extract
1 (12-ounce) bag peppermint patties, chopped

*Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Add in the sea salt and stir to combine.
*Combine the remaining milk, the cream and the sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium high heat. Boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
*Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in the mint extract.
*Stir in half the chopped peppermint patties and stir until candies are melted and incorporated into the milk mixture.
*Pour mixture through a mesh sieve set atop a large bowl to sift our any chocolate bits that didn’t melt.
*Refrigerate mixture for 4 to 12 hours, preferably overnight. Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Happy Cooking!


Super Fudgy Brownies

July 1, 2010

Let’s talk about brownies, shall we? 

When I first made these brownies, I was doubting the recipe the entire time. “There isn’t enough flour!” I kept thinking. But since the recipe comes from the baking great, David Lebovitz, I figured it was worth seeing the recipe out as directed. I might have even audibly coaxed myself onward with a “It’s David-freaking-Lebovitz, Madison! He knows baking!”Call me crazy, but my pep talk worked, and I continued. 

The head notes of the recipe said the step about stirring by hand for a full minute is very important, and after seeing the change in texture after stirring, I can understand why. The batter goes from grainy and dull to smooth and glossy in that one important minute. Please don’t skip it.

After I removed the brownies from the oven I started to get nervous again. Butter had pooled in small places on the surface, which concerned me immediately. “This can’t be right!” I harped. But the recipe said to let the brownies cool completely in the pan before even thinking about cutting them or removing them. Since it was late, I went to bed and figured I would deal with this whole thing in the morning. But in the morning there was nothing to deal with. The brownies were beautiful, dense, and ready to be eaten.

I didn’t really trust myself with a whole pan of brownies in my apartment, much less dense and fudgy David Lebovitz brownies, so I cut them into squares and whisked them away to the office immediately. Thanks to chocolate-loving co-workers, they were gone by noon, but not before I took one for myself.

What I’ve learned? This whole process would have been much less stressful if I had just trusted the recipe and quit trying to make it wrong in my mind. Actually, the recipe is very simple and incredibly quick. Another major bonus is that it all comes together in a saucepan. For someone who loves baking and hates cleaning, this is a very good thing.

Super Fudgy Brownies
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Time for Dessert 
(Printable Recipe)

*6 Tbsp. butter
*8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
*3/4 cup sugar
*1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
*2 large eggs
*1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

*Preheat oven to 350*F. Lightly butter a sheet of parchment paper, then use the parchment paper to line an 8×8-inch baking pan (the parchment should go up the sides of the pan, too). Set aside.
*In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring frequently. Remove from heat when chocolate is just melted. Add in the sugar and vanilla extract and stir to combine. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the flour and stir vigorously by hand for 1 full minute. During this time the texture of the batter will go from grainy to smooth and glossy. The batter should also start to pull away from the sides of the pan.
*Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30 minutes. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan before cutting into squares.

Happy Baking!