Nothing rings in the holidays more to me than Christmas trees and gingerbread! Oh the smells are wonderfully terrific. For me gingerbread is the quintessential Christmas cookie that has to be made every year. I have made many a different gingerbread but had never found “the one”. I wanted a thick, chewy cookie that had a well rounded flavour full of the spices that fill your house with that wondrous aroma, I wanted a cookie that tasted as good as it smelled! Many of the recipes I had tried in the past were either too crispy and did not stand the test of time or they fell flat in the flavour department. Since many of the recipes for gingerbread make a ton of cookies I would end up trying a new one each year, as my family can only eat so many cookies and I never want to throw anything out unless it is truly horrible. My search ended last year when I found the following recipe for chewy gingerbread cookies. Oh my, oh my, are these the best gingerbread I have ever found! They also pair quite nicely with cream cheese icing (I think this may be becoming my theme, but what can I say – I love cheese of all kinds!!!) I got the stamp of approval from Emma who loves these cookies and says that she doesn’t even like gingerbread that much. This year she was insisting that we make them, the sooner the better. So that is what we did. We had a great time cutting them out and figuring out how to decorate them with the cream cheese frosting without them looking too juvenile (didn’t happen) but in the end isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Getting together with loved ones to have fun and a great laugh! I think we did a great job juggling our ever busier babies and not eating all of the cookies before sharing them with others. Hey, we even managed to get through it with Oliver knocking over cups of tea and Penelope chewing on my iPhone, I knew daddy would not be too happy if he found out about me putting the phone within her reach as I am already on my second iPhone and I only got it 2 months ago, yikes!
I hope you enjoy them as much as we do, happy baking!
Stocking update: My mom and I have finished 3, yippee!!! Only 4 more to go but my mom and I are at the bottom of the list so we will see what gets done…
MOM-O-METER: 5 out of 5
The dough came together really easy and there aren’t that many ingredients. The rolling and the resting time are something that just come with a gingerbread cookie and it is a fun holiday tradition to get together with family and friends for cookie decorating. We can’t wait til our little ones can partake in all the fun!
Gingerbread Cookies with Cream Cheese Icing
Adapted from No Special Effects
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and slightly softened
3/4 cup molasses (I would use a mild molasses so that the spices don’t become overshadowed, unless you love a dark molasses then by all means use it!)
2 tablespoons whole milk (I used one tablespoon of 1% milk and 1 tablespoon of cream)
First mix together the molasses and the milk and set aside. In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Then stir the brown sugar into the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender (or two forks) cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles very fine meal. Pour the molasses mixture in a third at a time, stirring well after each addition. The dough should end up looking like coffee ice cream. (Alternately you can mix the dough in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment).
Divide the dough in two and place one half on a rectangle of parchment paper. Place another piece of parchment on top and pat the dough into a rough rectangle. Then using a rolling pin roll the dough to a 1/4 inch thickness (the original recipe said that you can place two magazines on either end of the rolling pin to get the right thickness, neat trick!). Repeat with the other half of the dough. When the dough is rolled out stack the pieces onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and gently peel off both of the pieces of parchment paper. Cut the dough into whatever shapes you like and place on baking sheet, spacing the cookies at least an inch apart. Bake the cookies for 8 minutes if they are 3 inch cookies and from 8-11 minutes if they are 5 inch cookies. Rotate the pan half way through the cooking. Repeat with the remaining dough. Will make roughly 2 dozen 3 inch cookies.
Cream Cheese Icing
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 250g (8 ounce) package of cream cheese, softened
A little less than 1 500g bag of icing sugar (about a pound)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth and fluffy, add the vanilla and sugar and beat until well combined. Sometimes I start with less sugar and add more according to how sweet I want the icing. On the tree cookies pictured above I took some of the icing and turned it into a glaze by adding a little bit of milk until I got my desired consistency, I then dipped the top of the cookies into it and lifted them out pulling the trunk up first to create the effect.
Have fun decorating!
With the holidays fast approaching I have been kicking it up a notch in my holiday preparations. I mean there is less than a month until Christmas!!! With the arrival of Penelope my mom and I are taking it upon ourselves to make new stockings for all of the family members. In the past two weeks we have been to the fabric store three times, have come up with the designs and finished one stocking… not sure if we are crazy for taking this on as it seems like a much bigger task than we originally thought!
Last week Emma and I got together to have a play date and whenever we get together it seems we always to end up in the kitchen! Evaluating what we had in the cupboards and with the holidays on our minds we decided to make these festive cookies that contain the remnants of many bags of goodies. I am sure many of you have that remaining handful of some sort of chip that never seems to get used up. We really like the combination of salty and sweet so we used pretzel M&M’s (if you haven’t had them yet I recommend them). Feel free to use any combination of yummy stuff that you love, we were not crazy about adding nuts to the cookies so we left them out but if you are a nutty person (hehe) feel free to add them in!
These cookies turned out to be quite yummy. I have to say I enjoyed them more after they had come to room temperature. We were unsure about the rice krispies at first so made some with and some without. It turns out that the rice krispies really help these cookies maintain their crispiness for several days, of course that is if they last that long!
MOM-O-METER: 4 out of 5
There are a lot of ingredients in these cookies but they use up any leftover goodies you have in the cupboard. They also make a lot of cookies and seemed to come together pretty quickly once all of the ingredients were laid out plus who doesn’t love anything with peanut butter in it!
Holiday Monster Everything Cookies
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs (large)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups oats (quick or regular)
1/2 cup regular M & M’s (we used holiday ones)
1/2 cup pretzel M & M’s
1/2 cup chopped up caramels or toffee bits
1 cup chocolate chips (milk or semi-sweet or a combination, whatever your fancy)
3/4 cup peanut butter chips
2 cups rice krispies
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Using a mixer cream the butter and the two sugars together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat to combine.
In another bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and kosher salt. Add to the mixer and beat on low until combined. After this add in all of your goodies in whatever amount you so desire.
Add the rice krispies at the very end mixing until just combined, we did this by hand as to try to not smoosh them!
You can either scoop the dough out or grab pieces about a tablespoonful and roll them gently into a ball and place onto the cookie sheet. The Pioneer Woman said to bake the cookies until golden brown which we found took about 10 minutes, then allow to cool on a rack.
Can you believe it is November already?! It seems like just yesterday it was summer and now the snow falls and freezing temperatures have arrived. So with the cold weather comes my favourite holiday and I never do find it too early to get my holiday spirit kicked into gear. I mean it really does not seem too early when I have already received an invitation for a holiday cookie exchange. I love Christmas time!
Since this will be my daughters first Christmas I have been thinking a lot about all of the traditions that my family (or at least my mom and I, it seems harder to get the men in my life involved with many of the things I love) does every year that make me love this season. I love going out to cut down our own Christmas tree, baking holiday cookies, singing Christmas carols, watching the holiday tv specials and the traditional Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners that we all enjoy so much. I know I will be talking more about these traditions in the weeks to come and can hopefully share some of my favourite holiday recipes with you. On to the cookies!
I had never heard of Snickerdoodles until a few years ago when I was watching an episode of Veronica Mars (so sad they cancelled that show). Veronica was making these yummy looking cookie dough balls and then rolling them in cinnamon and sugar, I have wanted to try them ever since. When Deb from smitten kitchen posted a recipe for these wonderful cookies I added them to my want to try list of recipes, you know that endless list that we hope to get around to at some point! When I finally got around to making them for the first time a couple months ago I fell in love. They felt like home even though I had never tried them before. They are crisp and sugary on the outside and light and chewy on the inside. The cinnamon and sugar coating works so well with the buttery dough, oh YUMMY! Going back to the holidays I think they would be a much loved addition to the holiday cookie tray and great to make for a cookie exchange.
MOM-O-METER: 5 out of 5
These are a great cookie for moms to make. There are only a few ingredients and you can make them in stages if needed, the dough comes together quickly and I found the rolling and coating fun. Plus if you have kids that are of the age to help in the kitchen I think they would love to roll out the cookie balls and coat them in the cinnamon and sugar.
Adapted from smitten kitchen
Makes 4 dozen 2 inch cookies
For the cookie dough:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
For the cookie coating:
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium bowl sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 or 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine.*
In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for the coating. Use about a tablespoon of dough to form the balls, and roll them in the cinnamon sugar coating. Bake until the cookies begin to crack, about 8 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to a wire rack to cool about five minutes before transferring the cookies to the rack or your mouth!
*Note: Deb from smitten kitchen said that her dough was too sticky at this point so she needed to refrigerate her dough for about an hour. I did not find this step necessary.
It seems fitting as a new mom that I should start with something simple and necessary for every mother to master. I have to admit that my cooking and baking have both taken a hit since my son was born. For the first month I was in shock, and remember little of his life, nevermind my culinary attempts – if you can even call them that. The next month was spent furiously trying to make up for lost time – freezing berries, making jam and processing pears into purees to be served up during the winter months of his first few meals. Then apple season hit, followed by Thanksgiving, and now my Oliver is 4 months old, and the other day I realized that I have been anything but satisfied with my cookie making of late. In particular, my chocolate chip cookies are an embarrassment. Not cool for a mom. So I started trying recipes – in an attempt to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie – at least by the time that Oliver is old enough to eat them. Every few months I have been halfheartedly trying a recipe, hoping for good results and then disappointedly tossing cookies into the rubbish bin or in the direction of my insatiable younger brother when they do not turn out. Last weekend, I decided to put an end to this madness – and solve the cookie problem.
I flipped through my books and decided to start with Martha Stewart’s chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe – and once again found less than desirable results. While the cookies were chewy, they were also cakey – a big no-no in my cookie books. If I want something cakey and chocolaty – I will make chocolate cake. Cookies should be chewy and crispy and golden. No exceptions. So this recipe was out for me. As was the one on the back of the “Chipits” package – too cakey once again.
The next thing I did was a surprise even for me – I was on Facebook, mulling over the cookie problem – when I decided to swallow my pride and update my status to a request for chocolate chip cookie recipes. This was a novel approach – and you can tell the extent of my desperation as I was loath to admit that I am a chocolate chip cookie failure. The thing is, so many of my friends love food as much as I do (or almost as much), so it worked brilliantly. The first one I tried was the winner, Alton Brown’s “The Chewy”. Made with Caillebault chocolate chunks, they are the epitome of what a chocolate chip cookie should be. So I owe a great debt to one of my fellow teachers and past colleagues for this one. The embarrassing part was that it was so obvious. As one of the highest rated recipes on the Food Network: it had been there all along.
The best part about this recipe is that it is easy to follow and that it requires refrigeration for an indeterminate amount of time. This means that you can put it together whenever you have 10 minutes, toss it in the refrigerator, and bake it whenever you feel like it.
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies: Adapted from Alton Brown’s “The Chewy”
1 tablespoon Vanilla
1 tablespoon cream (NOT optional – do not use milk instead)
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon salt
1 small teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 cup melted butter
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1.5-2 cups high quality semi-sweet chocolate chunks – do NOT use milk chocolate chunks as the cookies are already quite sweet.
In a small bowl mix baking soda, flour and salt. Combine melted butter with sugars in bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium speed to combine. Turn to low and add egg, vanilla, water and cream. Do not overbeat. Gently pour in the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add chocolate chips and refrigerate for at least 1.5 hours – more is better as the dough will be quite runny at first. Bake at 375 for 9-12 minutes depending on size.