Christmas Cookie Edition – Volume 4: I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas Cookie

December 21, 2008

 
My man, the new helper I’ve mentioned a few times, has a handful of incredible nieces and nephews. These are adorable, fun, and very lovable kids. They have great parents, a wonderful supportive family…and unfortunately two of them also have severe allergies.

I’m not talking about the typical pollen/dander/etc stuff that just about everyone has to deal with, either. These poor kids seem to be allergic to almost everything you could think of. It makes life a little difficult, but with a lot of care they are thriving.

It makes Christmas cookies difficult though. Not only do we have to make sure that the ingredients won’t hurt them, but we have to make sure there is no chance of accidental contamination. With the dairy allergy they haven’t had the chance to develop a chocolate addiction, so our vegan choice was out. We didn’t want to make plain sugar cookies either, because not only do they get that all the time, but every kid deserves fun cookies on Christmas, and what could be more fun than snickerdoodles? 🙂

These were actually much easier to convert to safe cookies than we expected.

Allergy Free Snickerdoodles

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dairy free soy margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups organic sugar
2 large eggs (aka an egg replacer equivalent to 2 large eggs)*
2 tbl soy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

6 tbl sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, milk and vanilla and beat well. Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Wrap the dough in saran wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F

Mix the remaining sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Crop the dough by rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheets, leaving several inches between them. Keep in mind these spread more than most. Sprinkle generously with the cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.

Let the cookies cool on a wire rack for as long as you can wait. Enjoy.

* If you use an egg replacer, read the box carefully. For some reason a few brands actually use egg whites. If you’re dealing with an allergy, make sure whatever you use is completely egg free.


Christmas Cookie Edition – Volume 3: Cookie Bling

December 19, 2008

 
I don’t know what it is about cookies, but they always seem to make people so happy, especially around the holidays, and they are so easy to make! You can use any recipe at all, no matter how many times you’ve made them during the year and just let your imagination wander.

Below are four ideas that I used this year to make my cookies special, but you can do anything you want. Just have fun with it.

1. Oreo Snowflakes

Just roll out the dough for Oreo cookies, use a Snowflake shaped cookie cutter and bake them as usual then carefully spread the filling on the cookies. Then you can either leave them as is, dust the top with powdered sugar like snow, or colored sprinkles to make them pretty.

2. Starry Cookies

Take a simple sugar cookie recipe, use a star shaped cookie cutter and before baking, sprinkle sparkling sugar, or regular red and green sprinkles then bake as usual.

The colors add a little character to the cookies, but sparkling sugar in particular adds to it, giving your stars a little shine. And this kind of thins is always more fun with extra hands  🙂

3. Chocolate Covered…

Chop the chocolate then melt in the microwave or in a double boiler then dip whatever you wish in the chocolate. Besides your fingers, of course. Brownies, pretzels, any type of cookie, anything you can think of 🙂

We did oreos this year. Just set the chocolate covered tid-bit on a sheet of aluminum foil, add a tiny bit of colored sprinkles on top or whatever you want to make them pretty and resist the urge to eat them until the chocolate has become firm.

You can use chocolate that’s particularly made for candies and dipping or regular chocolate. Just make sure to leave it be until it gets nice and hard.

If your place is too warm you can even set them in the fridge, then the freezer, but they always look prettier if you let them set on their own.

4. Peppermint Shortbread

Prepare the shortbread cookies as usual using a candy cane cookie cutter to shape the cookies. Bake and allow to cool completely.

Melt some white chocolate in a double boiler, mix in red food coloring until you reach the color you desire, then add peppermint extract to taste. It shouldn’t take much, approximately 1/4 teaspoon per cup of chocolate but just add a little bit at a time until you’re happy with it.

Scoop into a bag and carefully pipe the chocolate as stripes onto the cookies. Allow the chocolate to set then enjoy.

Don’t forget to place the cookies in a pretty tin or plate. Add a bow if needed and they will be beautiful for the people you love.

Whatever you do with your Christmas cookies, have fun with it.  🙂


Christmas Cookie Edition – Volume 2: Vegan and Delicious

December 15, 2008

 
My dear sister is the kind of women it’s easy to be proud of. She is incredibly quirky and fun to be around, and an great photographer. She has been trying to start a business with a friend of hers and finally has been getting paying jobs. She even has a blog, showing some of her amazing work.

It is finally the kind of job she can be happy with, and I can’t wait for the day she can quit her “day job” and do this full time. I think it will be great for her.

I personally have never really been one of those people who care about how much cheese, or butter…or chocolate that I eat. But my sister is the exact opposite. She really cares about what goes into her body and how everything she does and eats effects everything around her, so she and her husband decided to become vegan. Is that the correct phrase? “Become vegan”?….Anyways, they are vegan. Which makes for an interesting challenge when it comes to Christmas cookies. You can’t go with all the ingredients you would normally choose.

I am always leery when trying “alternative” ingredients. Soy, dairy free, lactose free…none of that stuff sounds like fun. But these cookies are incredible. Even with all the special ingredients it required, they are simply amazing. You could easily use it as a healthy-ish substitute for kids, and they would never even realize all the things these cookies are lacking!

Merry Christmas, my dear sister.

Vegan Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: About.com

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
10 oz dairy free chocolate chips
½ cup dairy free soy margarine
1 ½ cups organic sugar
3 tsp egg replacer mixed well with 1/3 cup hot water
½ tsp chocolate liqueur

Preheat oven 350 F. Cover cookie sheet with aluminum foil/parchment paper

Bring several inches of water to boil in a small pan or double boiler. Place ½ of the chocolate chips and the margarine in a small stainless steel bowl over the pan and stir constantly until melted and smooth.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

></a><a href=

In another bowl, pour the chocolate mixture and using an mixer, add the sugar, egg replacer and chocolate liqueur until well combined.

In three additions, gradually mix in the flour mixture until well combined. Fold in the remaining chocolate chips.

Drop the dough by heaping spoonfuls onto the cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. place sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Bake for about 14-16 minutes or until the top has cracked but the cookies are still soft. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and allow to cool until you can no longer resist. Enjoy. 

As a small side note, I have noticed that recipes that call for both melted chocolate and cocoa powder tend to be really moist, with a richer chocolate taste. Keep that in mind when you’re looking for new recipes 🙂


Christmas Cookie Edition – Volume 1: A Classic Treat

December 13, 2008

 
It’s hard to believe 2008 is almost gone, and so much has happened! The stocks are pretending they are on a yo-yo, the banks are going bankrupt, much chocolate has been devoured. Thankfully not all of it has been bad. We’re still alive, able to read our favorite blogs and bake ourselves more chocolate when it’s needed. Ignoring the fact that it’s always needed 🙂

Unfortunately now that most bank accounts have almost been completely emptied, we get to spend our last remaining pennies on the people in our lives. The obligations that our society puts on this time of year makes it a little hard to have much fun with the coming holidays, so many people are stressing. But thankfully one thing anyone, even children can have fun with is Christmas cookies!

Regardless of whether you’ve made cookies your whole life, never done it before or (like me) don’t really have the money to choose another gift option, it can be a lot of fun to dive into your kitchen and bake like crazy.

My next couple blogs are all gonna be about Christmas cookies. A couple recipes, some decorating suggestions and…other things 🙂 But first! A classic, and one everyone loves. Sugar cookies!

Sugar Cookies
Source: Rightathome.com

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Optional
decorating supplies of your choice (i.e. sprinkles, sparkling sugar, melted chocolate, etc.)

The day before:

In a medium bowl mix dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the sugar and butter. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together until the mixture is fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula when necessary. The mixture should resemble coarse, moist sand.

Add the egg and vanilla extract to the sugar and butter. With the mixer on low speed, beat to combine until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time and beat with the electric mixer on low speed until the mixture is just combined.

Wrap the dough tightly with saran wrap and chill in the fridge overnight.

The next day:

Remove the dough from the wrap, place it on a smooth, lightly floured surface, and use a rolling pin to roll it out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. You can also roll between two sheets of waxed paper.

Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and carefully transfer them to an ungreased cookie sheet, placing each about 2 inches apart. Combine and roll out the leftover dough and continue cutting out cookie shapes to place on ungreased cookie sheets.

If using sprinkles to decorate, sprinkle before baking. If using chocolate (swirls, strips, dipping…) bake and allow to cool completely first.

Preheat oven to 350F

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, turning the tray halfway through, until the edges of the cookies just begin to turn very light brown.

Remove cookie sheet from the oven and allow to cool for 1 minute. Using a flat spatula, transfer the cookies to the cooling rack to cool completely before storing, eating or decorating them.

This is one of the most classic cookies you can make. Soft and sweet, and very easy to decorate for the holidays. If you don’t want to wait overnight, allow the dough to chill at least an hour before rolling, but if you have the time to wait the flavors will develop more so it’s definitely worth the extra time.


Giving Thanks With Bread

December 2, 2008

Sometimes it’s really hard to remember what this life actually offers that you can be thankful for. There are so many bad things in this world these days that it’s getting harder and harder to listen to the news without getting depressed. Hell, it’s getting harder to simply look at the grocery receipt without getting depressed but there are still good things out there. I personally have been lucky this year and have a few new things in my life to really be happy about but if there is nothing else, (ignoring the receipt of course) food is definitely something we can all celebrate this Thanksgiving. That is what this holiday revolves around, isn’t it?

As bread in particular has always managed to make me happy I thought this would be the perfect thing to share with everyone this Thanksgiving. It is definitely my favorite of all of the three recipes and was a hit for our big dinner.

Now, I know that I have already done not just one, but two different recipes for potato bread this year, but not only is potato bread my favorite, it also happens to be the type bread my family tends to crave for this holiday. I haven’t tried this particular recipe myself before now but I have heard many good things about it, and just couldn’t wait any longer to share.

Tender Potato Bread
Slightly adapted from: Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
A Daring Bakers Recipe

8-16 ounces of potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks.
4 cups water, reserve cooking water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 ½ cups to 8 ½ cups bread flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour

Put the potatoes and 4 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook until the potatoes are very tender.

Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well. We used a potato ricer but if you don’t have something like that it works best to mash the potatoes in the water, just make sure you measure out the water as directed below first!

Measure out 3 cups of the reserved potato water. Add extra water if needed. Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread dough in. Let cool to lukewarm (70-80F) – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.

Add yeast to 2 cups bread flour and whisk. Add to the cooled mashed potatoes and water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.

Sprinkle in the remaining salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1 cup all-purpose flour, stir briefly.

Add 2 cups of the bread flour and mix until all the flour has been incorporated. Continue adding more of the remaining flour as needed until you can handle it.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle. The kneaded dough will still be very soft. Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions, then divide each of those into thirds. Roll each segment into a rope, about 1/2 thick. Place three of the ropes on a sheet of parchment paper and braid lightly, being careful not to stretch. Pinch and tuck each end under, then repeat with the other loaf. Cover and let rise another 35-45 minutes or so, until doubled.

Lightly dust the top of each braid with a little flour and immediately transfer the loaves to a baking sheet and carefully place in the oven. Bake the loaves for 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 375F and bake for approximately 40 more minutes or until golden brown and a thermometer inserted inside reads 200F.

Transfer to a rack and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

As this was Thanksgiving, I thought a easily rip-able braid would be more appropriate than a slice-able loaf, but you can serve this anyway you want. As always, just have fun with it!