Ugly Christmas Sweater Cookies
I think I might be late to the sweater cookie party on the intertubes but in my world they are a brand new idea. Several weeks ago a post showed up on my facebook feed about hosting an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, complete with Ugly Christmas Sweater Cookies.
I shared it with a friend whom had mentioned how she had been baking up holiday treats with her kids and she picked up a whole buncha' fun sprinkles for decorating and we both agreed it looked like fun.
After that post I searched online to source a couple of sweater cutters but everywhere was either sold out or backordered (and in the US) so I gave up. Fast forward to last Wednesday and lo and behold - what is this in the bargain bin at the grocery store? Dozens of sweater cookie cutters, and only $1!
So with a budget of $5 I splurged on some holiday sprinkles to go with my decade old food dyes and whipped up a batch of sugar cookie dough and royal icing.
Now, I have no desire to eat these cookies. I avoid the additives in artificial food dyes as much as possible but for once or twice a year (Easter being the other), it's fun to play with the stuff. Maybe I can put a hole in the top and hang them from the tree?
Sugar Cookies - Recipe
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup fine white sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups pastry flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Makes approx. 36 sweater size cookies
Royal Icing - Recipe
1 lb icing sugar
5 tbsps meringue powder or 2 large egg whites
2-5 tbsp water (as needed)
I feel like a lone soldier baking my way through Tartine No. 3, the latest book released by the co-chef and co-owner of Tartine Bakery in San Fransisco, Chad Robertson.
The Tartine method of making naturally leavened breads requires very moist dough and a long fermentation period. I've had success with a few recipes from the second book, Tartine Bread, but these new recipes with even wetter doughs and less glutenous flours is really pushing the loaf.
In this day and age of information sharing, I find it very surprising to find a lack of chatter from homebakers and chefs regarding the recipes from the book. This book was two years in the making and its release was well anticipated but besides a few sites promoting one or two recipes just before the launch, the intertubes are mostly quiet about Tartine No. 3. (I'm job hunting and have had time to sift through the bread baking forums, a lot.) And that is why I feel like a lone soldier - not all the recipes are clear on the specific ingredients and there isn't anyone with insider insight to steer me in the correct direction.
After baking no less than 5 challenging batches of breads from this cookbook that focuses on using more whole grains and flours in its recipes, I needed to attempt something I knew I could achieve in order to save my baking-esteem: cookies. Break making isn't my forte but cookies - now that's something I can champion. Sure, the quantity of cookies didn't match (original recipe says 5 dozen, I got 23) and I needed to add a few tablespoons of water to the dough to bring it together, but I happily ate cookies for lunch today and I no longer feel alone.
Winter is back. Might as well celebrate it and take a gastronomical trip to Austria while the snow falls to the ground. Austria, also known as the "Eastern Kingdom", is a European mountainous country known for being located in the Alps. Being completely landlocked, Austria is surrounded by eight other countries including Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. The cultures and cuisines of Austria are inevitably influenced not only by its altitude and climate, but also by its neighbours.
You may be familiar with a few of Austria's beverages such as schnaaps, bocks or coffees, and you may be familiar with some of her savoury dishes such as wiener schnitzel, but Austria is also credited for several famous desserts, too. Flaky apple strudel and Viennese Chocolate Sachertorte (with the scripted 'Sacher' garnish) are probably the most recognized sweets. My personal favourite, the Linzertorte, is the inspiration for the recipe I'm sharing today - Linzer Cookies.
Put away the snow shovel and preheat the oven - it's time to do some baking.
My love has not wavered since I first cast my eyes on you in the thrift store. Tall, dark, and handsome. Mysterious and alluding. You were well built and I couldn't ignore the feelings of need and passion that were evoked when I wrapped my arm around you and held you dear. How could somebody just throw you away?
Now that I have you I can't stop thinking about you. I dream about our future together and all the dinners we will share. Can we make this work? Is it worth the risk? Are things getting too hot? Is there too much pressure? So many questions and uncertainties. But I must confess and I think it's all too fitting that I share my true emotions on Valentine's Day.
Pressure cooker: I think I love you.
There is still plenty of room in my heart for more cookies. Or brownies. Or both. Inspired from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery cookbook (available at Amazon.com) and my new love, Mr. Pinterest, Oreo cookies from a bag will never measure up to my standards after enjoying these treats. Forget the double-stuffed, but keep the glass of cold milk. And when a cookie just won't do, bake them in a brownie for the ultimate sin. Skip the palm oil, bleached flours and artificial flavours and make the whole thing from scratch.
Since uploading my picture and idea to create rainbow heart sugar cookies decorated with Jell-O icing (used to both colour AND flavour the icing), the picture has been shared across the internet. Reddit, Facebook, Pinterest, and other blogs are using my picture and sharing the idea. I'm happy to share, but please don't edit my picture or remove the website address from the bottom. Also, if you do share the picture, please give Elgin Harvest the credit. Copyright applies to all creative intellectual property whether it has a little c in a circle or not. Just because you found it on the internet doesn't mean you can use it wherever you like. If you are sharing this image on your commercial page, it's best to ask permission first.
If you would like to share this picture on Facebook, here is my post- share away.
If you would like to share this picture on Pinterest, here is my pin- pin away.
There are also share options at the bottom of the page.
That being said, many people have shared the picture but didn't give instructions on how to prepare the icing. Yes, it is basically white icing (powdered sugar and water) mixed with a little bit of jelly crystals. Keep reading for detailed instructions on how to prepare the icing, make a batch of sugar cookies (FROM SCRATCH) and decorate your cookies for Valentine's Day (or any other day).
In an attempt to make as many in-house baked goods as possible, I can now cross graham cracker cookies off the list. With the sweetness of local honey and toastiness of whole wheat flour, these cookies are a necessity when assembling s'mores- the gooey, sweet treat usually enjoyed by the campfire on hot summer nights. Filled with a thick layer of squishy marshmallow (yes, homemade) and milk chocolate ganache, Valentine's Day just got a little bit more lovable. Keep reading to see how they are put together.
Edit: February 8, 2013
Due to the large demand for a how-to on the rainbow cookies, I've created a new blog post outlining the recipe and instructions for creating sugar cookies and the Jell-O icing. You can link to the post by clicking here.
Did you know you can colour AND flavour your cookie icing with Jell-O crystals? It's a quick, economical, and fun way to dress up your cookies if you don't have a cupboard full of food-dyes or extracts. What started out as a substitution (I didn't have any food colouring in the kitchen) became a rainbow of possibilities.
First, let me clarify I have no affiliation with KRAFT or Jell-O. In all honesty, I try to avoid as many as the company's products as possible. An exception to that rule is the wobbly, jewel-toned, quick & easy dessert in-a-box. It's a textural thing and believe it or not sometimes I crave that purple flavour (also found in popsicles). I know it's full of sugar, artificial colours and flavours, but I figure that since I don't drink soda pop, I can afford this little guilty pleasure every once in a while. It's a treat. And it's fun.
Edit: February 6, 2013: I'm adding instructions to my blog post for all the peeps who have been coming back to this page for info and for those who are downloading the image to share (my website is at the bottom of the pic).
See this blog post for detailed instructions.
It sounds so simple - two shortbread cookies sandwiched with caramel sauce. But they are oh, so much more.
Alfajores, a South American treat, are well known in many countries including Argentina, Paraguay and Peru. From the Arabic word for "luxury", alfajores aren't just sandwich cookies- they are a celebration of indulgence. A more accurate description would be: two soft, tender, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth cookies joined together with luscious & creamy, sticky dulce de leche. Some variations include dipping the cookie in chocolate (white or dark) or rolling the edges in coconut.
A selection Elgin Harvest Preserves and Shortbread Cookies
How could you not want to eat this?
Day #15 is here and we have come to the end of our 15 Days of Elgin Christmas. As a chef who tries to make as much from scratch as possible, AND use as much locally sourced products as possible, I genuinely hope the past three weeks have inspired you to spend just 10% of your holiday budget on local, artisanal food products.
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.