Christmas cookies

Dishing It: Holiday Sugar Cookies

December 9, 2010 at 9:29 am , by

I go all out when I decorate sugar cookies (which only happens once a year, precisely because I go all out). Piping cookie after cookie’s worth of intricate patterns feels like a fun art project—and then of course there’s the tasty treat at the end. So I jumped at the chance to make the snowflake sugar cookies from our December issue. (I don’t have any snowflake cookie cutters, so I went with mostly stars as you can see, above.)

The sugar cookies themselves seemed pretty standard (with a little ginger kick — yum). But I’ve never made royal icing with lemon or meringue powder before, so I was eager to see how it would turn out.

I gathered my ingredients to make the dough and then chilled it for a few hours before rolling (which is key). I made a half recipe and needed a bit more liquid to hold the dough together (maybe my eggs were small?) but an extra half-egg did the trick. I recently inherited my mom’s pastry cloth and it makes rolling and cutting out cookies SO much easier. Just a little flour on the cloth and the rolling pin and you’re good to go.

After baking a few batches and letting the cookies cool completely, I made the frosting. The lemon was the only liquid in the icing which gave it a real lemony zing. I don’t have any in-process icing shots because I made a mess. I had blue and white frosting in two different consistencies each (a firmer one for piping and a looser version for flooding) so it was quite a production—and a time-sensitive one at that. My trick with flooding (which is where you pipe around the edge of the cookie and the fill with the looser frosting to give that pretty, smooth look) is to just skip the piping bag and spoon on the filler icing. I end up making a mess either way, and I usually need to smooth some of the frosting into the corners with the back of the spoon so it actually saves a step.

My piping wasn’t the neatest job in the world, but they still made for delicious treats, of course! I liked the ginger and lemon in this recipe because traditional sugar cookies can be a bit bland for my taste and these were a great, flavorful update on the classic.

Dishing It: White Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

December 2, 2010 at 1:48 pm , by

When I saw this recipe in our December/January issue, I could not wait to make (and scarf down) these cookies. In LHJ food editor Tara‘s beautiful picture (below), they reminded me of the cookies I loved best as a kid (and, let’s be honest, I still mow down innocent bystanders if I happen to spot them): peanut butter cookies with a chocolate kiss in the center. Mmmmmm. I followed Tara’s suggestion and bought high-quality Lindt white chocolate bars, and I had all the rest of the ingredients already at home, which is a great thing about this recipe – all you need is flour, sugar, butter, salt, egg, vanilla and choco.

The one thing I forgot and didn’t have in my many cabinets was parchment paper, a mistake that would come back to haunt my cookies. I also didn’t heat the oven as my first step, as instructed, since the dough has to chill in the fridge for 90 minutes before you can roll it and I didn’t see the sense in leaving my oven on the whole time.

I followed the next steps exactly, stirring and blending and mixing, and my dough came out looking a little . . . crumbly. (See the third picture, below.) Like the topping on a coffee cake. I’m not sure if it was a blending issue or the fact that my ancient hand-mixer really only has one speed (insanely fast), but it wasn’t as smooth as I thought it should be. It looked a bit dry. It came together fine when I wrapped it in plastic, but even after cooling it in the fridge for an hour and a half, it still crumbled a bit when I rolled it into 1-inch balls. I also initially made the balls way too big and was about two dozen shy of what the recipe said I should make from the batter, so I went back and resized some of the behemoths into less gluttonous sizes. Read more