Sugar Skull Butter Cookies

I really do need to chill with this preoccupation I have with collecting cookie stamps. I can admit that it’s starting to become an obsession. To my own credit though, I will say that I’ve kept it an inexpensive one. Most of the ones that I’m finding, buying and using are inexpensive and the results that they’ve been yielding are so great that I justify it to myself that it was too good of a deal to pass up.

Secondly, I also think that I just may be addicted to the actual process of making them. There’s something I’ve found to be very therapeutic to being alone in the kitchen, rolling out cookie dough, stamping out the design, transferring them to cookie sheets, chilling them, then baking them and seeing how pretty they turn out, all while music or a podcast plays in the background.

Third, whenever I’ve found a new stamp/mold and tested it out with stellar results, I’m always excited to pull out my camera to take pictures and write up a post so that I can show it off to all of you. That’s always lots of fun.

I’ve known I was going to do this post for months, which is when I first bought these cookie cutters/stamps from Amazon. They’d been on my wishlist for a while but they were at a price that I found to be….excessive. Fortunately my patience paid off because eventually it lowered waaaaay down to where they were practically a steal and I ordered them straightaway.

I’ve been baking for Dia de los Muertos for a few years on the blog. Both of those recipes were variations on the Pan de Muerto, which is a traditional bread that’s typically made and eaten for the holiday. Skeletons and elaborately designed sugar skulls are a huge part of the celebrations and overall aesthetic as well. So when I saw these cookie cutters, I knew at once that I would want to make them as both a Halloween and Dia de los Muerto post.

Y’all I’m so happy with these cookies. They came out EXACTLY like I wanted them to, and I have to attribute it to the consistency of the dough. As I’ve mentioned before, when making any stamped cookie, it’s important to work with a dough that isn’t going to spread or puff up so that the intricacy of your design will be preserved. Shortbread is perfect for this, as are most standard butter cookie recipes, like this one.

I really wanted the design of the cookie to be the star here, so I kept the flavor of these simple: two teaspoons of vanilla bean paste did the trick. Although, I could see almond, lemon or orange extracts working well too. The consistency is thick and soft, just how I like my sugar cookies to be.

Let me also say that although I did provide the link for where you guys can buy these cutters for yourself, this cookie recipe will work great for ANY cookie stamp/mold that you have. You also don’t have to use one at all; either just roll out the dough, cut out any shape you want or shape the whole thing into a log then cut off into rounds, and follow the directions for baking as usual. Either way, I guarantee that you’re going to love the cookies. Happy Halloween, Dia de lose Muertos and Fiesta Friday #195 co-hosted this week by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Sandhya @ Indfused!

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Sugar Skull Butter Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Springerle Joy

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Ingredients

  • 2 sticks, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened (250 grams)
  • 150 grams powdered sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 450 grams all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using a handheld mixer) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and the vanilla and mix until combined.

Stir together the flour and salt in a small bowl. Add it to the wet ingredients in small increments until thoroughly combined. Scrape dough together into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or at least for one hour.

Sprinkle a clean surface (like a pastry mat or wax paper) with flour. Divide the dough into quarters, keeping the dough you’re not using in the fridge while you work. Roll out each quarter to about 1/2 inch thickness. Sprinkle the surface the dough lightly with flour. Dip your cookie cutter into flour, then tap out to release excess. Firmly press the cutter into the dough, wiggle it around a little to release the excess, then lightly tap it down on counter to release the cookie.

Place stamped cookie onto a sheet pan you’ve lined with parchment paper. Keep the sheet pan in the fridge while you repeat the above process with the rest of the cookie dough. (Note: You MUST flour and tap out the excess of each mold, EACH time you stamp out a new cookie. If your dough is too soft, place it in the fridge until it hardens back up enough for you to cut it out.)

Allow the cookies to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take the sheet pan out of the fridge and bake on the middle rack for about 14-15 minutes, until the bottoms of cookies are just turning beginning to turn golden. Allow to sit on sheet pan for about 60 seconds before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

 (Note: no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Roasted Garlic Pot Roast

As the autumn progresses and the weather begins to cool down, there are certain foods that I start getting crazy cravings for. I’ve already mentioned this with regards to baking which is why for the past few weeks I’ve been sharing a bunch of sweets that have appeased my fall sweet tooth. However my seasonal needs definitely apply to savory foods too. The colder it gets, the more you want ‘stick to your ribs’ kind of food that warms you up on the inside and just makes you want to curl up and take a nap after dinner.

Pot roast is one of those dishes for me and I think it’s pretty safe to say it is for most people. It’s red meat that’s roasted in gravy, usually served with some kind of starch like mashed potatoes and rice. What’s not to love about it? Not only is it delicious, it’s easy to throw together, then allow to cook in the oven or the slow cooker.

With comfort food, there’s usually not a lot of bells and whistles to the preparation, and that’s really how it ought to be. Simple, minimal ingredients. Not too much effort. Maximum taste and satisfaction.

And wouldn’t you know it? I happen to have just the dish for y’all to make for autumn that really does deliver on all three.

Before I’d made this dish, I had never even tried roasted garlic before. I’d certainly never roasted it myself. After having changed both of those circumstances, I’m now resolved to never eat it any other way *but* roasted. You just wouldn’t believe how easy it is to make, and how much of a difference it makes in flavor.

Because the garlic is the main ‘star’ of the dish, this recipe does call for quite a bit to be roasted at one time. Four to six heads, actually. Yes–whole heads. It sounds like overkill, but it isn’t. You’re using it in both the marinade AND in the dish itself, which will result in a gravy you want packed with flavor. Also keep in mind, if you absolutely insist on dialing back the garlic flavor you can always use a smaller amount and stash the leftover in your fridge for another use.

Roasting the garlic is fool-proof. You drizzle the garlic heads with olive oil and wrap them in a foil package. You place that foil package in a baking dish, then throw the baking dish into the oven for about an hour. After letting them cool off, you’ll be able to easily pluck the cloves off the head and give them a good squeeze; they’ll come out of the skins like a smooth pulp. That kids, is roasted garlic. Next to bacon fat it’s pretty much nectar of the Gods.

After letting the meat marinade overnight (something I really must insist that you do), you can get to the business of searing, then roasting. We have to have a discussion about the gravy because apart from the tenderness of the meat, the gravy of a pot roast is the most important thing. It’s just gotta be ‘right’. This one is more than right. It’s friggin fantastic.

Roasted Garlic. Beer. Crushed Ginger Snaps. Tomato Paste. All of that (and a bit more) is included in the gravy that’s made with this roast and it all works together. The taste is (of course) garlicky, but it’s also tangy, sweet and a bit spicy. I didn’t even have to thicken it over the stove after the roast was cooked through–the consistency is perfect straight out of the Dutch oven.

A few things are needless to say, but I’ll say them anyhow: first, we gobbled this up. Second, I’m probably not going to wait until autumn every year to cook this roast. It’s the year-round good eats variety. Third, I now look for excuses to put roasted garlic in *all* of my savory dishes. I’m currently searching for a way to incorporate it into my bread-making routine. Fourth, you all should be planning on trying this for yourselves. Sharing this post at the Fiesta Friday #194, co-hosted this week by  Petra @ Food Eat Love and Vanitha @ Curry and Vanilla.

Have a good weekend, all.

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Roasted Garlic Pot Roast

Recipe Adapted from Laura Frankel

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Ingredients

For Roasted Garlic

  • 4-6 heads of garlic
  • About 1 tablespoon of oil (olive, canola, vegetable are all fine)
  • Salt & pepper

For Marinade

  • 1 head of roasted garlic (see above)
  • 1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • About 1-2 tablespoons Soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Seasoned salt, pepper, onion powder

For Roast/Sauce

  • About 5-6 lb chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat and preferably tied
  • 2 large yellow sweet onions, thickly sliced
  • 3 heads of the roasted garlic (you can use less if you want less garlic flavor)
  • 2 14.5 oz cans of low-sodium beef broth
  • 1-2 cups of Guinness beer (or another stout; just as long as it’s something you’d be fine with drinking)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely crushed ginger snaps (I used Trader Joe’s gingersnaps)
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • A few dashes of fish sauce (soy sauce works fine too)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Salt & pepper to taste

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Peel the loose skin away from the garlic and cut the tops off of the heads, but make sure the cloves stay attached to each other. Place them on a long strip of aluminum foil. Drizzle them with the oil and sprinkle evenly with salt & pepper.

Draw up the ends of the foil and tightly seal it into a package. Place the foil package in a shallow dish. Roast in the oven for about 50 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then remove the roasted garlic to a small bowl by pressing the cloves out of the remaining skins and into a small bowl with your fingers (they should come out easily).

Place the beef in a sealable plastic container or a Ziploc bag. Rub the soy sauce over the surface of the meat, then sprinkle evenly with salt/pepper/onion powder. In a small bowl, combine the 1 head of roasted garlic, brown sugar, vinegar and tomato paste. Mash and stir together into a paste with a fork. Pour this over the meat. Seal and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven or pot over high heat.  Sear the meat on both sides until a crust forms, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to a platter and cover with foil (don’t wipe out the bottom of the pot). Add the onions and stir together. Add the beer and deglaze the pot, scraping up the bottom bits. Place the onions with the meat. Add the crushed ginger snaps, tomato paste, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, beef broth, cinnamon, coriander to the pot and stir together. Add salt & pepper to taste. (If the sauce is too thick you can add additional broth, beer or water to thin it out).

Place the beef and onions back into the pot. Cover with lid or tightly with aluminum foil and roast in the oven, about 1 1/2-2 hours, until a fork can pierce through the thickest part of the meat easily. Allow to stand for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the sauce given off in the pot.

Coffee Pound Cake

Coffee and I have a long, complicated history with each other. I’ll swear it off for a while, feel like I’ve finally kicked the habit once and for all…then have just the right kind of bad day to where I’ll say “Screw it” and just throw myself back into the java river with no regrets. Until the time comes when I’m ready to swear it off again.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. It’s a cycle that never ends. I should just stop trying to pretend like it will. Coffee and me may have a turbulent history, but we’ll always end up going back to each other. We break up to make up. And boy, do we know how to make up.

I’ve now reached the point in my fixation with coffee where I look for ways to use it for more than just a beverage. Because as it turns out, coffee is a great ingredient for use in both savory cooking and sweet baking.

Did y’all know that? No? Well, you do now. Even if you don’t like it all on its own, I think you’d still be hard pressed not to like the way it’s used in today’s recipe. It’s a real keeper.

When a special occasion comes around, I like to commemorate it by making a cake. My 28th birthday was the last week in September AND, this week will mark the fourth anniversary of Cooking is My Sport. I’d say those were kind of special occasions. Special enough to celebrate with a great cake, anyway.

I don’t feel twenty eight (two years from thirty, yikes) and it certainly doesn’t feel like I’ve been blogging for four years. I’m grateful that I’m one year older, and (hopefully) one year wiser. It’s been a HUGE year of change–the good kind. I’ve been able to continue cooking, baking and blogging through that change in location and routine, which has been a relief and an outlet for me. Y’all have been great. Thank you to everyone who follows, likes and comments on CIMS. It’s very, VERY much appreciated. I mean that.

Pound cake is the best cake there is. This isn’t just because it’s got a lot of butter and sugar in it (though that’s certainly a good enough reason). It’s also because pound cake is a blank cake canvas on which you have the option of either eating plain, or testing out MANY different flavor profiles most of which will turn out great. You can make a cake that’s already delicious on its own taste even better by adding your flavor of choice. A moist vanilla pound cake is unquestionably perfect, but in my own experimenting, I’ve found that almond, lemon, orange or marble flavored ones are equally scrumptious.

I can now also add coffee flavored pound cake to that list. After you try this recipe I’m pretty sure you’ll be ready to add it to yours too. A few notes for those who are ready to break out their mixers and have already preheated their ovens:

As you can see, this cake is big. VERY big. Any cake with seven eggs is going to rise high and I’m glad I followed my instincts and went ahead with my 16 cup tube pan rather than the 10 cup bundt pan. I’d have been left with a huge mess in my oven otherwise. If you don’t have a pan that big, I recommend you splitting the batter up between two loaf pans or two 8 or 9 inch round pans.

So far as the star ingredient here goes, I’ll say the same thing I do when using booze as an ingredient: don’t use something you wouldn’t be okay with drinking all on its own. If you buy and use a generic coffee with a flavor that you’re not fond of, chances are you’re going to end up with a cake flavor you’re not fond of either. Don’t use dark roast if you don’t like dark roast coffee. Don’t you light roast if light isn’t your fave. I do also recommend you use a coffee with its own unique taste; I used one that was a medium roast Creme Brulee flavor that I LOVE to drink.

Get the point? Good.

I used a mixture of brown and white sugar in the batter to give it a richer sweetness. The cinnamon works well with the bitterness of the coffee; you’re going to taste it but you likely won’t be able to place just what ‘it’ is. You’ll just know that you like it.

The cake bakes up so moist and rich. You could eat it totally plain and be satisfied, but I decided to go a step further and add a drizzle of icing flavored with some of the leftover coffee, and then a layer of melted semi-sweet chocolate drizzle. This bumped up both the look and taste. This really is one of the best cakes I’ve had in a good long while. I hope some of you fellow coffee lovers choose to give it a try.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #193 co-hosted by Suzanne @ apuginthekitchen and Ginger @ Ginger and Bread.

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Coffee Pound Cake

Recipe Adapted from Kraft.com

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamom
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark, it’s up to you)
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 7 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup freshly brewed coffee, divided and cooled (use something you would drink with its own distinctive flavor)

For Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cooled coffee
  • 1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, melted

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 °, Grease and flour a 16 cup tube pan or 2 loaf pans.

In a medium size bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together with a fork and set aside.

Using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer or a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light & creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and 1 cup of the coffee to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour.

Pour the batter into the tube pan, spreading the top with a spatula. Lift the pan up a little and let it tap down onto a countertop a few times to eliminate air bubbles. Place the pan on a half sheet pan and bake for 55-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted deep into the cake comes out clean. (Pound cakes are done at an inner temp of 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit)

Allow to cool in pan for about 25 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

In a small bowl mix the powdered sugar with about 1 tablespoon of coffee at a time, mixing thoroughly until it forms a smooth but thick icing. (You probably won’t need to use all the coffee, it all depends on how thick or thin you like your icing to be.) Use a fork to drizzle the coffee icing over the cake and alternate between drizzling with the melted chocolate. Allow to harden/set for about one hour before serving.

Brown Sugar and Spice Shortbread

My interest in experimenting with stamped cookies began about two years ago when I saw a recipe in a Christmas magazine for a particular kind of German cookie called Springerle. The design came from intricately hand-carved wood molds that are only sold on select websites & sparse authorized retail dealers. As such, and because they are hand carved, they’re not cheap. I found this out pretty quick and this is the reason why my Springerle mold collection is currently at a grand total of…two. It’ll probably stay that way for a while.

For a while I accepted this.

Then after a little while longer, I…didn’t want accept it anymore. I’m just that stubborn (and cheap) So, I started looking up alternatives to wood molds and found that there are a number of options. They may not be as intricate or elaborate as some of the springerle wood molds, but they still can create a pretty nice product. You just have to know where to look and what to look for.

I had success in just looking up rubber cookie stamp sets, like the one I bought (very cheaply at that) and then used for these Vanilla Sugar Cookies.I also started looking outside of cookie cutters and stamps and into other baking gadgets & gizmos. Turns out that quite a few of the plunger fondant and pie crust cutters you can both online and in stores can double as cookie cutters & stamps. What’s more, since fondant is a decorative element to cakes, the designs that you can find the cutters in are virtually limitless.

Perhaps most importantly, as the majority of them are plastic, they are very inexpensive.

I found a set of four small plunger fondant crust cutters on Amazon. They were in the shape of leaves. They set me back $3.93. I decided to see if they could and work the same way as my springerle molds did. I was pretty sure they would, but if they didn’t, well…it was only a $4 risk.

Here’s a pro-tip I’ve come to notice/learn when wanting to make cookies that won’t spread or lose the intricacy of their design: cookies with very few, (if any) leavening in their dough turn out the best. The more leavening agents that are in them (like baking powder, baking soda, eggs) the more likely they are to puff up & rise which is bad news for cookies that you want to have a noticeable design.

Shortbread is a great choice for just about any printed cookie you’d want to make. It has no baking powder, baking soda or eggs in it and has a very tight crumb which will help to preserve the design as it bakes. Shortbread was the way I knew I wanted to go to test out my new leaf cutters and should you guys get some for yourselves, it’s where I suggest you start.

I think the warm, rich spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves work nicely for a cookie to eat in autumn. They’re certainly good for dunking in coffee, I can attest to that personally. Plus, how about the results of the fondant cutters; turned out pretty nice didn’t it? I think I may have started something here. Stay tuned for more.

Sharing at the Fiesta Friday #192, co-hosted this week by Zeba @ Food For The Soul and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Brown Sugar & Spice Shortbread

Recipe Adapted from Sweet Paul Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
  • 1/2 packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

In a small bowl combine the flour and the dry spices together and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla.

Slowly add the flour to the butter mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a disc. Wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°. Sprinkle a clean work surface (like a cutting board, wax paper you tape down to the counter, or a pastry mat) with flour. Separate the disc into quarters. Flour a rolling pin and roll/pat each quarter out to about 1/2  inch thick. Use whatever desired shape cookie cutter you wish (I used leaf fondant cutters) to cut out shapes. Immediately place the shapes on a half sheet pan you line with parchment paper, and place the half sheet in the freezer as you cut out the remaining dough. If the dough becomes too soft to work/cut out, just place it in the freezer and let firm up until easily rolled again, about 10 minutes.

Let the finished, cut shape dough firm up in the freezer, about 10 minutes. (This will keep them from spreading.) Take out the tray.

Bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 10-12 minutes, until they are just turning golden brown at the edges. Allow to cool for about 3 minutes on the pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

(Note: You don’t HAVE to use cookie stamps for this recipe. I think it would work just as well without it. Use whatever cookie cutters you have, or shape the dough into a log, freeze for about 30 minutes, then cut into slices and bake as directed. Also,  no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)