Pillowcase Cookies

Happy New Year everyone. I hope 2018 is off to a good start for all of you, and that you’re feeling at least a little optimistic for the year.

Okay, so…I try to stick to a pattern in my posting schedule so that I’m not posting more sweet than savory or vice versa–variety being the spice of life and all. The 12 Days of Christmas series is usually enough of a sugar rush/overload for me where I need a break from making & eating sweets and for a while stick to savory and relatively healthy recipes on the blog.

Having said that, you all should know that I did intend to hold off on posting any sweets or baked goods for at least a few weeks, but well…here we are. Thing is, I’ve had this post sitting in my Drafts folder since August and I just couldn’t put off sharing it any longer.

You guys need to see (and make) these. You REALLY do.

If you know anything about my food preferences, you know that sugar cookies are in my Top 3 of favorite desserts. A good sugar cookie–one that is so good it doesn’t even need any embellishments from icing or glaze– just can’t be beat.

Some people like their sugar cookies crisp. Some like them chewy. Some like a combination of the two. Some like them to have a vanilla flavor. Others prefer almond.

I make my stance on this highly contested, divisive issue, loud and clear: I love and must have my sugar cookies thick and soft. I don’t mind almond extract in the dough, but the vanilla needs to be the star flavor for me.

The sugar cookies that I’ve posted on the blog thus far have met all of the above criteria. The first (and also, the most popular post on the blog to date) were these cut-outs. I’ve also shared two vanilla sugar cookies that are good for cookie stamps and molds, here and here.

As delicious as all of these recipes are, they do fall short in one area.

Although they’re all thick and soft, they’re still missing what I think of as the ‘cloud’ factor; where the texture of the cookie is SO light and soft that when you’re biting into it, you feel like you’re biting into a fluffy cloud of pure heaven. I’ve tried a lot of sugar cookie recipes that claim they deliver these goods, only to be disappointed because they just didn’t.

Guys. This recipe de-LIVERS.

I had my doubts before I made these just because the method is unlike any method I’ve ever done when putting together cookie dough. Rather than being creamed or melted, the butter actually gets cut into the dry ingredients just like it is when making biscuits and scones.  The eggs get beaten together with the vanilla and a little milk, then folded into the butter-flour mixture. I have no idea why this is. I have no idea how it works together with the rest of the ingredients. All I know is that it works. It works so well.

As a Southern recipe, this one supposedly gets its name from when the cookies would be given out to journeymen to store in their pillowcases by their families as they traveled around doing work. I’d certainly be a happy camper (or journeyman) if I had a pillowcase full of these to eat.

My favorite thing about the cookies is their texture. It’s just perfect. They rise with a perfect dome and have that thick, soft, fluffy center that practically melts in your mouth. And, no: they absolutely don’t need any help from icing or glaze. These are delicious enough to eat all on their own. This is THE sugar cookie of my dreams, the one I’ve been searching for–which is why I just had to share it with all of you now.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #205, co-hosted this week by Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

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Pillowcase Cookies

Recipe Adapted from LouisianaCookin.com

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking power
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk, plus more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

 

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1 cup of sugar and baking powder and stir together with a fork.

Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. (If you don’t have a box grater that’s okay. Just cut the butter into small cubes and stir them evenly into the dry ingredients with a fork.)

Stir the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Use a rubber spatula to make a well in the center of the bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla extract with a fork, then pour into the well you made in the dry ingredients. Flour the rubber spatula and mix together, stirring until the liquid has been absorbed and it forms a slightly sticky dough. (You may need to add additional milk, 1 tablespoon at a time to make it all stick together; that’s fine.)

Generously sprinkle a clean work surface (like a pastry mat, a cutting board or wax paper you tape to your countertop) with flour. Dump the dough out onto the surface and knead together with your hands just until it forms a large ball. It will get messy, but that’s okay; just keep sprinkling with either flour or powdered sugar until it’s relatively easy to pick up in one mass.)

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at LEAST one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper or aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray, set aside. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough cookie dough out to about 1/4 inch thick, then use a 3 inch cookie cutter to cut out circles. Place the cut cookies on the sheet pans. Either refrigerate for about 45 minutes, or freeze for about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sugar, then bake in the oven for 12 minutes until golden brown on the bottom & slightly puffy on the tops. Allow to cool on the sheet pan for 1 minute, then remove to wire racks to allow 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.)

Honey Gingerbread Cookies

I’m very honored by the compliments that I get on my baking. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into my practicing and I do have to say I think that that practice has paid off. I’m good at it.

However, if I’m being completely honest with myself and all of you, then I have to admit that my baking skills wouldn’t be half of what they are now without a little…help.

That ‘help’ is modern amenities–specifically, automated mixers. I can’t imagine my kitchen life without my KitchenAid standing mixer, and I really don’t want to try.

It makes me sound like such a young, first-world brat to say that, but it’s true. Me and that mixer are joined at the hip. I think I might love it. I think of how women used to make cakes with nothing but the strength of their wrists to whip enough air into the batter to make them rise and be moist on the inside, and I’m just in awe.

Cause, no. I’m good…but I’m just nowhere near on that level.

Biscuits, brownies, pie crust, quick breads and muffins are all exceptions to the rule–you kinda SHOULD make those by hand. Breads are tricky–there are some recipes that I think I could get away with going without my KitchenAid, but others like brioche sure aren’t one them. Even most cookie recipes require the butter in them to be whipped up pretty good with the sugar before you add anything else to it.

Notice that I said MOST. Why?

Go ahead and guess.

Yep. This is a from scratch cookie dough recipe where neither a standing mixer or hand mixer is needed. You really can put this all together with a wire whisk using nothing more than your hands. Rather than being softened and whipped with the sugar, the butter is pre-melted and cooled. The dough is sweetened with a combination of honey and brown sugar.

Since it’s a dough that can be made sans mixers, you can guess that it’s a cinch to put together. You really can’t mess it up.

Apart from being so easy to make, I think one of my favorite things about making these was that the dough was very good for making cut out cookies that hold their shape and stamp impressions even after baking. I had a set of three Christmas themed ones that I broke in with this recipe and they came out just perfect. However, if you don’t have cookie stamps or they’re just not your thing, then you really don’t have to use them. If you wanted to just roll these out and cut them out with a gingerbread man cutter, it would still be great. The ‘spice’ factor isn’t as strong in these as it is in other gingerbread cookies, but you’ll definitely still be able to taste a gingery, caramelized flavor. They’re delicious plain but they’d also taste great iced if you prefer that too.

So, now all you mixer-less folks have no excuse: get baking, will ya?

Just one more recipe left in the 12 Days of Christmas. Be on the look out for it, and be sure to check out the other recipes in the series if you haven’t seen them all yet.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Smoky Chili Crackers

Day 3: Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

Day 4: Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

Day 5: Honey Spice Madeleines

Day 6: Chai Spice Shortbread

Day 7: Winter Spice Peanut Brittle

Day 8: Christmas Tourtiere

Day 9: Cranberry Spice Layer Cake

Day 10: Crinkle Cut Cookie Fries

Day 11: Honey Gingerbread Cookies

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Honey Gingerbread Cookies

Recipe Adapted from The Monday Box

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Special Equipment: cookie stamps/molds of choice

Directions

In a small bowl, melt the butter and cool slightly.

In the bowl of a standing mixer,or using a hand mixer, (or a in a large bowl using a wire whisk) combine the beaten egg, honey, milk and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Beat into the egg mixture, then slowly beat in the melted butter.

Add the flour in 1 cup increments, mixing until it forms a soft and slightly sticky dough.

Collect dough into one mass, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Divide dough in quarters and keep the other 3 in the refrigerator while you roll out the first. Roll dough out on a clean and floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Dip your cookie stamps into powdered sugar, then tap to remove excess. Press firmly into the dough, then gently remove stamped cookie and place on sheet pan. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the dough.

Freeze cut out cookie dough for 25-30 minutes. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, just until bottoms start to turn golden brown. Allow to set on sheets for about 60 seconds before removing 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.)

Crinkle Cut Cookie Fries

When I was a kid, the Keebler  company used to make these things they called Rainbow Cookie Stix. They came in a square blue package and were a crisp, buttery sugar cookie with sprinkles mixed in the batter and shaped in tiny little stick shapes, with about the thickness of my finger.

I thought they were sooooo good.

They weren’t overly sweet, but definitely had that buttery vanilla flavor that reminded me of sugar cookies. I most liked to eat them dipped in those cannisters of pre-made vanilla frosting–you know, the ones I absolutely cannot stand now because they taste like overly sweetened paste.

The Rainbow Cookie Stix have been discontinued for what I’d guess is at least over fifteen years now, but every now and then when I get the munchies I’ll remember them. When I was putting together the recipes I would make for this years 12 Days of Christmas series, I thought of them again and how cool it would be to be able to recreate them somehow.

I think I might have come as close as I could to doing just that at home. What it really comes down to is making a cookie dough that first of all, won’t spread too much and second, will bake up crisp but not overly dry on the inside. This dough is not only simple to put together, it’s simple to work with when the time comes to roll out into strips for your ‘fries’, which brings me to another point:

Crinkle Cuts are the best type of fry there is–don’t debate me on this, there’s just no point. You’ll lose the argument every time. I knew that this dough would work fine if I just used my bench scraper to cut them into strips, but since this was Christmas I knew I wanted to give them a special, ‘festiv-y’ look.

If you’re like me and you love kitchen gadgets (especially inexpensive ones), then I’m positive that you’ll love this pastry wheel I found on (where else?) Amazon. It has a dual wheel that can cut both straight and fluted edges on doughs–pie and cookie. The scalloped edge on my cookie fries come from using the fluted wheel. It’s larger than I expected it to be, durable and easy to use. I found it a very worthwhile buy. If you’d rather not get it, that’s totally fine; you’ll just have shoe-string fries rather than crinkle cuts.

Because I wanted to recreate the flavor of the Rainbow Cookie Stix, I kept the flavors of this simple and only used sugar and vanilla bean paste to flavor my dough. In the future I can certainly see myself experimenting with different flavors and extracts as this is a very versatile recipe.  A few teaspoons of the Winter Spice Mix I’ve used in other recipes in the series would work very well for this, as would pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice. I sprinkled white sugar on top of the fries just before baking to give them added crunchy texture. They baked up perfectly golden brown.

These would be perfect for a cookie swap party, or just a regular Christmas party in general–not just because there’ll be plenty to go around, but because you can serve with them so many different dips and sauces: frosting (REAL frosting, not that crap in a can for God’s sake), jam or fruit preserves, melted milk or white chocolate, Nutella spread, or even peanut butter. I really couldn’t have been more pleased with how these turned out.  They were exactly what I was going for and they gave me a nice feeling of nostalgia.

Only two more days left of the 12 Days of Christmas series–yikes, how did that happen? Stay tuned for our last two recipes–you’re gonna love em.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Smoky Chili Crackers

Day 3: Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

Day 4: Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

Day 5: Honey Spice Madeleines

Day 6: Chai Spice Shortbread

Day 7: Winter Spice Peanut Brittle

Day 8: Christmas Tourtiere

Day 9: Cranberry Spice Layer Cake

Day 10: Crinkle Cut Cookie Fries

Crinkle Cut Cookie Fries

Recipe Adapted from Delish.com

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Ingredients

  • 2 Sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 c. granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Special Equipment: Fluted pie cutter wheel, optional

Directions

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

Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 1 cup increments, scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

Gather the dough together in one mass, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Divide dough in quarters, keeping the other 3 in the fridge while you roll out the other on a clean work surface that you sprinkle with flour. Roll out dough into a large, thin rectangle. Using a fluted pie cutter wheel (or sharp knife) cut dough crosswise into 3/4″-1″ thick strips. Cut the strips in half lengthwise. Sprinkle with sugar and transfer cookie cutouts to baking sheets.

Freeze cut out cookie dough for 25-30 minutes. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, just until bottoms start to turn golden brown. Allow to set on sheets for about 60 seconds before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve cookie fries with frosting, Nutella or fruit jam for dipping.

(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.)

Cranberry Spice Layer Cake

I’ve made a pretty wide variety of sweets for the 12 Days of Christmas series but when I was still in the planning stages for this year’s, I knew that there was one thing I wanted to make that I haven’t yet: a Christmas-themed/flavored layer cake.

Layer cakes are a project but I find them worthwhile projects for a few reasons. First, they can feed a lot of people. Second, they make great showpieces. Third, they’re a good opportunity for a baker to create different layers of flavor (pun kinda intended) all in one dessert.

My first thought was to maybe do a gingerbread layer cake, but ultimately, I veered away from it. There’s a very narrow difference between what’s really just gingerbread and an actual spice cake. I do think that I can find the sweet spot in that difference but maybe next year. This year I went with something that I knew I could nail in terms of getting those fresh, festive flavors that were undeniably for Christmas. There are three components to the cake, and they’re all pretty easy to make: the sponge, the frosting and the sugared cranberries.

The cake batter itself is flavored with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, which makes it hit all the warm notes of Christmas spices. If you can get your hands on vanilla bean paste, please do and use it. You’d be surprised the superior taste of it in comparison to regular vanilla extract. My favorite part of it though is the inclusion of whole cranberries that I folded into the batter. While baking, they kinda explode and their juices then bleed, giving the sugary spice cake a pleasant pop of tart sweetness.

The frosting has a cream cheese base, both to offset the sweetness of the cake and the orange juice and zest that goes inside. It’s still sweet, but has just enough of a tang from the cream cheese to where the sweetness isn’t overwhelming. Also, yes, there does call for four layers to be baked of the cake itself in the recipe. I can explain that. I left the fourth layer off first because I thought it was a bit overkill(most people struggle to finish a slice of a three layer cake themselves alone), and second because I wanted to make sure that I had enough frosting to cover the three. I did, but just enough. The fourth layer we had plain and actually discovered that it made a delicious dessert even without the frosting. You can eat your fourth layer plain, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze it for later, or cube and use it make trifle or cake truffles.

I’ve never made a layer cake and left it ‘naked’ before, but I’ve also never made sugared cranberries before and I have to say I think they give the cake a neat but festive decoration even without extra piped frosting and sprinkles, which is usually how I choose to decorate my layer cakes. As delicious as the frosting is, the cake really doesn’t need the extra amount of it. It’s a fantastic bite that manages to deliver on so many different flavors at once. You get the freshness from the citrus, the warm undertones from the spices, the tartness from the cranberries, and the tang from the cream cheese.

I just love everything about this cake and if you choose to make it apart of your Christmas dinner, I think you’ll see why.

Linking up to Fiesta Friday #202, co-hosted this week by Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Smoky Chili Crackers

Day 3: Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

Day 4: Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

Day 5: Honey Spice Madeleines

Day 6: Chai Spice Shortbread

Day 7: Winter Spice Peanut Brittle

Day 8: Christmas Tourtiere

Day 9: Cranberry Spice Layer Cake

Cranberry Spice Layer Cake

Recipe Adapted from Southern Living & Taste of Home

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Ingredients

For Cake:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2- 3 cups fresh cranberries, tossed with about 1 tablespoon of flour

For Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 5 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange peel

For Sugared Cranberries

  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus more for rolling
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries

Directions

For Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour four 9 inch cake pans and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, ginger and nutmeg. Stir with a fork and set aside.

In a small bowl combine the buttermilk with the vanilla bean paste/extract and set aside.

Using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer (or a handheld one) cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Alternate between adding the dry ingredients to the butter mixture with the wet ingredients. Start and end with the flour mixture, and make sure you use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.  Fold in the cranberries.

Evenly divide the batter between the four prepared pans. Lift each one up a little and allow to tap down on counter top (this will help prevent air bubbles). Bake for 20-22 minutes in the oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (layer cakes are done at about 190°F). Set on wire racks to cool for about 10 minutes before turning out of pans and allowing to cool completely.

For Cream Cheese Frosting: Beat butter together with cream cheese until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar in 1 cup increments, scraping down the side of the bowl to ensure even mixing. Add the orange juice, vanilla and orange peel, mixing just until blended.

For Sugar Cranberries: Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, then pour over fresh cranberries. Allow to cool for one hour, then drain. Roll cranberries in white sugar, then set on wax paper to dry for 4 hours.

For Assembly:  Level the tops of each cake. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on the platter. Spread a little over 1/3 cup of frosting over layer. Top with another cake layer and repeat process. Top with final cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of cake until it form a translucent layer over it. (You’ll still be able to see the cake sides). Refrigerate cake for about 1 hour to allow frosting to set. Top with the sugared cranberries. Remove the parchment strips just before serving.

Chai Spice Shortbread

I’m annoyed.

For years, YEARS I tell you, of living in the Mitten I could and did boast that I had an iron clad immune system. I hardly ever got sick. *Ever*. If I did, it was a bad stomach bug but I was able to rally and get over it in 2 days, tops. Didn’t matter if someone around me had a cold and was contagious–I knew I wasn’t catching it. I knew.

But since moving out here? Tuh. Let me tell you something.

My immune system has me its match in whatever is in the air outchea. I’ve caught a rather nasty…something in the past week. I guess it’s a cold, but I don’t know. All I know is that not only have I been feeling icky, but I’ve been feeling icky for longer than 2 days and I’m irate. I’ve been taking over the counter medications, cough drops, using vapor rub and even running essential oil diffusers in my house to try and clear it up. While the combination is helping, it’s not squashing this thing like the miserable bug it is.

And I’m over it.

Do y’all know how disgusting Oregano spirits are? Do you KNOW, tho? It’s gotta be up there with the top worst, most disgusting things I’ve ever put in my mouth. Yet it’s supposed to great for killing infections and since I’m over here struggling with sore throat, sinus congestion and a runny nose, at this point I’m willing to try just about anything to get rid of this cold or whatever it is that has my immune system shot to Hell.

But still, I rise…through baking.

I’ve done shortbread several times before on the blog. I think one of the main reasons I keep coming back to it is that it is such an easy versatile recipe to do. I want people both comfortable and uncomfortable with baking to be able to try recipes out for the 12 Days of Christmas series and I think this is another one of the ones that can be for both groups.

Don’t let the pretty design fool you. I mean, you can and should love it (I know I do), but don’t let it make you think these were hard to make. That couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a very basic shortbread recipe that’s been flavored with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves– flavors that when put together strongly resemble the taste of chai spice.  The smell of these as they bake is just wonderful. They’re crisp on the outside, yet have that fine shortbread crumb on the inside.

Although it is a very simple dough, as you can see it holds an impression and shape very well so if you have some fancy cookie cutters or stamps you want to put to use with a simple recipe that won’t give you much trouble then I think you ought to give this one a try. I think these are also sturdy enough to ship very well too.

We’re halfway through the 12 Days of Chrismas. If you haven’t seen the first six recipes yet, feel free to check out the links below. Still plenty of time to join in on the Christmas baking. And now, unless y’all have some fool-proof cold remedies you’d like to share, I think I’ll wrap this post up and go make myself some more hot tea. ‘Ta.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Smoky Chili Crackers

Day 3: Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

Day 4: Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

Day 5: Honey Spice Madeleines

Day 6: Chai Spice Shortbread

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Chai Spice Shortbread

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Special equipment, cookie stamp or cutter of choice, optional

 

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer, or using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and the extracts until light and slightly fluffy.

Combine the flour with the spice in a small bowl, then add to the butter mixture in batches and mix until it forms a stiff dough that holds together when you gather it one hand. If it’s too dry/crumbly, you can add 1 tablespoon of milk at a time until it does hold together.

Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at LEAST one hour, preferably overnight.

Sprinkle a work surface, like a pastry mat, cutting board or wax paper with flour. Remove dough from fridge and divide in quarters. Keep the other 3 pieces in the fridge while you use a rolling pin to roll out the quarter of dough to a thickness of about 1/2- 1/4 inch. Dip your cookie stamp or cutter in flour and cut out shape. Remove to a sheet pan you’ve lined with parchment paper and keep the sheet pan in the fridge or freezer as you repeat process and have stamped/cut out all of your dough. The cookies should be VERY cold and solid before baking (this will help preserve the design).

Preheat oven to 300°F. Bake cookies on middle rack for about 25-30 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. Allow to cool for about 60 seconds on sheet pan before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Note: You don’t have to have cookie cutters. If you want to make ‘drop shortbread’, drop the shortbread by teaspoonfuls onto the sheet pan, the use the tines of a fork to press a criss-cross pattern on their tops. Refrigerate or freeze for about 15 minutes, then 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.

Honey Spice Madeleines

The madeleine is a tiny French sponge cake. It gets its shape from special cooking pans with ridged indentations. Often it’s flavored with butter and vanilla, but as with many traditional recipes, there are many ways to put a twist on it with different flavors and additions. I’ve also seen them be lightly iced before. They’re what I would think is a perfect ‘tea time’ style treat.

I’ve know about madeleines for a while, but it wasn’t until a few months ago when I knew that they were called madeleines. I’d seen the sea oblong shell thingys in pictures and I remember one of my niece’s playmates shared one with her once, I just didn’t know what they were specifically.

I’ve already talked about how Amazon is one of my minor addictions and sources of temptation. I have a wishlist that just seems to grow week by week (and sometimes day by day). For several months, I had a madeleine pan sitting in it. I kept eyeing it and weighing the pros and cons of whether or not it would be ‘worthwhile’ to buy one.

On one hand, it wasn’t like I could have multiple ‘uses’ for it–it’s a madeleine pan and to my knowledge there’s not much else it can be used for except to make madeleines. That would definitely make it a splurge buy.

On the other hand…I didn’t have a madeleine pan, I really wanted to try to make madeleines, and it wasn’t that pricey. And I cooooould rationalize it by just resolving to make madeleines on a regular basis, right?

Well right or wrong, that’s what I ended up telling myself, because I totally got that pan.

I knew that when I bought the pan I was going to make madeleines and that if I liked how they turned out, I would share them for this years 12 Days of Christmas series. Since it was a Christmas themed series, I wanted to try and make the madeleines a break little bit out of the traditional flavor profile and make them taste…’Christmast-y’. This recipe does just that. The batter is flavored with cinnamon, ginger, cloves and a touch of pepper for added spice. There’s also some orange zest in there as well. The batter does need to rest overnight, as it improves the overall texture of the sponge.

From what I understand, the metal baking pans work better than the silicone or dark plated ones because it causes the madeleines to bake more evenly. I greased mine with cooking spray and when the cakes were done, they slid right out, no problem. I did decide to leave mine plain but if you like, you can dust yours with some powdered sugar. Like I said, these are a perfect for tea time: they taste so moist and delicate. Those spices really come through and would pair perfectly with coffee or tea.

If y’all are interested, here is the madeleine pan I bought. It gave me no trouble whatsoever and I was very happy with how it made my cakes turn out. Here’s for making madeleines a regular sight on the blog, both at Christmas time and year round, eh?

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Smoky Chili Crackers

Day 3: Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

Day 4: Cranberry Orange Quick Bread

Day 5: Honey Spice Madeleines

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Honey Spice Madeleines

Recipe Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves (or a little less, if you prefer)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Grated zest of  1/2 orange
  • 2 large eggs, at room temp
  • 2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Powdered sugar, optional

Special equipment: 12 cup madeleine pan

 

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking power, salt, spices & pepper and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or another bowl, pour in the sugar with the citrus zest. Rub it together with your fingers until the sugar is fragrant.

Add the eggs to the bowl and use the whisk attachment (or a handheld mixer) to beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture is pale and thick, about 2-3 minutes.

Beat in the honey and vanilla extract. Use a spatula to GENTLY fold in the dry ingredients, and then the melted butter.

Cover the batter with a piece of plastic wrap pressed up against the batter. Refrigerate overnight,

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter and flour the madeleine pan molds and place the pan on a bigger sheet pan. Fill the batter into the molds about half-way (don’t overfill). Bake for 11-13 minutes until the tops spring back when touched. They should come out easily. You may have to bake in batches. Sprinkle the madeleines with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

Since it’s Christmas time, you guys had to know two things were going to happen: first, gingerbread was going to make an appearance in this 12 Days of Christmas series. Second, I was going to find a way to sneak a stamped cookie into it. Stamped/printed cookies are still a minor obsession of mine. I’m always up for trying out a different recipe for one, and I’m also on the lookout for cookie stamps and cutters that can give me the intricate, pretty designs that I want. Ideally, I’d just buy all the wooden Springerle molds that I wanted–and there are many.

However, as I’ve mentioned multiple times before, those suckas aren’t cheap. Nor should they be–I do own two, and I must say that you get what you pay for in quality and longevity. It’s just that wanting to build up a collection of the molds is a lot harder and more expensive to do than with a cookie stamp or cutter collection. If I wanted to widen my Intricate Stamped Cookie Collection without breaking the bank, I figured that I’d have to get creative with it.

You guys have already seen some of the fruits of that labor through my discovery that pie crust cutters could double as cookie stamps. Now, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve found yet another way to circumvent the ‘system’ of pricey Springerle molds that I just cannot afford at this time, while still getting the results that I want from my cookies. My newest solution came in one word: mooncakes. Y’all know what those are? That’s alright, I didn’t at first either.

Mooncakes are a Chinese pastry that are typically served during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The first time I saw one it caught my attention because of the intricate, beautiful design on the top of the cake and I wondered how it was made. I later found out that the design comes from moon cake molds: wooden or plastic contraptions that are designed to not just sculpt and seal the outer skin of the moon cakes, but also to imprint the pretty design on the top.

The wooden ones, like Springerle molds, aren’t inexpensive. The plastic ones however, are. I looked on Amazon and found a set of 4 moon cake molds, each with 3 different ‘plates’ that you could switch in and out.I bought the set and immediately wanted to try out the stamps on a cookie dough to see if it would give me the same pretty design as it did on the mooncakes. These were the results. Was it a worthwhile investment?

You guys tell me. I know that for now you can only comment on how they look, so I’ll spill on the actual taste.

The spices here are *very* strong. That warm, typical gingerbread smell and flavor is given a huge, added punch with the addition of both cocoa and garam masala. The aroma in the dough was so strong that I could smell these even before they were baking. You might worry that the chocolate would overpower everything else flavor-wise, but it doesn’t. Although you’re definitely going to know it’s there, in this case what it most does is enhance the other flavors; the cookies taste ‘richer’, if that makes any sense. The kick from the garam masala is going to hit your taste buds afterwards. At first you don’t taste it, then you swallow and suddenly think, “Oh wow, *there* it is!”

I love my new mooncake molds–I mean, my new cookie cutters. I love these cookies. I think y’all will love both if you choose to give them a go. DO IT. (P.S. If you’d like to find the set I bought on Amazon, it’s here) Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #201, co-hosted by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Winter Spice Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Smoky Chili Crackers

Day 3: Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

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Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

Recipe Courtesy 0f Springerle Joy

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Ingredients

  • 180 grams butter (softened)
  • 125 grams dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 125 grams molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 50 grams cocoa
  • 350 grams (pastry or all-purpose) flour
  • pinch of salt

Special equipment: cookie stamp or cutter of choice

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, spices and cocoa with a fork and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer using the paddle attachment, or using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and slightly fluffy.

Add the egg and molasses and mix until just combined. Fold in the flour mixture in batches (don’t add it all at once) until the dough comes together smoothly.

Shape into a disk and refrigerate for a few hours until slightly firm. If you’re in a hurry, you can freeze it for about 40 minutes to an hour.

Divide the dough in quarters. Keep one quarter out, while keeping the other three in the fridge as you work. Sprinkle a work surface like a pastry mat, cutting board or wax paper with flour. Roll out the dough to about 1/2 inch thickness and sprinkle the top with flour or powdered sugar. Dip your cookie stamp in flour or powdered sugar, then firmly press it into the dough. Remove, then cut out the cookie and remove it to a sheet pan you’ve lined with parchment paper. Repeat until you’ve cut out all the dough.

Refrigerate the sheet pan(s) of cookies overnight.

Preheat oven to 320°F. Immediately place sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes (depending on cookie size), rotating the pans halfway and checking regularly.

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.