Perfect Butter Cookies

Some of you may have noticed that there was no new post last week–or maybe you didn’t. I took a break last week from posting for no particular reason, but as I’m going to be taking a trip this coming week, I wanted to make sure I got one up today so that I didn’t let another week go by without updating the blog. I’m a stickler for consistency.

Having said that, because I am getting ready to travel, the theme of today’s post is short, simple and sweet.

Although I do like taking on hefty baking projects like layer cake, they do take a lot of time and effort. There are some times when I don’t have the time or energy to put in all of the work–but I’ll still want dessert. A good one.

So, what do I do?

I keep it simple. I keep it sweet. And I make butter cookies.

I don’t know, y’all. There’s just something so special about a butter cookie that’s executed perfectly. They have practically no embellishments at all, which means there’s no room for error and no other components to hide mistakes. Either that butter cookie is going to taste good, or it isn’t.

These do. In fact they’re more than good; as I’ve chosen to call them in the recipe, they’re perfect. You can call that choice over-confidence. I prefer honest. Tomato tomato.

You ready to find out how to make them? It couldn’t be easier.

There are several things that make these the ‘perfect’ butter cookie to me. The flavors are simple, but pronounced: vanilla with hints of a citrus of your choice (I chose orange.) The flavors are also going to improve in the next few days after the cookies are baked. They’re not overly sweet, but if you’re using a good quality butter you’re not going to need them to be.

The texture of these is also what I was going for. I do like soft, cakey cookies but when I want a perfect butter cookie I do prefer it to have a light crispiness. These have got it. If you’d prefer them not to, just take them out earlier.

Lastly, if y’all have been following this blog and seen a good number of my cookie posts before, you know that one of my baking petty peeves is when the cookies spread too much and become warped. I hate that. Because butter cookies are so simple, I like mine to look as clean and neat as possible. The cookies in this recipe hold their shape perfectly which means they’ll work for ANY cutter shape you want to use (hint, they’d make perfect Christmas cookies).

Okay. I think my work here is done. Have a good weekend y’all. Try the cookies–you’ll like ’em. Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #228.

R.I.P to Anthony Bourdain.

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Perfect Butter Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Land O Lakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (preferably LorAnn’s Butter Vanilla Emulsion )
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • White sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

In a medium bowl combine the  flour with the baking powder and set aside.

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

Add the egg, orange juice and vanilla and combine until just combined. Add the flour mixture in batches, mixing until just combined.

Scrape the dough out and onto a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a disc, wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters, keeping the other 3 in the fridge while you roll out the one.

Sprinkle a clean work surface (like a pastry mat, wax paper or a cutting board) with powdered sugar or flour. Roll out the quarter of dough to your desired thickness (I wouldn’t go thinner than 1/4 inch) Cut into whatever desired shapes you like. I used a 2- to 2 ½-inch cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes and placed them on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. I then used a ¾- to 1-inch  cookie cutter, and cut out the centers from half of the cookies. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary. Also don’t throw away the centers, as they make delicious mini cookie bites.

Place the sheet pans in the freezer for around 10 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with the sugar, and bake for 6-10 minutes.  Let cool on pans for 3 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.

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.)

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.

Pebernodder Cookies

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So here’s my full disclosure on the subject of today’s post: it was my original intention to make Pebernodder cookies apart of 2015’s 12 Days of Christmas.  I first heard of them through this baking recipe card collection I had and because I thought they looked and sounded delicious, I decided to give it a whirl.

It didn’t work out very well.

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To this day, I have no idea what the heck was wrong with that stupid cookie dough. The problems started showing themselves with the very first test cookie. It spread too much. The edges were coming out weird. The consistency of the finished cookie wasn’t even close to what one should’ve been.

And Believe me, I tried everything I could to fix it. I altered how I rolled out and cut the dough. I froze the dough for a while. Baked it more. Baked it less. Changed the position in the oven. Nothing worked. It was just…off.

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I finally remembered the other batches of cookies I had to bake and decided to write the Pebernodder off as the L that I was just gonna have to take for that year’s Christmas baking. I binned the remaining failed dough (of which there was unfortunately quite a bit), shook off the irritation, and just kept it moving.

In the back of my mind however, I resolved that for the next go around in 2016, I was absolutely *going* to get it right.

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I should probably go into just what is ‘right’ for a Pebernodder for you guys, huh?

Well the word ‘Pebernodder’ is actually Danish for Pepper Nuts (I think so anyway. I also don’t speak a syllable of Danish, so don’t quote me on that one). They’re traditionally very tiny cookies strongly flavored with spices like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and even pepper. Some variations use black pepper, while others even use the even more potent white pepper that give them an extra ‘kick’ that juuuuust toes the line between sweet and spicy.

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Aside from the combination of the spices, the main appeal of the cookie to me was the tiny, portable size. They just look like cookies that are meant to be piled in a big Christmas tin, wrapped in bow and presented as a gift or brought to an office party to share.  There’s plenty to go around with this batch, that much I can assure you.

Now remember, these are called Peppernuts for a reason. They’re supposed to be round and tiny so that they kinda resemble nuggets. So keeping that in mind, here are a few tips for handling this dough that should give you the results you want:

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The dough should be rolled into long and thin logs, then cut into very tiny pieces, like balls. Provided the dough is cold enough AND that you follow the tip of crinkling up the parchment paper, the cookies should have VERY minimal spreading. The tiny size of the cookies and high temperature of the oven also makes them bake very quickly despite the recipe yielding such a huge batch. You won’t be in the kitchen forever, promise.

Spice, spice and more spice: that’s the best way I can describe the taste of these. There’s just enough sugar to balance the bite of the spices. I know that other variations of these come out crisp, but my cookies came out rather soft and chewy–not that I’m complaining mind you. I heard nothing but praise from these and I’m very happy with my redo of the Pebernodder.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

Day 6: Spiced Cookie Bark

Day 7: Demerara Sugar Buns

Day 8: Sugared Shortbread

Day 9: Hot Chocolate Marble Pound Cake

Day 10: Cranberry Scones

Day 11: Pebernodder Cookies

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Pebernodder Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Rikke Gryberg

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/10 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • A few shakes of black pepper (optional, use if you prefer a ‘bite’ to the cookie, leave out if you prefer it on the sweeter side)

Directions

In a medium bowl, use a fork to mix the flour, cinnamon, cardamom, ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, baking power, salt and pepper. Set aside.

In the bottom of a standing mixer bow, use the wire attachment (or a handheld mixer) to mix the butter, white sugar and heavy cream.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, about 1/2 cup at a time. It should form a smooth dough. Separate into 4 portions and place in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes, until dough holds together firmly.

Take each individual portion and divide it into about 3 to 4 balls. Roll each ball into long strips/ropes, about 8-10 inches long. Place the ropes on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the freezer for another 10-15 minutes

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take a sheet of parchment paper and crumple it up in your hands thoroughly. Smooth it back out onto a baking sheet. (Repeat this process for as many sheets of cookies you plan on baking. The ridges and bumps made in the paper will keep the cookies from spreading too much.)

Remove the cookie logs from the freezer. Using a bench scraper or a sharp knife, cut each log into little pieces, about 1/3 inch thick. You can line the logs up next to each other and cut them all at once if you wish to save time. Place each piece about 1 1/2 inches apart from each other on the sheet (these cookies don’t spread much, so don’t feel the need to place a lot of space between them)

Take one baking sheet and bake in the oven for 7-8 minutes until the cookies have just started to turn golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 60 seconds before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the rest of the dough, keeping what you’re not currently baking inside the freezer or the refrigerator so as not to let it get too soft (which will cause them to spread).

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.)

Almond Stamped Cookies

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It was around this time last year that I really started getting into making stamped/imprinted cookies. My first try was with the Cardamom Wafers I made for the series two years ago. I liked the results and knew I wanted to keep experimenting with the method. It’s a far less laborious alternative to making your Christmas cookies pretty, especially for someone who isn’t that artfully inclined like yours truly. I’m so totally not the type that can take a tube of colored gel or icing and pipe on elaborate designs. Not at all. The extent of my cookie decorating skills is to spread icing on top, then drop some sprinkles on top and call it a day. With cookie stamps, all you do is press a tool into the dough, and the work is practically done for you.

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Probably the best, most extreme form of stamp/imprint cookies is the Springerle cookie. It’s a thick German-based cookie dough that is imprinted using VERY intricate, beautiful wood molds, then left out for the dough to be able to ‘dry’ for hours before being baked. I first heard about them last fall and after hunting down two springerle molds of my own, made my first attempt in the first post of the 12 Days of Christmas series for 2015. The results blew me away. If you treat that dough right, give it enough time to dry out and bake gently, it’ll result in a cookie that impresses everyone.

Thing about Springerle is, the hand-carved wood molds used to make them don’t come cheap. I’d love to get my hands on some more but at $40-$60 a pop (and depending on the size and intricacy of the mold, possibly even more than that), buying more has taken a far back seat to my financial priorities.

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The good news is, making beautiful stamped/imprinted cookies doesn’t have to be a pricey process. There are plenty of molds that although made out of plastic, still feature intricate designs. The Cardamom print wafers and these Speculaas cookies were both made with a set of plastic cookie stamps from my grandmother’s 30+ year old Christmas baking collection and they made some of the prettiest cookies to come out of my kitchen. After multiple recipes, different doughs and using different kinds of molds, I think I can say pretty confidently that the real secret to making printed cookies lies in how you treat the dough, not so much the mold itself.

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The most important tip I can give with imprinted cookies is this: you’ve gotta chill the dough. THOROUGHLY. I mean, to the point where they’re almost rock solid. With the exception of Springerle that become rock hard by themselves in the regular open air, I’ve put every other standard cookie dough I’m stamping/imprinting not in the refrigerator but in the actual freezer for a minimum of half an hour before I bake it. It does sometimes result in me needing to bake them a tad bit longer than the recipe states, (although not that much), but it’s the coldness of the dough when it goes in that will preserve the intricacy of the design from the stamp or mold, regardless of what kind you’re using. If the butter or other fat in the dough is too warm, it expands during baking, causing the cookies to spread, which will blur the design. If the butter is frozen when it goes into the hot oven, it has less time to expand: got it?

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These cookies from today’s recipe are my latest attempt at imprinting. Aren’t they pretty? As I said, you don’t have to go expensive to get pretty cookies. The stamps I used for these came from Target and they came in a set of three for $20.00. (See here if you’re interested). They’re *really* nice, quality stamps too. Like most bakeware, they came with a recipe with which to try them out and since it looked like the dough came together in a matter of minutes, I figured what the heck and tried it out for myself.

These have a no frills, simple flavor profile which I think is appropriate for a print cookie: think along the lines of that trademark almond flavor that reminds you of the thick cookies you can get from bakeries. Because the dough uses powdered sugar rather than regular white, the crumb of the cookies is much finer and delicate. It melts in your mouth, and it’s just divine. As I said, the making of the dough is really simple, the most crucial step is how you treat the dough after stamping/imprinting.

Just remember: freezer, not fridge. Long time. Solid dough. Less spreading. Sharper design. You can do this. What’s more you *should*.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Day 4: Dulce de Leche Hot Chocolate

Day 5: Almond Stamped Cookies

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Almond Stamped Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Nordic Ware

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for flouring
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Special Equipment: Nordic Ware Cookie Stamps, or any other cookie stamps, cutters you want to use

 

Directions

In a small bowl, use a fork to mix together the flour and salt.

In a large bowl, use the whisk attachment or a handheld mixer to cream together the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and almond extract. Gradually add in the flour in about 1/2 cup increments until the dough comes together.

Shape dough into balls, using about 1/8 cup or 2 tablespoons for each cookie. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using your hand, press each dough ball to form a disk about 1/4 inch thick.

Dip your cookie stamps into flour, then lightly tap them to free excess. Firmly press the stamp into the cookie disk until dough reaches the edges of the stamp. Remove carefully and repeat with the remaining dough balls, flouring stamps before each use to prevent them from sticking to the dough.

Freeze the cookies for about 35-40 minutes to allow to firm up. (This will help protect the design and keep them from spreading in the oven)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove cookies from freezer and bake for 12-14 minutes, until just beginning to brown on edges. Allow to set for about 1-2 minutes on baking sheet 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.)

Cinnamon Roll Cookies

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Its funny; I’ve made hundreds of holiday cookies, but I don’t think I’ve ever participated in an actual cookie swap. Not a single one.

You guys know what those are, right? Cookie swaps are sugar overload get-togethers where each of the attendants bakes up a large batch of cookies and brings them to share & ‘swap’ everyone else who’s brought their own recipe of cookies to the party. Everyone is supposed to bring a different type so that there’s as much variety as possible. Sometimes there will be recipe exchanges along with the cookies. Sometimes people will vote on which cookie at the swap is the best tasting.

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It’s probably just in my competitive nature but if I did actually go to a cookie swap, I would want MY cookies to be the favorite. If all of the cookies were laid out together on a platter, I’d want MINE to look the prettiest. I’d definitely have to win, which means that the cookies I took with me would A) Not only have to be delicious, but B) also be just as great to look at.

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Having said all of that, I can guarantee that of all the cookies I’ve baked–and there have been many–if I had to choose one recipe to bake and bring to a cookie swap, this one right here would be it. No question.

It more than delivers in the taste department, the details of which we’ll get to in a second. But first, can we talk about the presentation?

I mean, come on. They just LOOK like the perfect Christmas cookie, right?

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What we have here is a cream cheese buttery cookie dough that gets rolled out flat, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar then rolled up in a tight cylinder, cinnamon-roll style. Individual cookies are cut from the cylinders then baked until golden brown. The cookie’s texture is tender and slightly crisp; think somewhere in between a sandie and one of those butter cookies that come out of the blue tins. The orange zest in the dough gives a slight but pleasant citrusy after-taste to them that complements the cinnamon inside beautifully.

They’re really very delicious guys. They remind me of something that the Keebler company would mass produce and sell at Christmas.

Except Keebler didn’t make them. I did. And now you can too.

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Before I even made this recipe, I knew that I was going to have a trial-error experience with it. They were just too pretty NOT to run into some technical difficulties. Fortunately for you guys, you get to find out how to make them without having to make the same mistakes I did. Following my clear and pretty straight forward instructions should make it so that there’s no reason why your cinnamon roll cookies won’t turn out exactly like the ones you see in the pictures.

I’d say that the most important step to nailing this recipe is making sure that your dough is the right temperature, especially before rolling it up into the cylinders that you cut into the individual cookies. When I first made these, my dough was still too soft; I didn’t give it enough time to chill in the freezer so it tore and broke apart AFTER I had already sprinkled with the cinnamon sugar and was attempting to roll it.

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Not pretty. Not fun.

Don’t do that.

Let your dough chill out in the freezer long enough so that it can be rolled up just as easily as cinnamon roll dough can. If you use the freezer rather than the refrigerator, it shouldn’t take too long. Roll the cylinders up as tightly as you can; loose rolls make the swirls in the cookies spread wide and cause some of the filling to spill out. Let the rolled up cylinders chill out in the freezer long enough so that when you cut them into individual cookies, the rolls don’t deflate.

If you keep this dough as chilled and firm as possible, it’ll be good to you. Promise. And, you’ll be the star of any cookie swap party, that’s for sure.

(Still more to come in our 12 Days of Christmas baking series. Stay tuned.)

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Stuffing Bread

Day 2: Pumpkin Crunch Tart

Day 3: Cinnamon Roll Cookies

 

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Cinnamon Roll Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Taste of Home

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/4 cups butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 4-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Directions

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

In a  medium bowl or container, mix the flour together with the baking powder, yeast and salt.

In a large bowl of a standing mixer, use the whisk attachment to cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla extract and grated orange peel.

Gently add the flour mixture, about 1 cup at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula periodically to ensure it’s mixed thoroughly.

Divide the dough into four portions. Freeze them for about 2o-minutes, until they are relatively firm.

Sprinkle a sheet of wax or parchment paper with flour. Using a rolling pin (or your hands) roll or pat each dough portion into an 8 x 6 rectangle. Sprinkle with two heaping tablespoons of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up as tightly as you can, jelly-roll style (it was easier for me to roll it up by the short side rather than the long one). Wrap each roll in plastic wrap and place back in the freezer for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the dough crosswise in about 3/8 inch slices. Place them about 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets (or lined with parchment paper). Bake 8-10 minutes or until light brown on the bottoms. Allow to set on the baking sheet 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.)