Ginger Biscotti

There are a certain set of foods that I like to think of as ‘Blank Canvas’ recipes. They’re perfectly able to stand alone, delicious just the way they are. However, they’re versatile and ‘blank’ enough to be able to ‘color; (and thereby enhance) them with all kinds of different flavor profiles. A good Blank Canvas recipe should have minimal base ingredients and be pretty hard to mess up.

Biscuits are a perfect example of a Blank Canvas. They’re great on their own, but they’re also extremely versatile to the point that they’re able to be either sweet or savory. Pound cake is another great Blank Canvas. Once you have a good base recipe for a pound cake, you can add just about anything you want to it; extracts, zest, chocolate, fruit, booze, vegetables–the possibilities are endless.

I’ve shared Blank Canvas recipes many times before on the blog, both in their original form and when I’ve added the variety of flavors to enhance them. Search the Recipe Index and you’ll find many variations of biscuits, pound cake, and scones. I checked myself just now and saw that there are also currently three different kinds of biscotti to choose from. Guess what? After today, there’ll be four.

Biscotti are THE cookies for us coffee and tea drinkers. They’re minimally sweet, extra crunchy, and perfect for dunking in a cup of hot caffeine. The base recipe is also basic and versatile enough to be able to be given just about any flavor you could possibly think of, and that includes sweet AND savory.

I’ve made biscotti about four times before and I’ve tried to do something different with it each time. Today’s recipe is the latest rendition on the Blank Biscotti Canvas. Ginger is a spice that I try to throw in most of everything that I cook in general. Since it lends itself so well to sweet and savory, it was easy to incorporate here. The dough is flavored with both dried and crystallized ginger, giving it an extra boost of sweet and subtle heat. I added an iced drizzle to top off my biscotti, but it’s not necessary if you prefer to just eat them plain. They’re certainly delicious enough to do so.

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Ginger Biscotti

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar (light or dark), packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup finely diced crystallized ginger

For Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • a few tablespoons milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl combine the eggs and vanilla. In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, beat together the butter, sugar, spices, salt, and baking powder until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Add the egg mixture; it may look lightly curdled.

Add the flour in about 1 cup increments, mixing just until combined. Mix in the crystallized ginger.

Scrape dough out of the bowl and onto the parchment paper. Shape it into a log about 14″ long. It will be about 2 1/2″ wide and 3/4″ thick. Use either a spatula you’ve sprayed with cooking spray or your fingers that you’ve wet with water to smooth out the top of the log.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on the pan about 30 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dip your fingers into water and smooth out the top of the log again.

Wait another five minutes, then use a serrated knife to press down firmly and cut the log into 1/2″ to 3/4″ slices. Cut at a 45° angle, for long biscotti; cut crosswise slices, for shorter biscotti. As you’re slicing, be sure to cut straight up and down, perpendicular to the pan; if you cut unevenly, biscotti may be thicker at the top than the bottom, and they’ll topple over during their second bake.

Set the biscotti on edge on the baking sheet. Return to oven and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes. They should feel very dry, but they may still feel a little moist in the center; that’s ok. They’ll continue to dry out as they cool.

Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Once completely cooled, combine all the glaze ingredients until you have a thick-ish glaze and use a fork to drizzle over the sides of the biscotti. Allow to set for about 15 minutes until glaze is hardened.

For extra crunchy biscotti, leave them uncovered overnight to keep drying out.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #269, co-hosted this week by Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and Ai @ Ai Made It For You.

Butter ‘Finger’ Cookies

Today’s post is another one for all the people who may be reading this and think that they can’t bake. I understand. I used to feel that way too. But believe me when I say that there are some recipes out there that are near impossible to mess up. I don’t just mean box mix recipes, either. Despite what you think, it IS possible to bake certain things from scratch, and not have to worry about blowing it because it’s just too simple.

I’ve made these cookies numerous times before when I needed a dessert to take somewhere to pass at a social function, and either didn’t have a lot of time or just didn’t feel like doing much work. Everybody loves butter cookies. These come together in minutes and bake in pretty much the same amount of time.

You probably have most, if not all, of the ingredients to make this in your house already. I think the best part is that you don’t have to worry about rolling them out and fooling with any cookie cutters. Just spoon all the dough in a bag (and yes, you *can* just use a ziploc bag and snip off the end) and pipe it out in tiny little sticks. They don’t have to be straight. In fact, I purposely piped mine into kind of oval-ish shapes so that when they baked, they would resemble little ‘fingers’.

I used vanilla emulsion, but this dough can be flavored in pretty much anyway you want. I think they’d be wonderful with lemon or orange. Once they’re done baking, you can dip them in chocolate and sprinkles to jazz them up. These are a perfect little snack to have alongside coffee, tea or cocoa. They transport very well and the freshness also lasts when stored in a sealed plastic container.

Get into these, y’all. They’re worth it.

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Butter 'Finger' Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Joy of Baking

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla butter emulsion (like LorAnn Oils, but vanilla extract will work fine too)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing just until combined and yellow disappears. Add the vanilla emulsion.

In a small bowl combine the flour with the salt, stirring together with a fork. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 1 cup increments, mixing just until combined.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray.

Spoon the dough into a pastry bag or a gallon size Ziploc plastic bag fitted with a decorating tip (I used a Wilton 6B tip, but if you don’t have one, it’s not necessary, they just won’t be ridged) and pipe it into curved or straight sticks that you space about 2 inches apart on the sheet. Once finished, refrigerate the sheet pan for about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with a little bit more sugar. Bake in the oven on the middle rack until just golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.

(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.)

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #267, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com and Abbey @ Three Cats and a Girl.

Red Velvet Cookies

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day.

I know I’m overdue for a new post and I didn’t want to let this holiday go by without finding an excuse to bake something red and/or Red Velvet Flavored. It’s become somewhat of a tradition for me here on the blog and I like keeping up with tradition.

This year I’m keeping it’s nice and simple and bringing over a batch of cookies. Red Velvet flavored cookies.

Aren’t they pretty?

A couple weeks back I made a post where I sang the praises of moon cake molds as stamps/cutters for making the prettiest cookies you ever did see. I’ve done it before in several existing posts on the blog, and I still can’t recommend them enough. They take ordinary cookie dough and turn it into sheer, edible art.

The dough for these cookies is pretty straightforward. They’re flavored with melted chocolate, cocoa powder as well as LorAnn Oils Red Velvet Emulsion, another product for which I can’t recommend strongly enough. Most people think that Red Velvet flavor is really ‘just’ chocolate. I used to think that too; this emulsion proved me wrong. Red Velvet definitely has chocolate flavor, but LorAnn’s emulsion gives it that tangy aftertaste that automatically makes me think of a red velvet cake with tangy cream cheese frosting. Su-blime.

Be sure to refrigerate your cookie dough until it is thoroughly chilled. I usually let mine chill overnight in the fridge. The colder it is, the better it will hold it’s shape/design. Have extra powdered sugar on deck for you to dip your cookie stamps in, as well as for the dough itself. I try to avoid using flour to roll out cookie dough, as adding extra flour just adds more gluten, which dulls the flavor and can make them taste bland.

Enjoy!

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Red Velvet Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Springerle Joy

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus more for rolling
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 tablespoons Red Velvet Emulsion (Like LorAnn Oils)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup melted chocolate chips
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon dry, powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

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

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add the egg, mixing just until combined and yellow disappears. Add the Red Velvet emulsion, vanilla extract, melted chocolate chips and cocoa powder.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, in about 3 increments, stirring just until combined.

Scrape dough out into one disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Divide dough into quarters. Keep the other 3 portions in the fridge while you work with the one.

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. Use a slightly larger round cookie cutter to cut out shape, then transfer to cookie sheets. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the dough.

Freeze cut out cookie dough for 10-20 minutes.

Bake cookies for 7-9 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies. Allow to sit on baking sheets for about 60 seconds before removing to cool completely on wire racks.

(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.)

Sharing these at this week’s Fiesta Friday #263.

Cinnamon Stamped Cookies

So, here’s a random but I think very useful tip for those of you who love to bake: the prettiest cookies do not have to come from cookie cutters, or cookie stamps.

At least, not most of them. I will say that certain springerle molds can make absolutely beautiful, unreal looking cookies. The problem with most springerle molds is that because they’re hand-crafted wood, they don’t run cheap.

I got into collecting cookie stamps a little while ago and although I got some pretty nice ones, the designs weren’t as elaborate as the springerle molds, which was what I really wanted. Then one day, I was surfing the web for cookie stamps, and stumbled across something different. They were called moon cakes. Mooncakes are Chinese pastries that are typically eaten during the Mid-Autumn festival. I’ve never had one and had never heard of them until then; all I knew that the designs on top of them were beautiful.

Traditional mooncakes are made with what’s called a mooncake mold. It’s a plunger like tool where the ball of filled pastry gets pressed into a shaped mold, then imprinted on top with the intricate design. After I’d done my quick Google search to learn how THAT was done, I then turned to the thought that aligned with my interest: would I be able to use the mooncake mold as a cookie stamp?

Since they were much, MUCH more cheaper than springerle molds, I decided to take a chance and ordered a set of mooncake molds to put my theory to the test. They came in a couple of days and within hours I was in the kitchen rolling out cookie dough. What do you y’all think? Was I right, or was I right?

A couple of things: first, this is a recipe that can be made with ANY cookie stamp, mold or cutter you have. The dough is a basic butter cookie that is flavored with cinnamon and vanilla but you can always switch the flavors up to what you’re inclined towards. It bakes up crisp on the outside and tender on the inside–just as a butter cookie should be. Second, if this post has inspired you to buy and test out mooncake molds for yourself, I would recommend to always use a cookie dough that has been designated as a cut-out cookie recipe. There’s no point in going to the trouble of using the mold if the recipe is one that doesn’t hold it’s shape or design after baking.

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Cinnamon Stamped Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing just until combined and yellow disappears. Add the vanilla extract.

In a small bowl combine the flour with the cinnamon and salt, stirring together with a fork. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 1 cup increments, mixing just until combined.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray.

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. Use a slightly larger round cookie cutter to cut out shape, then transfer to cookie sheets. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the dough.*

Freeze cut out cookie dough for 10-20 minutes

Bake in the oven on the middle rack until just golden brown, about 9-12 minutes. Allow to set on sheets for about 60 seconds before removing to a wire rack 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.)

Linking to the Fiesta Friday #258, co-hosted this week by Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

Sugar Crunch Cookies

I want to take this opportunity today, on the 10th Day of Christmas to share a newfound Christmas miracle with all of you.

Every year, I look forward to when the ‘seasonal foods’ start popping up in the grocery stores–the ones that are only sold from about early November to early January. I’ve got some tried and true favorites, but this year I discovered a new one.

I know it’s the fan favorite, but even when I was a kid, Cinnamon Toast Crunch never really ‘did it’ for me. It’s just so, so SO sweet. Plus, there was something about the puffy texture of the cereal that I never liked. So I didn’t eat too much of it. Honey Bunches of Oats & Honey Nut Cheerios–that’s my kind of racket. However, I was in Target a little while ago on the cereal aisle and I happened to see a pretty red box of cereal with the following words written on it:

Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch

Now y’all know me. You KNOW how I am about sugar cookies. (I adore them.) I had to at least give this stuff a try, especially since it was a seasonal product and wouldn’t be around forever.

So the verdict is in and yeah, Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch is a bonafide Christmas miracle. Milk improves the taste of most cereals, but when it’s comes to those that are delicious eaten dry, this is the best one I’ve had since Waffle Crisp–and that’s saying a lot. It has that rich, vanilla flavor that every great sugar cookie has, but unlike it’s counterpart Cinnamon Toast Crunch, it isn’t overly sweet. The texture is also better. It’s a perfect toasty golden sugar cookie in cereal form. Yum.

As delicious as SCTC is to eat on its own, my sister gave me the great idea that it would be an even better ingredient to try and bake with. I’ve seen a lot of recipes floating around the internet that use plain cornflakes, Fruity Pebbles or Golden Grahams and turn out great, so I decided to take inspiration from that to craft my own variation of a SCTC cereal holiday cookie for the 12 Days of Christmas.

Here’s what’s in ’em. I used a blend of all purpose and almond flour as a base to the dough. The almond flour gives it a nutty flavor that I think tempers the sweetness nicely, but if you’re nut-allergic you should be able to use all regular flour with no problems. I also added some dried cranberries to the dough for two reasons: I wanted to give some extra texture to the cookie, and I wanted to give a pop of tartness that I also think works well with the sweetness.

Un-chilled dough tends to result in cookies that spread a lot and so, after mixing crushed SCTC into the dough, I let it rest in the fridge overnight. I highly recommend that you do this in order to achieve the puffy round shape that you see in the pictures.  Aren’t they pretty, y’all? I think what I like most about these apart from the flavors is the texture–they’re soft and chewy, also yet crunchy from the cereal. They’re sweet from the cereal, but also toasty from the almond flour with that tang of tartness from the cranberries. It’s like the best Christmas compost cookie ever.

Just 2 days left of the 12 Days of Christmas! There’s still plenty of time to bake for the holidays, so feel free to check out the other recipes if you haven’t already.

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

DAY 3: THREE FRENCH HEN PIES

DAY 4: CRANBERRY BUCKLE

DAY 5: GINGERBREAD MARSHMALLOWS

DAY 6: HOLIDAY SPICE S’MORES

DAY 7: CRANBERRY ORANGE ROLLS

DAY 8: GINGERBREAD CUT OUTS

DAY 9: ROSEMARY & THYME CRACKERS

DAY 10: SUGAR CRUNCH COOKIES

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Sugar Crunch Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour or finely ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, or cherries
  • 1 3/4 cups of Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch (or any cereal you like), lightly crushed
  • Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

In a medium size bowl combine the flour with the almond flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, or using a handheld one, cream the butter and sugars together until they’re light & fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, stirring just until combined. Gradually add the flour mixture, in 2 batches, stirring just until combined. Stir in the cranberries. Gently stir in 3/4 cup of the crushed cereal.

Scrape the dough into a sealable container and refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Pour the remaining 1 cup of crushed cereal in a small bowl.

Use a 1/8 scoop (that’s about 2 tablespoons) to scoop out balls of dough. Roll each dough ball in the crushed cereal until it has a light coating. Place onto the parchment paper, about 1/2 inch apart. Press down a little on the tops to lightly flatten. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar.

Bake the cookies until light golden brown and puffy, 12 to 15 minutes. Allow to set for about 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack 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.)

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #255, co-hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

Holiday Spice S’mores

Are s’mores just for summertime? I think not.

If y’all have been following this blog for a while you know that I’m a ‘s’mores all the year round’ kind of girl. Let the record speak for itself:

S’mores Cake. S’mores Sandwich Cookies. S’mores Brownies.

Pretty soon, I’m going to run out of S’mores flavored things to bake. But not today. Today, I’ve got one more.

I’ve known that I wanted to make homemade s’mores for a while. As much as I love all the flavors of s’mores, I don’t like eating them with store-bought graham crackers. It’s a texture thing. I was pretty sure I could do better with a cracker that I made by myself, with a more pleasant texture. While I was planning out all I would make for the 12 Days of Christmas series, I thought of them again. I tried to think of how I could make them ‘Christmasey’. This is what I came out with.

Basically, I’ve taken a standard graham cracker recipe and added some spices to the dough that remind me of the holidays: cinnamon, ginger cloves and nutmeg. I cut them into squares just to give them the traditional s’mores look, but you can cut them into whatever shapes you like. (Gingerbread man shaped s’mores would be really cute). These aren’t as crunchy as store-bought graham crackers, but personally I prefer them that way.

When they have a tiny bit of chew, biting into the s’more doesn’t make it ooze all over the place, which can get messy with melted chocolate and marshmallow. It’s also a really, really tasty spice cookie all by itself. We’re just going to enhance that by adding the other 2 components.

Here’s the thing. I said in my last post that I understood why going to the trouble of making marshmallows from scratch may SEEM unnecessary and extra. I also said that I had found another use for them besides adding them to hot chocolate. I am not exaggerating when I say that that second use was a revelation.

A gingerbread spiced graham cracker sandwiching melted chocolate AND a melted, gooey gingerbread spiced marshmallow?

Y’all. I wasn’t prepared. I really wasn’t. That first bite was all of the things. Every single one of them. I’m pretty sure my eyes rolled back in my head. This is one of the best ideas I’ve ever had and I’m so pumped to share it here at the holidays. Making marshmallows from scratch is worth it, if for no other reason than this: Holiday Spiced S’mores.

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

DAY 3: THREE FRENCH HEN PIES

DAY 4: CRANBERRY BUCKLE

DAY 5: GINGERBREAD MARSHMALLOWS

DAY 6: HOLIDAY SPICE S’MORES

Holiday Spice S'mores

Recipe Adapted from Bake From Scratch

Ingredients

For Graham Crackers

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling
  • Your choice of chocolate (For assembly)

(For Marshmallows: See recipe Hereor purchase seasonal gingerbread flavored marshmallows from store)

 

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract.

In a small bowl combine the flour with the spices, salt and baking soda, stirring together with a fork. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 1 cup increments, mixing just until combined.

Shape dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Sprinkle a clean work surface with powdered sugar. Divide dough into quarters, keeping 3 in the fridge while you work with one. Roll dough to ⅛-inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut into roughly 2 inch squares. Use a chopstick to punch a hole through the center of the squares, then remove to a baking sheet you’ve lined with parchment paper.

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Refrigerate the cut out cookie dough for 10 minutes. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon sugar.

Bake in the oven on the middle rack until just golden brown, about 9-10 minutes. Allow to set on sheets for about 60 seconds before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble the s’mores, place a square of chocolate and a marshmallow on one of the crackers. Microwave for about 5-10 seconds, until they just begin to melt. Press another graham cracker on top.

(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.)

Christmas Elf Bites

Every year for the 12 Days of Christmas I try to include at least one recipe in the series for any of the followers or visitors to this blog who don’t like to cook or bake, or those who want to cook or bake but just don’t believe that they can.

You’ll notice that I specifically did NOT say that they *couldn’t* cook or bake–that was on purpose.

Take it from someone who not too long ago, couldn’t do much else but scramble eggs and boil water for pasta: you can cook. You can bake. You really can. Yes, even without the help of a cake mix or pre-made cookie dough. It’s possible. This holiday, you can bake 100% from scratch without messing it up, and come out with something you’ll not only enjoy, but be able to share with others who are definitely going to enjoy it too.

I don’t want to shame anyone who doesn’t like to bake or thinks that they can’t bake at all. It’s not something that everyone is going to love to do. I get that. But honestly, today’s recipe is about as easy and basic as you can get for baking without using a frozen dough–and I guarantee that this is going to taste better than ALL of those. (Baked goods made from scratch always do.)

This starts with a very simple, straightforward shortbread. Because it is so simple, I recommend your using a good butter for it. Generic butter has a much higher ratio of water in it, and therefore has less flavor. Name brand butter (especially the European ones) is far more cultured than generic. I don’t mean ‘culture’ as in sophistication–I mean that is has been churned longer in order to have a higher ratio of fat in it. More fat = flavor. You’d be surprised the difference it makes.

This is a rather whimsical themed recipe, and because I think almond extract gives a ‘whimsical’ flavor to baked goods, that’s what I used to flavor these. Vanilla will work just as well, as will citrus extract or zest you add to the flour as well. I also hand kneaded in some sprinkles to give them some color (don’t use a mixer to do this, it will make them bleed prematurely and they may stain messily while baking). The dough is first pressed into a square baking pan and chilled. From there, you lift it out of the pan in one block, cut it up into mini bite sized pieces, then bake.

And that’s literally it. 15 minutes later, you’re done. Sound easy enough?

These cookie bites are a delicious idea for gift giving & stocking stuffers. They’re easy enough to do with the kiddies. They’re small enough to have dessert without feeling guilty. Plus, I just find them cute to look at, so I gave them a cute “Christmas-y” themed name to match. Ho ho ho.

We just started the 12 Days of Christmas a few days ago, so go back and check out Day 1’s recipe if you haven’t seen it yet!

DAY 1: VANILLA RED PINWHEELS

DAY 2: CHRISTMAS ELF BITES

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Christmas Elf Bites

Recipe Courtesy of Land O Lakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon multi-colored nonpareils

Directions

Line a square 8 or 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

In a small bowl combine the flour with the salt and stir together with a fork. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add the almond extract.

Slowly stir in the flour, mixing just until combined. Use your hands to gently knead in the nonpareils. Press the dough into the pan, doing your best to make the top smooth and flat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Use the corners of the paper to lift the dough out of the pan. Use a sharp knife, pizza wheel or a bench scraper to cut the dough into 1/2 inch squares. Gently place the squares about 1/2 inch apart on a sheet pan you’ve lined with parchment.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until they’re just beginning to turn golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.