Red Velvet Cookies and Cream Shortbread

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I’m not an artsy person. I wish I was….but I just am not.

When I was growing up in elementary school Art Day was one I viewed with apathy at best and dread at worst, because I knew that my creation wasn’t going to be particularly pretty to look at. Most times I just hoped it wouldn’t be the worst of the worst.

I can’t really draw. I can’t paint. Sculpting with clay and the like never really produced much more for me than misshapen blobs.

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I don’t really have much of an artistic eye or decorating skills either, which is why I feel like sometimes my pictures on the blog suffer from not being ‘styled’ as pretty as I’ve seen them on other sites. Maybe I should take a class or something.

In the meanwhile, I do what I can to make art, ‘my way’. I’ve found that way to be through cooking and baking. I get to be creative with many a recipe canvas, and I’d say that on the whole, my results aren’t too shabby.

Case in point, today’s recipe.

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I view shortbread as a blank, albeit delicious canvas. It’s a great thing all on its own, but to be at its best, I think it’s largely dependent on what you can do to elevate it so that it’s your own artistic creation.

The possibilities of elevation really are endless: Herbs. Citrus. Chocolate. Nuts. Cheese. Tea. I’ve even seen booze flavored shortbread recipes. There’s something out there for anybody and any occasion.

So, naturally it makes sense that there should be one that’s geared towards a particular occasion coming up this week, right? You know which one I’m talking about.

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Last year at about this time, I did a riff on Red Velvet cupcakes that I flavored with the Oreo Red Velvet Cookies and Creme sandwich cookies. It was a big hit that got a lot of traffic, with admittedly, for good reason. After a little bit more brainstorming, and some more experimenting I’m pleased to announce I’ve found yet another way to take these yummy flavored Oreos and use them to flavor another great dessert: shortbread.

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Shortbread is, I think, a fail-proof recipe for baking. It’s almost impossible to mess up because there are only two things you have to get right: properly creaming the butter and pricking the holes in the finished dough just before baking. You get that right and you’ll have perfect shortbread every time, guaranteed. Because of that, it was relatively easy for me to see how it could be adapted into a Red Velvet flavor without compromising on the original very much. I took about 12 of the flavored Oreos and blitzed them in my Ninja until they were a very fine reddish powder; it made about 1/2 cup’s worth. I took that and incorporated it into a base recipe for regular golden shortbread, then also added vanilla and a bit of almond extract to that dough.

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I thought about maybe scraping the filling out of the cookies before crushing them because of the moisture affecting the dough, but ultimately decided against it. I’m glad that I did. The filling I think really helps that Red Velvet/Cookies and Creme flavor really come through in the finished product. To solve the issue of the filling adding too much moisture/pasty-ness, I added about 1/4 cup extra flour, which I think easily solved that problem.

I decorated half the shortbread with a simple white icing and some leftover crushed cookie crumbs, but as you can see I left half plain for the simple reason that I think it tastes pretty darn good all on its own without needing it.

Side note, didn’t the red cookies add such a pretty pink color to the dough? I love that. I love this recipe. It makes me feel like in spite of being artistically challenged with a paint brush or modeling clay, I just may be an artiste in the kitchen after all.

Happy Fiesta Friday #158 (co-hosted this week by Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Petra @ Food Eat Love.). Also, Happy early-Valentines Day to all of you who will be doing something special with a significant other. Have a good steak and some chocolate, or something.

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Red Velvet Cookies and Cream Shortbread

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour, plus 1/4 cup if needed
  • 1/2 cup crushed Red Velvet flavored crème sandwich cookies (about 10-12), plus more for decoration (optional)

For Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk, plus more if needed

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray two nine inch cake or tart pans with cooking spray.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or  using a large bowl with a hand held mixer, cream together the butter, powdered sugar and extracts until light and fluffy.

Add 2 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time. Then fold in the crushed cookies. The dough should be able to hold together if pressed with your fingers. If it still seems too sticky, you may add the extra 1/4 cup of flour.

Divide the dough in half. Using your hands, press each half into a pan, using a spatula to smooth out the surface. Prick holes evenly across the surface of the dough. (This will keep it from bubbling up during baking.)

Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes, until deep golden brown at the edges.

Wait for about 2-3 minutes, then turn shortbread out onto a plate. Using a pizza cutter, bench scraper or sharp knife, cut into desired shapes. (Note: you HAVE to cut the shortbread while it is still warm. Cutting it when it’s cold will only cause it to crumble and fall apart).

Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

If decorating, combine the powdered together in a small bowl. If the glaze is too stiff, you can add more milk, teaspoon by teaspoon; don’t add too much though, or it will become too runny to set on the shortbread. Dip a fork into the glaze and allow it to drizzle off the tines and on top of the shortbread in desired design. Sprinkle the crushed cookie crumbs on top. Allow to sit for about 20-30 minutes until glaze hardens.

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PB Sandwich Cookies (with Honey-Cinnamon Filling)

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I can’t think back to a time when there hasn’t been a big jar of chunky peanut butter in one of my cabinets or pantry. I’m crazy about the stuff.

I’m not hugely picky on the brand; Jif, Skippy and Peter Pan have ALL passed the test of my tastebuds–just so long as there’s some there whenever I want it. Even when I went through a ‘health nut’ phase, do you think I turned my back on peanut butter? Tuh. I just spend the extra buck or two and bought the natural chunky pb without the extra hydrogenated oils that you have to stir every once in a while. Wasn’t that much of a difference in taste (albeit it a little less sweet) and it did the trick until I finally caved & went back to the really good stuff. I was NOT going to live my life without peanut butter. No way, no how.

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Can I let you guys in on a little secret?

I never could, and still haven’t grown to like peanut butter and jelly as a combination on a sandwich. Who *needs* jelly when you could just slather more peanut butter on two slices of toasted bread? Jelly can take a hike so far as I’m concerned.

Just shut up, pass me the Skippy Chunky and a spoon, and no one will get hurt.

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Apart from just loving the stuff all on it’s own, I remember that I went through a phase as a kid when I was ka-razy about peanut butter cookies–especially the Nutter Butter sandwiches. I just wanted them all the time. I craved them: ALL.THE.TIME.

You know how when you went to the grocery store with your mom and if you were good (or if she was in a good mood and there was a little extra money) she’d let you pick something out to get? For a while, the ‘thing’ that I would always pick out were Nutter Butters.

At the time it didn’t matter because I had the metabolism of an Olympic athlete, but looking back (now that I definitely do not), I can admit that it was embarrassing how many I could put away.

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However. These are not Nutter Butters.

They are…dare I say it? Yeah, I will.

They’re better than Nutter Butters. Got your attention yet? Good.

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I decided to make these on a random whim, since #1, I felt like baking, #2, I had all the ingredients in the house at the time and #3, I was feeling guilty for not using my America’s Test Kitchen cookbook more often and this was in it. It’s a fabulous recipe that’s fairly easy to put together, and with my personal modifications, it just tasted even better.

I swapped out the recommended regular dry roasted peanuts for honey roasted ones that are lightly coated in sugar. I prefer the taste of honey roasteds, and I also think the ‘roasted’ flavor just comes out stronger in them for some reason. The cookies themselves remind me of the peanut butter cookies that can often be found in the bakery sections on cookie platters sold in Sam’s Club or Costco. They’re soft and chewy with the perfect contrast of texture from the crunch of the honey roasted peanuts that are chopped inside the dough.

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The filling was another modification. Whereas Nutter Butter cookies are just filled with a stiff peanut butter frosting, the filling in these cookies is smoother in texture. Second, the combination of peanut butter, honey and cinnamon makes it so that the overall sandwich isn’t too ‘one-note’ in flavor. Spoiler alert: it works. Really well.

I don’t know if there are words that can adequately describe what this tastes like when it’s warmed up in the microwave. You know, where the cookies are just on the verge of falling apart from softness of the crumb, and the filling is gooey and sticky so that the whole thing just kinda melts together in your mouth and–

Yeah, let me just stop now.

My twin sister pronounced these as some of “the best PB cookies” she’s ever had, and I really can’t say that she’s too far off on that assesment.

Guess that means I’ve got Nutter Butters beat, huh? Rah rah sis boom bah.

Linking up this post to Fiesta Friday #156.

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PB Sandwich Cookies (with Honey-Cinnamon Filling)

Recipe Adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

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Ingredients

For the Cookies:

  • 1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) honey roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter,melted
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 large egg

For the Filling

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 5 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pulse peanuts in food processor until finely chopped, about 8 pulses.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in bowl. Whisk melted butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, milk and egg together in second bowl. Stir flour mixture into peanut butter mixture with rubber spatula until combined. Stir in peanuts until evenly distributed.

Using a tablespoon measure, place 12 mounds, evenly spaced on each prepared baking sheet. Using dampened hand, flatten mounds until about 2 inches in diameter.

Bake until deep golden brown and firm to touch, 15 to 18 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Repeat portioning and baking remaining dough.

For the Filling:

Microwave peanut butter until melted and warm, about 40 seconds. Stir honey and ground cinnamon into the warm peanut butter before using a rubber spatula to stir in the confectioner’s sugar.

Place 24 cookies upside down on counter. Place 1 level tablespoon of warm filling in the center of each cookie. Place second cookie on top of filling, right side up, pressing gently until filling spreads to edges. Allow filling to set for 1 hour before serving. Assembled cookies can be stored at room temp for up to 3 days.

   

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.)

Sugared Shortbread

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Good things don’t always have to come in big packages. Baking doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out process to yield delicious, worthwhile packages. Christmas treats shouldn’t have to always take you a few days to crank out of the kitchen.

And this is coming from someone who will dedicate entire weekends to her baking endeavors if the recipe so calls for it.

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If you’re sitting down at the moment and thinking, “Boy, I’d really love to have a really yummy Christmas cookie right about now but I sure don’t feel like spending a bunch of time in the kitchen.”, then rest easy. There is indeed a solution to this problem.

The solution is shortbread. Sugared Shortbread to be exact.

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I really don’t know how I’ve been baking for as long as I have and *just* now got around to baking shortbread but I suppose Christmas is as good a time as any to start. This recipe is so easy, there really was no excuse for me to try and hide behind anymore. From the time I made the decision to take a stab at the shortbread to mixing the ingredients, baking, then finish was really no more than one hour, TOPS.

It was just SO simple. And the results.

I was skeptical that a cookie with so few and ‘standard’ ingredients could be something worth writing home about at all. But fortunately,even skeptics like me get proven wrong at times. I don’t know what it is about the combination of these few, simple ingredients, but they create a cookie that is really, really REALLY addictive.

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The smell as it’s baking is…wow. I was excited before I even took it out of the oven. Does it *need* the extra sprinkling of sugar on top? Not necessarily. On it’s own, it’s a pretty darn tasty stick of buttery shortbread, but the added sugar does give it that extra sweetness and an added crunchy texture on top. The texture of the shortbread itself is sandy and tender; think a thick sandie cookie that melts in your mouth. Because I prefer the flavor, I used two teaspoons of vanilla extract but this shortbread is so versatile that I could easily see using ANY other extract with excellent results: lemon, lime, coconut, anise, almond, orange. If you wanted to add in citrus zest, that too would be awesome.

Bottom line, if you’ve got about 10 minutes to spare, then you should whip together this shortbread. It’s a perfect bite of Christmas cheer if ever I took one–and I took several.

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

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Sugared Shortbread

Recipe Adapted from New York Times

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup rice flour*
  • 1/2 cup sugar, and more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted and cooled
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

*You can make your own rice flour by pulverizing plain long grain rice in a high power blender  (like a Ninja or Nutribullet) on the highest setting until grains are very fine and powdery.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 or 9 inch square pan with parchment paper.

Whisk the dry ingredients (flours, sugar and salt) together with a fork or wire whisk. Pour in the melted butter and vanilla extract. Stir together until evenly combined.

Press into the bottom of the pan evenly with your hands or  rubber spatula. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the pan and sprinkle with a thin layer of sugar. Bake for 5 more minutes.

Using a bench scraper or a knife, cut shortbread into slices while still warm and sprinkle more sugar on top if desired. Allow to cool completely.

Spiced Cookie Bark

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Do you have folks in your life who are really tough to Christmas shop for?

I’m sure you do. Heck, maybe you’re even one of those people.

Let me just make a simple recommendation for you from my experience and observations as a cook, baker & blogger: give food. I mean it. If yo really don’t know what material present to buy someone, scrap the idea entirely and just give them food. Think about it for a second:

Food is your fail-safe. A guaranteed winner. There’s plenty of options, it’s customizable to whatever favorites your intended has, and it also doesn’t have to be an expensive gift–especially if you’re willing to cook or bake it yourself.

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I’ve found that when it comes to Christmas goodies, people are EXTREMELY easy to please. Cookies. Pie. Cake. Brownies. Candy. Bread. As long as it’s tasty and appealing to the eye, there isn’t much that’s going to be turned down.

(I still haven’t met a fruit cake that’s palatable, but hey, maybe someday.)

If your gift-giving is going to be limited to your near vicinity, then you’ve got a lot of options for baking. However, if you’re planning on sending long distance then you’re gonna have to be willing to make a few conscientious decisions as to what you’re baking and sending just for practicality’s sake. It’s possible to mail just about anything, but that doesn’t make it convenient or cheap–not to mention the fact that you’ve got to ensure it’ll get to where it’s going in one piece.

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Today’s recipe would be a perfect one for gift-giving and shipping in the mail for a couple reasons: first, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated or kept cool. It doesn’t go stale. Second, you won’t have to have the same concern about cracking and breaking the goods in rough transit, because this stuff is already supposed to be broken into shards.

Looks better that way anyway.

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I took my first foray into the bark making field two years ago for the Christmas series with this Graham Cracker Toffee Bark. It wasn’t just extremely easy to make, it also tasted glorious. I knew that I would want to give it another go sometime; albeit it with more variety to the recipe. What makes this one different is that instead of using graham crackers as your base that you pour hot sugar over, this recipe makes the cookie itself. The dough is flavored with vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, then spread nice and thin in a sheet pan then baked in the oven until it browns and essentially caramelizes itself and takes on a crunchy toffee flavor and texture.

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After that, all that’s left to do is drizzle it with some icing and melted chocolate, pop it into the freezer, then started smashing it apart, peanut-brittle style.

BAM. You’ve got a tray full of goodies that would make the very pickiest of people to shop for, extremely happy. If you wanted to group them into individual treat bags for a crows, I would even include this recipe written or typed onto a little card attached to it. It’s pretty simple and it’s always a great idea to pass Christmas cheer like this along, don’t you think?

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

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Spiced Cookie Bark

Recipe Courtesy of Land O Lakes

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Ingredients

  • 2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Spiced Sugar Topping

  • 3 tablespoons coarse sugar (like turbinado or demerara)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Drizzle

  • 2 tablespoons semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons white chocolate chips
  • Christmas colored Sprinkles, optional

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan wit aluminum foil, making sure the foil extends over the ends, about 1/2 inch. Spray thoroughly with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg together in a medium size bowl. Set aside.

Combine sugar, melted butter and vanilla extract together in a large bowl. Fold the dry ingredient mixture into the wet, using a fork to begin with. Once it starts to come together into a solid mass, switch to your hands.

Dump the dough out into the prepared pan and use your fingers or a rubber spatula to press it into an even layer.

Combine all of the spiced sugar topping ingredients together, then sprinkle on top of dough.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are light golden brown. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then using the foil to gently lift out of the pan and onto a wire cooling rack. Allow to cool completely.

Melt the dark chocolate and white chocolate chips in separate bowls. Using the tines of a fork, drizzle on top of cookie bark alternately. Sprinkle the Christmas sprinkles on top. Place in the freezer for about 20 minutes to allow chocolate to set.

Break bark into pieces with a knife or bench scraper. Store in an air-tight container.

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.)