Iced Cornmeal Cookies

Iced Cornmeal Cookies1

Have you ever really wanted to try something, but you kept putting it off because you just weren’t sure if it would actually work?

I have. In fact, as a naturally cautious (if not downright paranoid person) this tends to happen to me a lot.

I have had I don’t know how many tv shows in my Netflix Instant queue for months. I put them there because I initially thought that they sounded interesting and wanted to give them a shot to see if I would like the show. But then, I never start watching them, because I’m juuuuuust not sure if the shows would be something that I liked. I mean, once they’re gone, I can never get those 45 minutes of my life back.

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I’ve got one loooooooong Amazon wishlist, full of things that I want, but have yet to actually order.

But this one may be less about my being paranoid and cautious, and more about me being broke 9 times out of 10.

As it turns out, most of the time, when I’m overly cautious about trying something new, it usually has to do with food. I’m NOTORIOUSLY picky/cautious when it comes to my food.

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I’m “that person” who only ever orders ONE thing off the menu of a restaurant or take out place. I’m far too paranoid that the one time I decide to be ‘bold’ and ‘daring’, and order something new, it’ll blow up in my face and I’ll absolutely hate it. So not only will I have wasted my money, but I’ll also have to choke down food that I don’t even like, resulting in an unsatisfying meal- which is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves.

I don’t even like straying from the script when it comes to my coffee.

My general philosophy with food is, if it ain’t broke, then I sure ain’t gonna try to fix it.

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But sometimes, I break character and try to eat and cook new foods.

It turns out that having a food blog will give you a rather sizable boot in the rear, so far as that goes.

As a result, I have a full Pinterest board of recipes from other blogs and websites of foods that really caught my attention and made me want to try out for myself. Today’s recipe was one of them; it’s been there for over a year at least.

See? I told you I was overly cautious.

The most intriguing element to this recipe for me was the inclusion of cornmeal in the cookie dough. I was just wildly curious as to what that would taste like; I had SO many questions.

Would the cookies be sweet? Would the texture be too rough/coarse because of the cornmeal? Would they be soft or crunchy? Would they even taste good at all?

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For my own personal preferences, I decided to bake the cookies for as little time as possible so that they would be soft. I assumed by the smell and taste of the raw dough (yes, I eat raw cookie dough. Don’t judge me) that they would be similar to sugar cookies. And I insist upon having my sugar cookies iced. So I then whipped up a quick and easy icing to spread on top and added nonpareils for color.

The finished product?

Well first of all, they’re very good. So that was a huge relief.

Second, I can honestly say that I’ve never had cookies like these before ;the cornmeal is really the star ingredient here. It gives the cookies such a unique texture and flavor. Although I went with vanilla extract and icing, I could see citrus zest like lemon or orange working VERY well with these.

All in all, my risk taking paid off. Which made me a very happy camper 🙂

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Iced Cornmeal Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for shaping
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • A few tablespoons of milk
  • 2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • multi-colored nonpareils, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until smooth. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture, mixing just until combined.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, about 2 inches apart, onto two large baking sheets; flatten slightly with floured fingertips. Bake until edges are golden, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies immediately to a wire rack; let cool completely.

For Icing: combine the first 3 ingredients until smooth. Spread over cooled cookies, then decorate with nonpareil sprinkles. Allow icing to harden, about 30 minutes.

My Grandma’s Lemon Soda Pound Cake

My Grandma's Pound Cake3

Nothing is certain but death and taxes, right?

False. At least, that’s my opinion.

There are some things in life that you just know, no matter what happens, that you will always, always ALWAYS be able to depend on.

Things besides death and taxes.

They may be good. They may be bad. But they’re a sure thing regardless.

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I’ll start out with a positive: my sisters. My sisters are as dependable and certain as death and taxes.

Except in a good way.

I know that no matter what happens, no matter where I am or what I’m doing or going through, I can always depend on those two. They’re my best friends in the entire world. There’s nothing I can’t talk about, share with, or ask them for. They’re always there for me. They’re not going anywhere

Theoretically could I cheat and avoid death and taxes? Sure.

But cheating/avoiding my sisters? That’s never gonna happen.

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I heard someone say on a tv show once that the only thing just as certain as death and taxes were mistakes.

Here, I have to agree.

No matter how hard you try to strive for perfection, sooner or later you will mess up somehow. It’s gonna happen. You will make a mistake. And that’s okay; accept it, move on and learn from it. It’ll make you a better person.

In fact, NOT thinking you’re going to ever make a mistake IS actually making a mistake so if you’re thinking that way, then you should really stop because you’re actually mistaken.

Heh. See what I did there?

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I bring up the whole death, taxes and certainty bit because it’s really the first thought that came to my mind when I sat down to write out this post.

If I had to pick out a handful of things that have just been permanent fixtures throughout my life, then this recipe would certainly be one of them. And with good reason. It’s probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. Hands down. No contest.

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My grandma’s desserts are the thing of legend in my family, and although she knows how to do bake just about anything, this pound cake is still the most treasured darling of them all (with the possible exception of her caramel cake, but you guys aren’t ready for that level of awesomeness yet).

When I was growing up, I just got used to almost always seeing this pound cake sitting on my grandparent’s dining room table underneath her fancy clear glass- domed serving plate as the ‘standard’ dessert for everyone to have after dinner throughout the week. Everyone loves it. Everyone.

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I’ve made quite a few pound cake recipes before and I still have to say, my grandma’s is THE moistest I’ve ever had- which is no easy task for pound cake sometimes. It practically melts in your mouth. I used the phrasing “lemon soda” in the recipe title on purpose: we typically either use Squirt or 7-up in our cake, but honestly ANY name-brand lemon lime soda will do. (Sprite, Squirt, Sierra Mist, 7-Up, Faygo, etc). Just make sure that the soda isn’t flat. For some reason having the carbonation really makes the difference in helping the flavor come through.

Normally, I’m not even a big fan of lemon desserts, but I just can’t get enough of the slight tartness from the citrus that offsets the sugar in the cake. I know it SEEMS like a lot of lemon flavoring with the extract, lemon juice AND lemon soda, but trust me: it all works beautifully together.

When Angie asked me to help co-host this week’s Fiesta Friday #67 with Caroline@CarolinesCooking, I didn’t hesitate. Not just because I love co-hosting, but also because it would give me the chance to share this recipe with all of you that is so close to my heart. I hope you all enjoy it.

For those that are new to the Fiesta, welcome! We’re happy to have you and invite you to join our link up and the festivities by clicking the link to the website.

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My Grandma's Lemon Soda Pound Cake


Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. lemon extract
  • 3/4 cup lemon soda (like Squirt or 7-Up)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

 Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a fluted bundt pan (or 2 greased and floured loaf pans) and set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour.

Beat in lemon extract, lemon soda and lemon juice

Pour batter into Bundt or loaf pan(s). Tap the bottom of the pans onto a countertop a few times to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, or a direct read thermometer inserted into cake reads 190-195 degrees Fahrenheit. (Note: if you’re using 2 loaf pans,the cook time will obviously be shorter, so check it sooner rather than later.)

Allow cake to cool for at least 35-45 minutes on a wire rack before unmolding from pan.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls

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One of things that I am really proud of myself for learning how to do in the kitchen is bake fresh bread. It takes some getting used to in the beginning, and to be honest there are still things I have to learn but once you get the hang of it, going back to store bought bread pretty much becomes impossible. I can’t really explain in detail what the difference is, but I suspect that is has something to do with the preservatives found in store bread, especially white bread. I can literally taste the preservatives they put in it- it almost leaves a sour aftertaste in my mouth that’s just really unpleasant, so I don’t even touch the stuff anymore. If I’m eating white bread at all, it’s only because I made it myself first. The aftertaste of THAT stuff is pretty darn good if I may say so myself. But my point is, whenever we run out of bread in my house, I know that I just have to make some more. Needless to say, I’m always on the lookout for new yeast bread recipes to try out just to keep things around here interesting.

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I remember it was about a year or so ago where I was writing up a post complaining about how I was struggling to get my yeast bread doughs to rise on sheet pans. It just wouldn’t work, and frustrated me to no end. Whenever I shaped and set my dough out for its second rise on the sheet pan, most time it just barely expanded, if at all. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, especially whenever I would make the bread in round pans or in pyrex glass dishes, it worked out beautifully. For a while, I just avoided baking bread in sheet pans altogether, but recently I decided to try and get back on the horse again and slightly tweak my methods in the second rise to see if that would yield different results. These crescent rolls were my guinea pigs.

How do you guys think I did?

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Well I’ll just go ahead and say it if you won’t: I think it turned out rather well. Here’s what I changed in case you were curious.

See, in the past what I was doing was using very large sheet pans for my second rise and spacing the rolled out dough pretty far apart from each other. I’m no food scientist like Alton Brown or the folks at America’s Test Kitchen but what I THINK was happening in my previous attempts was that rather than expanding ‘up’ on the second rise and giving that heightened fluffiness that you see in the above picture, my dough was expanding ‘out’ since there was so much space between each individual one and giving it the appearance of being flatter. Now is it possible that the dough would eventually rise and become taller? Yeah probably, but I do think that it would’ve taken longer than an hour or two so long as I was using the larger sheet pans.

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So what I did this time around was use one of the smallest sheet pans that I had for my second dough rise, which left a much smaller space between each one of the crescent rolls- this way, the only place that the dough would have to ‘go’ when expanding would be ‘up’; get it? Also, I dampened a clean kitchen towel and placed it over the sheet pan of crescents, put the whole thing in my overhead microwave, then turned on my oven. The heat from my oven created a warmth inside the microwave that combined with the damp cloth created a humidity that made it into a kind of DIY proof-box, so to speak.

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This time after the second rise, I was having the exact opposite problem that I’d been having with sheet pans all along: now, the dough had proofed and risen so well that they were all nearly crammed together slightly rising up over the pan itself. But I didn’t care about that: I was too busy doing Snoopy/Victory dances from finally overcoming my sheet pan-bread baking woes. Plus, who was I to get upset over jumbo size crescent rolls that baked up so golden and pretty like these ones did here? Nobody, that’s who.

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Wait a minute; I’m completely forgetting that there’s vegetables in these crescents, which is crazy since the sweet potatoes are what give them the deliciously golden orange color. But they’re there: one whole cup of fresh sweet potato mash. Which, you know should make you feel pretty good about eating one of these…or two…or…another undisclosed amount.

….Why are you guys staring at me like that?

So I think the moral of the story here is that when encountering difficulties in the kitchen, just keep at it. Even if it doesn’t work the first, second or third time. I did. And I think my diligence was rewarded.

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Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls

Recipe Courtesy of Red Star Yeast via Completely Delicious

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3-4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 packet (2 1/2 tsp.) Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (about 1 medium) sweet potato puree

 Directions

1. In a small saucepan set over medium low heat, warm the butter, honey and milk until butter is melted and mixture begins to steam. Do not boil. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes, or until the temperature is between 120-130 degrees F.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine 1½ cups of the flour with the yeast, salt and nutmeg. Add the milk mixture and mix until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each, followed by the sweet potato puree. With the mixer on low, add the remaining flour ¼ cup at a time until dough clears the side of the bowl but is still slightly sticky to the touch. You may not need all 4 cups of flour.

3. Continue to knead the dough in the mixer until it is smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

4. Gently punch down dough and knead a few times. Cover it with the plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.

5. On a clean surface roll the dough out into a 16-inch circle. Using a pizza slicer, cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Working with each piece individually, roll the dough up starting with the fat end. Place the roll on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper so the skinny point is on the bottom. Cover with plastic wrap and rise again for 30 minutes.

6. While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake rolls until they are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Pumpkin Scones

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Jas and I are self-proclaimed, unapologetic coffee addicts. We need it. We crave it. We have to have it. Every morning. Or else.

The sad thing is I was ‘clean’ for going on 3 years. I had truly kicked the habit- but one rotten morning I had at work a few months ago made me cave back into the urge and from then on, I was right back where I started: hopelessly devoted to coffee.

It can expensive if you’re like us and like the gourmet stuff. Plus you constantly have to invest in buying special, also not-too-cheap whitening toothpaste. It’s the devil in a red dress, I’m telling you.

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In my area, we have two major ‘coffee corporation giants’; for the sake of subtlety I’ll call one Bucksstar and the other Bybigs. (I know, I know; REAL subtle there Jess.)

Over all the years of our coffee connoisseurship, Jas and I have worked out our own special theories about the strengths, weaknesses and similarities between Bucksstar and Bybigs. And since we’re self-proclaimed addicts that go to all and any lengths to get their fixes, you should just take our word for it. Cause we’re pros and we just know what we’re talking about.

When it comes to straight hot coffee, with little to no bells and whistles, Bucksstar wins. It’s fancier and you really can taste the difference in the quality of the ingredients. However, when it comes to hot lattes and cappuccinos then we do tend to lean more towards Bybigs. Plus, the caramel apple cider they sell in the autumn is truly out of this world.

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The funny thing about Bucksstar’s lattes is that they taste much better cold than hot to us. In fact, the iced lattes and frappuccinos at Bucksstar’s are the stuff of dreams. The ones at Bybig’s just can’t compare.

Interestingly enough, Jas and I think that the biggest difference between these two coffee giants is NOT their coffee, but their baked goods. There’s just SUCH a huge difference. Want to know what it is? Here’s the answer, direct from us to you:

Bucksstar’s baked goods rock. Bybigs suck.

Seriously. I’m not being overly dramatic or just trying to straight out diss Bybig’s. I’m just being honest. I don’t know who it is that formulated their recipes for pastries- but whoever it is, should probably get the sack. The cookies are flat and cardboard-like in texture. The muffins taste like something the Little Debbie company churned out. The bagels are tough hockey pucks.  The rice krispie treats don’t have enough marshmallow creme and butter. And don’t get me started on those friggin scones; they’re drydryDRY with little to no flavor.

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Now Bucksstar? They’ve got this thing on lock. Everyone, EVERYONE knows that Bucksstar baked goods are delicious. I can’t remember the last time I went into one to buy coffee and didn’t end up walking out of there with some kind of pastry. The banana bread is thick, soft and fragrant. Their croissants are flaky and buttery. The cookies are sublime. Even their breakfast sandwiches are the bomb.com.  And the scones? Dude. Their SCONES. I think they must put crack in those scones. It’s the only explanation for their being so addictively awesome, right?

Although I’m not a huge pumpkin pie fan, I gotta admit that my favorite scone to get from good old Bucksstar has always been their pumpkin scone. There’s just something about the blend of all those autumn spices that goes SO well with a cup of hot coffee. So when I saw this recipe posted on Bonappetit.com, I jumped at the chance to try it out. It’s really VERY delicious, whether you decide to ice them or leave them plain- I did both and honestly can’t decide which is better.

Scones are so easy to put together and they yield such marvelous results. They also give me an excuse to drink more coffee- and you know I’ll always find ways to do that.

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Pumpkin Scones

Recipe Courtesy of Beauty and Essex via BonAppetit.com 

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Ingredients

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) chilled unsalted butter
  • ½ cup chopped fresh (or frozen, thawed) cranberries
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup canned pure pumpkin
  • ¼ cup buttermilk, plus more for brushing
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar

 Directions

1. Whisk granulated sugar, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, cloves, baking soda, and 2 cups flour in a large bowl.
2. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate in butter, tossing to coat in dry ingredients as you go; toss in cranberries. Mix in egg, pumpkin, and ÂĽ cup buttermilk.

3. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and pat into a 1½”-thick disk. Cut into 8 wedges; transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm, 25–30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 400°. Brush scones with buttermilk and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake until golden brown, 25–30 minutes

Cardamom Print Wafers

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I’ve only done actual Christmas caroling a handful of times in my life- but I remember that I loved it. One of the times I can clearly remember is when I was still in elementary school and the children’s choir went caroling to the governor’s mansion. It was a quiet, slightly snowy night and after we sang a few songs, I can remember being invited inside to a big beautiful ‘house’ where we got served hot chocolate, cookies and candy in a ‘study’ type of room with bright golden lights. As long as you don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t mind if 1 or 2 of the people in your group are off-key and love to laugh, then caroling is a blast. Plus, people usually give you free food as a way to say ‘thank you’.

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Everyone ‘s got their own favorite Christmas carols, and I’m no exception. However, my favorites have shifted throughout the years. Now I’m willing to admit that I just can’t pick one as my favorite. I’ve got several. Okay, more than that.

The Holiday Playlist on my ipod’s got over 100 songs. Yeah. I really love Christmas songs.’

When I was very young, around 5 or 6, my favorite Christmas carol was The First Noel. I loved the melody and would always hum the last part to myself, “Born is the King of Israel,” over and over again.

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Then when I was around 8 or 9, it was Silver Bells- but that was because at the time (mid 90’s), there was a commercial that would constantly come on at Christmas time with the Silver Bells melody playing in the background that I really liked. After that, I think it was Angels We Have Heard on High- although to be honest, I went YEARS without even knowing what some of the lyrics were because I was too young to understand that some of the lyrics were in Latin (“in excelsis deo IS Latin, right? Right??).

Christmastime is Here was my favorite Christmas Carol in middle school; I heard it played once on the piano at a holiday party and just fell in love with it. That one’s still remained one of my favorites over the years, and I have a few versions of it on my playlist, including the Vince Guaraldi classic from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

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Honorable mentions should also go out to Give Love on Christmas Day, The Christmas Song, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Christmas Tree, O What a Merry Christmas Day, All I Want for Christmas Is You, and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Carol of the Bells.

As many of them as I like, there are also other carols that I don’t really care for: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Little Drummer Boy, Silent Night, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Away in a Manger. I guess I just don’t really like the ‘story’ Christmas carols all that much.

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Today’s recipe is super, super easy to put together, but still packs a great punch. These cookies are thin, slightly crisp but still somewhat chewy in the centeer. The cardamom gives it a very unique spicy bite that combined with the cinnamon really reminds me of a delicious Speculoos biscuit. Hands down, these are meant to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea. I decided to leave them plain and just let the design from the cookie stamps speak for themselves- these are honestly good enough to stand without icing or sprinkles.

If you still need to catch up on the 12 Days of Christmas Series we’re doing, I’m still including a list of the past recipes and posts below 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 8: Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Day 9: Biscochitos

Day 10: Cardamom Print Wafers

Cardamom Print Wafers

Recipe Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens Cookies for Christmas

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Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp, ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

 Directions

1. Stir together flour, cardamom, cinnamon and salt.

2. In a small mixer bowl, beat til fluffy, Add egg and vanilla and beat well.

3. Stir in flour mixture till well mixed. Cover and chill about 2 hours, or preferably overnight.

4. Shape into 3/4 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten firmly with a floured cookie stamp or the bottom of a glass with a design in it.

5. Bake in a 350° oven about 8 minutes. Remove and cool.

Brown Sugar Cookies

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Warning: if you’re not a Christmas movie buff, then this post probably won’t make much sense to you. Sorry.

Me and my sister have a thing for running inside jokes related to movie one-liners we think are funny.When we come across one that we all find hilarious, we’ll always find ways to frequently and randomly stick it into conversations to make each other laugh.

Remember that part in the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding where Dermot Mulroney is arguing with Cameron Diaz in the restaurant while Julia Roberts looks on and he screams at her, “My job’s not good enough- I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH!”? Yeah, we use that one all the time. Then there’s the scene with Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz at the end where she’s talking to her in food metaphors. I don’t know how many times I’ve screamed at my sisters, “You’re NEVER gonna be jello!”

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The same goes for Christmas movies. In fact, the classic Christmas movies have so many memorable one-liners to choose from, it’s almost not even funny. Except, it really is.

Take the movie “Love Actually”. Jas and I cannot go a single Christmas season without throwing out a few “I HATE Uncle Jamie!”s at each other. (In British accents, of course.)

Remember in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” where Snoopy is mimicking Lucy as she lectures the gang about the Christmas play until she finally stops and screams out, “No, no! LISTEN all of you!” We throw that one out at each other all the time when we’re trying to get each other’s attention.

We have the entire scene from “A Christmas Story” where Ralphie goes to visit Santa in the department store memorized, but our favorite part is definitely at the end where Ralphie climbs back up the slide to tell Santa he wants the BB gun for Christmas and Santa says: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid. Merry Christmas. Ho, ho, hoooo!” Yeah we mimic the foot shove too. Cause we’re weird like that.

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The newest favorite is from the movie “Jingle All the Way” starring Arnold Schwarznegger where Phil Hartman is in the car at the end with Rita Wilson, “You asked me how to marinate ahi tuna. And I said, all you need is Italian salad dressing.” I don’t know why we find out so funny, but we do. I guess Phil Hartman could literally make anything hilarious.

And of course, what would Christmas be without throwing out a great big, “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” or calling each other a “cotton headed ninny muggins” at least once? (I don’t think I have to say which movie those come from, right? I better not.)

All of those inside jokes and quotes with my sisters have over the years come to make for a lot of fun, hilarious memories for us-and hilarious memories are one of the very best parts about Christmas, am I right? Of course right.

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This past weekend, I was the in-house Cookie Elf…or at least that’s what it felt like. I was in the kitchen from Saturday morning to late Saturday night baking up batch after batch of cookies both for the blog as well as for a community outreach effort to spread some Christmas cheer to some kids. Because if Christmas cheer tastes like anything at all, I’m pretty sure it tastes like cookies. These cookies take on the classic sugar cookie and give it a creative spin, using all brown sugar rather than white. I was really impressed with the results. The cookies bake up thick and brown and almost take on a dark, robustly praline flavor from the brown sugar caramelizing while baking. The original recipe calls for them to decorated using sanding sugar but because I’m super complicated and can’t follow simple instructions, I whipped up a quick confectioner’s sugar glaze and spread them on the cookies instead. I then sprinkled on some Christmas nonpareils. I think they look much better this way than with just plain old sanding sugar, don’t they?

Holy Crap, we’re over  halfway through the 12 Days of Christmas already! 7 days down, just 5 more to go. Thanks to all those who’ve been faithfully following along, but for those that missed a day or two (or more), I’m again including a list of the past days below with links to the previous posts. 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Brown Sugar Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Christmas with Southern Living (1997)

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

 Directions

1. Beat butter at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add brown sugar, beating well. Add egg and vanilla, beating well.

2. Combine flour, baking sofa and salt; add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Refrigerate dough for at least one hour, or preferably overnight.

3. Roll dough to 1/4” thickness between two sheets of wax paper. Cut with 4: cookie cutters. Place 1” apart on parchment paper lined cookie sheets.

4. Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies cool 1 minute on cookie sheets and carefully transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

St. Lucia Buns

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I don’t mean to brag or anything, but my Christmas list as a little kid was never really long or exhorbitant. My mom would even tell you now that we were easy kids to shop for.We never ha a problem sharing, and we grew up with a certain awareness that money didn’t grow on trees and that she didn’t have a whole lot of it. We never asked for anything that we knew would break the bank, so to speak.

In fact I can still look back now and remember there were several particular toys, dolls and games that all  3 of us ‘knew better’ than to ask for. When we did the math on certain toys, we knew that it was just way too expensive to spend money on- not necessarily because we knew we’d get shot down, but because our mom was really the type of parent that would have felt guilty that she could’t afford to buy us the toys that we wanted. I didn’t want to make her feel guilty, so I never raised the subject. But I was still a  kid that could dream.

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Some of those dream toys for me were the line of American Girl dolls and products. Any girl that grew up during the 90’s should understand where I’m coming from with this. The original American girl dolls were based on 5 preteen fictional girl characters that grew up in various stages of American history. Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha and Molly. They each had five short chapter books dedicated to ‘milestone’ events in their lives that were sold alongside the dolls. You could buy the doll, the books and the 5 sets of dresses, accessories and furniture that came with each corresponding book.

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I’ll go right head and say it: in my eyes, an American Girl doll was a status symbol. If you had one, your parents had shelled out some serious cash. The dolls and merchandise were friggin expensive and frankly, overpriced. (Heck, they still are.) But it didn’t stop me from wanting one. Really bad.

Even though we couldn’t afford to buy the American Girl dolls and accessories, we still subscribed to the catalog. It came in the mail around 2 times a year: Christmas and Easter. We all used to have a nickname for it as a joke, our “Dream Wish List,” since we knew we’d never get the stuff inside. Still, we could dream, wish and window shop anyway. I used to pour over that thing like it was a novel sometimes, wishing we could afford to get just one 1 American Girl doll set.

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One of the characters/dolls was named Kirsten, a Swedish girl who immigrated to America with her family as pioneers on the Minnesota plains during the mid 1800’s. Admittedly, she wasn’t my favorite character of the 5, but there is still something about her that’s stuck with me all these years and is of actual relevance to this post. In the Holiday-themed Kirsten chapter book, she prepares what are called St. Lucia Buns for her family in celebration of Christmas. They’re Swedish golden rolls flavored with saffron, rolled into scroll shapes and topped with raisins. The American Girl catalog offered a particular set with the Kirsten doll dressed in a beautiful white dress and sash, a candle wreath crown, and several plastic make-believe St. Lucia Buns on a tray.

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Guys, I must have been a foodie even back then as a little girl because for some reason, I fixated on those St. Lucia Buns almost more than I did on the doll and clothes. I really, really, REALLY wanted to know what they tasted like. I remember figuring that since everything else about American Girl was amazing, the St. Lucia Buns would probably taste amazing as well. But just as I knew I would never get to have an American Girl anything, I also figured I would never get to ever try real, authentic St. Lucia Buns either.

Well, I was only 50% wrong about that. I never did get an American Girl doll or set. But this year, I’ve finally been able to try the buns. And yeah…they ARE amazing. Although they aren’t overly sweet, the one word I would use to describe their overall taste is “rich”. The saffron causes the buns to bake up in such a rich, golden color and they’re just so immensely chewy and soft. I almost immediately wanted to make more after that first  bite.

So thanks American Girl- I guess that catalog WAS good for something after all.

Just a reminder: if you’ve missed the other recipes we’ve done so far in the series, I’m including a list of links to them below!

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

 

 

St. Lucia Buns


Recipe Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp. saffron threads, lightly crushed
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tbsp.  instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup potato flour or 1/2 cup instant potato flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg white (reserved from dough) mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • golden raisins

 

Directions

In a small saucepan set over medium heat milk and saffron to a simmer; remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Set the mixture aside to allow the butter to melt, and for it to cool to lukewarm, 30 to 35 minutes.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, flours, salt and sugar.

Separate one of the eggs, and set the white aside; you’ll use it later.

Pour the lukewarm milk and butter mixture over the dry ingredients. Add the 2 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk, and the vanilla. Mix to combine, then knead for about 7 minutes by mixer, about 10 minutes by hand, till the dough is smooth and supple.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large (8-cup) measuring cup, cover it, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it’s quite puffy, though not necessarily doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Shape the pieces of dough into rough logs, and let them rest, covered, for about 10 minutes.

Roll each log into a 15″ to 18″ rope. They’ll shrink once you stop rolling; that’s OK. Shape each rope into an “S” shape. Tuck a golden raisin into the center of each of the two side-by-side coils, if desired.

Place buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving an inch or so between them. Cover them, and let them rise for about 30 minutes, till they’re noticeably puffy, but definitely not doubled. While they’re rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Brush each bun with some of the egg white/water glaze. Bake the buns until they’re golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. If you’ve used raisins, tent them with foil for the final 3 minutes, to prevent the raisins from burning. Remove the buns from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.