28 December 2011

Holiday Baking: Wrap-up

So the big day has come and gone, although I like to stretch out the celebrating as much as I can. But I am done with baking! Treats have been shared and enjoyed and the (few) leftovers frozen (I don't know about you but there's only so much sugar and butter I can consume before macrobiotic veganism starts seeming appealing). But I thought I'd share the last couple of recipes, verdicts, and photos.

Ingredients for Supreme Sugar Cookies:

I am egg obsessed--but I think they're so pretty:

The dough all mixed:

Wrapped and ready to be refrigerated for an hour or so:

My selection of Yuletide cookie cutters (Santa, oak leaf, bell, holly leaf, trees, stars, "gingerbread" people, snowman, acorn, and sun):

Rolling out the dough (I love my giant French rolling pin! Easy to use and handy for threatening pilferers):

Ready for the oven. At this point I had two options: brush the cookies with milk and sprinkle with decorative sugars before baking OR bake them as is and ice them when cooled. I'd love to ice them but I usually don't have the time and I don't trust my artistic skills so I went with the former option:

I made good use of red, green, and black coloured sugars; snowflake shaped candies, silver dragees, and regular granulated sugar. Next year methinks I should pick up some blue & yellow sugar too:

I'm especially happy with how the Santas turned out (check out his rocking black boots and white sugar beard):

Supreme Sugar Cookies

[My notes/changes in brackets]

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable shortening [do your heart a favour & get non-hydrogenated shortening like Earth Balance, pictured above. It's not easy to find outside of health food stores but it's totally worth the effort]
1 cup [granulated] sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Mix first 5 ingredients thoroughly together.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Blend into butter mixture, mixing well. Chill at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Roll out dough 1/8" thick and cut into shapes. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 6-8 minutes, until lightly golden [don't overbake!] .

You may lightly brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar before baking, or ice when cooled.

With my cutters I ended up with about 3 dozen.

Next up, Alton Brown's Ginger Cookies. What you need:

What you get (sorry about the lack of photos--time got away from me):

Alton Brown's Ginger Cookies

[My notes/changes in brackets]

1/2 cup (113 g/ 4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (227 g/ 8 oz) dark brown sugar
1 tbs molasses
1 large egg
2 cups (270 g/ 9 1/2 oz) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp (3 g) baking powder
1/2 tsp (3 g) baking soda
2 tsp (12 g) ground ginger
1/4 tsp (2 g) salt
1/4 cup crystallized (candied) ginger, chopped to a small dice

Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger and salt until very well blended.

In a small bowl, beat egg.

Using a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, on medium speed (or by hand): mix the butter alone for a minute to spread around the bowl. Add sugar and molasses slowly and beat until mixture lightens noticeably in texture and increases slightly in volume.

Reduce the speed to "stir" and add the eggs very slowly, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Work in the dry ingredients in three installments. Stir in the chopped ginger.

Roll the dough into two logs, 2" in diameter. Wrap them in wax paper and refrigerate overnight. [Try not to giggle like an idiot while doing this]

The next day, preheat oven to 375F. Prepare cookie sheets by lining with parchment paper, or greasing, and set aside.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut each log into 1/4" slices.

Place the slices on the prepared cookie sheets, and bake for 8-10 minutes until the cookies have a soft set*, rotating the pans after 4 minutes. To rotate pans, move the pans from one oven rack to the other and rotate front to back.

Remove the pans from the oven and move the cookies onto a rack to cool.

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

*Soft set: the centers of the cookies have set, but the cookies are still soft.

Makes about 3 dozen 2" cookies.

And here in one convenient location are all the sweet treats I made:

My Verdicts

Alton Brown's Ginger Cookies: (Old favourite) Other than the fact that I screwed up (I thought I had more candied ginger on hand than I did) these are great! I love the texture and they're easy to make. Next year I'll be stocking up early on candied ginger.

Buckeyes (Old favourite) These were universally enjoyed and they didn't last too long. If you're a fan of chocolate and peanut butter, don't hesitate to make these.

Chocolate Panforte (New recipe) Delicious! Probably my favourite this year, despite the odd instructions. You truly can't go wrong with fruit, nuts, and chocolate. Will definitely be making again (and it keeps well too).

Karithopita (Old favourite but made by me for the first time) I didn't post about this but it's my absolute favourite cake. It's a spiced walnut cake soaked in syrup and I could eat it until I lapse into a sugar coma. I never had the chance to make it before because (1) my mom always did and (2) it makes a lot so even halving the recipe is a but too much for this household. It's perfect for gatherings, though. Luckily I got the recipe from my mom so it tasted just like hers. It unexpectedly domed a little in the middle and my sister thought it was slightly denser but given that the measurements are in the form of highball glasses and soup spoons (my mom wasn't big on measuring cups) I think it turned out just fine. It freezes well too.

Rum Balls (New recipe) Do not give to children or recovering alcoholics! These are strong but good. I personally liked them best when they were out of the fridge for a day but they're still good straight from the fridge. I think we'll be seeing these again (maybe made with a rum chosen for it's smoothness rather than its funny name).

Supreme Sugar Cookies (Old favourite) These are great if you have kids, especially if they like to help with the decorating. A year without them doesn't seem quite right. They do get stale fast, though, so make them at the last minute and keep in an airtight container.

Three Sisters' Spanakopita (New recipe) This was good but definitely not my mom's. For that reason alone I won't be making it again (especially since my sister gave me my mom's recipe afterwards--doh!) But it was still tasty and cheesy. The phyllo was super crumbly, though, and my sister says I should have used regular butter for it, not clarified as the recipe calls for. Something about moisture content--regular butter will make the phyllo crispy but not so crispy that it'll shatter into a thousand pieces when you cut it. Good to know for next time.

Whipped Shortbread (Old favourite) Excellent, as always. We didn't get to give quite as many away as I would have liked because we apparently have a shortbread gnome that likes to help himself ;) Making a double batch isn't a bad idea.

I hope your holidays were filled with family, friends & delicious food!

Photos by Domicile

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