Cookie Table Project, Part Deux: Spritz Cookies

You’d think that since summer was over that would also mean that wedding season was over too — but not for me! In fact, my wedding season is just getting started for 2013. And, just like last year, that means cookies. If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, check out my series of posts from 2012 talking about the Cookie Table tradition that we have here in Northeast Ohio.

My cousin gets married in two weeks and my mom and I have been making a variety of cookies for the event. Last year, I blogged about how Pinterest helped me find new cookie recipes. This time around though, I decided to focus on tried and true recipes that I or my family have been making for awhile.

First up: Spritz Cookies.

Spritz cookies are great because they’re versatile. You can make them using a cookie press (like in this recipe) or you can simply make the dough, roll it into balls, and drop them on the cookie sheet. They really don’t need frosting or a lot of ornamentation — a little decorative sugar is a perfect complement. They’re also a great Christmas cookie to make.

photo (3)Makes 6-7 dozen small cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup margarine, softened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Decorative sugar

Equipment Needed:

  • Stand or hand mixer
  • Spatula
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Electric or manual cookie press (optional)*
  • Cooking spray
  • Cookie sheets
  • Cookie cooling racks

*If using a cookie press, I highly recommend purchasing an electric one.

Instructions:

1. With the mixer, combine the margarine and shortening. Beat thoroughly approximately 2 minutes.

2. Once the margarine and shortening are thoroughly beaten, add the sugar gradually. Continue to beat the mixture for approximately 5 minutes until it becomes light and fluffy.

3. Add the egg and vanilla extract. Continue to beat the mixture.

4. Add baking powder. Gradually add flour, mixing the dough slowly until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Mix well for approximately 1 minute, making sure you stop to scrape the sides of the bowl to incorporate any lingering ingredients.

5. Once fully mixed, the cookie dough will be stiff.

6. If you are using a cookie press, now is the time to assemble and fill it. Please follow the directions included with your cookie press as they differ from one brand to another. For this recipe, I used a Cuisinart Cookie Press (available for less than $30). If you are not using a cookie press, simply make drop cookies.

Using a cookie press takes practice. Do not expect to make "prefect" cookies the first time you use a cookie press.

Using a cookie press takes practice. Do not expect to make “perfect” cookies the first time you use a cookie press.

7. Once you have assembled and filled your cookie press with dough, press the cookies onto a greased cookie sheet. Leave approximately 1-2 inches between each cookie.

I used the Flower design.

I used the Flower design.

8. Decorating the cookies with sugar is optional, but since the color scheme for this wedding is purple, I went with purple decorative sugar.

photo_2

9. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly golden brown. Reduce temperature to 325 if needed. Be careful not to overbake.

10. Remove cookies from cookie sheet immediately and place on cooling rack.

11. Serve and enjoy!

photo_2 (3)

 

Cookie Table Project #2 – M&M Cookies

If you had asked me a month ago how often I’d be able to blog during the month of May, I probably would have said often. Well, it’s May 23rd and this is my first blog post for the month of May. Worse yet, I started my Cookie Table series of posts a long time ago and have only given you one recipe. Don’t worry — I promise I will be better about this. Look for several cookie-related posts in the next 2 weeks. My cousin’s wedding is just around the corner, so cookies need to be made soon. Especially be on the lookout for the Thumbprint Cookie recipe that I plan on blogging about sometime next week — it’s not to be missed!

As I discussed in my last post, things have been crazy. I finished my thesis and it was approved by my committee and by the Dean of the graduate school. Oh yeah, and I graduated on Saturday. So did Abbie! Yay for the Master’s Degree Dames!

Here’s a picture:

 

So, now that graduation is over, I have a lot of free time and I plan on blogging more.

And with that, I give you my new favorite M & M cookie recipe:

 

Red’s Ultimate M&M’s Cookies

Unlike the Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies I blogged about in March, I didn’t get this recipe from Pinterest. Instead, I used good old Google to find a good M&M cookie recipe. And who better to turn to than M&M’s themselves for a perfect recipe?

Even though I made them completely from scratch, these cookies were relatively simple to make and only took me about 1 hour from dough to cooling rack.

I modified the recipe slightly by using margarine instead of butter, and I have written the recipe on this blog post to reflect that change, but the link above will take you to the M&M’s website which has the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup margarine, softened (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed firmly
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1- 12 ounce package mini M&M’s candies

 

Directions:

1. In a large bowl or in any stand mixer (I use my awesome KitchenAid Mixer), combine the margarine, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Beat mixture until is it blended well.

2. To this mixture, add the egg and the vanilla. Beat for approximately 1 minute until the mixture is well blended and creamy.

3. Add the flour and baking soda. Add the flour one cup at a time and blend after each cup, that way the flour won’t go flying when you turn the beaters back on.

 

4. Mix the flour and baking soda into the sugar mixture well, until it looks like this:

Don’t mind my Christmas mini M&M’s — they were leftover from the holidays. Can’t let them go to waste!

5. Finally, add the 12 ounce bag of mini M&Ms to the dough and fold them in using a spoon or spatula. Do NOT use the mixer to mix in the M&Ms — you’ll end up with broken M&Ms and a mess (especially if using a traditional mixer or hand mixer with the 2 metal beaters).

6. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and grease cookie sheets with non-stick cooking spray. I use two cookie sheets at a time to make things go faster.

7. Drop approximately 2 teaspoons worth of dough for each cookie, placing each cookie 1 and 1/2 to 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. I can get 12 cookies on each cookie sheet.

8. Bake cookies for 10-13 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges. They will still be soft in the middle. As the M&M website says, be careful not to overbake them.

This recipe makes about 50 cookies and they taste really good.

Definitely by careful about how long you bake them — if you leave them in too long, they tend to flatten out and become hard and crispy.

I’m not sure if I’ll make these for my cousin’s wedding, but they were fun and delicious to make anyway. 🙂

Happy Baking!

Channeling Stress Into Something Worth Sharing

It’s 6:58 a.m. on a Friday morning. The one day of the week that I don’t have to be up early to go to classes or be productive early in the morning. Why so Jeannette, you may ask?

It’s the last week of the semester. Finals weeks is right around the corner. Who could sleep knowing how much has to get done in the next few days? Oh, and my kitten was wide awake and in my face by 6:30 a.m., but we’ll just chalk it up to the impending doom that is finals week.

Finals week comes but twice a year (three, if you’re lucky 😉 and it never fails to sneak up on you…or  maybe that’s just me. Perhaps it’s not finals week that is so stressful for me at this point. It may just be everything else leading up to finals week, particularly the last week of classes, that makes me question how I’m ever going to survive another 5 or 6 years of this. Stress levels are heightened, tensions are high, and people are cranky. Relationships are questioned, memories are replayed of how you possibly could have missed those two extra points that will now prevent you from getting that A, and all you want to do is take a quick break from the craziness around you.

At this point, some people may resort to doing something destructive. Drinking too much, gambling away your life’s savings, or even just completely shutting down and pretending the world around you doesn’t exist. Me? I bake.

I’ve often found baking to be a relatively stress free activity. With baking, you have the world at your fingertips. You can bake anything and everything you’ve ever wanted. You can try out that old family recipe for homemade apple pie, or you can test out your knowledge of how ingredients interact and end up with something really great (…or sometimes in my case, something that won’t be worth recreating). Whatever the case may be, I channeling my stress into bake. At the end, you’re left with a delicious treat that can be shared…or kept for yourself :)…and you’ve managed to make other people happy (hopefully) too. Perhaps that’s another reason I like baking so much. I like to share and it makes me happy when other people are happy.

 So, yesterday I was feeling particularly stressed out. This is the result.

 

Peanut butter cookies and fudge brownies.

I wish I had a takeaway message from this post. I’m not sure there is one, but I guess the point is that being stressed out doesn’t mean you have to cope with it negatively (oh my goodness, can you hear the psychologist in me coming out?). Bake and share. Take pictures and enter them in a contest. Go for a run and get in shape for that upcoming race. Whatever the case may be, you can find a way to channel your stress into something positive 🙂

Happy baking to you all ❤

Cookie Table Project: Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies

Note: This is part one of a double post (the posts, though, are unrelated and do not have to be read in order).

———————————————————————————————————————————–

In my last post, I gave you a little history lesson on the cookie table and previewed the first cookie I was going to try in my little “cookie experiment” in the months leading up to my cousin’s wedding.

The first cookie I  tried was: Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies. I found the recipe through Pinterest, but the original recipe can be found on the TidyMom.net blog.

Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies

Makes about 5 dozen small cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Lemon Cake Mix (approximately 18 oz)
  • 8oz. Cool Whip (thawed)
  • 1 egg*
  • Powdered Sugar

Baking Tools:

  • Parchment Paper
  • Stand or Hand Mixer
  • Cookie Sheet(s)

Parchment paper is essential for making this recipe. Plus, it makes cleaning up a breeze!

 

Directions:

  1. If your Cool Whip is frozen, make sure to thaw it completely before starting.
  2. In a bowl, combine the cake mix,  Cool Whip, and egg.
  3. Beat the mixture well, for 1-2 minutes, until all ingredients are fully incorporated into one another. The dough will be slightly sticky and look a little like taffy.
  4. Place approximately 1/2 cup of powdered sugar in a small bowl (to roll the cookies in before placing them on the baking sheet.)
  5. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper. IMPORTANT: Do NOT use wax paper. Wax paper should not be used to bake with and is not an alternative for parchment paper.
  6. Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into the powdered sugar, completely coating the dough ball before placing it on the cookie sheet. 
  7. Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

    These are what the cookies look like when about 2/3 of the way done. They will still be soft when you take them out, but leaving them sit for a minute or so will make them firm.

  8. Cookies will be soft when first removed from oven.
  9. Cool cookies on a rack.
  10. Eat!

 

Tips:

  • *A commenter on the TidyMom.net blog suggested using 2 eggs for a fluffier cookie. I might try this next time. My cookies were a little flat, but not so flat that they were a failure.
  • Thaw your Cool Whip but keep it cold. The colder the Cool Whip is, the easier the dough is to handle. I definitely noticed that as the dough got warmer, the cookies didn’t come out as nice.
  • Watch out for the powdered sugar! Coating the dough leaves a lot of powdered sugar on the baked cookies and if you inhale the wrong way, you’re left with a powdered sugar-induced coughing fit. Haha!

 

The Verdict:

These cookies were amazing. Plain and simple. They were light and slightly chewy. Just lemony enough without being overpowering and not overly sweet. I will definitely make them again and hope to make them for my cousin’s wedding. The only downside to them is that I don’t think they are the kind of cookie that will freeze well, so I’d have to make them close to the event.

🙂

 

 

 

 

 

We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Theme Post for… Sugar Cookie Truffles!

Man, oh man. Wow. I think I out-Betty-Crockered myself this past weekend. Yesterday was Brian’s birthday, but since he’d have to work on his birthday, I decided to do a bunch of birthday things for him on our long weekend off. I took him to see The 1940s Radio Hour at YSU on Friday night, since we both have an appreciation for theatre and jazz, among the other fine art-sy type things we’re into. (Someday I’ll write about the collaborative painting we’ve been working on for quite some time now…) Since he’s been on midnights, we basically left for the show right after he woke up, but that gave the pulled pork I was making in the crockpot plenty of time to cook. When we got home, the best pulled pork I’ve ever had was ready; I cooked up a couple of sweet potatoes and cornbread to go along with the sandwiches.

Still feeling rather ambitious, I decided to try the recipe for sugar cookie truffles I’d found on Pinterest, and I’m pretty certain they’re the best desert/confection/any food type I’ve ever made. They’re pretty easy to make, too. However, I’ll admit that they’re a bit time consuming, and you don’t get as many as you’d think you would (16 cookies yielded 20 truffles), but they’re worth it. Totally. In fact, I’ve been commissioned to make them for my sister’s bridal shower, so I should probably get started on those…

Sugar Cookie Truffles

I can’t claim that I created these, but God bless the Dame who did. This is the recipe I used to make them, but I’ll include my own translation of the pictures in the process.

Ingredients
– 1 16oz package of sugar cookie dough (I used Pillsbury)
– 1.5oz of room temp cream cheese (I didn’t think this was enough, so I used 2oz, and it worked fine. I also checked around other sites for how much cream cheese they used, because I was certain that I’d need much more. No. 2oz is fine.)
– 1 cup white chocolate chips (Good thing I bought a 2 cup bag…)
– 1 T. shortening (I skipped this and they turned out fine)
– Sprinkles for garnish

Bake these according to the instructions on the package. You want them crispy, not soft or burnt. My package yielded 16 cookies.

Once they’ve had plenty of time cool, it’s time for the fun part. Since Brian doesn’t have a food processor, I went old school. Metal bowl, large metal soup ladle. Towards the end, I used a small can of green beans. Worked just as well. Crush the cookies until they’re a fine crumb. Keeping a glass of milk handy is also essential.

After the cookies have been thoroughly crushed, add the cream cheese in to the mix. Again, I’m sure this would be a breeze if you had a food processor, so… I washed my hands again and dug in. It wasn’t too terrible. Mix it in till it forms more of a sugar cookie… gravel? You’ll be able to smoosh these little bits together into a ball to make the truffle. Like I said, my mix created about 20 1″ truffles. You’ll want to put these in the fridge for about an hour or so to chill. Just… chill. 🙂 Before you take them out of the fridge, melt the chocolate chips. This was probably the most difficult part for me. I did the first cup of chips according to the recipe, adding the shortening and microwaving for 30sec. intervals. My chips were a little melty, so I tried again, and ended up with something not resembling melted chocolate at all, but more like packed brown sugar. I have no idea what happened. I tried the second cup of chips in a large soup bowl for three 25sec. intervals, and that seemed to do the trick. Also, prepare a small bowl with the sprinkles.

Roll chilled sugar cookie balls in the melted chocolate, and then dip one side in the sprinkles; place truffle back on the sheet. You can put the truffles in the fridge to set, or just leave them out for a little bit. Seriously takes just about no time for the chocolate to harden. Try not to eat them all right after you’re done so you can get a picture like this…

I hope you enjoy these! I know they were certainly a hit with my family!