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. šŸ™‚

Happy Baking!

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).

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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 IĀ  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,Ā  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.Ā 
  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.

šŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

 

Tackling the Cookie Table: Why Pinterest Has Made A Wedding Tradition Easier

It’s hard to believe that it’s the end of February. It seems like 2012 just started and now we’re already 2 months in. Crazy. I have a lot of things to accomplish in the next 2 months including: decide what the heck I’m doing with my life, finish my thesis, take comprehensive exams, and find something awesome to wear to 2 different weddings (one for the sister of a fellow Dame and one for my cousin).

But a smashing outfit is not the only thing I have to worry about when it comes to weddings, my cousin’s in particular. No, I have time to worry about a dress and shoes. Right now, my main concern is cookies.

Yes, cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.

You see, here in Northeast Ohio (Western Pennsylvania too), we have this tradition at weddings called the cookie table. And it is epic.

This is one example of a wedding cookie table. Cookie tables range in size and arrangement, but a traditional cookie table is laden with dozens of cookie varieties.

While the wedding cake is still a mainstay of the wedding reception, the cookie table is equally, if not more, important. A traditional part of the wedding reception in the Northeast Ohio/Western Pennsylvania region of the United States, the cookie table is truly a force to be reckoned with. No one is really sure of how it got started or where it actually began, but it’s easy to make an educated guess.

Most likely, the cookie table tradition became prevalent from a combination of the high influx of immigrants that came into this region in early twentieth century and their baking traditions, the expense of an elaborate wedding cake, and the hardships caused by the Great Depression. For a more nuanced explanation, one of my history professors (a Youngstown native) explained that the cookie table was (and still is to a certain extent) all about social power and social debt.

Mothers, aunts, grandmothers, friends, cousins, etc. spend months before a wedding baking and freezing cookies for the big day. Requests go out – “Can you make cookies for s0 and so’s wedding?” The number of cookies you display and the number of people you can get to bake them for the occasion says something about your social power, but it also puts you in debt to the person baking the cookies. They call in that debt later when they need cookies for a wedding.

As for where the cookie table exactly originated, both residents of Youngstown, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania both claim their city to be the birthplace of the cookie table. We’ll probably never really know, but I’m betting on Youngstown.

Today, cookie tables are different at every wedding. It depends on the bride and groom’s preference, the number of cookies people have time to make in this busy world, the size of the wedding, ethnic and religious traditions, and your family’s past usage/experience with the cookie table. My family definitely adheres to the cookie table tradition, but we don’t have anywhere near as elaborate a cookie table as some others do.

That doesn’t mean the cookies are in short supply though. Recipes won’t just be doubled or tripled. Some will be octupled. (Yeah, I know this might not really be a word. But for my cousin’s wedding 5 years ago, my Mum made 8 times the normal recipe for one cookie alone.) Needless to say, I didn’t eat any of those cookies at the wedding, nor do I have an easy time even looking at them now, 5 years later.

IMG_1332 - Copy

 

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So, it’s full speed ahead with the cookie baking. And, all I have to say is: Thank God for Pinterest!

Over the next few months, I’m going to be using Pinterest to seek out some new (to me at least) cookie recipes to make for my cousin’s wedding in June.

I’m going to catalog my cookie baking progress on here where I’ll share the recipes and my take on the cookies I try.

First up is Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies.

Here’s a picture of what they’re supposed to look like:

I hope to make them this weekend, so check back soon to see whether they are cookie table appropriate.

šŸ™‚