Thursday, December 11, 2014

Holiday Shortbread Bites

tiny shortbread cookies

This is one of my favorite cookie recipes--I make it for every cookie-appropriate holiday, switching up the colors of the sprinkles to be festive. They store and travel well, which makes them a great choice for holiday sharing. Kids go nuts for these tiny bite-size cookies, so consider making these for classroom and kid-centric holiday parties.

Holiday Shortbread Bites

Makes about 100 cookie bites
  • 1 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 11/2 tablespoons Christmas nonpareil sprinkles


1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter with the paddle attachment until light; add vanilla extract and confectioner's sugar, beat till combined.
2. Add cornstarch, salt, and flour; beat until dough comes together, sprinkling in the nonpareils as the dough is forming.
3. Remove dough to floured work surface and pat into a rectangle 1/3" thick. Using a ruler as a straight edge, cut dough with a pastry or pizza wheel into 3/4" squares. Place cookies on parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 1/2" of space between them.
4. Bake cookies at 350 degrees F for about 12 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cookies are done when bottoms are golden.
5. Remove to rack to cool; store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week. Freeze for longer storage.

For more beautiful and festive holiday cookies, please stop by and visit the other bloggers in the 'Tis the Season roundup:



Monday, December 1, 2014

'Tis the Season for Snowy Lemon Meltaways

lemon cookies
'Tis the season for cookies, and for week 1, Fruit and Nuts, I'm sharing my Snowy Lemon Meltaways with you. Tiny, delicate shortbreads, these pretty little cookies have a big, bright citrus flavor, perfect for lemon lovers. These keep very well at room temperature, which makes them ideal for gifts. Enjoy!

lemon cookiesSnowy Lemon Meltaways

Yield: 3 to 4 dozen
 6 ounces butter, room temp

  • 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Confectioner's sugar for dusting

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine butter and 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar; process until combined. Add lemon juice and zest and vanilla and process again until combined. 
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, and salt and whisk together. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in food processor and pulse just until the dough comes together.
3. Carefully remove dough from bowl of food processor and divide into 3 logs, about 11/4 inches in diameter. Roll logs in waxed paper or parchment and twist ends to seal. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about an hour.
4. To bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Slice logs into rounds about 1/3 inch thick; place on parchment-lined baking sheet at least an inch apart. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until just golden.
5. Remove cookies to wire racks and let cool for a few minutes to firm up. Place 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar in a resealable plastic bag. Toss still-warm cookies, 3 or 4 at a time, in the sugar, adding more sugar as necessary. Remove cookies to rack to cool completely. Place cooled cookies in an air-tight container and store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Freeze for longer storage.


Don't forget to stop by and visit the other blogs celebrating cookie season...you're in for some serious oven love!


Sunday, November 30, 2014

'Tis the Season...for Cookies!

Hi Everyone,

Finish off the last of your Thanksgiving pies and dust off your holiday cookie jars because tomorrow kicks off Cookie Season! I've invited some of my favorite food bloggers to join me in a month-long celebration of cookie baking.

Each week from here till Christmas, we'll be sharing some of our favorite, tried-and-true cookie recipes with you.

The themes for our collective cookie posts are:

Week 1: Fruit and Nuts—cookies and/or bars featuring fruit and/or nuts, citrus, nut flours, etc.
Week 2: Formed and Decorated—shortbread, spritz, sandwich cookies, rolls, etc.
Week 3: Fancies—cookie-tray stars, cookies that are more like pastries, fudge and candies, etc.
Week 4: Quickies—cookies you can whip up at the last minute for holiday parties, unexpected guests, hostess gifts, etc.

See you tomorrow for the first cookie of Cookie Season!

Cheers,
Sandy

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Pumpkin Spice Chips

Oatmeal Cookies
Recently, as I was strolling through Target, filling my cart with items I hadn't planned on purchasing, a display of these Nestle Pumpkin Spice chips caught my wandering eye. Into the cart they went with the rest of my impulse buys, and the rest is history. 

Tip: These make really yummy ice cream sandwiches. Freeze the cookies so they're easier to work with. Place one cookie top-side-down on work surface; cover with a scoop of vanilla, cinnamon, or pumpkin ice cream; and sandwich with another cookie, pressing gently to spread ice cream to edge of cookies. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until ready to serve. 

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with Pumpkin Spice Chips
Yield: About 3 dozen

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange
2 large eggs
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) Nestle Toll House Pumpkin Spice-flavored morsels
Pumpkin Spice Chips


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in small bowl. Cream butter and sugars; add in vanilla extract, orange zest, and eggs, one at a time. Beat flour mixture into butter mixture in three additions. Stir in oats and morsels. Divide dough into thirds. Place each third on a piece of waxed paper and form into a log. Wrap and chill or freeze for at least an hour.
3. To bake: cut dough logs into 1/2" slices and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 2" between cookies. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to racks to cool completely.
4. Store at room temp in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Freeze for longer storage.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Best Burger Buns

homemade burger buns
There are lots of burger bun recipes out there. What makes this one the "best"? Not only are these buns beautiful and tasty, but they're wonderfully unfussy: all the ingredients go in one bowl. They freeze well, make lovely sandwich rolls, and are largely foolproof. And that, to me, shoots them right up the chart to "best" status. I hope you'll try them; I bet you'll like them as much as I do.

Best Burger Buns
Soft, buttery burger buns with a beautiful crumb.

Yield: 9 buns
  • 6 to 8 ounces warm water
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 31/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 11/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • Sesame seeds or poppy seeds to garnish

    homemade burger buns
  1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Use a spatula to combine ingredients so that all dry ingredients are moistened. Start with 6 ounces of water and add additional water as needed, to 8 ounces.
  2. With dough hook attachment, knead dough on medium speed for three to four minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic and clings to the bottom only of the mixing bowl.
  3. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour, until doubled.
  4. Scrape dough out of bowl onto floured surface and divide into 9 even pieces (approx. 3.25 ounces each). Form each piece into a round and flatten to a disk about 3" in diameter. Line a baking sheet with parchment and arrange the 9 buns on the baking sheet. Cover buns with a tea towel and let rise for about an hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Gently brush buns with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds, if desired. 
  6. Bake buns at 375 degrees F for 13 to 15 minutes, or until tops and bottoms are golden brown. Remove buns from pan and let cool on rack. Enjoy warm or cold.
homemade burger buns
Recipe Note:
If you don't have a stand mixer, you can knead this by hand or even bread machine.
homemade burger buns

Pumpkin Spice Sugar-Roasted Almonds

sugared almonds

I really like homemade gifts, both for giving and for receiving. In this age of biggerbetterfastermore, if someone takes the time to actually make something for me, I'm genuinely touched. Those are the gifts--homemade orange-cranberry bread, knitted potholders--I tend to remember and treasure most.

homemade giftsIf you need a gift for a teacher, hostess, colleague, neighbor, or anyone else who fits into this category, these sugar-roasted almonds are perfect. Not only are they super easy to make, but they're classy and a little bit different.

You can make a double batch, baking 2 pans at a time, which will give you nearly 3 quarts of nuts to give away. I like to put them in small mason jars with plaid flannel or something equally crafty-looking tied around the lid with a piece of twine and a tag. (See Pinterest for two billion fantastic ideas on how to package your homemade gifts.)

These are also great in a gift basket. Put the almonds in a small resealable plastic bag (I get mine at Michael's) and tuck them alongside your cookies, jams, quick breads, and whatnot. They travel well and don't melt, which makes them a great candidate to include in a gift package that will be mailed.

Of course, you don't have to make these only for the holidays, or for giving away. Sometimes I make them just to put in a bowl on the coffee table because I love my family and friends. Try this recipe with pecans or a combination of pecans, walnuts, and almonds and use the nuts to garnish cheesecakes, parfaits, and ice cream.

 Enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Sugar-Roasted Almonds

Yield: About 11/2 quarts
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 teaspoon cold water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 cups raw almonds
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Prepare a rimmed half sheet baking pan by spreading with 1 tablespoon butter. 
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together egg white and cold water until frothy. Whisk in vanilla extract. 
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together sugars, salt, and spices. 
  4. Place almonds in a large mixing bowl. Pour egg-white mixture over and toss with a spatula to coat. Sprinkle sugar mixture over egg-washed almonds; fold gently with spatula until the almonds are coated in sugar mixture.
  5. Pour sugared almonds out onto prepared baking sheet. Bake at 250 degrees F for 1 hour, stirring and turning with a spatula every 15 minutes. 
  6. Let cool completely on pan. Store in air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.
Recipe Note:
  • I like the nice buttery flavor you get by greasing the pan with butter. If you prefer, you can swap pan spray for the butter.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pumpkin Fizz Cocktail

pumpkin cocktail
Watching the Macy's Day Parade with friends and family this Thanksgiving? I love to do this as a brunch gathering before the main event. Serve make-ahead coffee cake and quick breads, breakfast bakes and stratas, baked egg dishes...whatever you can make in advance and heat the morning of, freeing you to get started on your dinner preparations. This is a great way to accommodate out-of-town guests.

This Pumpkin Fizz Cocktail is a spicy, autumnal twist on the traditional mimosa, and is the perfect complement to brunch foods. To make it a mocktail, use sparkling cider.

Pumpkin Fizz

Yield: 1 cocktail

Unexpected effervescence in the form of Prosecco pairs surprisingly well with pumpkin in this fizzy, lightly sweet cocktail. Try this one at brunch on Thanksgiving Day.

1 ounce simple syrup or maple syrup
1 teaspoon pumpkin puree
Pinch pumpkin pie spice
Dash pure vanilla extract
4 ounces Prosecco or brut champagne

1. Stir syrup, pumpkin puree, spice, and vanilla in the bottom of a tall glass or champagne flute.
2. Top off with Prosecco and serve immediately.

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