Cookie Extravaganza, Part 1

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The holidays bring about those moments when I get out the rolling pin, my arsenal of cookie recipes and flour…lots of flour. Every year Liv and I break out the cookie cutters and bake hundreds of cookies for family and neighbors. I try to keep our tradition of decorating cookies and creating care packages for people we care about alive so Liv will carry it on when she has her own family. We have some favorites we make every year, but we also try out new ones each year to see what we might like to add to our cache.  When the kids were younger I would invite all their friends and cousins over to decorate cookies with us. I would spread out the candies and food coloring and let them have at it.

One of our new favorites from this year is the gingerbread dough pictured above. It is a recipe I found on Food Network. It is courtesy of Paula Deen and is posted below. I followed the recipe exactly and the dough was perfect. It rolled out well, was easy to cut and had that nostalgic gingerbread flavor I always crave around the holidays.

Recipe courtesy Paula Deen for Food Network Magazine
Gingerbread Boys and Girls Gingerbread Boys and GirlsTotal Time:
2 hr 30 min
Prep:
35 min
Inactive:
1 hr 35 min
Cook:
20 minYield:
18 to 20 cookies, depending on cutter sizeLevel:
Intermediate

Ingredients

For the cookies:
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 stick salted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Using a mixer on low speed, cream the brown sugar and butter in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Mix in the eggs and molasses.

Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in another bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix with a spoon. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap; place in the refrigerator until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350. Let the dough sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes, until pliable. Line 1 or more cookie sheets with parchment paper. Take about 1/2 cup dough at a time and roll on a floured surface until – to 1/4-inch thick. Cut out shapes with 5-by-3-inch gingerbread boy and girl cookie cutters. (Re-roll the scraps.) Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheets, leaving space between them. Refrigerate the cookies for 20 minutes, then bake until they just begin to brown at the edges, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Liv and I also tackled traditional sugar cookies, but with not as much success. I usually stick with a killer shortbread cookie dough, but it is a boatload of room temperature butter and we were hosting a holiday party with a cookie station so I needed something a little more streamlined. Unfortunately, it did not work out the way I wanted. I again turned to Food Network for a recipe and found what looked to be a solid recipe. I think it could have worked out if I had reduced the amount of sugar to allow for a softer dough with less of a grainy texture. We made do though and it was entertaining. We were able to roll out about half the amount of cookies for the dough we made. I microwaved it for 10 seconds to melt the butter some and then quickly rolled it out with lots of elbow grease to keep it sticking together. Then I sprinkled water on it and rolled lightly. With those steps I was able to salvage some cookies. It was not pretty though, we plastic-wrapped our whole island, there was flour everywhere and dough was stuck to everything, including us. In the end, what we were able to bake turned out pretty tasty.
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Recipe courtesy of Food Network
Ingredients2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Coarse sugar, aka sanding or crystallized sugar
Royal Icing, recipe follows
Royal Icing:
5 tablespoons meringue powder (egg white powder)
6 tablespoons water
1 pound confectioners’ sugar (about 3 3/4 to 4 cups or 1 box)
Food coloring, as desiredDirectionsWhisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat the butter and both sugars in another medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 30 seconds. Add the egg yolks, vanilla and orange zest mixing until fully incorporated. Slowly add the flour mixture, and continue beating until the dough comes together, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

For rolled cookies: Roll about a tablespoon of dough by hand into a ball. Dip 1 side of the balls into some coarse sugar and place them sugar-side-up on an ungreased baking sheet, leaving about 1-inch between cookies.

For sliced cookies: Divide dough in half, roll by hand into 2-inch-wide logs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Cut the logs into 1/4-inch-thick cookies and place them on ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 1-inch between cookies.

For cutout cookies: Divide dough in half, pat into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Roll dough between lightly floured parchment, or waxed paper, until about 1/3-inch thick. Transfer sheets to a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Cut into desired shape using a cookie cutter, place them on ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 1-inch between cookies. (Gather the dough scraps together, pat into a disk, chill and reroll.)

Refrigerate cookies while preheating the oven to 375 degrees F, for at least 30 minutes.

Bake the cookies, until the bottoms are golden, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on shape. Cool on sheets until firm enough to transfer to a rack to cool. Decorate as desired and serve, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

 

Next up, cookie bark, hazelnut shortbread and chai cheesecake!

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