Christmas Cookies

Now that Thanksgiving if officially over, we can start thinking about Christmas!

For this year’s Christmas cookies, I’ve been meaning to try out Sugarbelle’s sugar cookie recipe because she mentioned that the dough did not need to be refrigerated which would be huge plus!  The reason why I have been less than enthusiastic about baking and decorating roll out cookies until recently is that the process is a royal pain in the you-know-where.  The recipe I had been using previously is a almond sugar recipe with lots of butter and powdered sugar which tastes absolutely divine.  In fact, I would get frequent requests for the recipe because it tasted so good.  However, all that butter which makes it so good also makes it very soft and difficult to handle.  I have to make the dough, refrigerate it for a few hours, roll it out, refrigerate again until the rolled out dough is firm enough, cut out the shapes, peel away the excess dough around the shapes, refrigerate until the shapes are firm enough, then and only then, can the shapes be transferred to a baking sheet to be baked.  On top of that you have to color the icing all the different colors in stiff AND flooding consistencies….  You can see why I had rolloutcookie-phobia!

So I really had high hopes for this recipe.  It started out just like any other sugar cookie dough, with the butter and icing sugar  creamed together to which you add the eggs and then the dry ingredients.  I found that I needed to add a little more flour because the dough was still quite sticky even after I added all the flour.  Finally, I had to go against Sugarbelle’s word and stick the dough in the fridge.  I must say that ten minutes in the fridge really helped.  The dough was quite easy to handle, although I did have to put it back in the fridge after cutting out the shapes since they were not quite firm enough to be transferred onto the baking sheet.

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Although the dough did need to be refrigerated, it was still easier to handle than the almond cookie recipe, plus it did not spread out so much and did not puff up as much.  It also tasted good, and you can always experiment with different flavorings.  I added almond and lemon this time which worked well.  Funnily enough, the cookies tasted a little salty, so I think I will halve the salt next time.

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I cut out some Christmas shapes and decorated the them with fondant and royal icing.  I also tried a new technique, namely the quilting (or tufting) technique which really required a lot of patience!  Basically you draw the little squares on the cookie (with edible markers, of course!) and fill in alternate squares, let them dry for 10 minutes, then fill in the rest.  I first used a number 5 tip (with the pink cookie) which I found was too big for a job like this.  It was difficult to get into the little corners with this number 5 tip and I ended up having to use a toothpick to get into all the corners.  So then I tried the number 3 tip (the blue cookie) which worked a lot better.  I dusted the blue cookie with luster dust which gave it a nice pearly sheen.  I think the most challenging part of the quilting technique and one that will take a lot of practice is to get the icing to stay just on the lines as much as possible without going over into the adjacent square.  You don’t want the icing to go over but also don’t want it to be too “contained” which will create gaps between the squares.  This is also important for the outline which can look all crooked if you’re not careful.

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All in all, it was a fun “experiment”, and I can’t wait to try other cookie/cake decorating techniques.

I just discovered Arty McGoo’s blog yesterday which just made me speechless.  Can you believe her attention to detail?  Really, there are just so many amazing cookiers out there!

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How are YOU getting ready for Christmas?

Spices for Christmas Baking Plus Mustafa

In preparation for Christmas baking workshops that I will be conducting in early December, I ventured out to Mustafa (“If you can’t find it in Mustafa, it doesn’t exist”) on a quest to gather holiday spices.

I always get a kick out of visiting ethnic markets and salivate at the sight of exotic foods and products with never-heard-of names.  Not only is Mustafa open 24 hours, it is also humongous and sells everything you can ever imagine.  Kinda like Target or Walmart but ten times bigger.  I headed up to the 2nd floor where the market is located and proceeded to peruse the aisles.

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I was greeted by what must have been at least 100 different kinds of rice, albeit mainly basmati.  Wading through the vast space, I ran into the baking section.  Joy!

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But I”m not here to get baking supplies.  I’m here to get spices!  Did I find them?  You bet I did.  A whole aisleful of them!

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Oh, I wish I had a better picture!  The best part is that, on the whole, you can get ingredients for much cheaper than at your neighborhood grocery store.  In fact, Betty Crocker Super Moist cake mixes were $2.50 here as opposed to $4.50 at Fair Price!

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The result of today’s trip 🙂

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I have a feeling that I will be returning to Mustafa very soon….!