Thursday, December 17, 2009

:: Holiday Baking, Butter Galore ::

Holiday baking time has begun! In past years I haven't done much of this, because for many years I worked in bakeries. There didn't seem to be much point in making my own cookies (etc.) from scratch when I could bring home top-quality goods from work for free or at a major discount. But this year I am all about the baking, all about the butter!

Most of my cookie recipes this year are coming from Chatelaine's November issue, which has this great feature for Christmas cookies. There are over fifty recipes, but they are only based on about eight basic ones, and the extras are add-on ingredients and tweaks. All the dough in the recipes is also easily frozen, and I will be doing some of that (if I can stop baking them and eating them myself) because I'll be gifting my goods this year.

I bought myself a few new cookie cutters here and there in the last couple of months (at a dollar or so each they're a guiltless indulgence) to add to my measly and boring collection. Then I found a set of ten Christmas-themed cutters at Winners, which came in a tin. (My family has a thing for tins, I tell ya.) There is only one true dud in the tin - the little man. He has a very strange and lumpy figure, but luckily my original collection had a much cuter man.

I started off with Gingerbread Cookies, because I don't think I've ever made them myself before! I had also never piped icing onto my own cookies. That part was fun and didn't take too long. I separated the dough into four discs like the recipe instructed, but only made rolled cookies out of two of the discs. The dough was difficult to roll (although the recipe had a tip to roll the dough between two sheets of waxed paper, which helped) and it was even more difficult to lift the shapes once I had cut them. The other two discs I baked into the Sugar Crackle and Snowball Crackle variations at the bottom of the recipe. They were easy to do and very pretty in a simple way. I will make them again, but I think I'll under-bake them because I like chewy cookies. For my tin-gifting, I did one batch of regular Ginger to turn into the Crackle cookies, and another batch with cocoa in it to make the Chocolate Crackle.

:: my first attempt at piping icing onto cookies ::

The recipe didn't include instructions to make icing, so I found one that worked well in my (new, $5) piping bag. I had fun decorating them, especially the teapot (my favourite). I can't seem to find the recipe online again, but it was basically icing sugar with a little lemon juice and milk added, until I got the right consistency. It's a bit shiny when it hardens, which doesn't take too long, and it was easy to pipe.

Next up was the recipe for Lemon Icebox Cookies, which were super easy, and I love them. They are the perfect mixture of lemon tartness, butter, and vanilla sweetness. I have eaten way too many of them in the past couple of days. The dough was so quick to make and the logs were easy to shape and wrap for the refrigerator. Cutting them to go into the oven was a breeze, even with my dull-as-shit knife. I've done one batch of plain lemon for the tin-gifting more with chopped chocolate kneaded in, and the chocolate logs rolled in chopped-up almonds.

I followed the recipe exactly, except for the part that reads "1 large lemon". I didn't have one of those, only a small guy. So I zested my entire lemon, and then zested an orange, too. The lemon did yield enough juice for the drizzly-icing, which is the perfect touch for these cookies. I just drizzle the icing in a back-and-forth motion over the cookies when they're on the cooling rack (and cool). The recipe made a lot of icing, and the leftovers are in the fridge for the next batch which will be for the tins.

:: Cranberry Lime Shortbread on the left and Mum's Sugar Cookie dough on the right ::

I also followed Chatelaine's recipe for Cranberry Orange Shortbread, but substituted lime zest for orange. (Thanks for the idea, Bethany!) I also pressed a cranberry into the top of each cookie. I think I over-did it with the lime zest and added too much, but the extra lime is a bit exciting. I baked these already (shortbread is better when it's aged a bit) and it's taking all my will power not to break into the tin in the cupboard and eat them. They are supposed to be for gifting!

:: close-up of the shortbread - it's hard to see the lime zest flecks but they're green ::

I also made my Granma's recipe for Almond Crescents, which are a very shortbread-like cookie, and don't have a lot of sugar in the dough because they are rolled in granulated sugar when they're still hot from the oven. These cookies are sublime with a cup of tea, and the double batch I baked on Sunday is also sitting in the cupboard in tins because they age very well.

:: this WHOLE tin is filled to the brim with Almond Crescents, 
and there's another, too! ::

So my plan for Sunday (my last day off before Christmas) is to bake all the dough in my fridge and freezer. Then the cookies will be packed into the tins I bought (very cheaply - the same price as the gift boxes the store carries) in between layers of parchment. I also did a double-batch of my Mum's Sugar Cookie dough recipe, but I'll roll and bake those on Saturday so I can decorate them on Sunday with the icing I used on the Gingerbread Cookies above and this stuff.

:: close-up of Almond Crescents ::

More pictures and recipes to come!


Kim said...

Yummy! I cannot wait to start baking. We usually hostThanksgiving but went to New York this year for that, so Christmas will be for baking. I am so ready for the smells, and mixing and of course eating as I go. I love your cookies-you did a great job with the piping. The teapots are my favorite too!

Destini said...

Oh, those cookies look soooo yummy! I was looking back over some posts, William is adorable! My son, Trace, will be 4 in April and has achondroplasia. Can't wait to follow your adventures!