Christmas Cookies and Other Goodies

Baking date: December 22 & 23, 2016

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted an update. I was dealing with a bulging disc, sciatica and terrible pain. I’ve been in PT to right my back issue, as well as on medication for pain. Thanks for your patience as I had to keep focused on work, family, and recovery.

I’m much better now and happy to share some of the baking a did before and after this bout with back issues. This Christmas I did the baking while hopped up on some serious pain medications, so if you see any errors, I’m going to blame it on that!

Each year I bake for the kids on my oldest son Alex’s baseball team. This includes kids he plays with now, and those we played with for many years, but have moved on to more competitive teams that pull from a larger talent pool.

I make goody bags for each family that include candies (bite size things like Snickers, KitKats, Kisses, etc.) and mini-breads (pumpkin, snickerdoodle, gingerbread, and banana). I also made sugar cookies with royal frosting, chocolate sugar cookies, and gingerbread cut out cookies. Bakers note: I substitute 1 tablespoon of almond extract for one of the tablespoons of water when making my royal icing. I think it gives the icing a much better taste.

This is a big effort, so I take vacation days to do this. The recipe I use for the sugar cookies and chocolate sugar cookies both involve extra steps/time of refrigerating the dough before rolling out (sugar), rolling out and refrigerating (chocolate sugar) and refrigerating again once cookies have been cut (sugar), before baking.

This was my kitchen island before everything got underway. My supplies include my favorite apron from a job years ago, the mega mini-bread pan, recipes, and cookie cutters:

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This year, I decided to personal Santa cap cookies. In a previous years, I used the stocking shape when personalizing.

There’s lots of prep work that goes into getting decorating ready. You can see the mini breads in the bucket and more cut out cookies in the containers with red tops. As I captioned this when I posted it to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook: “Santa has his workshop, I have mine”.

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I used red (no taste) and leaf green to color a portion of the royal icing. I also had a wide variety of sugar pearls, sugar sprinkles, and other edible decorations. Each Santa cap had a unique design. And I started with a #1 Wilton tip to pipe on the names, but I found that the royal icing would clog this very narrow tip.

So I moved to a #2 tip, but found that it was too wide. I had to move from full first names to initials. Baker’s note: I asked Wilton via their Facebook page about how to make the icing more “pipeable” and clog less. They suggested I sift the powdered sugar before mixing with meringue powder and water. I did that the next time — in addition to adding a tad more water when using a #1 tip — and it worked much better for the next personalization project I did. Also, holding the piping bag straight up was an improvement, so recipe tweaks plus technique tweaks helped do the trick.

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You can see the first few I piped on names using the #1 tip. I quickly moved to the #2 tip, but the names were too runny to continue with that…

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So, on to initials it was. For some families with multiple same initials, I added a number at the end. The JK family are big Ravens fans, so I put purple and black jimmies on their hats. The one pink hat is for a friend who is a breast cancer survivor.

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Here’s where I moved from full names with the #2 tip to initials

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Of course, there was a special hat for my friend Brian, who is the biggest fan of the movie Christmas Vacation that I know.

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There were also some extra generic Santa hats and lots of star cut out cookies.

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And finally, there was a Fireball fudge that I put in the goody bags of my closest baseball mom pals!

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I cut it into small pieces so no one would over indulge.

On Christmas Eve, I take my son Alex with me and we make deliveries of the goody bags to everyone. We have plastic bags to put the red or gold paper bags in (should have taken a picture of the goody bags, shouldn’t I?!) for folks who may not be home.

He asked me recently, “mom, why is this such a big deal to you.”  So I shared a story with him and decided I would put a note with the story in each of the bags:

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Christmas Cookies for Co-workers

Baking date: December 18, 2016

Each year, I bake goodies for my co-workers during the Christmas holidays. This year, I focused on cut-out cookies in a variety of shapes – snowmen, Christmas lights, mittens, stars and snowflakes.

The cookies were chocolate sugar cookies and regular sugar cookies. These cookies take some extra time to set in the frig (the regular sugar cookies are refrigerated twice), so make sure you have planned out your day of baking to include time for it.

I used colored sugars and sugar pearls to decorate the cookies rather than royal icing (don’t worry, I will post about another batch of Christmas cookies where I did use royal icing). Here are the cookies, which my co-workers were grateful to snack on throughout the day.

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You can see a missing star cookie from this sheet – my son always offers to taste-test cookies for me.

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As you can see, not every cookie will accept sprinkles

Mother’s Day Baseball Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Baking date: May 7, 2016

For the past 5 years – with the exception of last year — I have spent my Mother’s Day at the baseball field watching my oldest son play on a travel team. While most moms might be disappointed at sharing “their” day with other families at the ball field, I consider it part of being a mom, and a true reflection of what being a mom is all about – supporting your kid in their pursuits.

It’s also brought some amazing memories — like the year we got a picture with the players and moms. It is still one of my favorite memories of being a sports mom.

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2012 10U Walkersville Lions on Mother’s Day

Since I bake goodies for every weekend game, I made special cookies for the moms on this Mothers Day. I started by using the recipe for chocolate sugar cookies. I used a recently purchased plaque cookie cutter (the one on the right in the photo).

I decorated the cookies using royal icing. I flooded the main part of the cookies in white. I then dyed some of the icing red (no taste), and some royal blue. I used the red to pipe the baseball stitching on each end of the cookie, into the white base. I also piped the each players number and the word MOM into the white base. Finally, I outlined the white base in royal blue. Here’s what the decorated cookies looked like:

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I made one special cookie for the head coach. He lost his mother this past Fall, so I made him this cookie because his family called her “Mom Mom”.

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And thankfully, I had made a generic Mom cookie, because we had one kid who played with us that day as a fill in.

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With the remaining cookie dough, I made round cut outs and using the three colors of royal icing, made a check pattern on top of the cookies. With the last of the dough, I had shaped it into an oval cookie and decorated it with red, white, and blue, and little red hearts. I gave that to one of the grandmothers at the game.

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The one downside to these cookies was transporting them and waiting for the end of the game to hand them out. I had placed each cookie in a sandwich bag, and this is what they looked like (even though it wasn’t particularly hot that day, and I had placed the container in the shade):

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I had decorated them that morning, so it’s possible if I had done it the evening before, the icing would have had more time to set. Even so, according to the moms, they tasted good!

There’s still time to perfect this, as we have baseball games on Fathers Day!

Valentine Cookies for Co-Workers

Baking date: February 15, 2016

I usually make goodies for my colleagues at the office during holidays. Valentine’s Day is no exception.

Using the chocolate sugar cookie recipe that is now a go-to fav, I made mini-heart-shaped cookies. There were a bunch that were decorated to be like conversation hearts, and the rest were decorated with sprinkles. I made royal icing (I always substitute a tablespoon of water with a tablespoon of almond extract – it makes the icing taste better), separated it and colored it leaf green, violet, golden yellow, and rose. I used the colors sparingly so that they would be more pastel. I outlined the hearts in the colors and used the remaining icing to flood them.

For the conversation hearts, I colored a bit of the royal icing red for writing on the letters. The conversation hearts had the name of the many services my Association offers (we love our acronyms!). Here’s a look at them:

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Here’s the rest of the heart cookies. The base icing was royal icing and I either added sprinkles or a different color royal frosting to decorate each one.

With the last of the dough, I made a big hand-shaped heart, using each color to outline the shape inward with a big red center. I gave that to the Chief of our division, because we certainly do ❤ her!

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It was a way to sweeten up the week for the amazing colleagues I have!

Heart-shaped Basketball Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Baking date: February 13, 2016

My oldest son’s basketball team had a game on Valentine’s Day this year, so I decided to make cookies for the team and the fans (parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.) who attended the game. I made heart-shaped cookies designed like basketballs.

I used two sizes of hearts. For the larger size heart, I decorated them like basketballs with each players’ number on the cookie. The smaller hearts were decorated like basketballs with no specific player information.

The cookie was a new go-to favorite recipe — chocolate sugar cookies. I used royal icing dyed in orange, royal blue (one of the team colors), and black to create the basketball design. For my royal icing recipe, I replace one of the tablespoons of water with 1 tablespoon of almond extract to give the icing some flavor (and the almond goes well with the chocolate cookies).

First I outlined all the cookies in orange so I could flood them. For the larger cookies, I made one for each player and the two coaches. Once I flooded the cookies with orange, and before they set, I piped on the black seams with a #2 tip. I piped on each players number in royal blue with a #1 tip. The last step was sprinkling orange colored sugar on top of the cookies. Here are the finished cookies for the players and coaches:

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There were tons of the smaller heart-shaped cookies. Each was decorated the same way as the larger cookies, but without the number or Lion paw. Here’s an up close photo of the smaller cookies and the full container:

When I got to the end of the cookie dough, I took the last outline of a cutout cookie and made that into a reverse out heart with orange icing and dots of royal blue around the edge.

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The cookies were a big hit. As I mentioned, the almond extract with the chocolate cookie flavor was a nice complement. It was a fun way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with teenage boys who love sports.

 

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Baking date: January 1, 2016

My friend Rebecca and her boyfriend Gary have been together just over two years. They moved into my development and on January 2 were having an open house.

While they were supplying plenty of food and goodies to nosh on (along with homemade Sangria to wash it all down!), I never arrive at a party empty-handed. I had seen a recipe for chocolate sugar cookies and decided to make them for the party. In addition, I made Bailey’s Irish Creme cheesecake balls, because they taste so good (I used regular Oreos to make my batch). And they have liquor in them, of course.

A few notes about this recipe:

  • This is a rich cookie – the recipe calls for 2 cups (that’s cups, not sticks!) of butter.
  • It makes a TON of cookies. I had 43 regular size star cut outs (1/4″ thick – my rolling pin assures they are all the same thickness), and 29 mini-star cut outs (also, a 1/4″ thick).
  • Refrigerating the dough after the initial roll out is very important. I cut the dough in half and rolled out two separate pieces. I might divide it into quarters in the future to make it more manageable when you pull it out of the fridge and start the second roll out.
  • Refrigerating the dough after the second roll out and cut out of cookies is important for the cut outs to keep their shape while baking. The dough quickly softens from all the butter.
  • I found that 10 minutes in the oven was the perfect time for the cookies to be firm, but soft.

I decorated the large stars with royal icing: 1 pound powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons meringue powder, 1 tablespoon almond extract [to improve the taste of the icing], and 4 more tablespoons of water [or more] to get the consistency you want for outlining and then flooding. I outlined the stars in white and then used icing tinted light blue (1 drop of McCormick blue) and light purple (small dab of Wilton violet icing color). I then added regular sugar pearls (gold, silver, white, pink, light blue), medium and smaller sugar pearls in white, and gold and silver sugar sprinkles in a variety of designs. For a few of the cookies, I made designs using alternate colors of the royal icing.

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I tried to make each star look unique

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This recipe of royal frosting sets rather quickly

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The small round cookie at the bottom right is the cookie made from the last of the scraps

For the mini-stars, I did some in royal icing like the bigger stars, and for others, I used mini-M&Ms on top. Here is the plate of mini-stars:

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Mini-stars – whenever I decorate with M&Ms, I always place the ‘m’ side down, so it’s not visible (no offense, M&M Mars!)

Here’s the platter of large star cookies, along with the Bailey’s Irish Creme cheesecake balls in the middle:

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A whole lotta yum!

Thanks Rebecca and Gary for opening your home to friends. Glad I could bring something to make the evening even sweeter!