Star Gingerbread Cookie Tree

Baking date: December 9, Assembly date: December 16, 2018

I had seen this video tutorial on YouTube and immediately purchased the Wilton Star Christmas Tree cookie cutter set because I wanted to try it. It took me a year, but in 2018 I finally got around it.

Baker’s note: I followed the instructions in the video of cutting out the center for the larger stars. But a note of caution – I thought all the stars with centers cut out were the largest and should be stacked in reverse size order. Turns out, one of the full size cut outs is actually bigger than the cutouts with hollow centers. You need to stack the cookies in size order prior to using the royal icing to build your tree.

I used pre-made white cookie icing instead of making royal icing from scratch. The cookie icing was a bit runny for this task. I would recommend making a royal icing from scratch that is a bit thick. It will still drip over the edges and will be less messy. My arm was covered in icing once I was done.

I made the cookies out of gingerbread, from a family recipe. Here’s the tree completely assembled and with white, blue and silver decorations.

IMG_2360

I let the cake “set” overnight. I took this with me to the office to share with co-workers. It was my co-pilot on the hour and a half drive in. It traveled just fine in the top of my turkey roasting pan, because it was too tall for my normal cake holder.

IMG_2364

People were wow’d. At first, no one wanted to break off a piece. But once they started, it was quickly gobbled up.

It was pretty and it tasted great – the perfect combo!

Christmas Cookie Decorating Party

Baking date: December 8; decorating date: December 15

Each year, I invite my sisters, mom, aunts, nieces, nephews and cousins to my house for a cookie exchange/decorating party. Each family who comes brings cookies to exchange, and I make roll-out/cut-out cookies for people to decorate. We decorate the cookies and while they are drying, I serve a buffet lunch to everyone who comes. It is a great way to spend a Saturday during the weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday.

Here is a sampling of the cookies from this year, including a sassy little gingerbread man that my cousin’s daughter created:

Here’s the table full of cookies, waiting for the icing to dry:

IMG_2358

And here’s the buffet table:

IMG_2355

And here’s my mom, aunts, cousin, niece and nephew during the decorating.

IMG_2354

I hope you find a way to make the holidays special with your family!

 

 

Thanksgiving & Turkey Sugar Cookies

Baking date: November 12 & 18, 2018

Given that November was over 6 months ago (!),  and that was the last time I posted an update, I guess you could say things have been busy. And yes, I’ve been busy, but I haven’t stopped baking, so be prepared for a flurry of postings — I hope to get up-to-date this weekend.

For Thanksgiving at work, I made my traditional turkey cookies for my co-workers. More accurately, sugar cookies decorated like turkeys. I use a sugar cookie recipe from Food Network. I baked them a week early and stored them in the freezer until the following weekend, when I was ready to decorate them.

Baker’s note: if I’m working on sugar cookies that I’m going to cover in royal icing and don’t have a ton of time to make cookies from scratch, I find that our local Walmart sells sugar cookies by the dozen for under $2. The surface is not smooth, so I only use them if I am going to cover the cookies completely with icing. 

I decided to change up the eyes for the turkeys this time. Instead of an M&M with a dot of black icing, I went with pre-made candy eyeballs secured on top of the M&Ms with some of the cookie icing. I liked how they turned out much better that just a dot of black icing because the white background makes them stand out, even on the darker red and brown M&Ms. Here are all the eyeballs, ready to go on after I iced the cookies.

IMG_2193

I iced the cookies with white and chocolate pre-made cookie icing. I added candy corns around the top edge — 3 or 4 candy corns depending on how big the cookie is. I typically make a few cookies in a large size, and those get 5 candy corns. I placed M&Ms with the candy eyeballs just under the candy corns. I sprinkled multi-colored jimmies between the candy corns and the eyeballs.

Once the chocolate and white icing had set, I used yellow cookie icing (similar to the Betty Crocker brand, but it may have been Walmart’s Great Value brand), I piped on the triangular shape of the beaks, as well as the “feet”.

Here’s the final product:

I also used the icing, M&Ms, and candy corns to create some non-turkey cookies. Here’s the entire batch:

IMG_2198

Of course, I always have to protect my work from our canine counter surfing labs as it dries. Here’s my clever way to do that: IMG_2195

Baker’s note: A few months later, the taller of our two labs showed me just how ineffective this protection method is. 

Making cookies and sharing them with co-workers is just one way to give thanks for all their hard work all year.

Halloween-themed Gingerbread Cookies

Baking date: October 31, 2018

Each Friday night there is a home game for our varsity football team, the families provide a dinner for them and the coaches. I usually don’t get the sign up information until late, and dessert is always taken by the time I log on.

For the final game of the season, we invite the varsity cheerleaders to join the meal. I asked the team mom to put my name down for desserts before she launched the potluck sign up.

I made gingerbread cut out cookies that I could decorate with royal icing. I used a recipe from the Mary Meade’s Country Cook Book:

Ingredients: 1 cup softened butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 beaten egg, 2 cups molasses, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 8 cups flour (yes, 8  cups!), 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 tablespoons ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 3 teaspoons baking soda, 1 cup boiling water

Directions: Sift flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg – set aside (for amounts this large, I place all the ingredients in a bowl and use a whisk to “sift” them). Beat egg in small bowl; set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg, molasses and vinegar.  Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water (it will fizz up!). Add water alternately with flour mixture. Chill at least one hour prior to rolling out.  Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes (oven temps and cook times may vary, also the size of the cookie may mean more or less baking time).

I made some generic Halloween-themed cookies, using white, black, orange, red, purple and green cookie icing, a variety of sprinkles, as well as large and regular candy eyeballs. (Wilton also makes bloodshot eyeball candies – next year!)img_2111img_2113

There were also cookies with royal blue and golden yellow cookie icing, which are the team colors. There was also one huge pumpkin that I shaped from the remaining dough.

img_2112

Here are the cookies on the plates:

45370948_10156914047550742_3717659438706851840_n45201179_10156914047540742_4862870351735947264_n.jpg

The players and cheerleaders were well fed and enjoyed the cookies. Thanks for a great season to all of them!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Football Player Mummy Gingerbread Cookies

Baking date: October 26, 2018

This year, my son helped to coach players in the junior football program he grew up in. The kids on the team he helped to coach are 6th and 7th graders, who are on the D2 team. The D2 team is more of an instructional level than the competitive D1 squad.

My son always played on the D1 squad when he was in the program. His D2 team made it to a “Bowl” game, that took place October 27. Because it was so close to Halloween, I decided to make the players and coaches football player “mummies”.

I used a gingerbread cookie recipe my mom sent me from the Mary Meade Country Cookbook. The edition my mom has is probably from the mid- to late- 60s. The recipe is:

Ingredients: 1 cup softened butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 beaten egg, 2 cups molasses, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 8 cups flour (yes, 8  cups!), 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 tablespoons ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 3 teaspoons baking soda, 1 cup boiling water

Directions: Sift flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg – set aside (for amounts this large, I place all the ingredients in a bowl and use a whisk to “sift” them). Beat egg in small bowl; set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg, molasses and vinegar.  Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water (it will fizz up!). Add water alternately with flour mixture. Chill at least one hour prior to rolling out.  Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes (time may vary, depending on your oven and the size of your cut out cookie. The gingerbread man cut out I used was 14 minutes).

When decorating the cookies, I started with an all white royal icing base. I then piped on a black royal icing square where the eyes would go – I got the idea for the eyes from a Nicki Lee Bakes video tutorial. At first, I thought it looked like a bunch of astronauts!

Spacemen

After I added the red royal icing and then candy eyeballs, I added strips of white using a #46 basket weave tip.  I then used royal blue cookie icing (pre-made royal icing, if you will) to pipe on the helmets, with royal icing dyed golden yellow for the facemask and stripes on the helmet. Finally, I added each players’ number in royal blue cookie icing.

Here are the finished cookies for players:

Player Cookies

These are a few on the ones that I made for the seven coaches (including my son), For those, I piped a baseball hat instead of a helmet:

Coach Cookies

And, of course, we can’t forget the Team “Mummy”:

Team Mummy

I placed each cookie in a treat bag. After the game, as the coaches spoke to them, I handed out cookies to the kids and coaches. I also had made cinnamon spice drop cookies (I use butter, not shortening) for parents, siblings and other fans in attendance.

The kids were a muddy mess after the Bowl game:

img_7743b

Even though they lost, the kids loved the cookies! I believe you should always be paying it forward as much as possible. Cookies were one way I could do that for these kids.

Below is a slide show of my gentle giant (Walkersville High School varsity O-line tackle), with the kids throughout the season.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sea Salt Caramel Chip Chocolate Cookies

Baking date: March 31, 2018

When you see a bag of sea salt caramel chips, you grab them.

Chips

That was the case when I was looking for the very elusive Hershey’s Cinnamon Chips one day while in Walmart.  Even though I didn’t find the cinnamon chips, I was intrigued by the sea salt caramel chips, which had a recipe on the bag. I decided to make them for our family’s Easter gathering.

The recipe is simple, and as you would expect, the cookies are soft and yummy.

Cookie

I’m thinking they would also be a great addition to brownies. Perhaps I’ll try that next (because, of course, I bought two bags!).

Football Banquet Cookies and Cupcakes

Baking date: January 12 and 13, 2018

Last year our town’s football team were the State champs in our division. I baked a boatload of goodies for the celebratory banquet, including cakes and cookies. This year, our team won the conference title again, but was knocked out in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs on a controversial play.

But it was still an amazing season. And this year, my son was selected for varsity in just his sophomore year.

I purchased a t-shirt cookie cutter and decided to start a new tradition of creating personalized jersey cookies for the graduating seniors. The remainder of the varsity team get personalized football-shaped cookies, and the JV players get a cupcake with their number. This is the jersey I modeled the cookie after (it’s my son in the picture – he’s a lineman):

Alex

I decided to make a favorite chocolate sugar cookie recipe. It makes a ton of dough — and I would need it because the t-shirt cookie cutter was bigger than I anticipated. There were 25 seniors on the football team this year.

Here is a look at the cookies as the first layer of cookie icing went on – white for their home uniforms. I think it looks like a bunch of undershirts:

Tshirts

I piped on blue numbers and their last names, as well as some yellow and blue piping along the sleeves and sides. And I added football mini-decorations from the large sports sprinkles set:

VarsityJerseys1VarsityJerseys2

And then there were the rest of the Varsity players, coaches and team mom cookies in the shape of footballs. I added yellow paw prints and topped them with gold sugar sprinkles (yes, yes, I see the one that didn’t get the paw print):

Varsity Football Cookies

With the rest of the football cookies, I added on the laces for the many siblings that would be attending the banquet.

Plain football cookies

For JV, I made chocolate cupcakes with royal blue and gold foil cupcake liners and topped them with vanilla frosting. Then I dipped the tops in gold pearlized sugar sprinkles and blue sugar sprinkles, alternating the cupcake liner color with the sprinkle color. I added each players’ number on the top.

JVCupcakes1JVCupcakes2JVCupcakes3

For the extras, I added the football decorations.

Extra Cupcakes

Here’s the whole production on my kitchen table, ready to be transported to the banquet:

AllTheTreats

Congrats to my son on earning his varsity letter in his sophomore year (this is his ‘I’m trying to be cool and act like I don’t care’ face) …

Letter Jacket

Even though back-to-back State championships weren’t in the cards for the team,  congrats to the Walkersville Lions on their back-to-back Conference Championship seasons!

CMCChamps