LAX Celebration Sugar Cookies

Baking date: April 8, 2017

After her brother received a hat trick cake for his exploits during a lacrosse game, I felt like Sami needed some sweet props of her own. She had started her lacrosse season in fine style – with the first goal of the season (3-26-17) and first goal of the second game (4-2-17).

I used some of the leftover chocolate frosting from her brother’s cake to pipe her accomplishments onto round sugar cookies with a #2 tip. I would love to show you a photo of Sami with her cookies, but she ate them before we could memorialize her with the cookies. These are her cookies:

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But don’t any of you fret for Sami. On April 23, her mom posted this to Facebook:

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So, I’m working on a hat trick cake for her this coming weekend. Because… #ACakeOfHerOwn

SamiCM

 

 

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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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Thanksgiving Turkey and Acorn Sugar Cookies

Baking date: November 19, 2016

Each year, I try and let my colleagues know how thankful I am for them by making sweet treats to share. This year was no different. In order to save myself some time, I used refrigerated sugar cookie dough, that I rolled to make cut-out cookies.

This shortcut does come with some compromises. The scratch sugar cookie recipe I usually make includes a step that allows the cookies to set and hold their shape. You can probably add the step of refrigerating the cookies for 30 minutes once they are cut out to help them set with any recipe or prepared dough, but I skipped that step in the interest of time. And here’s what some of the “round shapes” looked like once they cooked. To be honest, I didn’t leave much room between each on the cookie sheet:

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Some would say “what’s wrong with a giant cookie?”, and to them I respond “absolutely nothing because it still tastes great!”

I used round cut outs in two sizes to make turkey cookies. They were decorated using royal icing dyed brown for the main body of the turkey, golden yellow for the beak and legs, and black for the dots of eyeballs. Candy corns were added for the feathers, M&Ms were added for the eyes (although in the future, I won’t use the brown ones because you can’t see the dots for eyes piped on), and multi-colored jimmies were sprinkled on. Here’s how the turkeys turned out:

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For the acorns, they didn’t hold their cut-out shape well either. So I used the brown icing for the top and then dipped the still wet icing in chocolate jimmies for texture. Once that dried, I darkened the brown, piped an outline of the rest of the acorn to give it more shape, and filled that in with the remaining brown icing.

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With shapes that need more definition, I’ll definitely add in the 30 minute refrigeration before cooking in the future (regardless of the recipe or any shortcut I use). For the rounds that became turkeys, its not as important that they are perfectly round.

It’s always nice to remind those you work with how thankful you are to have them as colleagues!

Football Playoff Sugar Cookies

Baking date: October 28, 2016

My son Nick’s 8th grade football team made it to the playoffs this year. As has been my custom with football playoff games for my boys throughout the years, I make treats for the players, coaches, cheerleaders, and fans.  There would be three rounds of playoffs, quarterfinals, semi-finals, and the SuperBowl.

Originally, I was inspired by these cookies:

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but decided that those would be the cookies I would make if the team got all the way to the SuperBowl.

For this first round of playoffs, I decided to make sugar cookies in the shape of footballs that were personalized. I use a recipe for the sugar cookies that I found on Food Network. For the royal icing, I always substitute one of the tablespoons of water with a tablespoon of almond extract. I think it improves the taste of the royal icing.

Here are all the footballs with the brown tinted royal icing. I left a portion white for the football laces:

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I also tinted some of the icing golden yellow and royal blue, which are the team colors. I used these colors for piping on names, numbers and other decorations.

The players’ cookies had their name and number:

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The coaches’ cookies had their names:

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The cheerleaders and their coaches had their name and a blue “pom” (tip #233) on each end of the football. Not easy to do with royal icing that is more flooding consistency, so my poms looked more like blobs.

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There were also cookies for the water crew — younger brothers and sisters of players on the team. On the extra cookies, I piped on Lions:

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And last (but certainly not least!), I hand shaped a large football cookie for the team mom:

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Our team was up against the top ranked team…and I’ll spare you the suspense. Our boys did lose and our playoff run was over after only one game.

But the important thing is…even when it was very clear the game was out of hand, our boys continued to play hard until the end. And the other important thing? We had cookies to celebrate what great kids, coaches, and fans we have!

Good luck in high school, fellas!

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2016 GVAA Walkersville Varsity Lions

 

 

Fathers Day Sugar Cookies

Baking date: June 18, 2016

This year on Fathers Day — as has been the case in many years — my son Alex’s baseball team was playing in a tournament. The tournament was for the league his team is part of. We were going up against a team in the championship game that we had split our regular season games with.

I’ll spare you the suspense — we lost in the bottom of the 7th, after coming back to tie the game in the top of the 7th. Tough loss, but we were also down a player who didn’t show, one player in a cast due to a torn ligament, and one player who took a wicked foul ball off his forehead in the semi-final game, just 45 minutes prior to the championship game. We had just enough boys to field a team as long as no one (else) got hurt. Well, one of our players was covering first and got spiked on the top of his foot by the metal cleats the base runner was wearing, but he gutted it out and finished the game. Way to hang tough, Drew!

It has been tradition recently (2015 Fathers Day cookies, 2013 Fathers Day cupcakes, and 2012 Fathers Day cupcakes) for me to make special treats for the dads. I didn’t do it in 2014 because we were in Myrtle Beach for a tournament and didn’t have access to a kitchen.

This year, it was star-shaped sugar cookies, with buttercream frosting (leftover from a previous baking effort two days earlier).  I made white candy-melt square shaped bases. I covered the sugar cookies in the golden yellow buttercream frosting. I then placed a “base” on the cookie and piped a players number on the base along with the word ‘DAD’ with a #2 tip. Using a #42 tip, I double-outlined the edge of the star in royal blue buttercream (more leftover frosting from the cupcakes the day before).

Here are all of the cookies decorated, and one extra big star with a few royal blue mini-M&Ms:

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And here’s one up close:

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Of course, there was plenty of cookie dough left over for regular and mini-stars for the families and fans who showed up to cheer the boys on.  Some had buttercream frosting, mini-M&Ms, and others had sprinkles:

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And since we had a semi-final game before the championship game, I had made Rolo-stuffed chocolate cookies (I use mini-Rolos and dip the top in sea salt instead of nuts, before baking) to make sure there were plenty of goodies for both games.

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Even though we didn’t end up being the county league champions, I have to say, with all the dads opting to spend their special day cheering on their boys through two games in the hot Summer sun, it was a win.

Thanks to all the dads out there, who make sure their kids know how special they are. Especially my husband.

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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!

Annual Family Christmas Cookie Exchange

Baking date: December 18, 2015

Each year — as long as a snow storm doesn’t ruin it (some of my family lives 2.5 hours away) — I invite my mom, sisters, aunts and cousins to my house for a cookie decorating party. It started out as a cookie bake, but that seemed crazy with one oven, 5 or 6 different cookies to bake, and everyone’s travel time factored in.

So I modified the event. Now, attendees bring a selection of baked cookies and I make cut out cookies. We decorate the cookies, then have lunch, and everyone shares the cookies they brought and takes home some of the decorated cookies.

This year, I made gingerbread cut outs, sugar cookie cut outs, and shortbread cut outs. My uncle is allergic to eggs, so that’s the reason for the shortbread cookies.

I provide the icing and decorations. Once we finish decorating the cookies, we have lunch – typically deli meats, cheeses, and the fixings for sandwiches, along with potato salad, pasta salad, and fresh fruit.

After lunch, we divvy up and package the cookies everyone brought so each person can take some home. By that time, the decorated cookies are dry enough.

This year, the cut out cookie shapes were Christmas trees, stockings, rounds, candy canes, bells, snowmen, and gingerbread men.

Here are the cookies up close, as well as a shot of the whole table full.

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My friend Rebecca’s daughter Sami has joined the fun the past few years. She had a basketball game and arrived after lunch. She hung out with me after everyone left and we decorated cookies in the early to mid-afternoon. I was taking her home around 4:00pm, as she, her brothers and her dad were going to see the new Star Wars movie that evening. Her designs included a homage to some of her favorite things:

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…like the Pittsburgh Steelers…

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…a beautiful wreath — channeling her designer parents’ talent…

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…a salute to the new Star Wars movie…

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…and this clever creation – she even broke off the leg. Oh Snap! indeed.

Sami and I decorated a bunch of cookies, although I did the most decorating. She focused on a few cookies, but spent a good deal of the time eating the decorations right out of the containers. I was able to send her back to her dad all sugared up!

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Sami had a great time.

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That green smile is from eating all the decorations!

And so did I. Every year, it’s a tradition that means a great deal to me.