Lightly Spiced + Everything Nice Christmas Cookies

This year, I am the Christmas Queen. SERIOUSLY. I am so incredibly proud of myself because I have NOT waited until the very last minute for my gifts. Usually, things get pretty down to the wire for me and I wind up finding myself staring at the impossibly long line at the post office praying that I can get things out on-time, then paying an arm and a leg to insure that possibility becomes a reality. But not this year, friends. This year, your girl started shopping a full TWO (2) months in advance. Granted, that first purchase was actually for myself (holiday cards), and I didm’t buy anything else for a month, but it COUNTS.

I will say this though: I’ve been behind on my holiday cookie making/ consumption. Only ONE batch of classically-Christmas cookies (oo alliteration) has made it out of the kitchen, and it’s already December 21st! I’m ashamed. BUT, I plan to make up for this in the coming weeks. First up: these very lightly spiced (+ everything nice) Christmas cookies!

These are very, very simple cookies meant for when you want a taste, but you don’t have a ton of time to fuss. The base is a classic sugar dough recipe, but with a hint of every single spice you have ever associated with Fall/winter.

These cookies are crispy, buttery and a bit little crunchy from the optional topping of Demerara sugar, which I recommend because not only does it add an extra layer of texture,  it also makes your cookies sparkle like they’re supposed at Christmas time. And although these cookies do have spice, it’s only a hint. I like it because it elevates your sugar cookie, and gives it a little more oomph. These cookies are for sugar cookie purists looking to fray a little from the pack. Go crazy, but not too crazy, know what I mean?

Try some!

 

LIGHTY SPICED + EVERYTHING NICE CHRISTMAS COOKIES

What You’ll Need:

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Demerara sugar for topping, optional

 

DIRECTIONS 

Whisk the spices, salt, baking powder, and 3 cups flour in a small bowl. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer, or a wooden spoon), beat the butter and sugar on high speed until well-combined. Next, add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract, and beat until combined. Scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl if necessary.

Reduce the speed to low, then add about half of the dry ingredients until just combined. Then, add the rest and mix until combined; be careful not to over mix.

Form the dough into two 3/4 inch thick disks (you should see flecks of spices throughout the dough), wrap each disk in plastic wrap, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Place racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Let one disk of dough come to room temperature on the counter for 5-10 minutes so that is softens slightly. On a sheet of parchment paper that has been lightly floured, roll out the first disk of dough to 1/4 inch thickness, dusting with flour if it gets too sticky. Make sure to also flour your rolling pin, and cookie cutters. Cut out shapes with your cookie cutters, then transfer to the cookie sheets. Leave about 1 inch of space between each cookie.

Bake cookies about 12-16 minutes, rotating from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking, until the edges are lightly golden brown. If using, immediately sprinkle Demerara sugar liberally on the tops of each cookie, then let them sit for five minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.

TO STORE: Cookies will last for at least a week if kept in an airtight container.

 

 

SOURCE: Adapted from Bon Appetit and Dorie’s Cookies

Dark Chocolate and Anise Biscotti

There are two sides to me. One side has this need to bake things all the time. The other side is aware that if I bake all the time, then I will feel obligated to eat everything I’ve made in the event that I don’t have anyone to share the wealth with. It’s very complicated. That’s why I love, love, love biscotti. They’re crunchy, they’re sturdy, and they last for WEEKS at a time.  I have the freedom to nibble (or not nibble) at my leisure without the looming pressure to not waste a single crumb. It’s beautiful.

Biscotti are tough cookies in the best way. The longevity of them is fantastic, but they’re also the perfect option for care packages. As much as I love the Midwest (especially now that I can walk outside without a parka), most of the people I care about live in completely different parts of the country. You know that I am a big fan of sending and receiving gifts in the mail. but the edible options for packages are limited. Biscotti are PERFECT for this task.

This week I whipped up a quick batch of Buttery-Cayenne Pecans, then made these Dark Chocolate Anise Biscotti, wrapped everything in half a roll of bubble wrap, threw in a couple of heartfelt cards, then sent them on their way. Two days later, I got a “thank you” text, and a very warm heart. Care packages are my jam. And one of these days, you and I are going to make one together, step-by-step.

As you’re well aware by now, I am a huge fan of deceptively easy recipes. Making biscotti? Wayyyy easier than you think. All you have to do is keep up with the time. The rest is a total breeze.

What I love most about this recipe is that it’s a lot like having a chocolate chip cookie, but with a hint of licorice. And if you aren’t a black licorice fan (I’m not,), have no fear, you’ll still love these The anise seeds bring a subtle flavor of licorice that does nothing but completely compliment the oodles of dark chocolate chunks throughout. And I will never turn down a crispy cookie that brings a little texture to the game. If a little softness is more of what you’re after, you totally have my permission to dunk a couple of these babies in a steaming cup of coffee.

Eat some biscotti.

Send some to your friends.

Do your thing.

 

 

DARK CHOCOLATE AND ANISE BISCOTTI 

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons anise seeds, slightly crushed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 4 oz chocolate, roughly chopped

DIRECTIONS

Place oven racks in the center and upper third of the oven, then preheat to 325 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, slightly crushed anise seeds, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, then set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer, or with a wooden spoon), cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy; about 5 minutes.

Reduce mixer speed to low, then add one egg and the egg yolk, then beat until well combined; about 3 minutes.

Add the flour mixture all at once to the stand mixer, and beat on low until well combined. The dough may seem a bit crumbly. Next, add the chocolate chunks and make sure they are evenly distributed throughout.

Divide the dough in half, then place each half on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Gently knead the dough a few times, just to get it to come together a little more. Next, shape each dough into logs about 8 inches long, and 1 1/2 inches wide. Beat the remaining egg, then generously brush it over each log. Next, sprinkle sugar liberally over each log.

Bake the biscotti on both racks for 20 minutes, then swap racks and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until the biscotti are golden brown and baked all the way through.

Take your cookie sheets out of the oven, and let the biscotti rest for a few minutes. Once the biscotti logs are cool enough to handle, cut into 1-inch slices using a serrated knife, cutting in a swift motion.

Place the cookies cut side up onto the baking sheets, then put back in the oven for another 15-25 minutes, depending on how crisp you’d like your biscotti to be. (I prefer mine on the crispier side, so I kept an eye on mine for 25 minutes.)

For an even crispiness, flip your biscotti over and bake for another 2-5 minutes.

Let cool, then store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. 

 

SOURCE: Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes 

Heart-Shaped Jammy Sammy Cookies

I know February 14th is long-gone, but I subscribe to Valentine’s Day-cutesienss 365 days out of the year.

By the way, how was your Valentine’s Day? Mine was surprisingly fun this year, which has freed me from the cycle of weird/awkward/disastrous scenes of Valentine’s Day past. I volunteered at the an annual Sweetheart Dinner (last year I made this French Silk Pie), and had a BLAST. There were several courses involved, and no time to take a breath as we were each cooking over our respective dishes (I was on dessert duty but got roped into making seafood Alfredo once we got there). Lots of “behind”-s, and “this is ready to go out!”-s, and “We need more ginger ale for the punch!”-s were thrown out, and it reminded me of how much I love being in a busy kitchen. I live for that hustle and bustle sometimes. I mean, I’ve never dried so many dishes, or continuously scrubbed the same countertops so many times in my entire life, but MAN was it worth it. It was a really classy affair.

Would you like to know the best bit? These cookies were a BIG HIT!

“Jammy Sammie Cookies” is just the name that I wrote to be cute/slightly annoying. You’re probably more familiar with the name “Linzer,” because of the filling and shape cut out of the center. I generally see Linzer cookies the most during the Holiday Season, but if you ask me, the cookie cutout + filling pairing should be a yearlong affair. And what goes better with a heart shape on Valentine’s Day than fresh strawberry jam? Red is like the official unofficial color of V-Day, so the filling of these cookies were required to match accordingly.

Quick question: how do you feel about homemade jam? Me? I’m all about it. I feel like there’s nothing that makes me feel cozier than when I’m making jam from scratch. Sure, it takes way less time to just pick a jar off the shelf at your local grocery store, but when you make it yourself you: A) Know exactly what has gone into it, and B) MADE. IT. YOURSELF. Helloooooooo! It’s (relatively) fast, (totally) easy, (unbelievably) fresh, and you know it’s always made with love.

Now pair that sweet, sweet jam with some deliciously soft shortbread plus a liberal sprinkling of powdered sugar for good measure, and you’ve got the stuff of dreams, kids. What could be better?

Since you’ll definitely have jam left over after filling the cookies, might I make a few suggestions as to what to use it on?

  1. Biscuits
  2. Scones
  3. Toast
  4. Fingers dipped in
  5. By the spoonful
  6. etc. etc.

And let’s just quickly talk about the versatility of these cookies, shall we? Yes, they were made for February 14th, but they can go wayyy beyond that. We’re talkin’ tea parties, birthday parties, bridal showers, picnics, breakfasts, coffee breaks, dates, etc. etc. Cookie hearts filled with homemade jam never go out of season.

It’s a beautiful thing.

 

 

HEART-SHAPED JAMMY SAMMY COOKIES

What You’ll Need:

For the shortbread:

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Powdered sugar for sprinkling

For the jam:

32 oz (two 16 oz containers) strawberries

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon  brown sugar

Pinch of salt

Zest of 1 whole lemon + juice of half a lemon

 

DIRECTIONS:

First, let’s make the shortbread cookie dough:

 In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer, or a wooden spoon), add the butter, sugar, and salt and beat until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the egg and egg yolk one at a time, making sure each addition is well combined. Next, add the vanilla extract. Add the flour in three batches, making sure each addition is well combined (but don’t over-mix), before adding more flour. When necessary, scrape down the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula.

Once your dough has just come together, lay your dough out on a plastic sheet, then divide it in half. Wrap each half tightly in plastic wrap, then shape to form discs. Refrigerate the discs for at least one hour, but best is overnight.

Ok, dough’s done, now let’s make the jam:

Rinse strawberries before using, and let drain completely before getting started.

Once your strawberries have been washed, hull each strawberry, then cut into quarters. Place all of your cut up strawberries in a medium sauce pan. Next, add your brown sugar, pinch of salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Using a potato masher (or the back of a wooden spoon), muddle all of your ingredients together, making sure that the berries’ juices are starting to release, and your sugar and salt have started to dissolve.

Cook your fruit compote, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat until your jam has thickened, and it passes the line test (a line can be drawn down the center of the spoon without the juices running); On my stove, that takes about 30-35 minutes. Along the way, make sure to give your jam a few taste tests, and adjust the flavors to your liking. The mixture will bubble quite a bit and juice may jump out of the pan occasionally, so watch out for that!

When your jam has come together, take it off the heat and let it cool completely before transferring it to a mason jar or tupperware container.

This jam will last for several weeks refrigerated.

VERY IMPORTANT: DO NOT leave the stove whilst you’re making your jam. One minute it can still be too runny, then the next you’re cleaning burnt strawberry syrup out of the pan until your arms fall off. Trust me. Stay put. Keep stirring.

Ok, my dough has rested. Time to make some cookies!

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Remove the first disc of dough and let sit on a counter for ten minutes; this allows it to come to room temperature, thus making it much easier to roll out.

Liberally flour a rolling pin and work surface.

Roll the cookie dough out to a 1/8 inch thickness, then, using a floured heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out shapes. Transfer the hearts to the cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, about 1-inch apart. Stamp a hole out of the center of half the cookies using the tip of a circle piping tip. Repeat the process with any remaining scraps, and with the second disc of dough.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 7-10 minutes (depending on your oven),  or until the cookies have started to lightly brown around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool for five minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

Transfer the cookies with the holes cut out of the center to one of the cool baking sheets (keep the parchment paper on). Sprinkle a generous amount of powdered sugar over them using a sifter, mesh strainer, or powdered sugar shaker. (Aren’t you glad you have the parchment paper now to catch the excess sugar?) Flip the bottom cookies (no holes in them) over so that the underside is facing you, then apply about a teaspoon of jam right in the center of each. Place the tops on, then lightly press down so that you create a sandwich. The jam should spread evenly to the edges and through the center hole without overflowing. Enjoy!

To Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week.

 

 

SOURCE: Adapted from A Cozy Kitchen

Cappuccino-Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

I have a question for all the Martha Stewart fans out there: Are you watching Martha Bakes?? If not, go. GO RIGHT NOW. GO SET YOUR DVR! I’ll wait here.

OK, did you do it? Good. You won’t regret it.

You know what’s so rare? Baking shows without all the bells and whistles. Shows these days so are heavily edited for “drama,” and condensed so much that you don’t really feel like you could belong in that world. When I tune into a baking/cooking show, I want to feel like I’m actually in your kitchen as you TEACH ME SOMETHING! I don’t want to be dazzled if it means that whatever has dazzled me is so unattainable that I shouldn’t even bother to try. That’s why I love Martha Bakes. Martha gets down to the nitty gritty. Whatever she makes, she makes in full. And yeah, there is a bit of “TV Magic”; sometimes what she’s just made is already baked, but for the most part, the step–by-step, no matter how long it takes, is there. It’s perfect. It’s attainable.

This week, while going through the collection of MBs on my DVR, I discovered that Martha had done an episode entirely dedicated to coffee. Yes and yes. I was completely on board. She made cakes, she made ice cream, she made pie. It was all quite divine. But what really caught my eye (and I’ll be honest: for all the thousands of hours spent watching cooking and baking shows, I hardly ever make anything from the episodes I’ve watched), was the cappuccino-chocolate sandwich cookies. They were cute and little, so deliciously chocolatey-looking, and a seemingly easy project to take on on a whim. I have an entire mason jar full of ground espresso beans, and I’ve been looking for ways to lighten the load a little bit. These sandwich cookies did very nicely indeed.

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You know, it’s funny, I feel like a person who can really take or leave coffee. I have friends who have to have it first thing in the morning, and truly treat it like gold. To me, it’s nice, but it holds very little significance in my life. (That significance is reserved for Mexican Coca-Cola I think.) But there are times when I positively NEED the taste of coffee as soon as possible. Usually that comes in the form of an emergency trip to a local coffeehouse, but I think it’s good to broaden one’s horizons to solid forms of coffee as well. And BOY are these cookies  the jolt of caffeine you need to brighten up your day.

Having one of these cookies is like having a quick cup of espresso with a dash of cream. But instead of those sweet little cups, you have a sweet and chocolately three-bite cookie. The dough alone had me breathing deeply, so when it came time to taste-test, OBVIOUSLY I was on cloud nine. I couldn’t stop nibbling for ages, so you KNOW the final result was going to be delicious.

The taste of coffee is very present, but not overwhelming. The balance of the two chocolates just enhances the overall pleasure of the ground espresso. And the chocolate cream? OHHHHHHHH so good. Buttery and choclately, and addictive. And since there are two whopping tablespoons of straight-up ground espresso beans in the cookie part, plus a little more  in the chocolate drizzle, I think you can safely swap out that third cup of coffee for one or two of these lil guys.

If you couldn’t tell by now, Sydney is allllllll about these cookies. I bounced off the walls and I loved it.

I think you’ll love these, too.

 

CAPPUCCINO-CHOCOLATE SANDWICH COOKIES

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
  • 10 oz milk chocolate, finely chopped (I only had chocolate chips, so if that’s what you have, use it!)
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground espresso beans
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, for drizzling + 1/8 teaspoon finely ground espresso beans

DIRECTIONS

First, let’s make the chocolate ganache filling

Bring heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan, then pour over milk chocolate in a bowl. Stir until smooth and there are no lumps left. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface (placing the plastic wrap directly on top prevents it from developing a skin), then let it set in the refrigerator for 4 hours, or overnight.

While the ganache is setting, let’s make the cookie dough

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, espresso, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer with the paddle attached, beat together butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl, Next, add the vanilla.

Add flour mixture to the mixer in two additions, and mix on medium-high speed until the dough JUST comes tougher. Do not over mix. Turn out dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and form a disc. Once the disc is formed, tightly wrap it in plastic. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can freeze the dough for 15-20 minutes if you’re running a little short on time.

OK, everything’s set, so we should bake the cookies!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator, and let come to room temperature for about 10 minutes. Once the dough has softened a bit at room temperature, place it between two sheets of parchment paper, and roll out to about 1/8 inch thickness. Using a floured 2-inch cookie cutter, cut out rounds, then transfer them to the lined cookie sheets, placing them about 1/2 inch apart. Re-roll the scraps, and repeat the process. (Note: If the dough gets too soft, wrap it in plastic wrap, then throw it back in the fridge for 5-10 minutes or so.)

Freeze your cookies for 10 minutes to make sure they keep their shape in the oven.

Bake until your cookies are set, but not browned, about 7-9 minutes depending on your oven. Once out of the oven, let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

While your cookies are cooling, it’s time to whip some ganache! 

Whisk the chilled ganache filling by hand until soft peaks have formed, about 20 minutes. It might be hard to do at first, but with a little elbow grease, you can whip this heavy cream mixture by hand! YOU CAN DO IT! (Or, you can totally use a mixer if you want.)

Alright, time to put it all together

Transfer the mixture to a pipping bag fitted with a 1/4 inch round piping tip (OR, transfer to a plastic bag with the end snipped off). Turn half of the cookies over so that the bottoms of the cookies are facing you, then pipe about 2 teaspoons  of mixture on top of each. Place the other half of the cookies on top to create sandwiches.

Melt the drizzle chocolate!

Melt the 2 ox of bittersweet chocolate, then mix in the 1/8 teaspoon of espresso. Using a spoon (or another small plastic bag) drizzle chocolate over each cookie sandwich in any pattern you’d like! Let chocolate drizzle set for about 10 minutes. Enjoy!

To store: Place cookies in a single layer in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

SOURCE: Adapted from Martha Stewart via Martha Bakes 

Merry Christmas + Happy Holiday Baking

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HOW CUTE ARE THOSE SCHNAUZER GINGERBREAD MEN?? My best friend Emily got me that cookie cutter for my birthday three years ago, and I’ve FINALLY gotten the chance to use it! Oscar approves.

Almost every waking moment has been spent in the DD kitchen this week rolling , cookie-cutting, re-rolling, oven window watching, and tasting “just to make sure they taste good,” then realizing at least three have disappeared.  The Christmas dinner dessert table shall overflow with goodies.

If you haven’t gotten around to making any cookies, it’s not too late to jump in on the fun! Here are some lovely links to some fab recipes:

The Ultimate Sugar Cookies + Royal Icing

Classic Gingerbread

Bacon, Oatmeal, and Raisin Cookies  <—- My new FAVORITE COOKIES.

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS + HAPPY HOLIDAYS! 

See ya in 2016.

 

 

Last-Minute Halloween: Easy Lady Fingers

If you’re trying to be kind of festive, but find yourself running out of time this Hallow’s Eve, you should TOTALLY make some lady fingys. It’s SUPER EASY: Just a basic sugar cookie recipe, a little food coloring, a paint brush, and some slivered almonds, and you’re done!

The movie marathon is starting in a few hours (I may be the only one that watches, but so be it), and I refused to celebrate one of the best holidays without at least SOMETHING kind of creepy and festive. And I love cookies. So here we are.

What’s super great about these (besides how simple they are to make) is that you really can’t mess up. Halloween isn’t about being perfect, in fact, the more imperfect the better! When you’re rolling out your fingers, it’s up to you how you want them to look. Do you want them to be bent and out of shape with brownish-yellow nails, or perfectly manicured with your favorite color like you’ve just brought them home from the salon? It’s totally up to you. Go all out!

Since I made these for my family, I figured I should keep things kind of tame (I’ve seen examples of lady fingers where the ends have been dipped in raspberry jelly to look like they’d just been severed off the hand!), but next year? Next year we’re upping the ante.

Until then, this is the perfect last-minute Halloween project for you and your friends, served however you’d like. Maybe all in a bowl? Or, you can be like me, and use it as a prop to point to things I want, but am too lazy to get myself. It’s whatever you choose!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, GUYS!! Be safe. Make sure all the kids that come to your door know how adorable they look, because they always do.

 

LADY FINGERS 

What You’ll Need:

  • Food-safe paintbrush
  • 1-2 tablespoons red food coloring (or your favorite color, OR leave them plain)
  • 30 blanched almond slivers
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS

Place food coloring in a small bowl, and, using a small food-safe paintbrush, color one side of each almond. Set aside on a sheet of wax paper to dry.

Separate one egg. Set the egg white in the fridge; we’ll need it later. In a small bowl, whisk together the yolk, remaining egg, and vanilla extract until well combined. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer, or a wooden spoon), combine the butter, both sugars, and salt. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Next, add the egg mixture and mix until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add the flour, then mix on low speed until JUST combined.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, then chill in the fridge for 25-30 minutes to firm up.

While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Once your dough has chilled, divide the dough in half, working with one half at a time. Keep the remaining half in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap until you’re ready to use it. Lightly flour your work station.

Using a knife or bench scraper, divide the first half into 15 pieces. Roll each piece back and forth with your palms into a finger shape (whether they be really thin fingers, or really short fingers, or really craggily fingers, it’s up to you!), about 3-4 inches long. Pinch the dough in two places on one end to create knuckles. Lightly score each finger with the back of the knife to create the natural lines we have in our fingers. Push down on the nail bed LIGHTLY to make it easier to attach the fingernails later. Transfer fingers to the cookie sheets, and repeat the process with the other half of dough. (Note: Make sure to work kind of quickly when making the fingers because the dough warms up really fast, making it harder to work with!)

Once all of your fingers have been formed, brush the egg white from earlier lightly over each finger to create a light browning once they’re in the oven. Position each almond nail, then push down to attach (Be careful not to push to0 hard so you don’t a. chip a nail or b. misshape the finger). If you find that the nail isn’t attaching, add a little more egg white to the area to create a sort of glue.

Bake in the oven until slightly browned, about 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely.

Enjoy!

SOURCE: Adapted from Martha Stewart 

Bite-Size Biscotti

I really, really like my beautician. Partially because she’s one of the only people in this world who I would trust to dye my hair just-so, and partially because I’ve known her for a big chunk of my life. She likes me, and I like her, and she likes my baking, so I like her even more. When true-blue baking season starts up, the kitchen is always filled with more treats than my family could ever possibly eat, and I always pick out the best of the best to bring to her. Lately she’s really been dropping hints that I’ve been slacking in the baked-good-delivery department, so I’m stepping up my game.

I love biscotti. It’s crunchy and delicious, and there are so many flavor combinations out there that I’ll never become bored with it. It’s the perfect companion to cold-weather beverages, and since my tea kettle has seen a lot more action lately, I thought I would give these a shot.

Traditional biscotti can be time consuming, and nerve-wracking. If you don’t get the first bake right, it can throw off the entire process. After all, you don’t eat soft biscotti, you’re looking for that satisfying crunch. If you still want the crunch, but don’t have all day, try the mini version. These are just as satisfying, but it’ll only take you a few hours, and most of that time is spent impatiently checking to see if the chocolate has set so you can dig in. Patience is your friend when baking, now and forever.

It should be noted that in this recipe, it calls for the zest of grapefruit, but  I think any citrus you’ve got laying around will do. It’s not so much about the grapefruit as it is the presence of citrus that makes these biscotti bites stand out. I zested that grapefruit until I could zest no more because it was $1.25 and I was going to get my money’s worth or die trying. (Dramatic, sorry.)

These bite-sized biscotti are for all fans of the salt-chocolate-cocunut-citrus-more chocolate flavor combination. May your teaspoons be heaping, your cookies crunchy,  your chocolate smoothly-tempered, and your tummies full of the quintessential coffeehouse treat. There are going to be some happy faces at the beauty shop tomorrow.

BITE-SIZED BISCOTTI

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups fine cornmeal (I used white cornmeal)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3/4 stick (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons grapefuit zest (or two tablespoons of zest of your choice. Could be orange!)
  • 11 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • Sanding sugar (I used Demerara because that’s what I had in my pantry!), for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and coarse salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Next add the flour mixture and beat on low until just combined. Beat in the coconut, grapefruit zest, and about 5 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate. Mix until everything is evenly distributed.

Drop generous heaping teaspoonfuls of biscotti dough on parchment-lined baking sheets. Set each dough ball about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle the tops of each with a generous sprinkling of sanding sugar. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. (Note: I don’t have an industrial-size refrigerator, so my fridge only holds so many baking sheets. My solution: scoop the remainder of your dough into a bowl and refrigerate. It’ll still be cold enough to form dough balls that keep their shape in the oven.)

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown. This should take about 18-20 minutes depending on your oven.

Let cool completely on wire racks.

Once your biscotti bites have completely cooled, temper the remaining amount of bittersweet chocolate, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Dip the bottoms of the cookies in the melted chocolate, scraping off any excess chocolate with a spoon, or using the edge of the bowl. Set each on clean parchment-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 30 minutes. (Note: I didn’t refrigerate again. Instead, I let them to set in a cool place in the house. It took a little longer, but I didn’t have to take all of my food out of the fridge again.)

To Store: These can be be stored in a single layer for up to one week.

SOURCE: Martha Stewart

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies

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I’m generally not one to seek out peppermint flavored things. I don’t know what it is about that essential oil that just turns me off. And despite the fact that it’s often associated with the color red (which is positively my favorite color), there are very few scenarios that involve me going anywhere near the stuff. Eating one of these soft, chewy, dark choclatey cookies is one of those scenarios.

Making these cookies for my Nashvilian bestie, Hailey, was a real treat. Number one, it gave me an excuse to eat dark chocolate cookie dough first thing in the morning (a baker must always stay tasting, right?) But it introduced me to the world of the sandwich cookie. Long an admirer of the homemade Oreo and the ice cream sandwiches made with both homemade ice cream and delicious chocolate chip cookies, I hadn’t yet found myself with the opportunity to make any in my kitchen. But when Hails told me that her favorite combination was peppermint and chocolate, and having stumbled upon this recipe a few days earlier and immediately adding it to my overflowing “Recipes” folder, I decided these cookies were up next to bat.

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Not only was the active preparation time pretty short (probably an hour tops; the delicate dough must rest for at least two hours, though I rested it overnight), but it was pretty simple as well. And while I maybe didn’t listen to the directions all the way when it said to only put a little peppermint buttercream in the center to avoid overflow (my brain couldn’t handle so much empty space, and the frosting overflowed anyway), things still turned out for the best. A little extra peppermint buttercream never hurt anyone anyway. And did I mention that after a little time in the fridge to let the buttercream set that these taste almost EXACTLY like chilled, Girl Scout caliber thin mints? It was actually the best discovery of the week.

I know what you’re thinking: Peppermint is really more of a holiday flavor, and the holidays are long gone, my friend! Well, I’d like to respectfully disagree. Unless the Peppermint Police, who dispatch from Holiday Headquarters, come banging on my door ordering me to halt operations immediately, I say these dark chocolate and peppermint treasures are fair game ALL YEAR ROUND.

 

What You’ll Need:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground espresso beans (optional)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the buttercream:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 to 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 cups powdered sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons milk

Find this recipe on The Kitchn!

 

Merry Christmas! Have a Cookie.

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Merry Christmas! May your holiday season be full of whimsy, and your holiday baking successful.

This was my first time using royal icing and a piping bag, and I’m happy to say that things went off without a hitch! Can’t wait to snack on cookies all day and night long.

Two things:

  • Here’s how to make the best royal icing ever…
  • …And the ULTIMATE sugar cookies to go with it!

 

I’m staying in my Christmas jammies all day, and don’t try to stop me.

 

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Mexican Wedding Cookies

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Holiday baking is officially in full swing and there is no one in this world happier about that than I am. There are holiday parties all over the place in the near future, and it means loads of planning, which puts me front-row-center in my happy place. To make things even sweeter, we have a beautiful, fragrant Christmas tree just waiting to be decorated, and of course, the proper way to decorate any tree is with a mouthful of cookies and ornaments in both hands.

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It’s always best to ease into the baking season with a simple cookie that’s tasty and seemingly complex enough, but takes you very little time in the kitchen to make. After all, you’ve got a lot of baking ahead of you, and don’t want to burn yourself out with the very first batch! That’s where these Mexican Wedding Cookies come in. They’re simple little things, but they’re packed with buttery flavor,  nutty crunch, and so much sugar. They’re perfect for any time of year really, but just seem to make everything just a little brighter around Christmastime.

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I used almonds in my cookies, though you can get away with any nut you love, so long as you chop it up finely. No one wants to bite into a cookie with just a little too much crunch. Though if you ask my father, he’d strongly disagree. He’s been pushing for weeks for a dessert with nuts, and so far, these haven’t disappointed him!

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There is actually no such thing as too much powdered sugar with these cookies, and that is absolutely a fact. It reminds me of the gentle kiss of snow and how much a beautiful winter day can put me in a wonderful mood…you know, if I don’t have to drive in it. But looking out the window with a warm cup of cocoa, impossibly cozy socks, and a stack of new cookbooks with spines that crack upon first opening, is my kind of winter’s day. Put a plate of these Mexican Wedding Cookies in front of me, and we’re talkin’ business.

 

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup finely chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or almonds)
  • Powdered sugar for rolling

Find the recipe here at Crazy for Crust!

 

LET THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE SEASON BEGIN.

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