whisk: sugar cookies

A couple of years ago, after a particularly hectic holiday season, I started sending valentines to my friends and family in lieu of Christmas Cards.   And because I’m always eager to share my latest baking successes with my friends and family, these Valentine’s usually contain some type of baked good.  This year, I’ve decided to go with good old-fashioned sugar cookies.

I have to say, the recipe that I am most frequently asked for is a good sugar cookie recipe.  My first response is always, what kind of sugar cookie do you like?  Because like Chocolate Chip Cookies most people fall into the soft and chewy camp or team flat and crispy.   For a long time I was a flat and crispy with butter sugar cookies being my go to recipe.  Then about a year ago I was in Ft. Worth and tasted a cookie from J. Rae’s Bakery and I immediately switched teams.  Then I set about finding a good soft and chewy cookie. I’m going to show you how to make both.

First up, the flat, flaky, buttery goodness of French Butter Cookies

French Butter Cookies
Recipe via Martha Stewart
1 cup (2 sticks or 16 T) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt

+ The recipe says that this makes 5 dozen, but I’ve never gotten more than 3 out of it… maybe I like my cookies thicker than Martha.
+ Since this recipe is really all about the butter, use the best that you can afford.  I found the Kerrygold at Costco of all places.
+ If you’re like me and baking at high altitude, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t need to make any adjustments to this recipe.

To make the cookies:
In an electric mixer with your paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar, beat on high until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

sorry for the shadow, but this is what creamed butter & sugar looks like when you are finished.

Then mix in egg and vanilla until combined.  Be sure not to mix this on high because it will spill over the edges of the bowl.  Sift together the flour and salt and add to the mix.  Stir on low-speed until flour is combined.  If you are going to make round cookies, then roll the dough into multiple logs (I usually make 4 so that they will fit into a gallon size ziploc bag).  If you are going to to roll them out, make four flat discs.  Place in a ziploc bag and refrigerated overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment or silpat.  Allow the dough to come to room temperature and roll it out.  Be sure you are working on a clean surface and lightly flour it before rolling the dough. Cut using a cookie cutter and place on the baking sheet.  Bake for 15-20 minutes rotating the pan in the oven halfway through.  Allow to cool on a rack.  Set aside until ready to frost.

For the softer, chewier cookie, Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies
via Pie in the Sky

Ingredients (sea level)
1 1/2 sticks (12 T) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

+ This makes about 50 cookies.
+ High Altitude Adjustments: Increase vanilla to 2 teaspoons, decrease baking powder to 3/4 teaspoons

To make the cookies:
In a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar.  Beat until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Then beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Scrape the bowl down and sift in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Mix on the lowest setting until combined.  Divide the dough into four discs and chill for at least an hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.  Lightly flour your clean working surface (I used my counter) then roll out the dough using a floured rolling pin.  Cut shapes using a cookie cutter.  Place on cookie sheets lined with parchment or silpats.   Bake for 8-10 minutes rotating the pan in the oven halfway through.  Allow to cool on a rack.  Set aside until ready to frost.

I like to ice these with Royal Icing, this recipe makes enough to frost about 50 cookies:
1 cup + 2 T powdered sugar
3 3/4 teaspoons of meringue powder
1/4 c water or milk
1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional)

Combine in a mixer and beat on low-medium speed for about 10 minutes.  Add food coloring and use a knife to frost the cookies.

On Monday I’ll show you a fun way to package your valentines.  Do you have a favorite sugar cookie recipe?



make: holiday photobooth

Every year on Christmas Eve, my family gets together with two others to celebrate.  This always ends up being a big party filled with food, booze, friends, laughter, photos and more booze.  Every year about half-way through we gather around a makeshift tripod (usually a ladder with some books on it) we take a group photo.  This year, in an attempt to spice things up and to ride the end of the photo booth trend into the sunset, I have decided to set up a makeshift photo booth at the party.  This way, families and different groups can gather together and take some non-traditional photos together.   For a backdrop, I’m simply going to hang a roll of wrapping paper from the ceiling.   Because I couldn’t resist making something homemade for this, I decided to make sets of Santa and Rudolph props.

For this you will need colored foam (found at any craft store), wooden dowels, scissors and foam glue. The templates can be found below, if you print these on 8.5 x 11 paper, they should work for adult sized props (you can also shrink them for kids).  You’ll see in the image below, I used an extra dowel to make sure the antlers didn’t fall over.

I hope that everyone has a blast with these and I can’t wait to share the pictures with you.  If you make these, please upload to pinterest and tag us.  I’d love to see your family fun!





cook: adventures in stuffing part two


“dear stuffing bread, thank you for being born. i loved you since before i knew you and i know we will have a wonderful future together.”

that’s pretty much what when through my head when this bread came out of the oven. almost a year after i had started craving this and after a about of month of trying to make it happen, i finally had made stuffing bread.

the eureka moment happened rather quickly after i realized that the lack of flavor had a lot to do with my choice of fats and i decided it was time to pull out the big guns. big guns = jimmy dean breakfast sausage. it had amazing flavor, formed a perfect loaf and it sliced beautifully. honestly, this is the best stuffing i’ve ever had.

Stuffing Bread

(adapted from pepperidge farm)

4 c. pepperidge farm herb seasoned stuffing

1 c. low sodium chicken stock

1 egg

1/2 c. milk

3 T unsalted butter

1 c. chopped celery

1 c. chopped sweet onion

1 c. chopped mushrooms (button or crimini)

8 oz. jimmy dean breakfast sausage

preheat oven to 400

In a hot skillet, cook breakfast sausage be sure to break up the meat as it cooks. Once cooked through, remove sausage and place in a medium to large bowl. add butter to hot skillet. once melted, add celery, onion and mushroom to the pan and cook in the sausage fat and butter until onions are translucent. remove and add to the bowl with the sausage. add stuffing mix to the bowl with sausage and veggies. add the chicken stock to the hot skillet and bring to a boil. using a wooden spoon deglaze the pan (scrape all the bits off the edges and bottom of the pan). combine chicken stock with other ingredients and stir until liquid is distributed. in a bowl, stir together 1/2 c. milk and 1 whole egg until just mixed. combine with stuffing. line a loaf pan with parchment and press the stuffing into the pan.

bake loaf at 400 for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 375 for another 30 minutes. remove from oven, allow to cool in pan for 30 minutes and then move and place on rack to cool through. once cool, slice using a serrated knife. when you are ready to make your sandwich, take the slice bread and toast in a toaster oven until crusty. add turkey, cranberry, etc. build your dream sandwich.

when i told my brother in law about this, he suggested that i use this to make french toast. doesn’t that sound wonderful!

cook: adventures in stuffing part one

thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday — in large part because of stuffing the magical combination of savory spices, sausage and bread.  if i could get away with it, i swear my plate would be filled with just it, i would skip the turkey and the cranberry sauce, the mashed potatoes and maybe even the pumpkin pie for just one more bite of stuffing.

around this time last year, i got it in my head that instead of eating a leftover sandwich on boring old white bread, i wanted to eat it on bread made from stuffing.  yes you heard me.  bread.  from.  stuffing.  how great does that sound and why in gods name has pepperidge farm not created this already?

so this year around halloween, i set about trying to make this dream a reality.  after some blood (yes i cut myself), sweat and tears, i did it. tomorrow i’ll show you how.  today, here is a look at my failed attempts on the road to leftover sandwich glory:

in summary

attempts: 5

band-aids needed: approximately 3 (2 cuts, 1 required 2 band-aids)

pounds of stuffing: approximately 12

hours of my life: 8

hours gained back in satisfaction: 9

homemade stuffing

round one: homemade stuffing

confession: i’ve never actually made an entire thanksgiving dinner and honestly the closest i’ve come to making stuffing was a box of stovetop.  so this was an accomplishment to begin with but i kid you not, this had ZERO flavor.  i blame this on the turkey sausage i used in an attempt to be healthy.  the loaf fell apart into crumbs.  discouraged, i threw it away without snapping a photo and i took a week off from cooking entirely.  wasn’t off to the best start but i powered through.

cranberry sauce

round two — cranberry stuffing bread

i decided that i needed some “glue” and since sugar and eggs are often the best, i decided to test the two.  the first version involved melting down a can of cranberry sauce.   once i had a syrup, i mixed it in with the stuffing (full disclosure: still in shock from round one, i used stovetop for round two and three).  it tasted heavenly going into the oven, came out in a perfect loaf but tasted like cranberry and only cranberry.

cranberry stuffing bread + egg washed stuffing bread

round three —  egg washed stuffing bread

round three was made using an egg wash (one egg mixed with 1/2 c. water or milk).  i got cocky and thought for sure i had solved this since egg washes generally work well as glue.  it came out of the oven in a perfect loaf which sliced beautifully, still tasted like stuffing but it also now tasted a bit like egg. scrambled eggs and stuffing.  close but not quite.  next…

stuffing loaf

round four — stuffing loaf

i convinced myself that bread from stuffing was not actually possible and realized that what i really wanted was a bread that tasted like stuffing but it didn’t have to actually be MADE from stuffing.   so i made white bread dough, rolled it out, brushed it with melted butter and spread cooked onions, celery, mushrooms, sage, thyme and rosemary before rolling it into a loaf.  then i crossed my fingers and threw it in the oven.  as you can see in the picture above, the “stuffing” sank to the bottom(ah gravity!) it sliced well and had good flavor but you would never be able to eat a sandwich on this.  it was more like a stuffing calzone (which would have been great dipped in gravy. just sayin’)

so all in all, not a bad start.  the best part is that when i finally succeeded not only did i make stuffing bread, i discovered the recipe for the best stuffing i’ve ever had.  i’ll share this with you tomorrow.

what is your favorite part of thanksgiving and has anyone else every worked this hard on a side dish?