Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Cookies


Every year since I have been a little girl, my mother, sister, and I have baked Christmas cookies together.  Some years my aunt and grandmother would come, sometimes not.  For many years when I was young, my sister and I hosted cookie baking parties with our friends at Christmas time. ( That ended the year we got into a flour fight and caught the cookies on fire).  To me, it isn't Christmas time until we have baked the Christmas cookies.

Now that we are all grown ups, we do a crazy version of a cookie swap.  Instead of each of us making cookies and swaping with each other, we all get together and make all the cookies that each of us will need for the Christmas season.  That means a whole lot of cookies.  The whole kitchen is covered in flour.  My floor is sticky for weeks.  Half way through I had to con my husband into a trip to the store because we were running out of chocolate.  Complete insanity but so satisfying.

This year we made:
Sugar Cookies
Butter Cookies
Mint Chocolate Cookies
Peanut Butter Blossoms
Coconut Bon Bons
Peanut Butter Balls
Almond Bark Pretzels
Peppermint Bark
Peanut Butter Fudge
Chocolate Fudge

So many cookies...so tasty.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Toll House Pie


In my family, each person get to choose the kind of cake they want for their birthday.  This year, my mother asked for pie instead of her usual German Chocolate cake.  Specifically Toll House pie.  For those of you who have never had Toll House pie, it is essentially a chocolate chip cookie in a pie shell.  This is not a pie for the weak.  It is extremely rich and gooey, made more delicious by warming it for a few seconds and adding a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. 

Toll House Pie:
   adapted from verybestbaking.com

  • 1 unbaked pie crust (9 inch)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup (6 oz.) chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate chips, however the original recipe calls for semi-sweet)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts ( I used pecans, however, my mom always used walnuts)
  • Sweetened whipped cream or ice cream (I used Cool Whip)
1. Beat the eggs until they are foamy.
2. Beat in flour, sugar, and brown sugar.
3. Beat in the butter.
4. Fold in chocolate chips and chopped nuts of your choice and pour into pie crust.
5. Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour (or as a pastry chef friend of mine once said "until its done")


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cranberry Pecan Bread

This bread is a great bread for this time of the year.  Its a sweet dough that incorporates dried cranberries and pecans.  The original recipe calls for walnut instead of pecans, but I just love cranberries and pecans together.  This is another recipe from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  The dough goes together easily, however, it is a bit tricky to incorporate all of the nuts and cranberries.  The smell of the dough is to die for though, the recipe calls for both lemon and orange extracts that are intoxicating for your olfactory senses.  I have made this bread before without the extracts, but it  adds a punch to add them in.  This bread is a dream to shape.  Above I shaped the dough into a round loaf, however, I typically make it in a double braid and have also baked it in just a plain loaf pan.



Saturday, December 5, 2009

Peanut Butter Cookie Time


These peanut butter cookies were made for my friend Mandy. My friend Mandy is absolutely amazing. She is so sweet and caring. She always remembers the details and is there whenever I need her. So I made these peanut butter cookies for her because she is awesome and also because she started a new job. Sometimes starting a new job is stressful and the best solution for that stress is to eat some peanut butter cookies.

This is my go-to peanut butter cookie recipe. I have been using it for years and it rarely fails me. It's really great when you have some peanut butter chips to throw in, but still good just plain. An adaption my family likes is to take the dough and put it in a pizza pan. Bake for 15 minutes and then pull it out of the oven and immediately pour a bag of chocolate chips on top. We call it peanut butter pizza. Some people even like to throw some mini marshmallows on top and throw the pizza back in the oven for a few minutes to brown the marshmallows.

Peanut Butter Cookies:
adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup margarine
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour

1. Melt together the shortening, margarine, and peanut butter.
2. Mix in sugars, egg, baking soda and vanilla.
3. Add the flour, but pay attention, the dough will tell you how much flour you need. Often the full three cups are unnecessary and if used, will result in a dry cookie
4. Scoop in even spoonfuls onto cookie sheet and smash in a criss cross pattern with a fork.
5. Bake 8-11 minutes at 350 degrees.

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