Merry Christmas!

For the past weekend I have been surrounded by sugar. A few weekends ago I made truffles, Saturday I made some extremely cute holiday confections at a friends party, and then yesterday I went over to my aunt Jennifer's to learn how she makes her super cute Christmas sugar cookies.
These are perfect for Christmas Day parties and also changed to suit any season or holiday. These versatile cookies are a great way to get creative.
I thoroughly enjoyed helping out over at her house, and if you decide to make these, they won't disappoint you.


Sugar Cookies

**The sugar cookie recipe I'm posting is not one that was originally used for these cookies however, you may use your favorite sugar cookie recipe or even, although I don't suggest it, frozen cookie dough.

For the Cookies:
Adapted from: Food Network
Yields Approx. 3 dozen (depending on what size you cut the cookie)

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
Flour for rolling out dough

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Place in plastic bag, and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with flour. Remove a quarter of the dough from the refrigerator, sprinkle rolling pin with flour, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shape. To transfer shape onto cookie sheet, generously coat a cookie spatula with flour before picking up the dough. Repeat every other cookie to prevent sticking. Place at least 1-inch apart a silicone baking mat lined cookie sheet*, and bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

*If you don't have a silicon baking mat, you may use parchment paper, however the cookies will be considerably crispier. I also highly suggest if you are really into baking to go and purchase a silicone mat such as: this one.

For the Icing:
Powdered Sugar
Milk
Vanilla

Icing is best made by sight, as if is far less time consuming if you are making large amount of icing to frost with.
Simply dump a large amount of powdered sugar to begin as your base. (Anywhere to 4 to 6 cups if you want an idea.) Pour in about 2 teaspoons of vanilla. (and if you don't think there is enough you can always add more.) Then, slowly add milk, stirring all the while. You want to reach a consistency where if you pull up icing with a spoon, ribbons form before slowly disappearing back into the icing.
If you go too far, simply add more powdered sugar.
Once the icing is the proper consistency, divide into bowls to color.

Coloring the Icing and Frosting:
Gel food coloring, any color (I recommend: AmeriColor)
Small to medium sized glass bowls
Candy Squeeze bottles (I recommend these)
Small angled spatulas or small butter knives

First, plan out how much of each color is needed, then add little amount of food coloring at a time until the desired vibrancy is reached. Pour icing into squeeze bottles.

To frost, use the icing in the bottle to outline the side of the cookie and then squeeze an appropriate amount into the center to cover the cookie. Spread the icing to fill in the outlined section.
Then get creative!

Merry Christmas!
Until Next Week!
Well, I have no pictures this week, because right after I baked, it was too dark too take good photos and I was invited to go to a V.I.P. Party at Kitchen Window, a Cooking School in Minneapolis. It was really fun, as many chefs from different restaurants around Minneapolis were there making great tasting plates with food such as seared tuna salad, squash bisque, carmel cheesecake, ad a ton more. That, combined with sale prices at a kitchen store made for an amazing time!

These next two weekends for baking, however, are a bit of the clam before the storm, so to speak. Next weekend begins the large amounts of baking I'm taking on for gifts for the holiday season, and then later that week, I'm working on a dessert for our annual Christmas eve party. So, more great recipes are coming!

This week however, is a recipe that I had made a long time ago before I started blogging. It's a simple cake that really brings out an almond flavor that is created through browning butter. These individual almond fanciers are supposed to be made in special dishes, but I just made them in small glass ramekins and that worked perfectly.

Almond Fanciers

From: Pastry Pal
Makes: 7 cakes

For the financier:
1 stick unsalted butter

1 2/3 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup almond flour 

4 large egg whites

In a large bowl, stir up the powdered sugar, flour and almond flour. Pour on the egg whites and whisk it all up until smooth. Place the butter in a small, light-colored pot (so it’s easy to see the browning taking place), over high heat and watch it melt. The goal is to brown it to a chestnut brown. The house will begin to have a very pleasant, nutty aroma, and that’s when it’s done. (About 5 to 7 min)
If your butter starts smoking, it’s too far gone, it is too burnt and you will need to start over.
Pour the browned butter into the flour mixture, however stop before the sooty, burnt butter leaves the pot, as you don't want that in the batter.You may make the batter 4 days before cooking. Just leave it covered and in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray custard cups with nonstick cooking spray. Fill cups 1/2 full with batter. Bake until they’re golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Watch out nice coloring, and that they’re not still wet and raw on top. (About 20 min). Once baked, let them cool.
So this week was supposed to be a Daring Baker's post as well as my regular Sunday post, but my auto posting didn't work, naturally, so I'm posting both today.

These mini tarts that I have this week were a bit of an unexpected challenge. They seemed super simple, and everything was going great, until I realized that the oven wasn't at the right temp, and then the crusts just wouldn't cook. I took them out at least four times until I was finally satisfied with the lumpy mess of coconut. Although, this recipe really opened up my eyes to a new ingredient: mascarpone. It made the best whipped cream I have ever had, and it made for an amazing tart.

This recipe also calls for vanilla bean, and it happens to be very expensive for what you get (about $10 for two). I recommend using vanilla paste such as Nielsen Massey Vanilla Paste as you can get much more vanilla for your budget. You can also always use vanilla extract, however, you lose flavor.


Macaroon Tartlete with Vanilla Mascarpone Filling and Raspberry Coulis

Makes 6 mini tarts
From: Eat Out

Raspberry Coulis

Adapted from: Martha Stewart Living
6 oz raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbs water

For the Coulis:
Combine berries, sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Once it begins to boil turn down the heat and reduce for 7 minutes stirring often. If by now the mixture isn't smooth, use a blender to get a puree, otherwise, just pass through a fine mesh colander into a bowl to separate the seeds and other solids. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until needed.

Tarletes

1¾ cups desiccated coconut
½ cup caster sugar*
2 egg whites
1 cup mascarpone cream
1 cup fresh cream
¼ cup granulated sugar

1 vanilla pod split open and seeds scraped out, or 1 Tbs vanilla paste, or 1 Tbs Vanilla extract
Grated zest of one lemon
½ cup raspberry coulis
fresh raspberries for garnish


For the tartlet casings:
Preheat the oven to 150ÂșC. Grease 6 small, fluted tart tins (be sure to cover the whole tin, as I had issues getting them out). Combine the coconut, sugar and egg whites in a bowl. Divide and press the mixture into the tins and bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool.

For the filling:
Use an electric beater to whip the mascarpone, fresh cream and sugar in a mixing bowl until it starts to thicken and look glossy and smooth. Carefully fold in the vanilla seeds and lemon zest. Fill the cooled macaroon casings halfway with the cream mixture and drizzle over some of the coulis. Cover with some more of the cream and finish off with fresh berries. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

*To make caster sugar, place regular sugar in a coffee grinder and pulse a few times.