Christmas Cut-out Cookies

While searching in vain for the original source for this recipe, I came to realize that there are almost as many sugar cookie recipes as there are bakers in this world. Does this world really need yet another sugar cookie recipe? Yet, before I found this recipe I thought sugar cookies were bland and oddly reminiscent of cardboard. I never really liked them before I found these. Soft, sweet and slightly chewy, these cookies are not just fun to make — they are delicious to eat! I was first introduced to this recipe when my now 12-year-old was a young toddler involved in a playgroup. The host of the playgroup Christmas party that year served these cookies. I liked them so much that I asked her for the recipe, and I have made them almost every year, since.

Christmas Cut-out Cookies

Ingredients

3/4 C butter or shortening (or a combination of both)
1 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

Directions

Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and eggs. Sift dry ingredients and add to mixture.

Chill dough for at least an hour.

Roll out, thick, onto a floured counter top and cut out using cookie cutters dusted with flour. If you roll the dough too thin, you won’t get the right texture.

Bake on parchment paper-covered cookie sheets at 400 degrees for 6 – 8 minutes. Take the cookies out of the oven before they turn light brown. You want them chewy and moist!

Frosting

3 C powdered sugar
1/3 C butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs milk
Food coloring, optional

Directions

Sift powdered sugar and mix with butter. Stir in vanilla and milk. Beat until smooth & fluffy. Add food coloring if desired.

Advertisements

Mary’s Ginger Molasses Cookies

Mary’s Ginger Molasses Cookies always causes an argument between my husband and I because he says that I underbake them. I have explained time and again that these are intended to be a soft, slightly chewy ginger molasses cookie, not a gingersnap. Over the years, my methods for tracking recipes has changed and while I keep careful records now, this wasn’t always the case. As a result, I have no idea who “Mary” is or where I got her recipe. It is, however, my favorite, not the least of which because it calls for oil instead of butter or shortening. I do use canola oil instead of the safflower oil called for, simply because that’s what I keep on hand. Wherever you are Mary, thank you. I love these cookies.

Mary’s Ginger Molasses Cookies –makes 2 to 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

2/3 C safflower oil
1 C granulated sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
4 Tbs molasses
2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 C granulated sugar, for rolling

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine oil and sugar; add egg and beat to blend. Stir in the molasses. Add the flour and other ingredients except the last 1/4 C of sugar.

Roll spoonfulls of cookie dough into balls and roll in the 1/4 C sugar to coat. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes.

Notes: Be sure not to overcook these or they will be hard. If cooked just right you will have a nice soft center with a slightly crisp outside. The cookie should have cracks all over the top when it is complete.

Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate Pudding is one of those recipes that make me wonder at the existence of mixes. The ingredients are everything I have on hand anyway, and it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes from start to finish. I usually make this dairy-free, using vanilla almond milk, but you could totally just use regular milk if that’s what you prefer. It does call for a bit of margarine or butter, but if you are eating dairy-free, chances are you have some dairy-free margarine already on hand. The pudding just needs an extra bit of fat to make it creamy. For vanilla pudding, just leave out the cocoa and add an extra teaspoon of vanilla.

Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients

1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C cocoa powder
4 C milk (vanilla almond milk works well)
4 Tbs margarine or butter
2 tsp vanilla

Directions

Combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt and cocoa powder in a medium-sized saucepan. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the milk as one continuous stream. Place over medium heat and continue whisking. After the mixture comes to a boil, cook it until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the margarine and vanilla.

Chill before serving. Makes 8 servings.

Magic Shell

Magic Shell came as a revelation. It is an ice cream sauce from the depths of my childhood, only this is a bona fide recipe. Other than the ice cream you put it on, it has exactly two ingredients, both of which are things that already exist in my pantry as a matter of course. Coconut oil is also in another of my favorite recipes, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies . And who doesn’t have chocolate? The recipe says to use the microwave, which I’m sure works fine, but we always use the stovetop. I hate repeatedly opening and closing the microwave door.

Steamed Chocolate Pudding Cakes

Steamed Chocolate Pudding Cakes can be served fresh out of the oven, but we prefer them made ahead and chilled. The first round we always have as dessert after dinner, but leftover cakes are fabulous for breakfast the next day with a hot cup of coffee. We aren’t long on ceremony, so we always eat them right out of the ramekins. Extras are easier to store in the refrigerator this way as well. Making these perfectly right can be tricky. You have to make sure to stir in the whipped egg whites completely, without deflating them too much. Then you have to cook them through without overcooking them. If you overcook them the texture becomes tough, rather than smooth, decadent chocolate, and you get weird bubbles on the top. If done right, however, these are magic.

Apple Pie

Apple pie, if you listen to the expert judges at televised baking competitions, ought to consist of apples sliced into large chunks and baked just until barely soft. In contrast to that, my family prefers our apple pie to come together into one almost continuous, soft and sweet layer. To achieve this, we slice the apples very thinly and bake the pie until the apples are very soft. This recipe is written to achieve that end. In addition, in our pie-making experiences we have realized that not all pie tins are exactly the same size. For this recipe, I use a large glass Pyrex pie plate.

Ingredients

6 large golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 C granulated sugar
1/4 C cornstarch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tablespoon of butter (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Prepare a double recipe of Easy Wesson Oil Pie Crust, divide in half, and line a pie plate with one half, rolled out.

In a large bowl, gently toss the peeled and sliced apples with the sugar and cornstarch. Once the apples are completely covered in the sugar and cornstarch, sprinkle in the cinnamon and nutmeg and gently toss again. The apples should be evenly and completely covered in the other ingredients. If your apples are very large and/or they just don’t seem to have that kind of coverage, sprinkle in a little bit more sugar and cornstarch for some insurance. For my pies, I always err on the side of extra thickener, rather than less.

Spread the mixture evenly into the pie plate. Press downward with both hands onto the filling to help remove extra air. If you aren’t trying to be dairy-free, cut a tablespoon or two from a butter cube and sprinkle the butter over the filling. This can easily be skipped if you are trying to be dairy-free. Don’t try to use a dairy-free spread because it will contain too much water. Finally, roll out the other half of the dough and crown your pie. Cut off the excess dough, and use your fingers to crimp the edges. Press down on top of the pie with both hands again, gently but firmly, to again remove extra air. Then cut slits in the top through which steam can escape.

Bake the pie in the oven at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, and then reduce to 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the crust is browned, the filling is actively bubbling and a butter knife can slide into one of the slits with no resistance.

Mini Gluten-Free Blackberry Pies

Mini Gluten-Free Blackberry Pies has been my go-to recipe for gluten-free pie for a few years now. I have one family member who is gluten-free. After years of experimentation with different recipes, this one is the best. I do mini pies in disposable tins because gluten-free pies don’t have as much structure, so can be harder to cut than traditional pies. The tins I use have a 5″ diameter. This recipe makes 2 pies.

Gluten-Free Perfect Pie Crust Recipe is the recipe I use for the crust. First, you make a gluten-free flour mix. I am reproducing that recipe here so that I can link to the actual brands that I use. To find all of these products, you will need a good Thai grocery and a grocery with a decent natural foods selection.

3/4 C super fine white rice flour
1/4 C potato starch
1/4 C sweet rice flour, also called glutinous rice flour (for its texture, it is gluten-free)
1/4 C tapioca starch
1 tsp xanthan gum

The crust recipe calls for either butter or vegan shortening. I use the shortening because the family member I am baking for is also dairy-free. The only change I make to the original instructions is I don’t refrigerate the dough before rolling it out. I’m not sure if it’s because I use the shortening instead of butter or if it’s for some other reason, but the one time I refrigerated it, the dough became rock hard and extremely difficult to manipulate.

I make the crust dough and divide into four portions. I roll out two of the portions and use them to line the two pie tins. Then I make the filling. Once both pies are filled, I roll out the remaining two portions of dough and use them to top the pies. I cut off excess dough around the edges and then use my fingers to crimp the two layers together. Finally, I use a knife to cut slits through which steam can escape.

Filling Ingredients

3 C frozen seedless blackberries
2 Tbs corn starch
1/2 C granulated sugar
pinch of salt

Directions

In a food processor, pulse all of the ingredients together until the berries have been reduced to pea-size pieces. Divide between the two pie tins.

Bake in a 415 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350. Bake for an additional 30 – 45 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned and the filling is bubbly. If the crust browns too fast, lay a piece of aluminum foil over the pies to protect the crust.