Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Quick Sugar Cookies

In case you're sugar cookied out and tired of battling sticky dough on a wooden surface that you swear was floured thirty seconds ago, I present an alternative. These cookies were described as being 'crisps' because the dough was to be flattened but back to that whole battling sticky dough thing, that didn't work out.

So this is a bit of a drop sugar cookie that's lighter than your usual cookie dough. It is soft enough that a melon baller (or ice cream scoop) is sufficient in scooping the batter onto the cookie sheets. Sprinkled with a little red and green and you have a festive treat! This recipe makes a smaller quantity of cookies as well compared to other batters.

Butter and sugar are beaten together until creamy (only half a stick of butter is used!). Next comes the egg and lastly, the dry ingredients and milk (alternating). All of this sound familiar? You can top these cookies with crushed candy cane or sprinkles. Or you can leave them plain if you really want to.

Once they're baked to golden perfection, enjoy with your family or serve to Santa!

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 3-4 Tablespoons crushed candy cane or sprinkles
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. 
  2. In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add in the egg and mix to combine.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg). Gradually mix into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk.
  5. Using a teaspoon or melon baller, scoop dough onto cookie sheets, about 1-1 1/2 inches apart. These will spread as they cook.
  6. Top with candy cane or sprinkles before popping in the oven.
  7. Cookies will bake in about 10 minutes. Remove when golden brown.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Egg Nog Ice Cream

I have a ridiculous love for egg nog. Apparently it's normal to mix egg nog with milk so it's not as thick but you can just give it to me straight---maybe with some bourbon in there. I had to go to two grocery stores to get egg nog this year. The first store, I stopped an employee to direct me to the egg nog and he just stared at me like I had three heads and kept asking me what 'egg nuts' were. There were a good few minutes where I thought I had tragically fallen into some alternate universe where egg nog didn't exist and I was the only one who remembered this is a thing!!

But no worries, the second store had some. Again, I had to ask where it was but mission accomplished. After the pumpkin spice ice cream issue (issue being I didn't have an ice cream maker), I followed the instructions very closely and allowed extra chill time to ensure this ice cream came out well. I'm not sure what makes it 'egg nog' besides the addition of nutmeg but if I were to make it again, I would replace the cream portion with egg nog for extra flavor.

Similar to the pumpkin spice ice cream, the milk and cream are heated together in a saucepan until steaming. I didn't have to strain it this time but if you cook it a little too long, pour through a mesh strainer to catch the cooked pieces. The hot mixture is poured into a medium bowl where the mixed sugar and egg lay in wait.

The mixture is covered and chilled thoroughly before going into the ice cream maker. I did this overnight. Once it's chilled, pour into the ice cream maker according to instructions. The chilling part is definitely key. I could see the ice cream start to thicken whereas in the past, it's stayed soupy.

I let the ice cream chill for about 4 hours before serving. The edges were all the perfect consistency while the middle hadn't quite settled yet. When I scooped it the next day, it was a little harder so you may need to let it soften on the counter for a few minutes before serving.

My family is big on Jefferson cups which are the traditional vessels for egg nog so naturally, I served the egg nog ice cream in these cups as well.

From Homemade Decadence

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (divided) 
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 Tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream, milk and 1/4 cup of sugar over medium heat. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is steaming but not quite boiling (around 5 minutes).
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, remaining brown sugar and nutmeg. I saved the egg whites for omelettes later. 
  3. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the medium bowl with the eggs and sugar. Whisk constantly until combined.
  4. Return the mix to the saucepan and continue cooking over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens and can easily coat the back of a spoon without immediately running off. This will take about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Pour the mixture back into the bowl but through a fine mesh strainer in case any of the milk has cooked. Stir in the rum and vanilla before covering with plastic wrap (pressed gently against the mixture) and refrigerating for 4 hours or until completely chilled.
  6. Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  7. Freeze the ice cream overnight or at least for 2 hours before serving. 
  8. Ice cream is best eaten within 3 days. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mint Chocolate Brownies

You say 'baking competition' and I say 'where?!'. My company hosted a little friendly bake-off last week and lemme tell you, there are a lot of closet bakers out there! Although these brownies didn't win a prize, that did get all gobbled up. So that's a win in my book.

This recipe comes from a friend's family cookbook. She gave me this book for Christmas a couple years ago and I can practically feel the family history and joyful time spent in the kitchen eminating off the pages.

Technically, this is called "Mint Chocolate Sticks" but I'm going to call a duck a duck--or a brownie a brownie. A couple of hiccups in this plan: the recipe calls for a 9x9 pan but I only had an 8x8. No biggie, the brownies just came out a little thicker. Second hiccup: I assumed I had peppermint extract but upon searching my cabinets for it, remembered it was a casualty in the war against pantry moths 2014 (RIP). So no peppermint for the 'mint' chocolate brownies. Back up plan: candy canes! Festive AND minty.

Butter and chocolate are melted together. It's possibly my favorite thing about making brownies from scratch, watching these two melt together. And it really doesn't taste that great yet because it's unsweetened chocolate so you don't even need to worry about temptation.

The chocolate-butter mixture is added to the eggs and sugar after it's cooled a bit (the chocolate-butter, that is). The last addition is the flour.

Now, this recipe is best made in stages. Once the brownies are cooked, you need to let them cool completely before adding the icing and glaze. For me, this worked out great because I made the brownies a day ahead of time. The icing is a simple buttercream with butter, sugar and peppermint (if it's available). I added food coloring to make the icing green and seasonally appropriate.

The icing will cover the pan of brownies but doesn't make a super thick layer. Chill the iced brownies for five minutes in the fridge before glazing. The glaze is super easy to make and just involves melting more chocolate and butter. Pour the glaze over the icing. As the recipe expressly states, the glaze will cover the icing very thinly but if you can see icing poking through, "it will be okay". Good to know.

For me, the last step was sprinkling candy cane on top. I lined the baking sheet with parchment paper so it was very easy to remove the brownies from the pan. After I had already baked the brownies, I was advised to make five dozen brownies for the competition. That's a lotta brownies!! So I had about three dozen very small pieces. It looked like a tetris competition.

These will make great treats for your holiday gatherings or as gifts!


  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a square pan (8x8 or 9x9) will work and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a double boiler (or a heat proof bowl set over a pot of water), melt the chocolate and butter over medium heat until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the eggs until they are foamy. Beat in the salt, vanilla and sugar.
  4. Slowly pour the butter-chocolate mixture into the egg-sugar mixture and continue mixing until combined.
  5. Lastly, add the flour and mix on low speed. 
  6. Pour the chocolate batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the center is cooked through.
  7. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
Chocolate Glaze
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Crushed candy cane or sprinkles for decorating
  1. In a small bowl, place all of the frosting ingredients. Mix with an electric mixer until smooth. I added some green food coloring for extra festivity.
  2. Spread the icing over the cooled brownies. It will not be a thick layer but it will be enough!
  3. Chill the cake for 5 minutes in the refrigerator.
  4. Meanwhile, microwave the chocolate and butter for the glaze in a glass dish for 1 minute at half power or until melted.
  5. Once the iced brownies have chilled for 5 minutes, pour the chocolate glaze on top and turn the pan to completely cover.
  6. Sprinkle with candy canes, sprinkles or leave plain.
  7. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set the glaze. 
  8. Remove the brownies from the pan by pulling the edges of the parchment paper. This will get them out in one block so you can cut them to the desired serving size.
  9. Allow the brownies to come to room temperature before eating.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Stocking Stuffers

Every year, I plan to expand on the number of homemade gifts I give. Thoughtful things like homemade spice mixes, sauces and jams. But I also like to give cookies, truffles, granola and the traditional family 'trash'.

I almost didn't get a tree this year, just wasn't feeling the magic. But it turns out the tree is very integral in adding the magic. So yes, I carried my little tree on public transit. It's cool. And then I busted out the flour and butter and got to work. If you're feeling like you want to spend some extra time on some homemade treats, I recommend some of the following:
  1. Trash- A tradition in my family, you can add whatever snackies you'd like! I use Chex cereal, pretzels, peanuts, pecans, and almonds coated in soy sauce and sriracha. Nooooms. 
  2. Truffles- A little messy but a lot delicious. There are so many options too in case your gift recipient has picky taste.
  3. Granola- I've made some granola in my time but this article from Food52 made me confident that I can wing it in the granola department. 
  4. Sugar Cookies- Classic. Can't go wrong. My sister was afraid of the hassle of sugar cookies but alas, she was triumphant! 
  5. Ginger Cookies- Because it turns out I have more cookie cutters than I realized, let's get some variety in those goody bags!
  6. Buck-Eyes- Peanut butter and chocolate: you can't go wrong! I haven't actually made these yet but they caught my eye (see what happened there?).
  7. Popcorn- I made this popcorn a couple years ago and it was tasty. Shutterbean is really on top of her popcorn game.
  8. Candy Cane Vodka- Also from Shutterbean, I made this for my sister a couple years ago. I'm thinking martinis would be good here. 
  9. Scones in a Jar- Successfully made these and sent to my grandfather. He opened his gift early, it's cool. But all you need to do is add the dry ingredients in a jar and then instructions on what else is added (butter, egg, etc.). Super easy. 
  10. Cherry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies- There are more delicious things in this cookie but the name is already a tongue twister. It's basically a classy upgrade to the traditional oatmeal raisin plus chocolate. 
It seems like a lot but what's better than turning on some holiday tunes and hanging out in the kitchen with family? If your tree is providing mood lighting, even better. 


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas Crafts- Potato Stamps

There are less than 20 days until Christmas!!! There are less than 20 days until Christmas??? The days are already flying by and I'm holding on as tightly as I can to all the holiday lights, Christmas trees, menorahs and gift wrap that I can. Like every kid, December seemed to drag on growing up but now, it flies by way too fast. Maybe it has something to do with having a check list of things to do: get gifts, wrap gifts, mail gifts, put up decorations, bake cookies, drink egg nog--so many things. When the season becomes more of a to-do list, it loses its magic.

So take back the magic! Slow down and enjoy this time with family and friends. This past weekend, I went to several holiday markets (does 3 count as several? constant debate). If you're in the Boston area, definitely check these places out. They all support local artists and businesses plus have a unique selection of gifts. I stocked up on some cheeky cards and cooking materials.

  1. SoWa Holiday Market: It's not summer anymore! The vintage shop was open as part of their Chrismukkah celebration. The official holiday market is next weekend so you can still check out local artisans and goodies. 
  2. Eat Boutique: I went here for a book signing and workshop with Joy the Baker but they had other local businesses set up as well. They'll be hosting more authors in the coming weeks and have a great space for meet and greets. 
  3. The Umbrella: A friend of mine works at this community art center in Concord. Similar to SoWa, they host artist studios which were open to the public so it was like walking through a gallery or museum but you could talk to the artists at the same time. 
The workshop at Eat Boutique was going through how to make your own wrapping paper (or gift tags, as someone more clever than I pointed out). Maybe I quit the whole Girl Scouts game too early but during the workshop with Joy the Baker, we made ink stamps out of potatoes and cookie cutters. Boy Scouts ain't got nothin' on us! Some of the women had clearly done this before but I was a novice.

This is perfect for small cookie cutters or you could just get larger potatoes (or cut them long-ways). First, you cut the potato in half and press the cookie cutter in about half way. Carefully using a paring knife, cut around the potato like you would if you were making slices. You want to cut it so you're hitting the cookie cutter edge as you go around. You will be left with a potato slice minus the cookie cutter shape.

I think it would be fun to then roast these potato slices because they have festive shapes built in! At any rate, remove the cookie cutter and voila! Ink stamp. If you use a really dark ink, you can carefully slice off a bit of the shape to switch colors. Or make multiple stamps.

Who knew it was so simple to be so crafty! I want to try this with my niece and nephew. I think that would make me cool, right? In the past, we've made paper snowflakes but I got cool points for finding Star Wars snowflake patterns. Clearly it is my life goal to be the cool aunt. 

  • Medium potatoes (variety doesn't matter but something that's easy to hold)
  • Miniature cookie cutters
  • Paring knife
  • Ink pads (variety of colors)
  • Paper (variety of colors)
  1. Using the paring knife, cut the potatoes in half (we did 'hamburger' style but if you have larger cookie cutters, you can do 'hot dog').
  2. Press the cookie cutter into the cut face of the potato about half way.
  3. Using the paring knife, cut around the edge of the potato where the cookie cutter has been pushed. It's okay if the knife is hitting the cookie cutter edge.
  4. Pull the sliced potato ring and cookie cutter off the potato stamp.
  5. After dabbing the cut side with a paper towel, you're ready to use ink! Dab the potato shape-down on the ink pad a couple times to get an even coat.
  6. Press to paper in whatever pattern you desire! And repeat...
  7. Add decorations with marker or leave plain. The ink may bleed through so make sure to protect your table!