Thursday, April 21, 2011

More springtime cookies

It's not hard to beat a good sugar cookie, especially when it's frosted, decorated, and packaged for fun.

I made my favorite sugar cookies (recipe below) and frosted them using the all new icing glaze I came across. Love that icing. Best thing since sliced bread.

Classic Sugar Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
2 3/4 cups sifted flour
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
dash salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until fluffy.

Add vanilla, sifted flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate. (Dough can be refrigerated for several days.)

When ready to bake cookies, preheat oven to 350°.

Roll small pieces of dough into balls and place them on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake cookies for 9 to 11 minutes, or until cookies are just beginning to brown on the edges.

Cool on pan for a minute or two, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

Now comes the fun part: decorating them with the magical cookie glaze.

Icing Glaze for Cookies

I love to bake rolled cookies. I love decorating them, too.

But I don't really enjoy making royal icing. It's a high maintenance ordeal: one batch to outline and do detail work, another batch to fill the cookies. It seems like a fair amount of trouble.

Plus royal icing doesn't taste good. It doesn't taste bad, exactly, but it's not good, either. It's kind of like fondant in that way: pretty to look at, not so much to eat.

This icing recipe is it. Easy, I mean, super easy. The icing dries hard enough so that cookies can be packaged in cellophane bags or stacked. The color stays true after the cookies dry, too.

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons milk or water (I used water. I'm always leering of leaving anything that has dairy product out at room temperature for any amount of time.)
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
assorted food coloring

Put the water or milk in a small bowl and gradually add the confectioners' sugar. Stir until smooth. (I had to add another teaspoon or two of water.) Beat in the corn syrup and vanilla until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup.

Divide the icing into separate bowls, and add food colorings to each to desired intensity.

Place wire cooking racks over paper towels. Dip cookies into the icing and place the cookies on the wire racks. Any excess icing will drip onto the paper towel.

While the icing is still wet, you can embellish them with sanding sugars and sprinkles. You can spoon a bit of other colors onto the cookie and use a toothpick to swirl the colors around. It makes a marbelized-tie-dyed effect.

The cookies need to dry several hours before they will be hard enough to package or stack.

But you can eat them right away.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Queso Chicken, Black Beans, & Rice

I think everyone was skeptical about this dish but it was really tasty. We should have known: Rotel tomatoes and Velveeta? Winner winner chicken dinner.

Queso Chicken Black Bean and Rice Casserole

2 garlic cloves, minced
1Tbsp. olive oil
medium onion, diced
1.5tsp cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
2 14oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 10oz can Ro-Tel (diced tomatoes and chiles)
8oz Velveeta 2%, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 cups cooked brown rice
2-2.5 cups chopped grilled chicken
4 handfuls of multigrain tortilla chips, crushed

If not using leftover grilled chicken and rice, start by grilling your chicken (about 2 chicken breast halves) and cooking your rice according to package directions (make enough for approximately 6 servings).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the diced onion and cook one to two minutes more to soften. Add cumin and chili powder and mix together.

Add the black beans, combine to distribute seasoning. Next, add Ro-Tel and cook for 2-3 minutes to reduce some of the liquid. Reduce heat to medium-low.

Add the Velveeta and grilled chicken to the pan, stirring occasionally to let the cheese melt.

Grab about four handfuls of chips, place them in a plastic bag and let your kid smash them for a couple of seconds.

In a 9x13" pan, pour the rice and spread on the bottom of the pan, evenly distributing.

Pour the black bean, chicken, queso mixture on top of the rice. Sprinkle the tortilla chips on top of that.

Bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes.

Serves 8

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Easter Egg Sugar Cookies

Perfect for filling Easter baskets!

Start with your favorite sugar cookie recipe.

The one I use:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 to 3 cups sifted flour (2 1/2 to start, because the dough will pick up flour during rolling)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
dash salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until fluffy.

Add vanilla, sifted flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
Cover and refrigerate. (Dough can be refrigerated for several days.)

When ready to bake cookies, preheat oven to 350°.

Roll out cookies and put them on baking sheets. I like to put cut-out cookies in the fridge to chill for a bit so they’ll hold their shape while baking. I slide them in the fridge and then turn on the oven to preheat. By the time the oven is ready, the cookies are chilled just about the right amount of time.

The copper cookie cutters come from Kitchen Collectables. Their web site has step-by-step lessons, recipes, and lots of fun baking supplies.

Bake cookies for 9 to 11 minutes, or until cookies are just beginning to brown on the edges.

Cool on the pan for a minute or two, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

Start with a batch of royal icing to outline the cookies. It can also be used for detail work, such as polka dots, stripes, writing a monogram or name on a cookie.

1 pound confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder*
4-6 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons flavoring (such as vanilla, lemon, butter, or almond)

*Meringue powder is available at cake decorating supply shops as well as many craft stores and large discount stores.

Sift powdered sugar into large mixing bowl. Add meringue powder and combine. With mixer running on medium, add about 3 tablespoons warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add desired flavorings and additional water as needed.

To outline cookies and pipe details, icing should be fairly stiff. After outlining and piping, simply return any unused icing to the bowl, mix, and add more water until icing is thin enough to spread or pour easily.

Tip: Royal icing is like glue. When it dries, it’s like really, really hard glue. In fact, royal icing is the “mortar” that’s used to build gingerbread houses. So when you’re not working with an icing that’s in a pastry bag, store it upright in a drinking glass, into which you’ve first put a dampened paper towel in the bottom. Rest the tip on that and it won’t dry out.

Next make a batch of royal icing that is "flow consistency." To make flow consistency, add water a tablespoon at a time, until the icing falls from a spoon about the same way cake batter does. It needs to be good and thin.

Divide the icing into bowls and use food coloring to tint each bowl the colors of your dreams. Spoon a bit of icing in the center of each cookie and use an offset spatula to get it even.

To quickly fill in large portions of cookies that have been outlined, fill a squeeze bottle (like ketchup and mustard come in at hamburger joints) with icing and use it to fill in the areas. This is a quick method, great especially if you are making a large quantity of cookies. Be careful not to overfill the cookie, causing the icing to run over the “dam” created when you outlined the cookies.

Now we can get creative. While the icing is still wet dust some with colored sugar or sprinkles. Add small dabs of icing to the base color and use a toothpick to swirl the colors around - it will produce a marbelized look.

Use the outline consistency icing to layer on stripes or polka dots.

Allow cookies to dry completely, several hours. After they are dry, cookies can be stacked or wrapped in cellophane bags.

Place a bit of Easter basket grass in the bottom of a cellophane bag and top with the cookie. Tie with ribbon. I love this part.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

Amanda and Keith introduced Jeffrey and I, so when we hosted a wedding shower for them I wanted it to be special. Amanda's favorite dessert is chocolate chip cookies. I went about constructing a cupcake:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes. It's chocolate chip cookie dough stuffed in a cupcake, topped with a chocolate chip cookie. Genuis!

I didn't invent the idea. I looked online and merged several different recipes and variations to come up with it. First bake cupcakes. I used a box of yellow cake mix. Because I'm fancy that way.

While they're cooling, mix up the chocolate chip cookie dough filling, which has no egg.

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tbsp. light brown sugar, packed
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

To make the cookie dough filling, combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture has firmed up a bit, about an hour.

To fill the cupcakes, cut a cone-shaped portion out of the center of each cupcake. Fill each hole with a chunk of the chilled cookie dough mixture.

Next bake the garnishes - cute little miniature chocolate chip cookies.

Miniature Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions. Preheat oven 325°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside. With electric mixer, or by hand, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly combined. Beat in egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat at low-speed just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Roll bits of dough to make tiny cookies.

Bake, reversing position of cookie of cookie sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Possibly try one. Or two. Just for quality control.

Top with frosting: Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Icing.

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon honey

Melt butter and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, brown sugar, vanilla and almond extract. Beat with an electric mixer. When mixture starts to stiffen, stop mixer and add honey.

Continue to beat until light and fluffy.

Spread immediately and store cake in refrigerator.

Use a piping bag to swirl on the frosting. Or slather it on with an offset spatula.

Top with a miniature chocolate chip cookie and sprinkle with miniature chocolate chips.

The cupcakes were a hit. There were none left over and I have orders to make more soon.