Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holiday Orange Spice Sugar Cookies

I couldn't resist adding one more sugar cookie recipe to the holiday cookie series. This recipe represents a slightly tart change of pace from the sugar cookie recipes I've shared with you so far. Lemon, orange, and different spices combine to give this crispy cookie a delicate flavor. By themselves the cookies are quite good. Combined with the icing, they are amazing. I make them every year.

For the Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated orange peel
1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg yolks
Cooking spray

For the Icing

1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated orange peel
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine the flour, ginger, baking powder, salt, five spice powder, and allspice. Mix well and set aside.

In another bowl, beat the butter with a hand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, orange peel and lemon peel and beat until well blended. Add the corn syrup, vanilla, and egg yolks.

Add to the flour mixture. Change the hand mixer blades to dough hooks (if you have them) and beat on low speed until fully mixed.

Divide the dough in half. Place each half between two sheets of waxed paper and roll out the dough between the wax paper sheets to about a 1/8 inch thickness. Check the underside of the dough periodically to make sure the waxed paper stays smooth. Creases will ruin the cookies later on when you try to take them off the paper.

Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes, or until firm. Stacking the dough on a cookie sheet can help keep if flat.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spray the baking sheets you'll be using with cooking spray and set aside. Take one dough portion out of the refrigerator and place it on a cutting board or flat counter top. Peel off the top layer of waxed paper. Using assorted 2 to 3 inch cookies cutters, cut various holiday shapes out of the dough. Use a spatula to gently remove the cut cookies from the wax paper and place them 1 or 2 inches apart on the cookies sheets. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Don't just throw out the remaining dough. You can reshape it and get more cookies by repeating the process of rolling it out between waxed paper sheets and returning it to the refrigerator to keep it firm and easy to work with. Work with only one dough portion at a time.

Place the cookie sheets on a rack in the upper third of the oven, baking the cookies for about 8 minutes, or until the edges are very lightly browned. Cool on the baking sheet for one minute, and then transfer to wire racks until completely cooled.

I like to work with one cookie sheet at a time, preparing the remaining dough on a second sheet while the first one is cooking. The pace is lively because of the short cooking time, but it helps me get more done when counter space is at a minimum.

To prepare the icing, combine the powdered sugar, orange peel, orange juice and lemon juice in a small bowl. Use fresh juice from the orange and lemon you got the peel from. Beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until all is combined and smooth. Add additional orange juice, if needed, to get to the desired consistency for piping or drizzling.

You can decorate the cookies with the icing any way you want, but this is how I like to do it.

Lay out clean waxed paper sheets on your counter and arrange the cookies in a single layer on the paper. Pour the icing into a plastic sandwich bag. Push the icing into one corner of the bag. Roll up the empty portion of the bag to create an impromptu piping bag. Snip off the very tip of the corner of the bag where the icing is, and use it to drizzle the icing over the cookies. Use long, bold strokes across several cookies. Don't be afraid of making a mess. That's what the waxed paper covering your counter is for.

Let the iced cookies stand for about an hour until completely set. These cookies can be stored in an air tight container for about 2 weeks.

Makes about 3 to 4 dozen cookies.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Holiday Icebox Cookies – Getting Fancy

If you've been following my last few entries on holiday cookies, you'll remember that I've given you a basic icebox cookie recipe, and a few flavor variations.
Now, we're going to take it one step further and combine them in fun ways, adding a bit of pizazz to the holiday cookie plate.

Ice Box Cookie Pinwheels

Pinwheels are spiral cookies. First, prepare two different icebox doughs. The ones in the picture were made with the chocolate and peanut butter variations. Before putting in the freezer, put each dough portion between two large sheets of wax paper roll them out to 12 x 12 inch squares. Freeze for 15 minutes.

Remove the wax paper and stack the two dough portions, one on top the other, and roll together into a tight log. Wrap in a layer of was paper, and then a layer of aluminum foil, and freeze for at least 3 hours, or until firm. Cut the dough log into 1/4 slices, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 10 minutes, just as in the basic recipe.

Four Corners Ice Box Cookies

Prepare two different icebox doughs. I used the basic recipe and the espresso brown sugar variation for those in the picture. After freezing each log for about 3 hours, cut the logs into quarters, lengthwise, and reassemble, alternating each kind of dough, and joining the corners in the center. Press the pieces firmly together, wrap in wax paper and foil again, and freeze for another 3 hours, or until firm.

Remove the was paper, cut the dough log into 1/4 slices, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 10 minutes, just as in the basic recipe.

Try and cut each quarter of the cookie dough logs into as even of pieces as you can, or you'll have trouble reassembling, and cutting, them.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holiday Icebox Cookie Variations

Now that you've tried the basic Icebox cookie recipe for the holidays, let me share a few variations with you. These all follow the same basic recipe, they just substitute a few ingredients.

Peanut Butter Icebox Cookies

Substitute 3 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter for the 4 tablespoons of butter. Substitute 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar for the regular white sugar. Whip the butter and peanut butter together before adding the sugar(s), as in the basic recipe.

Brown Sugar Icebox Cookies

Substitute 2/3 cup of brown sugar for the regular white sugar. (I think these are my favorites.)

Espresso Brown Sugar Icebox Cookies

Use the Brown Sugar Icebox Cookie variation. The original recipe adds 2 teaspoons of instant espresso granules to the flour. Because Mormons don't drink coffee, add 2 to 4 teaspoons of a grain based coffee substitute, such as Postum or Pero, instead.

Chocolate Icebox Cookies

Substitute 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, and 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa for the flour. The dough in this variation gets a little stickier, because of the cocoa. To add an extra bit of sweetness, roll the chilled dough log in turbinado sugar before cutting.

Turbinado sugar is a larger, courser, crystalized sugar with an almost blonde color (because it hasn't been bleached). Alternately you could sprinkle it over the top of any of these cookie variations.

Chocolate-Peppermint Icebox Cookies

Use the Chocolate Icebox cookie variation, but substitute 1 tsp of peppermint extract for the vanilla.

Next time, I'll show you a couple of ways to get really fancy with these Icebox cookie recipe variations.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Holiday Icebox Sugar Cookies

For me, sugar cookies are the cookie of choice when it comes to the holidays. Not that I like them any more than I like other cookies, they've just been traditional Christmas snack-fare for me since I was a kid.

In today's busy world, though, making homemade cookies, as anything other than an occasional treat, seems like a pipe dream. This recipe is a little different. It should only take you 15 minutes of actual prep time.

Icebox sugar cookies are the premier slice and bake cookie. You make logs of cookie dough and stick them in the freezer. When the mood strikes, you take out the dough, cut it and bake. This is a similar procedure to the ones you buy in the store but, these are much tastier, and probably better for you.

[When I first posted this, I doubled the recipe. I've since returned it to it's original measurements.]

Basic Icebox Sugar Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg white
Cooking spray

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

Whip the butter at medium speed with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the sugar, mixing until well blended. Add the vanilla and egg and blend those in as well.

Add the flour mixture and stir with a large spoon until well blended. (You can switch to the dough hooks on your hand mixer, if you have them.)

Turn the dough out onto a large sheet of wax paper, and shape into a 6 inch log. Wrap the log in wax paper, and then in a layer of aluminum foil, and freeze for at least 3 hours, until very firm. (The dough can be kept in the freezer for up to one month, but, make sure to give it an extra layer of foil for protection.)

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove the dough log from the freezer and cut into 1/4 inch slices. You may need to let it thaw very slightly, depending on how cold your freezer is. You want to be able to cut the dough with a piece dental floss or a very sharp knife.

This is a great place to get your kids involved, by the way. Give them a piece of dental floss, show them how thick you want the cookies to be, and let them go at it. Jut keep in mind that you may get some cookies of wildly different widths!

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, and place the dough slices onto the tray, 1 inch apart. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire racks.

Makes about 18 thin and crispy cookies.

You can ice these, if you want. I think they're yummy just the way they are, served with a hot cup of cocoa. Sprinkling them with course colored sugar crystals before cooking can be nice touch. The point is, you've got a clean canvas, here. You can decorate them any way you want to.

Tips: Too much flour will make these cookies bake up dry and crumbly. Make sure you measure the flour correctly, spooning it into a dry measuring cup and leveling it off with the flat side of a knife.

If you want to use a cookie cutter to make holiday designs, don't freeze the dough. Put it in the refrigerator, instead. Chill until slightly firm and roll out to 1/4 thickness.

Each time you slice a cookie off the log, turn the log 1/4 of the way around. This will help prevent the log from flattening out on one side as you cook them.

Next time, I'm going to show you a few flavor variations for this basic cookie.

Happy Holidays!