Santa Sugar Cookies: Decorating Start to Finish!

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Hi and Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed 2013 and that 2014 is full of love, good health, joy and laughter.

For my first post of the year I’m going to show the steps I took to decorate my Christmas Santa Cookies. Yes, I know Christmas is over, but I never seem to have enough time to post my cookies before, so I decided I will be posting them in January and you can use them for next year…oops I mean this year! Many times people think I’m crazy for spending the time decorating cookies when they are just going to be eaten. I have to say these were the most involved ones I have ever decorated. With several layers to show detail, these cookies took on a LONG time. But, it was also lots of fun and a technique I have been wanting to try for a long time.

When you begin any layering design, take some time to plan out the order you’re icing your cookies. This will help in making the icing colors and consistencies you need. I didn’t make all of my icings ahead of time, which I would do next time, because I think it would have been more efficient. You will also be mixing different consistencies of the same color. I actually made three different consistencies of the white icing…one for outlining, one for flooding, and one for the piping on the hat.

For some reason I didn’t remember to take a photo of the actual first step…sorry and duh! This step was to mark where I wanted the Santa face by using an orange decorating marker to draw a circle on the cookie. I traced the circle using a round cookie cutter. I just started drawing details on my cookies and it truly helps so much!

BTW, I used royal icing to decorate with.

Step 1: Outline the face and the beard. (You can barely see the circle I outlined in orange, but it will show up better in some of the following photos.)

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Step 2: Fill in the beard with your flood icing. I was doing enough cookies that by the time I was done with one step, the icing was dry enough for the next step. (HEY, see the orange!!!)

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Step 3: Fill in the face with flesh colored flood icing. (Here’s a great blog and a link showing how to make different flesh tones… http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com/2011/04/skin-or-flesh-tone-icing/ )

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Step 4: After the beard and face icing has hardened slightly*, draw mustache with the flood white icing. I made my white flood icing a little thick, because I knew I wanted to use it for the mustache.
*(I did this after the icing had a pretty good crust on it, but it was not hardened all of the way through. I also took more time in between steps because I was coloring the icing as I went.)

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Step 5: Now notice, I didn’t do an outline on the hat. I was getting a bit lazy so I made a thick version of flood icing. If I would have made all of the icing ahead I would have made the outline red icing, because I had to make it anyway for the holly. (This is why I suggested you take the time to think it out first.) I didn’t have too much trouble with the icing flowing off the cookie, but making the icing the perfect consistency can be a little tricky. (I also used this consistency for the mustache and nose.)

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Step 6: Add the nose with the flesh colored flood icing. (I know the mustache shouldn’t show above the nose, but it kept running off when I tried to put it on the top edge…plus no one noticed it!!!)

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Step 7: Add the fur to the Santa had by using firmer icing with a star tip. (I actually made mine too thick and my hand hurt by the time I finished this step…LOL!!!)

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Step 8: Add green holly. I used the small leaf tip for this. (You can see my holly wasn’t perfect, oops…OH, but notice the nose is in the correct place!)

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Step 9: Add some swirls to the beard with the white outline icing. Look my holly is better on this one. (Why did I take a picture for Step 8 that wasn’t…I don’t know!!!)

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Step 10: Add the red berries with the outline red icing. (Yes, the icing that I was too lazy too make for Step 6…duh again!!!)

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Step 11: The final step…drum roll…add the eyes and eyebrow with a black decorating marker…not a sharpie as my husband suggested.

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I told you it took a LONG time! But in the end I think it was worth it! I hope you enjoy decorating/eating some of your own cookies and that this post helps a little!

Before I forget, I want to point out that these cookies were inspired by Chapix Cookies, which creates some of the most beautiful cookies I have ever seen. Although my cookies are not neatly as perfect as theirs, I was pretty happy with them.

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James’ Favorite Lemon Raspberry Crunch Thumbprints

lemon raspberry crunch cookies
My son requested these cookies for Christmas. I created this recipe when he was in 4th grade. Now he’s getting ready to graduate from college. Where did the time go…I’m serious, WHERE? Anyway, we just finished a batch and I thought I’d post our results. James is a great baking partner, he jumps right in and does whatever’s needed. We had a great day baking cookies. It’s one of the best parts of getting ready for Christmas. I hope you enjoy this recipe and that it becomes one of your favorites as well!

LEMON RASPBERRY CRUNCH THUMBPRINTS

1 (18.25) package yellow cake mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 egg
3 cups crisp rice cereal
6 Tbsp. seedless red raspberry jam

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 375°

2. Combine cake mix, oil, lemon zest*, lemon juice, and egg. Beat on low speed until well blended. Add cereal and mix until combined.

3. Drop by heaping teaspoons 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Using a round teaspoon, dip back of teaspoon in flour; press in middle of dropped cookies to make an indentation. Fill with approximately 1/2 teaspoon of jam in center of each cookie.

4. Bake 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool cookies 1 minute on baking sheet then remove to wire rack and cool completely.

Makes 3 dozen cookies

*Remember to zest the lemon before you squeeze it for its juice. This is an important step that really boosts the lemon flavor.

Best Chocolate Cake Ever? Could Be!

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Of course this is personal preference, but this recipe is definitely at the top of my best-loved chocolate cakes.

I’ve made this several times and sent it home with guests who raved about it. They told me it was even better the second day, so I started making it a day ahead…which helps when planning a get-together.

I began with a recipe I found on the web then made my own adjustments. I added a fudge-like frosting and some chopped pecans. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

CHOCOHOLIC BUNDT CAKE
1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. In large bowl, mix together cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs and water. Stir in chocolate chips and pour batter into well greased 12-cup Bundt pan.

3. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cake completely in pan at least an hour and a half before inverting onto plate.

SATINY CHOCOLATE GLAZE
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 T. butter
1 T. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
chopped pecans, optional

DIRECTIONS
1. In a double boiler, over hot but not boiling water, combine chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup. Stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth, then add vanilla.

2. Spread warm glaze over top of cake, letting it drizzle down the sides.

3. Garnish with chopped pecans, if desired.

Enjoy!

Yummy Stuffed and Unstuffed Soft Pretzels

Soft Pretzels

Soft pretzels. I think I’m addicted to them. Every time we go to the movie theatre or mall I have to have one. The smell alone is heaven…and then add cheese…can you say “yum!”

Well a few weeks ago my husband and I were bored to tears trying to find something worth watching on TV. As usual I was multi-tasking and searching the web for recipes when I came across this one on hanielas.com.

We gave it a try and even added our own twist. Get it, pretzel…twist…I know, cheezy right…okay, I’ll stop.

SOFT PRETZELS
Adapted from Hanielas.com

Yeast Dough
1-1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp. honey
1 package dry yeast

2 cup all purpose flour
2-1/2 cup bread flour
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
6 Tbsp. melted butter

Stuffing (optional)
1/4 lb. pepper jack cheese

Baking Soda Solution
5 cups water
1/3 cup baking soda

Egg Wash for brushing
egg yolk
1 Tbsp. water

olive oil to coat the bowl

Topping
pretzel salt

Tools
pastry brush
parchment paper
serrated knife
slotted spoon

Soft Pretzels - yeast

Make the Dough
Pour warm water into the bowl of your mixer, add honey and stir in yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy. Make sure you use warm water, not hot. Hot water will kill the yeast

Soft Pretzel Dough

Add 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 cups of bread flour, melted butter and salt into the bowl with yeast and knead, using a dough hook attachment. If dough is too sticky add additional 1/2 cup of bread flour. This dough when kneaded is somewhat on a dense side. Knead for 5 minutes, or until the dough comes into a smooth ball.

Soft Pretzel Dough

Lightly coat a large bowl with the oil and put the dough into the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for an hour.

Preheat oven to 450°F

Soft Pretzel Dough

Invert the dough onto a clean work surface. DO NOT USE ADDITIONAL FLOUR. Cut dough in half. Then cut one half into four pieces. Using palms of your hands roll the dough and form long ropes 16-18-inches long. Form dough into pretzel shape; set aside.

Soft Pretzels with Pepper Jack Cheese

Take remaining half of dough and divide into 8 pieces. Roll these out to 8-10-inches. Using a serrated knife, cut dough lengthwise, being sure not to cut all of the way through, and stuff with stripes of jalapeno cheese. Wrap dough around cheese, pinching to seal them. (I’m bad, I got so caught up in making these I forget to take photos, but here’s the baked version so you can see what I did)

Make the egg wash: mix together water and egg yolk, set aside

Once all dough is formed, bring 5 cups of water to boil, add 1/3 cup baking soda. Dip each pretzel into the simmering solution and let cook for 30 seconds. Remove pieces with slotted spoon and place them on parchment lined baking sheet, continue with remaining dough.

Soft Pretzel Dough

Once done, brush each piece with egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on the outside.

Soft Pretzels - cheesy

Soft Pretzels with Pepper Jack Cheese

Cool slightly, then enjoy…we did!

 

Oreos with Chocolate Transfer Sheets

Chocolate Covered Oreos  with Chocolate Transfer Sheet (recipes2luv.com)

Well I like to experiment, so this year for Thanksgiving I decided to try using chocolate transfer sheets. Of course chocolate dipped Oreos with some drizzles look great, but I like a challenge. I’ve included a few tips that I learned along the way that will help make things a little easier.

What you’ll need:
Melted Milk Chocolate
Oreo Cookies
Chocolate Oreo Mold (I bought mine from fancyflours.com*)
Chocolate Transfer Sheets (I bought mine from fancyflours.com*)
Circle Paper Punch (slightly smaller than mold**)

Chocolate Covered Oreos  with Chocolate Transfer Sheet (recipes2luv.com)
Take the chocolate transfer sheet and place a piece of thin paper on the dull side (this is the chocolate side). Place in paper punch and punch out circle. I found the extra sheet of paper helps keep chocolate from clogging up the paper punch.

Chocolate Covered Oreos  with Chocolate Transfer Sheet (recipes2luv.com)
Place punched chocolate transfer circle, shiny side down, in mold. Yea, I did this incorrectly a couple of times and ended up with the chocolate transfer on the mold. No worries, you don’t have to clean it out to reuse, just put transfer circle in correctly next time and the next batch will come out perfect.

Chocolate Covered Oreos  with Chocolate Transfer Sheet (recipes2luv.com)
Spoon melted chocolate into mold until it’s about 1/3 full. Tap mold on counter to remove any air bubbles that may have formed. (I know, the photo’s a little blurry…oops!)

Chocolate Covered Oreos  with Chocolate Transfer Sheet (recipes2luv.com)
Press Oreo into mold until it’s just below the top level of the mold.

Chocolate Covered Oreos  with Chocolate Transfer Sheet (recipes2luv.com)

Spoon more chocolate over Oreo until covered. Tap again on counter to remove air bubbles and to make sure the chocolate has gotten down the sides of the cookie – this will also smooth out the chocolate. Place in refrigerator for 10 minutes or until chocolate is firm. Turn over mold and pop out cookies. They look great, but remember you still have to remove the clear plastic from the chocolate transfer.

Using a sharp knife, carefully lift up edge of plastic and peel off.

Chocolate Covered Oreos  with Chocolate Transfer Sheet (recipes2luv.com)
Not bad for a first try…not great, but not bad! Good luck and have fun!

*I do not receive any compensation from this site…I’m just giving the facts.

**I originally started out with a 2″ hole punch. This was slightly large for my mold…you can see my edges on top of cookies are rounded and not sharp. Now I have a 1.73″ punch. I’ll try this again at Christmas and let you know how it works out.

Quick update. The smaller punch worked great. See my results…

Oreo with chocolate stencil

Oreos with chocolate stencils

Turkey and Cranberries

Cream Cheese Cranberry Salad

Well, another Thanksgiving is over. Boy, was there a lot of good food AND a lot of over eating. What can I say—it’s a tradition too! Celebrating with friends and family, catching up with everyone and of course EATING…always a lot of fun!

I made two things that were big hits…Chocolate Covered Oreos with Chocolate Transfers (check back later for that post) and my Cream Cheese Cranberry Salad, which I am sharing today…(and if I do say so myself, is great with turkey). I even have requests to make it again for Christmas. Not only is it a yummy and easy, but it’s made ahead—which is always great at the holidays.

Cream Cheese Cranberry Salad

CREAM CHEESE CRANBERRY SALAD
2-3 oz. packages raspberry gelatin
1-1/2 cups boiling water
1-14 oz. can whole cranberry sauce
1-20 oz. can crushed pineapple, undrained
3/4 cup cranberry juice

Topping
1- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

In medium bowl, combine gelatin and boiling water, stirring until gelatin is dissolved. Add cranberry sauce, pineapple and cranberry juice, stirring until mixed well. Pour into 9 x 13-inch dish and refrigerate until firm.

in another bowl, cream together cream cheese and sugar. Add sour cream and mix until combined. Spread over chilled gelatin and sprinkle with pecans.

Refrigerate overnight.

Check back soon for step-by-step instructions on making Chocolate Covered Oreos with Chocolate Transfers.

Grandma Y’s Banana Nut Bread Recipe

Grandma Y's Banana Nut Bread Recipe

My son called me the other day from college, asking for Grandma Y’s Banana Nut Bread recipe. He said his roommate was ready to throw out some rotten bananas, which he grabbed announcing he was going to make banana nut bread. His roommates responded with “ewws” and “I’m not eating that!” Undaunted, my son mixed up a batch. As the smell wafted through the dorm, his roommates seemed a little more interested.

An hour later, as the freshly baked bread rested on the cooling rack, his roomies decided they would try just a bite…and that was the end of that loaf!

I’ve made, and tasted, many banana nut bread recipes. And I have to say this is the BEST. I remember when I was a little girl, my brother and I would beg for the first slice…yes, the heel. The edges had an almost caramelized, slightly crispy texture…good and yummy memories.

I have a little secret of my own. It’s not always easy to have perfectly ripened bananas when you’re in the mood to make this bread. My trick is to keep ripened bananas in my freezer. I don’t even put them in a bag. I just throw them in, unpeeled. When I’m ready to make this recipe, I pop them in the microwave and thaw them out. Even though the bananas have more liquid from freezing, my bread turns out perfect every time!

Let me know what you think!

GRANDMA Y’S BANANA NUT BREAD RECIPE
1/2 cup butter
1-1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup nuts, chopped

In medium bowl, cream together shortening and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk and banana. Stir in nuts. Bake in greased and floured loaf pan at 350° for 65 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

(20-30 minutes for muffins)

TIP…Always, after creaming shortening, sugar, eggs, etc., when there is a liquid and a powder to add alternatively…start with powder and end with powder.