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Ingredient: sugar

Sugar Cookie Bears

Sugar Cookie Bears

April 2016 in Review, and Christmas Cookie #4

A favorite photo…

 

A few highlights…

  • Buddy Bear turns 10
  • Spring piano recital

And a cookie recipe to go with it!

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Sugar Cookie Bears
This sugar cookie recipe is the one my mom used every year for Christmas cookies. It is easy to work with, stays soft, and tastes really good. This year, the fun part was turning the sugar cookie dough into cute little bears!! (As an added bonus, that meant I didn't have to frost them when they were done.) You can find the link to the original bear instructions at the bottom of this recipe.
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Cream shortening, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and sour cream together. Mix well.
  2. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda until evenly combined.
  3. Divide dough into 4-5 pieces. Place each piece onto a sheet of waxed paper. Cover with an additional sheet of waxed paper and roll to 1/4-1/2 inch thick. (Thicker cookies use more dough, but stay soft longer and are sturdier). Chill for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
  4. Lightly grease cookie sheets. Use a bear shaped cutter to cut out the dough and transfer the shapes to the sheets. Gently press a whole nut into the center of each cookie. Fold the arms securely over the nut. (If the arms fall off, just press them back on!) Use a toothpick to poke in eyes and a nose.
  5. Bake bears at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until set but just barely beginning to brown. Let cool on sheets for a few minutes before moving.
  6. Store in airtight container at room temperature. Cookies should stay soft for a week or more.
Recipe Notes
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Cream Cheese Almond Bars

Cream Cheese Almond Bars

March 2016 in Review, and Christmas Cookie #3

A favorite photo…

 

A few highlights…

  • Katya turned 8
  • Spring break with family in San Antonio, TX
  • Favorite Easter traditions (especially of egg dying)
  • An especially good women’s retreat with our church

And a cookie recipe to go with it!

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Cream Cheese Almond Bars
These are one of Than's annual favorites. They should be kept refrigerated, but keep well for a week or more. They get a little messy when you cut them into small servings, but I do it anyway because they are deliciously rich.
Servings
small bars
Ingredients
Crust Ingredients
Filling Ingredients
Frosting Ingredients
Servings
small bars
Ingredients
Crust Ingredients
Filling Ingredients
Frosting Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Crust: Cut butter into dry ingredients. Press into a 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.
  2. Filling: Mix sugar and cream cheese until well creamed. Beat in eggs and almond extract until fluffy. Pour over hot crust as soon as it comes out of the oven. The layer of filling might look a little thin, but it really is enough! Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Cool completely.
  3. Frosting: Cream sugar and butter together well. Add milk and almond extract and mix until fluffy and easy to spread. Adjust consistency with more powdered sugar or milk as needed. Spread evenly onto baked, cooled bars. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and press them gently into the frosting. Cover and chill to set.
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Apple Cider Caramels

Apple Cider Caramels

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Katya’s favorite fall treat has now been made 4 times this season!  It turns out that these cider caramels are pretty popular, and the more we hand out as gifts the more requests we get.  Katya helped me make the first batch, learning a lot about both the waiting and the rushing that goes into home candy making.  Katya left the cooking of subsequent batches up to me, but both she and Nathan had a wonderful time handing out these delectable treats to teachers and friends.  Yum!

(And no, there are no leaves in the caramels–the photo shows Katya licking off the caramel spoon in one hand while doing a wax-leaf dipping project with the other.  Crazy kid!)

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Apple Cider Caramels
These delicious homemade caramels have a slight spiced cider flavor that makes them particularly special. The temperature of candy making is always a bit tricky, but even if they turn out harder than desired they can be broken apart with a mallet and enjoyed just the same.
Course Candy, Dessert
Servings
pieces
Ingredients
Course Candy, Dessert
Servings
pieces
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Pour cider into a medium saucepan and boil on high for 15-20 minutes or until cider is reduced to 1/3 cup. Keep an eye on it--it goes from thick to burned pretty fast!
  2. Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper. Coat with a bit of cooking spray or rub with the butter wrapper to grease. Set aside.
  3. While the cider is boiling, get out a second saucepan. Pour 1/3 cup whipping cream into a glass measuring cup. Add enough water to make 1/2 cup. Pour that into the empty saucepan. Add sugar and corn syrup. Cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Insert candy thermometer and simmer until the syrup reaches 234 degrees. (At my altitude, it is actually 222 degrees).
  4. While sugar mixture heats, keep pouring the apple cider into a clean glass measuring cup until it is only 1/3 cup. When it has reduced enough, pour it into that measuring cup and let it cool. While it cools, stir in remaining 2/3 cup cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Mix well.
  5. When the sugar mixture has reached temperature, remove it from heat and slowly whisk in the cider cream mixture. Add the cubed butter and stir until everything is melted and mixed.
  6. Return the pan to low heat and re-insert the candy thermometer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the temperature reaches 248 degrees (236 degrees at my altitude). This part can take a really long time--sometimes 20 minutes or more!
  7. Remove the mixture from the heat and pour into the prepared pan. Careful, it is a bit tricky to pour! Let the caramels cool completely at room temperature. It takes several hours, so try just leaving it overnight.
  8. Hopefully the caramels are soft enough that you can use kitchen shears to cut them into long strips, and then cut them into 1/2 inch squares. You can try to individually wrap them in squares of waxed paper, or put them into mini muffin papers which is much easier!
Recipe Notes

Recipe from Our Best Bites: http://ourbestbites.com/2010/11/apple-cider-caramels/

Sometimes my caramels set up unusually hard, and I have to break them into bite-sized pieces with a kitchen mallet.  Sometimes they are a bit soft and when I put them in the mini muffin papers they gradually take on the shape of their container.  Either way, they taste good and are totally worth the work!

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Praline Meringue Puffs

Praline Meringue Puffs

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If you decide to host a tea party for an American Girl doll’s birthday, you need to make cream puffs.

If you make cream puffs you will have to use several egg yolks for the perfect pastry cream.

If you use egg yolks for the pastry cream, you will have egg whites left over.

If you have egg whites left over, you will need to make meringue cookies.

If you make meringue cookies, you will want to try a new kind.

If you try a new kind of meringue cookies, someone will ask you for the recipe.

If someone asks you for the recipe, you better post it on the blog.

And all that from a little doll’s tea party!

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Praline Meringue Puffs
These meringue cookies are super sweet and satisfyingly nutty. They are more on the chewy side rather than the crunchy side, a good thing for many (even though it disappointed Nathan!) They give good praline flavor without the need to actually crystallize the pecans.
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, place the pecans and pulse 3-5 times until the pecans are coarsely chopped. Add the flour, 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, and the salt. Pulse once or twice more to combine.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy and opaque. Increase the mixer speed and beat until whites begin to form soft peaks. Gradually beat in the white sugar until the whites form glossy peaks. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar and the vanilla. Continue beating until the meringue is stiff and smooth when rubbed between the fingers.
  4. Lightly fold the pecan mixture into the meringue mixture just until evenly incorporated. Don't mix too much or the meringue will deflate.
  5. Use a small cookie scoop or two spoons to drop the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets by heaping tablespoonfuls. Space about 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake all the cookies at the same time. Bake for about 10-12 minutes if you want chewier meringues, or rotate the sheets at 10 minutes and bake an additional 10 minutes (total of 18-20 minutes) for crunchier cookies. Cookies are done when they are lightly colored all over.
  7. Let cookies cool completely on parchment or foil before attempting to remove. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month.
Recipe Notes

This recipe came from The All-American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett.

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Snickerdoodle Blondies

Snickerdoodle Blondies

These bars have a simple ingredient list and come together quickly.  They are also fairly economical, making them nice for large group catering.  They capture the flavor of a snickerdoodle with the soft richness of a blondie.  Than says “YUM.”

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Snickerdoodle Blondies
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 or 9x9 pan with cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in salt, egg, and vanilla until well combined.
  3. Add flour and cream of tartar. Mix until no streaks of dry remain. Dough will be very thick.
  4. Scrape dough into prepared pan and smooth into an even layer. Sprinkle evenly with 1 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until bars are set and edges are just very lightly browned. Cool in the pan before slicing.
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Crusty Baguettes

Crusty Baguettes

This is my go-to recipe when I need bread for dinner tonight.  (See “Dutch Oven Easy Bread” for an easier recipe that can be made the night before.)  I made these for Christmas gifts one year, giving a little jar of fancy olive oil and vinegar for dipping along with each one.  I use a mixture of grains for added texture and flavor, but you can easily leave any of them out and stick with just white flour if you wish.

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Crusty Baguettes
Course Bread
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
  • 2 cups very warm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast (one packet)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3-4 cups flour (I use 1 cup whole wheat flour and 2-3 cups white)
  • 1/4 cup flax meal (optional, or just use additional flour)
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ (optional, or just use additional flour)
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran (optional, or just use additional flour)
Course Bread
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
  • 2 cups very warm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast (one packet)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3-4 cups flour (I use 1 cup whole wheat flour and 2-3 cups white)
  • 1/4 cup flax meal (optional, or just use additional flour)
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ (optional, or just use additional flour)
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran (optional, or just use additional flour)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Set the bowl on top of your preheating oven for ten minutes.
  2. Stir in the salt and add the flour a half-cup at a time, until the dough becomes soft but not sticky. Knead the dough until elastic.
  3. Cut the dough into four even pieces. Roll each of them to form four long, thin ropes. Twist together two of the ropes to form one loaf. Twist the other two ropes together to form a second loaf. Transfer both onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. You can now bake the loaves right away (if you’re in a hurry) or allow it to rise for an additional 15-30 minutes on top of your warm oven.
  5. Fill a large bowl with 3-4 cups of ice. Open your hot oven and place the baking sheet with the baguettes inside. (Alternately, you can use a baking stone. Have the stone in the oven preheating. Put the loaves on parchment paper and use the baking sheet to transfer them from the counter to the hot stone in the oven.) After the bread is in the oven, toss the ice cubes on the bottom of the oven and quickly shut the door. Do NOT open your oven for 15 minutes. Bake until golden brown, about 15-18 minutes.
  6. Serve fresh and hot with your favorite olive oil for dipping.
Recipe Notes
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