February 14, 2013
Dark Chocolate Heart Cookies
with Fondant Decorations
February 14: Valentine’s Day
“Love is patient…..” This scripture can apply to making dark chocolate heart cookies with fondant decorations for Valentine’s Day. Islander loves to bake but sometimes decorating cookies tries her patience. These cookies are like the chocolate wafers that we made before but Islander wanted to try out her new fondant imprint mat to decorate them. It really makes a great impression when the cookies go from plain to pretty! Dark chocolate heart cookies with fondant decorations may be time-consuming to make but are worth it when loved ones like to eat them all on Valentine’s Day.
(Adapted from Southern Living Incredible Cookies)
- ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, softened
- 1 ¼ cup powdered sugar, sifted (plus more for decorating with fondant)
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups flour
- ½ cup cocoa powder (we used Hershey’s brand Special Dark)
- pinch of salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (we used Wilton brand)
- Pink fondant (Wilton, Satin Ice, Fondarific or homemade)
- clear piping gel
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg. Stir in the vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon.
Gradually add these ingredients to the butter mixture. Blend until a soft dough forms. Make a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate to firm the dough for at least an hour.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and work in small portions at a time. On a lightly floured surface, roll out a piece of dough to no thicker than ¼ inch. Cut out with a heart-shaped cookie cutter, re-rolling scraps as necessary. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and let sit in the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Cool completely to crisp up a bit. Store in an airtight container until ready to decorate with fondant.
On a surface dusted with powdered sugar, roll out the fondant to 1/8 inch thick. Place on an impression mat and press gently over the surface. Remove the fondant and cut with the same heart-shaped cookie cutter used for the cookies. Cut out enough imprinted fondant hearts for all the cookies. Set aside in a covered container so the fondant does not dry out.
Scoop out 1-2 tablespoons of clear piping gel into a bowl. Using a food-safe paint brush, brush gel over the surface of a cookie. Place a fondant heart over it and smooth out the edges with fingertips. Repeat until all the other cookies are complete. Brush off any crumbs and powdered sugar residue from the surface of the cookies. Store in an airtight container until ready to place on a cookie platter and serve.
- We used a 2 ½ inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, which yielded a little over two dozen cookies.
- If clear piping gel is unavailable, water may be used as an adhesive between the fondant and the cookie.
- Thanks to Lisa L. for gifting Islander with the cookie recipe book! Happy birthday and Valentine’s Day, Lisa!
February 10, 2013
February 10, 2013: Asian Lunar/Chinese New Year (Year of the Snake)
Kung hee fat choy! We rang in the Year of the Snake on this Asian lunar year (2013) with some slithery and slightly sweet sugar “snake cookies,” a combination of our Chinese almond cookie and freaky finger cookie recipes. Although these are not traditional treats, the cookies are cute and easy to make for a fun and festive new year (or Halloween) celebration.
- ½ cup vegetable shortening (we used butter-flavored Crisco baking sticks)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup almonds, slivered, blanched and chopped (optional)
- green food coloring
- 1 egg, beaten
- green sugar (we used Wilton brand)
- white tube frosting
- black tube gel frosting
- strawberry fruit roll up
- red tube frosting
Cream the shortening with the sugar until smooth. Stir in the almond extract. Mix in the flour until the dough sticks together.
Fold in the almonds, if using, and blend well. Tint with green food coloring. Shape into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and pinch out 1 ½ inch balls. Gently roll out into 5-inch long ropes. Curve into a slight S-shape, smoothing out the cracks.
Place on a slightly greased baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Continue making the rest of the “snakes”. Brush the tops of the snake with beaten egg. Sprinkle with green sugar. Refrigerate for another 30 minutes.
Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes but do not brown. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 15 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely and crisp up. Use a small round tip to pipe white eyeballs on one end of the snake cookies. Dab a little black tube gel on the white eyeballs to make the pupils. Unroll a strawberry fruit roll up.
Slice into thin strips, then into tiny rectangular pieces. Cut slits on one end to make a forked tongue. With a little red frosting, position the red fruit roll up tongues underneath one end of the snake cookies. Continue for the rest of the cookies. Place on a platter and serve or store in an airtight container up to a week. Yield: Approximately 15 snake cookies.
- Gel food paste yields a more vibrant color on the cookies than liquid drops.
- Minimize the frosted points of the piped white eyeballs by touching your fingertip with a little powdered sugar, then pressing down lightly to flatten before adding the black gel pupils.
February 4, 2013
Butternut Squash Soup
February 4: National Homemade Soup Day
At one of Highlander’s work conference dinners, we met a fellow foodie, Sol S., who aspires to write a comfort food cookbook. He wants to feature recipes that are homemade, healthy and hearty. He shared with us his butternut squash soup recipe to try out in our own kitchen. It was delicious and simply satisfying! Butternut squash soup is comfort food for cold weather and is also appropriate for National Homemade Soup Day.
(From Sol S.)
- 1 medium butternut squash (we used 2 12-ounce bags of squash already cut and cubed)
- 1 sweet onion, quartered
- 3 cloves garlic with skins on
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 ½ cups chicken stock
- 1 cup sweet corn
Peel the butternut squash, cut the ends off, remove the seeds and dice into 1-inch cubes. Peel and quarter the onion, removing the ends. In a large bowl, mix the squash, onions and garlic with the olive oil, salt and pepper until well coated. Place on a foil-lined baking pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes (after 30 minutes, stir to roast evenly). Remove from the oven and discard the garlic skins.
In a large pot, place the roasted vegetables (squash, onions and garlic) and cover with the chicken stock. Simmer for 20 minutes. Let cool. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. In a blender, puree in batches. Put the pureed vegetables back in the pot and simmer with the sweet corn until heated through. Serve immediately in soup bowls.
- Sol S. garnishes his butternut squash soup with cooked shrimp or crabmeat or shredded chicken. The sweet corn adds texture to this recipe. Good luck to him as he authors his project!
- Search our blog for other soup recipes.
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