12 December


3D Christmas Tree Cookies

 December 25: Christmas

Islander had been naughty NICE all year long that Santa stuffed a 3D Christmas tree cookie cutter in her stocking one year! The specialty cutter from Sweet Creations brand may be found on eBay and Amazon.

Without any expectations in return, she made these 3D Christmas tree cookies just to share her joy of baking and we delivered the sweet treats to her brother’s communities of priests and religious for their happy holy-days dessert. In exchange, they prayed for us and gave their blessings—a wonderful gift in itself!

“For it is in giving that we receive….”

St. Francis of Assisi

Highlander and Islander wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Recipe

 Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract
  • 3 cups flour (all purpose white)
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Green food coloring
  • fondant (white and red—or other colors)
  • edible gold dust

Directions

In a bowl, mix the butter with sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg and milk. Add the vanilla or almond extract.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture into the other ingredients and blend well to form a dough. Tint with green food coloring and mix well.

Divide dough in thirds and roll into a ball. Then flatten each ball into a disc and place between sheets of waxed or parchment paper. Roll out to about ¼-inch thick (we used ¼-inch thick acrylic sticks as guides). Stack them on a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm (about 30-45 minutes). They may also be frozen for 15-20 minutes. Take one stack of flattened dough out of the refrigerator or freezer. Peel away both front and back to loosen, leaving the dough on one sheet of the waxed or parchment paper. Cut out the Christmas tree shapes.

Place on foil-lined greased cookie pan about 1 ½ – 2 inches apart. Refrigerate the cookie pan. Re-roll scraps of dough and cut more shapes, refrigerating if the dough gets too soft. The dough needs to be cold and firm in order to retain its Christmas tree shape. Bake the cookies in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until the sides are very lightly browned. Remove from the oven when done and let sit on the pan for about five minutes. Transfer each cookie on a wire rack to cool completely.

Separate the top and bottom cookies. Then pair them up to see if the “notches” fit together. If the cookies spread and the “notches” are too wide for the pair of cookies to fit together when assembled, use a dull knife blade to carefully “shave” off the cookie “notches” until they are wide enough for the cookies to fit.

Disassemble the cookies. Roll out white fondant thinly (approximately 1/16 inch) and cut out ½ inch stars using a plunger cutter. Use a water brush to attach the fondant star to the cookie. Brush some gold dust on the star. Set aside.

Roll out red fondant thinly (approximately 1/16 inch). Cut out ¼ inch circles with a round piping tip. Use a water brush to attach the fondant circles to the cookie marks.

Transport the cookies separately/individually. When ready to serve, re-assemble the pairs of cookies on site. Arrange on a flat, festive platter.

Algerian Sablés

December 4: National Cookie Day

We reunited with our friend Sido B. from university when we spent Highlander’s birthday in Paris, France, many years ago. Sido had just married Raida and they invited us to their little apartment for a simple dinner. They served coffee, tea, water and wine along with salad and a tray of Parisian pastries and Algerian appetizers (very fitting as they are French-Algerians). Seventeen years later, we reunited again when we visited them in Dubai, UAE. This time, they had twin teen girls and a bigger house…but still the same generous hospitality of feeding us!

The fancy jam sandwich cookies that they served were sablés, meaning “sand”, which we saw everywhere in Dubai and they said reminded them of the Sahara Desert (لصحراء الجزائرية‎) that dominates the landscape of the country of their birth (they both grew up in Paris and Nice).

These pretty cookies do have a sandy dough but come together and bake into a beautiful butter biscuit. The jam not only holds the pair of cookies together but complements the taste. A sprinkling of powdered sugar looks like snow and makes them festive for the holidays.

Make an impression on National Cookie Day and bake/serve/exchange Algerian sablés!

Recipe

(Adapted from Food.com)

 Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar, granulated white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 ½ cups flour, all purpose
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Apricot or strawberry jam (or other favorite preserve), warmed and stirred until smooth
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Directions

In a large bowl, cream together the butter with sugar. Add the vanilla. Beat in the egg. In another bowl, combine the flour with baking powder.

Gradually add the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Mix well until a sandy dough comes together. Form a ball and divide in half. Flatten the ball slightly and place between two sheets of wax paper.

Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Repeat for the other ball. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to firm up the dough. Use a cookie cutter to cut out an even number of tops and bottoms.

For the tops, use a round cookie cutter to cut out the middles. Re-roll the middles and scraps and continue cutting out shapes. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let rest on the cookie sheet for about a minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Use a mesh sieve to sprinkle powdered sugar all over the tops of the cookies. Set aside.

Assemble the cookies by spreading jam on the bottom of a cookie and carefully pressing the top of the cookie onto the jam, aligning any grooves. Let set and do not stack the cookies.

Notes

  • Heat up the jam slightly or stir vigorously to make it spreadable on the cookie.

  • Search our blog for other cookie recipes to make for holiday exchanges and gifts.

 

Saltine Toffee

(Christmas Crack)

December 25:Christmas

During the holiday season, Islander participates in many cookie and treat exchanges through her cake and culinary clubs. At different meetings every year, someone has brought “Saltine Toffee”, which are salty crackers topped with toffee, chocolate and nuts. It is also nicknamed “Christmas Crack” because it truly is an addictively sweet-salty-crackly treat. They are popular to give as foodie gifts for family, friends, co-workers and neighbors, to take to holiday potluck parties and to snack on them throughout the Christmas festivities. Bring joy to everyone’s world and make Saltine Toffee!

Recipe

(Adapted from Southern Living Magazine)

Ingredients

  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers (as many pieces to fit in a jelly roll pan)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 package (12 ounces) chocolate chips
  • ½ – 1 cup nuts (we used pecans)

Directions

Line a jelly roll pan with foil. Generously mist with cooking spray. Arrange the crackers to fill the pan. In a saucepan, melt the butter slowly over medium low heat. Slowly stir in the brown sugar.

Keep stirring the brown sugar until bubbling and thickened (about 3 minutes). Pour evenly over the crackers. Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees F for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread the chocolate chips on top while the crackers-toffee are still hot.

Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top (return to the oven for a minute or two if needed to melt more). Sprinkle with nuts. Let cool to room temperature then place in the refrigerator to set until firm. Slice or break into pieces. Store chilled in airtight container.

Notes

  • Avoid stacking the Saltine Toffee to avoid sticking and melting together. Place the pieces between sheets of waxed or parchment paper. Or layer them loosely on a serving platter.
  • Merry Christmas to our blog readers!

Next Page »