Sunday, December 21, 2008


Surprisingly, I have not received a lot of cookies this year. Maybe I am unpopular or maybe we all just need some fresh cookie recipes to try. Either way, I am not tired of cookies yet and am excited to get baking this week. Here are three of my favorites. Blog your favorites- I love trying new recipes!

Cream Cheese Kolacky

Chocolate Crinkles
Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Chocolate Crinkles

These beautiful cookies are known as Chocolate Crinkles or Black and Whites which are perfect names for this deliciously soft, fudge-like chocolate cookie that is encased in a coating of confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar. The batter for these cookies is chock full of chocolate and because the flavor of the chocolate takes center stage make sure to use a high quality, semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate that you enjoy eating out-of-hand. Once the batter for the cookies is made it does need to be well chilled several hourse so it can be easily rolled into small balls.

What makes these cookies so amazing is what we do after the batter is chilled, and that is to roll them in confectioners (icing or powdered) sugar. It is important that no chocolate shows through. The surprise is that as these white balls of dough bake, they spread, making cracks in the white sugar which reveals the soft chocolate cookie underneath. Do not to over bake these cookies or they will be dry and that is not how we want them to taste. We want them to be nice and soft. I love these cookies warm from the oven so, if possible, make them shortly before serving although they can be stored for a day or two - if they last that long.

In a stainless steel bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Remove from heat and set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the eggs and sugar until thick, pale, and fluffy. (When you slowly raise the beaters the batter will fall back into the bowl in slow ribbons.) At this point beat in the vanilla extract and then stir in the melted chocolate mixture.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to shape into balls (3-4 hours or overnight).

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.

Place the confectioners sugar in a shallow bowl. With lightly greased hands, roll a small amount of chilled dough to form a 1 inch (2.54 cm) diameter ball. Place the ball of dough into the confectioners sugar and roll the ball in the sugar until it is completely coated and no chocolate shows through. Gently lift the sugar-covered ball, tapping off excess sugar, and place on prepared baking sheet. Continue forming cookies, spacing about 2 inches (5 cm) apart on baking sheets. (If you find the dough getting too soft for rolling into balls, return to the refrigerator and let chill until firm.)

Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes or just until the edges are slightly firm but the centers are still soft. (For moist chewy cookies do not over bake. Over baking these cookies will cause them to be dry.) Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

These cookies are best eaten the day they are baked.

Chocolate Crinkles:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup granulated white sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder


1 cup confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Thanks Stephanie!

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Another of my all time favorites. I don't mean sugar cookies are my favorite- usually they are cripsy, flat and down right dull. But THESE sugar cookies are one of my favorite cookies. The sour cream makes them so soft and the almond extract with cream cheese frosting makes them taste delicate and mouth watering! I take them out of the oven before they start to get brown when they are still "dough colored" to ensure optimum softness.

After making Cream Cheese Kolacky who wants to roll out and cut more cookies? Not me. So, instead, I lay out a large sheet of plastic wrap (large enough to wrap around a "dough log"). I then pile the dough in big spoonfuls lengthwise along the center forming a rough shaped log. Then I wrap the plastic wrap over the log and roll it like a rolling pin to make the log even and round. The idea is that you can take a knife and slice the dough from the end and have round, circular cookies to place on the cookie sheet.

I know cookie cutter shapes are fun. But for most seasons I can think of a circular object to decorate the cookies as. Easter Eggs, Summer Beach Balls, Fall Pumpkins and Christmas tree ornaments.

Hope you like them!

1 cup butter softened
1 cup sour cream
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla (I use almond instead)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
4 tsp. baking powder
5 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add sour cream and mix, Add eggs and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and add gradually. Mix well. Either shape into a roll if you plan to slice into circles or form into a disk if you plan to roll and cut the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour. To cut the dough with cookie cutters, roll dough out 1/2 inch thick on well floured surface (may be a bit sticky so flour well). To cut into circles slice 1/2 inch slices starting at the end of the roll. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Frost when cool. Makes 4 dozen.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 tsp. vanilla (or almond)
4 cups icing sugar
8 oz cup cream cheese, softened
A few drops of milk (may need more depending on consistency)

Photo and recipe from Lindsay Miller

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cream Cheese Kolacky

These cookies are my favorite Christmas cookie. Hands down. They are not too sweet and feel so light in your mouth. Beware, though, they are not light. The dough is basically cream cheese and butter held together with some flour. Just remember that when you are eating your 10th. (Or do like I do and try NOT to think about that fact). The only sugar used is in the fruit filling and a dusting of powdered sugar over the top.

They are made by rolling out the dough, cutting it into 2 inch squares, putting a dallop of Solo pastry filling (my favorites are Apricot, Raspberry and Almond) and folding over two corners so that they overlap and stick. The trick to getting the corners to stay together while baking is a method I learned in art class when we would work with clay: Dip your finger in a glass of water and wet the corners where they should stick together- no scoring necessary :)

My mom calls them "little Jesus bundles" since they remind you of a babe wrapped in swaddling. Oh so, appropriate for Christmas cookie plates.

4 oz Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup (or half can) pastry filling
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Mix the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the flour slowly, mixing until blended. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough to 1/8 inch and cut into 2x2 squares. Place a dallop of filling in the middle of each square. For each square, take two opposite corners and bring them together. Wet the bottom corner and stick the opposite corner on top of it.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 15 min. Do not let the cookies brown. Cool on a cooling rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Party Food

Whenever we are invited to a party I am never quite sure what to bring. I have a file box full of dinner, cookie and baked good recipes but party food is a whole nother ball game.

Maybe you are thinking about how you don't go to Holiday parties. To be honest, we don't go to that many either. Mainly, we just have our own little family party. Our family tradition is to have an Hors D'Oeuvres night on Christmas Eve. Rather than make a big dinner two nights in a row we take a break on Christmas Eve with sparkling grape juice, shrimp cocktail, summer sausage with assorted cheese and crackers, cut vegetables and hot artichoke dip. I love how it makes Christmas Eve feel like New Years Eve (New Years Eve with the Nativity Story, fireplace roasted marshmallows and new pajamas that is).

Here are two recipes that get the thumbs up every time. What are some of your winning party recipes?

Swiss Mushroom Bread

Kindra's Cream Cheese Ball

photo from

Kindra’s Cream Cheese Ball

1 8 oz cream cheese bar
2 Tbsp soy sauce add to taste
½ cup green onion (mainly white parts with some green) finely chopped
2 cups cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups chopped walnuts finely chopped

Set out the cream cheese to soften while preparing the onions, cheese and walnuts. Mix together the cream cheese, and soy sauce then add and mix in the green onions and cheddar cheese. Pile the mixture on a plate or plastic wrap and form a ball or log. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts, pressing down lightly on the nuts to help them stick, until the cheese ball is completely covered.

Serve with veggie sticks and or assorted crackers.

I could eat the whole thing if I have a box of Wheat Thins on hand!

Swiss Mushroom Bread

1 large loaf of French Bread (a wide loaf not skinny one)
1 stick of butter
1 small onion (about ¾ cup chopped) chopped
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
1 package of mushrooms (simple white or button mushrooms), washed and sliced
1 lb of swiss cheese, sliced (slices should be shorter than the bread is tall)

Slice the loaf of bread leaving just a bit of the crust at the bottom attached. You want to leave the loaf intact yet sliced enough that one can pull a slice off. Place the bread on a sheet of tin foil, placed on a cookie sheet. You need enough tin foil to completely wrap the bread.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and sauté the onions on medium. Before the onions are soft, add the poppy seeds and mushrooms and continue to cook on med heat until the mushrooms are wilted.

Turn off the heat and with a spoon, ladle the butter mixture between the slices of bread. I try to make sure an even number of mushrooms are in each ladleful and really try to pour the mixture so that it soaks onto each slice rather than just dump it down into the middle. After you have done this to each slice, place a slice of cheese between each slice of bread. The cheese should not stick too far over the slices of bread (otherwise it will melt on the top of the bread and make the slices hard to pull apart.)

Wrap the tin foil around the bread and place in the oven at 250 degrees for 10-15 minutes OR take the wrapped loaf to the party and then pop it in the host’s oven before serving.

To serve just open the tin foil to allow access to the bread and have a knife near by if a slice doesn’t tear off like it should 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Homemade Hot Chocolate and Marshmallows

Every Christmas I spend so much time debating what to give the neighbors and co-workers besides cookies that I end up doing nothing. When I found this recipe for homemade hot chocolate and marshmallows my light bulb went on. I have bought cellophane bags and gift tags and we'll be passing out the dry hot chocolate mix and some fresh homemade marshmallows.

Try it out on a cold night and test out different types of chocolate and different add ins to get it just the way you like it. My favorite variation is adding some crushed peppermint candy. What are your ideas for add-ins?

Don't forget to write the simple prep directions (add 1 cup water for 1/2 cup mix and heat 6-7 minutes) for your friends!

I have also included a White Hot Chocolate recipe from Martha Stewart. It won't pack well as a gift but thought you may enjoy it yourself this winter.

Homemade Hot Chocolate
A modified Tyler Florence recipe
Makes 4- 1/2 cup hot chocolate mix and 4- 1 cup liquid hot chocolate servings

3/4 cup powdered milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used unsweetened Ghirardelli cocoa)
3 ounces semi- sweet chocolate

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Take the semi-sweet chocolate and roughly chop it up to give a chunky but consistent size. Mix well with a wooden spoon and then store in a dry airtight container. To make the hot chocolate, simply add 1 cup of water per 1/2 cup of hot cocoa mix. Heat in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring with a whisk. Heat until hot, but do not boil, about 6 to 7 minutes. Serve with marshmallows.

Instead of cinnamon try crushed peppermint candy
Add a small pinch of ginger and nutmeg with the cinnamon for a spicy, Jacques Torres Style hot chocolate

Homemade Marshmallows

3 tablespoons (3 packets) powdered gelatin
2 cups cold water
2 cups sugar
2 egg whites
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, plus more for dusting pan and marshmallows
Butter, for greasing pan

In a medium sized saucepan soak the gelatin in the cold water. After the gelatin has softened, approximately 10 minutes, add the regular sugar and then gently dissolve over low heat, approximately 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
In a mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks and then fold in the sifted confectioners' sugar. While the mixer is on low, slowly pour in the cooled gelatin mixture. Increase the speed and beat until white and thick. The volume should double in size and should form between soft and firm peaks.
Line an 8 by 8-inch baking dish with high sides with foil, grease slightly with butter, and coat with confectioners' sugar. Alternatively, you can use a baking sheet, but the marshmallows will not be as tall. Pour marshmallow mixture in and top with more sifted confectioners' sugar. Leave out overnight or for at least 3 hours to set. The marshmallow should be light and spongy when set.
Loosen marshmallow from edges of tray and invert onto a large cutting board. Peel off foil and use a large knife to cut the marshmallows into cubes. Dredge each piece in confectioners' sugar.

Martha Stewart's White Hot Chocolate
Serves 8

* 2 cups heavy cream
* 6 cups whole milk
* 12 ounces white chocolate , finely chopped
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1 block dark chocolate

Using a vegetable peeler, shave chocolate into curls; set aside.

Place white chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl; set aside. Place milk and cream in a medium saucepan set over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around edges of pan (about 4 minutes). Do not boil.

Remove mixture from the flame. Immediately pour over white chocolate. When chocolate begins to melt, gently stir to combine.

Whisk in vanilla. Continue whisking until light foam forms.

photo from