Pumpkin Spice French Toast

Pumpkin Spice French Toast

I try to take full advantage of my mornings alone as a time for just me, myself, and I. My ideal morning would include 30 minutes of some sort of exercise, a long shower, an outfit choice I’m proud of, a warm breakfast, and a hot cup of coffee. Usually I accomplish about 2 of the 5. However, I will wake up seriously early on certain days if it means having an awesome morning, because in my mind an awesome morning = an awesome day.

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Truthfully, a great morning might simply mean having a stellar breakfast. I don’t always have the time to make it myself, but when I do, I think about it fondly for the rest of the day. Or week. Such was the case for this Pumpkin Spiced French Toast (otherwise known as the Dessert of Breakfast).

The cool thing about this recipe is that I used pumpkin puree and heavy cream to soak the bread in, which created a batter-like consistency that didn’t cause the bread I used to get overly soggy. Use bread that is a bit stiff like day-old bread. I used a not-too-thick store bought multigrain, but feel free to use a more breakfasty bread like brioche. It’s perfectly sweet enough on its own, but a little maple syrup will go a long way.

Yes those are pumpkin seeds on top, and no there is no such thing as too much pumpkin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPumpkin Spice French Toast

Makes 3 slices (single serving)*

  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tablespoons pumkin puree
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 slices of day-old bread (I used multigrain)
  • nonstick spray
  • 1 Tablespoons butter

*Recipe can easily be doubled for an extra person or two

  1. Whisk all ingredients together (except bread, spray, and butter) in a bowl that has a wide bottom for about 3 minutes. Whisk until thouroughly combined and it looks like an orange cake batter.
  2. Dip each piece of bread in the mixture on both sides, wiping excess batter back into the dish, and let sit on a plate for a minute each.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a pan or skillet over medium heat. Once heated, spray with non-stick cooking spray. Melt a little bit of the butter in the pan. Start with the first bread you dipped and grill it until golden brown on each side. Add more butter as needed before grilling the next piece. Top with a drizzle of pure maple syrup, whip cream, and pumpkin seeds. Or nothing at all.

Mushroom Quinoa Stuffed Squash

Quinoa & Mushroom Stuffed Squash

I’ve been on a bit of a mushroom kick as of late. It could have something to do with the fact that I recently got a gig at River Valley Ranch & Kitchens, where I have learned a ton about mushrooms while vending at some of their mid-season farmers markets.

Cremini mushrooms

Just some cremini

It turns out that one of the best ways to combine everything I love about autumn is by hanging out at farmers markets. What better way to combine fresh seasonal food and crisp fall weather? It’s basically a win-win. If you haven’t made it out to a farmers market near you yet, I urge you to make the trip. If not for the food or weather, then do it to swoon over the adorable dogs that make frequent appearances.

Mushroom Quinoa stuffed Squash

Toppings galore

This dish is just exploding with flavor and involves my most beloved seed, quinoa. The nuttiness of the quinoa is a match made in heaven for these earthy mushrooms. Stuff it in a squash and you’ve got a autumn entrée worth raving about. You can use other, more autumn-y spices but these are the spices I found work best in quinoa. The toppings are optional, but honestly, what can’t be topped with feta and parsley? Go with it, you won’t be sorry.

Mushroom Quinoa Stuffed Squash

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 squash of your favorite variety (I used a sweet dumpling squash)
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1/2 C shallots
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound mushrooms (I used a mixture of cremini, shiitake & oyster)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of black ground pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 C quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 C water
  • 1 vegetable or chicken bouillon cube
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • optional: 1 Tablespoon crumbled feta
  • optional: 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  1. First, wipe mushroom caps clean with a moist paper towel or clean sponge. Remove and discard stems. Slice mushrooms in large chunks, and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut each squash in half and scoop out seeds. Reserve seeds for roasting in the future, if you desire. Brush the rims and insides of squash with olive oil. Place face down on a baking pan and bake for 30 minutes until it is tender enough to be poked with a fork. Remove squash and set aside, but leave the oven on.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the mushroom quinoa while squash bakes. Heat oil in a large pan/skillet. Add the shallots and cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until they are translucent. Add the butter, mushrooms, salt, and pepper, and cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until the mushrooms start releasing their juices, stirring often. Stir in garlic and cook for additional 2 minutes. Once garlic is fragrant, remove from heat.
  4. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa, water, bouillon, and spices to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer quinoa until liquid is absorbed and the germ is barely visible, about 15-20 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the mushrooms to the quinoa, mixing until combined. Turn the squash upright in the baking sheet. Spoon about 3/4 a cup’s worth of the mushroom quinoa mixture into squash crevice, enough to fill each squash crevice and then some. Put back in the oven, and bake for another 20 minutes. Once it’s ready, remove from the oven, garnish each squash half with optional feta cheese and fresh parsley. Serve warm.

Brown Butter Baked Doughnuts

doughnuts brown butterSo I bought some doughnut pans. 1 regular sized, 1 mini pan, because why not? Because even though my kitchen is not yet equipped with the most basic essentials (e.g. can opener, cast iron skillet, stand mixer and good knives), the child in me could not NOT have them. Plus, there’s always time to get the grown-up stuff… isn’t that why people get married?
brown butter doughnuts 2Let’s talk about brown butter. It’s like the nutty smelling magic elixir of food, and it makes everything taste like dreams and autumn. If you’re like me, and you made it way late to the brown butter train, no matter. It’s still plowing through tons of sweet and savory recipes, restaurants, and food blogs to this day. Now it’s making it’s debut on my blog and will remain a regular in my dishes for ages to come.

These baked doughnuts are different from normal doughnuts in that they are more cakey and less fluffy. The are still soft, but they have a denseness to them that would be the perfect match for a big cup of coffee (or milk, if you’re into that kind of thing).

A note about sprinkles: don’t omit them. They are really what set the tone on a doughnut, whether that be fun, whimsical, or tastefully decorative. In fact, sprinkle them with whatever you have handy that strikes your fancy: candy, pretzels, bacon, whatever! Go nuts with these doughnuts.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brown Butter Baked Doughnuts

Doughnuts by Joy the Baker
makes 6 doughnuts
total time: about an hour

For the brown butter doughnuts:

  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/3 C granulated sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter (2 Tablespoons reserved for doughnuts, the rest is for the glaze)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the brown butter glaze:

  • 1 C powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3-4 Tablespoons of milk (I used almond milk)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a doughnut pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and sugar.  Set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter for about 4-5 minutes.  Butter will begin to crackle and pop as it melts, and once  it quiets down, it will quickly begin to brown. Watch it carefully so it does not turn from brown to black and gross. The butter will begin to smell nutty, at which point remove from heat and immediately transfer (brown bits and all) to a small bowl to stop the cooking process.
  4. In a small bowl whisk together egg, buttermilk, and vanilla extract.  Measure out 2 tablespoons of browned butter and whisk into the wet ingredients. Reserve the remainder of the brown butter for the glaze. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring together until everything is combined.
  5. Use a spoon to dollop and shape batter into greased doughnut pan. Fill each doughnut crevice 3/4 of the way full. Place in oven with rack on the upper third of the oven for 7-9 minutes. Once the edges look likely browned and a toothpick comes out clean, take them out and allow them to cool in the pan before transfering them to a wire rack.

As they cool, make the glaze:

  1. Take the 3-4 Tablespoons that of brown butter that was reserved from when you were making the doughnuts, and add to the powdered sugar in a medium bowl.
  2. Stir in vanilla and milk until it forms a glaze. Dip the cooled doughnuts into the glaze and immediately sprinkle with whatever makes you happy while glaze is still wet.

Creamy Pesto Spread

Creamy Pesto Perfection1
Pesto is one of those things I grew up with. My dad, for as long as I can remember, has grown bushels of basil in our backyard, and come summertime I would watch the bushels shrink as they would be blended into pesto perfection. Pesto was always a part of my summers. And winters. Because my parents make enough pesto every year to freeze and use throughout the year. After moving out of my parents’ house, my parents make sure I always have a bit of home by stocking my freezer with enough pesto to get me through until the next summer. In other words, they are the best.

In the past few years, America found out how absolutely perfect the stuff is, and now we can’t get enough. And honestly? I couldn’t be happier. Now I’m seeing pesto in sandwiches, salad dressings, on burgers, pizza and in other places where dreams come true. It’s like pesto, what CAN’T you do?
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The other day I made a creamy pesto sauce for my pasta. I had some leftover and thought, what is stopping me from slathering this stuff all over a sandwich? The answer is nothing. Nothing stopped me. And the result was a delicious condiment that doubles as a pasta sauce. And it works, because pesto is magical like that.

This creamy pesto works with many different flavors, so I just made a sandwich with ingredients I had on hand. This sandwich features a basil/arugula blend, raw red onion, tomato, and a hard boiled egg on a grain loaf. It was awesome, and I completely reccommend doing the same, but feel free to build a sandwich with whatever ingredients make you happy.

What is your favorite use for pesto?

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Creamy Pesto Spread

Makes about 1 Cup

  • 1/2 scant C heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 C your favorite pesto sauce*
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 C parmesan cheese, grated

*One day soon I will post the recipe to my parents’ pesto… just not today

  1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring heavy whipping cream just to a boil. As soon as it starts to boil, turn heat to low. Do not let it boil completely.
  2. Add pesto and garlic powder to cream, and stir simmer for about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently until cream and pesto are blended together.
  3. Take the saucepan off the heat, and add the cheese to the sauce. Stir until the cheese is melted completely. Enjoy with pasta, in a sandwich, on toast, or even as a dip.

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart with Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust

Chocolate Caramel TartLook, I really have vowed to start making the titles to my posts shorter, rather than lay it all out on the table at once. I just get so excited, that sometimes I need to reiterate every star ingredient in the dish, in the title. Like blurting out what I got you for your birthday before you’re done unwrapping it, I just can’t contain myself.
Chocolate Caramel Tart 3I’ve been riding the caramel train for as long as I can remember. Chocolate and caramel are BBFs. Chocolate chip cookies will never go out of style. And everyone knows my fondness for sea salt. You guys, this tart is basically everything I love.
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Let’s start from the bottom. The crust is a chocolate chip cookie flavored crust. I say “flavored,” because it does not actually rise like a chocolate chip cookie and alone could not hold its own to a real cookie. But it’s crispy and allows the other ingredients to shine, which is what I want from a tart crust.

Chocolate Caramel Tart 2The next two layers are oozing with caramel and creamy chocolate ganache. Here is the caramel recipe I use for just about everything. It’s great for baked goods because it’s gooey once it’s at room temperature, and making it involved NO CANDY THERMOMETER. That’s right, I don’t mess with candy thermometers (mostly because, ya know, I don’t own one).

The end result is a gooey, messy interior with a firm, crispy bottom. It tastes like all of my favorite flavors are throwing a party together, just for me. Small slices will still pack in a rich punch, so it’ll most definitely serve a group. Perfect for parties, gatherings, and special occasions of all kinds. In my case, it was my last day at my student office job! Being that I am the (self-proclaimed) office baker, I knew I had to bake something to leave a final mark on my (self-proclaimed) legacy. Not a single slice was spared that day.
Chocolate Caramel Tart

Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart with Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust

Serves about 10
Takes about 1.5 hours

Crust by Bakepedia, Caramel by Smitten Kitchen

For the Crust:

  • 5 Tablespoons butter, softened, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 C packed brown sugar
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 C mini chocolate chips (I chose semi-sweet)
  1. Position oven rack to the middle. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9 inch tart pan with non-stick spray.
  2. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes. Add flour, salt, and vanilla and mix by hand until it starts to come together. It will look crumbly and dry, but if you squeeze some between your hands it will stick together. Fold in mini chocolate chips. Gather mixture into a ball with your hands, and transfer it to the tart pan. Starting from the middle and pushing out, press evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until it is lightly browned. Don’t bake for too long, because it will firm up as it’s cooling. Take out of the oven and set aside to cool while you make your other components.

For the Salted Caramel:

  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 1 stick of butter, cut up into pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 Tablespoons of heavy whipping cream
  1. In a medium, dry saucepan, melt your sugar over medium heat. This may take a few minutes, stirring occasionally to break up big chunks and let all of the sugar rotate to the bottom of the pan. When the sugar is melted, it should be smooth and copper-colored.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in chunks of butter, a few at a time. It may start to harden before it can be fully incorporated, but do the best you can. Sir in cream and salt, and return to medium heat, returning it to a simmer and stirring for a few minutes until all ingredients have blended together smoothly and the caramel is a shade or two darker.
  3. Pour out the caramel into the cooled crust. Let it sit until the top has firmed slightly, then transfer to the fridge and let it firm for about 30 minutes before making your ganache.

For the Chocolate Ganache

  • 1/2 C heavy whipping cream
  • 8 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used Ghiradelli 72% cacao)
  • Chunky sea salt for garnish
  1. Place dark chocolate into a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring heavy cream just to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate. Let it sit for 1 minute. Stir cream and chocolate together with a rubber spatula until smooth.
  3. Pour ganache over firmed caramel layer of your tart. Smooth it out evenly with your rubber spatula. Put it in the fridge and let it set for at least 4 hours, or overnight. When you are ready to serve, take it out of the fridge for about 20 minutes before sprinkling with sea salt.

Candied Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chinatown Square, steps away from my new apartment

Chinatown Square, steps away from my new apartment. Via Instagram

I just moved from the north side of Chicago to Chinatown this weekend. So far I like living in a little enclave of the city far enough away from everything that’s familiar to me. It makes going anywhere feel like an adventure, and it definitely tests the boundaries of my comfort zone. However, it also means that Walgreens is now my primary grocery store, and it isn’t exactly the ideal store for a gal who likes to cook.

But the cool thing about living in Chinatown is they have tons of little shops stocked with ingredients I might not use on a normal basis.
Ginger + Chocolate = <3
Now I’m not saying crystallized ginger is a far cry from many other ingredients I’d use in my baked goods, but I am saying Walgreens would never carry it. But you know who did? Sweet House. Contrary to what the name might lead on, it is NOT a candy shop. It’s a little shop in Chinatown Square that has jars of fun things like dried fish maw and tea.

Jasmine Pearl tea I got suckered into buying... but damnit it smelled so good!

Jasmine Pearl tea I got suckered into buying… but damn it smelled so good!

Though I don’t yet have a place for fish maw in my cooking , I did find some relatively cheap candied ginger. And what’s the best way to test out a new oven? Cookies, obviously.

Ginger Chocolate cookiesCookies can be made in separate batches, so you can burn the first batch (and I did!), and adjust accordingly for the next batch. That’s the beautiful thing about cookies; you get another shot. They’re forgiving and delicious. These cookies are impossibly soft, and the candied ginger gives you a spicy, chewy bite.
Ginger Chocolate Chip CookiesFor the record, cookies are my favorite things to bake. Easy, breezy, and stress-free. Don’t these cookies make you want to engage in some leisurely activity like these pictures suggest? Maybe read a book? Jot down some ideas you’ve been chewing over*? Go on a picnic? Whatever you find leisure in! There’s a cookie for that.

*Pun intended. Cue eye roll…

Candied Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted slightly by Minimalist Baker
 Makes about 2 dozen

  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch salt
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl, set aside.
  3. With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Mix in the egg and vanilla.
  4. Slowly add in dry ingredients until fully incorporated. Then fold in the chocolate and candied ginger chunks.
  5. Scoop spoonfuls of dough on non-stick baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 7-10 minutes, until edges are slightly browned and middle is just cooked. Let them cool before transfering them on a cooling rack or paper towels to cool completely. Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container for later enjoyment.

Happy Birthday and Happy Renewal!

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My 3-layered graduation cake. Bottom; chocolate chip cookie dough. Middle; cheesecake. Top; Devil’s food cake.

Happy birthday Yum and Done! Bet you all wouldn’t have guessed I’ve had this blog for exactly a whole entire year today! If it seems like it’s been a while since I’ve last posted, that’s because it is. You know how it goes, between school, internships, procrastination, camera frustration, and a crippling creative block… or maybe you don’t (I hope you don’t). Since then I’ve tried my hand at making and baking lots of new foods (click links for recipes!):

At least 4 different layered cakes (2 of which were for me)
Mexican Hot Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Healthy chicken taquitos
Baked Parmesan Zucchini chips
Vegan Cinnamon rolls
Samoa bars
Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Alfredo
Stuffed peppers
French Toast Cookies
Chocolate Caramel Tart
Tomato Arugula Puttanesca
AND MUCH MORE because it’s been well over 6 months and girl’s gotta eat.

Point is, that cold January day I last posted was not the last time I cooked/baked/mixed up something delicious. And now after many nudges (emails) from WordPress to renew my blog, as well the looming aftermath of my graduation (the job hunt), I decided to pick things up where I’ve left off!

Look for recipes and food porn in the coming days. In the meantime, enjoy these various pictures of my somewhat recent food escapades.

Salted Caramel Tart

Salted Caramel Tart

Mexican Hot Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Mexican Hot Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Housing Services Bake-Off (it was a tie)

Housing Services Bake-Off (it was a tie)

Lemon Blueberry Tart

Lemon Blueberry Tart

Vegan Cinnamon Rolls

Vegan Cinnamon Rolls

Yes these are all from my Instagram, so yes you should start following me. SandraSimSim.

Cucumber and Roasted Chickpea Salad with Yogurt Lime Dressing

Cucumber Chickpea Salad
Every year I make the promise to get back on the health track after waddling off it for holiday indulgences. Every year I do, until the next holiday, birthday, or groupon comes along to entice me otherwise. I can’t quite find the motivation to get back on so I stay and indulge for a while.
Suddenly it’s a month before summer and I’m taunted by the idea of having to wear less clothing so I’m scrambling to get back on the health track in full swing, and I do! For about a few days every other couple weeks up until the holidays. This is every year without fail.

This year is a little different for a couple different reasons:
1. I’m more health conscious than I’ve ever been
2. I’m less self conscious than I’ve ever been

I’m not driven by self-made promises or holding myself to any scale or measuring tape. But I know what’s good for my body, and I know what makes me feel healthful. I’m just making daily conscious decisions that make me feel okay (good, even!) and changing my attitude towards food. For instance, I’ve finally realized that salads are wonderful and the possibilities are endless and they fill me up with nutrients rather than shame and regret! :]

Cucumber Chickpea Salad

This is one of those wonderful ones. So good, that all the components taste great on their own. Roasted chickpeas are my new favorite snack. This dressing will work great as a dip for other veggies. It’s delicious and filling and healthy and basically everything you could ever want out of a salad. Makes a great side dish, though it may steal the spotlight.

 Cucumber and Roasted Chickpea Salad with Yogurt Lime Dressing

Makes 4 sides, 2 main dishes
Adapted from FitSugar

You’ll Need:

  • 1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill
  • salt & pepper

For the salad:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place chickpeas on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to coat, and toss them around so they are all covered. Place unpeeled garlic cloves on the edge of the pan. Roast for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

2. Chop cucumbers into thick disks, and quarter them. Place in medium sized bowl. Take out chickpeas, and once cooled mix them with the cucumbers.

For the dressing:

Peel garlic cloves, and mix them with the juice of the entire lime. Add Greek yogurt and mix well. Then add the dill and stir until incorporated. Salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the cucumber and chickpea salad into desired servings. Spoon dressing over salad and serve with grilled flat bread, if you want.*
Cucumber Chickpea Salad
*You can refrigerate the salad and dressing separately the night before and combine them when ready to serve.  

Belated Holiday Cheer, Sugar Cookies + Royal Icing, Shoulds

Christmas Sugar cookies

You know, there is something about a long vacation away from everything that gives me this strong, entitled urge to do nothing. No work + no school = no “should”s. Shoulds are those nagging pests that don’t actually exist but end up on our to-do lists anyway. I made absolutely no room for them during this winter break, because I justified it as being my Last Official Winter Break EVER (I graduate college this June). Therefore, I deserved to be self-righteously lazy and shoulds were to be avoided at all costs (which made all of the sense at the time). This blog turned into one of those shoulds that I escaped. Not to say that this is something I don’t enjoy doing, but compared to sleeping in, browsing netflix, reading  blogs, and eating the consistently delicious food my parents make instead of making it for myself, it did start to feel like something I should do rather than something I wanted to do. Now that I’m about to be thrust back into the world of non-hobby, no nonsense shoulds, I’m starting to cling to this blog as one of my “want”s again. Such is life. But my blog doesn’t mind. Whether I’m too busy for it or not busy enough, it will always be here for me right where I left it. Even if I’m making a Christmas-related post 4 days into the new year. My blog is not here to judge. Though I can’t really say the same for you, dear reader, I suggest you take a look at my sweet pics (pun intended) and reconsider.

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So actually, this post is more about me showing off than about me giving you new and ingenious recipes. I tried my hand at my very first royal icing coated sugar cookies attempt, and I am pretty damn proud of the results.

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So much so, that these were the only Christmas gifts I gave away this year. This also had to do with how little money I had and how surprisingly inexpensive these little cuties are to make, but still.

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In the spirit of it still being my winter break, I am lazily giving you the links to the sugar cookies and royal icing I used instead of writing them out, because well, I didn’t change a damn thing.

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Festive stick person posing with the tree

Festive stick person posing with the tree

Making these cookies took a lot of research and Youtubing, because royal icing is tricky. It’s easier to know what to do after you’ve watched someone else do it, so I recommend going on Youtube and looking up as many tutorial videos as you can. Test it on scratch paper before you go in for the real deal. As far as working with this icing for the first times goes, I will give you a few notes that I thought were crucial.

  • I chose the recipe that calls for egg whites. It is less expensive than buying meringue powder.
  • To my knowledge, this icing can only really be made with an electric or hand mixer in order to achieve the even consistency.
  • The consistency to this icing is key. It needs to be thick enough to set but thin enough for a glossy, fluid finish. The trick is to beat it until smooth, then run a knife through the center. The line made by the knife should stay in the icing for about 10 seconds before disappearing. If it stays longer, it is too thick and you should gradually add drops of water until you get the desired consistency. If the line stays in the icing fewer than 10 seconds, it is too thin and you should add small amounts of powdered sugar until you get the desired consistency. It was a constant battle of thin and thick for me, but I started to get more familiar with the consistency with the more colors I made.
  • With almost every cookie, I had to make an outline icing (which should be slightly thicker) and a filling icing (which should be a little thinner). Towards the end though I started to use the same icing for both the outline and filling and it turned out fine, as long as I waited for the outline to set before filling in the shape.
  • Coloring these cookies takes planning. In order to layer colors over others, the first color needs to set. It is because of this that you need to have post its handy so you can make a sort of check list of colors for each type of cookie along the way. Or maybe that’s just me, BUT HEY, it helped.
  • This icing hardens relatively fast, so there are a few things you want to do before it does. First, to get rid of any air bubbles that might be hiding under the filling of the icing, gently tap the cookie on a hard surface after icing to ensure a super smooth finish. If you’re planning on adding sprinkles, throw those suckers on there immediately after icing the cookie- DO NOT ice all the cookies first and then go back for sprinkles, because the cookies will have set by then and you missed your chance, game over, YOU BLEW IT.
  • Other than that, just have fun with it!

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The best thing about this classic recipe is that it can be tailored to fit any occasion by a matter of which cookie cutters fit the bill. I had a lot of fun with this Christmas theme, but I can just picture all of the holidays, bake sales, and occasions of the future filled with different versions of these guys.

BFFs

BFFs

Now you’re like, “OK fine they’re cute, but do they taste good???” Well of course they do. Though I gotta warn you, if you do choose to give them away to your friends and loved ones, know that they might not eat them right away… at least not until they’re done taking pictures of them first.

Gingerdoodles with White Chocolate Chips (Fat Clouds)

ginger doodles cookies

As my roommate rightfully put it, “Everything that’s small and fat is cute.” Puppies. Cats. Babies. Teapots. And now these cookies! Or as we so lovingly dubbed them: Fat Clouds. These pudgy guys don’t look like much, but they pack in plenty of holiday-y flavor and spice. The butterscotch pudding gave the cookies some moisture and a rich base for the ginger and white chocolate to frolic on. The rolling sugar makes the cookies look magical and taste like holiday cheer- like a snickerdoodle but ginger-fied. Get it?!

To be honest though, I wasn’t positive why these cookies turned out the way they did. At first, I was slightly alarmed that the mounds of cookie dough weren’t sinking familiarly in the oven like the dozens of cookies I’ve made in the past. They just… stayed puffy. I followed the recipe to a tee, but the only difference is I replaced an electric mixer (which I don’t have but is on the top of my list) with my roomie’s arm power (thanks Melody!) to cream the butter and sugar.

Does the method of creaming make that much of a difference? Well, I looked into it. According to  Kumiko Mitarai’s column in Serious Eats, “If the butter starts at room temperature and is beaten long enough (which can take several minutes with a hand mixer), tiny pockets of air will form and help give the cookies or cake a little extra lift.” That lift is the purpose of creaming, as it allows the cookies not to fall flat while in the oven and allows them to bake evenly. As it turned out, Melody’s serious arm power made for some serious “lift” in these cookies. Who knew? And who needs an electric mixer when I have a strong roomie on hand?

Fat Clouds

Gingerdoodles with White Chocolate Chips (Fat Clouds)

Makes around 4 dozen
Recipe from Bake Your Day

You’ll need:

  • 2 1/2 C flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 C butter, unsalted and softened
  • 1/2 C dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 C light brown sugar
  • 1/4 C granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (3.4 oz) package of butterscotch pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 C white chocolate chips

For rolling:

  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees f. Mix flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, and salt until combined in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar by hand using a strong arm (or just use a standing mixer), constantly beating for at least 3 minutes until “fluffy,” or lighter in color. Add eggs, pudding mix, and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly add the dry mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in the white chocolate chips.
  3. Mix the sugar and ginger together for the rolling sugar. Roll each ball into 1 inch diameter, then roll into the sugar. Place them on a baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake them until the edges are brown (10-12 minutes). Let them cool on a cooling rack, or some paper towels.