2019 Holiday Cookie Round Up

Orange and Lavender Ice Box Cookies with a light sprinkling of sanding sugar.

Well its cookie season back at the casa. So here’s the round up of this year’s cookie exchange recipes. I tried to keep things relatively simple this year and opted not to do heavily decorated and iced cookies. Instead I’ve got a couple of simple Spritz cookie recipes and come icebox cookies. The appeal with both of these is that I could make the dough ahead and freeze it to be baked off later. The icebox cookies can be baked right out of the freezer. The spritz dough needs to thaw overnight in the fridge then come to room temperature before it can be used. Fair warning, my spritz dough requires a cookie press, its too stiff to pipe.

Basic Spritz Cookie Dough

  • 2 ¼ cup sifted all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup softened unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp salt

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until it is a pale yellow. Add in the sugar and mix until airy and fluffy (about 1-2 minutes). Mix in the egg and vanilla extract until combined. Add the salt to the flour and then add the flour to the wet ingredients, mix on low until dough comes together and all the flour has been incorporated. Fill the chamber of your cookie press and attach your die to the end, and press the dough onto buttered and chilled baking sheet. Leaving about a 1″ space between cookies. Decorate with sprinkles or sanding sugar before baking. Bake in an oven preheated to 350F for 8-10 minutes or until cookies start to turn golden brown around the edges.

Cotton Candy Spritz Cookie Dough

  • 2 ¼ cup sifted all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup softened unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cotton candy flavoring
  • 2 TBS blue spirulina powder (2-3 drops of blue food coloring)

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until it is a pale yellow. Combine the blue spirulina* powder to the sugar, then combine the sugar with the butter and mix until airy and fluffy (about 1-2 minutes). The butter sugar mixture will be a vibrant blue color at this point. Mix in the egg until combined, then add the cotton candy flavoring and vanilla extract. Add the salt to the flour and then add the flour to the wet ingredients, mix on low until dough comes together and all the flour has been incorporated. Fill the chamber of your cookie press and attach your die to the end, and press the dough onto a buttered and chilled baking sheet. Leaving about a 1″ space between cookies. Decorate with sprinkles or sanding sugar before baking. Bake in an oven preheated to 350F for 8-10 minutes or until cookies start to turn golden brown around the edges.

*note; Blue Spirulina is an all natural blue green algae that’s commonly used for smoothies, the blue version is less briny tasting than green spirulina and is a vibrant blue color. Unlike butterfly pea powder, it does not change colors.

Orange Lavender Ice Box Cookies

  • 2 ⅔ cup sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp orange extract
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (softened and at room temperature)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg (room temperature)
  • zest of 1 large orange
  • ¼ dried mandarine orange slices (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp dried lavender blossoms (crushed)
  • white sanding sugar

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until it is a pale yellow. Add in the sugar and mix until airy and fluffy (about 1-2 minutes). Mix in the egg, vanilla extract and orange extract until combined. Mix the salt, orange zest, lavender blossoms and dried orange slices into the flour. This will keep them from clumping up.  Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mix on low until dough comes together and all the flour has been incorporated. Divide dough in half, and form into logs or rectangles and wrap with wax paper or parchment. Place into a resealable plastic bag and store in the freezer. Dough can be stored for up to 2 months. To bake, slice off ¼” thick slices and place on baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Sprinkle with sanding sugar and bake in an oven preheated to 350F for 12-14 minutes or until just golden brown along the edges

Mexican Drinking Chocolate Ice Box Cookies are perfect for dipping into piping hot well…Mexican Drinking Chocolate of course.

Mexican Drinking Chocolate Icebox Cookies

  • 2 ⅔ cup sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 TBS cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup cocoa nibs (divided)
  • 1 TBS ground coffee
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (softened and at room temperature)
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼-½ tsp coarse sea salt (to taste)
  • 1 large egg (room temperature)

In a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, combine sea salt, cayenne, cinnamon, ground coffee and half the cocoa nips and grind into a fine powder and mix into the flour along with the 2 TBS of cocoa powder and whisk together to make sure all the spices and cocoa are well combined into the flour.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until it is a pale yellow. Add in the sugar and mix until airy and fluffy (about 1-2 minutes). Mix in the egg and vanilla extract until combined. Add the salt to the flour/cocoa spice mixture and then add the flour to the wet ingredients, mix on low until dough comes together then add the rest of the cocoa nibs and mix until all the flour and cocoa nibs have been incorporated. Divide dough in half, and form into logs or rectangles and wrap with wax paper or parchment. Place into a resealable plastic bag and store in the freezer. Dough can be stored for up to 2 months. To bake, slice off ¼” thick slices and place on baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Bake in an oven preheated to 350F for 12-14 minutes or until just golden brown along the edges

Coconut Shortbread with Coquito Glaze

Coquito is a sweet coconut milk and rum drink generously seasoned with clove, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon. It’s ubiquitous during the Holidays in Puerto Rico and is frequently referred to as Puerto Rican Egg Nog. If you don’t happen to be on a Boriquen’s coquito gifting list, you can find my recipe here. Since I’m making a Mexican Drinking Chocolate inspired cookie it’s only fitting that I make one inspired by coquito.

Cookie Recipe

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp rum extract

¼ tsp coconut extract

½ tsp salt

1 ¾ flour

1 cup softened room temperature butter

¼ tsp each ground cinnamon, ground clove, ground nutmeg and ground allspice (divided)

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter until fluffy and a pale yellow. Add in extract and spices and blend until well incorporated. Mix the shredded coconut and flour together and gradually add into the creamed sugar and butter. Blend until dough forms into a ball. Pour dough out onto a sheet of waxed paper. Form into a log or rectangle and freeze until ready to bake. To bake, cut into ½ inch wide slices and space out onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 12-14 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Drizzle with the Coquito Glaze to serve

Coquito Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

1/4 tsp rum extract

2 tsp coconut milk

2 tsp corn syrup

½ tsp coquito spice mix

Green Tea Donuts dusted with powdered sugar and matcha powder and drizzled with a matcha glaze.

Matcha Donuts

¼ cup melted butter

⅓ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg lightly beaten

¾ teaspoon baking powder

⅛ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon matcha powder

⅛ teaspoon nutmeg

pinch of salt

½ teaspoon vanilla

1⅓ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup coconut milk

Topping

1 cup powdered sugar

1 TBS matcha powder

Preheat oven to 425F.

In a large bowl, mix melted butter, sugar, nutmeg, salt and vanilla extract until combined. Add the beaten egg, and blend until combined. Add the baking powder, baking soda and matcha powder to the flour and lightly whisk to blend. Alternate adding flour mixture and coconut milk and blend between each addition until all the flour and milk is gone. Blend until all the ingredients are well incorporated. The dough will be sticky. Spray donut pans with cooking spray. Spray a large zip top bag or a disposable pastry bag with cooking spray and then fill with the donut dough. Cut of the tip and pipe the dough into the donut pan and cut off with clean kitchen scissors. Bake at 425F for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack. Place the powdered sugar and matcha powder into a clean large zip top bag. Toss cooled donuts in the matcha powdered sugar mixture to coat. Yield 1 Dozen Donuts

Here they are, this year’s batch of cookie exchange cookies. From left to right, matcha donut, cotton candy spritz cookies, coquito shortbread, orange and lavender icebox cookies and mexican drinking chocolate icebox cookies.

Peppermint Chocolate Layer Cake with Peppermint White Chocolate Buttercream Icing

Rich chocolate cake stacked high with layers of Peppermint White Chocolate Buttercream Icing and finished off with more buttercream, chopped up candy canes, and peppermint bark

I hope everyone had a relaxing Christmas Holiday, things are settling back down around the homestead and the marathon cookie baking and decorating has come to an end. Now that we’re heading into the New Year, things are also calming down at work and I should be back to having consistent days off which will hopefully allow the blogging schedule to fall back into place.

This week’s recipe came about because I was asked to bring a dessert for Christmas dinner.  I’ve been intrigued (read obsessed) with MilkBar’s layer cakes (and their corn cookie and crack pie). The gang over at MilkBar always seem to come up with these fanciful flavor combinations for their cakes and they have a distinct visual style with their unfrosted sides. It’s been ages since I’ve baked a layer cake, so I thought it would be kind of fun to try my hand at building a MilkBar style towering marvel.

Over the years via interviews and various cooking segments, Christina Tosi (the genius behind MilkBar) has shared how she goes about designing and assembling these cakes with the cake itself, the frosting and a textural element as the basic components. In this case because of the holiday I opted for crushed candy canes and crumbled peppermint bark for my textural elements. I also decided to use peppermint oil rather than peppermint extract, because it provides an intense wallop of peppermint flavor. You can certainly use peppermint extract, it just takes a lot more extract to provide the same intensity of flavor and that will impact the texture of the frosting. I was able to find food grade peppermint oil at a specialty shop, but you should be able to find it easily enough on the interwebs.

As it turns out, I must have given away our cake pans when we moved from NJ to CA. So I had to go out and buy new cake pans. I opted for 7″ inch springform pans figuring that the springform would come in handy for assembly, transport and unveiling. I lucked out and was able to find 3 identical pans at Homegoods.

There’s basically three stages to creating this cake, first its the baking of the cake, then making the buttercream and then the last part is the assembly of the cake itself. The whole process took about 8 hours, which includes the time the cake had to chill in the fridge so the icing could set up and help hold the.cake together so It could be transported to its destination.

Part 1…the cake

Ingredients

  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint oil
  • 8 oz. melted extra dark chocolate
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 8 tsp extra dark cocoa

Place a clean glass or stainless steal bowl over a pot of lightly boiling water to make a double boiler. Break the chocolate into small chunks and place into the bowl, stir until all the chocolate has melted. Set aside to let cool. While the chocolate is cooling, assemble the rest of the cake ingredients. In a large bowl, combine, flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cocoa and set aside. In another bowl, mix the oil, water, sour cream, vanilla extract, peppermint oil and eggs lightly until combined then slowly pour into the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined by hand or with an electric mixer. Slowly mix in the melted chocolate. Divide batter evenly between 3 prepared 8″ cake  pans and bake in an oven preheated to 350 for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Because I used smaller pans and filled them to about half full, the cake took closer to an hour to bake for me. Remove from the oven to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from the pans and let cool completely before icing.

Part 2….the Icing

Ingredients

  • 1lb unsalted butter (softened and room temperature)
  • 12 oz white chocolate chips
  • 1lb powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp food grade peppermint oil
  • 2 TBS corn syrup
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream

Use a double boiler or microwave to melt white chocolate chips and set aside to cool. Once the white chocolate has cooled but is still liquid, whip butter in a large bowl or stand mixer with whisk attachment on high speed until the butter turns pale yellow. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and add vanilla extract and peppermint oil and whisk on medium speed until flavoring is incorporated. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in the white chocolate and add the corn syrup*. Turn the mixer off and scrap down the sides. Add ⅓ of the powder sugar and turn the mixer on to low, mix until the powered sugar is thoroughly incorporated, turn off the mixer and scrap down the sides between each addition. Continue until all the powdered has been added. You should hear the motor of the mixer slow down. Now gradually start adding the heavy whipping cream. Your looking for a nice spreadable/pipable texture that’s not too loose. The icing should be airy but still hold a peak so you may not need all the cream.

Part 3….Assembly

Some assembly required. A springform pan and a sheet of clear vinyl hold the cake together during assembly.

 

  • large spoon or piping bag with large tip to apply icing
  • 1 cake pan
  • 1 cake board
  • a 10″ wide strip of acetate of clear vinyl.
  • clear tape
  • crushed candy canes
  • broken up pieces of peppermint bark

Cut the acetate of vinyl so that the length is equal to the circumference of the cake pan with 1″ overlap. The acetate/vinyl is what will allow you to build up the layers of the cake.  Level all three cakes, crumble the tops and set aside, you’ll use them to form the bottom layer of the cake.

Place the cake board at the bottom of the cake pan, then form a cylinder with the acetate/vinyl and place it into the cake pan, making sure that the cylinder is snug against the sides of the cake pan. Tape the top and bottom of the cylinder.

Spread a thin layer of icing on the cake board and pack the crumbled up cake into the bottom of the cake pan and top with a layer of buttercream. I find that its easier to use a piping bag for this rather than trying to spread with a spoon. Sprinkle the buttercream with crushed up candy canes and peppermint bark. Continue layering cake, buttercream and candy until get to the top layer. Frost the top layer and sprinkle with more candy canes and peppermint bark. Place a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the cylinder and place in the fridge to chill for at least 6 hours or overnight. This will allow the frosting to firm up which will help keep the cake together.

To serve, tip the cake onto its side and remove the cake pan, keeping a hand on the cake board so that it stays in place, turn the cake back up upright and place it onto a cake stand or plate. Cut the tape and remove the vinyl/acetate cylinder.

Enjoy….

* The corn syrup is necessary for texture and to help stabilize the frosting. Honey or agave will not substitute in this case because they’ll solidify and turn gritty when the cake is chilled.

Holiday Hiatus

Just letting you all know that we are going on a little Holiday season break here at itstimefordinner.com. We will be back the beginning of the year with all new content. In the meantime, check out my Holiday Treat Series. You’ll find the link to all my past Holiday Treat recipes and videos from years past, which I hope will  inspire your Holiday baking.

Happy Holidays and I’ll see you in the New Year.

Christmas Cookies 2018

This weeks post is going to be short and sweet. No pun intended. I’m in the midst of baking and decorating this years batch(es) of Christmas Cookies. So, I’m just going to share my favorite recipe for cut-out style sugar cookies and some tips to get the best results and then get back to decorating.

So the first thing to note is that I use a shortbread recipe versus a tradition sugar cookie recipe. I prefer the shortbread for a few reasons, there’s fewer ingredients, its simple and consistent and because it doesn’t have any leaveners in it, it reduces the likelihood that cookies will puff up and spread out.  Secondly, make sure to chill the dough for at least an hour before rolling and try to roll the dough between ¼” and ½” thick. Lastly, once you cut out the cookies and lay them out on a baking sheet, chill them for 30 minutes. These steps will help prevent the cookies from spreading out too much and give you a nice smooth top for decorating.

Recipe

3 ½ cups sifted AP flour
1 ¾ cup / 3 1/2 sticks softened room temp unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract or flavoring of you choice

In a large bowl or stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until doubled in volume and becomes a pale yellow. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and add the extract and salt and mix for a few moments. Gradually stir in the flour. Blend on low until flour is well incorporated. The dough may still be crumbly or even loose and that’s ok. Just make sure there are no visible clumps of flour, especially at the bottom of the bowl. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and clean off paddle.

Turn dough out onto waxed paper and form into a 1-2 inch thick disk. Wrap in wax paper and place into a zip top bag and chill in the fridge for at least one hour. To bake, take dough out of the fridge and let warm up for about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325F, roll out dough on a board dusted with powdered sugar. For cut outs I’ll stick to rolling the dough out to between ¼ and ½ inch thick and use a 3” cutter. I’ll yield about 3 dozen cookies. Place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until the bottom of the cookie starts to turn golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Cookies need to be completely cooled before decorating.

If you don’t have cookie cutters, no worries. Just use a really sharp knife and cut into bars also jelly jars make decent cutters in a pinch. As for decorating: lightly coat the cookie with corn syrup and apply sanding sugar or sprinkles or dip into white candy melt and use edible markers.

 

 

Coquito – aka Puerto Rican Egg Nog

So what the heck is Coquito? Well, its a popular drink in Puerto Rico and with the Puerto Rican diaspora. Its a coconut based rum drink that’s seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg similar to egg nog. Coquito iss popular during the Christmas Season and is frequently given as a gift to loved ones, friends and co-worker

Some claim that its roots stem from Spanish sailors that were familiar with egg nog and decided to use the local coconuts to make a similar drink. I personally (based on zero research) think that its probably a coconut based boozy version of  turtle-nut horchata which is something that Spanish sailors were familiar with and  some home-sick sailors probably thought the fatty richness of coconut would be a good substitution for rich, meaty, turtle-nuts.

Coquito doesn’t require any specialized equipment to make, though I’d suggest a funnel which makes getting the fairly thick drink into narrow mouthed bottles.  It’s fairly common for folks to save up all their rum and wine bottles through the year to use for their coquito gifting. TJ Maxx (who had some for $1.99 the other day) , Micheals and 2nd hand shops are my go to for looking for nice flip top bottles for gifting.

Recipe

1 can full fat coconut milk (preferably Goya)

1 can Creme de Coco such as Coco Lopez

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 can evaporated milk

¾ cup white Puerto Rican Rum such as Don Q*

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground clove

½ tsp ground allspice

½ tsp ground nutmeg

1 cinnamon stick

Mix all the ingredients together in a pitcher or bowl and then divide amongst bottles. This recipe will make enough to fill 1 750ML bottle with a a little left over. Served over ice with a cinnamon stick for garnish.

*my preference is for Don Q because it is a true Puerto Rican Rum from Ponce, PR. Though Bacardi is labeled as such and widely used for Coquito, it is a Cuban rum and is just distilled in Puerto Rico for the North American market.

Post holiday leftovers (repost)

Pot Pie

One of the challenges we have after a holiday is a lot of leftovers. I get bored with eating the same thing over and over again. Having a way to change up those leftovers keeps things fresh and avoids waste.

An approach I take to deal with the leftovers is to make pot pies. This works great for just about any type of roast whether its roast beef, a roasted turkey etc. The one pictured above uses ham. This is also a great way to use up leftover veggies, like those from crudité platter or even roasted vegetables.

If I’m really feeling like taking the easy road, I’ll use canned cream of chicken soup that I’ll dilute with chicken or vegetable stock as the binder for the filling, more often than not I’ll use a mornay sauce. Once you’ve heated up the binder, add the raw vegetables to the binder and cook until softened. Roasted veggies and meat will warm through in the oven. I try to have about ½ cup of meat and ¾ cup of veggies per person. You can then spoon everything into a casserole dish or into a deep dish pie plate. Top with the crust then bake until the crust is cooked. Though I prefer to use individual ramekins for pot pies rather than large casseroles. I’ll place the pot pies in a 375ºF oven for about 15 minutes so the filling is warmed through.

I’ll top the warmed up pot pies with biscuit dough. I’ll split the raw biscuit dough in half, place on top of the ramekins. I’ll butter and season the top of the biscuit and return them to the oven. Bake until the biscuit is fully cooked and has a nice golden top. It usually takes about 10 to 12 minutes.

Its the most wonderful time of the year….Tamale Season

Freshly steamed pork tamale with salsa verde

It’s hard to believe its November already and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. One of my favorite things about this time of year and into December is the abundance of tamales. Its not uncommon here in Southern California to be approached in a grocery store parking lot or along the streets by someone selling home-made tamales. I have no qualms about buying these tamales and hopefully soon the city of LA and all of LA County will make it easier for street vendors to get permitted and be able to vend legally.

If you ever had a chance to watch tamales being made by hand you know that its a labor intensive process. Which is why people tend to only make them once a year.  Its definitely something that requires some planning and prep and you can’t reasonably expect to be done in a couple of hours. Heck, just soaking the corn husks takes a couple of hours.

The first stage of making the tamales is to prepare the filling.I’m partial to pork filling with a nice tomatillo salsa. You’ll find my Chili Verde recipe here. Its important to save the cooking liquid from the pork but strain the solids out and season it well with salt. You’ll want to use this as the broth for your masa.To make my filling,  I shred the pork from the Chile verde and then add chicharrone molido (cooked pork belly that’s been ground) and my green salsa and test for seasoning adding salt and pepper as needed then I set the filling aside while I prepare my corn husks and masa.

The masa is in my mind the most important part of the tamale. I blandly seasoned masa means bland boring tamales even if you have a really flavorful filling. So its really important to season your stock well and season your masa. The ratio for masa is 3 parts Maseca, 2 parts stock and 1 part fat, then a good amount of salt and 11/2 TBS baking powder. I prefer lard or bacon fat over shortening because I feel its more flavorful and since a tamale is only as good as its masa we want to take advantage of any opportunity to add flavor.  If you have a butcher or a really good Latin market, you should be able to buy unfiltered pork lard (aka manteca de cerdo).

Consequently, if you live near a really good Latin market you can also find pre-made masa for tamales. I feel no shame in using Northgate Gonzalez‘* prepared masa. Its well seasoned and consistent and no matter how you may try homemade masa isn’t. Northgate sells masa by the pound so you need to have an idea of how many tamales you hope to make and the size. The downside is that its definitely more expensive to buy the pre-made. It’s on sale this time of year and I think I paid $.99 per pound. You can buy a 5lbs bag of maseca for a couple of bucks and you can use it for other things.

Here’s what you need for tamales

  • Masa
  • chile verde filling
  • corn husks or foil to wrap tamales (if you use corn husks you’ll need to soak them in hot water for about 90minutes to soften them up so they’re easier to work with
  • A large deep pot with a lid so you can steam the tamales

Here’s a video to show you how to make masa followed by another video demonstrating how to fill, roll and tie the tamales.

And remember the next time your tia, abuela or co-worker is sharing their tamales know that a lot of time, love and work went into them.

*Northgate also sells sweet masa for sweet tamales as well as Guatemalan style masa. I’m partial to the Anaheim Northgate off of Lincoln and State College. Its huge and I can do all my shopping there as well as finding Latin Caribe spices and brands i.e. Goya.

Editorial comment. I receive no compensation from Northgate…but I love them