Easter Cookies, Continued

Cut-our sugar cookies decorated with rolled fondant, royal icing, and coarse sanding sugar

Cut-our sugar cookies decorated with rolled fondant, royal icing, and coarse sanding sugar

Although Easter Sunday has passed, many of us continue to celebrate the Easter season for nearly another 50 days (through Pentecost). If we are to maintain the celebratory mood for that long, it certainly helps to keep some decorated cookies on hand.

Here is another variation of my cut-out sugar cookie. Cut out rolled fondant using the same cutters you chose for the cookies, and then ornament them further with royal icing and/or sanding sugar. Stored in cellophane bags or airtight re-sealable bags, these cookies keep well for weeks.

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Colorful Easter Cookies

Pastel-colored chicks are the perfect addition to any Easter basket.

Pastel-colored chicks are the perfect addition to any Easter basket.

Decorated cookies are a delightful and special addition to any Easter basket, but these vibrantly colored treats elevate the confection even further. Using my trusted sugar cookie dough as the base, I simply color the dough with food coloring (I like Wilton Icing Color, available at local craft stores), cut out my desired shapes, and then bake them.

Serve these cookies plain, or add additional flourish with piped royal icing and a sprinkling of clear or colored sanding sugar.

About 30 three-inch cookies

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon sea salt

Pinch of baking powder

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Food coloring paste or icing, such as Wilton Icing Color

Royal icing for decorating (optional)

Colored sanding sugar for decorating (optional)

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.

Put the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and begin beating on medium speed. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Drop in the egg and add the vanilla and mix just until incorporated. Gradually spoon in the flour, mixing on medium-low speed, just until the dough comes together.

If coloring the dough with a single color, add the Icing Color in small amounts, about 1/8 teaspoon at a time (a little goes a long way), mixing until evening distributed. Add more as needed. If using more than one color, divide the mixed dough into as many parts as colors you are using and mix in by hand or in the mixing bowl, cleaning the bowl and paddle in between colorings.

Transfer the dough (or each piece of colored dough) to a large sheet of plastic wrap, bring together to form a disc, and wrap well. Set in the refrigerator to chill and rest, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using about half of the dough at a time, roll on a lightly floured work surface to about ¼ inch thick. Cut into desired shapes and arrange about 1 ½ inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Set in the refrigerator to chill until firm, at least 20 minutes. (The cutouts can also be arranged on a plastic wrap-lined board or baking sheet, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 1 month. When ready to bake, arrange the frozen cutouts on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake as directed below.)

Bake the cookies (depending on the size) until light golden brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool on the baking sheets for several minutes before transferring them to the racks to cool completely.

Decorate with royal icing and sanding sugar, if desired.

“Think Spring!” Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies for Kate's 6th birthday party

Sugar cookies for Kate’s 6th birthday party

Here is another way to decorate my favorite sugar cookies. With yet another blizzard raging outside at the moment, it only seems fitting to put our minds and rolling pins to pretty colorful spring-like confections. I served these particular little cuties just last weekend as favors at Kate’s 6th birthday party.

This is such a useful cookie recipe to keep in your repertoire. After you have prepared and chilled the dough, you can cut and freeze the cookies for up to 1 month, baking them from frozen, or bake them first and then freeze them, again for about the same amount of time.

Although I regularly decorate my cutout cookies with colorful royal icing, I have become quite a fan of rolled fondant. The varieties on the shelves these days in craft and specialty baking stores are better than ever—smooth, easy to work with, and available in a wide variety of colors. Of course, you can simply tint plain white fondant, too, using food color paste.

To adhere cutout fondant pieces to the cookies, brush lightly with water or a combination of water and light corn syrup and press gently onto the cookies. If you wish to do so, you can also go a bit further as I have done here, and add additional elements such as royal icing letters, dots, and flowers.

These cookies will keep fresh in airtight bags at room temperature for up to two weeks.

About 30 three-inch cookies

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon sea salt

Pinch of baking powder

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Rolled fondant

Royal icing

Royal icing flowers (available in craft stores or prepare your own)

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.

Put the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and begin beating on medium speed. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Drop in the egg and add the vanilla and mix just until incorporated. Gradually spoon in the flour, mixing on medium-low speed, just until the dough comes together.

Transfer the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap, bring together to form a disc, and wrap well. Set in the refrigerator to chill and rest, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using about half of the dough at a time, roll on a lightly floured work surface to about ¼ inch thick. Cut into desired shapes and arrange about 1 ½ inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Set in the refrigerator to chill until firm, at least 20 minutes. (The cutouts can also be arranged on a plastic wrap-lined board or baking sheet, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 1 month. When ready to bake, arrange the frozen cutouts on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake as directed below.)

Bake the cookies (depending on the size) until light golden brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool on the baking sheets for several minutes before transferring them to the racks to cool completely.

To make the fondant cutouts, line a flat board or baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly dust a flat work surface with confectioners’ sugar. Using about a palm-size piece of fondant at a time, roll to about 1/16 inch thick. Cut out desired shapes (I use the same size cutter I use for the cookies) and set on the prepared board or baking sheet. You can use them immediately or when they’ve dried a bit. I suggest not waiting too long, though, as it is more challenging to adhere firm fondant to the cookies than when it is pliable.

Decorate further with royal icing and icing flowers, if desired, and set to dry for at least 4 hours or overnight.

There’s Still Time for These Sweet Boys and Girls….

There's still time for these charming boys and girls

There’s still time for these charming boys and girls

Even though Christmas has officially passed, we are still certainly celebrating the season (we Catholics do have until Epiphany, after all), and I just couldn’t pass up showing you these charming boys and girls. I used my go-to sugar cookie recipe (use whatever favorite recipe you prepare) and then I dressed them with rolled fondant that I colored light brown and blue, accessorizing them with royal icing details. I love using rolled fondant. It’s so much faster, cleaner, and easier than embarking on a flood-icing affair and waiting for hundreds of cookies to dry before adding do-dads.

Have fun and Merry Christmas.

Spatterware Leaves

Spatterware Leaves

Spatterware Leaves

Spatterware Leaves

Here’s a confection that merges my passions for decorative arts and patisserie. Using my traditional cut-out sugar cookies as petite canvases, I cover them with cut-out fondant leaves of the same size and sponge paint the smooth white sugar coating with food color paste mixed with a bit of vodka (which dissipates as they paint dries). The result is a whimsical and lovely treat that is reminiscent of 19th-c. English Staffordshire spatterware that was frequently exported to, and became popular in, America.

Old-Time Gingersnaps

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(photo courtesy of Jennifer Corbett)

 

For years I have been searching for a satisfying gingersnap recipe. I have spent many hours perusing cookbooks and magazines, hungry for that perfect combination of crunchy, sweet, spicy goodness. I do believe with this recipe I have found success. It delivers a consistently satisfying gingersnap complete with the mandatory crispness and gingery sweetness we seek in a spicy ginger cookie.

This recipe comes together easily and, what’s more, requires no electric mixer. It’s likely that no store-bought ginger cookie will satisfy you once you bake these amber-colored lovelies, but that’s okay. With this recipe, you can always keep some on hand. The cookies store well in an airtight container for several weeks, or in the freezer for about two months.

Makes about 30 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 cup sugar, plus more for rolling

1/4 cup molasses

1 large egg

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl.

Combine the butter, sugar, and molasses in a large bowl and stir until combined. Drop in the egg, mixing until incorporated. Gradually stir in the flour mixture, mixing to form a soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Shape the dough into walnut-size balls, roll in sugar, and arrange them about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. (If your kitchen is quite warm and the dough balls become soft, set them in the refrigerator until chilled and fairly firm.)

Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies have spread, are light golden brown, and the cracks still appear moist. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets set on wire racks for about 1 minute before removing them to the racks to cool completely.

Store the cookies in an airtight container or in a re-sealable bag for up to 1 week.

Erica’s Christmas Biscotti

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(Photo courtesy of Jennifer Corbett)

My sister has been making many varieties of biscotti for years, so when I was looking for a Christmasy version, I knew she’d be my best resource. This is one of her favorite biscotti recipes, and now one of mine, too. Incorporating roasted pistachios, chewy dried cranberries, and sweet white chocolate morsels, they are not only pretty, but also delicious enough for dessert or a snack served with coffee or tea. In addition, unlike many biscotti, these are surprisingly tender and delicate. They still satisfy with their crunch, but their firmness quickly gives way to a more cookie-like consistency.

Makes about 36 biscotti

1 cup dried cranberries or cherries

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

3/4 cup shelled roasted pistachios (salted or unsalted)

3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 325ºF. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Put the cranberries in a small bowl and pour enough boiling water over them just to cover. Set aside to soak for 10 minutes.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until smooth and light, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vanilla, drop in the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce the mixing speed to medium low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just nearly incorporated. Drain the cranberries and add them, along with the pistachios and chocolate chips, to the batter, mixing until just incorporated. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and pat into a disc. Divide the dough in half, transfer both halves to one of the prepared baking sheets, and shape both pieces into 13-by-9-inch logs.

Bake until fragrant and light golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool slightly on the pan, about 10 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut each log on the bias into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange the slices on the prepared baking sheets and bake until golden brown and firm, 20 to 25 minutes, switching the pans on the racks about halfway through baking. The biscotti might require more or less time in the oven to crisp properly, but watch that they don’t brown too much on the undersides. Set the biscotti on wire racks to cool completely on the baking sheets. Store in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks.