Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

The cyclist has been after me for years to make a sugar cookie with royal icing. I think royal icing is fine, but my preference is a tangy cream cheese frosting.

Well, he finally realized that if he wanted anything done around here, he was going to have to do it himself.

After much study and deliberation, he chose the "Baked" sugar cookie. (Love this cookbook. LOVED this cookie.)

He entered them into the COOKIE PARTY 2010 lineup and won for "Prettiest Cookie".

Not the most masculine prize, but he's taking what he can get.

Classic Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing
From "Baked"

1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 T cold vegetable shortening
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, shortening, and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until just combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Dust a work surface with a sprinkling of flour. Unwrap the chilled dough and put it directly on the work surface. Roll the dough 1/4 inch thick. Use your favorite cookie cutter to cut shapes in the dough and transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until they are set but not browned. Remove from the oven and place the baking sheet on a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.

Make the Royal Icing

2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 large egg whites
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
food coloring (optional)

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg whites and lemon juice until the mixture is completely smooth. The mixture should have the texture of a glaze. If the mixture is too thin, add a bit more sugar. If it is too thick, add a few drops of lemon juice.

The best way to ice sugar cookies is with a pastry bag fitted with a small or medium tip. First, outline the cookie or design, then fill it in. Let the icing harden before serving.

Cookie Bake-Off 2010

L-R: Nancy ("Tastiest"), Jill ("Best Bar" and "People's Choice"), Anna Marie, Stephanie, Zoe, Heather, Brenda ("Best Classic"), Olivia, Zach, Quinn, Erin G, Bunny, Ben (Lynda), Summer, Tami ("Best Classic with a Twist"), Seth ("Prettiest"), Linsey, Erin B, Jerry, Katie, Suzanne, Matt ("Most Unique"), Ashley, Jenn and Jacqui!

Christmas of 2008 we threw a Cookie Smackdown. It was meant to be an annual affair. Well, December 2009 came and went in a flash. We never had a free night.

This weekend, the oven mitts came off. 25 treats converged on our dining room table. The competition was fierce.

I can't wait for 2011.

Stay tuned for recipes.

Categories: Tastiest, Prettiest, Best Classic, Best Classic with a Twist, Most Unique, Best Bar, and Peoples Choice (Most overall votes)

Sweet Soy-Soaked Salmon

I love Asian inspired fish dishes. If a Salmon recipe includes soy sauce and ginger, I'm sure to love it.
This dish was a great way to get my girls to eat their vegetables. It was our first time trying Broccolini and we loved it. You can eat the whole stalk, it is very tender.

Sweet Soy-Soaked Salmon Fillets Over Noodle-y Veggies
Adapted from "Rachael Ray's Book of 10"

1/2 lb long cut pasta, the thinnest you have on hand
6 tablespoons tamari (dark aged soy sauce)
3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (I used the pre-grated Christopher Ranch stuff...about 1 T worth)
juice of 1 lime plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 salmon fillets
1 large bundle Broccolini (I found this in my local supermarket labeled as "Asparation")
1 large carrot
4-5 garlic cloves
1 large red bell pepper
4 scallions, trimmed
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 T toasted sesame seeds

Place a large pot of water with a tight-fitting lid over high heat and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, add in salt and pasta; cook the pasta according to the package directions to al dente. Drain thoroughly.

While the pasta cooks (you don't want it to sit too long after it's drained), in a shallow dish, combine the tamari, ginger, lime juice, and the red pepper flakes. Add the salmon fillets, turn to coat, and marinate for about 5 minutes.

Trim the broccolini ends. Place 2-3 inches of water in a large nonstick skillet; add salt to the water along with the trimmed broccolini; cover with a lid or some aluminum foil and bring up to a bubble; simmer for 4-5 minutes, until tender. Set aside.

While the broccolini is cooking, prepare the rest of the veggies; peel and grate the carrot, finely chop the garlic, seed and thinly slice the red bell pepper. Thinly slice both the white and green parts of the scallions down to the roots and reserve separately.

Return the skillet to the stove over med-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil.

Remove the salmon fillets from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and add the salmon to the hot skillet. Cook the salmon until it has just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove the salmon to a plate and cover it with a piece of foil to keep it warm.

Wipe the skillet out and return it to the stove over med-high heat; add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil; add in the garlic, bell pepper, and grated carrots; cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often.

Add the sugar to the reserved marinade, stir to combine, then add it to the skillet.

Add the cooked broccolini and the vegetable stock, bring the liquid up to a bubble, then let it simmer for 1 minute.

Add the cooked, drained pasta and the scallions; toss to combine; taste for seasoning and add more tamari and lime juice to taste if the flavor is not strong enough for you.

To serve, divide the noodles and veggies among 4 plates; top with the salmon and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

This was the perfect fuel for our Sunday afternoon hike to the falls.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

My second-born turned eight last week. This girl brings a lot of spunk to my life. She loves to bake with me. She has her own set of wire whisks and is in possession of an impressive cookbook collection (four cookbooks is impressive for an eight year old).

For her birthday this year, she had some friends over for fun and games. They made their own pizzas and decorated cupcakes. (The cupcakes pictured were decorated by me and the cyclist. When the girls decorate, the emphasis is less on aesthetics...and more on sheer frosting volume.)

Recipe from I Like You;
hospitality under the influence by Amy Sedaris

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 t vanilla
2 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups milk

Line 24 standard size muffin cups with cupcake liners. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Beat butter and sugar in bowl of mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add baking powder, salt, flour and milk. Mix until well combined. Pour evenly into muffin pan (about 2/3 full). Bake 20 minutes or until lightly golden.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

One box of powdered sugar (3 1/2 - 4 cups)
1/2 cup softened, unsalted butter
1 t vanilla
1/4 cup milk or cream
Food coloring (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy.

Happy Birthday Wee-Ah!

Strawberry-Orange Muffins (Times Two)

"Bake Sale" Strawberry Muffin (split), Cooking Light Strawberry-Orange Muffin (still whole)

We had a bit of a muffin showdown at my house this morning. I wish I could say there was a clear winner, but both fought a good fight.

I was curious to see if there was a difference in a "light" muffin versus a "bake sale" muffin. I think the added sugar in the light muffin made up for the shortage of butter because both were soft, flavorful and delicious.
I added orange zest to the bake sale muffin so that the flavor profiles would be the same when we judged. Omit it if you wish...but I must say, the zest made them taste like morning.

Strawberry Muffins

Adapted from America's Favorites: Bake Sale

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1 t vanilla
1 cup chopped fresh strawberries
Finely grated zest of one orange

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease bottoms only of 12 standard muffin pan cups or line with paper liners. Set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir in oats and sugar. Combine milk, butter, egg and vanilla in a small bowl until well blended; stir into flour mixture just until moistened. Fold in the strawberries and orange zest. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling about 2/3 full.

Bake 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned and toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean. Remove from pan. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes. Serve.

Strawberry-Orange Muffins
Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine

1 1/4 cups halved strawberries
3 T butter, melted
2 t finely grated orange zest
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 t sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the strawberries, butter, zest and eggs in a blender and process just until mixture is blended.
Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, 1 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Add strawberry mixture and stir just until mixture is moist. Spoon the batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle muffin batter evenly with 2 teaspoons sugar. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pan immediately.

P.S. The cyclist preferred the Cooking Light Muffin. I liked the Bake Sale Muffin. I'm a sucker for oats in baked goods. Go ahead, try them both. Let me know which one you like.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling

Each Monday night (okay most), we gather at the in-laws for family night.
The kids sing songs (usually about ailing turtles), we visit, learn a little something (this week's topic: setting and reaching goals), and most importantly, we eat treats.

We ate these tonight. They are definitely in the running for cutest cookies I've ever made.

from Martha Stewart

Makes 2 dozen sandwiches, maybe a few more

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside. Line two baking pans with Silpats (French nonstick baking mats) or parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat until well combined. Slowly add dry ingredients. Mix until combined.

2. Using a 1-ounce ice-cream scoop, place cookies onto lined baking pans, twelve per pan. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining batter.

3. Spread 2 tablespoons of frosting onto each of twenty-four of cookies. Sandwich together with remaining twenty-four cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. (I would probably just frost the ones that would be eaten on day one. Store the remaining frosting in your refrigerator and frost the rest as you eat.)

Strawberry Cream Cheese Filling
just a variation of my favorite (white wonder) frosting

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup softened butter
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 T strawberry jam

Blend until smooth.

(Flavor the filling any way you choose. I had some homemade strawberry jam in my fridge. Omit the jam altogether if you want a vanilla filling.)

Chocolate Pound Cake and an Interview

This is a simple, yet delicious little cake. Perfect with a glass of ice cold milk.

Chocolate Pound Cake
recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking

1 2/3 cups flour
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup whole milk
1 T powdered sugar mixed with 1 T Dutch process cocoa powder for dusting

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 325 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper cut to fit. Butter the paper.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt with a whisk. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer, beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Remove bowl from mixer.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in one-half of the dry ingredients until almost fully incorporated. Fold in the milk, followed by the remaining dry ingredients, again until just incorporated. Don't mix too vigorously or the cake will be tough.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the rubber spatula. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 70 minutes. Carefully watch the time at the end so that the cake does not overbake.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Place the rack on top of the cooled cake and invert them together. Lift off the pan and peel off the parchment. Turn the cake domed side up and let cool completely on the rack. Cover the cake with a clean, slightly damp kitchen towel so that the outside does not dry out as it cools.

Using a fine-mesh sieve, liberally dust the top of the cooled cake with the confectioners sugar-cocoa mixture, then transfer to a serving plate.

I did an interview with Laura at The Purse Blogger. If you're not already bored of me and all my yapping, check it out.

Cider Glazed Apple Muffins

That time of year again. Omelets, spiritual enlightenment, muffins.

2 cups flour
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 t baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup finely chopped, peeled, granny smith apple
3/4 cup apple cider (you could substitute juice)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg

Heat oven to 400 degrees farenheit. Grease 12 regular-size or 24 mini muffin cups.
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Add apples and stir to coat.
In a small bowl, combine cider, oil and egg. Add to dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove pan from oven and put on wire cooling rack. Glaze immediately. Let cool 5 minutes in pan. Remove from pan and cool completely.

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 T apple cider

Combine until smooth.