Half Moon Cookies

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About two hours ago my Dad called me.  He was upset because he had gone to our favorite bakery to get a half moon cookie, only to find they are closed on Sundays, causing him to settle for Dairy Queen instead.  Funny enough, as he called to tell me this, I was in the middle of frosting half moon cookies of my own.

You see, tomorrow I’m in charge of bringing sweets to my discussion group at church.  And when I was trying to decide what to make, I realized that one of the things that really bothers me about New Jersey/New York is that they don’t seem to know how to make a half moon cookie.  Now, I understand New York is famous for its black and white cookies.  But these are a farce.  They’re made with royal icing, which gives them a bit of crunch on top.  Not what they should be.  Maybe I’m just spoiled, but up in Massachusetts we know that half moon cookies are supposed to be made with buttercream.  And the cookie should be more of a cakey consistency. And they’re called half moon cookies.

I decided to educate my fellow church goers on these important lessons, making my mom’s recipe for the cookie combined with the Wilton buttercream recipe I fell in love with during my cake decorating class a couple summers ago.  I used this icing before on Mimi’s birthday cake, but I’ll reprint it at the bottom with the adjustments I made for this particular recipe.

First, the cookies.  Cream together the shortening and sugar using a hand mixer in a large bowl.

 

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Then, add the eggs and vanilla, beating until smooth.  Side note: I love recipes that turn yellow inside of my yellow bowls.  They make me disproportionately happy.

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Next, beat in the flour and baking powder.  I’m pretty certain 3 teaspoons is 1 tablespoon, but I trust my mom’s recipe and used teaspoons anyways.

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Add the milk and beat until well combined.

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Now, drop by the spoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Try to keep the drops as round as possible – otherwise you’ll get amoeba moon cookies.  Also, I couldn’t initially remember if they spread a lot, but they don’t.  They kind of just puff up tall.

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Bake at 400°F for 6-7 minutes, until edges are just golden brown, like you see below.

IMG_1180These cookies are kind of tricky because the bottoms brown, but the tops don’t.  So you may not realize they’re burning until they are black.  I kind of treat them like pancakes, waiting until I see that the top has bubbles that popped.  Here’s a close-up of what I mean:

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See how they kind of have mini-craters? I consider that done.  Next, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely (and I mean COMPLETELY) before frosting.  You don’t want melted buttercream mess cookies.

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Now, to make the buttercream icing, you basically follow the same recipe as before.  However, because they are half moons, you need half of the frosting to be chocolate.  The way I did this was first making a batch of regular buttercream.  I initially intended to use half vanilla and half butter flavors, but when I opened the vanilla, it appeared someone had poured regular vanilla extract into my special clear vanilla extract I use for white frosting (I’m looking at you, Mom).  So I went with all butter flavor.

First, beat the crisco, butter flavor, and water using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer.

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Then, add the confectioner’s sugar and meringue powder.  I got to use my cool plastic shield thing to avoid spray of the sugar, but a simple towel over the top works, too.

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Now is where I got creative.  I didn’t want to make an entire second batch of chocolate frosting, because really, what would I do with all of that extra frosting?  So I transferred half of the white frosting into a separate bowl.

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To my stand mixer bowl, I added 3/8 cup of cocoa powder (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) and 1 tablespoon of water.  Beat until desired consistency, adding more water if necessary.

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Using a straight spatula, frost half of each cookie with one of your frostings.  I did chocolate first, but in hindsight you should probably start with vanilla so you don’t end up with chocolate-streaked vanilla.  Also important: you are frosting the FLAT side of the cookies, not the round.  And feel free to mound on the frosting.

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Then, clean your spatula and frost the other half of the cookie with the other frosting.

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I got 28 cookies out of the recipe, but I also made them on the smaller side.  If you make them bigger, obviously you’ll get less.

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Regardless, you should probably frost them shortly before serving them, but since I’m going to be at work all day tomorrow, I had to settle for a day in advance.

Enjoy!

 

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Half Moon Cookies

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2/3 cup milk

Cookie Directions:

  1. Cream together shortening and sugar using a hand mixer in a large bowl.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until combined.
  3. Add flour and baking powder; beat well.
  4. Add milk, beating until smooth.
  5. Drop by rounded spoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 400°F for 6-7 minutes or until edges are slightly golden brown.
  6. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1 cup crisco
  • 1 teaspoon butter flavor
  • 8 teaspoons water
  • 1 pound confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  • 3/8 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon water

Buttercream Frosting Directions:

  1. Beat crisco, butter flavor, and water in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment.
  2. Add confectioner’s sugar and meringue powder, beating until desired consistency.
  3. Remove half of frosting to separate bowl; add cocoa powder and remaining water to stand mixer. Beat until smooth.
  4. Frost flat side of cookies with half chocolate and half vanilla frosting.
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Coconut Bread

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Happy Mother’s Day!  This weekend, I traveled back home to hang out with my mom on her big day, so naturally I had to bake something for her.  And, as you should all know by now, that means it had to be something coconut.  First I was looking at coconut coffee cake, thinking it would be good for a Mother’s Day brunch, but I wasn’t really sold on anything I found.  Then, I stumbled upon this coconut quick bread from Smitten Kitchen and knew it was meant to be: quick, easy, and it would take away minimal time from Mother’s Day morning.

So this one is dedicated to all the moms out there, but especially my own. Love you, Mom!

First, whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl.

 

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You may notice my location change again: this weekend I got a preview of condo life on the oceanfront, which is where I’ll be spending my summer.  So my baking view is this:

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Anyways, next you’ll need to stir together the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon.  I used a fork.

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Add the coconut and sugar and stir together.  Don’t forget to pack the coconut while you’re measuring!  I think I used half of a 5 2/3 cup bag in 1 1/2 cups…

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Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture.  Stir until just combined.

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Melt the butter over low heat.  If you’re feeling particularly daring, you can brown it, but I was afraid I’d mess up/didn’t want to take the time.

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Add the butter to the batter and stir to combine.  Pour batter into a greased (or sprayed) 9×5 inch loaf pan.

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Bake at 350°F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Pro Tip: Allow to cool completely before cutting.  Otherwise you end up with a plate of crumbs because you were too excited (we may have made that mistake).

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I know that was a less than detailed post, but I’m tired after driving 5 hours back to my apartment.  Plus, it’s Mother’s Day – you should be spending time with your mom, not reading my blog!

Enjoy!

 

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Coconut Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut, packed
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla in a small bowl.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  3. Add sugar and coconut, stir to combine.
  4. Create a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture.  Stir until just combined.
  5. Stir in melted butter.
  6. Bake in a 9×5 inch loaf pan for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting and serving.

Pretzels

 

 

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This past Thursday was Report Card Night at school, which means that we had a half day before having to come back to meet with parents in the evening.  Whenever this happens, a group of teachers uses it as an excuse to go out for lunch.  This time, we decided on Red Robin (mostly because I was in the mood for a burger).  Two of us got there a little early and were starving, so we ordered an appetizer of pretzel bites while we waited for our friends to arrive.

Maybe it’s because I don’t frequent hockey rinks or sporting events as much as I used to, but I totally forgot how awesome of a snack a pretzel is.  Pair it with some good mustard or beer cheese, and you’re golden.  So when it came time to bake this weekend, the pretzel bites for Red Robin were still on my mind, and I set out to make pretzels to enjoy all week long.

I found my recipe on Brown Eyed Baker, who I think I’ve posted to here before.  The only thing I changed was using sea salt rather than kosher salt, but that’s just because that was what I had on hand.

Also, you should all be very proud of me: usually I am terrified of baking with yeast.  I think it’s because of Home Ec in middle school, but I’m always sure I’m going to screw up and the dough won’t rise and I’ll have to start over.  But I faced my fears and made the pretzels anyway – AND IT WORKED.

So, first things first, stir together the warm water, sugar, and salt in the mixing bowl of your stand mixer.  I just turn my tap to its hottest setting and let it cool in the bowl until it’s warm to the touch.

 

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Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until it starts to foam.  I used this yeast:

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Meanwhile, melt the butter in the microwave, 15 seconds at a time at half power.

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By the time your butter is melted, the yeast should be foamy, which I think is supposed to look something like this:

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Add the flour and melted butter to the bowl and mix using the dough hook on low speed until everything is combined.

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Then, increase the speed to medium and allow to run about 3 to 4 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth.

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Transfer the dough to a bowl sprayed with Pam and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to sit on the counter for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the dough doubles in size.

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While your dough is rising, you should prepare everything else you are going to use.  This means whisking together an egg yolk and tablespoon of water for an egg wash.

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This also means combining the water and baking soda in a large pot and bringing it to a boil.

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And don’t forget to line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray that with Pam, too! (Pam is getting quite the workout with this recipe.)

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By the time you get everything done, hopefully your dough will have doubled in size so it looks like this in your bowl:

 

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Turn it out onto a pastry mat (also sprayed with Pam) and divide into 8 equal pieces.

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Roll each piece into a 24 inch long rope and fold it into a pretzel shape.  My mat is conveniently exactly 24 inches long.  I love when things like that work out.

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Put the formed pretzels onto your prepared baking sheet.

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Then, 2 at a time, drop them into the boiling water and leave in for 30 seconds before removing with a flat spatula back to the baking sheet.

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Brush the pretzels with the egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt.  I didn’t have a paintbrush, so I just used a paper towel dipped in the egg wash to coat them.

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Bake at 450°F for 12 minutes or until outsides of pretzels are golden brown.  Brown Eyed Baker says until they are deep brown, but I was afraid of setting my fire alarm off, so I stuck with golden brown.

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Remove to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

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I recommend serving with honey mustard (that’s what I’m eating on one now) or making a beer cheese if you’re feeling especially fancy.  Otherwise, store in airtight plastic bags to maintain freshness, or freeze for later use.

Enjoy!

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Pretzels

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  •  10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water, whisked together
  • sea salt, for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Stir together warm water, sugar, and sea salt in bowl of your stand mixer.  Sprinkle yeast on top and allow to sit for 5 minutes until foamy.
  2. Add flour and melted butter.  Mix on low speed using dough hook until combined.  Turn speed up to medium and mix for 3-4 minutes until dough pulls away from bowl and is smooth.
  3. Transfer dough to mixing bowl sprayed with Pam.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit on counter for 45 minutes to an hour, until dough is double in size.
  4. Turn dough onto pastry mat coated with cooking spray.  Divide into 8 equal pieces.  Roll out each into a 24 inch long rope and fold into pretzel.  Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet also coated with cooking spray.
  5. Meanwhile, bring water and baking soda to a boil.  Preheat oven to 450°F.
  6. Add pretzels, two at a time, to the boiling water.  Leave them in for 30 seconds before using a flat spatula to move them back to the baking sheet.
  7. Brush pretzels with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt.
  8. Bake at 450°F for 12-14 minutes until pretzels are golden brown.  Remove from oven.
  9. Cool on wire rack slightly before serving.