Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies

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As I mentioned last week, this weekend was cookie baking weekend. This year, I made cookie tins for 16 different people, so I made 5 full batches of treats in total. That is not an insignificant amount of cookies. In fact, I was in the kitchen so long that I went through my entire Christmas playlist. That’s a good 5 hours of Christmas music. As a side note, Straight No Chaser’s new album is excellent. I’m partial to “Text Me Merry Christmas” and “Nutcracker“. You should watch both of those videos before you keep reading.

Fortunately, last weekend I got a head start with salted caramel chocolate shortbread bars, so yesterday I was really only making 4 types of cookies, including Christmas roll sugar cookies, gingerbread men, peppermint white chocolate cookies, and, today’s feature, peanut butter reindeer cookies.

For this recipe, I took the peanut butter base that I usually use for peanut butter blossoms (those cookies with the hershey kiss on top), and just pressed in some different decorations to copy the pictures that are all over Pinterest. When you make peanut butter blossoms, you want the cookies to crack a bit, but for these reindeer, that’s not actually a good thing. Lucky for you, I tested a couple different methods to figure out what worked best, so you don’t have to.

Basically, the best strategy is to slightly underbake the cookies so they’re still soft, and to move quickly when putting on the decorations. You still might end up with a couple one-eyed reindeer when an m&m decides not to stick, but it’s better than a reindeer that crumbles to pieces when you try to attach an antler.

First, cream together the shortening and peanut butter in a large bowl.

 

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Then, add the sugar and brown sugar and beat until fluffy.

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Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and beat well.

 

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In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking soda.

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Add it to the peanut butter mixture gradually and beat well until the dough comes together.

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Roll the dough in 1 inch balls. Roll the balls in sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  I found the best cookies were when I rolled them more into a flattened but fat disk, since that gave a little more surface area to press things later on.

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Bake the cookies at 375°F for about 6-8 minutes. You want them to still look a little soft – as soon as they look dry, you’re risking crumbly reindeer.

Remove from the oven and immediately press in the pretzel antlers and m&m faces. I first put antlers on all of them before going back to do faces since they were what I was more concerned about sticking.

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For the antlers, I used mini flips, which I could only find in little pouches on the way out of the grocery store. The eyes are brown mini m&ms, and the nose is a regular red m&m. Here’s a close up:

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Let the cookies cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. And I do mean completely here. The candies and such are attaching to the cookie by melting and re-hardening, so it’s really important that you let them go through that whole process before you move them anywhere else.

If you get through all of those nitpicky steps, the results are adorable!

Enjoy!

IMG_2033 Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • sugar, for rolling
  • m&m’s and mini chocolate pretzels for decorating

Directions:

  1. Cream together shortening and peanut butter in a large bowl with a hand mixer on medium speed.
  2. Add sugar and brown sugar and beat until fluffy.
  3. Add egg, milk, and vanilla and beat to combine.
  4. Combine flour and baking soda in a separate bowl. Add gradually to peanut butter mixture, beating until dough comes together.
  5. Roll dough in 1 inch balls, roll the balls in the extra sugar, and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375°F for 6-8 minutes, until slightly underbaked.
  6. Immediately press pretzels and m&m’s into cookies to make reindeer faces. Allow to cool slightly on baking pan before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.
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Snickerdoodles

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Ahh, November as a teacher in New Jersey. After the mayhem that is the start of the school year, this month feels like a breeze. This past weekend was a long weekend for Teacher’s Convention, which I took advantage of to journey down south to DC and Baltimore to visit some friends from college. It was a short trip, but walking around inner harbor in Baltimore made me very nostalgic for a road trip my family had taken a long time ago.

In my nostalgia, I texted my mom for her snickerdoodle recipe, sure I remembered her making them when I was little. She responded that she didn’t have one, but I think she just didn’t want to dig through boxes to find it. So instead I found one in a cookbook I’ve been dying to use: Milk & Cookies. I’ve had this book for awhile, but because the recipes were all by weight, I hadn’t yet had a chance to try it. With my nifty kitchen scale, though, I was willing to give it a shot.

In the recipe, I’ll include both the weights and traditional measurements, just in case you haven’t jumped on the kitchen scale bandwagon yet, but trust me when I say that baking by weight is infinitely easier.

First, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Look how easy it is to measure 11 1/4 ounces!

 

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Then, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and shortening, starting on low speed and increasing to medium to beat for 3 minutes. It will be light and creamy when you’re ready to move on.

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Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar slowly while continuously beating for an additional two minutes.

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Add the eggs, one at a time, and reduce the speed to low, beating to incorporate after each addition.

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Add the vanilla extract and beat until blended.

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Add the flour mixture on low speed in two additions, beating until just mixed together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

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Recipes that involve overnight components catch me by surprise every time. I had told my doorman that I would bring him cookies last night when I started making these. Then I got to the overnight step and realized he would not be getting cookies that evening. Fortunately, he was there this morning when I finally baked them, and determined that they were “off the chain”, which he also clarified meant they were delicious. Brian is my biggest fan.

Anyways, after the dough is sufficiently chilled, mix the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and then roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture.

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Place the balls about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes or until lightly brown. When you touch the top of the cookie, the indent should remain.

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Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. These cookies are meant to be chewy, so to prevent them from getting too crisp, the airtight container is crucial.

Enjoy!

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Snickerdoodles

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) shortening
  • 1 3/4 cups (12 ounces) sugar, divided
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  •  2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Cream together butter and shortening using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, starting at low speed, and increasing to medium for about 3 minutes or until light and creamy.
  3. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar and continue beating for 2 minutes.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat after each addition.
  5. Beat in vanilla extract until smooth.
  6. Add flour mixture in two additions, beating on low speed until just incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.
  7. Combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and roll in cinnamon sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  8. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes or until just golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies

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“Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies” is possibly one of the most unappetizing names for a cookie I have ever heard. They sound like the dessert that would go with a dinner of liver and onions served with prune juice.  But the name is very deceptive – they should in fact be called creamy butter cookies with a hint of cinnamon sprinkled with colorful sugar. But that also would not be a great name for a cookie. However, they would go wonderfully with just about anything – they are pretty basic in flavor such that they could easily complement a variety of desserts with more powerful elements.

Regardless, when I was roped into a promise to bake cookies for my students (we were playing a game, I said the winner would get a prize, then they decided they should all be winners in my eyes), I had to turn to my trusty cookie press to find a suitable recipe. This cookie press has made an appearance before, when I made chocolate shortbread cookies for my students on Valentine’s Day and butter cookies for Pickett Christmas last year. I love it because the recipes yield TONS of cookies (and when you have 150 students, you need TONS of cookies) and you can easily make something for any occasion, since it comes with all sorts of cool shape options. But enough free advertising for OXO.

I ended up doubling the recipe because I have more students than I did last year, and got about 175-200 cookies out of it (I figured my teacher friends wouldn’t mind some leftovers). But halving it will yield about 8 dozen cookies according to the original.

First, cube the butter and cream it together with the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. In case you’re wondering, this is what 4 sticks of butter cubed looks like. I promise there is some cream cheese underneath.

 

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Add the sugar and egg whites and beat until light and fluffy.

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Add the vanilla extract and beat to incorporate. The dough should be pretty smooth at this point.

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In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, and salt.

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Add gradually to the butter mixture and beat until well combined.  For me, a considerable amount of flour ended up on the counter instead of in the bowl. Also, I began to fear for my stand mixer because the dough was pretty thick, so you should probably switch to the dough hook at this point instead of the paddle. I switched to a wooden spoon because I’m overprotective of my little yellow mixer.

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Fill the cookie press and press cookies onto ungreased baking sheets and sprinkle with sugar. I used leaves because it was the most Fall shape I had, and red sugar because A&P’s baking decorations are anemic at best, but you could get pretty creative with this step if you felt so inclined.

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Bake at 350°F for about 8 minutes or until edges are golden. Allow to cool on cookie sheet about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool further. Store in an airtight container.

Pro Tip: if you’re making TONS of cookies, like I did, you might find that the cookies don’t stick readily to a cookie sheet that has already been baked on.  I found that if you wipe it down with a paper towel to absorb some of the grease and then waited until the tray was cooled to room temperature, you have better luck. This makes the process take a little longer, but it’s wicked frustrating to try to press a cookie onto a warm baking sheet and not have it release properly, so it’s worth it.

Enjoy!

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Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and cubed butter with the paddle attachment.
  2. Add the sugar and egg yolks, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract to incorporate.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture, using the dough hook to beat until well blended.
  4. Fill cookie press fit with desired disk. Press cookies onto ungreased cookie sheet and decorate as desired.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 8 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Lemon Blueberry Ricotta Cookies

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Do not despair, my loyal followers, I’m back.  I’m sorry for not giving you a sugar fix last weekend, but in all honesty I did try.  I had this whole grand plan in place.  I was going to post a picture like this:

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of my mom and me in Chicago at that awesome bean thing.  I was going to write:

Happy Memorial Day! SMiLes by Meg will return next weekend!”

and then, so you didn’t feel completely deprived, I was going to assure you of my sweets consumption and the quality of my future posts by giving you this picture as well:

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But, alas, it was not meant to be.  Wordpress does in fact have a mobile app, so I thought I was in the clear, but whenever I tried to post a picture it just showed me a link to the picture, not the picture itself.  It may have worked, but I didn’t want to risk the integrity of my blog.  I figured it would be better to skip a week then post with the promise of pictures that didn’t show up.

So again, I apologize.  Now we can move forward.

This weekend, I had the privilege of being invited to a birthday party of a friend at work.  Naturally, I wanted to bake something.  However, she can’t eat gluten, which caused me to turn to my aunt Beth, also a celiac, for advice.  Beth sent me this great recipe for lemon ricotta cookies, which I decided would go nicely with blueberries in them.  They are very cakey in consistency, sort of like the Half Moon Cookies I’ve made before, and actually would make a really good gluten free substitute in that recipe as well (just leave out the blueberries and lemon).

Additionally, you could probably make some pretty awesome mini cupcakes without altering the ratios of ingredients – just lower the heat on the oven and bake them a little longer.  Some lemon meringue frosting would make them perfect.

Anyways, back to the cookies.  First, cream the butter in a large bowl using a hand mixer.

 

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Then, add the sugar and continue to beat until well creamed.

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Next, add the ricotta, eggs, and vanilla extract.  I was very excited when I realized I’d get to try my new toy: a kitchen scale.

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I measured out 8 oz of the ricotta into a bowl, and was good to go!

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Expect some of my recipes in the future to start to show up in weights – I’ve had a cookbook for well over 2 years now that I haven’t been able to use because I didn’t have a scale.  There are tons of recipes in it I’ve been dying to try.  And in my perfectionist quest, it is supposed to be more accurate.

Once you’ve got everything creamed, add the lemon zest and beat.

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It’s entirely possible I had more lemon zest on my hands from trying to get it off the grater than actually made it into the recipe, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

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In a separate bowl, whisk together the almond flour, gluten free flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

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Beth, the gluten-free expert, recommended King Arthur gluten free flour, but my local A&P did not have the most extensive selection, so I had to use the Bob Red Mills, even though she expressly recommended against it (sorry, Beth!).

Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and mix until combined.

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Now, here’s a little secret when you’re baking with blueberries: freeze them before you mix them into something.  Unless you are making something where you want them to get mushy and smear the batter, freezing them in advance will help them keep their shape and texture a little better.  I put a cup in the freezer early this morning while I prepared everything else.  Then, when I was ready to stir them into the mix, I pulled them out.

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Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and drop by the teaspoon onto the sheet.  The cookies will spread, so don’t put them too close together.

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Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes, until edges are slightly golden.  Allow to cool 5 minutes on the sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Another suggestion: if you want to use chocolate chips instead of blueberries, I’d recommend either swapping the lemon zest for orange zest or leaving out the fruits altogether.  I know fruit desserts aren’t everyone’s thing (frankly, they usually aren’t mine), so I won’t be offended by that modification.

Enjoy!

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Lemon Blueberry Ricotta Cookies

   Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 pound ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest from one lemon
  • 1 1/4 cups almond flour
  • 1 cup gluten-free flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, frozen

Directions:

  1. Cream butter in a large bowl.  Add sugar and cream together.  Add ricotta, egg, and vanilla and beat until blended.
  2. Add lemon zest and beat until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together almond flour, gluten free flour, baking powder and baking soda.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until combined.
  5. Stir in frozen blueberries.
  6. Drop by rounded teaspoon on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
  7. Cool for 5 minutes on sheet before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

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.

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

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Want to know what happens when you have 6 snow days in a month and a half?  You lose all track of time.  Literally.  This past weekend was supposed to be a long weekend from school for Presidents’ Day.  We were going to have Friday through Tuesday off.  However, we had 4 snow days in January/early February, so the school decided to take away 2 of those days (Friday and Tuesday) because we didn’t have enough days built into the end of the year.  So in honor of having school on Valentine’s Day after all, I decided to make heart-shaped cookies for my students.

Then Mother Nature decided that we did indeed deserve a break.  And we had snow days on Thursday and Friday.  So we ended up with the long weekend anyways.  And there’s more snow in the forecast for tomorrow, meaning it could be an even longer weekend.  And also meaning I probably will be in school straight through next September.

But with all of this losing vacation days and getting snow days, you can see how I could lose track of when in the week it was.  And thus the Monday post.  I apologize to all of you who were anxiously awaiting my post yesterday, only to go to bed sad and start their week without visions of baked goods dancing in their heads as they moved towards Monday morning.  Hopefully you’ll forgive me.

Anyways, these chocolate cookies have been sitting in tupperware containers in my kitchen since Wednesday.  They are crunchy by nature, so even if we have a snow day AGAIN tomorrow, I’m confident my kids will still appreciate them when they do finally get to school.  I only wish I had thought ahead and made four leaf clovers instead.

And, if you didn’t know by now that I was a little crazy, here’s some more proof:

 

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I decided to give my eggs a little stability and decrease the chance of them rolling off the counter by creating butter nests.  Yet another use of butter!

So first step: cream together the sugar and butter.  There is no requirement on using a stand mixer for this, I just like mine.

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Then, add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, continuously beating until well combined.

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Next, add the cocoa powder and flour.  At this point, I switched to a dough hook, mostly because I didn’t totally know how to make a full batch of cookie dough in a stand mixer (I usually make frosting, which requires the paddle attachment), but a dough hook sounded promising.

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Make sure to scrape down the sides while you’re doing this and the bottom as well – I had some sneaky flour hiding under the rest of the dough.

I made these as a cookie press cookie.  There is a heart template, so I couldn’t really resist.  It looked like this when it was inside the tube:

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Amazing that can turn into a heart, right?  So you should fill your cookie press, if you have it, with the dough.  I’ve found that if you don’t fill it all the way up, the press works a little better.

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Put the press on an ungreased cookie sheet and press away!  You can fit lots of cookies on a single sheet.

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Bake the cookies at 375°F for 8 minutes.  Make sure to rotate the cookie sheet halfway through the baking time.  Allow to cool for 2 minutes on the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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This recipe makes a lot of cookies.  I’m talking 12 dozen.  That’s a dozen dozens of cookies.  Which was good for me because I have 125 students, but if you don’t have that many people to help you eat the cookies, you may want to reduce the ingredients.  Before I knew about the snow days, they looked great all plated and ready to bring to school:

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But, alas, it was not meant to be, and they were banished to tupperware for the weekend.  If there weren’t 125 of them, I think that adding some frosting and sprinkles would definitely benefit the cookie.  They are a dark chocolate, not very sweet, which I liked, but if your audience is of the younger variety, a little more sweet would not be a bad thing.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups salted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. While continuously beating, add vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time.
  3. Add flour and cocoa powder, mixing until well combined.
  4. Fill cookie press and press onto ungreased cookie sheet.
  5. Bake at 375°F for 8 minutes, rotating pan halfway through bake time.  Allow to cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Frost and decorate as desired.

Butter Cookies

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Last Christmas recipe, I promise.  And these also aren’t really a Christmas-exclusive recipe, so I don’t feel bad about it.  Imagine them in shapes other than Christmas trees if it bothers you.

This is also another one of those you-kind-of-need-a-special-tool-to-make-me recipe, which is fine for me because I have that tool.  And I highly recommend you get one because of it’s unbelievable convenience.  That tool is a cookie press, and my mom got it for me for Christmas this year.  It let’s you make all of those super cute shape cookies you probably thought only mass-cookie-producing factories could make.  But alas, you can do it at home!  With this:

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Now, mine came with 12 different discs I could use to make different shapes.  I chose to make trees, wreaths, and snowflakes for Christmas (and teddy bears because my boyfriend insisted).  I also have the option to make hearts, buttercups, shells, sunflowers, daisies, fleur de lis, leaves, and butterflies.  So you can assume this is not the last you see of my cookie press.  For my first go with it, however, I had to go with butter cookies.  Because, really, I appreciate a cookie that doesn’t try to be something its not.  It knows that people like it for its butter, so it owns it.

Also, realistically, if you don’t have a cookie press, don’t worry.  You could roll out this dough and use a cookie cutter, too.  Cookie dough is pretty forgiving with how you want to use it.

First up, cream together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.

 

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If you have a handy assistant around, you can get them to do it while you take awesome action shots.  Thanks Andy!

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Next, add the vanilla and egg and continue to beat it with the hand mixer.  The recipe says to make sure the egg is at room temperature – this is to ensure that the dough is easy to handle when you put it in the press.

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Add the flour little by little, beating until its well combined.

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Now comes the fun part.  Since I had never used a cookie press before, I did make a couple mistakes the first time through, but I eventually found my groove.  In case you’re wondering, this is what a disc looks like to make a wreath:

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I have no idea who figured out that would work, but I am very impressed with them.  On the first try, I filled the press all the way up with cookie dough.

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This is not something you want to do.  The press will refuse to press cookies until you remove some of the dough.  In later attempts I realized it’s probably better to go with about half-full (or half-empty if you’re a pessimist) to get the smoothest working pump.  Then you just put the handle on, put the press right on the cookie sheet, push down on the handle, and pull away.  In less than a minute, you’ve got a cookie sheet full of wreaths!

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From a purely time-saving point of view, these are probably the most impressive looking cookies you can make in under an hour.  Sprinkle them with some sanding sugar, cook them for 8 to 10 minutes at 400°F, and you’re good to go.

Also, make sure to rotate the pan about halfway through the baking time.  This will make sure all the cookies get equal heat, so you don’t have 12 burnt cookies and 12 doughy cookies.  It helps, I swear.

Let them cool for a minute on the cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Fill up the press and repeat!

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The other awesome part about butter cookies (other than their simplicity – only 5 ingredients!) is that they go with anything.  Everyone likes them, they’re small (which I generally believe means they don’t have calories), and when you aren’t in the mood to make anything super fancy, the cookie press makes them look fancy enough on their own.

Enjoy!

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Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Cream together butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer.
  2. Add vanilla and egg, continuing to beat until smooth.
  3. Add flour little by little, beating until well combined.
  4. Insert desired disc in cookie press, fill tube half full of dough, and press dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 400°F, rotating the baking sheet after 5 minutes.  Remove when cookies are golden brown around edges.
  6. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.