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WHITE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE/ Easy Holiday Dessert



The holidays are here . . . cooking, baking, shopping, wrapping, trimming and planning. If you are like me, there are always a few things on my ‘To Do List’  that do not get crossed off due to lack of time. Sometimes only four batches of cookies are baked instead of the seven to eight varieties on my list.

Baking since childhood and having grown up with a mother and aunts whose desserts were always homemade and delicious, it goes against my grain to buy dessert. I really try not to, but I admit in recent years I have purchased apple pie from Costco for Thanksgiving dessert. This holiday season I have an easy dessert for you.


My favorite dessert is chocolate mousse and when it is on the menu in a restaurant, I order it. I have never made it from scratch but have made it from mixes found in the baking aisle. It takes ten minutes to prep and makes a nice impression in a pretty dessert dish. No doubt it is not as good as homemade but who has the time? Unless a guest inquires, I do not reveal my secret. It is a great dessert for a small holiday get-together or dinner party any time of the year. Each box makes four servings. It comes in various chocolate flavors such as dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate. I have used two brands and one definitely surpasses the other. Southern Gourmet has an attractive box but falls short in taste and portion size. I prefer Dr. Oetker which tastes better, whips up to generously fill four dishes nicely and has a good taste. Add crumbled candy cane for a holiday touch.


Instructions
Combine 1 cup of cold milk and contents of packet into a chilled mixing bowl.
Using a wire whip attachment, mix for 1 minute on lowest speed. Scrape sides of bowl.
Mix for 3-5 minutes on highest speed.
Spoon into serving dishes and chill at least 30 minutes. Serve cold.
Makes 4 servings.

I received no compensation for the endorsement of any product.




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CHRISTMAS CUT-OUT COOKIES/ Cookie Cutters



The history of cookie cutters dates back a few centuries as is described here by Karen of Karen’s Cookies. They seem to last forever too. Visit any antique store and there is always a collection of cookie cutters.

Cut out cookies traditionally are linked to Christmastime when dough is rolled and cut out in holiday shapes, such as bells, angels, trees and reindeer, just to name a few. It was an annual event every December in our home when my mother and I baked Christmas cookies. As a little girl, Mom made the dough and rolled it out while I cut the shapes and sprinkled them with red, green and yellow sugar. It’s a tradition I have continued and every year cut out cookies are a must-do. They are the favorite Christmas cookie among my nephews and are now enjoyed by their children too. Who can resist? The taste of buttery cookies sprinkled with colorful sugar in holiday shapes are as much a part of Christmas as the tree and presents.

I’ve tried many cut out recipes and they are all good so stick with the recipe you have always used. This recipe makes a softer cookie and is my favorite. It is from the 1991 Special Christmas Cookie Edition published by Better Homes & Gardens. The dough can be rolled as thin as 1/8 inch but the cookie tends to be brittle. I suggest rolling from 1/4 to1/3 inch thick.


Christmas Cut Out Cookies
3/4 cup Butter (1½ sticks), softened
2½ cups Flour
1 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Vanilla
Sanding Sugar

Mix Butter until creamy. Add Sugar, Eggs, Baking Powder, Vanilla and half the Flour.
Add remaining Flour and mix just until incorporated.
Divide dough in two halves, wrap in plastic and chill for 2 hours.
Roll out and cut into shapes. Sprinkle with sanding sugar.
Bake at 375 for 7 to 8 minutes until edges are slightly golden brown.
Makes 5-6 dozen.
[This recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookie Edition 1991] 





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CHRISTMAS COOKIE ROUNDUP/ Bakers Dozen



Cookiers … i.e., cookie decorators … can be a bit obsessed with decorating cookies. We tend to look at things in our universe and dream about how we can turn it into a cookie. Crazy, eh? Speaking of the universe, the latest craze is out of this world. Check out these Space Cookies by Jessica of Hello Baked and Galaxy Cookies by Amber of Sweet Ambs. We get inspiration from greeting cards, TV commercials, nature, food, etc. Well, not every baker gets bitten by the cookie decorating bug and there are oodles of delicious cookie recipes that do not require a piping bag.

The holidays are traditionally cookie baking season and anticipated all year long. It just wouldn’t be the holidays without cookies! No doubt most of you bake dozens of cookies this time of year with recipes passed down from generation to generation. Every December I bake them by the dozens to place in Christmas tins for my family. [By the way, Michael’s is the best place to purchase cookie tins at about $2.30 per tin]. This year I’ve gathered 13 delicious and easy to make cookie recipes from talented bloggers to add to your holiday baking list. Visit their blogs for the recipe and while you're there, stay awhile and take a look around.

 
 1. Snowball Cookies by Jaclyn of Cooking Classy

2. Strawberry Pinch Cookies by Carrie of Eating on a Dime

 3. Christmas Swirl Sugar Cookies by Rachel of I love my Disorganized Life

4. Lemon Coconut Thumbprint Cookies by Erin of Well Plated

 
5. Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies by Joan of Chocolate, Chocolate and More

6. Hershey Kiss Pie Cookies by Jenny of Picky Palate


7. Sprinkle Cookie Bites by Glory of Glorious Treats

8. Twix Thumbprint Cookies by Jaclyn of Cooking Classy

9. Fudge Peanut Butter Cookies by Ramona of The Merchant Baker

10. Gingersnap Cookies by Nikki of Chef in Training

11. Cranberry Bliss Cookies by Ali of Gimme Some Oven

12. Chocolate Peppermint Chip Cookies by Carrian of Oh, Sweet Basil

13. Easy Baklava Cookies by yours truly of My Cookie Clinic



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CHRISTMAS CUT OUT COOKIES 

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AIRBRUSHED PEAR COOKIES/ Test Cookies



These cookies were intended as a thank you gift but instead they turned into ‘test cookies’ … code word for cookies that didn’t turn out as planned. I aim for perfection and crisp, clear designs and these cookies fell short. No worry … my cookie tasters are always happy to eat my mistakes!

Remember when I first tried my hand at decorating with stencils using the Wilton Airbrush Mist? I Simply sprayed the color over the cookies and they turn out perfectly. Remember when I was so excited to try out my new airbrush machine? Then the post about the learning curve associated with the airbrush machine and stencils? Well, I still need more practice … ugh!


See how many of these cookies are blurred in places? It seems to be that the stencil is lifting up during the airbrushing process … frustrating! I know I set the stencil nice and taut over the cookie using magnets to keep in place [sorry no photos; these were done after sunset and incandescent light makes for poor photos]. See similar photo below.


So, I viewed demonstration videos by The Cookie Countess to pick up some pointers. The Bearfoot Baker recently published a timely, new post with photos and video demonstrating the airbrushing technique. It turns out that it is all about the angle. I was incorrectly holding the airbrush gun at a 45-degree angle which allows just enough air to slightly lift the stencil causing the blur and poor results. Hillary at The Cookie Countess holds the airbrush gun at about a 70-degree angle and Lisa at The Bearfoot Baker at an 85-90 degree angle. Lisa’s detailed blog post explains how at that angle the air from the airbrush gun pushes down on the stencil and prevents it from lifting up. So having learned from these tutorials, I’m anxious to give it another go. Stay tuned as another airbrush post is coming soon and with better results … fingers crossed!


Pear Cookies
Pear Shortbread Cookies
Royal Icing for outlining and flooding tinted with Wilton Ivory
Disposable piping bags & couplers
Squeeze bottles
Wilton Decorating Tip #2
Stencils (Fall Leaves, Teardrops, Chevron, Harlequin, Quatrefoil)
AmeriColor Airbrush Colors (Orange, Yellow, Green, Copper, Brown)
Airbrush Kit or Wilton Color Mist

Outline cookie with #2 tip in ivory icing.

Flood cookie with ivory icing. Let dry overnight.

Place stencil on the cookie.
Using an airbrush, spray airbrush color onto the cookie.
Gently lift stencil. Let dry 45 minutes.
(These two copper cookies turned out perfectly)

  


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CINNAMON SPICE CAKE/ Sugar & Spice



Homemade pie … is there anything better? Apple, cherry, blueberry, lemon, pecan. Can anyone out there make a good pie crust? I can’t. The best pie crust I ever made was my first many years ago and it was beginners luck, as I have not made a good pie crust since. I am not alone judging from the ready-made pie crusts and pre-made pie dough on the grocery shelves. The Contessa on The Food Network makes her pie crust in the food processor and she makes it look easy. I’ve tried her method and still no success. The secret to a good pie crust is practice and most of us roll out dough once a year at Thanksgiving. So the holidays are rolling around and as your thoughts turn to pie, do you find yourself cringing at the thought of rolling out pie dough?  Here is an alternative to pie and a superb autumn dessert for your Thanksgiving table. 

This Cinnamon Spice Cake is a nice combination of my favorite baking spices … cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves with brown sugar and cake flour for a delicate confection. This cake is topped with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting. If you prefer, add a touch of orange or gold food coloring to reflect the colors of the season.

Cinnamon Spice Layer Cake
2½ cups Softasilk Cake Flour (or 2-1/3 cups Flour), sifted
1 cup Sugar
1 tsp Baking Soda
1½ tsp Cinnamon
3/4 tsp Nutmeg
3/4 tsp Cloves
1 tsp Salt
1 cup Brown Sugar
2/3 cup Crisco Shortening
1 cup Buttermilk
3 Eggs
Buttermilk Substitute: Add one cup of milk plus one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.

Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans
Mix Flour, Sugar, Baking Soda, Cinnamon, Nutmeg Cloves and Salt.
Add Brown Sugar, Shortening and Buttermilk. Add Eggs.
Pour into cake pans. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes until cake tester comes out clean.
For cupcakes bake at 400 for 18-20 minutes. Makes 24 cupcakes.
[This recipe is the New Duchess Spice Cake in the 1950 Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook]

White Buttercream Icing
4½ cups Confectioner’s Sugar, sifted
1/2 cup Crisco Shortening
5-10 tbsp Cream or Milk
2¼ Tsp Vanilla (use clear extract for white frosting)

Place all ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Add small amounts of milk if icing is too stiff.
[This recipe is from the 1950 Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook]




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