Monday, January 20, 2014

Soft Baked Sugar Cookies & Nursery {In Progress} Pictures

Sorry for two cookie recipe posts in a row, but lately that has been the only thing that I have made in the daylight hours and had a chance to photograph. This dark before 5 p.m. thing is really inconvenient for food photography!  K and I have made some great dinner recipes including beef and broccoli and baked ranch chicken nuggets that I would love to share on the blog but unless they get made for lunch on the weekend that isn't likely to happen anytime soon.  Maybe I will look into a light box/indoor photography options in the near future.  Also, we have been super busy with various meetings, baby classes, working on decorating the nursery, etc so not too much has been happening in my kitchen anyways. 

This past Saturday was our baby shower, so of course I had to bring a little something sweet to share with everyone who came to celebrate with us. The night before the shower, I was looking around on Google images for baby cookie ideas but they were all sugar cookies with super detailed designs involving lots of colors of frosting and time consuming piping and filling.  If I had a bit more time and energy I might have gone this route because a lot of the cookies were super cute, but I only had about an hour to dedicate to making cookies.  I started to get discouraged and considered just making a batch of chocolate chip or something simple and then I thought of those soft baked sugar cookies that they sell in the grocery store bakery that everyone seems to absolutely love. I figured I could still make them into a cute shape and just do a simple buttercream frosting.  I rummaged around in my box of 101 cookie cutters hoping there was something baby related in there and came out with a foot print, which was perfect!

I quickly found a recipe that sounded like it fit what I was looking for and got baking.  From start to finish these cookies took under an hour to make, including the cooling time between coming out of the oven and frosting.  I was incredibly happy with this recipe especially because it was fast, simple, and crazy delicious.  I gave one to K to taste test and he told me that I had to make another batch for the shower because he was going to keep these for himself.  The cookies were soft and sweet; one of the best sugar cookies I have ever eaten.  They would be excellent on their own without the frosting, but the creamy buttercream adds another level of delicious-ness to these cookies.  The consistency of the buttercream was perfect for quickly piping the foot shape onto the cookies and held up very well.  If you are looking for a great sugar cookie recipe that is easy and simple, I would highly recommend giving these a try!

Side note: here is a couple of pictures of the nursery because I am super in love with it so far and feel the need to show it off :-).  This first picture is the unofficial "before" shot because the walls are already painted.  We painted the walls back in the spring because I was tired of looking at the intense red/orange that the previous owners had painted the room.  I picked out the light gray thinking that maybe it could be used in a baby room down the road.

We painted the ceiling which had some funny patched spots and red/orange paint left on it, painted the trim a nice crisp white instead of beige, and laid seamless carpet tiles on top of the badly scratched up painted wood floor.  A few weeks later, my mom came over and helped K and I paint the beautiful birch tree mural on the back wall.

I love this room so much. It came out so much better than I had been imagining. Every time I walk upstairs, I stick my head in there and just think about all of the exciting times to come.  The room is stuffed with baby things from the shower now, but maybe I will do another picture update when we get everything organized!

Soft Baked Sugar Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) room temperature butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract and the seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract (I highly recommend not leaving this out, it really makes the cookies amazing)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
Powdered sugar for dusting rolling surface

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Cream together the butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add the egg, extracts, and vanilla bean seeds (if using) and mix until well combined.  Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until everything is just incorporated.   Do not chill the dough, it should be soft but stiff enough to roll out. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a smooth surface, dusted with powdered sugar, and form into a ball.  Roll the dough out into a circle between 1/4" and 1/2" thick.  Mine were about 1/4".

Use a cookie cutter to cut out the shapes and place the cookies on parchment lined baking trays.  Combine any scraps you have into a ball and continue to roll out until you have used up all of the dough.   Bake for 6-8 minutes depending on how thick you rolled out your dough.  Let the cookies rest for about 3 minutes after removing from the oven before you transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, make the buttercream recipe below.  The cookies should cool fairly quickly and you can pipe the buttercream onto them or just spread it on with a knife.  I put my buttercream in a large ziploc bag and snipped off the tip.  I piped an outline around the foot and then partially filled in the middle. I took a butter knife and smoothed the middle out, blending into the edges.  Decorate with sprinkles or other candies of your choosing. Give the cookies a chill in the fridge if the frosting needs to harden up and then store in an air tight container. 


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) room temperature butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp milk
Food coloring, if desired

Beat the butter and sugar together, add the extract and 1 tbsp of milk, and continue to beat together.  Add additional milk if the consistency is too thick.  I recommend using gel food coloring if you are going to color the frosting.  It won't change the consistency and has a more intense color.  Store the frosting in the refrigerator if you are not using immediately.


Inspired by Dixie Crystals

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Giant Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

There aren't too many things better than giant warm cookies fresh out of the oven on a chilly Sunday morning, especially when those cookies are peanut butter and M&M cookies.  Usually I spend Sunday mornings cleaning around the house and catching up on organizing, but this past weekend I got everything done on Saturday and woke up Sunday to a completely free day. Since I needed a new recipe to post this week on the blog, I decided that I was going to make cookies to use up some of my baking supplies leftover from the holidays, hence the Christmas colored candies.

I knew right away that I wanted the cookies to have M&Ms, but it took me awhile to decide what flavor base I wanted to use for the cookie dough. I debated a bit between chocolate chip, sugar, and peanut butter but in the end peanut butter won because we made super amazing peanut butter blossoms over the holidays and I wanted to replicate the same flavor combo.

Originally I planned on just putting the M&Ms right into the cookie dough batter, like you would with regular chocolate chip cookies, but then I saw a recipe with the candies pressed right onto the tops of the cookies and decided to give that a try since it looked so cute. The same recipe suggested making the cookies huge, which I never do, so I thought that would be a fun twist.

Since we have been on sugar overload the past few weeks, I only baked half of the cookies and stuck the other half in the freezer for another day.  I am sure this will come in very handy some night when I have a huge pregnancy craving for cookies at 9 o'clock at night.  If you want to freeze some of the cookies, put the raw formed cookies onto a baking sheet and place in the freezer for at least an hour, until frozen solid.  Then store the cookies in a ziploc bag until you are ready to bake.  Make sure you write the oven temperature and cooking time on the bag so you don't have to look up the recipe when you are ready to make them.  You can bake the cookies directly from the freezer, just plan on increasing the cooking time from the original recipe by a few minutes.

The cookies came out delicious.  They were more of a classic peanut butter cookie with a slightly crunchy texture/outside layer, yet they still have a soft cookie bite.  Normally, I prefer a chewy style cookie, but these were fantastic with a bold peanut butter flavor and the contrast of the chocolate and the crisp M&M shells.  Of course, you really can't ever go wrong with the peanut butter and chocolate combo and these were no exception, especially since they were jumbo size. I hope you give these super easy and quick cookies a try soon!    

Giant Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) room temperature butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
Approx. 1 cup M&Ms or other chocolate candies

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Cream the butter and peanut butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or use an electric mixer.  Add the sugars and beat for 2-3 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is well combined.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated.  Mix in the baking soda and flour until just barely combined.

Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup or a large ice cream scoop to scoop the cookies onto two parchment lined baking trays.  Flatten the cookies slightly so they are shaped like thick discs.  Press M&Ms or other chocolates onto the entire top surface of each cookie.  Do not put more than 6 cookies on each tray, as they will spread out quite a bit.  I was able to make ten cookies using a 1/4 cup measuring cup.  Bake for 14-16 minutes until the edges are slightly golden brown and the middles are still soft looking.  Allow the cookies to set on the trays for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.   


Inspired by Susie Freaking Homemaker and Joy of Baking