Tag Archives: dessert

Aura’s Christmas Cookies

Decorated Sugar Cookies

Merry Christmas!  Okay, I’m a little late with this post but for those of you who are already thinking of what cookies you will make for next year’s treats, here is a basic sugar cookie and icing recipe.  I grew up decorating sugar cookies with my mom who spent hours perfecting her cookies.  Being the traditionalist that I am, I decorate my cookies close to exactly like my dear mom (though not quite as well) and look forward to many more years of trying to perfect the art of the sugar cookie.  I’ve added to my mom’s repertoire–the Michigan cookies are a big hit around these parts!

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I use a basic sugar cookie recipe and basic icing recipe from Martha Stewart for mine.  Note that these turn out quite crispy so if soft and chewy cookies are your thing, you won’t get that with these.  But if you are looking for a thin, crispy, buttery and sweet cookie–look no further!

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Sugar Cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Icing (see recipe below)
  1. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt.  With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat until combined.  Divide dough in half; flatten into disks.  Wrap each in plastic; freeze until firm, at least 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment.  Remove one dough disk; let stand 5 to 10 minutes.  Roll out 1/8 thick between two sheets of floured parchment, dusting dough with flour as needed.  Cut shapes with cookie cutters.  Between each cutting, dip the cookie cutter in flour to prevent sticking.  Using a spatula, transfer to prepared baking sheets.  If dough gets soft, re-chill for ten minutes or so.  Reroll scraps; cut shapes until the dough is gone.
  3. Bake, rotating halfway through, until edges are golden, anywhere from 10-15 minutes depending on the size.  Cool fully on wire racks before icing.

Basic Icing Recipe

  • 1 and 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk or water
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
  1. Place sugar into a bowl and whisk the liquids into the sugar until smooth but thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  If too thin, just add more sugar.  If too thick, just add more liquid.  Easy!  I place small amounts of icing into several bowls and use gel food coloring to make multiple colors and shades of each color.  Ice the cookies and let icing harden at least 20 minutes.  I let them sit overnight to harden fully so they hold up in boxes of treats.
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Goat Cheese Chocolate Truffles

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Oh holidays…why do you always sneak up on me?  This Friday I frantically rolled 100 goat cheese truffles (while juggling making chocolate-peppermint popcorn, white-chocolate dipped pretzels, and putting the finishing touches on biscotti, decorating sugar cookies, and boxing it all up nice and pretty).  I have to say…I went a little crazy.

It happens to all of us, right?  But I may have crossed the line.  I actually went all grinchy and said “I’m not doing Christmas treats next year.”  Yowzas!  Strong words from such a little lady!

I’m happy to say that I got some cute elf help on my project and by the time 7pm rolled around, we were delivering boxes of goodies to some of the good little boys and girls beloved by me.  And the feeling of cheer, the smiles on faces, and oh! the hugs.  Let’s just say I’d do it all over again.  And again.  And again.

If you love goat cheese, you will love these truffles.  They have a moderate but not overbearing sweetness to them balanced with the tanginess of the goat cheese with a smooth finish.  Very satisfying.  These truffles have been a big hit around these parts lately.  Friday was actually batch three for this gal!

I really hope this recipe finds its way into your hearts and homes.  One regular sized-batch takes about 20 minutes hands on.  Worth every minute!

Goat Cheese Chocolate Truffles

Goat Cheese Chocolate Truffles

Makes about 20–easily double or triple the batch for more!

  • 8 oz plain goat cheese (to change things up, you can use honey goat cheese, orange goat cheese…any flavor that is not savory); room temperature
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla, almond, or orange extract
  • 8 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Dutched cocoa, almond meal, or finely shredded coconut for rolling
  1. With a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat room temperature goat cheese with the powdered sugar; 1-2 minutes on medium.
  2. Add extract and beat until blended.
  3. Meanwhile, in a double boiler or a metal bowl over a pan with 1/2-1 inch of simmering water, melt the chocolate.
  4. When the chocolate is melted, mix with goat cheese blend until incorporated fully.
  5. Put mixture into the refrigerator for a couple of hours until firm but still scoopable.
  6. Scoop mixture into balls with a spoon or a melon baller.  Roll in between palms of hands to form a ball.
  7. Roll in dutched cocoa, almond meal, or coconut flakes.
  8. Refrigerate for 1/2 hour before enjoying.

One Change: Walnut Cinnamon Biscotti

Walnut Cinnamon Biscotti

I just listened to a wonderful TEDx talk by Sarah Britton, the author of one of my very favorite food blogs, My New Roots.  The TEDx talk was called “One Change” and in it, Sarah talks us through the idea that one small change in the kitchen can have life changing consequences.  Food, she argues, is life sustaining and life changing.  What you reach for in the grocery store is an important choice with long term consequences.  ‘More than fuel, food can be a powerful medicine.’  Sarah reminds us that whole foods make us feel better and they simply taste better.  At the end of the talk, Sarah shows the audience how, in a matter of minutes and with the most basic of kitchen tools, you can make your own nut milk at home.  Not only is it cost-effective, it tastes better and it empowers you, both in the kitchen and in your life.

I must have nodded my head 98 times while I was listening to that talk.  I couldn’t agree more.  It is so fulfilling and empowering to me to make my own foods from scratch.  I get so much joy from experimenting in the kitchen and my successes are shared with friends and family as I make the rounds calling and urging them to please try this at home.

Coincidentally, I was listening to Sarah’s talk while making this week’s Food Matter’s Project recipe (chosen by the ever-adventurous and darling Margarita at Let’s Cook and Be Friends).  Coincidentally, it was my very first time making biscotti.  And perhaps not coincidentally, I plan to continue making my own biscotti for years to come.  One change.

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Biscotti rarely calls to me at a bakery.  Next to all of the more gooey, more creamy, more sweet sweets, biscotti fails to convince.  Maybe it was smelling the biscotti baking in my own kitchen, maybe it was discovering just how easy it is to make, or maybe it was simply the fact that I made it myself (!) that I find myself hooked.  Biscotti instantly found its way onto my list of food gifts to make for friends and family at the holidays.  Biscotti instantly found its way into my heart and into my Sunday morning coffee routine.

This recipe is great because there isn’t too much sugar (next time I will experiment with using agave or sucanat and see how that goes) but it still ends up being satisfying.  For my holiday gifting, I plan to dip some biscotti in dark chocolate to make it more enticing but for me, this simple version is the perfect starting point and perfect in itself.  Sitting in my window seat with my cup of pour-over coffee, I’m in a happy place.

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Please share with me any of your own cooking revelations.  Is there anything you always used to buy but now only make at home?  In the meantime, please try this at home!

To read about what other great biscotti ideas the Food Matter’s Project bloggers came up with, head here.  To get a quick visual scan of everyone’s creations, head on over to our Pinterest site.

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Walnut Biscotti; from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook

Makes 2 to 3 dozen; Time:  1 and 1/4 hours, mostly unattended

Even without eggs and butter, these biscotti aren’t too dry, and they maintain their pleasant texture for days.  Serve with coffee or tea.

  • 1 and 1/3 cups walnut halves
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 and 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Vegetable oil for greasing pan
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F.  Put half the walnuts in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.  Transfer to a large bowl and add the remaining walnuts along with the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; mix well.  Add the honey and 3/4 cup water and mix until just incorporated, adding a little extra water if needed to bring the dough together.
  2. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets with a little oil and dust them with flour; invert the sheets and tap them to remove the excess flour.  Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a 2-inch wide log.  Put each log on a baking sheet.  Bake until the loaves are golden and beginning to crack on top, 30 to 40 minutes; cool the logs on the sheets for a few minutes.  Lower the oven temperature to 250°F.
  3. When the loaves are cool enough to handle, use a serrated knife to cut each on a diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Put the slices on the sheets, return them to the oven, and leave them there, turning once, until they dry out, 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool completely on wire racks.  Store in an airtight container for up to several days.