Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Christmas recap, continued (Baking edition, part 1)


We had a lot of fun baking in December, and I've been trying to make up excuses to do it all over again. Let's see... we have lots of birthdays, Valentine's Day, a couple of happy hours...

I already shared with you these little balls:
A month later, and I still can't think of anything I'd do differently when making them. They're definite winners.

 If you follow me on Instagram, you saw some of the chocolate mint ganache roll out cookies that I did for a cookie exchange that got cancelled.
John declared a few years back that he does not care for sugar cookies with royal icing. I was a little bummed to not get to play around with royal icing and cookie cutters, but I prefer other sweets anyway. I continued to follow two cookie decorating blogs-- Sweet SugarBelle and Bake at 350-- filing away tips and advice with the hopes that one of us would magically change our minds.

Fast forward to this year when we were creating Christmas traditions. A good rollout cookie is imperative for memory making fun! The Smitten Kitchen cookbook arrived just in time for the holidays, providing a recipe for brownie roll out cookies. Awesome! At first bite, this cookie was declared our Christmas tradition cookie for our family. I'd share the recipe with you if the cookbook weren't so new or if I made some changes to it. I didn't. Sorry! On Pinterest, you can find plenty of chocolate rollout cookies with recipes quite different but from reputable bloggers out there. Actually, Sweet SugarBelle did a trial batch of a few different recipes.

The hardest part was figuring out when the dark cookies are ready to come out, and I found that I preferred to err on the side of taking them out too early. I made a quick mint ganache from a bag of Andes mint chips (found in the baking aisle), half a bag of 60% chips, and about 1/2 cup heavy cream. After some trial and error, I found it was easiest to pour the warm ganache into a squeeze bottle, outline the cookies, and then fill it in. The ganache was thick enough to not drip over the edges of the cookie, and the heat from your hand keeps you from having to reheat the ganache. 

To add a crunch to the otherwise soft cookie, I went back and sprinkled a liberal amount of sugar sprinkles (or whatever they're officially called) over each, working in batches of about 5 cookies at a time. Doing this over a cooling rack inside a rimmed baking sheet made it super easy to clean up.

Since the exchange was cancelled, and I made so many, these managed to stay around the house for about a week before I packaged them up with the whole assortment of cookies for neighbors. I could taste a slight difference at that time, but not too much. These would be easy to make a few days in advance for a party. Oh, and I must add that the leftover ganache keeps for a long time as well (we finished it at about 2 weeks and there was absolutely no change in flavor or texture at that point); it makes a great, easy treat when spread over graham crackers. Don't ask me how I know that. ;)

As a little something to share during the cookie exchange, I quickly made these boozy little bourbon balls from the food blog, A Year In Food (recipe was posted to etsy). They were super strong the first day, but the Jack Daniels mellowed out after sitting plastic wrapped in the fridge for a day.

To make them without gunking up your hands, use a small portion scoop to dump a ball into a small piece of saran wrap. Then, wrap the saran wrap around the dough and roll in your hands like you would sans wrap. It took me way longer to type that than it did to make them-- it's really easy. And you stay clean.

Ok, that's all I have the energy for tonight. I'll continue with more cookies tomorrow!


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