Holiday Ginger Crinkle Cookies

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Every time I smell the sweet scent of baking cookies it brings back wonderful memories. The rich aroma of ginger cookies reminds me of holidays past.

When I was a child my mother would bake cookies for the holidays. We would carefully cut each one out with the same old set of cookie cutters every year; carefully creating trees, bells, and candy cane shaped treats. Each cookie was decorated with sprinkles and sparkling sugar candy. It was one of my favourite childhood memories.

When my children were young I tried to create similar traditions so their memories would be as sweet as mine. They still ask for us to celebrate some of those traditions even though they are grown up. I am happy that they still cherish those magic moments.

These Ginger Crinkle Cookies are so good you will want to add them to your holiday baking list.

Make some magic memories of your own. Happy Holidays!

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Holiday Ginger Crinkle Cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. turbinando sugar

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Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt, allspice and cloves.

Add the shortening, butter and the brown and granulated sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Slip in the molasses and egg and beat until well incorporated. Add the flour mixture by scoopfuls and beat until combined.

Add the turbinado sugar to a small plate or bowl. Roll the dough into balls that are 1 inch in diameter, then roll in the sugar. Place balls on a baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies 9 to 11 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. Cool on the baking sheets for 4 minutes, then continue cooling on wire racks. Repeat with the second batch.

Recipe from the Foodnetwork.com courtesy of Jamie Deen

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Putting on the dog with Lemon-Glazed Candied-Ginger Cookies

My life lately, has been going to the dogs….. and cats…and bunnies!

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I spent much of the fall launching my new pet photography business Pawsome Pix. www.pawsomepix.com

The interesting thing about shooting pet portraits is having fun with the pets and owners while you shoot. Sometime is feels like chaos while you are getting great shots in the field. In the studio it is much more controlled and calm.

My plan is to run the food and lifestyle photography and the pet photography as separate businesses. That way I can really focus on each and market each in a different way.

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No matter what I am shooting, it is a great way to spend a day. They say you should work at something you love so it never feels like work. I am so fortunate that I feel that way about photographing food, people and now, pets.

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I love getting to know each animal so I can help them to relax. This allows me to capture their unique personalities. That is the great thing about photographing pets and children; they all are so interesting and fun to hang out with.

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Now that my website and Facebook pages are launched I can get back to preparing for the coming holiday season.

I know the holidays are coming soon when I start to get that itch to bake holiday cookies. Each year, I pour over my cookbooks to find something new and interesting to bake for my family. I found this recipe in a Martha Stewart Cookies magazine that I bought in 2011.

The cookies have a nice blend of flavours with the sweetness of the honey and the freshness of the lemon. They are definitely worth trying.

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Lemon-Glazed Candied-Ginger Cookies

Makes 6 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1/2 tsp. baking powder
Salt
6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped candied ginger
1 large egg
2 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp. grated lemon zest
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. honey
1/3 cup water

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Directions:

Sift flour, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt into a bowl. Cream butter and brown sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add ginger, and beat for 2 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla until well combined. Add flour mixture, and then beat on medium-low speed until dough just comes together.

Shape dough into two 1-inch-thick disks. Wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or up to 3 days).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out 1 disk on a lightly floured surface to inch thickness, and cut out 2-inch circles. Place the rounds 1/2 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Roll out and cut scraps. Refrigerate rounds for 10 minutes.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are set and edges are light gold, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer parchment with cookies to wire racks. Let cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough. (Cookies can be stored for up to 3 days.)

Whisk confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest and juice, honey, water, and a pinch of salt in a bowl until smooth. Drizzle glaze over the cooled cookies. Let stand until glaze is set, at least 20 minutes. (Glazed cookies can be stored overnight.)

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Recipe from Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies- 2011

 

More Holiday Baking with Dark Chocolate Espresso Cookies

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“Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

Lyrics by Sammy Cahn, Composer Jule Styne -1945


Toronto has been hit with the first real snow storm of the season. The snow is blowing outside and I am curled up with fresh baked cookies and an espresso, writing my holiday cards.

Although I know we should keep in touch with people we care about all year long, sometimes we get so busy and months pass before we call or write. That is why I like to take the time to remember those who I cannot see over the holidays with a note and a wish for happiness and good cheer.

What is it about this season that brings back memories of holidays past and people we miss?

Is it the sentimental songs or the holiday movies?

Or, is it just that we want people we care about to share our holidays with us?

I am not sure, but I do know when I receive a card or a note from one of my old friends, it makes my day.

I have been baking up a storm for the past week. If I am not able to make homemade cookies throughout the year, I try to make them for the holidays.

These Dark Chocolate Espresso Cookies are from a Martha Stewart Holiday Cookie magazine that I bought a few years ago. My family loved them and asked me to make them again this year. They are the right combination of slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy and chocolatey inside.

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Dark Chocolate Espresso Cookies

Make 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup flour (all-purpose)
1/2 cup cocoa (unsweetened)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs (room temperature)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp. instant espresso powder
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate (4 oz. melted and 4 oz. coarsely chopped)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; mix in vanilla. Combine espresso powder and melted chocolate; beat into butter mixture. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; mix just until combined. Fold in chopped chocolate

Drop dough by one heaping tablespoon, 3 inches apart, onto two baking sheets. Bake until edges are dry, 14 to 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies-2011

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Turn Your Holidays Upside Down with Pineapple Upside Down Cake

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I love the holiday season!

I love the magical feeling when you see holiday lights wrapped carefully around trees, lighting up the night  with a sparkling sea of colour. I love going downtown to see the special window displays created for children with moving puppets and animals. I love going to see the Nutcracker performed by the National Ballet Company. The splendor of the costumes and the grace of the dancers sweeping across the stage make me feel like a child again.

I spent the afternoon on Sunday watching the Santa Claus Parade and reminiscing about watching it with my daughters when they were young. We would all cuddle up in front of the TV and wait patiently for Santa to arrive. We had a tradition of watching the parade together while munching on home baked cookies and sipping hot chocolate. Those were moments that I will always remember.

I also love to entertain. This is a wonderful time of year for spending time with friends and family over special meals. I was looking for an additional dessert for those who do not like traditional pie with their holiday meal and I came across this recipe. The cake is spiced with rum and cardamom making it have richer and more complex flavours than the traditional white cake version.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Ingredients:

For the Topping:

½ medium pineapple, peeled, cored and sliced to 3/8 inch thick rounds
¾ stick unsalted butter
¾ cup packed light brown sugar

For the Batter:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. ground cardamom
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¾ stick unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. dark rum
½ cup orange juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make Topping:

Choose a nice pineapple slice for your center, set aside. Slice the remaining circles into 4 quarters.

Melt butter in a skillet. Add brown sugar and simmer over medium heat, stirring, 4 minutes. Add the pineapple sliced and stir until slightly softened, 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Pour sugar mixture into a parchment lined, greased 9 inch spring form pan. Arrange pineapple on top of the sugar mixture in circles working from the center to the edges, overlapping rows slightly.

Make Batter:

Sift together flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter in a large bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar while mixing. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Beat in vanilla and rum. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Beat in orange juice; add remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended.

Spoon batter over pineapple topping and spread evenly.

Bake cake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes, or until golden and tester comes out clean.

Let cake stand 5 minutes and then remove outer sides of pan and invert on to a cake plate.

Serve cake warm with a dollop of whipped cream (optional).

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com

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Quick and Easy Holiday Baking with Rugelach

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I can well imagine how busy everyone has been these past few weeks and how much you have yet to do.  Everyone is running around doing their last-minute shopping while attending holiday parties and preparing meals.The thought of holiday baking seems daunting with all of your other commitments. Well I am going to help you with this recipe. These cookies are fast and easy to make without skimping on flavour. The addition of sugar and cinnamon adds enough spice and sweetness to make them impossible to resist.

I hope you enjoy the cookies.

Wishing you and your families a Holiday Season be filled with peace, love and happiness and a Happy New Year!

Rugelach
Makes 16 cookies

Ingredients:
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 package frozen pie shells
½ cup apricot jam
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
½ cup golden raisins
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking liners.

Thaw pie shells for 30 minutes at room temperature. Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

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Remove each pie shell from the pie sheet and lie flat on a cutting board. Spread half of the jam on each shell. Sprinkle with ½ cup walnuts and ¼ cup raisins and 1 tbsp. sugar and cinnamon mixture on each. Make sure that the toppings are spread all the way to the edge.

Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, evenly cut each round into 8 wedges. Starting at the wide edge roll each wedge toward the narrow edge and bend slightly into a crescent shape.

Space cookies 2 inches apart on the baking sheets with the pointed edge underneath.

Brush melted butter on each crescent and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar on top.

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Bake until pale golden brown and slightly puffy, about 25 minutes. Make sure you rotate the sheets halfway through the baking time.

Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool for about an hour.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 1 week.

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Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Christmas Cookies

Creating Holiday Memories with Chocolate Crackle Cookies

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I always get sentimental at this time of year. The holidays are a time when we remember holidays past. Some of those memories are wonderful, while others can be sad. We miss those who are no longer with us and cherish the moments with those who are.

I remember what it was like when I was a child. My parents had four children and money was tight. Nevertheless, they made sure that we received presents and a wonderful dinner and lots of love over the holidays. My father was adamant that none of us would receive more than the others so he went out of his way to make all giving equal. He never knew that we did not care; we were just happy to receive gifts.

When I got older and had a family of my own I tried to keep some of my childhood traditions with my daughters, while incorporating new ones of our own. It was fun creating new traditions that my daughters remember as the ones from their childhood. It is the little moments that we remember that are the most special.

My daughters are getting to the age where they are starting to have families and I hope that they continue to create that sense of tradition within their own homes.

One tradition that we still hold onto from my childhood is for us to enjoy holiday movies together. Year after year we would roll out the tapes and DVDs of classic holiday films like White Christmas; It’s a Wonderful Life; and the Bishop’s Wife. We would curl up with tea or hot chocolate and baked cookies while enjoying the family time together. I can recall every word to the songs from White Christmas since we sang then over and over as children. As the years passed, we added a few modern classics like Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation and Love Actually to the viewing list.

Family time together is never boring.  I look forward to the holidays with anticipation of laughter and good times.

Whatever you have planned for the holidays, I wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season!

Here is another holiday cookie recipe that will impress your family and guests. These cookies are filled with a burst of chocolate flavour that makes them so delicious you will probably want to bake them all year round.

Chocolate Crackles
Makes about 5 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring. Set aside and let cool. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

With an electric mixer beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in eggs and vanilla, and then melted chocolate. Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Divide each piece into sixteen 1 inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar to coat, then in confectioners’ sugar to coat. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake until surfaces crack, about 14 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up for to 3 days.

Recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cookies from the editors of Martha Stewart Living

Baking up a Holiday Storm with Cranberry and White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

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Can you believe that it s already the 7th of December? I have been madly rushing about trying to get started on my holiday shopping, decorating the house, and starting my holiday baking. Every year I try to make the holiday special for family and friends by cooking and baking up a storm. As my children grew older I tried to make our holiday celebration about being together for a great meal and sharing each others company.

I have decided to make some home-made gifts this year. It adds a more personal touch to everyone’s presents and creates special memories. Baked holiday cookies make a wonderful gift for the sweet lovers on the list.

I also decided to try some new recipes for my holiday cookies. This recipes makes some large chewy cookies that are filled with the rich flavours of white chocolate, coconut, cranberries and pecans. They taste like a mouthful of holiday magic!

Cranberry and White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 16-18 large cookies

Ingredients:
¾ cup (1880 g) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
½ cup (125 ml) granulated sugar
½ cup (125 ml) packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tbsp. (15 ml) light corn syrup
1 tsp. (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups (375 ml) unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup (65 ml) cake flour
1 tsp. (5 ml) baking soda
½ tsp. (2.5 ml) salt
½ cup (125 ml) sweetened dried cranberries
½ cup (125 ml) rolled oats (not the quick cook kind)
½ cup (125 ml) pecans, coarsely chopped and lightly toasted
½ cup (125 ml) sweetened coconut flakes, lightly toasted
1 -3 ½ oz. (100 g) package white chocolate chips, coarsely chopped

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Directions:

Position 2 racks near the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl. Add the egg, corn syrup, and vanilla, beat for 1 minute on medium speed. Mix in half of the all-purpose flour on low speed until thoroughly combined, 1 minute. Mix in the remaining half of the all-purpose flour. Sprinkle the cake flour, baking soda and salt into the bowl and mix on low speed until blended, about 1 minute. With a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries, oats, pecans, coconut and white chocolate.
Scoop up ¼ cup (65 ml) of dough and shape onto parchment paper into 2 inch disks that are ½ inch thick. Space the dough at least 2 inches apart.
Bake 15 – 18 minutes until the edges and bottoms are golden brown and centre feels dry on the surface but soft inside. When baking 2 pans of cookies at one time be sure to rotate the pans halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning.
Let cookies cool on baking sheets for at least 1 minute and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. These cookies can be kept for 3 or 4 days in an air tight container at room temperature or for several weeks in the freezer.

Recipe modified from The Best of Fine Cooking Cookies Holiday 2012