Sugar Cookies

Making sugar cookies

 

Sugar cookies are my favorite thing to bake because they are so versatile. They can be decorated to suit any theme or holiday. When I was a little girl I used to love watching and helping my Auntie make her christmas sugar cookies. They are still my favorite. For Easter I decided to make robin egg sugar cookies. Here is how I made them.

 

You will need:

 

Brown sugar          ¼ cup

Granulated sugar   ¾ cup

Margarine (room temp)            ¾ cup

Flour       2 cups

Salt                         ¼ tsp

Baking soda           ½ tsp

Egg (room temp)                    2

Vanilla                    1 tsp

Royal icing

Black or Brown food dye

 

The first step is to cream your sugars with the margarine using a paddle attachment. It is important to cream the sugars and margarine well to incorporate air into the dough,tenderizing it. Margarine is an ideal fat to use for cutout cookies due to its wide plastic range or its ability to stretch, keeping the dough soft and workable even after chilling.

Next you will add your vanilla and eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl with a spatula after each addition. Now sift or whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda before adding to the mixer. Mix just until a dough is formed. Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic, and chill the dough for at least two hours before moving on to the next step.

 

Knead the dough a few times just to soften it and then lightly flour the countertop and top of your dough before rolling. Roll the dough evenly to about half a centimeter thick. When cutting, it is important to remember that different size and thickness of the cookies will affect the required bake time. Cookies of multiple sizes should not be baked on the same tray. To do so would lead to some being over or underbaked. Possibly both in the same batch. Cut out your desired shapes as close together as possible and re roll the remaining dough until it is all used up.

dough111112The cookies should be baked at about 350 degrees fahrenheit until they are just starting to brown around the edges. You can also test doneness by touching the top of the cookie to see if it is starting to set or if it is still too soft. Allow them to set for 3-5 minutes on the bake sheets before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely

 

The next step is to trace the outside of the cookie with piping consistency icing. The way I check the consistency is by sticking a spatula into the icing. If it can stand up straight on its own then it is stiff enough for piping. You can find more information about that here if you are unsure. Use a piping bag with a small round tip. Hold it just high enough for the icing to fall into place as you go rather than trying to draw with it. This will result in smoother, straighter lines.

It will need to dry completely before flooding so make sure to keep your piping bags and icing bowls covered with clean wet cloths to prevent them from drying out.

Once the outlines are completely dry, thin down your icing to flood consistency. It should be thin enough to flow on its own to fill in the outline. Allow to dry completely.

113114115

Arrange the cookies close together on top of parchment paper. Dip a new paintbrush or toothbrush into black or brown food dye and run your finger across it to flick the dye onto the cookies for a speckled look.  

These are so cute yet so easy to make. I hope you will give them a try.

Christmas Crazy

20151222_174321_resized 20151225_193936_resized 20151227_112032_resized 20160102_164237_resized

Being a part of the Baking Program at Nait provided me with tons of ideas for Christmas baking and I must admit, I went a little overboard. Not only would I be supplying dessert for my families celebration, I also had to provide for my friends Christmas party. So I baked, and baked, and baked some more.  I spent days in my tiny kitchen, bringing my tv along with me to multitask. Blisters formed from rolling out so much pie dough, the two freezers were full, there was no room left in the house for anything more. But cookies were made, squares were baked and eventually we were so overwhelmed with dessert, I was forced to hand out “doggie bags”.  Every family member took a plate full and all my friends went home with treats galore. You see, after spending 5 hours a day, 4 days a week, in the bakery at school for 4 months, it was incredibly strange to do nothing during Christmas break.  So of course, I had to get back in the kitchen.  I love what I do, it’s my passion and it both entertains and calms me.  I get so inspired and cant seem to contain myself.  Testing new formulas and making the appropriate alterations is what being a baker is all about.  Regardless of how simple or incredibly complicated a recipe is, it can always be a new learning opportunity and a chance to further my experience and knowledge of Baking and Pastry.  I may have over done it, but I challenged myself to produce not just quality product, but also in larger quantities.  At this point I can almost guarantee my next Christmas will be just as insane .

Spiced Eggnog Cupcakes!

Who doesn’t love eggnog during the holidays? I know I do. These spiced rum eggnog cupcakes topped with a creamy spiced buttercream were a major hit at my family holiday party last year. With a moist, light, and golden cake matched with a smooth, rich buttercream how can you not fall in love with it? I even added some extra spiced rum to the buttercream, because alcohol makes almost anything better, right? It’s such an easy recipe to follow, and everyone will love them. Here is the recipe if you would like to try them out:

Ingredients:
• ¾ Cup Unsalted butter
• 1 ¾ Cup Sugar
• 3 Large eggs
• 2 ½ Cup Flour
• 2 ½ tsp Baking powder
• ½ tsp Nutmeg
• ½ tsp Salt
• ¼ Cup Spiced Rum
• ¾ Cup Eggnog
• ½ Cup Sour cream
Frosting:
• 1 ½ Cup (3 sticks) Unsalted butter
• 5 ½ Cup Powdered sugar
• 5 tbsp Eggnog
• ¼ tsp Nutmeg

Instructions:
1. Remove butter from fridge and allow to come to room temperature, or soften in the microwave for 15 seconds.
2. Preheat oven to 375°F.
3. Combine softened butter with sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, ensuring that each egg is well beaten. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.
5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Stir to combine. Add half the flour mixture followed by the rum and turn mixer on low speed, beating just until combined.
6. Pour in remaining flour, eggnog and sour cream. Beat on medium speed until well combined.
7. Divide batter evenly among lined cupcake pan, filling each cup about ⅔ full.
8. Bake at 375° F for 14-16 minutes. Test cupcakes for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the cupcake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cupcakes are finished. Allow to cool completely.
For the frosting:
1. Remove butter from fridge and allow to come to room temperature, or soften in the microwave for 15 seconds.
2. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter for several minutes until light and fluffy.
3. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time and slowly increase speed from low to medium. As the frosting becomes thicker, slowly add eggnog and slowly increase speed to medium-high; beat for several minutes until light and fluffy. Add nutmeg at any point, and add spiced rum if desired.
4. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with additional nutmeg.

Read more at http://beyondfrosting.com/2014/12/22/spiced-rum-and-eggnog-cupcakes-with-eggnog-buttercream/#Q0JP4x8OYRel6Wba.99

To top off my cupcakes, I melted some chocolate and piped out some snowflakes. I also used that chocolate to spread it on a sheet of bubble wrap, and broke it into smaller pieces to create a honeycomb look. I got the idea from My Cupcake Addiction – Elise Strachan (http://youtu.be/CkdZpTotGTY) . Check out her YouTube channel to see some other chocolate garnishes that could top it off. Any chocolate decoration finishes off the cupcake perfectly! If you do not want chocolate pieces, you can leave them with sprinkled nutmeg, or even put a cinnamon stick on top. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Allison Landry

Mennonite Delights: Pappanate

Pappanate. Said Pay-pa-nate.
The direct translation from Low German, or Plautdietsch, is Pepper Nut.

This is a Mennonite bread/bun like dessert often served at Christmas, and oh what a treat it is! These, along with jam jams, I only ever get to eat at Christmas gatherings, and needless to say, ack frate me zelse domlicht (translation: I eat myself silly). In the Mennonite culture, a lot of importance is placed on family. Every year we gather with all of our aunts (tantes), uncles, cousins and grandparents (grausmam and grauspap, gotta roll those r’s!) to celebrate holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Each holiday has its traditional food, pappanate being one at Christmas. Other Christmas foods include meike rece (milk rice) and plume mouse (a cold plum soup type bowl of joy). Below are links to recipes for both:

http://www.mennonitegirlscancook.ca/2010/01/cooked-rice-with-milk.html
http://www.mennonitegirlscancook.ca/2012/04/plumi-moos.html

There are two varieties of pappanate; one is a loaf with swirls, while the other is bun like with sprinkles or sugar topping. My favorite, as you may or may not have guessed, is the bun pappanate. I have also heard of there being tiny peppernut cookies, but have yet to try or see those.

Pappanate is smaller than a bun, and just as soft. But the thought of adding pepper to a sweet dough topped in colored sprinkles does not sound appealing in any sense, yet it is one of the most enjoyable Christmas desserts.

Below, the pictures will take you through the long, step by step process of making pappanate.

 

Like many Mennonite recipes, pappanate is another typical case of ‘flour until good’, something I find quite annoying. But each to their own! Nevertheless, pappanate is still one of the most delightful Christmas desserts around!

For recipes on all types of pappanate, see the links below. I’m keeping my recipe to myself, sorry all!
Happy baking!

http://www.mennonitegirlscancook.ca/2009/03/peppernut-bunsspiced-buns.html
http://www.mommymoment.ca/2013/11/peppernuts-recipe-pfeffernusse.html
https://books.google.ca/books?id=SvUjtHzLlywC&pg=PA21&lpg=PA21&dq=mennonite+peppernut+loaf&source=bl&ots=8lJhtvtW2O&sig=Tp0v20sIHdPU2iJ8xWrSOGpHYIQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjc_4-Yu7rLAhUY4WMKHXwsDGMQ6AEIGzAA#v=onepage&q=mennonite%20peppernut%20loaf&f=false
http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/peppernut-tea-bread

 

Baking for Comfort

A large part of my passion, desire and love of baking is inherited from my grandmother or “Ma” as we affectionately called her.

She truly was the epitome of a strong woman. Having raised three children on her own on the small island of Trinidad (which is still classified as a third world country), my Ma never let anything get her down, or stop her from living her life. After moving to Canada she lived with my parents and I’m very grateful to have lived with her, to experience an unconditional love liker hers was an amazing experience.

As a child I used to “help” her in the kitchen; I use quotes because I’m still not sure to this day how my coloring and drawing in her recipe book was any help to her; but as I grew up and was able to take on more hands on duties I truly developed a love for baking and for caring and nurturing people the way Ma had done.

When she passed away I collected her recipes and used these to bake for my family in order to help them through her loss; I believe this helped me as well.

One of her favorite items to bake, and unarguably one of her top requested items among family and friends was Trinidad Rum Cake. Traditionally this is served as “Christmas Cake” or as the Cake at weddings.

                                                        

When prepared for Christmas the cake is typically baked 1 YEAR in advance – throughout the year the cake is stored in an air tight container, wrapped in cheesecloth, and soaked in Rum, Cheri, Red Wine and approximately 1 -2 times per month the alcohols are “topped up” and allowed to soak into the cake for an entire year.

When prepared as the Wedding cake there are two ways to prepare the cake:

1 – cut into squares and serve as is

2 – seal with apricot glaze and top with marzipan, top with fondant and decorate as a traditional cake.

The island of Trinidad is well known for it’s top notch rum production and I highly recommend finding a rum from Trinidad when baking this cake. Look for Angostura 1919 or Angostura 1824.

                                                                                                

Ingredients

  • 9 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour, plus
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • 3 tablespoons strained fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lime rind
  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder

Coconut cream sauce

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups coconut cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons light rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. With a pastry brush spread 1 tblsp butter over bottom and sides of an 8″ spring-form cake pan.
  3. Sprinkle 2 tblsp flour into pan evenly.
  4. Remove excess flour.
  5. In a deep bowl cream remaining butter with sugar until mixture is light and fluffy.
  6. Beat in eggs- one at a time.
  7. Add rum, lime juice and zest.
  8. Continue beating until batter is smooth.
  9. Combine remaining flour, cornmeal and baking powder about ½ cup at a time, beating weell after each addition.
  10. Pour batter into the floured pan.
  11. Bake in middle of oven for approx 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean.
  12. Cool cake completely- remove from pan.
  13. Cake is traditionally served with Coconut Cream Sauce, or plain, or coated in marzipan.

Coconut cream sauce

  1. Combine sugar and water in a 2-3 quart pot.
  2. Bring to a boil over a moderate heat, stirring only until sugar dissolves.
  3. Increase heat and cook briskly uncovered and undisturbed until syrup reaches 230°F with candy thermometer or forms soft ball if dropped into cold water.
  4. Remove pan to reheat.
  5. Stirring constantly pour in coconut cream in a thin slow stream.
  6. Beat egg yolks until they are well blended.
  7. Stir about ¼ cup of hot syrup mixture into yolks, then beat mixture back into remaining syrup.
  8. Return pan to low heat and stir for 4–5 minutes until sauce has the consistency of heavy cream
  9. Off of the heat stir in vanilla and rum.
  10. Cover tightly and refrigerate the sauce for at least 2 hours or until it is thoroughly chilled.
  11. Serve with rum cake.

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as my family in Trinidad – and I hope my memories of my Ma make you go home and call your grandma to say you love her!

~Antonia