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.

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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.

Mennonite Delights: Schmondt Kuchen

Schmondt Kuchen. Said Sh-moe-nt Q-ken.
So many consonants in a row, I know.

The English translation for this dessert is cream cookie. It’s a classic Mennonite cookie with a smooth white icing, possibly topped with coconut or sprinkles (just like butterhorns).

The name is spoken in Plautdietsch, or more commonly known as Low German. This language is primarily spoken by Mennonites and has German, Dutch and Russian influences. Interesting facts about Plautdietsch include that it is only a spoken language, not written, and is an important factor in preserving the culture and bringing people together. If you’re looking to learn more about Plautdietsch, you can visit:

http://www.plautdietsch.ca/
http://www.mennolink.org/doc/lg/

Another big factor in preserving the culture is the food! Lets face it, Mennonites love to eat. Where two or three are gathered, there food will be also. Especially delicious treats such as Schmondt Kuchen.

There are two varieties: cut out and scooped. Now, I have made the cut out variety before, so I thought I would give the scooped type a whirl, partly because there is less waste and they are much simpler. But mostly because Mennonites have a strange habit of including ‘flour until good’ in the recipe. Not a fan. (see also Mennonite Delights: Butterhorns)

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Above is the recipe, pretty simple and straight forward. I used a small cookie scoop and baked them for 8 minutes, any longer and they burn.

Looking back, I should have spaced the cookies further apart. Being my first go at it, I hadn’t expected them to flow nearly as much.

In my experience, I did find some differences between the two varieties. For example, the scooped ones are more cake like and spongy, where as the cut out are denser but still soft. The taste was relatively the same with the rich, creamy flavor; hence the name. Although, I do prefer the texture of the cut outs, and they are the more traditional of the two.

Schmondt Kuchen may not be nearly as beautiful as other cookies, but let me tell you, they are delightful!

Below I have included some links with more information and recipes for Schmondt Kuchen. Enjoy!

https://grandmasoldwoodenrecipebox.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/very-nice-cake-drops/
http://www.food.com/recipe/mennonite-soft-white-cookies-411399
http://www.kehler.ca/schmaunt-kuchen/#more-2311

Cowboy Cookies

Back in 2011 I spent time travelling in New Zealand. It was an amazing year of exploring the countryside, and meeting some fantastic people. While there I worked as a waitress at the Lochmara Lodge for roughly 6 months during the summer. Lochmara is a eco lodge, wildlife recovery and arts centre nestled within the Marlbough Sounds.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhttp://www.lochmara.co.nz/

Every morning, I would open the restaurant with our fantastic breakfast chef and baker, Mary. Her cakes, cookies, and pastries added to Lochmara fame in the Sounds. People would boat in for the afternoon just to have a slice of her infamous Chocolate Cake! She was always busy in the kitchen, whether at the restaurant or just down the path in her home.

I spent a great deal of time learning different recipes and techniques from Mary. she has definitely inspired me throughout my baking journey! Mary graciously gave me some of her recipes to take  to Canada. I came back with recipes for donuts, cakes, and my most favorite cookie recipe: the Cowboy Cookie.

The Cowboy Cookie is not a delicate, small cookie. It is a hardy cookie, packed with lots of goodness. When I make them, I load them up with chocolate chips, dried blueberries, coconut, oats, and walnuts. The beauty of the Cowboy Cookie is you can add any extra ingredient you may have, such as raisins, almonds, and  dried fruit. The choices are endless! To make these cookies all you need is a big bowl and a strong arm. They are a hardy cookie, one or two cookies max and you will be full!

Now, I am sure after my year abroad my family and friends were happy to have me back home, but they were a thousand times happier after having their first bite of the Cowboy Cookie.

These cookies are major hit with my family and friends. Even my best friend’s Grandma asks for them!

Even though I will never be able to fully share my adventures in New Zealand with family and friends, it’s so wonderful that I can bring them back a taste of New Zealand.

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