Christmas in a Warm Kitchen
Christmas cookies and holiday dessertsby Jennifer Farmer
One of my favorite Holiday activities is decorating cookies with my kids. This calls for a great basic cookie recipe, and the best I have found is for a butter cookie. It tastes great and holds up extremely well to decorating. If you have children, I highly recommend getting little mini cookie cutters for them. My daughter will spend hours rolling and cutting her cookies!
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Whip together the butter and sugar, add the egg, cream, vanilla and almond extracts. Mix the baking powder with flour and add to the mixture. Roll out the dough and cut with your favorite cookie cutters. Dough can be re-rolled many times and will not become tough. Depending on how thick or thin you rolled out the dough, bake for 8 to 15 minutes. They should be lightly brown on the bottom, but still light on top.
For frosting, you can purchase a can of meringue powder at Michael's or Garden Ridge or almost any craft store and follow the directions on the can for Royal Frosting. If you want to make your own frosting, mix up three egg whites whipped to soft peaks, a dash of lemon juice, and powdered sugar until the right consistency is reached. I do not have measurements; I just go by look. You don't want it too stiff or too thin. You can always add a little more lemon juice or more powdered sugar. Test a little bit in the pastry bag to see how it pipes.
Keep the tips of your pastry bags covered with a damp cloth when not in use or the Royal Frosting will dry up. Disposable plastic pastry bags can be purchased, and you will want a couple of plain round tips. You'll need one for each color you plan to use. You can make disposable pastry bags out of parchment paper, too.
Pour the icing into several small containers and color as desired, then fill the pastry bags. I place my filled pastry bags in glasses to help cut back on the mess. Using clothespins on the ends of the pastry bags will keep the icing from oozing out the wrong end.
For a cookie with a background, pipe a small border around the edge of the cookie. Then spread the frosting with toothpick to fill in the background. Go back and add whatever colors or decorations you want. Of course, you can skip the background and just do whatever decorations you like. I recommend getting some magazines with cookie pictures to get decorating ideas.
Here's another great Holiday cookie.
Jean's Butter Cookies
This is another of my favorites but, then again, they all seem to be! Crme Brulee is delicate, tasty and always seems to impress company.
Heat the cream and vanilla (or vanilla bean) in a saucepan over medium heat, but do not boil. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks and sugar until well blended and smooth. Whisk slowly while pouring the heated cream into the mixture.
Pour your mixture into individual molds or into a round baking dish (this is what the dessert will be served in, so you may want to use a white or decorative baking dish that is pretty). Fill the mold or molds full of mixture (it will lose volume as it bakes), and place in a large, flat baking dish.
Traditionally, Crème Brulee is cooked in a water bath, so pour warm tap water into the baking dish until it comes about halfway up the sides of the molds. If you are using a convection oven, the water bath is not necessary. Bake for approximately 30 minutes.
When done, the custard should tremble slightly, but you should not be able to detect any liquid under the skin. Cool for 30 minutes or so, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. To serve the Crme Brulee, sprinkle some granulated or brown sugar evenly over the entire top and place under a preheated broiler until the sugar is caramelized. If you have a small blowtorch, this works wonderfully, too, but watch them closely. Garnish with fresh berries, a mint leaf, a dab of whipped cream or any fruit or topping you desire.
Now for the best ever pumpkin pie. I know that pumpkin pie is more of a Thanksgiving dessert, but I just love it so much I have to have it at Christmas time, too!
Best Ever Pumpkin Pie
Whisk together all the ingredients and pour into the prebaked shell. Bake for 45 minutes. The center should be a little wobbly, but set.
To me, this pie is not complete without whipped cream, but not just any whipped cream and never Cool Whip. I flavor my whipped cream with a little maple syrup or vanilla with a couple of teaspoons of powdered sugar. Let your taste buds tell you how much!
Happy baking and happy Holidays!
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