Saturday, January 29, 2011

Two-Tone Cookie Crinkles (and more!) for the Cookie Carnival

Okay, so some months ago I heard about a fun monthly blogging event called Cookie Carnival, held at Tami's Kitchen Table . Each month the hostess, Tami, sends out 2 cookie recipes for people to try and then blog about, and link to that months' Cookie Carnival. There was no pressure, and it sounded like fun, so I signed up to be notified about each month's recipes.

And every month, I haven't taken part. Either the cookie recipes didn't appeal to me, or I didn't think they would appeal to my family, or I didn't have time to do any extra baking... you get the picture. Enter the email with January's recipe links. Oh, they both looked so good! I decided I would try them both. One was Raspberry Limoncello Linzers, and the other had the inexplicable title of Two-Tone Cookie Crinkles . Oh, I get the two-tone part all right -- each sandwich cookie is made from one vanilla and one chocolate cookie. But I don't get the "crinkle" part. Not only are these not like any crinkle cookie recipe I have ever seen (they are rolled cookies, not molded), they have nothing crinkly about them. Well, maybe the fluted edges.

I had great plans to bake both of these cookie recipes -- they both seemed like the sort of thing that would be good for teas, luncheons, etc. or also for Christmas cookies. I even bought the lemonade concentrate to substitute for the Limoncello liqueur. But the month went by and the baking just didn't happen.

Finally yesterday I decided I had to do it. I hauled out both recipes and ended up deciding to only try one. The Linzer recipe called for powdered egg whites in the icing. I did have them on hand but was afraid they were old. So the Two-Tone Crinkles got the nod.

First I mixed the dough and made the chocolate ganache filling, which needed to chill.

I substituted half & half for the whipping cream, which may have made a difference, but it's what I had on hand. Oh, and I used 4 ounces of chocolate chips rather than the high-quality chocolate called for. That undoubtedly made a difference. I thought the ganache turned out a bit grainy, but it tasted fine.

The recipe said to chill the dough as well, but that wasn't necessary. My dough was just a bit crumbly -- not too much to roll out, it was just about right for that, but I think the problem may have been that the egg I used was rather small.

The dough rolled out well at first, but as I added back in the cut-out shapes and the scraps, it eventually stopped rolling out well. I ended up throwing part of it away. And I also baked the remaining little cut-outs along with the cookies.

I didn't have the fluted rectangular or square cookie cutter called for (though I would like to get one, I think) so I used a fluted round cutter. I also didn't have a canape cutter so just used a small heart cutter for the center holes.

Here are the baked cookies cooling on racks.

When ready to fill, I placed the plain cookies upside down on a tray.

Here are the fancy halves of the cookies ready to top the filled cookies.

Here are the cute little heart cut-out cookies.

And here are the completed filled cookies.

I must have counted wrong because I ended up with 2 plain cookies at the end. One of them should have been a fancy one. I ended up spreading them with ganache and topping each one with 2 of the small heart cutouts. Here's a closeup showing those.

The recipe said it would produce 30 sandwich cookies and I got 26. I thought that was pretty good, considering that I had to throw some of the dough away toward the end.

Final evaluation: The cookies look pretty good and taste okay too (at least the components -- I didn't try a completed cookie, just tasted the ganache and a small heart cookie). These went over quite well at the potluck I took them to. I did try a cookie then and I thought they were quite good. Not sure if I would make them again, but I probably would. And I still don't know why they are called crinkles!

Part 2 -- Well, on Saturday morning, while I was posting the above, my 7-year-old granddaughter asked what we were making for dessert for the church potluck on Sunday. I pointed out the cookies and said we were taking those.

"You baked without me?" was the response. She also remembered that I had originally planned to try two recipes, not one, and suggested we try the second one that afternoon. So we did. Just like that, Raspberry Limoncello Linzers were on my agenda.

The dough was easy to make and easy to work with. I didn't need to refrigerate it to be able to handle it, but I divided the dough into quarters and we worked with one quarter at a time, leaving the rest in the fridge. By working with only a quarter of the dough at one time, I hoped to avoid having to throw any of it away. But that didn't happen. I found I could roll it out and cut once, then gather up the scraps and roll it out only one more time successfully. After that, the dough wouldn't hold together. So I was really thankful I had thought to divide the dough and only work with one portion of it at a time.

Cutting out cookies:

When cleaning up the counter, we found a perfect heart shape in the flour.

Here are some of the finished cookies cooling on the racks. The recipe said it would make 2 dozen, but I got lots more... probably 3 to 4 dozen. I forgot to count them.

The recipe called for boiling the seedless raspberry jam and bringing it to a certain point on a candy thermometer. I skipped that step, as what I had was raspberry preserves (not seedless) and they seemed plenty thick enough already to me. I am not sure, maybe the boiling step would have made the jam less sticky, but that thought was in retrospect. Here are the cookies ready to fill.

I put about a half-teaspoon of preserves on each cookie and spread it around.

Here they are with the jam filling all in place.

Then I made the lemon glaze. I made only half a recipe of the glaze, since in my experience glaze recipes always seem to make too much. This turned out to be a wise move; I still had glaze left over. I used lemonade concentrate in place of Limoncello liqueur. I added the lemon juice called for but skipped the rind. The glaze was plenty lemon-y as it was.

I got the glaze just a tiny bit too runny, but it was really hard to tell until I began drizzling it on the cookies. I thought they looked fine anyway, and it seemed to me that the more glaze over the jam, the less sticky the tops of the cookies might be, since the glaze was supposed to set.

You were supposed to let the glaze set up before attempting to cover or store the cookies. I let them set around three hours, I think, and it finally did set nicely.

But I found that the minute I placed waxed paper over them, they became like magnets for the waxed paper. I was even chilling them in between adding the layers of waxed paper. Finally I placed a layer of cookies on a large tray (for the potluck) and, because I simply had to go to bed, placed a sheet of waxed paper very, very loosely on top. Predictably, in the morning, it had settled down atop the cookies and stuck to them. I carefully peeled it off. Most of the cookies looked fine. Those that didn't, I drizzled a little extra glaze over. Needless to say, when transporting them to the potluck, I did NOT cover them.

Final evaluation -- these cookies looked quite pretty and tasted fine, but not outstanding. The lemon glaze was the best part. The cookies themselves (containing both pure vanilla and almond extract) were sort of bland. I think they might have been better with some lemon rind added to them. Would I make them again? Probably not. And I still don't know why they are called Linzers, which in my experience are usually a sandwich cookie and nearly always seem to have some chopped nuts in the dough. It was a fun and interesting experiment, anyhow.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Winter decorating around here

Here are a few photos of my winter decorating.

This is the back door. A dear friend made the "January" garland for me. I think it looks just perfect with the snowman sign beneath it.

Here is my kitchen island. Love the idea of a baking day while the snow falls outside. Here are vintage cookbooks, vintage spices and cookie cutters (note the 5¢ sticker on one of them!), a vintage recipe box which my mother used in high school. The milk bottle had been on my Christmas hutch. I moved it to the island for a touch of whimsy.

Here's the simple snow-themed table runner I made. I wanted something blue and white and yet with touches of red. Would you believe I had the perfect piece of fabric in my stash? Occasionally my daughters will give me lengths of fabric as a gift, and I'm quite sure one of them gave me this.

I love the candleholders and the basket that look carved from ice. My husband had bought me the basket and one votive holder at Mikasa some years ago. This January when we were off on our little getaway, I found a matching votive holder in a thrift store for 50¢!

Here's a closer look at the glass basket. Isn't it beautiful? I put a piece of white cardstock underneath to show up the design better.

Now I have replaced the basket with this cute snowman lamp. I love how the lamp looks made from snowballs!

And here's a closer look at the runner fabric.

And now here is my hutch decorated for winter.

The top shelf has just my favorite Proverbs 31 cross-stitch and 2 Thomas Kinkade candleholders, plus a glittery house I got last year at Marshalls and a bottle brush tree I found for 75¢ in Rite-Aid.

Next is the glittery snowy stuff. The tag on the left was made by me and the little kids in the picture are me, my brother and cousin. The "Snow" card was made by the same crafty friend who made the January garland. There's a cute little glittery house and a bottle brush tree, all from Gooseberry Patch, in the cake dome. The cross stitch in the middle is one I did some years ago. I love getting it out every winter. The 1950s plastic reindeer is from my childhood.

A closer look at the left side of snowman-themed shelf. Love those little papier-mache snowman containers with their wire handles and felt noses! The red mittens are actually floating candles, but I can't bring myself to use them. I've had the basket and card for quite awhile -- they're by the same artist -- Jan Shade Beach.

And here's the right side of the snowman shelf. Can you believe these snowmen came from a dollar store? I put a second 75¢ bottle brush tree with them.

The glittery church was a $5 find at Marshalls after Christmas. I didn't know when I bought it, but it's fiber-optic. It's pretty lighted up, but I like it better unlighted. The grandkids ... well, now, that's another story. They love the changing colored lights!
Hope you have enjoyed this look at my winter decorating!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Handcrafts from some creative friends

Here are some special handcrafted items I would like to share with all of you. They were gifts from some of my very creative friends for a recent birthday. It is really fun to have friends who are creative because we all tend to inspire one another, even if we live at a distance. Hopefully you will be inspired by their creativity as much as I have been!

Here is a birthday card made by my friend J. I love its vintage look!

Here's a scan of the same card so you can see the details better. Love the scallop-y edge and the pearl cotton threaded through and tied in a little bow! Perfect finishing touch with that illustration.

J. also made me a hotpad with some vintage fabric and using a vintage pattern. The yellow strawberry print goes perfectly in my kitchen!

Here's the back, to show the pretty design.

Here's a bookmark which J. also made and added to the package. One of my favorite verses here!

And the back of the bookmark which she made using some embossed scrapbook paper. J. made a bookmark just like this for herself.

My friend Mrs. D also made me a hotpad with a strawberry theme! Isn't that fun? This one is embroidered. I think she said she found the partially finished design at a thrift shop. She completed the stitching and then sewed it into a hotpad.

Here is the back. She used a Mary Englebreit cherry print fabric -- she knows ME's art is another of my favorite things.

Hope you have enjoyed this peek at a few of my handcrafted birthday gifts. Thanks, J. and Mrs. D!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hearty fare for a cold winter night

(Photo from Taste of Home)
It's sooooo cold up here in northern New England. This morning around ten it was still 11 below zero, with a wind chill of minus 33! Right now I think it's around zero, but still well below zero with the wind chill factored in. For supper, we are having Rosemary Chicken with White Beans -- a warm, hearty, healthy meal. You can find the recipe here: Rosemary Chicken with White Beans. I usually add more carrots, especially, and sometimes a bit more celery. And I don't bother to brown the chicken. It always tastes wonderful anyway!

I'm also baking bread this afternoon -- 2 more loaves of Miracle Bread . This time, I experimented a bit by using 2 cups of white whole wheat flour as part of the 6 cups of flour it calls for.

Can't forget to keep the woodstove stoked up... it's predicted to be another chilly one tonight.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sparkly votive holders ~ a fun winter craft

Poinsettia votive holder (with vellum stickers)

While getting out some of my winter candle holders the other day, I came upon some I had made years ago and thought I would share this idea. It's a fun winter (really, anytime) craft for kids -- or make some of these yourself! They are fun and easy. I've made them with kids for many years for all different seasons, but they are fun for grown-ups too.

All you need is:

* Clear glass votive holders
* Sheet of waxed paper for work surface
* Stickers of choice (vellum ones are particularly pretty, but any kind will work)
* White glue
* One-inch foam paintbrush
* Clear or iridescent glitter (not a colored glitter)

Make sure your votive holders are clean and dry.

Then arrange the stickers on the holders in a pleasing design.

Now place the votive holder on your waxed paper and paint the outside with white glue, right over the stickers. Make sure you cover the glass completely with glue with no clear glass showing. Paint the sides of the holder only, not the bottom.

Sprinkle as much glitter as you like all over the glue.

Let the glue dry thoroughly.

You can now carefully roll up the waxed paper and deposit any excess glitter back in the glitter container.

Then, add a votive candle and enjoy your sparkly candleholder!
Valentine votive holder (with regular stickers)
Patriotic votive holder (with regular and metallic stickers)

Have fun with this idea!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Miracle Bread: a fabulous bread recipe!

(Photo from Home Joys)
I tried a new recipe for bread yesterday, and it turned out so delicious I just had to share. Gina, over at Home Joys, has been doing a series on homemade bread. The information she is sharing will be of special interest to those who have never tried making bread, or have tried and failed. However, it's also very helpful to those of us who may have been baking bread for years. There is always more to learn in life!

This recipe is super simple and requires no kneading. It produced two gorgeous loaves of French (or Italian)-type bread (or it can also be used to make bread in loaf pans or even to make cinnamon rolls). The bread is simply delicious. (I used poppy seeds on mine since I was all out of sesame seeds.)

As I was mixing the dough, I told myself that if the bread turned out well, I would use the recipe to teach my 2 oldest granddaughters (ages 7 and 9) how to bake bread. So I will definitely be doing that! I can just imagine what a feeling of accomplishment it will give them to have produced something so wonderful with just a minimum of effort and a few basic ingredients.

So check out the recipe and give Miracle Bread a try. I predict that your family will love this bread as much as mine did!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A midwinter getaway

Mr. T and I were able to take a brief getaway over the weekend -- from Friday evening to Saturday afternoon. We had been able to reserve a little cabin for one night and so left town around four p.m. We checked into our cabin and looked around --these are older cabins (built in the 1950s, by the looks) but very cute and well maintained.

We went out for an early dinner and enjoyed fish & chips, then came back to our cabin for the evening. The evergreen trees around the cabins were glowing with colored Christmas lights -- a lovely scene to come back to.

We had a relaxing evening by the fire

and a good night's rest.

In the morning, we went out for breakfast at a little restaurant nearby. It was so close, we could have walked, but decided against it as the temperature was 6 below 0ยบ! I had a Western omelet, and Mr. T, a lumberjack breakfast which included French toast, scrambled eggs, home fries, bacon, and sausage!

We checked out of our cabin at ten. This is what it looks like by day.

The rest of the day was spent in shopping (I found some amazing buys at a thrift store) and we also went out to lunch, then did a bit more shopping before returning home around 3:30 p.m. We were gone less than 24 hours ... but we find this type of getaway very refreshing, and were thankful for the opportunity!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Simple sewing -- 8-paneled skirts

Observant readers may remember the 8-paneled skirts I made for two small granddaughters back in the spring. For fabric, I used mostly pastels, floral prints, checks, etc. as shown in the pictures with the tutorial.

Here is the one I made for Juiia using this pattern. So quick and easy.

I had made one for Emily also and it turned out too short (also too big around, but that's another story!) so I added some wide eyelet lace to it and really liked the look. Unfortunately I don't have a picture of that one, but Emily did wear it several times while we were visiting them, and it looks really cute on her.

For quite a while I've been wondering how this pattern would work using a variety of plaid flannel fabrics. I had hoped to get these skirts finished for Christmas, but it didn't happen. I just finished them on Wednesday during my crafting time on our snow day. Here is Emily's:

And the other side:

Here is Julia's:

And its other side:

I was quite pleased with how these came out and they are so very simple to do. When Mackenzie saw them she decided she would like one too, so there's a skirt in the works for her.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day

Dishes caught up

Laundry folded and put away

Work clothes soaking in washer

Chicken soup in slow cooker

Oatmeal bread in bread machine

Furnace stoked with wood

Mug of Candy Cane Lane tea at hand

Let the crafting commence!