Thursday, November 29, 2012

Holiday Moose Cookie

All it takes is a red dot for a nose and suddenly this moose cookie is filled with holiday cheer.

To make them, first fill in the antlers with white royal icing.

After the white icing has dried for a bit, add the brown icing to the body.

When the cookie is dry, add the red nose, eye and hoof detail.

Be sure to let the cookie dry completely before packaging.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gourmet Treats

At the Wednesday Community Meal today we enjoyed surprising our guests with some real gourmet treats - smoked salmon and smoked oyster chowder, just baked apple crisp, grass-fed Angus beef and a homemade lasagna inspired pasta dish. And, it was a busy day - we served 325 meals.

The smoked salmon and oyster chowder came courtesy of Fishpeople Seafood, a local company that has released a whole line of seafood entrees.

The company was so nice to donate to us and the chowder was a welcome change from our usual soup options.

The Fishpeople entrees which include Thai Coconut Lemongrass Tuna, Salmon in Chardonnay Dill Cream Sauce and Coconut Yellow Curry Tuna are available online and in local stores including New Seasons and Whole Foods.
A pouch of Smoked Salmon and Oyster Chowder.
The chowder in the warming pot.
A hearty serving topped with a few homemade croutons.
The apple crisp was made by our dessert expert Cheryl who amazingly assembled them and baked them in just over an hour. She is so well organized - she had the apples sliced and the topping mixed and ready to go when she entered the kitchen and voila, just out of the oven apple crisp which made the kitchen smell amazing.
Servings of just baked apple crisp.

The grass-fed Angus beef was donated to us by Trader Joe's. We sliced the thick steaks in half so more guests could have a taste. All the volunteers were excited about serving the steaks and were anxious to see the response.

Alongside the steak, we served a homemade pasta dish and garlic bread. Volunteer Steve who works the front table told me that he heard the guests raving about the food as they left. Yeah! Mission accomplished.

Our lasagna inspired pasta dish made with ground beef donated by Phil's Meat Market and whole milk cottage cheese from The Oregon Foodbank. And, a tender treat — a petite Angus steak.

Christmas Tree Cookies

A brushed embroidery technique adds dimension and interest to these Christmas tree cookies. I used gingerbread dough but sugar cookie dough would work just as well just be sure to add a bit of brown icing to the trunk.

Here's how to make them:
Bake a batch of Christmas tree cookies.
Outline the tree with light green royal icing.

Fill in the outline and let the base coat dry completely before moving on to the next step.
With piping consistency dark green royal icing and a #2 tip pipe a line across the top of the bottom layer of branches.

Use a damp square tipped brush to pull the icing down. Keep cleaning your brush and working until you get a feathery effect.

Repeat for all the layers of branches.

When you get to the top, outline the tip and use your brush again to pull the icing down.

When you are done, let the trees dry before decorating further.

Using piping consistency icing and a  #2 tip to add garlands.

Add some red dots for ornaments and your tree is complete. I used a #1 tip. You want your icing to be stiff enough to hold it's shape but soft enough so that peaks don't form on top of the dots. Experiment on a plate beforehand to make sure your icing is the right consistency.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Snowflake Cookies

These snowflake gingerbread cookies are so pretty and simple to make. This is a very good design for beginning cookie decorators.

I like the look of the dark brown gingerbread around the fresh white icing. I also love a cookie design that requires only two icing colors. If you wanted to get really fancy I suppose you could sprinkle sanding sugar over the piping detail but really there's no need.

Here's how to make them:
Bake snowflake shaped cookies.
Outline and flood the cookie with white royal icing. Use a skewer to move the icing and fill in all the gaps.
After filling the cookie give it a gentle shake to help the icing settle.
Let the icing dry before moving on to the next step.
With piping consistency blue icing and a #1 pastry tip, pipe a straight line across the snowflake.
Pipe another line.
And another.
Pipe three "v" shapes at the end of each line. Make the "v's" larger as you get closer to the center.
Finally, pipe a ring of dots around the center. That's it. Simple and sweet.

Wrapped Cookies

I just want to share these pictures to show how cute the lollipop cookies look when they are wrapped and tied with a bow.

I'm bringing them along with some other treats to Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on Sunday for the Martha's Guild's annual sale. I hope they like them.

Colorful treats ready to be delivered.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lollipop Cookies

While making gingerbread snowflake cookies today I had a little extra dough and made these cute lollipop cookies.

If you don't want to use gingerbread, a sugar cookie dough would work just as well. They are deceptively easy to make and super cute.

Here's how to make them:

Roll out cookie dough 1/8 inch thick and cut an equal amount of rounds. Press a lollipop or candy apple stick in the center of half of the cookies.

After baking it will look like this but you need to strengthen it with royal icing.

Pipe royal icing around the stick and cookie.

Top with a cookie and let set until hard and sturdy.

With a piping bag and a #2 tip drizzle icing down the sides of the lollipop cookie.

Also flood the top with icing.

Immediately pipe lines of flood consistency red royal icing around the cookie using a #2 tip. Leave an open space in the center.

Use a skewer to go through the lines in circles starting at the outside and working towards the center.

That's all there is to it. Be sure to let the cookies dry before packaging.


Gingerbread cookie dough chilling in the refrigerator.

Today I'm creating some sample gingerbread snowflake cookies for our cookie box presale on December 2nd. The scent of spicy gingerbread is just the thing to get me in the spirit of happy holiday baking.

I've experimented with lots of recipes and my favorite is this one from Martha Stewart. The dough is forgiving and sturdy yet tender and delicious. The addition of a teaspoon of fine ground black pepper is unexpected but adds a nice spicy dimension.

I also like that one batch yields more than three dozen 3-inch cookies.

Gingerbread Cookie Dough
 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 large eggs
1 cup unsulfured molasses

Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside.

Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. With cookie cutters, cut into desired shapes. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 10 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It's Cookie Time

In a few weeks, my friends and I will be in the midst of baking thousands of Christmas cookies as a fundraiser for Food Ministries at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral which supports the Wednesday Community Meal.

My close friend Cheryl and I have been planning the sale for months. This will be the third year we've done it and knock on wood but we're getting more organized and efficient every year.

This year's cookies will include Cranberry Rugelach, Russian Teacakes, Linzer Cookies, Chocolate and Vanilla Shortbread, Decorated Sugar Cookies and Gingerbread Snowflakes.

The assortment of homemade cookies will be artfully packed into pretty boxes and are just the thing to give or share at holiday parties. The boxes cost $25 and will be presold on Sunday, Dec. 2 and Sunday, Dec. 9 in Kempton Hall at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral following the 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. services.

The boxes will be available for pickup on Sunday, Dec. 16 in Kempton Hall from 9 a.m. until noon.

So let the baking begin! I'll do my best to post our creations.

Thanksgiving At Trinity

I thought I'd share a picture my husband took of this year's community Thanksgiving meal served at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon.

It takes a lot of dedicated volunteers and hard work to pull off such a large event. Generous members of the church and community donated 103 cooked turkeys this year.

The guests loved the food and the hospitality and many told me they look forward to the event every year.

This year 700 meals were served in the dining room and another 350 meals were delivered to other nonprofits in our community.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sack Lunches

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral is preparing to serve 500 to 600 Thanksgiving meals tomorrow so for our community meal today we handed out 236 sack lunches and cups of hot soup.

In the lunches were peanut butter sandwiches, fruit, chips and a cookie. Most guests also chose to get a cup of soup to help warm them up.

With the cold rainy weather the volunteers felt bad about not being able to invite our guests inside today.  But our kind guests handled it well — they were understanding and said they were looking forward to coming back to Trinity tomorrow for Thanksgiving.

Individual Apple Tarts

These individual apple tarts are so easy to make. And no special baking pans are needed - just a couple of plain old sheet pans lined with parchment paper.

They are also a breeze to plate and look so pretty. A dollop of whipped cream and a sprig of mint or a scoop of vanilla ice cream would be nice accompaniments.

Individual Apple Tarts
(makes 8 6-inch tarts)

4 to 5 large Granny Smith apples
1/2  cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons flour

Peel and dice the apples into 1/2 inch chunks. Toss with the remaining ingredients and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Diced apples tossed with sugar, flour, cinnamon and vanilla.

3 cups flour
1 cup Crisco
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup ice water

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add Crisco and using your fingers, break it into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs with some large pieces remaining.

Add the water, just a few tablespoons at a time until the dough is moist enough to pull together into a ball. Divide dough into 8 portions.

Roll each portion into a round that is 8 to 9 inches in diameter. Put an eighth of the filling in the center of each round and pull up the edges towards the center.

Place the tarts on the parchment lined baking sheets and top with crumb topping.

Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

With your fingers, break the soft butter into the flour, sugar and cinnamon. Keep mixing until it resembles coarse crumbs. Top the unbaked tarts evenly with the crumb topping and bake.

Bake the tarts for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. As soon as the tarts come out of the oven, drizzle the glaze over the top of them. Let cool before serving.

2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup powdered sugar
In a small bowl, combine the milk and sugar and stir until it becomes smooth and glossy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Pie Crust Tips

Mmmmm... Homemade apple pie.

With Thanksgiving just a few days away I thought I'd offer you a few tips to make dealing with pie crust a more pleasant experience.

Tip 1: Choose a forgiving pie crust recipe. 

I make shortening pie crusts because they are easier to mix and roll out than butter crusts. Plus, there's no chilling required for them to end up tender and flaky.

This is my favorite pie crust recipe:

Basic Pie Crust
3 cups flour
1 cup Crisco
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup ice water

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add Crisco and using your fingers, break it into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs with some large pieces remaining.

Add the water, just a few tablespoons at a time until the dough is moist enough to pull together into a ball. Divide dough in half and roll out on a floured surface for the bottom and top crusts.

Tip 2: Get your hands in the dough.

Use your fingers instead of a fork or pastry cutter to break the shortening into the flour. It's easier and you'll be able to actually feel when the dough is starting to come together and it is time to begin adding the water.

Tip 3: Start with a circle before you begin rolling the dough.
Gather your dough into a ball and gently pat it into a circle before you begin rolling. If you start with a circle, you're more likely to end up with a circle.

Tip 4: Start rolling from the center of your dough.

When you begin rolling, always place your rolling pin in the center of the dough and roll out to the edges rolling away and towards you and turning your dough. If you start at the edge and roll all the way across you'll deform your circle.

I hope these tips help. Don't let making pie dough stress you out because homemade pie crust beats anything you can buy and you can do it.
Happy Baking!