Times my family uses my great grandmother’s china: 1. When I’m in town and pull it out of the cabinet with the upmost precision so I can take pretty, feminine pictures of cookies delicately sprinkled with powdered sugar. 2. For a holiday about once ever four years when my mom doesn’t talk herself out of using the plates, because they have to be handwashed. Other than that, they essentially sit in little boxes, covered in bubbly plastic wrap stacked neatly on top of one another. I’d like to think that someday I will have a fancy Alice in Wonderland themed tea party or host an extravagant ball that requires black ties and antique, fragile plates laced with gold. But for now, they’re the host of my grandma’s crumbly butter cookies that are filled with walnuts and literally melt while you eat them.
I love these cookies, because they’re extra easy, only six ingredients, and it makes lots of cookies to gift to your neighbors and coworkers. My family has been making these cookies for as long as I can remember, although, if we’re being honest, I got all creative and added the almond extract. I really think it adds extra flavor to these cookies, but you can also leave it out if you want simpler, more vanilla-flavored cookies or if you just don’t have almond extract laying around.
On the other hand, you could also go crazy with these cookies and add whatever you have laying around your kitchen. Dried fruits, nuts, citrus zest, cocoa powder, vanilla bean, etc. The cookies are so versatile that you could get extra creative and add some matcha powder or lavender buds or even dip them in chocolate. If you don’t have time to bake, these cookies are the effortless, buttery, icebox cookies your kitchen needs right now.
Song of the Day: Everlasting Arms by Vampire Weekend
About once a year, my mom visits me in Reno and we take a day visit to Virginia City with my aunts, cousins, and grandmas. Since I’m already aware that you have no idea what Virginia City is, Mark Twain used to write there, and it’s a pretty popular place to take “old-timey” photographs dressed in stockings and boas with a sepia filter.
Virginia City is also the home to multiple candy shops, which are famous for their cinnamon candy. If you ask my mom or aunts, all of them will tell you about how much they used to look forward to visiting Virginia City just to get their famous cinnamon butter candy.
This year for Christmas, my mom and I decided we would try to recreate the recipe for our friends and family. It took 3 batches and multiple trips to the store, but we got pretty close.
First off, let me give you a few opinions on cinnamon oil vs. cinnamon extract. We first tried cinnamon extract, because it’s much cheaper and easier to find than cinnamon oil. First, we tried 2 tsp., and it was not flavorful enough. The next batch, we tried 4 tsp., and it still wasn’t what we were looking for.
We then researched where we could find cinnamon oil, called a special store, made a trip to said store, spent $15 on a bottle, and used it in the third batch. While it was spicier than extract, it still wasn’t exactly what we wanted out of our cinnamon candy.
The candy isn’t really what we thought it would be (since we had the high expectations from Virginia City), but we ended up loving it! While we were looking for that artificial cinnamon flavor (like in Red Hots or Cinnamon Jolley Ranchers), we actually got a real cinnamon flavor, which was a pleasant surprise.
In the end, if you like spicy, get some cinnamon oil online (it’s cheaper over Amazon!), or just go the easy way and buy cinnamon extract. Either way, you’ll end up with a buttery, unique hard candy that’s really easy to make and can be packaged up as a gift (alternative for peppermint bark??)
*Photos courtesy of my brother*
*Song of the Day: Inside Out by Spoon*
After some things didn’t go *quite* according to plan today, I ended up taking on the 7 hour drive to my hometown all by myself. This made an abundance of room for Sara Lynn time, which included motivating self-talks, judging everyone’s driving besides my own, and running through Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not three times. Recipes were developed, life plans were made, and I’m pretty sure I had at least four revelations.
All in all, it was a pretty spiritual day. And now, I have a cheesecake crumb bar recipe. Sometimes, things just work out.
While I won’t say that cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts, I also never pass it up when offered. Realistically, I had big plans of making a huge cheesecake before reminding myself that 1. I didn’t have the ingredients to make a whole cheesecake and I was already wearing pajamas, which meant that there was no way in hell I was going to the grocery store, and 2. No one should ever make a whole cheesecake when they live alone. But cheesecake bars? Portable. Sliceable. Freezable. Slightly more social acceptable to have hanging around the house.
These ended up being a mix between cheesecake, shortbread cookies, and crumb cake. They’re everything you want from each of those desserts, but I think next time I’ll cut the dough in half and double the filling. If you like more of the “cheese” part of cheesecake, I would recommend following that method. If you prefer shortbread, stick with the original.
Customize with pumpkin, raspberry, lemon, caramel, chocolate, etc. If it fits in a cheesecake, it fits in these bars. I opted for simplicity and added a little vanilla. Okay a lot. Whatever.
Song of the Day: Fake Tales of San Francisco–Arctic Monkeys
This is the first time I have left the kitchen all day. Literally, I have been in the kitchen since I woke up this morning.
(Granted, I slept in til 10:30, but that is irrelevant).
Every single year my mom makes this whole big deal about how “we’re not doing any holiday baking this year!”
And then I say, “Hahaha okay, if you need me, I’ll be in the kitchen baking cookies” (Because baking around the holidays is just a thing. It’s the only time you can eat as much as you want and blame it on a holiday…?!?!)
We then proceed to make about 100 more baked goods, because once you start, you can’t stop. Luckily, we have a good compilation of holiday recipes going on.
These orange cookies are one of my family’s favorite recipes. It’s my grandma’s recipe, and the family always gets excited when these are around. We make them for all occasions, but I thought they’d be good for Christmas since oranges are a winter fruit (although I always associate them as summer-y?)
They pretty much taste just like cupcake tops with sticky, melty icing, which would normally be my worst nightmare, but when something is this good, exceptions can be made.
Thanks to Grandma for passing this recipe along.
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 c. shortening
1 c. buttermilk
1 scant tsp. baking soda, dissolved in buttermilk
1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
Grated rind of 1 orange
Juice of 1/2-1 orange (about 1/2 cup)
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350* F. Cream the shortening and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in buttermilk, orange rind, orange juice, and vanilla. Add flour, salt, and baking powder until smooth. Drop by the spoonful on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. They will seem too soft and will dent if you press them in, but they will be done and slightly browned on the bottom. Frost with icing.
3 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 Tbs. butter, softened
3 Tbs. orange juice
1 Tbs. orange rind
1-2 Tbs. milk, or enough to desired consistency
Mix ingredients together with a mixer until desired consistency. Frost slightly warm cookies with icing and let it harden before stacking and storing!
To make them more Christmas-y you could even add dried cranberries! That might be my project next year…
Keep an eye out for more holiday recipes in the next few days!
Song of the Day: This Girl’s in Love with You (cover)–She & Him
Way to go with posting all the holiday stuff two days before Christmas, Sara.
I know that’s what you’re all thinking.
But I’m just now getting to it because 1. I was waiting until I got back to Vegas so I could bake with my mom and 2. I decided not to bake at home since I’m the only one there to eat all of this stuff.
That’s my excuse(s) and I’m sticking to it (them)!
But on the bright side, these are the best sugar cookies I’ve ever had. I know that you’ve seen that phrase a sickeningly obnoxious amount of times on Pinterest but this is the for real truth. I mean it!
They’re soft and biscuity and not to sweet and almondy and just plain delicious and the frosting is perfect okay? So just take my word for it and make them, OKAY?!
Also, I’m posting two different recipes for frosting. The first is Royal Frosting and you use it to outline your cookies so the flood icing (second recipe) does not spill over the sides and give you a huge headache-y mess. Just outline your cookies and designs with the royal icing (the thick white icing in my pictures) and fill it in with the colored flood icing and sprinkles and stuff. Just add some food coloring to your flood icing to make a bunch of pretty colors and have fun! Also, I recommend you use these kinds of bottles…
…to spread your flood icing on your cookie. It makes your life sooooo much easier, I swear. You can get these at Michael’s in the baking section and probably at other grocery/baking stores. Use a pastry bag (or plastic bag) and small round tip to outline the royal icing.
If you have any questions for me about these cookies, feel free to ask! I have become an expert.
1 1/3 c. butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. buttermilk
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract (if you’re allergic, you can just leave this out!)
5 1/2 c. AP flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
In a bowl, combine butter and sugar until creamy. Add the buttermilk, eggs, and extracts. It will look kind of curdy and gross, but don’t worry. Combine all of your dry ingredients and add to the wet mixture in 3-4 stages. If the dough is too runny, add more flour. If it seems good and sturdy at 5 cups of flour, just stop there. Seal the finished dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or more.
Roll the dough about 1/4 in. thick on a floured surface and use cookie cutters to make your favorite shapes. I recommend rolling in batches and keeping unused dough in the fridge because when this gets warm, it becomes a huge mess. Lay your cut out cookies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 5 minutes. Bake them for 8-12 minutes at 350*. They should be slightly browned around the edges and when you press them, they will feel soft. Let them cool before frosting them! *The time it takes to bake them depends on the size of your cookie cutter(s) and the thickness you roll out the dough*.
1/4 c. meringue powder or dried powdered egg whites
1/2 c. water
3 3/4 (1 lb.) powdered sugar
2 tsp. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract (use vanilla if allergic)
Combine water and meringue powder (dried egg whites) and mix until frothy. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat for about 6-8 minutes or until thick and stiff. It should not be runny! Outline the cookies using a pastry bag and small round tip.
1 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbs. milk
2 tsp. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract (or vanilla)
Combine ingredients together with a whisk. It should be the consistency of syrup. Add more milk if it is too thick. Add food coloring and put in bottles! You can do as many or as little colors as you like. We did dark green, light green, red, blue, and white. I think we ended up making about 4 recipes of this for our cookies, but we had a bit leftover so I would start with maybe 2 or 3 batches and add more if needed.
Then just fill the outline of your designs with icing! And add sprinkles or whatever else you like. We used some black gel frosting from the store to make small designs on our cookies. But be careful not to add too much or there will be a funky taste. Which is bad joo joo.
Aren’t they just so cute and happy? These are a few of my favorites. But we had some real gems.
Merry Christmas! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with your families. P.S. These cookies would be good for any holiday in any shape!