Monday, December 6, 2010

300 Christmas Cookies in 3 Days! Whew!

A favorite holiday tradition of mine is baking cookies for friends and family! But, after starting our new company Padibbles, and my sweet Chef hubbie working like crazy at the holidays, you'd think this tradition would be scraped for the season!

The "King of Christmas" (aka: my Chef hubbie) wouldn't have it any other way! So, last week, as soon as he & I arrived home from a long day at work, we baked cookies 3 hours on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday! Why? Well keep reading friend, and you'll see why we held a cookie marathon!

First, you need the perfect sugar cookie recipe!
Your recipe has to produce an easy, fast, dough and a melt-in-your-mouth cookie with no leavening ingredients. (Leavening messes up the cookie's shape as it bakes in the oven.)

Here's my recipe (requested over and over). I take no responsibility for the 5 lbs you will gain!

Cream Cheese Cookies
Courtesy: Williams Sonoma in-store recipe cards, circa 1988
½ cup butter (4 oz, unsalted, softened/room temperature)
3 oz. pkg cream cheese, softened/room
½ cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. freshly grated/zested orange peel
1 tsp. real vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour (we like King Arthur A/P for this)
½ tsp salt
These ingredients can easily be doubled or tripled. Beyond that, make multiple batches.
Combine butter & cream cheese; gradually add sugar and beat until light & fluffy. Beat in egg yolk, orange zest, & vanilla. Sift together flour & salt, and blend into cream cheese mixture.
Divide and form dough into 2 rolls (or flat patties for rolling out into sugar cookies). Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour!
Roll out dough on a lightly floured marble board (or stone counter top) to ¼” thickness (pretty thick!) Flour your rolling pin too! Brush off any excess flour with a pastry brush. Dust cookie cutter with flour too. Transfer cut out forms to un-greased cookie sheet (Silpat liners work best! Parchment paper is good too!)
Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes (we rotate the sheets halfway through cooking) Take out when cookies are a light golden color. If you cool them on a rack, cookies will be more crisp. We cool them on the counter top, and they maintain a little extra softness. (This point is important at high altitude baking!)
And, thus ended our bake-a-thon for Day 1! We made 6 recipes of the dough, resulting in just under 300 cookies of all different shapes & sizes!
Day 2 (or Evening 2 for those counting) began with me dividing the different shapes into piles.
For me, it's easiest to come up with a dipping and decorating strategy for each shape & design. We frost our sugar cookies with “Summer Coating” (also known as Compound Chocolate). You can use buttercream frosting or royal icing too. But, I love how the orange & cream cheese tastes with the chocolate! And, it's pretty darn fast & easy with very professional looking results!
First, melt your Compound Chocolate over simmering water to 120 degrees. Take it off the water, and add in 2 pieces of chocolate, to bring
the temperature down to 105 - 110 degrees. If it is above 120 degree, it's too hot to dip and your chocolate will streak. Hold your cookie by a corner, and only dip it 1/2 to 3/4 way through the chocolate, dragging it through the bowl and shaking it off at the end of the dip/drag.
We melted both white and green chocolate. Remember, these are background colors for the cookies. Don't dip the whole cookie. It's impossible to hold, looks messy, and it's just too much!
Below is an example of my "dip & drag" technique! After the "dip & drag", you gently shake off the excess chocolate.

Each type is grouped together on waxed paper. They are allowed to harden overnight. Thus ends Day 2!
Hurray! Day 3 has arrived! Time to wrap this project up and "git 'er done"! All the cookies charm and personality comes out in the finishing touches!
We start by melting colors! We melt red (1st), yellow (2nd), pink (3rd) and white (last). The order you melt your colors is important! I used parchment paper folded into piping bags for the colors because it gives me the most control! You can also use disposable plastic piping bags or freezer quart bags (and cut off a corner). Don't use sandwich sized plastic bags! They pop open really easily, and leave you a big mess!
First, Red stripes on the stockings! Red swirls and squiggles on the ornaments! Red dots on the trees!

Second, Yellow wings on the doves! Yellow stars atop the Christmas trees. Yellow scarves on snowmen! Yellow halos & wings on angels! Yellow buttons on gingerbread men!
Third, pink scarves on snowmen. Pink swirls on candy! Pink hearts on mittens! Pink accents on angels!
And last, the White! White on top of it all pops all the other colors! White wings on angels! White tinsel on trees!
Good News: if you get a big blob of color (even red) on a cookie, let it harden for 30 minutes, and then using a paring knife, scrape underneath the color and it will "pop" off! Thus, allowing you to save the cookie and redecorate it!
Don't even think of touching these until the next morning (tempting as it is!) Allow the colors to harden overnight!
When I took a bag of these cookies over to a friend's house, she honestly thought I bought them at a local bakery! Best of all, they taste a million times better! Hope you will enjoy your results too! Merry Christmas!

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