Peeps Cupcakes (with a Surprise)

Peeps Cupcakes 1

It has been a busy weekend for us around here, with a sleepover birthday party, a trip to the mall for an ear-piercing, church youth temple trip, oldest daughter returning from college, middle daughter returning from a school orchestra trip, a playdate for a little boy feeling left out of all the fun, regular Sunday church activities (plus an evening Easter devotional), followed by a child’s gall bladder removal on Monday.

Peeps Cupcakes 4

If anything can help you through the wonderful chaos that is raising kids, it is these Peeps cupcakes. We served them at Little J’s 10th birthday party, but they would also make a fun Easter dessert.

Peeps Cupcakes 5

The kids were excited to find a surprise inside of the cupcakes when they bit into them!

Peeps Cupcakes 2

I scooped out the center of the cupcakes and Little J filled them with candy Easter eggs and m&ms. I piped a swirl of the rainbow frosting onto each cupcake and then we topped each one with a Peep. We used the Vanilla, Strawberry, and Orange Crème flavors. These Peeps are separated in their package so that you don’t have white patches (with no sugar covering) where you have to break the Peeps apart from a normal package.

Peeps Cupcakes 3

To make the rainbow swirled frosting: Attach a large tip (I used a Wilton 1M) to a pastry bag. Using a clean paintbrush, paint stripes of gel food coloring along the inside of the pastry bag (the stripes do not have to touch). Carefully spoon white frosting into the bag. Squeeze out and discard a little of the frosting, until you begin to see color on the edge of the frosting. Pipe frosting onto the cupcakes: start on the outside of the cupcake, holding the bag straight up and down and proceed in a swirl, slightly overlapping layers, to the center of the cupcake.

Happy Birthday Little J! Here she is sporting her newly pierced ears:

2014-04-10 17.54.33

This week will be a much needed recovery week for all of us. A perfect time to reflect on the gift of the Atonement that we celebrate this week. Here is an Easter video on the Savior’s gift to each of us and who we can become Because of Him:

Because of Him

RECIPE:

Peeps Cupcakes 5

Cooked Vanilla Frosting

1 cup whole milk
5 Tbs flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar (do not use powdered sugar)
Gel food coloring

In a small saucepan, mix the flour and milk with a whisk until combined. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until mixture thickens (and is just about to boil). Remove from heat and let it cool completely to room temperature.  Stir in vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl (a stand mixer works best for this) cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the cooled milk mixture and beat for 5-7 minutes, until frosting is light, fluffy and completely uniform throughout.

FOR SWIRLED FROSTING: Attach a large tip (I used a Wilton 1M) to a pastry bag. Using a clean paintbrush, paint stripes of gel food coloring along the inside of the pastry bag (the stripes do not have to touch). Carefully spoon white frosting into the bag. Squeeze out and discard a little of the frosting, until you begin to see color on the edge of the frosting. Pipe frosting onto the cupcakes.

For a peaked swirl pattern: start on the outside of the cupcake, holding the bag straight up and proceed in a swirl, slightly overlapping layers, to the center of the cupcake. For a rose pattern: start in the center of the cupcake, holding the piping bag straight up and proceed in a swirl to the outside of the cupcakes (do not overlap layers).

Yield: frosting for about 24 cupcakes

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Orange Rolls

Orange Rolls

These sweet rolls are light (not in calories, unfortunately) and soft with a slight tang from the addition of sour cream and fresh orange juice. A nice change from a traditional cinnamon roll.

To keep your rolls light and airy, do not add too much flour to your dough, and knead only until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. I roll my dough out on a buttered silicon mat (instead of a floured mat). Greased hands will also help in handling the slightly sticky dough.

An easy way to cut your dough logs into rolls without crushing the dough and having the knife stick to the dough is to use dental floss (not mint!) or a strong sewing thread. The (really out of focus) picture below shows the floss in action.

Cutting Rolls 2

I like to first make shallow knife cuts in the dough so that I have a cutting guide. Then place the floss UNDER the dough. Cross the ends of the floss over the top of the dough (lining up with the knife cuts) and pull crossed floss ends until the dough is cut through.

RECIPE:

Orange Rolls

Orange Rolls

½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
3 Tbs butter
1 cup sour cream
½ cup sugar
3 eggs
about 4 – 4 ½ cups flour
1 Tbs instant yeast**
2 tsp salt

Filling:
6 Tbs butter, softened
½ cup sugar
2 tsp orange zest

Glaze:
3 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbs butter, softened
3 Tbs freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Tbs heavy cream
1 tsp orange zest
dash salt

Combine orange juice, 1 tsp orange zest, 3 Tbs butter and sour cream in a small saucepan or microwave safe bowl. Heat slowly until butter melts and mixture is warm to touch, but not hot (do not allow mixture to boil).

Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl or stand mixer with a dough hook attached. Mix in ½ cup sugar. Add eggs all at once and mix well. Mix in flour (start with 4 cups), yeast and salt. Knead dough, adding additional flour if necessary, until dough pulls away from the edge of the bowl, but is still soft and slightly sticky. Cover and let dough rest 10 minutes.

Combine filling ingredients in a small bowl; stir well.

Divide dough in half. On a buttered surface, roll each dough half into a large rectangle about ½” thick. Spread each with half of the filling. Roll dough beginning with the long edge; press edge to seal seam. Slice each dough roll into about 12 rolls (use dental floss or sewing thread for easy cutting). Place rolls in a buttered pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Bake at 375°F for about 15-20 minutes, or until barely golden brown. Cool at least 15 minutes before spreading with glaze.

Combine glaze ingredients and mix well. Add additional cream or orange juice if glaze is too thick to spread. Spread on warm, but not oven-hot rolls.

**NOTE: If you are using regular, and not instant yeast, proof yeast for 5 minutes in 1/4 cup of the orange juice (or water), warmed, before mixing into the dough. Allow dough to rise in a covered bowl until doubled before rolling and shaping into rolls.

Yield: about 24 rolls

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Thai Pumpkin Curry

Thai Pumpkin Curry 2

Pumpkin Curry is one of my favorite things to order at Thai restaurants. Luckily, it is also a meal that you can make at home and end up with restaurant-quality results.

I usually use a butternut squash, but if you have an Asian grocery store nearby, kabocha squash works really well. It is a small green pumpkin that doesn’t get mushy or stringy when cooked. The squash is roasted before adding it to the curry. Half of the squash is pureed with coconut milk and the other half is cut into chunks to stir back into the curry before serving.

I love the thicker texture that the pureed squash gives to this curry. Leave out the chicken and you still have a hearty vegetarian meal.

Choose your favorite vegetables to pair with the squash. I like shitake mushrooms, carrots, red peppers, fresh spinach and zucchini (if you can find decent ones in the winter). In the summer, I add Thai basil from my garden. In the winter, I either use regular sweet basil, or just leave it out.

Thai Pumpkin Curry 1

RECIPE:

Thai Pumpkin Curry 2

Thai Pumpkin Curry

1 butternut squash or kabocha
olive oil, salt and pepper

1 lb boneless chicken breast, cut into very thin strips
1 Tbs Thai red curry paste
2 Tbs soy sauce

2 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 small onion, sliced
½ red bell pepper, julienned
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 medium zucchini, julienned
½ cup sliced shitake mushrooms

2 cans (14 oz) coconut milk
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs Thai fish sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs lime juice (or 4 kaffir lime leaves, chopped)
2 Tbs Thai red curry paste (adjust amount to personal taste)
1 cup fresh spinach or other greens
1/3 cup fresh basil (Thai basil preferably), coarsely chopped

Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Brush cut sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 425°F for 20-30 minutes, or until soft and cooked through.

While squash is cooking, combine sliced chicken, 1 Tbs curry paste and 2 Tbs soy sauce in a Ziploc bag. Let marinate at room temperature while squash cooks.

Heat 1 Tbs oil in wok or large saucepan. Add onion, red pepper, carrot, zucchini and mushrooms. Cook over high heat until crisp-tender. Remove from pan. Add remaining 1 Tbs oil to pan. Add chicken and cook over high heat, stirring until chicken is cooked through.

Peel and cut half of the cooked squash into cubes. Set aside. Place remaining half of the roasted squash (peeled) in a blender with one can of the coconut milk. Puree until smooth.

Add the pureed squash, remaining can of coconut milk (use to rinse out blender), 2 Tbs soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, salt, lime juice and remaining 2 Tbs curry paste to the chicken in the pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in squash cubes, spinach, basil and cooked vegetables. Heat until spinach wilts. Serve in bowls with or without rice.

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Triple Chocolate Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache Glaze

Triple Chocolate Bundt Cake 1

This is definitely a cheater recipe, starting with both a chocolate cake mix and chocolate pudding mix. But it is easy, delicious and super-moist. Perfect. And baked in a bundt pan it makes a beautiful dessert suitable for serving company.

This is especially delicious served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of each slice.

RECIPE:

Triple Chocolate Bundt Cake 1

Triple Chocolate Bundt Cake
————(adapted from SixSistersStuff)

1 box chocolate cake mix (I used a dark chocolate fudge flavor)
1 small box (3.9 oz) instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
½ cup warm water
1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350°F . Grease and flour a bundt pan (or spray with baking non-stick cooking spray: the kind with flour in it).

In a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, eggs and water. Stir in the chopped chocolate and pour batter into prepared bundt pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake completely in the bundt pan for about 90 minutes.

Invert onto a serving plate and drizzle with glaze. If desired, serve each slice topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate ganache glaze:

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (a little more than 1/2 cup)
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tbs corn syrup
1 Tbs granulated sugar

Place the chopped chocolate into a small bowl and set aside. In a Pyrex measuring cup or microwavable bowl, combine the heavy cream, corn syrup and sugar. Heat for 1 minute; stir. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Let sit for one minutes, then stir until smooth with a whisk.

Use a spoon to generously drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.

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Caramelized Onion Dip

Caramelized Onion Dip 2

Like everyone else, we are preparing ourselves for a day of snacking tomorrow. We don’t feel particularly attached to either football team, so for most of the family it is all about the food and the commercials.

Caramelized onion dip is a nice alternative to the traditional onion soup mix chip dip. You can serve it with either potato chips or a vegetable tray.

RECIPE:

Caramelized Onion Dip 3

Caramelized Onion Dip

2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced (3-4 cups)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1 Tbs chopped fresh)
½ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
4 oz cream cheese
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 Tbs fresh chives, optional
Potato chips or sliced vegetables for dipping

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 30 minutes. If the onions begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, add 1-2 Tbs water and lower heat slightly; continue to cook until onions are golden brown. Add minced garlic and cook 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

Stir balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, parsley, onion and garlic powders, salt and pepper into the onions in the skillet. Stir to loosen any caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan.

Place cream cheese in a large bowl. Stir onion mixture into the bowl with the cream cheese. Let onions cool slightly, and then stir in the sour cream. Garnish with chopped chives, if desired and serve at room temperature with potato chips or sliced vegetables.

Dip can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. Allow to sit at room temperature for about 1 hour before serving.

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Fifth Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies Round-up

Twelve more cookie and treats to help you celebrate this Christmas season.

As you whisk and sift and bake this year, be sure to look up from your bowls of flour and melted chocolate to appreciate the joy and wonder of the Christmas season. As we share and give our love to those around us (whether that is through cookies, gifts or service), may we also remember the gift of love given to each of us on that very first Christmas.

Shortbread 3

DAY 1: Scottish Shortbread

Coconut Oatmeal Chocolate Cookies 2

DAY 2: Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Raspberry Blondies 1

DAY 3: Raspberry Swirl Blondies

Oreo Truffles 1

DAY 4: Oreo Truffles

Ninjabread Men 3

DAY 5: Ninja-bread Men Cookies

Hot Cocoa Mix 2

DAY 6: Hot Cocoa Mix

Peppermint Marshmallows 1

DAY 7: Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows

Nutella Marbled Cheesecake Bars

DAY 8: Nutella Marbled Cheesecake Bars

Cranberry Orange Cookies 3

DAY 9: Glazed Cranberry Orange Cookies

Rocky Road Cookies

DAY 10: Rocky Road Cookies

Christmas Fortune Cookies

DAY 11: Christmas Fortune Cookies

Peppermint Bark 1

DAY 12: Peppermint Bark Snowflakes

For forty-eight more cookie and candy ideas, there are links below for the four previous years’ Christmas Cookies:

First Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2009)

Second Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2010)

Third Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2011)

Fourth Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2012)

—-

My best wishes to each of you for a faith filled Christmas season.  May God be with you and your family.

Click the photo above or HERE for videos, music, cards and messages reminding us of the true meaning of Christmas, the gift of the Savior of the world, and how we can incorporate that meaning into our lives every day.

No Empty Chairs Signature

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Peppermint Bark Snowflakes

Peppermint Bark 1

DAY 12: Peppermint Bark Snowflakes

Layers of dark and white chocolate with crushed candy canes. You can spread the bark into a large slab and then break apart when hardened. OR: Use a silicone mold to make fun individual Peppermint Bark Snowflakes.

The bottom chocolate layer in this mold ends up with a fun imprinted design.

Peppermint bark is simply layers of dark and white chocolate flavored with peppermint extract and sprinkled with crushed candy canes between the layers and on the top.

I like to use very finely crushed candy canes (the “dust” that you get when you crush them) in between the layers, and the more coarsely chopped candy canes on the top layer.

Peppermint Bark 2

Let harden in the mold and pop them out for a fun treat. Or an easy, no-bake gift.

RECIPE:

Peppermint Bark 1

Peppermint Bark Snowflakes

8-10 candy canes
8oz dark melting chocolate
8oz white melting chocolate
1/2 tsp peppermint extract, divided

Crush candy canes in a Ziploc bag or bowl. Reserve the larger pieces of crushed candy canes to use on the top of the peppermint bark.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt dark chocolate in the microwave. Stir in 1/4 tsp peppermint extract. Spoon into a Ziploc bag. Cut off a small corner and use bag to pipe chocolate into 12 silicone snowflake molds. Use a toothpick, if necessary to smooth chocolate into crevices of molds. Sprinkle top of melted dark chocolate with finely crushed candy canes. Let dark chocolate harden for about 20 minutes in the refrigerator before adding white layer.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt white chocolate in the microwave. Stir in 1/4 tsp peppermint extract. Spoon into a Ziploc bag. Cut off a small corner and use bag to pipe white chocolate over the dark chocolate. Use a toothpick to spread to the edges of the mold. Sprinkle with the more coarsely chopped candy cane pieces. Let bark harden completely. Pop out of molds and store at room temperature.

If you are not using molds, spread layers of dark and white chocolate onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or non-stick foil. Let harden and break into large pieces.

Makes 12 snowflakes

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Christmas Fortune Cookies

Christmas Fortune Cookies

DAY 11: Christmas Fortune Cookies

Fortune Cookies aren’t just for takeout anymore.

Fill these with fun holiday wishes or fortunes, “Name that Christmas Carol” lyrics or quiz, or funny quotes from Christmas movies.

Ideas for Christmas Fortunes:
Quotes from Christmas movies
Name that Christmas Carol quiz quotes
Christmas Jokes
Christmas Fortunes 1
Christmas Fortunes 2

For more photos and detailed instructions on baking and folding homemade fortune cookies click:
Homemade Fortune Cookies

RECIPE:

Christmas Fortune Cookies

Christmas Fortune Cookies

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tbs cornstarch
½ tsp salt
4 egg whites
1/3 cup oil
2 Tbs water
1 ½ tsp orange or almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
Fortunes cut into strips about 3 ½” long by ½” wide
Melted chocolate, sprinkles and/or crushed candy canes

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.

Use a whisk to mix flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar in a small bowl.

In a separate bowl, use the whisk to lightly beat the egg whites, oil, water, vanilla, and orange or almond extract until frothy.

Stir the flour into the egg white mixture and mix until you have a smooth batter. The batter will be thin, with the consistency of a sticky pancake batter and not stiff like a normal cookie dough.

Place one tablespoon of batter onto the cookie sheet. Using the back of a spoon, spread batter in a circular motion to make a circle about 3-4 inches in diameter.  Place 4-6 cookies on a baking sheet (start with fewer cookies until you get the hang of folding quickly). The batter should be very thin on the baking sheet. If it’s too thick the cookies won’t fold without breaking.

Bake for 11-14 minutes, or until the outer edge of each cookie barely begins to brown.

TO FOLD: Immediately after  removing baking sheet from the oven, working very quickly, remove a cookie with a thin metal spatula and flip it over onto a clean plate or mat. Place a fortune in the middle of the cookie (let one end slightly extend beyond edge of cookie, if desired). Fold the cookie in half, but do not flatten center crease; just make the edges meet gently. Fold cookie in half again by gently pulling the edges downward over the rim of a mug or glass. Place the finished cookie in the cup of a muffin tin so that it keeps its shape while it cools. Continue with the rest of the cookies.

Let cookies sit, uncovered, for 1-2 hours (so that they harden completely).

Dip half of each cookie in melted chocolate. Sprinkle immediately with crushed candy canes or sprinkles. If you are piping contrasting colors of chocolate onto the cookies, do this AFTER the chocolate coating has hardened.

Yield: 36-40 cookies

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Rocky Road Cookies

Rocky Road Cookies

DAY 10: Rocky Road Cookies

Chocolate cookies packed with chopped almonds, chocolate chips and dried marshmallow bits. Your favorite ice cream flavor in cookie form. Perfect with a tall glass of super cold milk.

These are the marshmallow bits that are used to make these cookies. They are very small dried marshmallow bits. They are perfect for cookies because when they are cooked, they don’t melt like regular marshmallows. Don’t substitute real marshmallows in your cookie dough: they will melt all over your cookie sheets. These bits do tend to dissolve some if over-mixed, so add them last to your dough and only mix until barely combined. I like to reserve a few and press them into the tops of each cookie dough ball just before baking.

 RECIPE:

Rocky Road Cookies

Rocky Road Cookies
——-(from TwoPeasAndTheirPod)

2 ½ cups flour
¾ cup Dutch processed cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2  eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped almonds
1 ½ cups (1 jar) Mallow Bits, divided

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

With a mixer, cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time. Mix in vanilla extract until blended.

Slowly add flour mixture to sugar mixture and mix until dough is smooth. Mix in chocolate chips and chopped almonds. Gently mix in 1 cup Mallow Bits. Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased baking sheet. Press a few mallow bits into the top of each cookie.

Bake at 350°F for 10-11 minutes, or until the cookies are set around the edges, but still soft in the center. Don’t over bake. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes. Move to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Cranberry Orange Buttermilk Cookies

Cranberry Orange Cookies 3

DAY 9: Cranberry Orange Buttermilk Cookies

Cranberries and oranges are flavors that pair so well together. This is a soft cookie with a cake-like texture topped with an orange glaze. I like that they are not overly sweet.

A note on storing glazed cookies: The glaze will continue to set as the cookies sit at room temperature, but it does not become hard enough to stack the cookies, especially in humid climates. To store these cookies (or other frosted/glazed cookies, allow the glaze to set at room temperature for at least an hour. Then place the glazed cookies  in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the freezer until completely frozen. Transfer the completely frozen cookies to a tupperware container and store in the freezer. To serve, remove individual frozen cookies from the freezer and allow them to thaw in a single layer (not stacked).

My kids usually skip the thawing step. They just grab cookies straight from the freezer and eat them.

 RECIPE:

Cranberry Orange Cookies 3

Cranberry Orange Buttermilk Cookies
————(adapted from TwoPeasAndTheirPod)

½ cup dried cranberries
1 ½ cups  flour
Zest of half of an orange (about ½ tsp), use other half in glaze
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
6 Tbs butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 Tbs fresh squeezed orange juice
1 Tbs heavy cream
Zest of half of an orange (about ½ tsp)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Put the dried cranberries in a small bowl with about 1 cup of  hot (but not boiling)  water. Allow them to sit for 5 minutes; drain.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, orange zest, baking soda and salt.

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat well to mix. Mix in the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately in batches at low speed, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix in the dried cranberries.

Drop the dough by tablespoons onto baking sheets. Bake at 350°F for 10-11 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 1 minute; then transfer them to a wire rack. Cool cookies completely.

For the glaze, whisk together the sifted powdered sugar, orange juice, cream and orange zest. Add additional juice or sugar until glaze is spreading consistency. Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the glaze over the cooled cookies.

STORAGE NOTE: The glaze will continue to set as the cookies sit at room temperature, but it does not become hard enough to stack the cookies, especially in humid climates. To store these cookies (or other frosted/glazed cookies, allow the glaze to set at room temperature for at least an hour. Then place the glazed cookies  in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the freezer until completely frozen. Transfer the completely frozen cookies to a tupperware container and store in the freezer. To serve, remove individual frozen cookies from the freezer and allow them to thaw in a single layer (not stacked).

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

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