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Top Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies 1

DAY 5: Sugar Cookies (Two Doughs/Many Variations)

Sugar Cookies are the iconic Christmas treat. Good thing they are also extremely versatile. Once you have your sugar cookie base, you can easily change up the design for very different looks and tastes. I have two basic sugar cookie doughs that I like to use. The first is a soft, thick dough that stays pillowy soft and tender after baking. This is the dough I use for most of my sugar cookies:

Sugar Cookies 2

But if I need really sharp edges, and absolutely no spread when the dough is baked, I go with the dough below. The cookies are still soft if you don’t overbake them, but they are more dense than the other recipe.

Sharp Edges Sugar Cookies

Whichever dough you choose, you can make traditional frosted sugar cookies, with various types of icing, or try something just a little different. These two options are actually easier than frosting with a regular icing.

Snow Capped Christmas Trees:

Snow Capped Christmas Trees

Stained Glass Sugar Cookies:

Stained Glass Sugar Cookies

Stained Glass Sugar Cookies 2

ORIGINAL BLOG POSTS:
Soft and Thick Sugar Cookies (2009)
Sharp Edged Sugar Cookies (2014)
Snow Capped Christmas Trees (2016)
Stained Glass Sugar Cookies (2016)

RECIPE:

Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies 2

Soft and Thick Sugar Cookies

3 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
About 7 – 7 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

In a large mixing bowl, beat sugar, butter, sour cream, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Mix in 4 cups of flour, the baking soda, and salt. Mix in enough additional flour to make a moderately stiff dough.

Chill for 20 minutes to 1 hour for easier handling. Roll out dough to desired thickness (about 1/4” thick) and cut with cookie cutter.

Bake at 375°F for 10 -11 minutes; if they brown, it’s been too long.  They should look white when done.

Frost and decorate as desired.

Yield will depend on the size of your cookie cutter and the thickness of your dough. I got 6 dozen cookies made from 3” cookie cutters.

Sharp Edges Sugar Cookies

Sharp Edged Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour

Royal Icing
Optional: Shimmery Sanding Sugar or Coarse Sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in extracts and egg.

In a separate bowl combine baking powder with flour and slowly mix into the wet ingredients. The dough will be stiff.

Do not chill dough. Roll dough out onto a floured surface to almost 1/4 inch. You want these cookies to be thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out cookie shapes and place on baking sheets.

Bake for 7-9 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet until firm enough to transfer to a cooling rack.

Yield will depend on the size of your cookie cutter and the thickness of your dough. I got 25 cookies made from 4” snowflake cookie cutters.

(Sharp edged sugar cookie dough from In Katrina’s Kitchen)

Snow Capped Christmas Trees

Snow Capped Christmas Trees

Sugar Cookie Dough (see above)
Green food coloring
About 12 oz white chocolate, or white melting candy discs

Prepare sugar cookie dough.  Mix in a few drops of green food coloring. Chill for 20 minutes to 1 hour, if necessary, for easier handling. Roll out dough and cut out with Christmas tree cookie cutter.

Bake according to sugar cookie dough recipe.

Place white chocolate in a bowl at least as wide as the cookie sides you will be dipping. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each heating, until melted and smooth. Dip each edge of the cooled cookies in the melted chocolate and place on waxed paper to harden.

Stained Glass Sugar Cookies

Stained Glass Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookie Dough (see above)
1 package Jolly Rancher candies, cut in half for small openings

Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

Roll out dough to about 1/8” and cut out with large  cookie cutters. Place shapes on lined baking sheets. Cut out a smaller shape inside of each cookie  (after placing on baking sheet). I used the centers from a linzer cookie cutter set to make the center openings

Place half of a Jolly Rancher candy in the center of each cookie. Use a whole Jolly Rancher if the opening is large enough to lay the entire candy down inside the opening.

Bake according to sugar cookie dough recipe. Cool completely on the baking sheet. When candy centers are completely cool and hardened, remove cookies to a sheet of parchment paper.

Store covered between layers of waxed paper or parchment paper. The candy centers will stick together if they touch.

Frostings

Sugar Cookies 2

Glacé Icing

1 lb powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
¼ cup+ 2 Tbs  whole milk
¼ cup + 2 Tbs light corn syrup
1 tsp almond or vanilla extract
Gel food coloring
Additional powdered sugar to reach piping consistency

With a whisk, combine sugar and milk until smooth. Stir in corn syrup and almond or vanilla extract. Add food coloring for desired colors.

You will use this same recipe for both glazing and piping. The way it is right now is the consistency you want for glazing. It’s smooth and thin. It easily runs off of a whisk in a thin drizzle.

To prepare the icing for piping, add additional powdered sugar until icing is stiff, but spoonable.

(Glacé Icing from Our Best Bites)

Sharp Edges Sugar Cookies

Royal Icing

2 Tbs meringue powder
scant ¼ cup water
½ lb powdered sugar (about 2 cups)
½  tsp light corn syrup

Combine the meringue powder and water in a stand mixer. With the paddle attachment, beat until foamy. Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine. (Do NOT skip the sifting!)

Mix in the corn syrup. Increase speed to med-high/high and beat for about 3-5 minutes, just until the icing is glossy and stiff peaks form. (You should be able to remove the beater from the mixer and hold up and jiggle without the peak falling.) Do not overbeat.

To store for later use: cover with plastic wrap touching the icing and refrigerate.

For Snowflakes: Use a thick open circle decorator tip to pipe thick lines onto each snowflake. Sprinkle cookie with sanding sugar or sprinkles immediately after piping lines (on each cookie). Icing will harden quickly.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 11

Cooked Vanilla Icing

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

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

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.  Beat in food coloring, if desired.

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Top Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Lofthouse Style Soft Sugar Cookies

Lofthouse Cookies 4

DAY 2: Lofthouse Style Soft Sugar Cookies

Lofthouse Cookies: those pillowy-soft cookies in the grocery store with a frosting that hardens just enough to be able to stack them. The homemade version are even better. And much easier to make than rolled and frosted sugar cookies.

Lofthouse Cookies 1

To frost them, simply hold them in your hand and dip them upside down into a bowl of icing. Shake on some candied sprinkles, let them set for an hour and you are ready to go. You can use different flavored extracts (vanilla, almond, orange, peppermint, etc.) for different flavored frostings.

Lofthouse Cookies 5

ORIGINAL BLOG POST (2014): Lofthouse Style Soft Sugar Cookies

RECIPE:

Lofthouse Style Frosted Christmas Cookies

  • Servings: about 3 dozen
  • Print

Lofthouse Cookies 1

Cookies:
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Beat butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix into butter and sugar in mixing bowl. If the dough is too sticky to roll into balls, refrigerate dough for 30-60 minutes.

With hands, roll dough into 1” balls for small cookies, slightly larger for larger cookies. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Flatten dough balls slightly with the palm of your hand.

Bake for 7-9 minutes. Do not overbake.

Glaze Frosting:
6 Tbs butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 lb (about 4 cups) powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla (or ½ tsp almond, ½ tsp orange, or ¼ tsp peppermint) extract
3-4 drops gel food coloring
Candy Sprinkles

Place butter and cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave for about 60-90 seconds, until butter melts. Use a whisk to mix in powdered sugar. If you are making more than one color or flavor of frosting, divide frosting into separate bowls. Stir in extract (if you want to use white icing, use a clear vanilla or other flavored extract). Mix in food coloring.

Dip tops of cooled cookies in warm glaze and place on a sheet of waxed paper. Sprinkle immediately with candy sprinkles (the glaze starts to set fast: dip one cookie, then add sprinkles, then dip another cookie, etc). If glaze gets too thick, heat in microwave for 15-20 seconds. Allow glaze to set on cookies for about 1 hour before storing cookies.

To freeze: Freeze cookies in single layer and then place in container and store in freezer. Thaw cookies in a single layer.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

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Sugar-Free Strawberry Cheesecake

Sugar Free Strawberry Cheesecake 6

This sugar-free strawberry cheesecake may have just jumped onto my list of all-time favorite desserts, even those full of sugar.

This is a no-bake cheesecake that is easy to put together. Made with fresh strawberries, it is a fabulous summer dessert that won’t heat up the kitchen.

It is light and airy, not dense like a baked cheesecake. I sweetened it with stevia and erythritol, but you can easily substitute real sugar. But for those watching their carb and sugar intake, this is a wonderfully satisfying dessert. My kids don’t even miss the sugar!

Sugar Free Strawberry Cheesecake 4

I made it in a 9” springform pan, and it completely filled the pan for a nice tall cheesecake. You could make it in a little bit larger pan instead if you don’t want quite as thick of slices.

I garnished the cheesecake with some whipped cream and fresh berries. A wonderful light and summery dessert.

Sugar Free Strawberry Cheesecake 3

RECIPE:

Sugar-Free Strawberry No-Bake Cheesecake

Sugar Free Strawberry Cheesecake 6

Crust:
¾ cup whole almonds (roasted and salted)
¼ cup whole pecans
¼ cup rolled oats
3 Tbs butter, melted
10 drops of liquid stevia

Filling:
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup erythritol
½ tsp liquid stevia
½ cup cool water
2 (1 oz) packages unflavored gelatin
1 quart (4 cups) whole strawberries, hulled
1 cup heavy cream

Garnish:
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs cream cheese, at room temperature
½ tsp vanilla extract
5 drops liquid stevia
Whole strawberries, and/or other berries (raspberries, blackberries)

Crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place almonds, pecans, and oats in a food processor; blend until finely ground. Add butter and stevia  and pulse until combined. Lightly spray 9” springform pan with baking spray (I like coconut oil spray for this). Press crust mixture onto bottom of pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Filling:
In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sour cream, vanilla, erythritol, and stevia and beat again until smooth.

Place cool water in a separate bowl; sprinkle gelatin over water. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until gelatin has softened. Microwave for 15 seconds, or until gelatin has dissolved.

Place strawberries in a food processor. Blend until very finely chopped (mixture will be slightly liquidy). Add gelatin mixture to food processor and pulse until mixed. Add chopped strawberries to cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth. Taste mixture and add additional sweetener, if needed.

In a separate mixing bowl, whip 1 cup cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into filling.

Pour mixture over cooled crust in the springform pan. Refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours or until firm.

Garnish:
Combine cream, cream cheese, vanilla, and stevia in a mixing bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Pipe onto top of chilled cheesecake and garnish with fresh berries.

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Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake 1

Last week, we attended a Boy Scout fundraising auction. I made a few items to contribute, including this Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake. It is a 4-layer chocolate cake filled with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream icing. And garnished with chocolate covered strawberries.

There were sooo many delicious looking desserts at the auction. Not a good time to be on a low-carb diet.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake 3

Since I didn’t actually get to cut and eat this cake, I don’t have an inside picture, but it looks similar to this Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake:

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake 5

except that I added sliced fresh strawberries in between the layers with the icing:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake 2

 

RECIPE:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake 1

Ingredients (recipes below):
Chocolate Layer Cake
Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Chocolate Ganache
Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Chocolate Layer Cake
2 cups flour
½ cup regular cocoa powder
½ cup Dutch process cocoa (or Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¾ cups (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 2 9” cake pans; line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Grease paper and then dust entire pan with cocoa powder.

Combine flour, cocoa powders, baking soda and salt. Mix with a whisk. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars for 5 minutes. The mixture should be very pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat just until smooth.

Divide batter into prepared pans and bake for 28-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, remove parchment paper and cool.

Cooled cake layers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen until you are ready to assemble them. (For this cake, if you are freezing the layers: cut each layer in half before freezing to make 4 layers).

Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing
1 ½ cups egg whites (about 12 large egg whites, or use pasteurized egg whites that come in a carton)
2 ½ cups sugar
pinch of salt
3 cups unsalted butter (6 sticks), at room temperature**
1 Tbs vanilla extract
about 1 ½ cups Strawberry Puree (see recipe below)
about 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries (set aside for cake assembly)

In the top of a double boiler, stir together  egg whites, sugar and salt. Bring water in bottom of double boiler to a low simmer; cook until the temperature of the egg whites reaches 160°F and sugar is completely dissolved (rub mixture between fingertips-it should not feel gritty). Mixture will be foamy and not a uniform consistency.

Transfer the egg white mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. With the whisk attachment, whip until meringue is completely cooled and glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. DO NOT ADD BUTTER UNTIL BOTH THE BOWL AND FROSTING ARE COMPLETELY COOL. Switch mixer attachment from the whisk to paddles. Add butter 1-2 Tablespoons at a time until incorporated. Mixture may appear curdled at times. Continue beating until butter is fully incorporated and frosting is fluffy and smooth.  This will take about 10 minutes.  Add vanilla and beat smooth. Add strawberry filling and beat until frosting is a uniform color.

**BUTTER NOTE: butter should be at room temperature soft, but not overly soft. If the butter is too cold, it will not incorporate well into the meringue, and you will have butter chunks. If the butter is over-soft, it will cause the icing to curdle while beating-this is okay, it isn’t ruined: it will just take longer (more beating) for the frosting to become smooth. If icing still won’t set, place in the fridge for 20 minutes, and then beat again.

Strawberry Puree:
2 cups whole fresh strawberries, hulled
2 Tbs sugar

Process strawberries in a food processor until very finely chopped, but not completely liquefied. Mix in sugar.

Chocolate ganache:
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about ½ cup, slightly heaping)
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tbs corn syrup

Place the chopped chocolate into a small bowl and set aside. In a Pyrex measuring cup or microwavable bowl, combine the heavy cream and corn syrup. Heat for 30-45 seconds; stir. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Let sit for one minutes, then stir until smooth.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries:
Fresh strawberries
Chocolate and vanilla melting chocolates

Melt chocolate and vanilla melting chocolates in separate bowls. Dip strawberries in melted chocolate and place on waxed paper.

Place remaining melted chocolates in Ziploc bags and poke a hole in one corner of each bag. Drizzle strawberries with contrasting chocolate.

Let chocolate harden completely before placing on cake.

Cake Assembly:
Completely cool cake layers. Cut each layer in half to make 4 layers. Prepare frosting and ganache.

Place waxed paper strips along edges of serving plate. Place one cake layer, cut side up, on the serving plate. Waxed paper strips should cover the exposed part of the plate, but not be too far under the cake layer. Spread cake with a layer of strawberry icing. Press sliced fresh strawberries into icing. Top with another cake layer. Repeat with frosting and remaining cake layers. Ice entire cake with a thin crumb coat of icing. Refrigerate cake for 2o minutes to set slightly (optional). Create a smooth finish with remaining icing over entire cake (top of cake should be completely flat).

Drizzle cake with ganache, letting it drip down the sides. Refrigerate cake.

Decorate top and base of cake with chocolate covered strawberries.

Storage:  Store cake in refrigerator.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Lemon Cake-Mix Cookies

Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

DAY 9: Lemon Cake-Mix Cookies

A soft, lemony, slightly gooey cookie.

We make a similar cookie with a white cake mix that we call Snowball Cookies, but there was just something wrong with calling these “Yellow Snow”- ball Cookies.

This is a great recipe for kids and beginning bakers, as there is minimal measuring. Kids are also great helpers when it comes to rolling things in powdered sugar. Just plan a little extra clean-up time if you let them help with that step.

RECIPE:

Lemon Cake-Mix Cookies

Makes 2 ½ – 3 dozen cookies

Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

½ cup butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tsp fresh lemon zest, optional
1 box lemon cake mix
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, cream cheese and vanilla. Use an electric mixer to beat until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and lemon zest and then cake mix. Chill dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Place about ½ cup powdered sugar in a small bowl. Roll dough into balls (about 1” in diameter) and then roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust cooled cookies with additional sifted powdered sugar.

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9th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Almond Toffee Sandies

Almond Toffee Sandies 3

Welcome to December and No Empty Chairs’ 9th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies Celebration! Twelve more days – Twelve more cookies.

DAY 1: Almond Toffee Sandies

Similar to Pecan Sandies, but with the sweet, crunchy addition of caramel toffee bits. A new family favorite!

Almond Toffee Sandies 1

Sharing cookies and treats is one of my favorite ways to show love during the Christmas season. Another great tool to find ways to love and serve is this Light the World campaign.

Need some inspiration on ways to Light the World? This 25 Ways, Over 25 Days calendar gives great inspiration from the ultimate source of light, whose birth we celebrate. Click through for ideas on how to apply the Savior’s teachings this Christmas season:

 

Image result for light the world calendar jpg

RECIPE:

Almond Toffee Sandies

Makes about 7 dozen small cookies

Almond Toffee Sandies 2

(adapted from Taste of Home)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mild flavored olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
4 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt **
1 tsp cream of tartar
2 cups coarsely chopped whole roasted almonds
1 package (about 8 oz) toffee bits

(**reduce salt in recipe if using salted almonds)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Gradually beat in oil and vanilla and almond extracts.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt””, and cream of tartar. Mix into the butter mixture gradually. Add chopped almonds and toffee bits and mix well.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 12-13 minutes, until bottom of cookies just begin to brown. Cool on wire racks.

Light the World Image

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