• December 12Trim-A-Tree continues thanks to NHS. As of 12/12, Ms. Lewis has a slight lead over Mrs. Hamilton! Who will be the Trim-a-Tree champ?

  • November 16Midterms were sent home with students on November 16, 2018. Ask your student to see his report.

The Cardinal Spirit

The Cardinal Spirit

Filed under Features

Holiday Baking Can Be Easy and Fun

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  • Peanut butter blossoms are a Christmas classic. Try rolling the dough in red or green sugar before baking for a festive and colorful touch.

    Photo found at https://www.hersheys.com/kitchens/en_us/recipes/peanut-butter-blossoms.html

  • These simple nut clusters are great for small children to make and a unique addition to your holiday cookie tray.

  • Sugar cookies can become works of art with royal icing.

    Photo found at https://happyholidaysblog.com/christmas-sugar-cookies-with-royal-icing

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Each family has their own set of traditions during the holidays that makes the season special, and brings them all together. One of the most common is baking- kitchens covered in flour and sugar with the delicious smell of cookies wafting through the air means that the holidays are here! Baking holiday treats makes for scrumptious gifts for friends, great desserts for Christmas Day, and cherished memories with family for years to come. However, sometimes baking Christmas cookies and more can be a daunting task. With a few tips, tricks, and recipes, you can bake traditional desserts with ease right in your own kitchen, and make new traditions of your own!

TIPS:

  • Always soften your butter before baking cookies- Set out your butter the night before and let it soften naturally, for fluffier cookies that will not spread all over the pan. Avoid trying to quickly soften your butter in the microwave, for it can easily get too melty.
  • Rotate the cookies halfway between baking-  Place your cookies on the bottom rack of the oven, and when half the baking time is up, rotate the pan and place it on the top rack for the remainder of the bake time. This gets nice, even browning on your cookies.
  • Don’t overbeat your batters or doughs- When throwing together a cake batter or a cookie dough, you might be tempted to mix the ingredients for very long to make sure it is all incorporated properly. However, this will take all the air out of your confection, making it tough and dense. Just mix until you can not see individual ingredients anymore, and it is all uniform.

TRICKS:

 

  • Coat fruit or chunky ingredients in cornstarch or flour- If you are making a batter that contains chunky ingredients, such as chocolate chips, fruit, nuts, or more, coat them in flour or cornstarch before putting them in the batter to prevent them from sinking down to the bottom.
  • Cool your cakes and cookies-  Let your cookies cool on a cooling rack before transferring them to a container (they could break or get wet in the containers). Also, let your baked goods cool before taking them out of the pans and frosting them to prevent breakage and messy melted frosting.
  • Experiment with cookie making methods- Ingredients play a big part in the flavor and texture of your cookies. For example, using brown sugar in your dough will give your cookies a deeper, caramel flavor and darker color. Chilling your cookie dough before rolling and baking it will ensure that your cookies stay softer in the middle and will not spread all over the pan. Play around with ingredients until you get your “perfect” recipe- it’s okay if you botch a few batches!
  • Add coffee to chocolate recipes- Replace water with brewed black coffee (cooled), or use a teaspoon of espresso powder in chocolate recipes to really bring out the chocolate flavor.  

 

RECOMMENDED TOOLS AND GADGETS:

 

 

So now that you have the tips and tricks for successful baking, it’s time to get started.  The following recipes can help get your holiday baking underway.

RECIPES:

Slow Cooker Peanut Chocolate Clusters- This recipe is great for beginners, and those who do not want to bake a dessert in the oven. Great for families with little kids or small siblings! I recently made a batch of these with my siblings, and they were delicious! The recipe is adapted from: https://www.browneyedbaker.com/slow-cooker-peanut-clusters/

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces unsalted peanuts (or dry roasted peanuts)
  • 16 ounces salted cocktail peanuts
  • 1 (12-ounce bag) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips
  • 2 (10-ounce bags) peanut butter chips
  • 2 (16-ounce packages) white almond bark or vanilla candy melts (can also use milk chocolate bark as well)

Directions:

  1. Layer all the ingredients together in order in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours. To prevent burning, stir every 30 minutes.
  2. If not all melted after the 2 hours, set on low for an additional 30 minutes.
  3. Using a spoon or an ice cream scoop, scoop the melted candy into mounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cool until completely set at room temperature, usually about 1-2 hours. Transfer to an airtight container, and enjoy!

Hershey’s Peanut Butter Blossoms- This little cookie is a tried-and-true recipe that will be a great crowd pleaser. Adapted from: https://www.hersheys.com/kitchens/en_us/recipes/peanut-butter-blossoms.html

Ingredients:

  • 48 Hershey’s Kisses
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ¾ cup peanut butter
  • ⅓ cup white granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅓ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup additional white sugar for rolling, or ⅓ cup red & green granulated sugar sprinkles

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Unwrap your chocolates.
  2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.
  3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet. For a fun twist, roll the balls in red and green sugar sprinkles instead, for a cute Christmas adaptation.
  4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Makes 48 cookies.

Royal Icing Recipe- Baking sugar cookies is fairly easy, but making the perfect glossy royal icing to decorate them with is nearly impossible. With a fail-proof recipe, your perfectly frosted cookies will be the envy of all! This recipe is adapted from: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/royal-icing-recipe-1941917

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces pasteurized eggs whites (about 3 eggs worth of egg whites)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar (also known as powdered sugar)

Directions:

  1. In a large stand mixer, combine the eggs whites and vanilla, beat until frothy.
  2. Gradually, add the confectioners sugar with the mixer on low speed, mix until all the sugar is incorporated and the mixture is shiny and glossy.
  3. Turn the mix speed up to high, and beat until the mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks. This usually takes anywhere from 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add food coloring if desired, and transfer the mixture to a piping bag and you’re ready to go. If you are saving it for later, put the icing in a heavy duty storage/Ziploc bag, and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days.

 

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Holiday Baking Can Be Easy and Fun