Snow Day Sugar Cookies

If there’s one thing to know about me it’s that I love learning. I’m a visual learner so, in the age of the Internet, YouTube has become my best friend. It’s amazing, really, how many different kinds of things you can learn on YouTube these days. There are so many passionate people out there making videos about things they care about! Here are some actual snippets of my YouTube search history:

  • “How to add a color knitting”
  • “How to use the Uber app”
  • “How to braid a weeping fig”
  • “How to cut a tree slab”
  • “Replant phalaenopsis orchid”
  • “Royal icing flood consistency”

This last one led me down my latest rabbit hole. Anne’s mom shared the most delicious sugar cookie recipe from her friend a few years ago, and Anne and I like to experiment with making different shaped cookies and decorations. I found one YouTube channel by Julia M. Usher, a well-regarded baker with a specialty in making cookies, that offered a wealth of knowledge on the subject. Since Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays, I thought I’d give royal icing a try with these sugar cookie hearts.

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First things first: Make Laura Kutill’s sugar cookies! I hope I meet her someday to thank her in person for this incredible recipe.

Laura Kutill's Delicious Sugar Cookies

Prep time: 15 minutes | Bake time: 10 minutes per batch | Yields: 6-7 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until light. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. Add half of the dry ingredients and incorporate. Add remaining.

Cut dough into thirds and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2+ hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll the dough 3/16″ thick on a floured surface. Cut out the cookies and place on a lined cookie sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes until the edges begin to turn a light golden brown. Cool on baking sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

From Scissors & Sage

Seven Steps to Flawless Rolled Cookies (via Julia M. Usher)

  1. Work with cold dough.
  2. Lightly flour work surface.
  3. Use a good, heavy rolling pin.
  4. Rotate dough while rolling.
  5. Roll dough relatively thin, 3/16″.
  6. Transfer cutouts with an offset spatula.
  7. Rotate for even browning.

Julia also shared her recipe for royal icing, as well as how to change the consistency for outlining, top-coating, and flooding cookies. Below are her clues to making excellent icing.

Royal Icing & Consistency Alterations (via Julia M. Usher)

Icing “Glue”

  • 2 lbs powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 5 large egg whites

Using the beater attachment, combine powdered sugar and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in egg whites and mix at low speed. Scrape down sides before increasing to high speed for 1-2 minutes. Icing will go from a gray to white in color due to increased air circulation in icing.

If desired, flavor the icing (i.e. incorporate 1 tsp of vanilla or lemon extract).

Makes 4 cups icing, which is enough to cover several dozen cookies.

Note: Color the icing once the “glue” is distributed into smaller bowls.

Outlining Consistency

For 1 cup of “glue,” add 1/2 to 3/4 tsp water. Mix gently. The icing should fall in globs off of the spoon.

Top Coating Consistency

For 1 cup of “glue,” add 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 tsps water. Mix gently. The icing should flow slowly off of the spoon and create tracks in the icing that disappear after 15 seconds.

Note: Use this icing for covering cookies without outlining first.

Flooding Consistency

For 1 cup of “glue,” add 2 to 3 tsps water. Mix very gently so as not to create air bubbles. Tap down bowl on counter to help. The icing should run off the spoon a bit faster than top coat, and tracks in icing should disappear in 10 seconds.

Note: If icing is too watered down, sift powdered sugar into the mixture.

From Scissors & Sage

All in all, I’m really glad that I tried making royal icing. It certainly took a long time to get through all 90 cookies I made, but the end result was worth it. Now I get to share my cookies with friends and family this weekend!

PS) I decided to try making Julia’s parchment pastry cones rather than use the canvas pastry bag we have. She walks you through the steps to make these simple bags, and I have to say it was very worth it. You get to just throw the bags away when you’re done rather than clean out the canvas.

Peanut Butter Butterfinger Cookies

Happy Hallows’ Eve! As Anne and I prepare to watch the ever-important Chicago Cubs game tonight, I thought I’d share the recipe for some cookies we made this weekend. They are from The Salty Marshmallow and are the perfect Halloween-themed treat. It’s not too late to make some yourself. Maybe as you cheer on the Cubs?!

The secret to these cookies is that they include Butterfinger baking bits. Think chocolate candy-meets-homemade-baked-good. Yup. You’re welcome!

If you have trick-or-treat candy lingering into the week, you could crush anything and mix it into this delicate and chewy peanut butter cookie dough. Kit Kats, Snickers, Reese’s cups, M&Ms… The list goes on.

Peanut Butter Butterfinger Cookies (from The Salty Marshmallow)

Active time: 15 minutes | Bake time: 10 minutes | Yields: 60 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups Butterfinger baking bits

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In an electric mixer, beat butter and peanut butter until fluffy. Add egg and beat until incorporated. Beat in sugars and vanilla. While the mixer is running, slowly add in the dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated. Stir in Butterfinger baking bits.

Use a spring-loaded scooper to create tablespoon-sized balls of dough. Drop onto prepared baking sheets. Press down slightly with the back of a spoon to flatten.

Bake for 10 minutes, or until bottoms are a light golden brown. Remove even if cookies do not appear completely baked. Let cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

From Scissors & Sage

Happy Halloween!

It’s Hamantaschen Season

Hamantaschen season is the best season. Purim is right around the corner and although I’m not Jewish, I know a good pastry when I eat one. When I was looking into a hamantaschen recipe to try, the most popular comment I read was that these just don’t work. It was either the dough, the filling, or the triangles fell apart while baking. Many said that these weren’t worth trying, and that it’s easier to just go buy them from a bakery.

I’m here to say that there’s hope! I adapted this recipe from Bon Appetit, and Anne can attest to their swoon-worthy quality. I wouldn’t call the recipe too intensive, although there are a few steps involved. Baking with a friend or significant other definitely wouldn’t hurt! We ended up baking one disc of dough (see recipe below) and freezing the other to bake a week later. The second batch turned out just as delicious as the first.

Hamantaschen (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Active time: 35 minutes | Bake time: 16 minutes | Yields: 36 hamantaschen

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • jams or preserves

Whisk baking powder, salt, and flour in a bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugar on medium-high until pale and fluffy, five minutes. Add two eggs one at a time, beating to combine after each addition. Scrape down bowl when needed.

Reduce speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until the dough has come together. Divide dough in half. Form two discs about 3/4-inch thick, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2+ hours.

Place oven racks in upper and lower thirds. Preheat to 350°F. Take out one disc from the refrigerator, and let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes. Place disc between two sheets of wax paper. Roll out dough until 1/4-inch thick. Peel back upper wax paper and use a 3-inch cookie cutter to cut out rounds. Use a spatula to transfer rounds to parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Gather scraps and repeat.

Place 1 teaspoon of jam in the center of each round. Brush a beaten egg generously around the edges of the rounds. Fold up and pinch the sides to create triangles. Brush all exposed dough and seams with egg again. Take out second disc as you put the first batch into the oven.

Bake for 16 minutes or until light golden brown, switching racks halfway through. Let cool in pan for five minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for 3-5 days.

From Scissors & Sage

Happy Purim, and happy daylight savings!

On Baking Bread

Anne and I didn’t get engaged with rings. Instead, we exchanged meaningful gifts with one another so that we could choose our rings together. I gave Anne a genealogy chart of both of our families dating back to the mid-1800s, and Anne gave me a KitchenAid stand mixer–a symbol of ingredients mixing and coming together to form something greater than themselves.

(Here’s me and “Pistachio.”)

Over the weekend, I decided to give my new dough hook a try. I’ve always wanted to bake bread from scratch, and what better time than now? The KitchenAid came with a booklet of staple recipes, this being one of them. I gathered the few ingredients and set out on a bread making quest. Our apartment smelled like a bakery, and I can officially say that I am “hooked” on baking bread. The loaves are soft and moist on the inside and crispy on the outside. Brushing the pans and top of the dough with olive oil gives the baked bread a hint of an olive taste. You might as well be sitting in a restaurant in an Italian piazza.

Rapid Mix Cool Rise White Bread (via KitchenAid)

Active time: 25 minutes | Bake time: 40 minutes | Yields: 2 loaves

Ingredients:

  • 6-7 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 3 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups very warm water (120°F to 130°F)

Place 5 1/2 cups flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and butter in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and dough hook to mixer. Turn to speed 2 and mix about 20 seconds. Gradually, add warm water and mix about 1 1/2 minutes longer.

Continuing on speed 2, add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Knead on speed 2 about 2 minutes longer.

Cover dough with plastic wrap and a towel [or blanket]. Let rest 20 minutes.

Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll each half into a rectangle, approximately 9 x 14 inches. Starting at a short end, roll the dough tightly. Pinch to seal the seam. Pinch the ends and turn them under. Place the dough, seam side down, in two greased loaf pans. Brush each loaf with olive oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 to 12 hours.

When ready to bake, uncover dough carefully. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Puncture any gas bubbles which may have formed. Bake at 400°F for 35 to 40 minutes until golden. Remove from pans immediately and cool on a wire rack.

from Scissors & Sage

(Fresh and steamy out of the oven)

These ingredients certainly did create something greater than their individual selves. They reacted to one another and the elements surrounding them, changing their chemical makeup to grow and expand into something delicious.

Moroccan Chickpea Soup

I don’t think that I’ve mentioned this on Scissors & Sage before, but beyond my work as a music therapist, I’m also part-time at a home and garden store outside of Philly called terrain. I was hired as a seasonal nursery associate, and have been really enjoying my time there.

Over the weekend, terrain had its holiday open house–a huge event that kicks of the season with festivities for all. I decided to enter myself into the employee soup competition with an original recipe for Moroccan chickpea soup. Although it didn’t win, I do think that it’s worth sharing here. Many people enjoyed it for its spicy kick and flavorful ingredients. It’s a recipe that I know I’ll come back to several times this winter.

It’s worth noting that this recipe happens to be vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free. Perfect for most any food restriction! I hope that you enjoy it, and that it warms your bones. It just got really cold in Philly.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Moroccan Chickpea Soup

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 1 hour | Yields: 4 quarts

Ingredients:

  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 2 Yukon gold potatoes, diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 32 oz canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup liquid from a can of chickpeas
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground coriander
  • 64 oz vegetable broth
  • 28 oz canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onions and garlic, and sauté until cooked. Add spices and toast, stirring continuously. Deglaze using one cup of vegetable broth.

Add carrots and potatoes, and cook for five minutes. Add liquid from the chickpea can, and cook for five additional minutes.

Add diced tomatoes and cook for five minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Add remaining vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cover for 15 minutes.

Add chickpeas and lemon zest, and simmer for a final 5-10 minutes. Enjoy immediately, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to five days.

From Scissors & Sage