Halloween Honey Cookies

Halloween Honey Cookies 1

I tend to make the bulk of my rolled out cookies during the holidays. But since I was craving my honey cookies, and Halloween is just around the corner, I decided to make some this week. They’ll make fun care packages…

Halloween Honey Cookies 2
My favorite Halloween cookie cutter is the scary cat. When decorated with the spooky purple rubble sprinkles, it’s adorable (and tasty!):
Halloween Honey Cookies 3

Honey Cookies

  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Cream vegetable shortening, sugar, egg, honey, and lemon extract in your mixer or a large bowl until light and fluffy. Sift in flour, baking soda, and salt; stir until well blended. Separate dough into 3 balls and wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured board, roll dough 1/4-inch thick and cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutters.  Place 1-inch apart onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake 8 minutes. They will look pretty brown due to the honey but don’t fret! Adding the icing will moisten them up, making a crispier cookie better. Decorate with your favorite royal icing and cover with festive Halloween sprinkles like these or colored sugar.

Holiday Cookies

image from @sferika on instagram.com

Baking holiday cookies has been an annual tradition of mine since junior high school. In fact, I've been making my honey cookies, seen above, since then.

image from @sferika on instagram.com

A few years ago, I added these gorgeous chocolate shortbread cookies to the mix. I love that they are a tiny bite-sized chocolate bomb. I've traditionally always topped them with chopped pistachios, but this year decided to try something new and covered some of them with chopped up See's molasses chips.

image from @sferika on instagram.com

And back by popular demand, I made the peppermint surprise cookies that were such a hit last year. I had intended to try a new recipe of some sort as well, but the above took me the whole weekend — an entire day to bake (I did double batches of each) and another day decorating them.

image from @fynralyl

It was all worth it when I took in my goodie bags and cookie tins and shared them with colleagues and friends. It was a nice way to say goodbye to folks, with something sweet in hand.

A Cookie Baking Weekend

image from farm8.staticflickr.com

I spent all of this weekend baking cookies. Chocolate shortbread. Honey Merry Christmas rolled out cookies. Peppermint surprise chocolate cookies. Then I spent the better part of today decorating them. Milk chocolate used as glue for getting smashed candy cane bits to stick to the peppermint surprise or the chocolate shortbread (which also had a set with pistachios on top.)

But the big push was icing and sugaring all the honey cookies. I try to do a wide variation in decorating these cookies– some with only a little sugar and icing, others with sprinkles, and only a few that go full out with the icing and sugar. For some reason, folks can be a little timid about biting the top off a big sugar coated tree. Which is why I always make so many of those wee stars. I consider them to be the gateway cookies. People take one to be polite and bite in, expecting a dry, flavorless vanilla sugar cookie, and instead are hit with the aromatics and taste of the honey. And *then* the go for the tree.

These honey cookies are pretty much the only holiday tradition I have carried with me from childhood onward. I remember making these cookies with my mother and grandmother as early as 7 years of age. And using some of the same HRM cookie cutters I used today. (As an aside, that snowman is my most favorite cookie cutter ever. I use it sparingly however as it is cracked. I keep hoping to find a set of them in a junk shop.) And just as I did as a child, I make my own colored sugar, using regular old table sugar and food coloring. I've never developed a taste for those bigger pre-colored sugar crystals. For me, the hand colored sugar is what these cookies need to be complete.

The next step of course will be to package up all these treats, then give them away to the folks who have made my life a better, happier place in the past year. I'm planning to put a number of them in the mail and hope they won't be too battered when they arrive. And hope that the folks who open up their mailbox to find a small package of the cookies know that even if I don't always say it, they are most appreciated and greatly missed.

The only fly in the ointment in this cookie euphoria is my SO had oral surgery last week and is on a strict no chew diet. I reserved a couple of the cookies for him, however, to be crunched up into a milkshake. It's not as fabulous as the finished cookies mind you, but it will do in a pinch.

I would have waited until he is back on solid foods, but since I am taking vacation time for the two weeks prior to Christmas, this was my only chance to bake cookies to bring in to work.

I haven't had the weeks prior to Christmas off in at least 5 years, probably longer. But this year, since I hadn't taken a 2-week break, and my SO has the time off from his Master's in Library Science studies, I am thrilled to be able to get the time off. I plan to go do some volunteering at the SPCA holiday windows, have a lunch or three with friends I don't get to see often enough, and to trek out to the Valley to see the other Erika.

I'm totally looking forward to my leisurely long holiday break.

Red Velvet Cookies

sort of more auburn velvet cookies

I finally got around to making those red velvet cookies I saw over on Fake Ginger's blog.

After making them today, I would call these more like devilishly chocolate chip cookies more than red velvet, truth be told, but I did really like them. I'm less excited about having ruined my manicure with the red food coloring.

I made a couple of tiny tweaks to the recipe, trying to get more of a red velvety taste, and to account for the original recipe's comments regarding amount of wet ingredients.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg

In a liquid measuring cup, add together:
1 teaspoon red food coloring
1 tsp lemon juice
fill up to 1/4 cup line with heavy cream

In a large bowl, sift or stir together:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 375. Cream the butter and sugars in an electric mixer. Mix in the egg. Pour in the cream mixture, scraping down the sides to get as much of the red coloring into your bowl as possible. After this is just mixed in, add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. You will have a fairly thick dough.

Use a cookie scoop to form your cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes or until cookies start to firm up.

Yields 38 cookies.

Holiday Star Cookies

Holiday star cookies, originally uploaded by almostgold.

Starting in on the frosted+sugared cookies now.

 Merry Christmas Cookies

1/3 cup vegetable shortening

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

2/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon lemon extract

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, cream vegetable shortening, sugar, egg, honey, and lemon extract until light and fluffy. Sift in flour, baking soda, and salt; stir until well blended. Refrigerate dough at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  Lightly grease cookie sheets.

On a lightly floured board, roll dough 1/4-inch thick and cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutters.  Place 1-inch apart onto prepared cookie sheets. 

Bake 8-10 minutes. Ice with your favorite royal icing technique. I like to slather them in frosting then cover them with colored sugar. 

Share with those you love.

Goodbye Mother’s Cookies?

Animals My local paper reported that 92-year-old Oakland institution Mother’s Cookies is shutting down operations. I’ve been a fan of their sugary goodness since I was small. During our weekly grocery store trips, my mom would let me pick 1 package of their cookies as my treat for the week. I’d usually alternate between the Taffys and the Iced Oatmeals. The circus animals with their garish pink and white icing and sprinkles were not on the approved eating list — but my baby sitter would usually buy some for me. Shhhh.

Goodbye Mother’s Cookies. You made many little (and not so little) children happy.

UPDATE: But you can remember the Circus Animal cookies forever via a t-shirt. Thx Joshua.

holiday baking shortcut: gingerbread edition

I made gingerbread cookies yesterday, to take to a holiday party. The royal icing on top is such an amazing thing. It goes from marshmallowy consistency to shiny hard icing in such a short amount of time.

I made the icing from scratch, of course, but I cheated on the cookies. With my wrist repetitive stress injury, I didn’t want to deal with molasses. (I have lingering memories of the arm strain from making lebkuchen as a child.) So I did what any other savvy consumer would do — I bought the Williams-Sonoma mix at the mall last week.

The cookies are yum and no one will ever know my little secret.

Specialtys Cookies…a Nefarious (but tasty) Treat

If you work in downtown San Francisco, eventually you encounter…the Specialtys cookie.

Upon first glance, the thick wedge of a cookie seems a little strange. It’s not the little round cookie blob you see shoved into jars on countless deli counters. And it’s not the small circles like you make at home.

But once you bite in to your first black and white, or milk chocolate, or almond tea cookie, you’re doomed. You will start having the midafternoon Specialtys cookie cravings.

My friend Stacy got hooked on the almond tea cookies and only broke their grip on her afternoons by taking a job without a Specialtys in walking distance.

I’d forgotten about this nefarious (but tasty) evil until my significant other started working downtown last month. Turns out someone had brought some in at his workplace. And now, he was hooked. In the past week, a good half dozen of those cookies have come home with us.

You have been warned.