I’ve been absent from the Daring Bakers’ challenges the past two months. I never thought I would dislike being away this much. However, July and August were filled with many exciting ventures and adventures, like the gorgeous vacation in Norway, a fantastic weekend in Dresden, working on my portfolio and a steady stream of some great writing jobs I managed to get in August. Add to that a few other projects I am working on and my day job plus family - I think I am doing an excellent job of fitting a 72 hour day in just 24 hours.
I am loving every minute of it though. Slowly but surely October and November is also being filled with exciting travel plans, writing jobs and it looks like my portfolio is attracting the attention I was hoping it would.
However, I have missed being a part of my usual groups like Mactweets and of course the Daring Bakers. Also missed visiting many of my favorite blogs and although I tried to compensate by trying to stay in touch with many via Twitter or Facebook, I know I missed many delicious recipes and stories on your blogs.
It dearly pained me to have missed my dear friend Sunita’s fantastic challenge Swiss Swirl ice cream cake and the lovely Elissa’s challenge of Brown Butter Baked Alaska & Ice Cream Petit Fours. Both, I so wanted to do.
This month I did find a sliver of a moment to tackle the challenge set by Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. Simple and fun basic sugar cookies and Mandy left us enough room for creativity to decorate them as we wanted to. The mandatory aspects of the challenge were to make the Basic Sugar Cookie recipe provided and the cookies could be decorated with the theme of September.
While Mandy proposed several gorgeous ideas using royal icing. I however decided to skip that entirely and decorate them using less sugary ingredients. I watch Soeren’s sugar intake and try to reduce it where ever I can so while I loved the idea of simple sugar cookies it was important to me to keep the sugar count as low as I could go with them.
Instead I spiked the cookies with a pinch of cardamom and decorated with lavender, pistachios and a few colorful sprinkles. My assistant chef, Soeren helped me with each step and together we were fairly proud of the results. What do you think?
The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.
I’d like to take this opportunity and tell you about the wonderful Drop in & Decorate events. An organization, which was started by a cherished friend, Lydia of The Perfect Pantry with a very simple concept:
“bake some cookies, invite friends or family (or neighbors, or co-workers) to stop in and help decorate, then donate your cookies to a local food pantry, emergency shelter, senior center, lunch program, or other community agency meeting the needs of food or shelter.”
Seeing that soon the cookie baking season will be upon us thought you might be interested hosting your own Drop In & Decorate event.
Sugar and Spice Cookies with Cardamom, Lavender, Pistachio and Sprinkles
Printable version of recipe here
Basic Sugar Cookies:
Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4" Cookies
200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 large Egg, lightly beaten
1 vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavorings you’re using. Beat until just becoming creamy in texture.
Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during baking, losing their shape.
- Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
Tip: If you do not have a stand mixer switch to dough hooks on your handheld electric mixer at this stage to avoid flour flying everywhere.
- Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch) Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in plastic wrap and then refrigerate it for an hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.
- Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife. Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.
Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
- Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
- Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in some cookies being baked before others are done.
Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
- Leave to cool on cooling racks. Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated cookies can last up to a month.
Pistachios, fine chopped
1 egg white
1 teaspoon water
Lightly beat the egg white with water and with a brush, lightly brush the cookies. Then use what ever decorations you have selected to and sprinkle the cookies or roll the cookies in it (in case of the pistachios).
What I loved about this recipe was that it was so simple to prepare and is wonderfully versatile. One can add any additional ingredient to add another flavor level to the cookies. Cinnamon, allspice, anis, even a touch of saffron for an exclusive kick. The simple decorations add another delicious boost to the flavor giving the cookies a new character. Using vanilla and cardamom as a base flavor in the cookies and then the added aroma of either lavender, pistachios, why even the sprinkles just make each bite a true pleasure.
Tea with the cookies, anyone?
Thanks to the wonderful Mandy for hosting this challenge and allowing us room to play around. We really had fun with these.
Now it’s time for me to go back to work and play some more ;o)
You might like these cookie ideas ideas from WFLH:
|Almond and Pink Praline Spekulatius||Milan Cookies||Salted Macadamia Nut and Chunky White Chocolate Cookies|
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