It's absolutely freezing outside today and I so thought these snowman cookies
would be appropriate right about now.
The little one and I had the pleasure of visiting my four-year-old's
kindergarten classroom last week to bake cookies. The class has been learning
about the brachot or blessings on food and last week was mezonot* week.
We arrived at school at 9am and left three hours later after a visit that
was messy, exhausting and a lot of fun. The kids and I made sugar cookie dough**
together; they each got two turns to pour in the ingredients and hold the mixer and
then all of a sudden, it was snack time! I love snack time!
After the snacks were cleared away, hands were washed and the tables wiped
down (so much cleaning in preschool - I've either forgotten about that part of teaching
or I wasn't such a tidy teacher), it was time to roll out the dough. But alas, there
was no rolling pin. So we just kind of smashed the dough down and everyone had their
turn to use the snowman cookie cutter to cut out their cookies.
Once the cookies were baked, the real fun began.
To make these snowman cookies at home, just gather together the following:
1 lb. confectioner's sugar
6 tbsps water
6 tbsps light corn syrup
Oreo cookies, scored and halved for hats
jelly beans for a nose
mini chocolate chips for the eyes and mouth
mini dot candies for buttons
either Pull 'n Peel licorice or Sour Sticks for the scarves
some popsicle sticks
a big mixing bowl and a spoon
I know, it seems like a lot, but it all came together pretty quickly.
The teacher (Morah Sarah - love her! So far all of my school-age kids have had the
amazing experience of spending a year in Morah Sarah's kindergarten!) divided
the kids up into three groups because cookie decorating with 16 kids at once,
plus an extra two-year-old, can get crazy pretty quickly.
One by one, the groups came to the table and spread the white "snow" icing
on their cookies.
To make the icing, pour the confectioner's sugar into your mixing bowl. Add
the 6 tbsps of water and mix until all the sugar is diluted. It's fine to add
more water if needed, but don't let the icing get too thin because then it will
run right off the cookies and the snowman will looked all melty. Once the
sugar is diluted, add the corn syrup and mix well.
Using a spoon, drop a small amount of icing on each cookie and let the kids
use (clean!) popsicle sticks to spread the icing. The icing also acts as the
glue for all the candies and cookies.
I had made one cookie ahead of time and left it on the table for the kids
to look at, but they were free to decorate any way they wanted.
The cookies ended up being absolutely adorable and were even cuter
looking once they were all lined up on the table together. Sadly, I was so
focused on the decorating, I forgot to take too many pictures.
On the way home, I realized that I had hardly taken any pictures at all but I
remembered that Morah Sarah had said she was going to send home a cookie with each
student. I figured I'd just take a picture of the one my daughter was going to
bring home, but sadly (or maybe not sadly, maybe they were just that yummy),
hers was eaten before it was my turn to pull to the front of the pick-up line
Oh well, at least my little one took a very long nap that afternoon. School is tiring!
*Mezonot? Mezonot is the Hebrew word for the category of food that includes
cookies, cakes, donuts, muffins, really anything you'd find in a bakery,
except for bread, which has its own bracha.
** It was awesome because I found a recipe that did not need to be
chilled for 30 minutes, like so many sugar cookie recipes require. Instead, we
went from measuring to mixing to rolling out the dough in less than 45 minutes,
which, when baking with 16 four-year-olds, is really the equivalent of two
minutes. Maybe three.
No no no, I didn't have a baby, bite your tongue, my hands are quite full,
But this past week, one of my besties, Debbie, had a baby boy after two
girls. We were all very excited - especially because this means another excuse
to bake and eat random cookies and cakes in the name of taste-testing - which brings me to these: Chocolate Dipped Rice Krispie Treats on a Wednesday.
I had this post ready to go for Cookie Tuesday and then I just totally forgot to post it. So here it is, a little late.
In the Jewish tradition, the first thing one might think of when faced with the birth of a new baby boy is the brit milah, the circumcision on the 8th day of life. However, before that event takes place, there is a custom to have a shalom zachar on the Friday night preceding the brit milah.
So what in the world is a shalom zachor and why does it involve taste-testing cookies?
The word shalom means peace or welcome and the word zachar literally means boy - so the name of the party in honor of the newborn can be defined as a Welcome Boy party. However, there is also another meaning to the word zachar. Zachar can also mean to remember. And what are we remembering exactly? So it's like this - it is believed that
when a baby is in his mother's womb, he learns the entire Torah by heart and when he is born, he forgets it. And so this shalom zachar is meant to be a comfort to this new baby boy who has forgotten all of the Torah and all of it's sweetness. The friends and family that gather together for this party are there to not only welcome the new baby but to remember with him the memory of all that he knew, and look to the future of all that he will learn.
In practical terms, the shalom zachar is a kind of like a drop-in party, where family, friends, neighbors, and anyone who hears about it and wants a dessert, comes to the family's house to wish a mazal tov or congratulations, have a l'chaim, which loosely translated means to drink some liquor, and to have some dessert.
Which brings me to the cookies. I made these last week, as the shalom zachar was this past Friday night. Do rice krispie treats qualify as cookies? I think if it were the winter, I would say no. But seeing how hot it is out and seeing how not turning on the oven is still priority number one, I'm going to go with a big fat yes.
Pretty much everyone knows how to make rice krispie treats, but these are a
little different. These were cut into squares and dunked in melted chocolate
ganache, with the ganache allowed to harden over night. And they were yummy, if
I may say so myself.
Here's what I did.
First things first, lay a piece of parchment paper inside the pan you plan
on using to make your rice krispie treats. I used a disposable 9x13 pan.
Next, take one container of marshmallow fluff and a half a stick of margarine and melt them together in the microwave - I just add the margarine to the open container of fluff and microwave it in 15 second intervals. After about 30 seconds, the fluff is usually warm enough to easily pour into a larger microwave-safe bowl. Keep in mind that before heating the fluff even for this short amount of time, it would have been almost impossible to spoon it out of the container, hence the reason for the two steps.
Take the new larger bowl, cover it with a paper towel (you'll thank me later when the fluff doesn't explode all over your microwave) and microwave it for about 60 seconds, stopping every ten seconds to stir it.
Once the fluff and margarine are melted together, add the rice krispies. I
used a 14 ounce box. Mix the ingredients together.
Pour the mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly to all the edges and then
using the back of a large spoon to really pack those rice krispies in there. The
better you pack it in, the easier the rice krispie treats will slice later on.
Cover the pan with foil and refrigerate for an hour. Alternatively, if it's
not hot like an oven in your kitchen and you are not in a rush, you can just
leave the pan on the counter and come back the next day. Since I met neither of
those requirements, I put the pan in the fridge.
Meanwhile, it's time to make the ganache. Heat a defrosted 8 ounce
container of Rich's Whip in the microwave until it is just just simmering. Pour
the simmering liquid over a pot containing 9 ounces of finely chopped chocolate
- it can be semi-sweet, dark, milk, whatever you prefer. As long as it is finely
Cover the pot with a towel and let the mixture sit for five minutes. When
the time is up, uncover and mix with a spoon. The chocolate should be almost all
melted. Keep mixing until the chocolate is all incorporated. Allow the chocolate
mixture to cool and thicken on the counter. Don't do what I did the first time I
made this and stick the pot in the fridge to help things along. It won't help,
you will just wind up with a grainy chocolate syrup. Be patient and it will all
Anyway, come back an hour later, remove the foil from the rice krispie
treat pan and placing a cutting board over the top of the pan, flip the entire
pan and cutting board over so that the cutting board is on the bottom and the
rice krispie treats are on top, upside down. Lay the whole thing on the counter
and remove the pan from the treats and peel off the parchment paper.
Carefully, and using a very sharp knife, cut the rice krispie treats into
Line the treats up on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Mix the
ganache, which by now had cooled and thickened on your countertop, with a spoon
until it comes to a dippable consistency. One at a time, dip the treats halfway
into the ganache, allowing the excess to drip off. Place them on the cookie
sheet and allow the chocolate to harden all the way, an hour or two. At this
point, you can also put the cookie sheet in the fridge to help things along.
Because the ganache had already cooled, it won't become grainy when placed in
Once they're all dry, eat. Or package them up and send them over to a new
baby boy's house, knowing that his mommy is a huge fan of rice krispie treats
and chocolate. Perfect.
Today I present the third and final sugar-free cookie that we gave my dad for his birthday. We baked all three recipes in one afternoon, one after the next - and the whole project didn't take that long. These were the last to go into the oven and I think I can say, these were the easiest. The rugelach were the hardest and the peanut butter, while also very easy are slightly more time consuming because each cookie needs to be flattened out on it's own or else you will wind up with peanut butter balls, not an altogether tragedy, just now what we were going for this time.
For the cookies, you will need:
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup Smart Beat margarine 3/4 cup Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking
1/4 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups uncooked old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup chocolate chips
Here's the how to: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray two cookies sheets with cooking spray. In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix the margarine, both Splendas, the eggs and vanilla until totally mixed. Slowly add the flour and baking soda and mix well. Add in the chocolate chips and oatmeal and combine by hand, until blended.
Use heaping tablespoons, drop the batter onto the cookie sheets. Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before storing in an airtight container. This recipe made 2 dozen pretty big cookies but these can always be made smaller to yield extra cookies.
Are they good? I don't know. I try not to eat things with sugar substitutes, but my Dad loves them!
If you have been following along, you might remember that my kids decorated these boxes for my dad for his birthday. They want to fill them with treats - my kids have been very into baking lately. My father, however, can't have sugar due to his diabetes. I am always finding recipes that use a sugar substitute but most of them are not very tasty. These, however, take the cake. Or the rugelah, as the case may be.
We also made sugar-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies that you can see here and some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that I will be sharing soon.
Here is what you need for the dough:
- 1 cup reduced calorie margarine - we used Smart Balance (or maybe Smart Beat, I can never remember what it is called)
- 8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese
- 3 cups flour
Mix all until smooth, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
For the filling:
- 2 tablespoons cocoa
- 1/2 cup Splenda Sugar Blend
- 1/2 cup oil
Mix all and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Following the directions for these rugelach here, shape your sugar-free rugelach and place them on a greased cookie sheet.
The only difference here is that instead of dividing the dough into four sections, I divided it into three - and when it came to cutting the triangles, instead of cutting each circle of dough into 16 triangles, I only cut these into 8 triangles. Yes, there were fewer rugelach in the end, but I was getting verrrry tiiiired.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely and freeze until your dad's birthday. Or you know, eat them now. Either way works.
So this time the rugelach actually came out like they were supposed to - as opposed to last time when they did not at all do what they were supposed to do.
This time, however, I used a dairy dough, with cream cheese in it, in honor of Shavuot, where there is a custom to eat dairy foods. I rarely bake anything that is dairy, my kitchen is just not equipped for it. I only have one dairy cookie sheet and one dairy mixing bowl and no dairy measuring cups, so baking dairy cakes and cookies is always an adventure. And this time was no exception. And yet, shockingly, these came out very good.
Here's what we did:
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 eight oz package of cream cheese
1 and 1/4 cups margarine
3 tablespoons sugar
Mix all of the above until a dough is formed. If you have a mixer that you use for dairy ingredients, go for it. If you're like me, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, using a large spoon and all the muscles in your arms. When it becomes too difficult to use the spoon, move the dough onto a floured counter top and knead it until it is smooth. It's not a sticky dough so it shouldn't make too much of a mess on your counter. Whew!
Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour, or until the kids go down for a nap. Either one.
Once the dough has been chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and unwrap it and divide it into four sections. Roll out one section into a circle, about 10" in diameter. There's a trick to rolling out dough into a circle. It doesn't always work for me, but it works often enough - and who knows, it might just work for you all the time. Here's how it goes: As your use the rolling pin to roll out the dough, rotate the dough clockwise 45 degrees after every fourth time you pass the rolling pin over the dough. That way the dough forms rounded edges instead of becoming a rectangle like when you only roll in one direction. Make sense?
Anyway, once you have something resembling a circle, wash your hands and make the filling. Of course you can do this beforehand, like when the dough in chilling, but I forgot. To make the filling, combine 1 cup sugar, 4 tablespoons cocoa and 1/2 cup oil. Spread 1/4 of the filling over your circle of dough.
Using a pizza cutter, crisscross the dough into 8 triangles, and then do it again to make 16 triangles. If you would like to make larger rugelach, leave the 8 triangles, but today we are making mini ones, so 16 triangles it is.
Carefully roll up one triangle at a time, starting from the wider or outside section of the triangle, rolling towards the point of the triangle. Move the rolled up rugelah to a greased baking sheet and continue on with all the triangles. Rinse and repeat with the other sections of dough.
Once the pan is full, brush the rugelach with beaten egg yolk and bake the rugelach for 15 minutes, or until they turn a light golden brown. Allow them to cool completely and store them in an airtight bag or container. These freeze very well but they also last for a good week if they are stored properly. The recipe make 64 mini rugelach.
I thought these were really good but the real test will come tomorrow morning when the kids wake up and taste test them. We'll have to wait and see if they're lunchbox worthy.
Welcome to Cookie Tuesday: where we bake the cookies anyway, even though we can take one look at the dough and know they are gonna crash and burn. See? I share my failures too.
Today's recipe was one that I have been searching for - for quite some time actually. My kids love rugelach but in general, rugelach are either made with a yeast dough (somewhat of a pain) or with shortening (gross). And so I have been looking for one that is made without yeast and without trans-fat. When I saw this recipe - made with no yeast and with oil - I should have known something was up. But I chose to ignore my radar and make them anyway.
And here, sadly, is what happened. I mixed the dough exactly as the recipe was written, which is unusual for me, but somewhere deep down I must have felt that if I deviated from the instructions the results would be worse than they were.
I mixed together:
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup sugar until creamy.
3 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 cup of orange juice
1 teaspoon of vanilla
These last four ingredients were added by alternating the wet and dry ingredients. The dough was then mixed until everything was incorporated. As instructed, I placed the dough into the fridge for one hour. But even before I did that, I knew something was off. The dough was just so sticky, there was no way that an hour in the fridge was going to help. Spending the night in the fridge wouldn't help this dough. But I persevered. And also, I couldn't bake anything else while this dough was in the fridge because the dough was in the bowl from my kitchen aid. So I wiped the counter down and let it be. And besides, it was time for the baby to have a bottle and for the older one to nap, so leave the kitchen we did.
An hour (okay, more like three hours) later, we came back. As per the instructions again, we floured the counter and dumped out the dough onto the floured counter - except it wouldn't come out of the bowl. It was so sticky that when I turned the bowl completely upside down, the dough did not even move at all. It just stayed there, stuck to the bowl like a sweaty fat man on a leather couch*. I scraped the dough out onto the counter, dumped a truckload of flour on top and mixed and kneaded, which I was quite peeved about because if I wanted to knead something, I would have just made a yeast dough.
Anyway, finally, finally, I was able to roll it out into a rectangle. Now, I have made rugelach before and one would normally roll the dough into a circle because rugelach are made by cutting a circle of dough into 8 or 12 triangles (crisscrossing the dough with a pizza cutter - if that helps with the imagery), spreading filling on top and then rolling up each triangle, starting at the bottom of the triangle and rolling towards the tip of the triangle. Make sense? I wish I had a picture to show you, but alas, I could not cut triangles from this dough. All I got was the rectangle. This rectangle, actually:
But okay, I could work with a rectangle. I figured I would spread the filling (in this case, a mixture of equal parts sugar and cocoa) over the rectangular dough and roll the dough up, jelly-roll style, with the plan being to then cut the jelly-roll into slices and bake then like that.
Except that the dough must have forgotten how much flour I had already added to it because it was still stuck to the counter. At that point, it was already 2:30pm and I have to get my boys from school at 3pm. What to do? So I scraped the dough back up, filling and all, and rolled small pieces into balls and placed them on the cookie sheet that has been waiting so patiently to bake some rugelach. Oh, and I dipped each ball into more of the filling mixture before putting it on the cookie sheet.
The cookies baked in a preheated 350 oven for 15 minutes. They looked exactly the same coming out as they did going into the oven. Not such a good sign. But Josh was brave. He tasted one. And he said they weren't bad. He even asked if I could make them again. I said I could try, but I really have no idea how much flour I mixed in there. Could be one extra cup, could be three. But make them again, most likely, not.
We will move on from here and give a silent prayer of thanks that Tuesday is over. And also that Cookie Tuesday only come around once a week. So. Much. Pressure.
*Are you laughing? Cause I was. For a long time. That was Josh's editing there. My original sticky dough analogy was "like doody on a potty". I'm still not sure which is more inappropriate and/or disgusting, but there you have it.
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)