This is my first (and perhaps only) food post, and guess what, I’m going to post recipes, too, but in order to get to the recipe you have to read the entire post, where you’ll discover the complicated history of the sugar cookie and learn about how these cookies have become the soothing balm needed to heal my broken heart. Kidding! These are cookies, not tattoos!
I love baking. It’s something I’m decent at, and I’m a tiny bit proud of that.
Hands up if, as a kid, you thought your mom, or your grandma was the world’s most accomplished baker. I know I did. What I’ve come to realize, however, is that the reason their baking tasted so good is because we loved them so much. We associate the foods they prepared with the way their hands looked as they kneaded the dough, or the way we felt standing beside them on a stool us as we cracked our first egg.
But if there was a blind taste-test between samples of my baking and my moms, mine would win, no question. I don’t like to brag, but there it is. Sorry mom. You use too many raisins.
Mince? But why?
The first rule of Christmas baking is understanding what to bake vs. what to buy, and the second rule is understanding what to avoid entirely, like mince anything, or anything with candied fruit.
The only candied fruit that is allowed in my kitchen are red and green candied cherries. And the only place candied red and green cherries are allowed to exist is on top of a shortbread cookie.
My mom likes mincemeat and fruitcake. She also likes the hot cross buns that you buy at Easter with the colourful fruit inside. My problem with all of these baked goods isn’t necessarily taste, but texture. With mince and candied fruit there is an element of surprise that disturbs me. Take a bite, chew, chew, flavour is OK, and then BAM! weird unexplained crunch. It’s unsettling.
What to bake vs. what to buy
Another rule is to not waste time baking something complicated when there is a store-bought version that tastes almost as good and is significantly cheaper.
Like Nanaimo bars, for instance. You can buy an entire flat of delicious Nanaimo bars from Costco for $10. To purchase all of the ingredients to make your own you’re looking at $30 and about 2 hours in the kitchen. A person who makes $25 per hour just paid $80 for Nanaimo bars that would have cost $10 from Costco. This is what I refer to as “baking math.” It might be fundamentally flawed, but it’s worth considering.
Furthermore, you can buy Forty Creek Nanaimo Bar Cream, which is the booze version of a Nanaimo bar that you can sip while you’re baking. Discovering this delightful concoction blew my mind, and if you haven’t heard of it yet, you’re welcome.
Let’s not get too fancy
Some of the most delicious baking is the simplest. Faux Almond Roca with a saltine base? Fancy? Heck no! Delicious? Absolutely! If you’re baking for family and friends, and for kids especially, these are the treats that get gobbled up, year after year.
These recipes are not complicated, because 1. It’s been a hard year, and baking shouldn’t stress you out, and 2. You might be drunk baking, in which case, simple is safe.
I’ll send you to Skinnytaste for another favourite of mine, which is a copycat version of Starbucks’ Cranberry Bliss Bars. These are so yummy, and they’re beautiful when packaged in a little gift box.
Sugar cookies with simple glaze
(head over to Pinterest for some cute decorating ideas)
This is the best sugar cookie recipe because it tastes amazing, and the dough is easy to work. Do not refrigerate the dough, just get busy rolling it out.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 5-6 cups powdered sugar
- ¼ cup milk (more or less, depending)
- ¼ tsp almond flavouring (optional)
- Gel food colour
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Cream together the butter and sugar with a mixer until smooth
- Beat in vanilla and egg
- In another bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder
- Add dry ingredients to wet a little at a time, continuing to use mixer until everything is combined and the mixture is crumbly
- Wet your hands and knead the dough by hand. Separate it into 2 dough balls. Cover one with plastic wrap while you are rolling out the other (don’t chill the dough)
- Place the dough on a floured surface, sprinkle flour on top to prevent the rolling pin from sticking. Roll out until it is about ¼ inches thick (don’t roll too thin!)
- Cut out shapes, and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets
- Bake at 350F for 8-10 mins
- Cool completely before icing
Dump ingredients into a bowl and mix together with a metal spoon or fork. I never actually measure out the powdered sugar. I usually just put about 5-6 cups into a bowl with about ¼ tsp of the almond flavour and maybe ¼ cup of milk, but slowly. You need the glaze to be relatively thin, so it comes out nicely from the piping bag. The glaze will harden after a few minutes. If you’re working with kids, I recommend avoiding piping bags to save your sanity and just giving them a bowl with a spoon and butter knife for spreading.
Haystack cookies (AKA chow mein noodle cookies)
My mom makes these every Christmas. Eat them over a plate because they’re a mess to eat, but so yummy.
- ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
- ½ cup butterscotch chips
- ½ cup chow mein noodles
- ½ cup salted peanuts (you can use whole, or crush)
Note: Mess around with these. You’re going to want to double or triple this recipe. Also, if you’re like me and prefer chocolate over butterscotch, switch up the ratio, or replace the butterscotch with chocolate entirely. If you like butterscotch a lot (which just seems weird), toss the chocolate. These are YOUR cookies, so you do you! Try using pretzel bits, add a bit of coconut, or throw in mini marshmallows just for the heck of it. You really can’t screw up this recipe.
- In a microwave, melt chocolate and butterscotch chips, stir until smooth. Stir in noodles and peanuts until well coated
- Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 2 hours, or until set