Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chocolate Orange Pinwheels

For the longest time, I thought I didn't like chocolate and orange together.
You know who I blame?  This guy.  

I remember being a little girl and biting into a piece of that chocolate orange. It was horrible. Maybe I was thinking it was like a giant, round, Hershey's Kiss...I don't know, but it stuck with me.

chocolate orange pinwheel cookies |
Apparently, I must have spread the gospel of "chocolate and orange should not be mixed" because as I was telling my sister about these pinwheel cookies yesterday, she said, "I thought you didn't like chocolate and orange together!"

chocolate orange pinwheel cookies |
Well, I have been converted.  It started a few years ago when I made cannoli filling.  Then, there were chocolate sandwiches. You get the point. I'm a chocolate + orange lover now...even though I'm never eating one of those "oranges" again.

chocolate orange pinwheel cookies |
These pinwheels!  Oh my gosh.  I love them.  I love the swirl, I love the flavor combo, I love making them! 

You'll start with just one dough which gets divided.  Then, you'll make one half chocolate, and one half orange.  You can see the little bits of zest in the orange pretty.

Roll it all up, chill it,'s slice and bake time.

chocolate orange pinwheel cookies |
If you don't eat these all by yourself, they look really pretty on a holiday cookie platter.

I'm sharing the recipe and the how-to over on Imperial Sugar today.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Decorating Christmas Cookies? You'll want these tips and recipes!

All year, we've been training for this. December: the Olympics of cookie decorating.

christmas cookie decorating tips, tricks, and recipes
Never fear! I've assembled every tip, trick, and recipe you'll need for successful cookie decorating this year.

Tip #1.  You'll need wine. OK, only if you're decorating cookies with your kids. 
I'm kidding. (Maybe.)

The recipes:
1. Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies.  These are my go-to cookies, my perfect-every-time cookies. I've made THOUSANDS of them. They keep their shape well and hold up to decorating, packaging, and shipping.

2. Gingerbread Cookies.  Oh, I love you. This is my favorite gingerbread; you can also find it in my first book.

3. Cinnamon-Sugar Cut-Out Cookies.  One of my new holiday favorites. Perfect for when you're craving cinnamon, but not full-on gingerbread.

4. Royal Icing. Whether you're constructing a gingerbread house, or decorating cookies, this is the recipe you'll need.

The supplies:
1. Meringue Powder. You'll need this to make royal icing.  Look for it online or in kitchen and craft stores.

2. Gel Paste Food Coloring. Bright, vibrant, and won't dilute your icing. Look for the kind that come in squeeze bottles.

3. Disposable Icing Bags.

4. Couplers and Icing Tips. Start with basic tips, such as plain #1, #2, and #3.

5. Toothpicks. You'll use these over and over again for spreading icing and popping air bubbles.

6. Waxed Paper and Parchment Paper. For rolling dough and baking.

7. Squeeze Bottles. Find these in the candy-making section of craft and kitchen stores.  They're much easier to use than piping bags for thinned icing.

8. Cookie Cutters. You'll need some. You can always hand-cut shapes from a template, but it will take you 4 times as long.

9. Sprinkles, etc. Sprinkles, jimmies, sanding sugar, sparkling sugar, nonpareils, luster dust, disco dust...the more, the merrier.

Tips and Tricks:
1. Yes, You Can Freeze Cookies. Cut-out cookies can be frozen plain, AND decorated with royal icing. Thaw at room temperature.  More details here.

2. Prevent Spreading. Freeze the cut out shapes for 5-10 minutes prior to baking.

3. Even Steven. For perfectly evenly rolled dough, use these guides. No guides, not problem. Just eyeball it.

4. Time Management.  Decorating cookies can be a time consuming process. Bake one day, and decorate the next...or do big batch baking, freeze (see tip #1), then decorate as you have time.

5. Packaging and Shipping.  Make sure they all arrive in one piece.  Video (old!) here.

6. How to Marble Cookies

7. How to Make Flat Dots

8. How to Make Double-Decker Cookies

9. Drying Icing.  Here are three options for drying, but most importantly, make sure the icing is completely dry before packaging.  (I learned this the hard way.)

10. Decorating Cookies with Kids.  Breathe. Here are my favorite tips.

Christmas Cookie Decorating Inspiration:
(from my blog)
decorated christmas cookie ideas, PLUS christmas cookie decorating tips, tricks, and recipes
1. Charlie Brown Ornament Cookies. A really simple way to pay tribute to the Peanuts Christmas Special without replicating the characters.

2. Vintage Truck with Christmas Trees. One of my favorite sights over the a cookie.

3. Faux Bois Christmas Packages. These are made with fondant and a wood grain stamp.  The only piping and flooding you'll do is for the bow.

4. Elf on the Shelf Cookies. Think you need a special cutter for the elves?'s how to make them without a cookie cutter!

5. Painted Tree Cookies. You'll need one color of icing for this cookie...white! The trees are painted with simple brushstrokes.

(from other blogs)
decorated christmas cookie ideas, PLUS christmas cookie decorating tips, tricks, and recipes

1. Jingle Bell Cookies from The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle

2. Pink Peppermint Candy Cookies from Bakerella

3. Santa Belly Cookies from Tidymom

4. Holiday Stamped Chalkboard Cookies from SemiSweet Mike

5. Pretty Piped Pastel Christmas Tree Cookies from Sweetopia

REMEMBER! Christmas cookies are not meant to be perfect! They're meant to be shared...and EATEN!!! 
Repeat after me, "It's just a cookie!"

Happy Christmas baking, my friends!

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sweet on Trader Joe's Saturday: Amaretti Cookies

For today's Sweet on Trader Joe's installment, we're heading to Italy!

trader joe's amaretti cookies review

Kiddo and I are reviewing Trader Giotto's Crunchy Amaretti. Amaretti are crunchy little cookies, typically made with almonds. I love Amaretti cookies, especially when they're sandwiched together with a little Nutella. ;)

Trader Joe's describes these as "traditionally served with wine or liqueurs and are equally at home with a cup of coffee or some ice cream or can be enjoyed all on their own."  A 5.2-ounce box runs $3.99.

trader joe's amaretti cookies review
A mom's (my) take: First, the packaging on these is so, so pretty.  Each cookie is wrapped in crisp, printed paper (the cookies are sealed in plastic inside).  I'm a big fan of Amaretti cookies, but these were not my favorite.  They're almost a little too sweet.  When I checked the ingredients, I saw that these are not made with almonds as is typical, but with apricot kernels.
Overall rating: 3 of 5 stars

A teenager's (kiddo's) take: Even before I knew what these looked like, I was impressed with the wrapping (which made me expect them to be very good quality!). They have that classic amaretto flavor (based on amaretto desserts, not actual amaretto) that one would expect, and have a nice crunch to them. The only issue I have is that they are a little bit more substantial than I would like; that is, the inside is entirely filled with cookie which is just as crunchy as the outside, and makes it a bit harder to enjoy the flavor. In my past experiences with amaretti cookies, I've found that airiness makes a very flavorful cookie. Nevertheless, these are still flavorful.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

trader joe's amaretti cookies review
Trader Joe's Crunchy Amaretti Cookies: 
pretty packaging! 

Read all of our Sweet on Trader Joe's dessert review posts!  See you next week!

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