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Friday, December 26, 2014

High Altitude Sugar Cookies

My boys adore decorating cookies. Last year we did gingerbread cookies, and used some frosting gel stuff I bought at the grocery store. The combination of the gel and gingerbread tasted gross, so I decided to try sugar cookies this year. (And homemade icing.)

Once I figured out that it's easier to bake the cookies on the same parchment paper that you cut them out on, the recipe worked very well for our purposes. I actually don't love sugar cookies to eat--I prefer chewy cookies with some sort of chocolate--but they cooked up nicely and the boys love them.


High Altitude Sugar Cookies

for approximately 5,000 feet above sea level

Source: Pie in the Sky: Successful Baking at High Altitudes by Susan G. Purdy
Yields about 50 cookies, depending on the size

12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c sugar
2 eggs
2 teas vanilla or almond extract
2 3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 teas baking powder
1 teas salt

Place oven racks so the oven is divided into thirds. Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream the butter and sugar until well blended. Beat in the eggs and vanilla, scraping down the bowl a a couple of times. Sift the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, then beat either with a sturdy spoon or the mixer on the lowest speed. Form the dough into a ball. If it feels too sticky, add 1-2 more T flour. (I didn't do this, and wish I had.)

Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes. This step isn't absolutely necessary, nor is refrigerating each time you roll out the dough, but it does make the dough easier to manage.

Remove one third of the dough and leave the rest in the fridge. Spray a cookie-sheet sized piece of parchment paper with cooking spray. Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out the dough on the parchment paper, until it's about 1/8 of an inch thick. Dip the cookie cutters in flour to prevent sticking, and then cut out shapes. Leave 1/2-3/4 inch between cookies. Use the tip of a knife to help lift and peel away the between-cookie pieces, and leave the cookies on the parchment. Slide the parchment paper with the cookies onto a cookie sheet. Gather the dough scraps, place back in the fridge, and remove the next bunch of dough to roll out. Repeat as needed.

Bake the cookies for 8-12 minutes, until they look slightly golden around the edges. Slide the parchment paper off of the cookie sheet onto a cooling rack to cool.

If using icing: mix the icing as the cookies cool. Spread icing on cookies with a butter knife, or place some of each color in a plastic bag, seal the top of the bag, and cut a tiny hole in one corner of each bag with scissors. Squeeze the icing out of the hole to decorate as desired. Leave the cookies on the racks to air-dry the icing. When the icing is hard, store the cookies in an airtight container, separated by layers of wax paper.

Another decorating option: brush each cookie with some egg glaze, and sprinkle with finely chopped nuts, cinnamon, or sugar. Egg white is clear, and the whole egg results in a golden color. To make the glaze, mix beaten egg white or whole egg with 1 teas water.

Sugar Cookie Icing

Source: Pie in the Sky: Successful Baking at High Altitudes by Susan G. Purdy
Yields 3/4 c

2 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 c sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teas vanilla extract or fresh lemon juice
2-3 T milk or water, as needed
Food coloring, optional

Combine the butter, sifted sugar, and vanilla or lemon juice in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add enough milk or water a drop at a time to make the icing smooth enough to spread. Cover the icing when it's not being used, with plastic wrap or a clean,wet washcloth.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Layered Coconut Cookie Bars (or Pie)

For Thanksgiving I often make one apple cranberry pie and then try something new. This year I tried these cookie bars. At first I thought they were too sweet, even after switching the chocolate to dark instead of semi-sweet, but then they grew on me and they were popular with one of the littles in the household. They were a hit at a small family gathering, too! Also, I swear these get better after sitting a day or two.

I didn't make any high altitude adjustments, and I didn't notice any problems.

the last slice


Layered Coconut Cookie Bars (or Pie)

Source: Half Baked Harvest
Yields a 9x13 pan or 2 "pies"

1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 teas salt
3 teas vanilla extract, divided
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour (I used half white whole-wheat flour)
1 teas water
1 (13.5 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 T salted butter
1/3 c maple syrup
1 1/2 c roughly chopped walnuts (or pecans)
1 1/2 c shredded coconut (I used sweetened because that's the only thing I can find; I may try it with unsweetened coconut flakes next time)
2 c dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x13 pan or 2 pie plates with parchment paper allowing the side to hang over the dish.

In a large mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, combine the unsalted butter, brown sugar, salt, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Using a mixer beat the mixture until it is smooth, scraping down the sides a few times. Add the flour and water, and beat until combined.

Press the dough into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden; remove from oven.

Meanwhile, make the "caramel" sauce. Heat salted butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add the sweetened condensed milk and maple syrup. Cook the sauce over low heat for 8-10 minute, stirring often to prevent the caramel from burning and sticking to the pan. Cook until it thickens slightly and turns light golden in color. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Sprinkle the top of the cookie base with chocolate chips. Next, sprinkle on the nuts and 1 cup shredded coconut. Pour the "caramel" over top of everything in an even layer. If needed, use a spoon to gently spread the caramel. Sprinkle the top with the remaining coconut. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is beginning to brown and caramelize. Serve either warm or cool.