Christmas Project roundup – Chocolate Chip & Cinnamon Cookies

February 13, 2011 at 16:04 | Posted in Christmas Project, Recipes | Leave a comment

The second cookie recipe I’ve used for my Christmas Project was for Chocolate Chip & Cinnamon Cookies. This recipe was taken and adapted from a book I’ve recently purchased by Susanna Tee called “1001 Cupcakes, Cookies & other tempting treats”.

I have adapted the recipe as not to include cinnamon, which isn’t a favorite ingredient of mine…

Ingredients:
225 gr. butter, softened
140 gr. caster sugar
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tsp. orange extract
280 gr. plain flour
pinch of salt
100 gr. plain chocolate chips

Cinnamon coating (optional):
1 1/2 tbsp. caster sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line two large baking sheets with baking parchment. Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolk and orange extract. Sift together the flour and salt into the mixture, add the chocolate chips and stir until thoroughly combined.
To make the cinnaom coating, mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a shallow dish. Scoop out tablespoons of the cookie dough, roll them into balls, then roll them in the cinnamon mixture to coat. Place them on the baking sheets, spaced well apart.
Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool on the baking sheets for 5-10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

In Him,
Alice

Christmas Project roundup – Peanut Butter Biscuits

February 6, 2011 at 20:42 | Posted in Christmas Project, Recipes | Leave a comment

Here is the recipe for the Peanut Butter Biscuits which were featured on my Christmas Project. This recipe was given to me by my aunt Pamela while I was in South Africa and has never failed to turn out really good!

Picture courtesy of Google Images

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 lb. butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla essence

Sift together dry ingredients. Cream together sugar, butter and vanilla essence. Add peanut butter and beaten egg, mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix until a dough is formed. Take dough pieces the size of a walnut and place them on a greased cookie sheet. Press each biscuit with a fork twice to create a criss-cross pattern (as shown in the picture). Bake at 180C for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

I have used smooth peanut butter, as it is the only kind you may find here in Italy. However, I am sure ti will work just as well with the chunky one.
You also don’t need to space the biscuits very far away one from the other when you place them on the cookie sheet, as they will not spread much.
Last tip, roll the dough pieces fast, or either work with a little bit of dough at a time, and leave the rest wrapped in film, as it will tend to become quite dry as minutes go by.

Hope you will try it and enjoy it with family and friends!

In Him,
Alice

Catching up… long time no see!

January 30, 2011 at 22:11 | Posted in Christmas Project, Family | Leave a comment

Here I am, finally able to find some fruitful online time to update my ever-so-neglected blog!

Where can I start? What can I say?

My Christmas season was as busy as ever: the Friday before Christmas we experienced quite the snowfall and the roads were not “driveable” that weekend, which translated in some very frantic last minute Christmas shopping.
Even though the snow brings along major logistic problems and dangers, the landscape was amazingly transformed by the fluffy white coating: another amazing creation by the Lord!

Here is our building’s back yard covered in snow! It truly looks like a winter wonderland!

This was our Christmas tree in our living room, decorated by my Mom, with a back garden view. It was the very first time we had purchased a fake tree instead of a real one. It didn’t smell like a real tree, but the result was just as good!

Another snowy close-up!

My Christmas Project was a complete and utter SUCCESS!

I was able to purchase 9 beautiful clear glass jars, all fitted with a nice vacuum seal top, for just under $4,00 each at a local department store.

I was able to shortlist 4 kinds of cookies to fill the jars with and I did most of my baking the week before Christmas. I baked the last batch on Christmas Eve, just before leaving for our traditional Midnight Christmas service.
The cookies I prepared were: peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, lemon meltaways and midnight cookies.

After the jars were filled, I wrapped them in clear plastic with a white snowflake motif and I tied it up at the top with a nice and thick red sating ribbon. To finish them off, I attached a cardboard tag which I downloaded from Google Images from Gooseberry Patch which said “From the Kitchen of…”, looking very Christmassy. I also slipped a peppermint candy cane through each bow.


Here is the finished product! Sorry the image is blurred a bit…
The jars are sitting onto my great-grandmother’s wooden pantry furniture, which was given to my Mom for her wedding.

I will share all of the cookie recipes in later posts.

Christmas day was spent with family from my dad’s side: there were 18 of us, sitting around a rather long table!
We had a luscious Christmas lunch, with the start dish being my grandmother’s hand-made cappelletti: a kind of pasta with a meat filling, made entirely from scratch by my wonderful 83-year-old grandmother. 
We also had roast, potatoes, a variety of appetizers and panettone, the typical Italian Christmas dessert.
There was a huge gift exchange and we all had fun watching my 2-year-old cousin Greta trying to open her gifts, while at the same time keeping track of what everybody else was doing!
Since most of my Christmas day was spent helping in the kitchen, I hope to share a few more pictures once one of my uncles will pass his through…

Speaking of my precious cousin, she turned 2 on December 15th and I was asked to bake a cake for her birthday party.
I decided to bake a basic vanilla sponge cake, using a Swiss roll recipe, cover it with the lilac tinted fondant I purchased in London and maybe getting a few gumpaste flowers on as well. This was the end result:

 
Even though the writing was a little off-side, the end result looked quite nice and was appreciated by everyone, including the birthday girl, who kept asking for more “sugar flowers”…

I don’t know if you can spot it on the picture, but I did sprinkle some pink lustre dust to make it all glittery on top.
Making this cake was a very time-consuming job, but I hope to bake many more in the future, thus furthering my expertise at handling fondant and gumpaste.

Another great thing which came up during the holiday season was a new and interesting online tour and study course from Vision Forum called “Hazardous Journeys: Into The Amazon”. Doug Phillips is taking us to the deep Amazon forest to uncover some of the great mysteries of God’s wonderful creation: from plants to animals, to the lost tribes of this remote yet fascinating area of the world. Mr. Phillips’ wife, Beall, is also posting some interesting pictures, videos and blog entries letting us into the Amazon craft world. If you’d like to join Mr. Phillips on this hazardous but God-driven journey, you may do so here.

The greatest challenge so far in this journey to unexplored and stunning lands for me was to stay true to the belief of worshipping the creaTOR and not the creaTION.

Many blessings,
Alice

Christmas Project: Almond and Nut Cookies

October 27, 2010 at 21:22 | Posted in Christmas Project, Recipes | Leave a comment

Finally, I am able to post about the latest test batch of cookies I have made.

This time, I have picked Almond and Nut Cookies from a cute recipe box all about cookies I’ve received for Christmas a few years ago.

The cookies turned out to be very good, but the amount of work that goes into making the dough, spreading it regularly onto a level surface and waiting for it to set do not make them viable for my Christmas Project.

However, they are still extremely good cookies, with a nice nutty flavour, and I highly recommend them!

Please excuse the slightly blurry picture… my camera is acting up as of lately…

Here is the recipe!

Almond and Nut Cookies
150 gr. butter
100 gr. sugar
1 large egg
200 gr. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
125 gr. almonds, chopped
125 gr. nuts, chopped
pinch of salt

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and the sugar, until light and fluffy. Incorporate the egg, the sifted flour, the cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Mix well and add the chopped almonds and nuts.
  2. Spread the dough regularly onto a cookie sheet (covered with baking parchment or foil) and let it set for 30 minutes.
  3. With a knife, cut the dough into small bars and place them on a cookie sheet.
  4. Cook at 170 C for 20 minutes.

My tips:

  • If the dough is too stiff when adding the nuts, add a tiny bit of milk to help incorporate them.
  • Make sure the almonds and nuts are not already toasted: they will toast as the cookies bake in the oven.
  • It would be a good idea to add the cinnamon to the flour before mixing it in. Adding the cinnamon after it makes it very difficult to get well and evenly amalgamated.
  • Chop both the almonds and the nuts coarsely, as it’s nice to feel the “crunchyness” in the cookies.

Enjoy!

Blessings,
Alice

Christmas Project: finding the cookie jars

October 19, 2010 at 14:18 | Posted in Christmas Project | Leave a comment

For my 2010 Christmas Project I have planned on giving each “family unit” within my extended family a clear glass jar of home-made cookies.

I have already started testing various cookie recipes to see which ones will turn out best and will eventually be shortlisted for the selection that will go into each jar.

On Sunday, I went to a local shopping center with my best friend Anna and took the opportunity to start scouting around for the clear glass cookie jars I will need for my project.

I had never had a “closer” look at cookie jars in the past, but now I am more determined than ever to find the perfect “dream jars” at a reasonable enough price.

Within the shopping center, two stores had various kinds of glass jars in stock. To make you better understand the look I’m going for, I would say it’s a style that closely resembles an apothecary glass jar, quite similar to this one:

It is a beautiful jar, but the ones I found were very expensive and way too big. Therefore, I knew I had to find something that was a little on the smaller side, but equally nice to put on display anywhere in the kitchen.

This is the first jar I found:

It’s a classic tilted glass cookie jar, with a large enough mouth to fit a hand in, made of strong, thivk glass with a silver-coloured lid. Overall, a very nice jar, but very much out of my price range at $ 8,90 each (I will put the prices in US $ instead of Euros).

This is jar number 2:

It’s the one I liked the most, as it is the perfect size and looks like an old-fashioned candy jar straight from the 1940’s “Little Women” movie. Remember when the March girls go to the shop to buy their Christmas presents and the owner offers them a candy cane each? Its mouth wasn’t especially wide, but I absolutely adored the glass lid it had: looked so classy and fancy at the same time! But, alas, this jar is still too expensive at $7,90 each!

This is the third, and final, option:

A rather modern-looking, Y-shaped jar, with a very large mouth and silver lid (the one I found doesn’t have any writings on it), and priced at only $ 2,90 each.
I must say it really doesn’t look one bit like the apothecary-style jar I had envisioned, but I am positive that with some fabric and a nice ribbon it’s going to be pretty anyways.

Moreover, I thought that since I know all of the recipients’ kitchen styles, I can still afford to purchase about half of the old-fashioned jars and half of the modern-looking ones, so as to better fit the likes of the people receiving the gift. I think that’s quite a good compromise!

I would gladly welcome any suggestions or ideas for both the right jars and their decorations: feel free to leave a comment!

Coming soon: test batch number two, almond cookies!

Faithfully His,
Alice

Fresh from the oven!

October 16, 2010 at 18:47 | Posted in Christmas Project, Homemaking | Leave a comment

It turns out that my first cookie “test batch” has exceeded my expectations, and it all went very well.

As I have mentioned on my previous post, I have tried “Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps”, a Martha Stewart recipe. A couple of months ago, I remember watching a tiny segment of her show from 2006, when she baked these cookies with Jeremy Irons: they looked so gorgeous that I had to go and look for the recipe.

Here it is…

Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps (makes about 20)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons instant espresso
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, for coating

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until well combined; mix in cooled chocolate. With mixer on low speed, gradually add dry ingredients; beat in milk just until combined. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl; working in batches, roll balls in sugar twice.
  3. Place balls on prepared baking sheets, two inches apart. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies have spread and coating is cracked, about 12 to 14 minutes; cookies will still be soft to the touch. Trasnfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

My tips:

  • Make the dough at least two days in advance and do not freeze it, rather leave it in the fridge.
  • Don’t be discouraged if it looks like cake mix and not cookie dough: it will firm up, eventually.
  • As soon as you take the dough out of the fridge, cut it into even-sized cubes, and place it on a cold surface.
  • Dust your hands with confectioners’ sugar to prevent the dough from sticking too much. Repeat the process if necessary.
  • When placing the balls onto the baking sheet, leave some extra sugar on top of them, to create the nice contrast of chocolate brown and sugar white.
  • If you don’t have instant espresso (I didn’t), you may substitute it by adding a little coffee in the chocolate while it’s melting.

The final result:


Fresh from the oven!

In Him,
Alice

Proverbs 31:31, “Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates”.

Christmas Project

October 13, 2010 at 14:13 | Posted in Christmas Project, Family, Homemaking | Leave a comment

It’s only a little over two months until my favourite holiday season: Christmas!

Every year, I celebrate Christ’s birth with my family and feel so very blessed to do so.

Every year, I try to give meaningful and useful presents and this year will make no exception. However, there is an important twist to my traditional Christmas shopping in 2010.

I have decided to “make” the presents instead of “buying” the presents.
First of all, one of my goals in 2010 was to be more thrifty, and secondly I believe that the best presents you can get are those made with hands, love, and prayer.

I have done a lot of thinking and praying to seek guidance to find a project that would be purposeful and compatible with my full-time work schedule.
And the end result was… Christmas cookies!

(photo courtesy of Google Images)

In the next few weeks, I am going to look at various cookies recipes, try them, and then shortlist the ones that turn out best. Then, I am going to browse through various shops and my grandma’s cellar (the best place to find hidden treasures!) looking for medium-sized cookie jars or simple, plain glass jars to put the cookies in.

At first, I thought about making just one kind of cookies for every jar, but then I realized I wanted to add the feeling of “something special” that you can find only at Christmas time, and decided it would be better (and more appreciated, too!) to have each jar filled with a selection of cookies. I am planning on baking 4 to 5 different kinds of cookies, making them slightly on the smaller side, so that I will be able to bake more out of one cookie dough recipe. And smaller cookies will also fit better in the jar.

Each jar will ideally be finished off with a piece of fabric on top of the lid, tied up with a nice ribbon and a Christmas tag with the names of the cookies and the ingredients.

Since I have quite a large extended family, and my time is limited to say the least, I have opted for giving one jar to each family unit, therefore making it a lot easier while being still a fun and rewarding experience.

I hope to start posting news about my “cookie trials” very soon!

In Him,

Alice

Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates“, Proverbs 31:31.

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