Snickerdoodle Bars

The Holidays seem like a long time ago at this point, right? Yet, the garland hanging on my porch reminds me that not even a month has passed. For me, when I think about this last Christmas, one moment stands out more brightly than the rest. One evening, as we were all sitting around my in-laws living room, my brother-in-law started playing old videos. The first one was from the day that Kai was born. I had no idea this clip existed. My heart was in my throat as I strained to soak in every moment. JP is three years old again and skipping down the hallway to meet his new brother. I am laying in the hospital bed, having given birth but a few hours ago. We get to see the first time JP meets Kai. The next video was JP’s second birthday. We were all together and full of love and laughs. He made a little pile of bows as he slowly opened up the presents. It was such a gift to relive these moments and to see the confirmation of how far we’ve come. Though not all my memories of those moments are positive; I can rest assured that the love we have for our children is evident.

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Another amazing gift this Christmas came in the form of cookbooks. Three (!!!!) new ones to be exact. I have been eager to jump in but have felt a little intimidated as well. So much talent and knowledge are inside these pages. I decided to start with BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts. I have been reading it through like a novel. It is so interesting! Stella Parks goes into detail about the history behind each recipe, as well as the science of why her version works. I also love how these recipes are classics that we all know so well but her ingredients and techniques update and elevate. Reading it made me realize how we as home bakers are making history. The food we make for our families will become part of the fabric of our country. I feel excited, energized and ready to make 2018 the tastiest year yet.

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Snickerdoodle Bars (Snip Doodles)

Snickerdoodles are always a favorite around here, with their chewy centers and cinnamon flavor. According to Stella Parks (I have a feeling I’ll be saying that a lot now) the recipe for snickerdoodles originated as a simple cake called snip doodles. Already, I can see that these will be a family favorite. The addition of freshly grated cinnamon adds an extra flavorful topping to the cake.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (refined or virgin)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk

Cinnamon Sugar topping:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons grated cinnamon (or to taste)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F and place the baking rack in the middle of the oven. Butter and flour a half sheet baking tray. Stella specifically says to spread the dough in a 15x11x1 inch layer on the tray. My tray was larger and I spread mine out on the whole thing. They were a little thin but no complaints. If you have a half sheet baking tray then you should be just fine.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter, coconut oil. sugar, salt, baking powder, nutmeg and vanilla. Mix on low with a paddle attachment and then increase speed to medium. Beat until light and fluffy. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula after two minutes. Continue for two more minutes. Add the egg and mix until smooth.

Turn the mixer to low and add 1/3 of the flour. Mix until incorporated and then add 1/3 cup of the milk. Mix on low to incorporate and then repeat with the flour and milk two more times. Scrape to ensure dough is uniform and all the ingredients are mixed in and the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Coat with cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Bake for 15 minutes. The cake will be firm to the touch and puffy. A toothpick with come out clean when inserted in the center. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then cut with a pizza cutter or knife. Once cool, store in an air tight container for 3-4 days.

Soft Sugar Cookies

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Growing up, my family’s holiday traditions were somewhat unconventional compared to those of my peers. I never believed in Santa Claus. Ever. Our holidays were focused on Jesus’ birth as well as spending time together as a family. Also, I didn’t open presents on Christmas morning. Can we still call it Christmas without Santa and morning presents? I think so. We traveled to be with my grandparents on Christmas so our family celebrated a couple days early. Still, our Christmas was full of excitement and wrapped in our own set of traditions that I looked forward to each year.

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Like most families, the dinner was an important part of our celebration. Our table would be covered in a tablecloth and set with china and cloth napkins. The lights would be dim and candles lit. This was the kick off to our special Christmas night, though it was December 23 instead of the 25. Mom would make clam chowder every year and every year she would say how it doesn’t taste as good as Mo’s. Mo’s is a chowder place in Portland, Oregon that my parents grew to love. The holidays were the only time I remember eating clam chowder, or any seafood for that matter. I always enjoyed it and the chewy canned clams. After dinner there would be sugar cookies followed by a trip around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights.

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Mom makes soft sugar cookies every year. Whenever I eat a sugar cookie I expect it to taste like this one. Pillow-y and tender and a little cake like. Yet none every do. Every year my sisters make these with their families and I decided this year that I wanted to as well. As adults we get to make our own choices about what traditions to keep from our past as well as what to add for the present. Making soft sugar cookies is one that I will be keeping around. I hear Santa loves them.

Soft Cut Out Sugar Cookies

Makes about 24 cookies

This recipe is slightly adapted from Food52.com and is slightly different than mom’s original one. More sugar and flour with the addition of baking powder and almond extract. I also upped the vanilla and salt. The dough is soft but not as sticky.

Some people love decorating cookies and others fizzle out by the time the cookies are out of the oven (me!!) I started using this quick decorating technique and thought you might like it too. Similarly to scones, before putting the cookies in the oven, brush lightly with heavy cream. Next, go wild with the sprinkles (I liked this) Wilton 710-1260 Gold Pearlized Sprinkles Mix though not the little the balls – they melt in the oven. The gold sugar is divine. Top with Wilton White Sparkling Sugar, Net Wt. 8 oz. . Sweetened shredded coconut is another fun option. The coconut gets nice and toasty in the oven and goes really well with the slight almond flavor of the cookie. Of course, these are great with frosting as well.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

For topping: 2 tablespoons heavy cream, sprinkles, sparkling sugar and sweetened shredded coconut

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy – about 3 minutes on medium speed. Scrape bowl and add the egg. Mix on low until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Now add the sour cream, vanilla extract and almond extract. Mix on low to combine for another 30 seconds or so. Scrape the bowl with a spatula, making sure to get to the bottom of the bowl. Spoon flour mixture over the dough and mix on low to incorporate. Stop the machine when most of the flour is mixed in. Scrape the bowl again and then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or over night.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover baking sheets with parchment and set aside. On a moderately floured surface, work in small batches to roll out the dough to 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick. Don’t over work the dough – a couple pats and a couple rolls will do it. Sprinkle with flour as needed. Cut out shapes and place on parchment paper. Once the sheet is filled, use a pastry brush to brush heavy cream on the cookies. Sprinkle liberally with sprinkles and sparkling sugar or shredded coconut. I love that the sprinkles are contained in the baking sheet and not rolling all over my table and floor! Bake on the middle rack for 10-12 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. You want a little color around the edges and the middle to be nice and puffed before taking out of the oven. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

These cookies taste best the day they are made but I doubt there will be much complaint a day later. Store in air tight container.

Tip: Not all sprinkles are heat proof so some might melt more than others. I really loved the gold and yellow tones. Colored sugar would work great as well. These cookies tend to spread. I like using the circle cutter or other non-intricate shapes. If you want a sharper shape, let the cookie cool slightly after baking and then use the cookie cutter to cut out the shape again. This will leave you with cleaner edges if desired.