Friday, December 23, 2016

Delicious Giving + Oatmeal-Brown Sugar Cut Out Cookies


Two events have me thinking about cookies right now.

Christmas is the obvious occasion. For me, Christmas isn’t Christmas without a tray of homemade goodies. Decorated cut out cookies with icing and lots of sprinkles always make an appearance on my cookie trays – both the trays I bring to Christmas gatherings and the ones I give as gifts.

The other event is the fundraising auction our school holds each year. While the auction isn’t until spring, the auction committee is already at work collecting donations for the auction. Last year, I donated a gift certificate for custom-made decorated cookies along with samples of each of the cookie flavors. The winning bidder got to choose from Raspberry-Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies, Chocolate-Hazelnut Cut Out Cookies (from Bridget Edwards' cookbook, Decorating Cookies), Peanut Butter Cut Out Cookies, and Oatmeal-Brown Sugar Cut Out Cookies (see recipe below).


I haven’t decided whether I’ll donate decorated cookies this year or go with something like gift certificates for milk and my homemade Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies. But I do know that whatever I donate will be edible.

Edible gifts are perfect in so many ways. Few things speak kindness more than homemade cookies or delicious treats. Plus, most people already have enough “stuff” so receiving (or bidding on) a consumable gift is often much preferred.

For the several years now, we have given edible gifts to teachers, bus drivers, our mail lady, and others. A pound of Land O Lakes® Butter, a tub of Land O Lakes® Cinnamon Sugar Butter Spread, and a package of Land O Lakes® Co-Jack® Snack Cheese fit perfectly inside these assemble-at-home cardboard boxes. I add a handful of paper shreds to make it look festive and the kids decorate the outside of the box with markers or simply tuck a card inside.


If you like the idea of edible gifts, here a few more ideas from the Land O’Lakes Test Kitchen to consider:
And, last, here’s the recipe for my Oatmeal-Brown Sugar Cut Out Cookies.

If you like the combination of oatmeal and brown sugar as much as I do, you’ll love these out-of-the-ordinary cut out cookies.

I was so excited when I first spotted a recipe for oatmeal cut out cookies while browsing a recipe site. Unfortunately, that recipe resulted in downright terrible cookies. My dog wouldn’t even eat them.


I decided that the idea of an oatmeal cut out cookie was worth pursuing, so I fiddled around with the recipe and several tweaks later ended up with cookies that are definitely worth getting excited about.


I outline my cookies with royal icing (using Bridget’s recipe from Bake at 350). Then I fill the cookies with vanilla-flavored Cookie Icing and top them with sprinkles. They would also be divine with cream cheese frosting.



Oatmeal-Brown Sugar Cut Out Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup Land O Lakes® Butter, softened*
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup oatmeal, ground fine
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

Cream butter and sugar together in large mixing bowl. Beat in egg, vanilla, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk ground oatmeal, flour, cinnamon, and ginger together. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in three parts and mix just until flour is completely incorporated. Divide dough into two pieces; shape each piece into a disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

*Note: You can prepare the dough for these cookies with cold butter, as well. Cut the butter into chunks before creaming with sugar using heavy-duty mixer. Reduce chilling time to 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. On a well-floured surface, roll one piece of dough out to ¼-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 2 inches apart on an ungreased (or parchment-lined) cookie sheet. Place cookie sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes (this helps the cookies hold their shape while baking). Bake the cookies for 9 to 10 minutes or until they look done in the center. Let cool for 10 minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Decorate as desired.


I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative farmer-owner. I received compensation from Land O'Lakes for this post. All opinions are my own. Land O Lakes and the Indian Maiden brandmark are registered trademarks of Land O’Lakes, Inc.



Thursday, December 22, 2016

Pretty Little Christmas Wreath Cookies


The great thing about decorated cut out cookies is that the sky is the limit when it comes to creating new shapes and designs. I follow some incredible cookie decorators and they're always putting cookie cutters together to make new creations.

I saw wreath cookies similar to these a couple years ago, made out of gingerbread and decorated with royal icing. They looked adorable but tasted horrible. No offense to the bakery that made them; I'm just not a fan of gingerbread or royal icing.

So last year I decided to try recreating these with my Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies and Cookie Icing.


I used this 8-petal flower from a cookie cutter set that had been my grandmother's. The miniature curvy hexagon (or whatever it is you call this shape) came from a set that I got as a gift from a friend.


The two cookie cutters worked perfectly together. The bakery wreaths had a simple circle in the middle, which would work, too. But I really like the look with the curvy hexagon.

I outlined with cookies with royal icing. I often outline simple shapes with my Cookie Icing for Outlining, but for intricate shapes like stars and these wreaths, I find that royal icing works better and doesn't change the taste of the finished cookie.

Then I filled the outlined cookies with Cookie Icing for Filling. If you're new to outlining and filling cookies, I highly recommend reading Bridget Edwards' cookbook, Decorating Cookies. She explains the process incredibly well.

Once the cookies were filled, I placed red confetti circle sprinkles around the wreath and covered the rest of the cookie with green sugar sprinkles.

Ta-da! Pretty Little Christmas Wreath Cookies. If I really wanted to get fancy, I could have added some red fondant bows or other decorations of the sort, but I like to keep things simple.

Merry Christmas!


Pretty Little Christmas Wreath Cookies

Materials
  • prepared sugar cookie dough (try these Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies or use your own favorite recipe)
  • a 2½-inch flower-shaped cookie cutter (with 6 or 8 petals)
  • a 1-inch curvy hexagon cookie cutter OR use a 1-inch circle (mine came in a set like this one)
  • royal icing (I use the recipe from Bridget Edwards' blog, Bake at 350; I usually make a half of a batch, since I'm only using it for outlining)
  • icing bag and a #3, #4, or #5 round tip
  • Cookie Icing for Filling
  • squeeze bottle for icing (or use a plastic zipper bag with the corner cut off)
  • toothpicks
  • red confetti circle sprinkles
  • green sugar sprinkles
Directions
  1. Roll sugar cookie dough out into 1/4" thickness.
  2. Using well-floured cookie cutters, cut flower shapes out of dough.
  3. Cut a curvy hexagon out of the center of each flower.
  4. Bake cookies according to recipe directions and allow to cool completely.
  5. Outline inside and outside of wreath cookies with royal icing, using the round tip.
  6. Let royal icing dry. (This doesn't take very long.)
  7. Fill royal icing outlines with cookie icing, spreading with toothpick as needed.
  8. While cookie icing is still wet, place red confetti sprinkles around the wreath.
  9. Immediately top rest of icing with green sugar sprinkles.
  10. Let icing dry for a couple hours before handling or packaging cookies.




Cookie Icing for Outlining and Filling

Make pretty decorated cookies without royal icing.


I first came up with this icing recipe to frost my Christmas 2013 cookies. (You can read the story here.) Three years later – and hundreds of cookies – I'm still using the same recipe, albeit with a few small tweaks along the way. This version is the best-tasting cookie icing I've ever come across – and it looks pretty darn good, too. Even better, the top of the icing dries enough to stack the cookies but the icing inside remains a little soft.

Raspberry-Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies, outlined and filled with Cookie Icing

When I first made this icing, I spread it on cookies with a knife. In 2014, after much inspiration from Bridget Edwards and her Decorating Cookies cookbook, I switched to piping an outline around the cookies, thinning the remaining icing just a little, and filling (or flooding) the outlines with the thinned icing before topping the icing with sprinkles.

Raspberry-Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies, outlined and filled with Cookie Icing

I should note here that I have never tried drying this icing on cookies without sprinkles. I usually use colored sugar sprinkles, but I've used nonpareils, too. I think the sprinkles help the icing harden enough to be handled and packaged. I personally love using sprinkles to add color to cookies because (1) it means I only have to make white icing and (2) it gives my kids a fun way to help with the cookies.

Oatmeal-Brown Sugar Cut Out Cookies, outlined and filled with Cookie Icing

Actually, this entire method of outlining, filling, and sprinkling is very kid-friendly. My kids have tried their hand at piping the outlines. It's a little tricky for them yet. But it's very easy for them to fill the cookies using a squeeze bottle and toothpick before adding the sprinkles.

Monika piping an outline

We even had friends over for a cookie decorating party with pre-outlined cookies. The kids filled the cookies and topped them with sprinkles.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cut Out Cookies, with Cookie Icing outline

Chocolate-Hazelnut Cut Out Cookies, outlined and filled with Cooking Icing

In 2015, I got a stand mixer for Christmas and tried making royal icing for the first time. I'm still not a fan of the taste, but it does work extremely well for outlining cookies – especially intricate shapes like stars and wreaths. And a royal icing outline doesn't change the taste of the finished cookie.

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies, outlined with royal icing and filled with Cookie Icing

assorted cut out cookies, outlined with royal icing and filled with Cookie Icing


Cookie Icing for Outlining


makes enough icing to outline 6 dozen 3-inch cookies using a #4 round tip

Ingredients

200 grams powdered sugar [2 cups] (don't worry about sifting)
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon flavored extract* (almond, raspberry, orange, vanilla, etc.)
pinch salt
15 drops white food coloring (optional)

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until completely blended. Transfer icing to a decorating bag fitted with a #3, #4, or #5 round tip. Outline cookies. Allow icing to dry before filling cookies. (Usually, by the time I'm done outlining all the cookies, the first outlines are dry enough to fill.)


Cookie Icing for Filling

makes enough icing to fill 3 dozen 3-inch cookies

Ingredients

200 grams powdered sugar [2 cups] (don't worry about sifting)
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons water
1/4 teaspoon flavored extract* (almond, raspberry, orange, vanilla, etc.)
pinch salt
15 drops white food coloring (optional)

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until completely blended. Transfer icing to squeeze bottle. Fill outlined cookies, nudging icing up to the outline using a toothpick. Immediately top icing with sprinkles.


Note: Cookie Icing for Filling also makes a delicious icing/frosting for cinnamon rolls, quick breads, bars, or any other treat that just tastes a little better with icing.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Fudge Nut Bars

These family-favorite bars have a chewy oatmeal cookie base topped with soft fudge filling and dappled with extra cookie dough.

I didn’t know there was such a thing as Fudge Nut Bars until I met Glen. His mom, Doreen, always has a pan of bars or a bucket of cookies ready to share with family and friends. One time when we visited, that pan of bars was the most incredible combination of a chewy oatmeal cookie and soft fudge filling.


After Glen and I were married, I asked Doreen for the recipe for her Fudge Nut Bars. She happily passed it along. I love these tried and true recipes, neatly scripted in ballpoint ink onto recipe cards. There’s something about holding the recipe card in your hand, admiring the penmanship, and remembering the baker or cook who took the time to record the ingredients and directions for a beloved treat or dish. The recipe for Fudge Nut Bars fills both sides of a small index card.


These delicious bars start with a traditional oatmeal cookie crust, made delicious with Land O Lakes® Butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and rolled oats.


After the dough for the crust is prepared, the fudge nut filling is made in a saucepan on the stove.


Chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and more butter are melted together before being united with chopped walnuts or pecans.


While the filling cools, part of the oatmeal cookie dough is pressed into a bar pan. The rest of the cookie dough is saved for topping the bars. This can be rather sticky dough, so be sure to have some softened butter handy for buttering your fingers – it will make spreading the dough around a lot easier.


I've also found that sticking the bowl of oatmeal cookie dough in the freezer for 10 minutes or so while you make the filling helps make the dough easier to work with.


The oatmeal cookie dough is topped with the fudge nut filling and the remaining cookie dough. The easiest way to top the bars is to use your fingers to break off little pieces of cookie dough and drop them on the filling. The top cookie dough layer won’t completely cover the filling layer.


The finished bars will have a sort of dappled look to them.


Here's a closer look.


Have I mentioned how delicious Fudge Nut Bars are? It’s like the flavors of an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie got together in a whole new way. They will quickly become a family favorite. Judging from how much my own kids like these bars, I’ll be sharing the recipe with them someday, too.



Fudge Nut Bars

Makes: One 10 x 15 pan of bars
Prep time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

for crust

1 cup Land O Lakes® Butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2½ cups flour
3 cups quick rolled oats

for filling

2 tablespoons Land O Lakes® Butter
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 10 x 15 bar pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Cream 1 cup butter and brown sugar together. Scraping down sides of bowl frequently, mix in eggs, 2 teaspoons vanilla, baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in flour until completely blended, then oats. Set oatmeal mixture aside or chill in freezer.

In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add condensed milk, chocolate chips, ½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir constantly until all ingredients are melted together and filling is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in chopped nuts.

With well-buttered fingers, press ⅔ of oatmeal mixture into prepared pan. Spread fudge filling over oatmeal mixture. Using your fingers, drop small chunks of the remaining oatmeal mixture over filling.

Bake for 25 minutes. Bars are done when tops of oatmeal cookie chunks are golden brown.

Let cool completely before cutting into bars+.


I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative farmer-owner. I received compensation from Land O'Lakes for this post. All opinions are my own. Land O Lakes and the Indian Maiden brandmark are registered trademarks of Land O’Lakes, Inc.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

And the crowd roared for the homebred cow [Hoard's Dairyman Post]

There's just something special about homebred cows...


With lights dimmed, spotlights shone on seven exceptional cows as they entered the Coliseum for the presentation of 2016 World Dairy Expo Supreme Champion. Each beautiful cow represented the best of its breed. Notably, six of the seven Grand Champions were bred and owned by their exhibitors.

As the spotlights fell upon the Holstein, my heart tried to burst with pride and excitement. The Grand Champion Holstein was Sheeknoll Durham Arrow, a 6-year-old cow known affectionately as Thomas. Thomas’s owners, the Sheehan family of Minnesota, are friends of mine, and I’ve been following Thomas in the showring for years.

Clearly, the rest of the dairy enthusiasts watching the Supreme Champion ceremony had similar feelings. The announcer was barely a dozen words into Thomas’s introduction when the applause started. Cheers and applause continued until Thomas took her place alongside the Grand Champions from the other six breeds. However, no other Grand Champion garnered the audible recognition that Thomas did.

What was so endearing about this Holstein cow?

Photo by Morgan Kliebenstein. Used with permission.

[Read the rest of this post in the HD Notebook.]