Fun Cakes to Make

A couple decades ago, I was really into making cakes.  Triple tiered cakes, cakes with dolls in the middle, painted cakes, all kinds of cakes. 

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The one on the left is a boot cake with jell decorations I designed and made for the “Cowboy Open House” and the one on the right is a painted cake.  The idea for the Oriental painted cake came from an online bakery where I saw a similar cake design.  The birds, flowers, branches were all painted on with food coloring.  The topper is a ‘birds nest’ which was edible.

The only problem with pretty cakes is getting people to EAT THEM!  They just want to look at them.

For the tea, I want to make a teapot cake—something similar to these:

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The one above is from a cookbook I think I got in the mail years ago—one of those subscription things where you get pages sent to you every month.  I don’t recall the publication now.  It really doesn’t give any directions on how to make the cake itself.

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The lilac teapot cake, above, is from Southern Living.  Unfortunately, I forgot to save the directions for making the cake itself!  So, what to do?

Well, I went to this cookbook, which I’ve had for yes, a couple of decades:

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It provides intricate directions on making a variety of cakes which will hold up to decorations well and taste good, too!  (I made the strawberry basket cake years ago when my Coupon Clipping Queen Daughter and her husband celebrated their 10th anniversary). 

In fact, the directions are maybe a bit too complicated—very detailed and require great expertise.  I can’t say I ever mastered all of them as I got interested in something else about three-quarters of the way through and left the hobby, only to be resurrected every December, it seems.

So, now I want to make this teapot cake.  I’ve made it before, but it’s been years ago.  So, first I looked up the recipe for the cake itself—a Madeira Cake.  (No wine involved here, folks, just a cake.)

(You could use any dense, solid cake that you like for this—fruitcake is one the book recommends often for decorated cakes, but I prefer a lighter cake.)

The chart says to use these ingredients:

Plain, all purpose flour, 2 cups

1 teaspoon baking powder

Superfine sugar, 3/4 cup

Soft margarine (I used butter), 3/4 cup

Eggs, 3

Milk (or orange, lemon or lime juice plus one teaspoon zest), 2 Tablespoons

Cooking time, approximate:  1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours

Oven is 325 degrees

Assemble your ingredients—whoops, I don’t have superfine (Castor) sugar.  That’s an easy fix.  Get out the food processor.  Measure your sugar and turn on the processor.  You will have superfine sugar in a moment.

I had decided on using lemon juice and lemon zest instead of the milk because, as I explained in an earlier post, I had frozen both late last summer.  I wanted a lemon-flavored cake.

Now, to bake the cake—I would need two of these cakes.

Set oven to 325.

Find a bowl the appropriate size—the minimum for this mix would be a 2 quart oven-proof bowl.  All I had is a 2.5 quart Pyrex bowl, but I’ve used it before and knew it would be fine.

Ready the bowl (I want a teapot cake, remember!):  Spray the bowl with Pam or other cooking spray and cut a piece of wax paper to lay inside the bowl.  The cooking spray holds the wax paper in place.  For this, I cut a strip in half and cut the sides of the strip about 1/2 inch so that the wax paper would overlap at the curves.   Lightly spray that as well once it is in place, then lay one or two more strips, repeating a light spraying so they stick together.

Get about 2 teaspoons of flour and sprinkle inside the bowl on top of the wax paper.  Using a pastry brush, lightly TAP (do not brush, TAP) the flour about the bowl.  Use a bit more as needed.  (This step may not be necessary as I know cakes do not generally stick to wax paper, but I do it anyway.)    Gently tap any excess flour out of the bowl.  (You might consider using powdered sugar instead of flour—the idea is that you want the cake to come out cleanly from the bowl once it is baked.)  Take your time preparing the bowl—it will determine how your cake turns out.

Sift two cups of flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients, gently mix until blended.  On high speed, beat the mixture for 1 minute.

DONE!  (Wow, that was easy, wasn’t it?)

Pour into the bowl—this is thick batter, almost like cookie dough but not quite.  Spread the dough evenly into the bowl.  Bake until a wooden skewer comes out clean—my cake took 1 hour 20 minutes to be done.

Immediately invert onto a wire rack.  The bowl may be slippery (mine was), so handle carefully.  This is what it looks like:

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Peel off the wax paper gently.

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The cake is inverted and the bottom (in the photo) is where you will stack the second cake.  You will need to trim it evenly first so they will sit flat on top of each other.  This is the base for your teapot cake.

Okay, now do it again!  Later, I’ll post how the teapot cake is coming along!

Some Baking Suggestions

“Uh oh!  I feel it coming—you are gonna’ give advice you call ‘hints’ aren’t you?” asked Jabberwocky who has been up since well, let’s just say, since before the usual wake up time.

Yes, am.  This morning a box of wax paper attacked me and I cut my thumb!  So hint number 1, watch out for those sharp edges on those ‘convenient’ boxes.  They will cut.  (That is, after all, what they are supposed to do.)

If this happens to you, stop immediately, run some cold water on your cut, get some Neosporin or other type of salve and cover it with a band aide.  For obvious reasons.

Before you begin, be sure you have all your ingredients in the house.  Don’t even measure anything out yet—just check and make sure you DO have it all.  Nothing more annoying than to have to run to the store in the middle of baking (or cooking).  Happens to me way too often.  But I do have “Errand Guy”—TMWLH is generally willing to run to the store to pick up whatever is needed at the moment.

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Errand Guy above saying, “What?  AGAIN?  You’ve got to be kidding!”

We’re lucky that our stores are about 2 minutes away.  For many, it’s a major adventure.  Plan ahead.  This  requires knowing what recipes you are going to use, so select them first and make a list of ingredients. 

While you are at it, make sure you have the necessary appliances, bowls, measuring spoons and so on before you begin.  You’re going along and all of a sudden you remember you gave that old measuring cup, which you now need, to one of the kids and you are missing it.  This interrupts your schedule, you have to wash up another to use, and oh well—how annoying!  Would have been better to pick up another one at the store (or shop where I do—yard sales) beforehand.

Wear comfortable shoes.  Baking and cooking require standing, for the most part, on your feet—if you have one of those magic stools which will whisk you around the kitchen, by all means, use it—but I don’t.  Besides, I don’t think they are all that convenient.  After all, you are going to have to bend high and low to get things out of the fridge and cabinets, into the oven and wash some dishes now and again. 

Wear an apron OR do as I do, wear your old clothes.  Then it doesn’t matter if you get food coloring on them.  You are not particularly presentable for company, so plan to do your baking/cooking before your company arrives.  At least, as much as you can.  Put on your nice clothes AND an apron when company arrives.

Do one thing at a time.  I have been known to do more than one thing at a time—that is to say, to have two recipes going on at the same time.  That works sometimes; other times I make a mess.  Best to avoid the potential risks, do each recipe one at a time unless you are extremely proficient and of very sound MIND and body.  (Recall, I’m 110)

Remind yourself to be careful with sharp knives.  Handle with care.  Make that a mantra for yourself.

Same goes for handling hot pans and the shelves in the oven.  I have scars to prove how not saying this mantra can result.

Take frequent breaks.   I get a cup of coffee and sit down.  Or a glass of water (nod to Leader here who is always pushing water and she’s correct).  Or start a blog and type up your experiences and any other such silliness as your mind conjures.  That way you can rest AND annoy lots of folks you may not even know.   

Stop when you are tired and no longer can concentrate.  Just stop.  Take a nap.  If you have the energy, clean up a bit.  But, if you don’t, just rest or go do something else.  Believe me, it will all be there when you return.  Unless you have a sous chef to do clean up.  I’ve failed trying to get grandchildren, TMWLH, and even Security to be sous chefs (although Security will floor vacuum crumbs and spills, and do pre-wash on dishes if allowed).

If you have little children (or grandchildren or even dogs), do make an attempt to keep them away from dangerous things like hot oven doors and hot pots on the stove.  Security checks on what is going on quite often—I think it is the aroma which brings her into the kitchen.  Actually, she’s very good about not jumping up on counters or stoves and suchlike.  (Exception:  If one leaves the table and there is food left on one’s plate she assumes it is for her and very gingerly helps herself.  This often occurs to Grandchildren who leave the table but have not finished their meal.  Security will finish it.)   I wouldn’t leave her alone in the kitchen with freshly baked goodies sitting out.  (Or TMWLH either)  And especially not a freshly cooked roast, although she has never, yet, given me reason to distrust her.  (With TMWLH, that is a different story.)

This is, of course, our Security:

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No, wait a minute, that’s not Security!  That’s Turkey Head—here is Security:

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Note that her two front legs are shaved?  Near-death experience requiring IV’s a week before Thanksgiving.  She’s fine, but a bit embarrassed about the shaved legs.

Okay, I’ve used this as an excuse to take a break, so back to the baking!  

 

 

Favorite Holiday Treats: Petit Fours

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Ah, when last we left the petit fours (fives, sixes?), they were languishing in the freezer, unfinished, uninspired, yearning for some personality.

Today was the day!  Yes!

Before you remove them from their imprisonment, prepare the frosting for them!

Sift 10 cups of powdered sugar.  This means, SIFT IT AND MEASURE AS YOU SIFT.

I have many sifters—some are more sifty than others, I admit, but each have their purpose.  Some serve as strainers,

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The one above definitely does better as a strainer–I tried to go all Giada with this one, but you know what?  Tired and true Sifty did the best job.  I know, I know—we watch those TV shows and imagine we’re doing this in front of the camera and “doesn’t she look oh! so chick doing that sifting!’ comes to mind and we try to replicate it, but alas!  I neither look like her, nor can I sift like she does (nor for that matter the blonde who seems so disconnected in her patter, nor even Paula who I more or less DO resemble).  So give up the ghost, 110 year olds!  Go with what you know!

some as flour sifters, and some as jack-of-all-trade sifters.  For this job, I chose Mini Sifter!  Yes, finally (she said), she was selected from the bunch to serve the purpose of sifting!  (I have tried many other types, they don’t work.  Choose Mini Sifty!)

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Sift into a cup measure, inside a big bowl.  That way, all the rest of the powdered sugar, which is, of course, already sifted, will fall into the bowl and you can—at the end—measure another cup without actually sifting.  This also prevents winter storms from suddenly overtaking your kitchen, resulting in a winter wonderland full of sticky, sweet powdered sugar which refuses to come up off the floor and the dog and everything else without an annoying amount of wiping and re-wiping.  (I ought to know.)

Speaking of counting (were we speaking of counting?), I have found that when one is in need of counting many cups/teaspoons/tablespoons/whatever, and the measuring takes a bit of time, one is best served actually keeping tabs.  You know how it goes, you’re right in the middle of it and the dog comes by demanding attention, or the kids, or the phone rings or you get a text or one of a million things comes up—emergencies all—and you lose count!  So, take it from me, keep tabs!

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See there?  On the right?  That’s where I scored how many cups of sifted powdered sugar I had in the pan.  This takes a bit of practice—one must dump the one level-cupful of powdered sugar into the pan whilst one is marking that one has done so.  One must be ambidextrous!  Practice!

Okay, dump the 10 sifted powdered sugar cupfuls directly into a large saucepan.  Add 1 cup of water.  Add 3 Tablespoons of light corn syrup.  Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

Now, heat on medium heat.  Stir gently with a wisk and attach a candy thermometer to the pan—inside.  (Hint:  it does no good outside.)  You’re shooting for 110 degrees.  You’ll get there pretty quick, so stir, stir, stir and get any lumps out of that powdered sugar!

Ready?  Almost…………Remove from heat.

Bring out the petit fours!  QUICKLY!  Place them on a wire rack.  Quickly, set said wire rack over a cookie sheet and begin to cover each one with this liquid goodness.  I use a large spoon to do this.  Be careful!  No, you can’t pick them up, you get it all over your hands.  Leave the little petit fours ON the rack and just try to get the liquid sugar to run down the sides and cover the cake.   Oops!  you say……..it’s not working completely.  Yes, well, I know.

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Carefully try to cover each one.  You won’t succeed.  I know this from years of practice.  When you have exhausted your supply of liquid sugar, carefully set the wire rack elsewhere for a moment, scrape up all the frosting which has dripped into the cookie sheet, and reheat.  Use your thermometer again.  It won’t take long.  Use that whisk!

Okay, let’s try again.  Turn them around and view them from the opposite side and start spooning.  Frosting, that is………

Unless you are extremely good at this (are you?), you’re likely going to have to try a third time.  You’ll notice, though, that some of it IS sticking—because the amount of frosting you are reheating is getting smaller.  You won’t be able to use all of it.  I promise you.  If you are hung up on being frugal with this liquid sugar stuff, I guess you could store it in a sealed container and use it for—I dunno—inject it directly into your veins?  No, that’s not right.  I don’t know what you’d use it for.  Think of something!  I, myself, just dispose of it.  In the garbage disposal.  I’m sick of looking at it by the time I get through.

But that’s your choice!

So, now, you have some nice petit fours.  No, they are not commercial looking.  They are home made looking!  (They really do taste good.  NO TASTING, THOUGH!  NOPE!  You worked too hard to be sampling yourself.  These are for guests.  And to make an impression!)

Leave them on the rack, put a clean cookie sheet under it, and stick them in the freezer.

Leave about 10 minutes.  When you get them out, gently trim off the excess frosting from the base of each petit four.

Remember that leftover Royal Icing—yeah, the stuff I used in the last post or so?  You know, I did SOMETHING with it (I’ve forgotten).  Anyway, it was leftover from when the grandkids did their gingerbread decorations.  Yes, that stuff.  Well, take it out of the fridge.  Take maybe 2 tablespoons of it and color it pink.  Put it into a piping bag with a star tip attached.  Make little rosettes on top of the petit fours.

Take some more of the Royal Icing and color it light green and you can make little leaves to go with the rosettes.  Have to use the leaf tip for this—practice!  Good.  It doesn’t take much at all.  Now you are done.  This is what mine look like–

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Nope, not perfect at all.  (I can’t get away with exclaiming, “Perfect!” like She Whose Name I Can Not Write has done for so many years, (I don’t believe it anyway) but good ‘nuf!)

So, now, put them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze them!  Then, gently place them in a tin and keep ‘em frozen until you are ready to serve.

Favorite Holiday Cookies: RAZ-MA-TAZ BARS!

“They’re razzy!  They’re jazzy!  They’re Raz-Ma-Tazzy!” Jabberwocky made up, quite proud of her ability to rhyme.  Boy, you think YOU’RE annoyed with her?  You ought to be me!

Well, maybe you ought NOT to be me.  I digress…

On to important stuff, like what are these and what’s the recipe and are they good?  Yes, they are.  These are baked in a square baking dish, like a 9 inch or 8 inch square pan.  I found this recipe, a few years back, on the back side of a package of white chocolate chips.  Tried ‘em.  Liked ‘em!  Now the recipe is in my bulging ‘favorite cookie recipes’ book.  The raspberry jam gives it a bit of tartness, but the white chocolate is very sweet in contrast.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (or margarine)

2 cups (12 oz package) Nestle Toll House Premier White Morsels, divided  (measure out one cup)

2 large eggs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds  (you did remember to toast them, didn’t you?)

Directions:

Grease and SUGAR (that’s right SUGAR) a 9 inch square baking pan.  Preheat oven to 325.

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That’s sugar in the pan—the second picture is how it is supposed to look when you are done.  Do this over the sink.  You are going to waste some sugar, here, so if you are worried about that, do it over another pan and then you can collect the excess sugar and put it in a separate bowl and use it for cereal of whatever—hey, how about the what not stuff in the fridge?  Yea!  Use it on that!  (see previous post)  This is sounding an awful like one of those annoying hints, isn’t it?

Okay, now melt butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl on high for 1 minute.  Stir. THEN add 1 cup morsels.  Do not mix.  I repeat, DO NOT MIX!  Let stand.

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Beat eggs in large mixing bowl until foamy.  This may take longer than you think—anyway, it did for me—I was thinking maybe 2 minutes, but it was more like 4.  I do not know why.  Besides, it was about 4:30 a.m., and I’m not sure I was thinking straight to begin with.  Anyway, when the eggs are foamy, you can add sugar, and beat the mixture until light lemon color, about 5 minutes.  That was true, it WAS only 5 minutes.

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Stir in morsel-butter mixture you had set aside.  Add flour, salt and almond extract, mix at low speed until combined.  Spread 2/3 of batter into prepared pan.  Save the rest.  Do not eat.  (I mean it, do not eat it!  You’ll need it later.  You can lick the bowl when we’re done here.)

Okay, now bake for 15 to 17 minutes (this took about 21 minutes for my pan, although I think that’s because I had an 8 X 8 pan and not a 9 X 9.  Turned out okay, anyway….) or until light golden brown around edges.

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Remove from oven to wire rack and let sit while you………

Heat jam in a small, microwave-safe bowl on high power for 30 seconds.

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Sir.  Spread jam over warm crust.  Stir remaining morsels into remaining batter.  Drop spoonful’s of batter over jam. 

image  I used a small metal spatula.

Sprinkle with toasted almonds. 

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Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until edges are browned.  Cool.  Cool it completely!

(You may now lick pans and bowls, if you like.  Or find some what not in the fridge, add your saved sugar and have breakfast if you, too, are baking at 4:30 a.m.  If not, then just lick the bowls and call it a day.)

In pan on a wire rack.  I then covered and placed in fridge for a couple hours.  Cut into bars—makes 16.

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Hint:  These are kind of difficult to remove from the pan—the sugar and butter become almost caramelized on the bottom and sides.  Coupon Clipping Queen Daughter has a hint for you (can you tell we are related?):  Use a plastic knife to get them out, at least in the beginning.  Plastic knives also work on brownies to remove them from the pan without tearing them up!  Who knew?  CCQ knew!

You can keep these in an air tight container, but don’t tell Jabber where they are.  She’ll eat them.

Now, you can lick the pan, too.  It’s cool enough!

Favorite Holiday Cookies: Coconut Macaroons

Ah, yes my friends, the marathon baking experiment continues.  Right here at Harpethview, I’m one bakin’ fool!

“You are always a fool, fool…….” mumbles Jabberwocky.  She’s likely correct.

TMWLH asks, “Why don’t you just BUY cookies?”  Really?  For my friends and family I’d ‘just buy’ them?  I think NOT!  Oh no!  I much prefer to arise at 4 a.m. and start making cookies and other such and by 8:30 at night fall into bed, exhausted! 

(Oh alright.  I get up at 4 a.m. all the time, whether I want to or not, and I generally go to bed exhausted at 9 p.m., regardless of whether I’ve actually done anything or not during the day.  I’m 110!  What do you expect?!)

So, you recall those egg whites that I saved in the fridge?  Well, I label how many egg whites are in each little bowl, cover in plastic wrap and actually can find them IN the fridge!  (After Thanksgiving, this is somewhat of a small miracle.  Leftovers and what not.  The ‘what not’ is what was not wanted.  At Thanksgiving.)   Four (egg whites, not what nots) are called for in macaroons.  Just so happens I HAVE four!

You will need:  a large bowl, a wooden spoon, two cookie sheets which have been buttered and floured well.  Set oven to 325 degrees.

Recipe, on the back of the Baker’s Coconut package:

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1 package of the coconut (14 oz)  (5 1/3 cups)

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2/3 cup sugar

6 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 egg whites

1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

Mix the dry ingredients with the coconut well.  Add egg whites and almond extract, and mix well. 

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Drop by tablespoons onto greased and floured baking sheet.  Pop into the oven set at 325 for about 20 minutes or until the edges brown.  Remove and cool on a wire rack.  Keep in air tight container or you can freeze.  (Makes 3 dozen.)

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(Hey, did you notice?  No annoying ‘hints’ in this post.  Maybe I’m over that.  Then again……..)

Frosting Sugar Cookies

“Wake up!” jabbed Jabber!  “It’s time to get up and frost those sugar cookies!”

Okay, so I did. 

Remember that I said my grandchildren decorated gingerbread houses last weekend?  I saved some of the Royal Icing in a sealed container.  I will use that to frost the cookies.  (To make Royal Icing, use meringue powder—you will need a can of Wilton’s Meringue Powder and follow the directions inside the container—but I warn you, you will have tons more frosting than you’ll need for these sugar cookies!  If you don’t have any leftover Royal Icing, better to use regular icing and then freeze the cookies to set the frosting—and keep them frozen and separated until you serve.)

I took about 1 heaping tablespoon of the Royal Icing and diluted it with about 1 tablespoon of water.  Stir.  You might want to dilute even a bit more. 

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I have a variety of decorations for cookies—sugars, coloring, dragees, sparkling sugars, etc.  I keep these in a tightly sealed tin because, of course, I don’t use them very often.  But they last a very long time.

Be sure you are working on a ‘safe’ surface—food coloring will stain!  I painted and decorated only one or two cookies at a time.

Stick a toothpick in your food coloring and then place in the icing and stir–or a couple of drops of liquid food coloring will work, too.  Mix until you have the desired color.

I use a small paintbrush, kept exclusively for such a purpose with the coloring, to paint the frosting on—this gives me more control over how it is applied.  But, of course, using a spatula or knife will work just as well.

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Use the dragees sparingly.  Sprinkle on whatever colored sugar you like—or not!

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I made these for a Christmas tea, so, of course, I made teapots, Christmas trees and stars.

I placed one layer in the freezer to set.  A while later, with wax paper separating the cookies, I placed another layer of cookies on top in the freezer.  These cookies will be accent cookies on the table—edible, but brightly colored, too, to add sparkle.

This might be a fun project for the kids to do—paint and decorate cookies.  I’d recommend an adult actually bake the cookies as they are a bit tricky to cut out.  See previous post.

Sugar Cookies

“You said you’d tell more after you gave the recipe!” said Jabber.

Yes, I did.  Refer back a couple of posts to the recipe for these sugar cookies. 

So here is more:

Oven needs to be about 350 degrees.

Roll out one piece of dough to 1/8 of an inch thick on a piece of parchment paper cut to fit a baking sheet.  LIGHTLY flour the dough before rolling.  (By this, I mean take a pinch and only a pinch of flour and lightly sift it with fingers onto the dough.)  The rolling pin will not stick immediately, but only roll back and forth maybe twice.  (It is very helpful to have spacers—these go on the end of rolling pins and will allow precise rolling to 1/8 of an inch or whatever you require.)  Dip your cookie cutter into flour, and then cut as many designs as you can.  Do not move the cut outs

Remove the excess dough!  Put excess dough back in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap.

You may have to wait until the cut outs are semi-frozen to remove the excess dough around the cut outs—see below.

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Place cut outs in the freezer for a moment.

Place the remaining dough back onto the plastic wrap and wrap up again.  Put back in the refrigerator.

Repeat.

Keep the dough cold and the cut out cookies in the freezer until you are ready to bake them.  Use flour very very sparingly!

The cut out cookies should be semi-frozen and easy to move with a metal spatula.  Make sure there is at least an inch between each cutout before you bake.  Bake for about 8 minutes or until they are lightly golden on sides.  CAREFULLY remove onto a cooling rack.

Cool completely.  I will tell you about the frosting tomorrow!  For overnight, I place in a pan and cover with plastic wrap.  Frosting is the decorative touch—to be done tomorrow.

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I have an update on Cheryl’s daughter.  She will be flying back to the mainland USA for medical treatment here.  We are very glad to know she is well enough to travel and that the medical crises has, so far, been averted. 

Vanna’s husband continues to improve and will be sent home, we believe, on Thursday.

We send thanks to all who have kept our loved ones, so dear to us, in their prayers and positive thoughts.

Blessings to all of you as you, too, enjoy preparations for a happy holiday season, regardless of what religion or holiday you celebrate.  Thank you for reading me, for your ‘likes’ and for your comments.  They are very much appreciated!  (Even by Jabberwocky.)

 

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