Wednesday, August 26, 2015

cinnamon sugar cookies . . . and apples, apples, apples for Teacher!

I'm re-sharing this post from last year's back-to-school week.

Our 6 and 7-year-old will be attending a new school this year, and it starts a few weeks after the rest of the school district, so we're enjoying these last few days of Summer break . . . and prepping for back-to-school!

I hope you enjoy this first tribute to apple season!

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

WARNING . . . There are a lot of photos of apples!

I like to send a "Welcome back!" gift with my kids on their first day of school to give to their teachers.

Last year, I sent a big bag of home-made chewy chocolate chip and toffee cookies.

And this year, we baked cinnamon sugar cookies in the shape of apples!

I bought several varieties of apples at the Farmer's Market earlier in the week . . . Gala, Pink Lady, Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious.

The kids had no idea that there are so many varieties. We even had an apple taste-testing!

Pink Lady and Granny Smith were our favorite!

We decorated our cookies based on the apples we brought home from the Market.

And these were the home-made APPLES our 5- and-6-year old brought their teachers on the first day of school . . .

I packaged them in clear cellophane bags and then tied them with rustic rope. We carefully placed them in a simple brown gift bag cushioned with brown shredded paper.  They were darling!

Here are the kids' interpretations of the apples. They did a great job!


Golden Delicious & Granny Smith 


Pink Lady
Did you notice the pink sanding sugar?
This was the girls' favorite apple!

I used my favorite sugar cookie recipe, and added cinnamon and a little nutmeg to give the dough warm hints of Fall. These spices were a great addition!

cinnamon sugar cookies
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .   
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons (1 ½  sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 egg, room temperature
 powder sugar (instead of flour) for rolling out dough
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .    

To make the cookies, in a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt . . . set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and egg. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Mix until just combined.

Form the dough into a flattened ball, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or as long as overnight.

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 

On a lightly floured powder sugar surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies about 2 inches apart, and bake until just golden around the edges, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 5 minutes, then remove the cookies from the pans and let cool completely.

Makes 10 to 20 cookies, depending on cutter size.

Sugar Cookie GLAZE
2 ¼  cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

Combine ingredients and mix until smooth
Using a small paint brush (or the tip of your finger), spread on top of cookies
Sprinkle sanding sugar on top of GLAZE when it's wet

The secret to a 'clean' sugar edge is not letting the glaze drip down the sides of the cookie.
A thick glaze is also key.
After the glaze has been mixed, add 1 Tablespoon of confectioners' sugar at a time, 
until you get the desired consistency.
Have fun!

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Monday, August 10, 2015

angel lush cakes

The Littles and I try to venture North to my mom's house at least once a week throughout the Summer months to spend extended time with her. I don't get to visit as often when our little ones are in school, so I seize the lazy days of Summer to spend extra time with her.

During one of my visits she surprised me with two cookbooks.

They weren't just any ol' cookbooks though . . . they were hers!

I remember one of them from my growing up years . . . and the other was one that was given to her by her family and friends as a wedding gift. They filled it with their favorite recipes; and over the years, my mom has added her favorite recipes, too . . . and now I have them! I'm pretty sure I heard my heart sing that day!

We spent upwards of 4 hours combing through the cookbooks and loose-leaf recipe cards and papers . . . It was so much fun!

It's a treasure to have so many of my maternal grandma and great-grandma's recipes . . . and the best part is that so many of them are written in their own hand-writing!

We also found recipes from my dad's Kansas family, most of which were from his sisters. These also mean a lot to me because our family spent Summers in Kansas every year . . . so I have fond memories of all my aunts and cousins great home-cooking!

The recipe that I'm sharing with you today is one that my dad's family shared with my mom more than a decade ago, as Angel Food was my dad's favorite cake. It's fun to have a pretty and delicious twist on one of his favorites.

Although the real Angel Lush recipe calls for angel food cake, I thought I would bake a white vanilla cake instead. (I'm more of a cake gal!)

It's ridiculous how easy this cake is to prepare and assemble! And if you buy an Angel Food from your local bakery or market, then it'll be that much faster to put together.

The light and fluffy vanilla and pineapple pudding filling is delicious! The vanilla pudding 'warms up' the pineapple juices giving it a more tender sweetness, and the fresh berries brighten up the whole cake. YUM!

Since my from-scratch white cake recipe yield a crumb that's too tender for this kind of cake, I used a moist vanilla cake mix, and then added and an extra teaspoon of vanilla to the batter. And voila, you have my version of an Angel Lush Cake!

This beautiful cake can also be made into mini cakes and cupcakes . . . and topped with a single berry or combination of fresh berries. I chose strawberries because they're absolutely gorgeous and ripe this time of year!

I will be making Angel Lush Cupcakes for my mom's Annual End-of-Summer Family Gathering this weekend. I'll post a photo on Facebook or Instagram so that you can see how darling they are!

I hope I've inspired you to whip up one more Summer-inspired dessert before this beautiful season ends!

angel lush cakes
.     .     .     .     .
1 20-ounce can CRUSHED pineapple, undrained
1 3.4-ounce package instant vanilla pudding   
1 8-ounce package Cool Whip whipped topping
1 10-ounce package round angel food cake, cut into 3 (or 4 layers)
fresh seasonal berries
.     .     .     .     .

Mix pineapple and dry pudding mix in medium bowl. Gently stir in whipped topping.

Stack cake layers on plate, spreading pudding mixture between layers and on top of cake.

Refrigerate 1 hour or until ready to serve. Garnish with your favorite seasonal berries.



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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

peaches and cream shortbread cookie dessert

It's peach season around here . . . and we're enjoying them with everything!

There's nothing like walking through the Farmers Market in late July and August when fruits are at their peak . . . strawberries, plums, berries, and peaches. It smells like sweet heaven!

I shared this amazing 'best shortbread' recipe with you last week, along with my version of an affogato with tea and shortbread

I mentioned at the end of the post that I made peaches and cream shortbread cookies for my husband and little ones. So I thought I would share this fun, easy, and fresh recipe with you while peaches are at their prime.

Using one of my favorite fluted cookie cutters, I pressed small round shortbread cookies from the large one that I made for my birthday celebration. 

Charley and I found the SWEETEST peaches at our local Farmers Market. They were perfect for our cookie dessert! 

To make this fun for our little ones, I set up a peaches and cream shortbread cookie bar so that they could make their own.  It was so much fun!

.     .     .     .     .     .    
sliced peaches
small scoops of vanilla bean ice cream
small shortbread cookies
.     .     .     .     .     .    

And for my husband's dessert . . . I finely chopped fresh peaches, folded them into vanilla bean ice cream, and then topped it with crumbled shortbread cookies. So good! 

And for a little extra treat, I sprinkled a dash of cinnamon on top of everyone's cookies and sundaes.

I love simple and fresh Summer desserts like this one! I hope you do, too!

best shortbread
courtesy Cook's Illustrated
.     .     .     .     .     .
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
.     .     .     .     .     .

Preheat oven to 450 F. Place the collar of a 9-inch spring form pan upside down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (The groove of the collar should be at the top.)

Pulse the oats in a mini prep or food processor until reduced to fine powder, about ten 5-second pulses. In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix ground oats, all-purpose flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. Add the butter to the mixer and continue to mix on low speed until dough just forms and pulls away from sides of bowl, 5 to 10 minutes.

Press the dough into the spring form collar in an even 1/2-inch-thick layer, smoothing top of dough with back of spoon. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut a hole in the center of the dough. Place the round alongside spring form collar on baking sheet and place the biscuit cutter back into the hole in the center of the dough. Open the spring form collar all the way, but leave it in place around the dough.

Bake the shortbread 5 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 250 F. Continue to bake the shortbread until the edges turn pale golden, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Remove baking sheet from oven and turn off oven. Remove the biscuit cutter and spring form pan collar; use a chef’s knife to score surface of shortbread into 16 even wedges, cutting halfway through shortbread. Using a wooden skewer, poke 8 to 10 holes in each wedge. Return the shortbread to the oven and prop door open with handle of wooden spoon. Allow the shortbread to dry in turned-off oven until pale golden in center, about 1 hour.
Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool the shortbread to room temperature, at least 2 hours. Cut shortbread at scored marks to separate.

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