While this holiday season will certainly be different than the traditional celebrations of years past, you don’t have to tone down your festive spirit! Get ready to deck the halls and bring some old-fashioned Christmas cheer to your family gatherings.
Try these Sweet Delights at Home
Cookies, Cookies, Cookies!
Cookies are fun for all ages – to help mix, shape, decorate and devour! Mixing up some cookie dough, you can create a gingerbread turkey cookie to use as a place setting for Thanksgiving, a gingerbread house for a Christmas centerpiece, a platter of snowflake cookies for a January snow day, and a festive ski chalet to add to your Valentine’s Day celebration.
Read the recipe together out loud first, gather the ingredients and bowls, spatulas, measuring cups and spoons and let the fun begin! Expert pastry chef, Jeanne Topham of JTCakes/I Dream of Jeanne Cakes @jtckaesboston provides step-by-step instructions and tips for these versatile, edible crafts that are sure to entertain and delight the whole family!
Gingerbread Cookie Dough (adapted from the original by Rose Levy Beranbaum)
- 3 cups bleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup light molasses, preferably Grandma’s brand (use a greased liquid measuring cup to measure). Do not use blackstrap molasses, the cookies will be too dark and taste somewhat bitter.
- 1 large egg
Measure the flour using the dip-and-sweep method. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda to mix evenly.
Using an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, on speed 2, mix the brown sugar, spices, and butter for two minutes until evenly mixed (no streaks of butter left). Add the molasses and egg to the mixture and beat until blended (it may look curdled, that is ok).
On low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture until incorporated.
Cover the mixer bowl and let the dough sit for 30 minutes. Then roll the dough between pieces of parchment paper. Refrigerate the dough for two hours or overnight (or up to two days). If you like thick and soft cookies, roll the dough thicker; if you like thinner, crispier cookies, roll the dough thinner.
Cut the cookies and arrange on a parchment lined pan at least one inch apart. You can cut all the cookies and refrigerate them until you want to bake them if that is easier for your schedule. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes for small cookies and up to 10 to 12 minutes for the larger ones, or until firm to the touch. If you like pudgy cookies, under bake SLIGHTLY. The cookies will continue to firm as they cool.
Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
*You can also mix the dough in a food processor. If using a food processor, you don’t need to soften the butter, just cut it into chunks first.
Once the cookies are baked, the fun begins! You can use almost anything to decorate a cookie: candies, sprinkles, edible glitter, stick pretzels, licorice, crushed hard candy… you are limited only by your imagination!
You can make a cookie glaze by mixing a tablespoon of water or milk to a cup of confectioner’s sugar (be patient as you stir, it takes a few minutes to create a spreadable consistency.) Add up to a half teaspoon of a flavored extract, e.g. vanilla or lemon, and spread it on a cookie or pipe it with a piping bag and sprinkle on the decorations while the icing is still wet. Leave to dry for an hour or two.
Royal icing is traditionally used for gingerbread houses and it is a great icing for the roof and decorations. If you purchased a gingerbread house kit, it typically comes with decorations and icing mix. If it is not enough icing, you can easily make more with a stand or hand mixer and dried egg whites or meringue powder and confectioner’s sugar. We use meringue powder in the bakery, and we mix 3 tablespoons of meringue powder, 4 cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar and 8-10 tablespoons of water for a batch. Mix on medium speed until you get a smooth consistency icing. You can thin it out by adding more water or make it thicker by adding additional confectioners’ sugar. (You can buy meringue powder at a craft store or use dried egg whites from the grocery store. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for royal icing.)
Keep the icing covered with a damp paper towel so it does not dry out while you are working with it. You might find it easier to separate it into small bowls and mixing in food coloring to color them. Add color with a toothpick or put some on the edge of a spoon. It is easier to add more color than to have a color you are unhappy with. Color will deepen overnight so if you’re looking for a deep red or black, make the royal icing the day before and let it sit (covered with a damp paper towel and tightly wrapped with plastic wrap).
You can also use chocolate to decorate our gingerbread cookies. You can use the melting chocolate wafers in the baking aisle of your grocery or craft store. Use caution when melting or working with hot chocolate. Use a glass cup or microwave safe bowl and microwave it for 15 seconds at a time, preferably at medium-low power and stir.
Pro-tip: Be patient! It is better to repeat these steps multiple times than to over-melt the chocolate and end up with a clump of chocolate that you will not be able to use. It is easy to scorch chocolate by overheating it so keep stirring and let the residual heat continue to assist the melting. You may also use a double boiler to melt the wafers over medium heat as well.
And now, something to keep the little ones involved! Have a lot of leftover candy from Halloween? Use it to make turkey cookies!
You can use the gingerbread recipe or your favorite chocolate shortbread dough. Cut into rounds, bake, and decorate with royal icing to glue on candy corn for the feathers and piped eyes, a heart shaped beak and legs! You can use the icing, chocolate, and candies to create festive gingerbread men, autumn leaves, the possibilities are endless!
Be inspired to create a centerpiece for your winter gatherings, whether it is Sunday afternoon football, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or just a snowy day, keep some cookie dough in your freezer so you can whip up some fun and sweet memories!
S’mores are easy, fun, and delicious, but certainly don’t have to be limited to the campfire!
Mix up some warm treats and memories by the fireplace, fondue pot or even toast some up in the toaster oven. The master chocolatiers at CB Stuffer @cbstuffer suggest giving your s’mores a holiday spin by creating a s’more buffet with different mix-ins like crushed candy canes, fruit, chocolate hazelnut spread, peanut butter, sprinkles, and other candies.
- Graham Crackers
- Milk Chocolate (or experiment with dark or white chocolate)
- Variety of candies (optional)
- Fruit (optional)
- Chocolate hazelnut spread or peanut butter (optional)
If you have access to a fireplace or even an outdoor fire pit, simply roast your marshmallows and insert your chocolate and toppings, and then sandwich in between the graham crackers.
No access to a fireplace? No problem! You can toast up your marshmallows on the top of one of the graham crackers in a toaster oven or even melt the chocolate in a fondue pot or double boiler and drizzle the chocolate onto the cracker, then layer with the marshmallow and toppings before sandwiching the two crackers together to enjoy!
The simplicity and ease of making s’mores gives you more quality time to enjoy with your family and friends. Pair with a mug of hot cocoa and really bask in the warmth of the holiday spirit!