Jumbo Gingerbread Folk

Jumbo Gingerbread Folk via Sweetapolita

Gingerbread, in any form, makes me genuinely happy. And nostalgic. And as much as I get tempted to create weird and wonderful gingerbread confections, in my heart I feel compelled to embrace the utmost in tradition and go with the classic holiday cookie: the gingerbread man . . . or woman. Heck, let us just call them gingerbread folk. Timeless, tasty and so darn cute.

What I love about vintage gingerbread folk is that they are actually sort of girly and boyish all at once. My inspiration for these cookies (not that the holidays alone aren’t enough gingerbread inspiration) came from this adorable little guy whom I spotted on Pinterest awhile back (originally from here). I just can’t get enough of him. So my cakelets and I created some classic gingerbread folk, but rather than create a whole village of small ones, we decided to do something different and create a jumbo version . . .

Jumbo Gingerbread Folk via Sweetapolita

Cakelet approved! As I sat down to source a jumbo cutter, I remember when we created the Little Hands Sugar Cookies last year, we simply made a template out of cardstock and then I cut the dough using an x-acto-style knife. It worked so well, that I figured we could do the same with the mega gingerbread man. (That being said, you could do that with any shape you like.) So we made ours about 8″ x 11″, which was perfect for printing the template straight from the computer.

Jumbo Gingerbread Folk via Sweetapolita

The dough itself is my go-to gingerbread recipe, and dare I call this my Perfect Gingerbread Cookie recipe. It’s spicy, dark and rolls like a dream. It bakes up with a slight crisp around the edge, but the remainder of the cookie is semi-soft. (If you over-bake they will be dry and crispy). I use cooking molasses, which is a very robust molasses (not as robust as blackstrap, but a mix of fancy and blackstrap). It also makes for handsomely dark gingerbread men, but if you’re not into strong molasses flavour, you can always use any molasses you like. I should mention that, I’ve tried many-a-gingerbread-dough, and this recipe is a hybrid of what I liked about each one. If you chill, chill, chill the cookies will keep their shape nicely, but (unlike sugar cookies) they will expand a tad.

With a quick snip of the shape from the cardstock, you can then cut around the template, pop it onto your baking sheet (1 per sheet in this case), chill and bake. Since they’re so big (the recipe makes 7 total), hand-cutting isn’t really that tedious. I’ve included the template I used, but honestly you could even draw your own if you prefer a slightly different shape. You can even have your kids draw their own and you can cut out and bake their own version. Either way, this is such a fun project for kids (big and small).

Our cakelets loved this and it kept them busy for the longest time (yes!). I used two resealable plastic bags for royal icing then filled some cupcake liners with an array of chocolate chips, dragees, sprinkles, candy canes, jelly dots, and more and let them do their thing.

Before they started, I printed a bunch of the templates for the girls to colour, just for fun and to possibly design their cookies. Reese opted for a super-classic and conservative design, and followed her paper design to a tee.

Neve opted to ditch the design and went balls-to-the-wall topping-happy with her cookie. We all had a giggle about this, and thought –with all of that candy piled on there–her cookie won the prize for the most delightful and delicious looking. ♥

Happy Jumbo Gingerbread Folk!

Just when I thought our cookies were jumbo, I came across this cutter decoration last night while at my local HomeSense. I almost died. My heart literally skipped a beat! That would have been the best $49.99, I’d ever spent. Sadly it would never fit in my car.

Jumbo Gingerbread Folk via Sweetapolita

For now, we’ll stick with the not-as-jumbo version. I kept my decorations pretty simple: royal icing swirls/eyes/mouths, jelly dot buttons and cheeks and candy heart noses. ♥

The Perfect Gingerbread Cookie

Yield: 7 jumbo gingerbread folk (8" x 11")

A dark, robust and spicy gingerbread cookie with a slightly crispy edge and semi-soft center. This cookie dough rolls like a dream and is ideal for cutting gingerbread folk, or any other desired shape.

Ingredients

  • 7 cups (910 g) all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons (12 g) cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons (12 g) ground ginger
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (11 g) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (3 g) ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup (227 g)(2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (235 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1-1/2 cups (355 ml) cooking molasses*
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. In large bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt, baking soda, cloves and nutmeg. Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and beat in eggs one at a time, scraping sides of bowl between additions. Add molasses and vanilla and beat until completely incorporated.
  3. Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Dough should be soft (not dry or crumbly) but not sticky. If sticky, add a few tablespoons of flour until desired consistency is achieved.
  4. Remove 1/2 of dough from bowl, make a ball, and place on a large piece of plastic wrap on counter.Wrap the sides of wrap over the ball, then press down with the palm of your hand and make a disc about 2" thick. Finish wrapping the disc with the plastic wrap. Repeat with 2nd half of dough. Chill both discs of dough for at least 2 hours.
  5. Remove one disc and remove plastic wrap. Place on top of a large piece of lightly floured parchment or wax paper (I use a silicone rolling mat underneath to ensure it doesn't slip while rolling, but you can even dampen counter so the parchment sticks a bit.), then place two 1/4" wooden dowels on either side of your dough, then another sheet of parchment paper.
  6. Roll dough (this will require a bit of elbow grease for the first few minutes until it softens up a bit) so it's flush with dowels--they will ensure that your dough is even thickness.
  7. Preheat your oven to 350° F. Slide your parchment paper and dough onto a board, then place in refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or freezer for 15 minutes (or more).
  8. Remove from fridge, and cut your shapes using the cutters or template of choice, placing them on a baker's half sheet lined with a silicone baking mat (or parchment), with 2" clearance around each one and the edge of sheet. Place sheet with cookies into freezer for 15 minutes before baking. Bake for 7 minutes, tap tray on counter, and return to oven, rotating tray. Bake until edges just start to brown, about 6 more minutes. Be careful not to over-bake, or cookies will be dry.
  9. Cool sheets on wire racks for 20 minutes, then gently remove cookies and place on wire racks to finish cooling. If cookies are too fragile, you can cool completely on trays.

Notes

*Use cooking molasses for a more dark and robust gingerbread cookie, or if you prefer a lighter tasting gingerbread, use fancy/unsulphured molasses.

Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://sweetapolita.com/2012/12/jumbo-gingerbread-folk/

Royal Icing

Ingredients

  • 3-3/4 cups (454 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons (20 g) meringue powder
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (90 ml) water, plus more for thinning
  • Flavouring/extract to taste (nothing oil-based) such as, almond extract, rosewater, vanilla extract (clear if you want the icing to remain very white), etc. optional

Instructions

  1. Use a paper towel to wipe the bowl of an electric mixer and a rubber spatula with a few drops of lemon juice. Add all of the ingredients into the bowl and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment.
  2. Mix ingredients on low-speed for 12 minutes.
  3. Add very small increments (1 teaspoon at a time) of water until desired piping consistency is achieved.
  4. Keep royal icing covered with plastic wrap at all times. Can be stored covered with a damp cloth and plate (same diameter as top of bowl) on top in bowl in refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://sweetapolita.com/2012/12/jumbo-gingerbread-folk/

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Here’s the Jumbo Gingerbread Man template. Simply print this onto standard 8.5″ x 11″ thick white paper (I used a basic card-stock) and then cut around the outline. This is also a great template to print for kids to colour. I found this template on a teacher’s resource site, where you can find countless other ideas.
  • Removing the large cookies from the baking sheet can be tricky, so I use this (and for all of my cakes): Wilton Cake and Cookie Lifter.
  • For tips and photos on rolling dough, you can check out a past post, Steps to Making the Perfect Sugar Cookie {and Cookie Pop}.
  • For piping the eyes, mouth and swirls, I used royal icing in a small piping bag fitted with a plain round #3 tip.
  • I secured the jelly dots and hearts with a dab of royal icing.

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

The Perfect Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookie

Perfect Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookie via Sweetapolita

Happy November to you!

That’s it. I’ve officially got the November-but-soon-to-be-December-cookie-making itch. Don’t you? My favourite cookies to make, bake and create with are sugar cookies. Variation is great too, but in the end I just love a perfect little sugar cookie. That’s not to say I love every sugar cookie, but the right sugar cookie has my heart. It has to buttery, slightly crispy, full of either pure vanilla or deep dark chocolate flavour, and absolutely must keeps its shape when baked.

Perfect Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookie via Sweetapolita

If you’ve read my previous post about The Perfect Sugar Cookie (and Cookie Pop), you know that I have a best-loved vanilla sugar cookie recipe (and technique for rolling and baking to ensure they keep their shape). So when I make the chocolate version, I use almost the same recipe, but I add some extra sugar (brown), premium dark cocoa powder, and an extra egg to make up for it. (I omit the lemon extract). And just like that they are the deepest of chocolate with the same delightful buttery, slightly-crispiness as the vanilla version. Doesn’t the cookie dough look so dark and decadent?

As for decorating these, anything goes of course. I love the visual of a pastel icing or fondant on a deep, dark cookie and, just as the vanilla version, they are perfect for cookie pops too. (You can learn about how to do that in the same post). Although the recipe helps keeps them from expanding, it’s the process that is key, in my opinion. It’s all about the chilling the dough, rolling it and chilling again before cutting shapes, then chilling (almost freezing) the shapes before baking. This will add to the baking time compared to other sugar cookie recipes, but it makes all the difference. Just make sure to bake the cookies long enough (even if it feels as though they’re taking forever), so that they are crispy on the edges, but not burnt. Burnt chocolate cookies can make you shiver–and not in a good way.

So albeit a simple and no-bells-and-whistles recipe, it’s only the beginning of countless (fabulous) chocolaty cookie designs. ♥

Perfect Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Yield: Apprx 30 medium cookies, depending on shapes/size

Buttery, crisp and super-chocolaty, these sugar cookies are ideal for decorating, snacking, tea-time or gifting. If the steps are followed, they will keep their shapes well and won't expand while baking.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups (750 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1-1/4 cups (137 g) dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon (8 g) salt
  • 2 cups (454 g)(4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (228 g) light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, cold
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. In large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs until just combined.
  3. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla and blend.
  4. Remove 1/2 of dough from bowl, make a ball, and place on a large piece of plastic wrap on counter.Wrap the sides of wrap over the ball, then press down with the palm of your hand and make a disc about 2" thick. Finish wrapping the disc with the plastic wrap. Repeat with 2nd half of dough. Chill both discs of dough for about 45 minutes.
  5. Remove one disc and remove plastic wrap. Place on top of a large piece of parchment paper (I use a silicone rolling mat underneath to ensure it doesn't slip while rolling, but you can even dampen counter so the parchment sticks a bit.), then place two 1/4" wooden dowels on either side of your dough, then another sheet of parchment paper.
  6. Roll dough (this will require a bit of elbow grease for the first few minutes until it softens up a bit) so it's flush with dowels--they will ensure that your dough is even thickness.
  7. Preheat your oven to 325° F. Slide your parchment paper and dough onto a board, then place in refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from fridge, and cut your shapes using the cutters of your choice, placing them on a baker's half sheet lined with a silicone baking mat (or parchment), with 2" clearance around each one and the edge of sheet. Place sheet with cookies into freezer for 15 minutes before baking. Bake until cookie edges are just crisp, about 16 minutes.
  9. Cool sheets on wire racks for 10 minutes, then gently remove cookies and place on wire racks to finish cooling.

Notes

May be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. They also freeze well in an airtight container.

Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://sweetapolita.com/2012/11/the-perfect-dark-chocolate-sugar-cookies/

Sweetapolita’s Notes:
Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

La La Lavender & Lemon Cloud Cupcakes

Lavender & Lemon Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Today’s Weather Forecast: A sweet mix of sunshine and clouds. Probability of celebration is 100%.

Did I mention that I have a bit of a thing for clouds these days? Yummy ones, that is (you may remember these cloudy sweets). Maybe it’s a subconscious need to escape the everyday, or to float above reality to la la land for awhile, but every time I bake (it’s been known to happen) clouds are on my mind. A little while back I woke up with an undying need for something lavender & lemon, which has also been known to happen, so I made some Lavender & Lemon Shortbread cookies — these little things are so delightful. I love the kind of shortbread that just melts in your mouth with all of its buttery goodness, and the recipe I use is one I’ve adapted from Joy of Baking–it never disappoints. I cut little L&L clouds and felt that they were just too cute to be gobbled up and long forgotten. So I decided to create some cupcakes to perch them upon, to celebrate the awesomeness that is Lavender & Lemon even further.

Lavender & Lemon Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

And it’s to not say that these cupcakes need to be cloudy, because are pretty special all on their own–the cupcakes themselves are light, tender, citrusy Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes, topped with tangy homemade Lemon Curd and topped with Whipped Lavender Frosting. If you’ve never baked with culinary lavender before, you’re in for a real treat–the lovely flavour of the lavender doesn’t come across floral, but rather compliments the sweet vanilla and lemon flavours like a dream (you just don’t want to overdo it by adding too much — less is more).

I also thought it would be neat to make my own cupcake wrappers for these, because I wanted something pastel and lavender with a cloud-like scalloped edge. I found a scrapbook paper that I loved and went ahead and cut out some wrappers — this is so easy! For the template, you can check out this simple post from Skip To My Lou. I snipped the tops with the “cloud” style (I didn’t make that up) scallop scissors from the craft shop and secured the backside with a glue stick. Once you learn this simple trick of making your own wrappers, the possibilities are literally endless. Sometimes the liners that we bake the cupcakes in look so cute and, unless they’re really thick, they absorb a lot of the grease of the cupcakes and a lot of the colour is lost. I can see making these little wrappers becoming a wee bit addictive!

I think these cupcakes would make the cutest and yummiest addition to any spring or summer party, shower, dessert table, picnic, birthday or, of course, a lovely Mother’s Day treat. I just adore this flavour combination, and it’s always fun to watch someone’s face light up when you tell them that they just ate lavender–suddenly they feel pretty fancy. It’s hard to not smile when you take a bite of summer.

Even if you stopped at making the Lavender & Lemon Shortbread Clouds, well I’d be okay with that too. They are such a tasty little treat and look pretty darling alongside a cup of tea. With only a handful of ingredients, they’re also pretty quick and easy to make. To make this cutter, I used a simple small flower cookie cutter and gently squished it into a cloud shape — it works!

Lavender & Lemon Shortbread via Sweetapolita

Or you can always whip up some Lavender & Lemon Shortbread Unicorns and call it a day — the world will forgive you. (For those who will want to know more about this fancy cutter in particular, it’s made by Tovolo — I just don’t see it on their website anymore. Sorry!)

Or you can do as I do, and make the L&L Shortbread Unicorns, eat and share most of them before you can actually photograph and blog about it, then make another batch of the shortbread, turn them into clouds, make the following recipes, stack it all up and watch them beam . . .

Lavender & Lemon Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Escape to La La Lavender & Lemon land . . .

La La Lavender & Lemon Cloud Cupcakes

Yield: 18 standard cupcakes

Moist, fluffy lemon buttermilk cupcakes topped with zingy lemon curd, whipped lavender frosting and topped with lavender sugar cookie clouds.

Ingredients

    For the Cupcakes:
  • 1 cup (240 ml) (8 oz) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (230 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 1-1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon (8 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon (2 g) salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) (115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Finely grated lemon zest (rind) of two medium-large lemons
  • For the Frosting:
  • 3 sticks (340 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3.5 cups (400 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) whipping cream (35% cream), or whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon dried Culinary Lavender
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare two standard muffin pans with your favourite baking liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the eggs, 1/4 cup of buttermilk, and vanilla. Set aside.Sift the cake flour 3 times.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, together on low speed (I use the “stir” setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the butter and blend on low speed for about 30 seconds, then add remaining 3/4 cup of buttermilk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1 1/2 minutes.
  5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg/milk mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. Stir in the lemon zest.
  6. Divide the batter into your prepared liners, no more than 2/3 full.
  7. Bake until a toothpick comes clean when inserted into the center of the cupcake (~15 minutes). Be so careful to not over-bake. Place hot baking pans on wire racks, then carefully (they’re hot!) remove the cupcakes from the baking pans immediately to let cool. Let cool completely before frosting.
  8. For the Frosting:
  9. In a small bowl or glass, stir the dried lavender into the whipping cream (or milk); cover with plastic wrap overnight (or for at least several hours).
  10. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  11. Strain the lavender cream and add to butter, along with all remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
  12. Add a few drops of Violet gel colour (I used Grape Violet by Sugarflair and a drop of Americolor Electric Purple ) and mix until blended.
  13. Assembly of the La La Lavender & Lemon Cloud Cupcakes:
  14. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon curd on top of each cupcake and gently spread (be careful to not put more than this, or it will ooze).
  15. Fill a small pastry bag fitted with pastry tip of your choice (I used a plain large round tip) about 1/2 full with frosting and pipe a generous swirl on top of the lemon curd.
  16. Top with a Lavender & Lemon Shortbread Cloud. Finish with a scalloped cupcake wrapper or design of your choice
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://sweetapolita.com/2012/05/la-la-lavender-lemon-cloud-cupcakes/

[cupcake batter recipe adapted from Canadian Living]

Here is the recipe for the Lemon Curd.

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Yield: 20 small-medium cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) (227 g) good quality unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar/icing sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) good quality pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) dried culinary lavender
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) grated lemon zest (rind)
  • 1-1/2 cups (190 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (75 g) cornstarch (corn flour)
  • 1/4 (2 g) teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed (I use #4 on my KitchenAid mixer) the butter until it is smooth and very creamy, about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract, then stir in the dried lavender and lemon zest.
  3. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix until they are incorporated. Make a ball of the dough and seal in plastic wrap. Once in the wrap, flatten the dough into a disk and chill for one hour (at least--can be longer).
  4. When you're ready to roll and cut the cookie dough, preheat oven to 350°F and place the oven rack in the middle position. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or two baking mats.
  5. Roll the dough 1/4" thick on a lightly floured surface or between two sheets of parchment paper. Cut desired shapes, place on baking sheets and chill in the refrigerator or freezer for about 15 minutes.
  6. Bake until very light golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheets on wire racks.

Notes

Cookies will keep in an airtight container for about 1 week, or can be frozen.

Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://sweetapolita.com/2012/05/la-la-lavender-lemon-cloud-cupcakes/

[cookie recipe adapted from Joy of Baking]

Sweetapolita’s Notes:
  • Some of the items I used to make these cupcakes are Stainless Steel Scoop for measuring perfectly-even cupcakes, Culinary Lavender, and Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract).
  • To get frosting super smooth (no air bubbles), use a silicone spatula and in an aggressive side-to-side motion, pushing the frosting back and forth against the sides of the bowl (you will hear a sort of paddling sound). Do this every so often while you use the frosting–it keeps it super smooth. You can also add a few drops (just a few!) of water for ideal spreading/piping.
  • Just a note about purple–all purple gel colours will yield a very different colour by nature, for example, Americolor Violet is much more blue than purple (when compared), and Americolor Electric Purple is more magenta than blue. Those differences in addition to the fact that you’re adding it to an ivory base (this butter frosting), can really alter the look of the finished cupcake, so you’ll want to play around with small frosting samples in bowls before tinting the entire batch. (I ended up making the frosting all over again to achieve the shade I liked best). Just be careful not to go too far with these concentrated colours, because it can get too intense quickly.
  • You can find a wonderful cupcake wrapper template at Skip To My Lou.

Good luck & enjoy!



Related posts:

Marzipan-Filled Easter Pastries (Maltese Figolli)

Easter Figolli Cookies via Sweetapolita

Happy Easter!

Have you been dipping, baking, decorating, egging and basket-ing already this weekend? I’ve been baking some of my old favourites this week (which I sometimes forget to do) such as these and this, but I was also eager to try something completely new for Easter.

I can recall about a year and a half ago, right around the time when I started this blog, I was chatting with my cousin Julie and Aunt Edith about some possible Maltese baked good recipes they may have (I’m always on the hunt for interesting recipes, especially those with meaning). They told me about Figolli–traditional Easter treats of 2 cookie/pastry shapes sandwiched together with a marzipan-orange blossom filling, then baked, decorated and topped with a whole Easter egg, sometimes plain chocolate and sometimes wrapped in foil. Pretty much heaven–Maltese heaven.

See, my dad and his father’s side of the family are from Malta–a cluster of islands in the Mediterranean (located between Sicily and Northern Africa). It’s one of the most historically rich spots on the map (think 7,000 years of history). That being said, I visited during my teen years, and the nightlife is incredible *ahem* and much of the culture is very current, so it’s really the best of both worlds. And they created Figolla? It truly is an amazing place.

Easter Figolli Cookies via Sweetapolita

Why do I have no memory of ever eating Figolli? Perhaps because we lived in a town where we may have been the only people with Maltese heritage, but we did spend a lot of time visiting my relatives in Toronto where there are several Maltese bake shops, so it’s possible that I have but that it was just too long ago and I forget (kind of hard to imagine). The good news is that I now have the power to make and share them! Forever and ever. Isn’t that amazing when you grow up, become an avid baker (or cook) and realize that, if you set your mind to it, you can pretty much recreate any treat or yumminess from your childhood (or goodies you may have tragically missed out on)? It’s so liberating. So I decided it was definitely time to roll up my sleeves and try my hand at Figolli.

Easter Figolli via Sweetapolita

I’ve noticed that some recipes refer to Figolli as pastries, some cookies and some cakes, but no matter what we want to call them, they are freakin’ awesome. Now, because I’m blogging about these, and because it seems logical that I would tell you how amazing they are, or try to sell you on them, I fear that when I tell you that these are likely the yummiest pastry/cake/cookie treats I have ever eaten, you won’t believe me. Let me put this into perspective for you . . .

They are like soft, tender, lemony, melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies with a pastry texture, oozing with the glorious almond goodness of marzipan with a hint of orange, and topped with a thin layer of sweet crunchy royal icing. And who can forget the little chocolate Easter egg jewel that’s nested right on top of it all. Honestly, I love decorated sugar cookies, but these are like the pimped out version (think gourmet & global pop tart, and then pray for me that I didn’t just offend every Maltese person in all the land).

And good news–I looked into it, and you don’t need to be Maltese to make them or eat them. And I bet no one would mind if you made these at other times throughout the year. Think about it, you could be the “Figolli girl” or “Figolli guy,” and trust me when I say that everyone needs a Figolli girl or guy.

Easter Figolli Cookies via Sweetapolita

So it’s probably not a huge surprise that my cakelets went nuts for these, and so I’ve wrapped some up in fancy packaging for their Easter baskets. What was their favourite part? Yep, the little egg. But they loved the whole thing (even the marzipan, which surprised me). And then they loved it again. The girls went through their 75 animal cookie cutter collection and insisted on bunnies, which was good news to me. I’m not sure that Figolli armadillos would have had the same charm, but hey. We saw Marian’s classic bunny cookies on Pinterest and loved them, so we kept it simple and did our play on that. Bunnies? Easter? I know, I know, it’s groundbreaking over here.

Easter Figolli Cookies via Sweetapolita

The only thing I would do differently next time is fill the pastries with more of the marzipan filling than I did–I added too much liquid to the filling the first time and was afraid if I filled any more that it would squeeze out the sides while baking, so next time I will be sure it’s thick the way it should be, and fill them nice and plump. Just because. But, super plump or not, these are really a special treat.

Marzipan-Filled Easter Pastries (Maltese Figolli)

Yield: ~15 medium-sized filled pastries (2 shapes per pastry)

Ingredients

    For the Pastry:
  • 6-1/4 cups (800 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1-3/4 cups (400 g) unsalted butter, cool
  • 1-3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (2 g) salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Water to bind
  • For the Filling:
  • 6-3/4 cups (500 g) ground almonds
  • 4 cups (500 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) orange blossom water
  • You will Also Need:
  • Royal Icing for decorating
  • Small Easter eggs for decorating (foil or unwrapped chocolate eggs)

Instructions

    For the Pastry:
  1. Sift flour into a large mixing bowl and rub in the butter to a cornmeal consistency, or pulse in a food processor.
  2. Add the sugar and lemon zest and mix or pulse again. Mix in the egg yolks and enough water to make a stiff but pliable dough.
  3. Separate dough into 2 balls, wrap in plastic and press down gently so you have 2 discs of dough. Chill for 45 minutes.
  4. For the Filling:
  5. While the dough is chilling, make your filling. Mix the ground almonds and icing sugar (or ready-made marzipan), then add the egg whites and orange blossom water, mixing until incorporated.
  6. Assembly & Baking:
  7. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Remove one disc of dough from the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Place on top of a large piece of parchment paper (I use a silicone rolling mat underneath to ensure it doesn't slip while rolling, but you can even dampen counter so the parchment sticks a bit) and then place another sheet of parchment paper on top. You can also roll dough on a lightly floured surface (I just find this parchment method the most reliable).
  8. Roll dough (this will require a bit of elbow grease for the first few minutes until it softens up a bit) until it is about 1/8" thick.
  9. Preheat your oven to 350°F. While the oven is preheating, slide your parchment paper and dough onto a board, then place in refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Repeat with your second disc of dough.
  10. Remove from fridge, and cut your shapes using the cutters of your choice--you will need 2 identical pieces for each figolla. Place each shape on the lined baking sheet and spread a thick layer of the filling, leaving a 3/4" edge untouched, then cover each shape with its match, gently pressing down the edges to seal.
  11. Place the baking sheets of figolli in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking. Then bake until edges are light golden brown, about 15-18 minutes (this varies).
  12. Let cool on baking sheets on wire racks, then decorate each pastry with royal icing and don't forget the chocolate Easter egg!
  13. Decorating:
  14. With royal icing in a piping bag fitted with a small round tip (I used #3), outline the shape of the cookie (I do about 5 at a time). Let sit for a few minutes. *Cover the tip of the piping bag with a damp cloth when not using.
  15. Fill (aka flood) the cookie with the flood-consistency royal icing (same piping bag), gently pulling any open spots to the outline using a toothpick. Let sit for about a minute, and then place your chocolate or foil-covered egg directly onto the cookie (foil eggs stick beautifully and pop right off when you're ready to take them off the cookie to eat).
  16. Decorate the cookies any way you like. I added sprinkles for bunny eyes and noses, and then piped a small pink bow using pink royal icing and tip #2. After cookies have set for about an hour, you can add a bunny tail with stiff peak royal icing and a small open star tip. Let decorated pastries sit overnight before wrapping or packaging.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://sweetapolita.com/2012/04/marzipan-filled-easter-pastries-figolla-from-malta/

[Adapted from europeancuisine.com]

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Orange Blossom Water is commonly used in Mediterranean (and more) desserts, Middle Eastern cooking and more. If you can’t find it, you can substitute it with orange zest or any of these options. You can find it in my shop or Middle Eastern grocers, and more.
  • You can use ready-made marzipan for the filling and simply add the egg whites and orange blossom water.
  • For the royal icing, I have tried many recipes for cookie decorating, but for these I used the version I use most often, which is one I learned at Bonnie Gordon College years ago. Because there is so much mixed emotion among cookie decorators about not only recipes, but method, I’m going to send you over to Callye for this Royal Icing recipe and info because her recipe is very similar to the one I’ve always used, and she gets into serious detail. The girl decorates cookies (the most gorgeous cookies) 24 hours a day, I’m convinced. Maybe more. I actually don’t know how she finds a way to even blog about them, but we’re sure happy she does.
  • For very specific info on decorating cookies with royal icing, I’ve included some links below. I’ve also linked to a recipe for royal icing from Callye from Sweet Sugar Belle. To learn more about outlining and flooding cookies with royal icing, check out this post (again, from Callye).
  • To learn more about decorating cookies with Royal Icing, check out some of these other amazing cookie goddesses: Bridget, Gail, Glory, and Marian.
  • You certainly don’t need to create perfect royal icing designs to make and enjoy these cookies–adding a nice layer of the royal icing and even sprinkles are perfect. Just don’t forget to add the chocolate egg!

And just for fun, here are a few interesting tidbits about Malta:

  • Maltese people have proven to be the most generous folk in the world, with 83% contributing to charity.
  • There is a good chance you’ve already seen Malta–on the big screen, that is: Many acclaimed (and even epic) films have been filmed in historic Malta, including Gladiator, Troy, The Da Vinci Code, Alexander, Munich, Midnight Express, Clash of the Titans, and let’s not forget Cutthroat Island–the movie that holds the title in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest box office flop of all time. Ouch.
  • Britney Spears and Bryan Adams are both of Maltese descent.
  • Pastizzi (a filling of ricotta or peas in puffy pastry) are the most popular snack in Malta, of which I have had many in my lifetime. My dad brings me these almost every time he comes to my house. It was just brought to my attention that these have 416 calories each, so about the same as 2 cupcakes. Oops!
  • Prior to the May 28, 2011 Maltese divorce referendum, Malta was one of only 3 countries in the world in which divorce was not permitted (the other two being Philippines and Vatican City).

And before I go, here are some other sweet deets (Did I actually just say “sweet deets?” Oy.):

  • UK friends, watch for one of my cakes in the May issue of Crafts Beautiful!
  • I just discovered a life-changing creative aid called Creative Whack Pack. It’s like religion for creatives and offers short hits (or whacks) of insight to help with creative block or just to get your wheels turning. I downloaded the app and use it a lot. And then I use it a bit more.
  • Congratulations to my talented friend, Courtney (of Pizzazzerie) for the release of her first book, Push-up Pops! This is one of the cutest books I’ve seen, and thanks to her I now have a new way to love and crave cake!

Have a wonderful Easter, friends!

Good luck & enjoy,

 


Related posts:

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

So, it turns out I’ve been on a bit of a gingerbread kick lately . . .

I love sugar and spice and everything nice, and gingerbread (in any form) is such an old-fashioned treat that I can’t seem to get enough of (even though I seem to eat the entire year’s worth between December 1-December 31st). I make some form of gingerbread every year over the holidays, but yet it never dawned on me that pairing it with chocolate would be so delightful and that it would just all make so much sense . . . until, of course, I made Gingerbread Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Being an SMB (or SMBC) lover, I couldn’t resist tossing some gingerbread spices into a big fluffy batch of Brown Sugar Buttercream, making it the gingerbread variation, for swirling onto holiday cupcakes. I suddenly seem to be using Brown Sugar Buttercream often lately, because it’s such a wonderful base for so many variations (such as here and for the deliciousness that was Peanut Butter Buttercream.

The thing was, I knew I wanted to make little gingerbread cookie toppers, and if I had made gingerbread cupcakes to go along with the gingerbread buttercream, that would have made them triple gingerbread cupcakes which seemed a bit, well, spicy (although, that may not be a bad thing–I will try this and get back to you). For this round, adding some rich dark chocolate to the idea just felt right.

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Then I remembered how much I’d wanted to try the chocolate cupcake recipe from a book I recently received: Making Cupcakes with Lola, which was written by the talented baker duo from Lola’s in the UK. This is one of the loveliest cupcake books I’ve read, and I’ve studied it for weeks–the cupcakes are a mix of classic and creative and the gorgeous photography & styling just brings it all to life.

I am eager to try many of their more unusual, or as they call it, “over the top” cupcakes (think Masala Chai Tea cupcakes, Gingerbread Latte cupcakes and more), but I couldn’t resist starting with their classic chocolate cupcake recipe. It stood out to me because they use both melted chocolate and cocoa powder and calls for no other liquid ingredient aside from 4 eggs. I was kind of intrigued! It’s a lighter, fluffier chocolate cake as opposed to the more fudgy oil-based chocolate cake I often use, which was a fun change, and I loved the double chocolate result.

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

So once I had my heart set on dark chocolate & gingerbread cupcakes, it dawned on me that my little gingerbread cookie toppers simply must be dipped in the finest dark chocolate — just makes good sense, right? I actually love making tiny gingerbread folk versus the standard size, because they are so cute and they are a perfect kid-sized treat. I was pretty excited when I remembered Reese having a teeny tiny house cutter in her playdough tool bin that was the perfect size for little chocolate gingerbread house toppers. So then we had a wee gingerbread girl and her wee gingerbread house. As far as we were concerned, it was kind of awesome. Why do things like this excite me so much? I’ll never know.

I hope you’re having a wonderful Saturday filled with holiday baking and hopefully, for your sake, no shopping! Personally, I like to keep the circus element of my day in our own four walls at this time of year, just as I am today. This thought would comfort me, if it weren’t for the fact that I have barely started my holiday shopping. Minor detail!

I’ll be back very soon with another holiday delight!

P.S. I’m pretty sure we’d jingle Santa’s bells if we left him a plate of these and a tall glass of milk. Maybe we could even add a pretty wrapped box of the chocolate dipped gingerbread cookies for his elves?

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes          {click to print}

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes = Lola’s Chocolate Cupcakes + Gingerbread Swiss Buttercream + Chocolate-Dipped Gingerbread Cookie Toppers

Lola’s Bakery Chocolate Cupcakes

*written (with permission) as it reads in the book, Making Cupcakes with Lola

Ingredients

100 g/3 1/2 oz dark bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut Dark Chocolate Callets)

175 g/1 1/2 sticks butter, cubed

225 g/1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (caster) sugar

4 eggs

100 g/3/4 cup self-rising flour

2 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder)

a pinch of salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.

1. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Heat, stirring, until the chocolate melts and you have a smooth, glossy mixture. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Let cool for 10 minutes.

2. Now beat with an electric hand mixer for 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 10 seconds between each addition.

3. Sift the flour, cocoa and salt into the bowl and beat until blendid.

4. Divide the mixture between the muffin cases. Bake in the preheated oven and let cool completely on a wire rack before decorating.

Sweetapolita’s Notes

*Caster/castor sugar is also known as superfine sugar. You can create your own superfine sugar by substituting regular granulated sugar and processing it in a food processor until very fine.

**As with any cake or cupcake recipe I bake, I used room temperature eggs (not cold).

***I filled the cupcake liners a little more than I typically do, as I divided the batter evenly among the 12 liners, as directed. They were just over 2/3 full. I typically don’t prefer a “muffin-top” cupcake, but because I knew I wanted a wider cupcake to hold very billowy swirls of buttercream, I went with it. I may never look back.

Gingerbread Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Yield: ~5 cups, enough for filling and frosting an 8-inch round cake, or frosting 12+ cupcakes.

Ingredients

5 large egg whites (~150 grams/5 ounces)

1 1/4 cup (250 grams/8.5 ounces) dark brown sugar (you can also use light brown sugar)

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks,  340 grams/12 ounces/3/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

1/2 teaspoon ( mL) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

a pinch of ground nutmeg

a pinch of salt

Method

1. Wipe the bowl and whisk attachment of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and brown sugar and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 140-160°F, or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot, about 5 minutes if you used room temperature egg whites. About 8+ minutes if they were cold.

2. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so and is so important–never add butter to warm meringue). Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing on medium-low and it will come back to smooth).

3. Add vanilla, salt and spices, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.

Sweetapolita’s Notes on Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

* Can make buttercream ahead and keep in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, re-whipping in mixer for 5 minutes.

** Can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.

***If not satiny enough upon rewhip, take 1/3 of buttercream and microwave in a microwave-safe container for ~8 seconds, then add back to mixing bowl and remix with remaining buttercream.

****For more detail about making Swiss Meringue Buttercream, you can find my FAQ here and photo tutorial here.

Chocolate-Dipped Gingerbread Cookies

1. Bake your favourite gingerbread cookie dough, and cut desired shapes–I prefer bite-size cookies in general, especially when using them for cupcake toppers. For these cookies, I tried Martha’s Molasses-Gingerbread Cookies recipe, and I followed it to the letter. I love them because they are dark and have a very deep molasses taste. The dough is gorgeous–just note that you will likely need to add quite a bit of flour while rolling and you will need to flour your cutter often, otherwise it is quite sticky. Once baked, let cookies cool on wire rack. *I found my little house and gingerbread doll cutters in my little girl’s playdough tool box, so don’t feel you have to stick with traditional cookie cutters.

2. Melt some (depending on how many cookies you are covering) quality chocolate in the microwave, and if you follow this easy tempering process (when, using the microwave, your chocolate will be tempered in seconds, which is how we get the chocolate to harden with a nice sheen. For these cookies, I used Callebaut Dark Chocolate Callets, which is rich, dark and perfect for covering cookies and is intended for melting down.

3. Dip cookies into chocolate using two forks (or if you have a chocolate-dipping fork), covering entire cookie, or even just half, depending on the look you want to achieve, letting the excess chocolate drip back into bowl.

4. Place on Silpat or wax paper-lined cookie sheet.

5. Place filled sheet in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to set.

Place upon cupcakes or simply eat them as they are. Or both! Store at room temperature.

Good luck & enjoy!


Related posts: