Florentine Cookies + The Cookiepedia Book Giveaway {Winners Announced}

Happy Spring!

Well, sort of. It’s still snowing on and off here in Southern Ontario, but I’m hopeful. The good news is that this week is the first week in over 9 months during which I’ve been able to frolic freely in the kitchen and bake anything I wish. So Florentine cookies it was. And you guys, these are amazing. See, quite awhile back, I became enamoured with my talented friend Stacy Adimando’s cookbook, The Cookiepedia: Mixing Baking, and Reinventing the Classics, and I’ve been dying to make something, or everything, from it. 

So when I spotted a recipe for Florentines in her book, I knew I had to make them. And although Florentines are known to be an Italian treat (as the name suggests), I first fell in love with these crunchy, nutty discs of caramelized delight back when I was a teenager working at an Austrian bakery. When I googled this, I realized that appears to be a small debate regarding the Florentine cookie’s origin, but it’s safe to say that it is celebrated in not only Italy and Austria, but now here in my kitchen.  These are the most decadent and surprisingly simple cookies to prepare in all of the land, and I’ll just never get over them. I won’t.

So what exactly is a Florentine? Well, there are some variations, but typically they are super-thin, round, caramelized almond cookies made from butter, sugar, cream, corn syrup, salt and of course almonds, and there is usually some form of dark chocolate added. As you probably noticed in my photos, these ones are drizzled with chocolate as Stacy’s recipe includes, but many have their entire bottoms dipped in chocolate with a distinct pattern added, and include additional ingredients, such as candied fruit. Think of them as individual, lacy almond brittles that shatter in your mouth like little round sheets of nutty, buttery, caramel crack. Sometimes it actually kind of freaks me out that we have the power to create such deliciousness in our own kitchens, especially when it only takes a matter of minutes.

Stacy explains that the idea behind her book was to give 50 classic cookie recipes, and then offer ways to spin them into more modern versions with tons of ideas for adapting the recipes for countless variations. So, for example, she shares a chocolate chip recipe, but also a dark chocolate sea salt chip. And a peanut butter cookie, but also a pistachio butter cookie, and so many more. One of the reasons I love Stacy’s book most, aside from the gorgeous photography and charming illustration work, is that the recipes range so greatly–think everything from frosted animal crackers to French macarons, sables to sesame crisps, and so many more.

I know you guys will adore this book, if you don’t already that is, so I’m excited to host a The Cookiepedia giveaway! I have 3 copies of this go-to cookie book, courtesy of Stacy and Quirk Books, and I will be sending a copy to 3 lucky readers!

I’m also excited to share this recipe for the Florentines–they truly are of the most exquisite cookies I have tasted in a long time. I’ve listed the recipe just as it is in the book, but I have also added the ingredient weights, just in case, as well as some of my own notes below.

Florentine Cookies with Chocolate Drizzles

Yield: Makes about 3 dozen 3-inch round cookies

Decadent nutty, buttery, caramelized cookie discs drizzled in dark chocolate. Recipe as printed in The Cookiepedia cookbook by Stacy Adimando.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (60 grams) corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (8 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/3 cups (210 grams) sliced almonds
  • 4 ounces (120 grams) roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set them aside.
  2. Melt the butter, sugar and corn syrup together over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Add the cream and salt and do the same.
  3. Let cook until the mixture comes to a full boil, and then add in the almonds and stir to combine. Continue cooking for 3 more minutes until the mixture thickens and starts to move around the pan in one mass. Take the pan off the heat.
  4. Drop 4 small spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheets, leaving as much room between them as possible (the baked cookies will spread to about triple the size).
  5. Using an offset spatula or a wet hand, spread and flatten the batter into 3-inch rounds, creating a thin layer.
  6. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, or until edges are brown and centers are just turning golden.
  7. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and immediately reshape the cookies back into 3-inch circles, using the offset spatula or the back of a spoon to drag the batter back into place and round the edges. The cookies will harden within a few minutes.
  8. tip: if they harden too fast, just return them to the oven for a minute or so.
  9. Cool the reshaped cookies until they are firm and cool enough to handle. Then move them to a wire rack covered with parchment paper to set completely.
  10. As the optional (though delicious and suggested) finisher, melt the chocolate, in a glass or metal bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stove. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the tops of the Florentines. Let harden.
  11. Florentine Ice Cream Sandwiches
  12. When the cookies have cooled completely, skip the chocolate drizzle. Let a container of coffee or vanilla ice cream sit out, or microwave at 10-second intervals, until it's soft enough to dollop. In the meantime, lay half the Florentines on a parchment-lined baking sheet flat side up. Drop a heaping spoonful of the softened ice cream (about 2-3 tablespoons) into the center of each. Top with the remaining cookies and press lightly to adhere. Cover the baking sheet loosely with foil and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I used a 1-tablespoon capacity cookie scoop for my cookies, and they spread quite a bit, yielding more of a very thin, large 5 1/2-inch round cookie, but I love them this size, so I simply worked to round the edges when they first came out of the oven. Use about 1 teaspoon size spoon for 3-inch cookies, or somewhere in between.
  • Much like a caramel concoction of any kind, the longer you heat (bake) the cookies, the darker and more intense the caramel flavour and colour will be, so there is a little room for personal preference with the baking times. I baked 1 sheet at a time on the middle rack of the oven, and kept the cookies in for the full 8 minutes. Once they start to turn golden, they have the potential to burn very quickly, so I recommend keeping a super-close eye on them at that point, and remove them from the oven quickly.
  • It might seem as though it’s going to take a lifetime to bake 36 cookies when 4-to-a-tray, but at 8 minutes each, time, it goes by really quickly!
  • I just used a fork to “fling” the melted chocolate onto the cookies in a fun drizzly criss-cross pattern.
  • Stacy mentions that these cookies are best enjoyed right after cooling, and I can certainly agree that these are amazing in that window of time (I could not stop eating them), but I then sealed them in a Ziploc bag after the chocolate drizzle set, and they’re still going strong (ahem) and tasting fabulous at the end of day 2.

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Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

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.

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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.
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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!

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Triple-Chocolate Sprinkle Birthday Cookies

Triple Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies via Sweetapolita

Happy Friday!

So since my last post, our littlest cakelet, Neve Winter (aka Lovie) turned 3. How is this possible, you ask? And that just yesterday she was a baby, you say, celebrating her very first birthday? And that I just posted this wee cake for her 2nd birthday? I know–it’s kooky the way time flies. Well, it’s true and what a curious, hilarious and lovie-licious little cakelet she has become. You might have noticed that she’s all me (sorry, Grant!) and even though I’m only 25% Irish, I can’t help but sense she’s a true Irish cakelet–everything from the hair to her humour, she’s got so much of my mom’s side of the family in her. Here are a few images from the past 3 years that I feel really capture her:

Sweetapolita

Sweetapolita

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Sweetapolita

Sweet, sensitive, mysterious, mischievous, happy and humourous — that’s our Neve. ♥

When it was time to decide what birthday treats to make for her, of course my first instinct was cake (which I did do a few days after because, let’s be honest, birthday cake isn’t optional), but the truth is I am literally always making cake with the girls, and so albeit backwards, I felt that for her actual birthday, perhaps a real treat would be something we rarely make: decadent cookies.

Triple Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies via Sweetapolita

Now the thing about Neve’s birthday is that it happened to be the same week as Reese’s first week in Senior Kindergarten and first day of ballet class, so there was a lot of excitement twirling, whirling and swirling around the house. I wanted to make a special treat that would make both of them happy, and Reese suggested “super chocolaty cookies with chocolate chips,” and Neve decided they should be “really sprinkly.”

Done, and done.

Triple Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies via Sweetapolita

So we made super fudgy chocolate cookies using Callebaut melted bittersweet chocolate callets, Cacao Barry Extra Dark cocoa powder and more bittersweet chocolate callets, butter, brown sugar, pure vanilla and more, and then we made a quick and easy dark chocolate glaze using more butter and chocolate. Finally, we covered them in a sprinkle medley and edible gold stars. Everybody wins!

Neve had a few mini birthday celebrations filled with family, chocolate, sprinkles, cookies . . .

Birthday morning fairy bread  . . .

And one seriously chocolate cake a few days later while she and her Grandpa celebrated their birthdays together (recipe to follow!).

These cookies are certainly decadent with their rich, fudgy, chocolaty, gooey, crunchy, sprinkly-ness, but I won’t lie–I love how quick and easy they are to make. ♥

Happy Birthday to our little cakelet, and Happy Weekend to you!

Here’s the recipe:

Triple-Chocolate Sprinkle Birthday Cookies

Yield: 12 medium cookies

Ingredients

    For the cookies:
  • 1-1/2 cups (280 grams) quality bittersweet (extra dark) chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (215 grams) light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups (200 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (15 grams) Dutch-processed dark cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) sea salt
  • For the glaze:
  • 3/4 cup (140 grams) quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) light corn syrup
  • For decorating:
  • Sprinkles of choice

Instructions

    Make the cookies:
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or a Silpat baking mat.
  2. Place 1 cup of the chocolate and the butter in a medium heatproof bowl over a saucepan of an inch of simmering (not boiling) water, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth. Meanwhile, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or handheld mixer), beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla on medium speed, until well-combined. Add the chocolate mixture and beat until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually add the dry mixture until everything is incorporated, occasionally scraping sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Stir in remaining chocolate pieces/chips.
  4. Using two spoons or cookie scoop, drop 12 equal amounts onto baking sheet. Be sure to space them a few inches apart to allow for spreading in the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until tops have a cracked appearance. (Be sure to not over-bake, or cookies will be dry and not fudgy.) Allow to cool on baking sheet on wire rack for 15 minutes, and then gently transfer cookies to rack to cool completely.
  5. Make the glaze:
  6. Place chocolate, butter and corn syrup in a medium heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of an inch of simmering (not boiling) water until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  7. Decorate the cookies:
  8. Line a baking sheet or tray with wax paper (or parchment or baking mat) and fill a medium plate or bowl with sprinkles of choice.
  9. Dip each cooled cookie into the glaze so that half of the cookie is glazed and then holding the cookie over sprinkle bowl drop a handful of sprinkles over glaze and shake off excess. Place each one on prepared sheet until you have decorated all of them, and then place sheet/tray in the freezer or refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to set.

Notes

[cookie dough adapted from Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook]

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Since the chocolate is the star of this show, I recommend using the best quality bittersweet chocolate possible. I used Callebaut Dark Callets 70.4 % , because I love the flavour, and the callets (chips) are so easy to melt and measure. If bittersweet is too dark for your taste, I recommend using it for the cookies, but using semisweet for the glaze.
  • For measuring cookie dough and placing on the baking sheet, I always use this 50mm Cookie Scoop–perfectly round and even cookies every time, which I love. I also swear by the Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat, but just note that they are a tiny bit too big for some cookie sheets. You want to make sure you have what they call a Bakers Half Sheet. I use these for everything!
  • For the sprinkles on my cookies, I used Rainbow Jimmies + Chocolate Vermicelli  mixed together prior to coating the cookies and then sprinkled edible Gold Stars on afterwards. This is also the method I used for the birthday fairy bread–sprinkled it right on top of buttered toast. ♥

Good luck & enjoy!



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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!


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Little Hands Sugar Cookies & Cards

Little Hands Sugar Cookies via Sweetapolita

Were you starting to wonder if I’ve been baking lately? Since my last few two posts were a little more about me, myself and I, and not exactly recipe-filled, you might be wondering what the heck I’ve been up to in this kitchen of mine. I’m here, I promise. The holiday season has definitely sprung, and I’m a little stressed–I won’t lie. It’s all that good, you know, hustle and bustle holiday-type stress, but sometimes (and by “sometimes” you know I mean “always”) I take on just a little too much. Do you ever do that? Always? So because of that little tendency of mine, I decided to choose a few special baking projects this year, rather than crank out endless varieties, although, technically, there is still time for that . . . kidding. Sort of. For the last two years, I’ve had this “hand cookie”  idea bookmarked in the 2009 Martha Stewart Holiday magazine, and this year I knew I couldn’t resist making them.

My girls, ages 2 and 4, have embraced their creative sides, and so I thought this would be a great way to tie that into the holidays. When Reese wakes up, she literally runs for the crayons, markers and paper and immediately starts to create, and as soon as she’s aware of the holiday season, all she wants to do is make Christmas Cards. For everyone, literally. The mailman, the cat, every neighbour for miles and more. Don’t be surprised if you get one too — this girl can seriously create, and fast. She reminds me so much of the me when I was a little girl (memories of my tireless childhood rug-hooking fascination come to mind), and I love that she’s so enthusiastic. Neve does too, but because she’s just 2, she enjoys it for a few moments and then moves onto something else.

That’s actually why this project worked so well, because there was a little bit of baking, a bit of colouring and more. To create the template for their hands, I traced their hands onto cardstock and cut them out–so simple, yet the girls thought this was so fun. For some reason, I had it in my head that this would be a really crazy super time-consuming project, but, actually, with such a simple decorating approach, it was probably the quickest sugar cookie project I’ve ever done. Perfect!

Sweetapolita

We did these over the course of a few days (which seems to be the best way to approach this type of thing with 2 small kids, I’m finding), and the day the photos took place, Reese was at school, but Neve was ready to ham it up, as always. Since we just put up Christmas Tree, started listening to holiday music and were holiday baking and crafting, we were suddenly immersed in holiday-ness. Funny how that can give us all the boost we need sometimes–young or old. It’s been kind of grey around here for the past few weeks, in typical Canadian winter fashion, I suppose, but, this cookie project lifted us all quite a bit. That and decorating (and redecorating) the tree. The girls have rearranged it so many times, but I think they’ve got it just “so” now.

Sweetapolita

After around the 1,330, 330th time “telling” the girls to “stop touching the balls (ahem)!” I lauged out loud and then let it go. Crash! Bang! Crash! And . . . it’s offically Christmas. This is all new to Neve, since last year she was only 1 and likely has no recollection of Christmas, so I just don’t have the heart to keep her away from the tree. It just wouldn’t be Christmas around here without a little bit of heartwarming chaos (with a hint of just plain chaos, of course).

Little Hands Sugar Cookies via Sweetapolita

I love that the hands don’t expand when baked (which is why it’s so important to follow the prebaking chilling steps), since puffed up, oversized baby hand cookies may be a little weird. I compared the template to the baked cookie, and it was almost exact. Yay! We decided that we’d go ahead and package up each cookie, complete with name cards and handmade Christmas greetings and that we’ll give them to family, Reese’s teacher, etc. I gave the girls a stack of 6″ squares of white cardstock and a box of markers and told them to create-away. I also gave them some 6″ strips of cardstock for their names, which I left Reese in charge of writing both (soon enough Neve will be able to write her own, I’m sure!).

Sentiment aside, this is my favourite sugar cookie recipe (as you probably remember in this previous post), as they are so scrumptious and traditional. Because they are so crisp, buttery and classic, I personally love eating them this way, with no icing. Next time I make these, or any other unfrosted variation, I will likely add some vanilla bean to add to the already lovely and old-fashioned taste, but if you use a good quality pure vanilla extract, that alone does give it a beautiful flavour. It’s just never a bad idea to add vanilla bean, right?

Little Hands Sugar Cookies via Sweetapolita

I’ll be back soon to share some holiday cakes that I’m really excited about making, and more. Until then, Happy Holiday Baking!

Little Hands Sugar Cookies

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

Ingredients

  • 6 cups (750 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon (8 g) salt
  • 2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter, softened for about 20 minutes at room temperature
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) pure lemon extract

Instructions

  1. In large bowl, sift together flour and salt. Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs.
  3. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla and lemon extract 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 350° 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 12-14 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.
  9. Cool sheets on wire racks for 10 minutes, then gently remove cookies and place on wire racks to finish cooling.

Notes

*If you follow the pre-baking chilling steps, you will find that your baked cookies end up the same size as your hand template, with no expansion (that could be kind of weird).

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

***Package as desired.

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

1. For packaging, I used a 6″ wide x 9″ crystal clear bag and cut a 6″ square piece of patterned scrapbooking paper and 6″ square piece of wax paper (regular wax paper) overlay to place on top. I highly recommend using the wax paper overlay, otherwise the cookie will leave buttery marks on your pretty paper.

2. I cut additional 6″ squares of white cardstock so the girls could write Christmas Card messages and then I slid them into the bag, facing out (the back of the bag) then cut small white strips for their names to slide into the front of the bag. In our case, with two little girls I wanted the recipients to be able to easily identify each girl’s cookie, but if you’re using only one “little hand,” you could skip this step.

3. To seal bag, I folded the excess bag over the front and then, using a single hole punch, created 2 holes a few inches apart (see photo), then tied with ribbon (I used a Celadon colour).

Good luck & enjoy!

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