Baking - Cookies, Ingredient Insights

Stained Glass Cookies: Sugar vs. Hard Candies

I remember making stained glass window cookies as a kid; the sugar cookie that you cut shapes out of, then fill with crushed hard candies, which then melt as the cookies bake to make a stained glass look. Candy and cookie combined, it’s a child’s (and my) dream!

I volunteered to make dessert for our Easter dinner this year, and seeing as I have a big egg shaped cookie cutter I thought this would be a good opportunity to try the stained glass cookies I remembered.

I have tried to make them in the last few years, and I had the brilliant idea that I could use coloured sugar instead of crushing up hard candies. This idea failed in a most disappointing way. Then I left the idea for a long time, and eventually I thought again how fun it would be to make them. I remembered trying the coloured sugar, but then I couldn’t remember if it had worked or not. So I did it again. Disappointment again, not only with the cookies but with my unreliable memory!

So this time I didn’t doubt myself, I went and got hard candies. This was surprisingly difficult. I went to the Bulk Barn, sure that I would find lots of hard candy choices, but most of them had some kind of chewy or chocolate centre. The ones I settled on were Lifesavers. They were all individually wrapped, which made it easier to crush them with the hammer, and finally my dream of making those stained glass cookies was reality.

Sugar on its own melts at a higher temperature than the candies, and it doesn’t work for the short amount of time that the cookies are in the oven. So if you decide to make cookies with candies, make sure you actually use hard candies, and not sugar. Happy Easter!

Baking - Cookies

Prolific Pumpkin

Well, the new babe has been here for just over six weeks, and although the baking has not been as frequent, it has been happening as we adjust to our bigger family. The problem right now is not so much the baking, but finding the time and arm freedom to post! But here I go, doing what I can when I can, even if it is typed with one hand!

We have been getting some lovely squash and pumpkins in our veggie boxes as the fall continues on, and I have been trying to make more of an effort to not have anything go to waste from our boxes. So I often cook up a pumpkin, puree it, and then freeze it in half cup sizes for use in various recipes. I have a pumpkin muffin recipe I recently made, and could have eaten the whole dozen in one sitting if I let myself.

But the recipe I have been most pleased to discover this year is a pumpkin molasses cookie that is so soft and delicious I literally have to hide them or they’re gone in no time. I found the recipe when I wanted to make something for a trip to my grandparents’. You can find the recipe here, but I made one little adjustment, and that was to use a 1/2 tsp of baking soda instead of 2, because 2 tsp seemed like a lot to me, and they turned out just fine. Better than fine, scrumptious in fact! This is definitely a new favourite!

pumpkin molasses cookies (2)

Baking - Cookies, Ingredient Insights

Chocolate Chip Cookie Upgrade

I had a hankering for some cookies a couple weeks ago. I wanted a soft, chewy kind, and one that was easy to make. I chose a classic chocolate chip cookie recipe, but as I started prepping the ingredients I decided to get a little crazy. I have a big bag of raisins that I always forget about, so I took them out; and I had some extra pumpkin seeds from a batch of granola, so I took them out too.

To make myself feel a bit better about making cookies for no other reason than just really wanting to eat them, I substituted whole wheat flour for all-purpose. Thinking about the ingredients I had chosen, I realized that I was going to end up with some pretty dry cookies, for a couple of reasons. Whole wheat flour needs more moisture than all-purpose; and raisins (dried fruit) and pumpkin seeds (already toasted) would also absorb a lot of the moisture.

To solve this dilemma, I simply soaked the raisins and pumpkin seeds in some warm water, draining the water just before adding them to the dough mixture. As I mixed the dough, it was noticeably stiff after adding the dry ingredients; but as soon as I mixed in the pre-soaked additions the dough became moist and pliable again.

The cookies came out great, and are more substantial than a regular chocolate chip cookie; but that doesn’t mean I eat any less!

Baking - Cookies, Decorating, Festivals/Events

Christmas Cookie Decorating

Christmas can be such a busy time of year, but it should also be a lot of fun! This year I thought it would be great to have a cookie decorating party with all of our family that are close by.

I made a variety of gingerbread cookies – people, wreathes, trees, moose, trucks, holly leaves – to appeal to the variety of ages that would be present. I made royal icing for those that wanted to have their decorations stick on tight, and buttercream for those who might prefer something easier on their teeth! I had an array of sprinkles, coloured sugars and edible sparkles for decorating, and the rest was up to everyone’s imaginations.

It was a wonderful way to spend some holiday time together, and to remember that Christmas is about being with those you love, and not about what might be under the tree. I hope you will all sense the Love that makes Christmas so special!

Baking - Cookies, Decorating, Festivals/Events

Peppermint Pinwheels

Our church recently had a bake sale, and suggested that Christmas themed goods are usually a hit. I thought I would make a variation of my old favourite candy cane cookies. Candy cane cookies to me are kind of a combination of ice box and sugar cookies; not quite crispy like ice box often get, but similar in terms of letting the dough chill.

But candy cane cookies are a pain to make. Rolling out thin strands of dough and trying to twist them together without breaking them usually results in me getting very frustrated, because they keep breaking. I thought it might be easier this time to roll our the different colours of dough, stack the sheets, roll them up like a jelly roll, and slice the cookies once chilled. It worked really well.

I was worried the spirals might not hold together well, since I had floured each sheet of dough when rolling them out. But once they were baked they held together just fine. I might, in future, lightly brush the sheets with water to help them stick together a little better, but other than that I wouldn’t change a thing.

They are so eye-catching, and have a subtle peppermint flavour. They definitely make a festive and cheerful addition to any Christmas event. I’m not going to copy the recipe out here this time, but you can find it in the Better homes and Gardens ‘New Cook Book,’ which has a red checkered picnic blanket cover on it. Happy Holiday Baking!