Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Cookies - Round 1 - Spice Cookies with Orange Icing

So I'm totally on the Christmas Cookie band wagon this year.  I don't know why.  Well actually I have a pretty good idea.  I finally have a kitchen I can spread out in and two weeks ago a friend's mum gave me her Kitchenaid mixer.  I know.  It is amazing.  Debby asked me if I wanted her mixer and I must have looked at her like she was crazy because she said, "No really, you can have it, I don't use it anymore."  AMAZING!  So you can thank Debby for all of the Christmas Cookies and other baked goodies that are going to be coming your way!

I am not really a big fan of sugar cookies.  They just don't do it for me.  I like cookies with flavor.  Or cookies with stuff in them.  And by stuff I mean chocolate or nuts.  You know, the good stuff.  I know, you are thinking that these cookies don't look like they have any of that in them.  They don't.  But they are spicy and taste like honey.  Pretty good for a cookie you are going to put icing on and can hang on your Christmas tree!  I came across the Nigella Christmas cookbook in the bargain bin at Barn and Noble a couple of weekends ago.  The day before Debby gave me the Kitchenaid.  Baking obviously had to happen!  So here we go!  Right from Nigella Christmas with just one tiny change to the icing.  Oh and I made them in the mixer but you could use a food processor, I just didn't want to have to wash all of the parts.

For the cookies:

2 cups all purpose flour - plus more for dusting
pinch of salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (I like Saigon cinnamon, it has more flavor)
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 - 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
8 tbls. soft butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (the recipe called for dark but I only had light, just use whatever you have on hand)
2 large eggs beaten with 1/4 cup runny honey

For the icing:

2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tbls. meringue power (you can get this at Michael's if you don't have a good baking supply near by)
3 - 4 tbls. water
1/4 tsp. orange extract (this was my addition - I didn't like the way the icing tasted when I tested it and spice flavors and orange flavors go so well together I decided to add it.  It isn't overpowering but it gives a nice bit of extra flavor)

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and pepper in your mixer or food processor.  Add the butter and sugar, then slowly the egg and honey mixture.  If you are using a food processor add it through the feed tube.  Don't use all of the mixture if the dough has come together before it is used up.

Preheat the oven to 350 and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Form the dough into two flat disks, wrap one in plastic and put in the refrigerator while you roll out the other one.  Lightly dust your counter/board with flour and roll out the dough, adding a small amount of flour to the rolling pin and your work surface if the dough sticks.  Roll dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut out your cookies.  Gather the dough scraps and re-roll the dough and continue to cur out cookies until you don't have space left on your cookie sheets.  Add any dough scraps to the dough that has been in the fridge, roll it out and cut cookies, setting them on an extra piece of parchment paper until the first batch is done and the cookie sheets have cooled a little.

The cookies need about 15 minutes to bake.  I only have two cookie sheets so this is the method I have to employ, if you have more cookie sheets than by all means just load them up and get a cookie assembly line going!  If you want to be able to hang these cookies on your tree use a small piping nozzle to poke a hole in the top of each cookie before you bake them.  Let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack.  You should get about 35 to 40 cookies depending on what size cookie cutters you use.

When you are ready to ice the cookies whip together the sugar, meringue powder, orange extract and 3 tbls. of water.  If the icing seems too thick slowly add more water until it is thin enough to pipe easily.  Pipe the icing onto the cookies and sprinkle on colored sugar or pearl nonpareils.  My I suggest that you have someone come over and decorate the cookies with you.  It is much more fun.  Let the icing set then if you want hang them on your tree.  Or just eat them!

I have an Airedale who is very curious - I will not be hanging them on my tree!  I think the whole tree would end on of the floor and the Airedale would be full of cookies, not good.  I hope you are having a good start to your holiday season.  Let the cookie making begin!

* If you happen to break one of your cookies the icing does a really great job of sticking the pieces back together.  See if you can figure out which one I broke - it is in the first picture.

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