December 09 2013 - Fun Holiday Treats by Julie Findlay!

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Written by: Julie Findlay
Mom in the Know

The holidays are a time to make, create and spend time together with friends and family.
Cookie making is a great holiday tradition. The kids love to be involved so we host a kids Holiday Cookie Exchange.
Ask guests to bring two dozen of the same type of cookie to the party, plus enough copies of the recipe for each attendee. Display the cookies on a table, with the recipe cards and the child’s name next to each tray.
Then, have each child load up an empty plate with two of each type of cookie. While making their way around the table, the children also should pick up a copy of each recipe.
You can set up a station where the kids can then decorate covers and bind the recipes into small cookbooks as a memento of the party, or set up a decorating station to decorate the cookies.  Fill the table with all of the festive favourites; sprinkles, gumdrops, ribbon candy, candy canes, chocolate pieces, icing, the list goes on.
If you are hosting the swap be sure to stock up on packaging; Cellpohane bags, take out boxes, small tins and tissue paper.

I would like to share a few cookie classics that have been in our family:
Sugar and Spice cookies:
Original recipe makes about 50 cookies depending on size of cookie cutter.

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

option of following spices:
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch ground cloves

1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and option of spices. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
3. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven, or until edges just begin to brown. Cool completely. ( cookies can be stored in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks)

Gingerbread Dough

1 6 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
5 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
6 1/2 teaspoon salt
7 1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) butter, softened
8 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
9 2 large eggs
10 1 cup dark molasses
11 1 Tbsp water

Make the Gingerbread Dough
1 Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.
2 Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed the butter and brown sugar until fluffy and well blended. Beat in the eggs, molasses and water until well combined.
3 Beat half of the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until well blended and smooth. Stir in the remaining flour. Knead (or use your mixer's dough hook) until well blended. If dough is too soft, add a little more flour.
4 Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, preferably overnight. You can make it up to 3 days ahead of time. Let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before rolling out.
Make the Gingerbread House
1 Preheat oven to 350°F
2 Divide the dough in two. Spread parchment paper or wax paper on a large flat surface for rolling. Dust the paper lightly with flour. Working with one portion of the dough at a time, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to an even thickness of 1/4-inch. Add a little flour to the surface of the dough, and check for sticking as you roll it out. If it sticks to either your rolling pin or the rolling surface, dust with more flour. If the rolled out dough is very soft, you may want to freeze it for an hour before cutting out.
4 Bake in a 350°F oven until the edges are just beginning to darken, 11-15 minutes for the large pieces, 6-8 minutes for the small pieces. Rotate the cookie sheets half way through the baking for more even browning. Remove the sheets to racks to cool, about 15 minutes.
Remove pieces to cool directly on racks to cool completely.
Ornamental Icing

Since this icing dries out very quickly, it’s important to keep it covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel

3 tablespoons meringue powder
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar  6 tablespoons water

Beat all ingredients at low speed for 7 to 10 minutes, or until icing forms peaks. Tip: Keep icing covered with a wet kitchen towel at all times. Icing can dry out quickly.