Happiness Project#48: Eggnog Snowflake Cookies!

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Tomorrow! Tomorrow is always that one special day of the year that I look forward to the most! Not because of bows or tags or pretty wrapping. But because I get to spend an entire 3 to 4 days with my favorite souls on earth. My Mom, my two sisters & my three awesome nephews! My Family. My Heart. We’re not one of those families who puts much weight into giving that “perfect” gift or any gifts, actually. Well, okay, with the exception of gift giving for the kids, that is. Because kids should be a little spoiled this time of year. Just a little bit, right? With us adults, though? No thanks! That’s one of the many things that I adore about my Family’s beliefs. Christmas isn’t about gifts. It’s simply about being together. For food and dancing and games and recipe adventures. When we’re finally all together, the circle is whole and my heart is complete. And there’s no happier place on earth.

So in preparation of Christmas Eve festivities, I wanted to make a special cookie that embodied so much of the joy and elation that I feel when my Family is finally all together again. And since Eggnog is my Husband’s favorite holiday drink, I started there. And ended up with pretty blue sprinkles and shimmering white cake dust. The result? Snowflake perfection. That tastes just like Christmas! And Home. And best of all? Just like Family.

For the Cookie Dough:

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

pinch of ground cinnamon

pinch of kosher salt

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons eggnog

Snowflake Glaze:

The whites from 1 egg (only the egg whites)

White cake dust, which you can find at Michaels Craft stores or most cake decorating shops

Blue sugar crystals

Ready? Let’s get Christmasy!

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt together. Set aside.

Using the bowl on a stand mixer, or by hand held, beat the butter  and two sugars together, until light and fluffy.

Add in the egg and beat until well combined. Follow by slowly adding in the flour mixture and mixing until just incorporated.

Now, scrap down the sides and bottom of the bowl to form a rough shaped dough ball in the center of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 2 hours. Why 2 full hours? Because if the dough isn’t chilled long enough, it will be too soft to roll out and cut shapes with. Which can be very, very frustrating.

Before you’re ready to start rolling out that well chilled dough, preheat the oven to 350F and prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat baking mats.

Now to the rolling and shaping! On a cold, lightly floured work surface (preferably marble), roll up half of the cookie dough into a large ball and then firmly roll out into a 1 inch flat circle. Using whichever cookie cutter shape you like most, shape, shape, shape away! Continue to roll out & shape the remainder of the chilled dough, until you have filled up both of your cookie sheets.

*Quick Tip: Remember to lightly flour your work surface between each division of balled dough. Otherwise, the dough will stick to the work surface and become super messy to lift up.

Pop your cookies into the oven and bake for 9-10 minutes, until the edges become slightly browned. Remove from the oven and let sit on the baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.

Ready for the super pretty part of this recipe? Let’s go!

Crack the 1 egg, and in two small bowls, divide the egg white from the egg yolk. Using a fork, whisk up the egg white for a couple of seconds.

Using a small pastry brush, lightly coat the tops of each cookie with the egg wash. The egg wash will give your cookies a lovely subtle shine. Follow by sprinkling each cookie with a little bit of the white cake dust. Ending with an additional sprinkling of blue sugar crystals. Or whatever colored sprinkles you like. That’s what’s so wonderful about Christmas cookies! You can use whatever colored sprinkle you want and the end result will still be decisively merry and bright!

And there you have it! With a little bit of elbow grease and a whole lot of Love, you can share the very best of Holiday cheer, rolled up into one yummy treat.

From my Family to yours, Happy Holidays, my Friends! xoxo

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Happiness Project #31: Merry Christmas Red Velvet Whoopie Pies!

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This year, or to be more accurate, last year, my twin sister REALLY wanted something Red Velvet for Christmas Eve, so the baker in me was undeniably all too obsessively happy to oblige! Enter the elusive Whoopie Pie. Firstly, what a rather festive, albeit somewhat silly, dessert name! Who comes up with this stuff, anyway?! Secondly, red velvet. Most of my family and close friends already know that I’ve never been a big fan of red velvet (desserts). If you’re going to give me chocolate then please just give me CHOCOLATE not COLORED chocolate. Chocolate is chocolate, right? Oh, SO wrong. Until I recently discovered a tub full of scrumptious red velvet cookies at Costco, nothing that I’ve tried has been impressive enough to replicate. But since making my family happy, makes me happy in turn, I went on a fairly exhaustive hunt for the best of red velvet dessert recipes. And was very pleased by what I found. At first, I thought about tinkering around with a red velvet cheesecake idea, yet as the hours until Christmas Eve started ticking down, I unexpectedly changed my mind. Since I still know a (surprising) number of friends & family who have never had the pleasure of tasting a Whoopie Pie before (some who have never even heard of the name), I knew it was the perfect opportunity to dapple around with one. With a twist. Why use something as simple as red food dye to color my cocoa when I could infuse it with actual red velvet flavoring instead? Which, to me, took these whoopie pies to the next level. Of yumminess. Don’t believe me? Try experimenting with both and you be the judge!

For the Pies:

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk, well shaken

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup salted butter, softened to room temperature

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1-1/2 tablespoons red velvet flavoring (or 2 tablespoons red food coloring) *I prefer using red velvet flavoring versus red food coloring because of how much richer the taste becomes with it)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment paper. You’ll need three separate bowls for this recipe, so add those to your placement of necessary kitchen tools. In bowl #1, whisk together the cocoa & baking soda. Set aside. In bowl #2, stir in the buttermilk, vanilla and red velvet flavoring until well mixed.  Set aside.

On a stand mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar, at medium speed, until light & fluffy. Add in the egg until fully combined. After dropping your mixer speed to a lower setting, add in the flour, followed by the buttermilk mixture, in 3 separate batches. Always starting with and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between each addition to create a smoother texture. Mix until just smooth (but do not over mix).

Now the fun and very pretty part! Using either a large cookie scoop or large spoon, drop up to 6 scoops of pie dough onto each lined cookie sheets. This will make you roughly 12 pie sides, equaling 6 fully assembled whoopie pies! Can I get a “Yum!”

Bake for 11-13 minutes. Whoopie Pies are meant to be a large, puffy type of “cookie” so don’t worry if you think that they are a bit soft once out of the oven. Cool throughly on a wire rack.

While your “cookie” pies are cooling, here’s what you’ll need for the cream cheese filling:

1 (8oz) package of cream cheese

1/2 cup unsalted butter, warmed to room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

In a bowl on your stand mixture, add in the cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract and powdered sugar, mixing at low to medium speed until well combined and smooth. Mix in the heavy whipping cream and whip at high speed for 2-3 minutes.

Using a large spoon or large round decorating tip with a piping bag, spread a large dollop of filling onto one side of 6 of your whoopie pies. Press each 12 halves together and there you have it! 12 lovely, decadent Christmas Whoopie Pies! Your family or friends will adore these (and you for making them)!

Happy New Year and Happy Baking, my friends!

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