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Sunday, December 23, 2012

With a Sad Heart...

I'm sorry for disappearing at one of my favorite baking times of the year.  My mother was very ill and passed away this last week.  I was privileged to be by her side as she crossed over and it was peaceful and loving experience.  After getting through the holidays and getting some rest...I'll be back.  I'll be ready to honor her "cooking legacy" with lots of goodies in 2013.

I snapped these photos right before packaging them up and taking them with me.  They had just dried when I got the call.  She loved seeing my cookies and I always felt warm and fuzzy when she admired them.  She enjoyed reading my blog before she lost the ability to use the computer.  I miss her sorely.  She was a great lady.

I enjoyed using "accents" for the sleigh and snowman hats
I made weeks ago from leftover royal icing.  Waste not, want not!

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, blessed with good food, family, and love.  Give your loved ones an extra hug...and write down your Mom's and your Grandma's special family recipes while they are still with you.  Having done so with my Mom will remain one of my greatest treasures!  I wrote about it in 2010 and am so thankful to have that memory.

Now, get back to baking and preparing to enjoy a blessed holiday.  I'm going to bake off some of those cookies I froze (aren't I glad I did THAT now!) and take them with me when I return back to Austin for Christmas with my children and grand-children.

Debbi Hook
The South Padre Island Flip Flop FoodieStumbleUpon

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Cookies... I've gone to the Dark Side!

Pearlized Snowflake Chocolate Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies

I started prepping dough for holiday baking a few weeks ago, tucking it safely and well-wrapped in my freezer.  This week, I thawed, baked, and decorated my first batch of Christmas cookies using the new  chocolate sugar cookie recipe I found on  After rolling, cutting, and baking... I gave one a try and they were rich and dark and marvelous.

The only down side is that, even with sharp metal cookie cutters, the mini chocolate chips wreaked havoc with smooth edges.  They were also "not smooth" straight out of the oven - no problem there.  I was able to use my fondant smoother and "iron out" the dips.  Nothing to be done about the edges though.  You can see from the photos that some of the edges show the problem.  However, the flavor is so exceptionally good for a roll-and-cut cookie dough, that I think I'm not going to care.  They are "rustic"...yeah, that's the ticket.

Here's the recipe with a small tweak or two that I I renamed it.  The Espresso Powder gives it the depth of flavor...I wanted that to be in the title.
Christmas Lights
accented with Wilton Silver Color Mist Shimmering
Food Color Spray over white piped icing for the bulb's base

Chocolate Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Ann Clark

Click Here for Printable Recipe


1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg (room temperature)
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup mini chocolate chips (I used Nestle's -
must use mini chips - you can't roll it with regular
size chips)


In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and both sugars until creamy.  Add egg, espresso powder and vanilla extract.  Beat until incorporated.

In a separate bowl (or large measuring cup), whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix just until completely incorporated.  I did this 1/2 at a time to reduce the "fly up" of dry goods.

Hand mix the mini chocolate chips into the dough.

Wrap the dough, in four portions, in plastic wrap and chill until firm (I froze them and then brought them down to the refrigerator for a day before using).  I wrap in small sections to make it easier to roll.  If you have too much, it is more prone to being uneven, cracking, and getting too warm before everything is cut out and moved over.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit   Roll the well-chilled dough out on a lightly floured surface.  Ensure your rolling pin is well-floured as well.  This dough can be sticky if not well-chilled.  Using metal cookie cutters (you need the sharpness to cut through the chips) cut the dough and transfer cookies onto baking sheets lined with parchment or a Silpat.  If they stick to the counter at all, use an offset spatula dipped in flour, sliding underneath the cutout, to help you make the transfer.  Because I have a warm kitchen, I almost always pop the trays into the freezer after the cut-outs are ready, for 5 to 15 minutes, to re-chill the butter (helps prevent spreading).

Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes (mine took about 9 minutes, except the large snowflakes, which took the full 10 minutes). The surface of the cookies look dry and set when they are ready.  Remove from oven and place baking trays on cooling racks for 10 minutes or so, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

I did re-roll my scraps - and they seemed to work just fine.  I actually used the last bit of dough left to form a free-style cookie as a tasting cookie.  Since it was a new recipe, I wanted to make sure they tasted good before I spent hours decorating them!  Delicious they were!!! (Did I just sound like Yoda?)
Christmas Reindeer
Oops I forgot to pipe their black hooves!
I'll do that before I package them.

I iced all of these cookies using my regular royal icing.  I have become a huge fan of the AmeriColor Meringue Powder.  It seems to taste better than the Wilton brand...but Wilton is absolutely fine too, I have both in my cabinet.  I flavored this batch with a mix of almond extract and pure vanilla extract.  I wasn't worrying about a pure white color so I didn't use the clear vanilla (actually, I rarely do - I like the real deal).
The little lines for the cuff were
harder to pipe than I thought...and already
a couple of lines crumbled a bit.
Live and learn...I learn something from every project!

I did break one snowflake when piping and flooding.  In retrospect, I probably should have used a medium sized cutter for all cookies with this dough.  It is not as "hard" as regular sugar cookies.  These are not cookies I would feel free to bang on the table to help them smooth themselves out.  These are hold-and-shake cookies....of course, that's how I broke the snowflake, so I'll leave it to you to figure out how to smooth things along.
I outlined and flooded these with a slate blue icing.
Then I pearlized them by spraying with Wilton's Pearl Color Mist.
Piped on the detail with white 20 second+ icing and
accented with blue sugar pearls.  I am quite happy with them!

This recipe will now be a stock recipe for cookie decorating.  I feel it is so important that pretty cookies really taste good.  Otherwise, what's the point???

OK - now that I've photographed the cookies, time to package them up and put them in the freezer.  What?  You didn't know you could freeze decorated sugar cookies?  Oh yes you can...and they taste just as good as the day I put them in (I don't leave them more than a few weeks).  It would be impossible to bake and decorate without stress if I didn't have a freezing option!  I follow the instructions found at Bake at 350's blog.  Believe me, it was a game changer for me!  The only problem is that I need a bigger freezer now!  Oh well, details...just details!
Christmas Ornaments
My hands were really tired, as evidenced by
some shaky lines and slanting sections
that were intended to be straight!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

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