Merry Christmas from the Delicious Potager!
The past two weeks have been crazy around here. I just can’t seem to get caught up. Plus, work is beginning to pick up as I head into my busiest time of year. Look for posts to become more infrequent as tasks get pushed to the side making time for long hours at the office and sleep.
At any rate, I was planning to post this earlier, but things pop up and you have to roll with the punches. So, consider this a holiday gift to one lucky reader. I’ve got a whopper of a giveaway from McCormick.
A few weeks back, I attended Mixed Con for the second time. It was every bit as awesome as it was last year, but it was just different. Different crowd of food bloggers, different sponsors, different sessions. But I went there with all the knowledge I soaked up last year and felt a little less like a fish out of water this time around. That made it feel different, too.
Once again, it was hosted by the two lovelies, Susan at She’s Becoming Doughmesstic and Paula at Bell’alimento, at the picturesque Mountain Lake Lodge. You know the one; the backdrop for Dirty Dancing. Oh, yes. It lives up to every bit of hype.
One of our sessions was a color and flavor session for baked goodies sponsored by the main sponsor of the conference, McCormick. The session was led by Hello, Cupcake! authors, Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. I don’t do a lot of baking, but this session was so much fun, full of really awesome and creative ideas for treats for any occasion.
Right after we got back from Mixed, we had a goodie box waiting for us from McCormick crammed full of the flavors and colors (and all the necessary tools for decorating) Karen and Alan showed us during their session. I was pretty excited, because this is some serious swag. Have you ever plunked down four or five bucks for a tiny bottle of real vanilla extract? (I hope you do. Please tell me you don’t use the imitation stuff… YUCK!) This goodie box had a bottle of REAL vanilla flavor and about a dozen of his friends like anise extract, coconut extract, orange extract, and on and on. We also got food coloring, spices, baking cups, pastry bags, tips, and push-up pop molds.
I don’t bake much, but not because I don’t like to. I usually try to avoid sweets, but the holidays are a special occasion. I needed to make a couple dishes to take to a family gathering last weekend, and I decided on iced sugar cookies. They are so classically Christmas. I’ve made them since I was little. Also, they travel well and are always a hit with kids and adults alike.
I actually used the recipe we learned from Marian of Sweetopia last year at Mixed. The look so fancy! But they’re actually pretty easy.
The cookie recipe is a basic butter sugar cookie dough. It calls for three teaspoons of vanilla extract. But I thought I would give it a twist and substitute two of the teaspoons of vanilla for almond extract. I also used four cups of regular all purpose flour, but substitute stone ground winter wheat flour (the flour I get from a local grist mill that is more coarse than regular all purpose) to give it a nice texture. These cookies aren’t totally smooth and soft. They do have a little texture, which I like.
I also used royal icing, which I’d never worked with before last year. It makes a nice smooth icing that dries solid so you can stack them for packing. Plus, it’s just really pretty. It was originally made with egg whites and confectioners sugar, but more recent recipes call for meringue powder instead of egg whites for safety. I’ve only made this icing twice, but both times, I used actual egg whites. If you are concerned about food safety, I would definitely go with meringue powder, but I have had no issues with egg whites.
Once I had the icing made, I divided it into three jars to color it. You do have to keep the lid on it while you are not using it because it will harden when exposed to air. I made white, green and red. Christmasy, ya know.
Make sure your cookies are totally cool before you start or you will have a huge royal icing mess on your hands. It dries fairly quickly and is easy to work with if the cookies are nice and cool. I set up a little assembly station, which made the decorating go surprisingly fast.
Making the the designs is fairly easy, although they look really intricate. Fill up pastry bags with small (5 or 8) Wilton tips with each color of icing. Pipe the outline onto the cookies then fill them in. Pipe your stripe color across the filled in center. Before it dries, drag a toothpick through it to make the swirled designs. The icing dries completely after you leave it sit out for an hour or so. Then you can pack them into bags and tins for gifts or travelling.
The cookies were a hit with everyone. And making them was at least one thing that wasn’t crazy stressful this time of year since I had a big box of McCormick goodies and didn’t have to go to the grocery store.
So. I did mention this was a giveaway. I actually have another box of McCormick goodies exactly like the one I used to give to one lucky reader. It might be too late for your Christmas baking, but Valentine’s Day will be extra sweet with some sugar cookies or raspberry cupcakes decorated in pink and red.
To enter, all you have to do leave a comment to this entry telling me what you’d like to make with these goodies from McCormick.
You can get an additional entry by tweeting the link to this giveaway and coming back and leaving a comment with the tweet url in your comment. You can get a third entry by sharing this post on your facebook page and coming back and leaving me a comment telling me you shared it with your facebook name.
The winner will be chosen by using the random number generator, random.org. The contest is open until next Monday, December 30th at 11:59 p.m. I’ll announce the winner on this blog on Tuesday and ship the goodie box to the lucky reader.
I’m super excited about this giveaway since it was so much fun making these iced sugar cookies. I can’t wait to hear what you’d like to make with these flavors, colors and decorating tools.