Gingerbread House

Do you wanna build a snowman  Gingerbread house?

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For me, Christmas always meant putting up the fake tree (they didn’t sell the real deal on every street corner in Japan like they do in NYC), sneakily or attempting to be sneaky while making/wrapping presents for my family, putting up more christmas decorations, and baking/buying cookies for santa. Okay, back in elementary school decorating seemed a lot more fun than making cookies *gasp* I know.  I believe my sister was in 5th grade or so when she decided that we should decorate a gingerbread house and my mom, who was constantly open to letting us try new cultural things, would buy us one of those decorate a gingerbread house kits.

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Those were fun. Taste-wise, they weren’t so great. They tasted like cinnamon-y cardboard and to be honest I was all about the “gumdrops” and chocolate doors more so than the actual house.  I also always loved seeing the gingerbread confections in hotel lobbies.  My family used to spend Christmas in Hawaii and always at the Moana Surfrider, they had elaborate gingerbread confections with lights in the windows and I if I recall correctly a train. It was gorgeous. Seeing those, I always thought that one day I would have to make my own epic gingerbread house.  Obviously that’s taken a few years.  The first year my sister made gingerbread cookies I was amazed. The cookies were soft and chewy and the taste! It was definitely nothing like the store bought gingerbread house. Anyway, this year, I thought I would give it a go. My family friends gave me the Joy of Cooking cook book as a graduation present and I decided to use the gingerbread house recipe. Now I don’t think I’m good enough to make elaborate gingerbread towns and towers. Ahem dear friend of mine who challenged me to make a Hobbit themed Gingerbread tower, while I love your confidence in me, I fear that at this point in my amateur gingerbread baking days it’s best to keep it simple. I mean, I’m no Nerdy Nummies Rosanna Pansino, so I decided to keep mine simple. And I liked it. 

Maybe next year?

Anyway, let’s get started!

Ingredients:

-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

-1/2 granulated sugar

-1/2 cup molasses

-2 and 1/4 cup AP flour plus 1/4 cup

-1/2 tbsp ground ginger

-1/2 tsp baking soda

-1/2 tsp salt

-1/2 tsp cinnamon

-1/2 tsp nutmeg

Icing

-1 egg white

-2 cups powdered sugar

Garnishes

-Candy canes

-M&Ms

-Gumdrops

-Mini marshmallows

-Sanding Sugar

Directions:

  1. In a small sauce pot, melt the butter over low heat.  Once the butter is completely melted add the sugar and molasses. Once the sugar is melted (no longer gritty), turn off the heat and let the butter-sugar-molasses mixture cool.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (AP flour, spices, baking soda, salt)
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the butter-sugar-molasses mixture into the well. Using a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, mix until a nice dough forms.
  4. Once the dough forms, you may have to incorporate the additional 1/4 cup of AP flour if it’s still sticky and hard to work with.  The dough should be firm, but completely pliable.
  5. Tightly wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to firm up (about 3 hours or overnight).
  6. While the dough is chilling, make your templates.  I like using thick sheet of paper and cutting out the shapes.
    1. For the sides, you will need two 3 inch by 4 inch rectangles*
    2. For the roof, you will need two 4 inch by 4 inch rectangles
    3. For the front and back of the house, you will need two 6 1/2 inch by 4 inch rectangles.  Once you have the bigger rectangle, place it vertically in front of you. So the rectangle should measure about 4 inch across and 6 1/2 inches high. Now measure up to 3 inches  and draw a line horizontally across the rectangle. So now you should have a rectangle with a line about halfway through it one side will be 3 inches thick and the other should be 3 and 1/2.  Then taking a ruler, draw a diagonal line from the edge of the line to the center of the top edge of the rectangle. So you should have a sort of triangle above your 3 inch by 4 inch rectangle. Here is a picture for reference since it sounds horribly confusing.
    4. For the base you will need a 6 inch by 6 inch square.Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 9.42.49 PM
  7. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Once you’ve cut out your templates, dust a clean surface or a silpat and your templates with some AP flour and roll out the gingerbread dough to about 1/8 inch thick. Place the template over the dough and cut along it using a sharp knife.  I also advise cutting out windows and doors before transferring the pieces on a lines baking sheet. It’s a lot easier than doing straight out the oven.
  9. Bake for about 8 to 9 minutes. Once the pieces are baked, quickly place the template over the warm pieces and neaten the edges. The cookies do expand a tad bit, doing this ensures that the cookies will fit together nicely.
  10. While the cookies cool, make the frosting. Whip the egg white until nice and frothy. Add the powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time. You want this frosting to be thick like cement. It should thickly coat your finger and not slide off the back of a spoon. When you lift the spoon, it should dollop off the spoon in thick globs.
  11. Fill a plastic bag or piping bag with the frosting and working with one piece at a time, apply the frosting to the edges. I like starting with a side, evenly coating the bottom and holding it on the base until the frosting starts to harden. Then start with the back, applying icing to the side that will adhere to the gingerbread piece that’s already anchored and the bottom. And then keep going.  Once the house and roof are done, I suggest, icing over the seams (aka the house corners, the roof top, etc.). Then you can thin the icing with a bit of water and start decorating! I used mini m&ms, a candy cane and mini marsh mallows dipped in frosting and then rolled in green sanding sugar. Go sugar crazy!

The dough will make one house plus a few cookies or two miniature gingerbread houses. For the mini ones, I reduced the templates by about half the size. The yielded one larger gingerbread house and two smaller ones. Of course you could probably make two larger gingerbread houses or just use the leftovers to make cookies, whatever you fancy. These also make great little gifts for little ones. I made gingerbread house kits of my own, using the leftover dough and gave them to my co-worker and office manager, who have kids of their own.

This is one of the mini gingerbread houses. I gave the larger one to my co-worker, who has two kids.

This is one of the mini gingerbread houses. Clearly it is too small for my chocolate gingerbread scotty

Let me know what your favorite gingerbread house decoration is and if you make one, please share a photo!

Hugs and puppies!
Mimi

Chocolate Gingerbread Scotties

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 10.48.25 PMSo I’ve been on a bit of a cookie baking binge. To prove it, I’m currently planning to make a gingerbread house from scratch. It should be fun.  Anyway, I thought I would share this recipe with you since I made these chocolate gingerbread scotties a while ago and they were recently regrammed by Food and Wine. I’m beyond humbled and ecstatic and excited that Food and Wine regrammed my photo of cookies.  FYI my instagram handle is les_saveurs_de_mimi. I confess I’m much better at posting on instagram than I am posting on my blog. I promise that I will try to remedy this. It shall be a new year’s resolution.

Anyway, back to the chocolate gingerbread scotty dogs. I love gingerbread and I love chocolate, so I thought why can’t they taste good together? They do. I also personally like my cookies on the crisper side. They hold better when you dunk them in milk or hot tea. Trust me, I’ve tried and cried over dunking a chewier cookies in milk and then finding that the bottom have has sunk to the bottom on my milk glass. Okay it’s not that bad, but it was still sad.  Man I can’t seem to stay focused on the Chocolate Gingerbread Scotties.  Okay so back to these beauts. These were so delicious and so cute, I hope you try making them as well. I tried making them using cocoa powder and baking chocolate. The baking chocolate came out weird I think because I dropped the chocolate in with the bubbling hot molasses butter mixture and they overheated and broke, causing a really greasy crumbling cookie dough (it’s as gross as it sounds). I mean they still turned out well, but the dough was just difficult to work with. Also it may yield better results if you melt the chocolate separately…This clearly needs more scientific cookie investigation…But since everyone around me is on vacation/sick of gingerbread, I shall have to do this test back in Japan (I leave THURSDAY!) where they aren’t sick of gingerbread yet…

So let’s get started!

Ingredients:

-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
-1/2 cup molasses
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1 and 3/4 cups AP flour
-3/4 cup cocoa powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tbsp ground ginger
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan.  Add the molasses and sugar and heat over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Turn off the heat and allow the sugar-butter mixture to cool.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the AP flour, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and spices.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the sugar-butter mixture into the well.  Mix until well incorporated
  4. Knead in the remaining cocoa powder, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  5. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
  6. Once the dough has chilled through, roll out the dough on a flour dusted surface until it’s about 1/8 inch thick.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Cut out the dough using any cookie cutter that you like. I liked the scotty dogs, but you could also use gingerbread men, snowflakes or even scalloped rounds.
  9. Lay the cookies on the sheet about one inch apart (they shouldn’t spread out too much) and bake for about 5-9 minutes.  If you want crisper cookies, bake for at least 9 minutes, for chewier cookies, bake for 5 to 7 minutes.

I gave some of these cookies to my co-workers as plane snacks and they really enjoyed them! I think they’re the perfect holiday cookie for your favorite chocoholics.  They are also pretty sturdy cookies and I think they would make excellent gifts.

Hugs and puppies!

Mimi

Chocolate Tartletts

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Okay. So confession time: I made these tarts weeks ago. Like during Thanksgiving break and I didn’t get a chance to post this, so I apologize for that.  I also apologize for being MIA these past few weeks. Work has been pretty crazy since we’re all about to go on vacation.  Also since I’m on this confessional roll, I’ll also confess that these tarts can be made without a oven. What? Yes, you read that right. You can make a chocolate cream pie without an oven. Okay, if you make your own pie crust then you will need a oven to bake it, but if you went with a cookie crust or a store bought pie crust, you can tell your oven to take a break. You don’t even need a stove for that matter. All you will need is a microwave. Isn’t life just lovely? I’ll answer that for you, it is. I love the fact that I have discovered a way to make chocolate cream pie in less than 10 minutes. Let me repeat that, less than 10 minutes. Trust me, your taste buds and stomach will thank you. My thighs on the other hand, are not thanking me at all. But hey, you win some, you lose some or in this case gain some unnecessary pounds. Oh well. I still like chocolate cream pie and to be honest, in the whole scheme of things, we’re all going to end up like wrinkly old prunes in the future anyway, so why not just live in the moment and eat some delicious things? I find that the more you limit your gastric intake, the more cranky and irritable you get. That may just be me, but let’s be honest, everything is good for you in moderation and hey if you really feel guilty you can go hit the gym or go to a spin class.  I think as long as you have that balance, eating whatever you want shouldn’t be a problem. Though I’m no nutritionist, so don’t go overboard or else you are guaranteed to get diabetes and then things will get ugly.

Back to these chocolate tarts. Let’s just leave it at this: less then 10 minutes, delicious, mini tarts! Chocolate! Go bake! Seriously, you probably have the ingredients already.

Ingredients:

-6 pre-baked tart shells
-2/3 cup whole milk
-3 tbsp granulated sugar
-1 tbsp cornstarch
-1 pinch salt
-1/4 tsp vanilla
-1 egg yolk
-2-3 ounces chocolate chips (bittersweet)
Garnish:
-1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions:

  1. In a microwavable safe bowl, mix together the sugar, milk, cornstarch, salt, vanilla and egg yolk.
  2. Cover in plastic wrap and press down so that the plastic wrap adheres to the surface of the egg mixture.
  3. Microwave in 25 second bursts. Mixing thoroughly between each burst. Repeat until the mixture reaches a custard-y consistency.  I find that about 2 to 3 bursts should do it.
  4. Add in the chocolate and let the heat of the mixture melt the chocolate.
  5. Make the whipped cream.
  6. Fill the tarts and garnish with the whipped cream.

These tarts are best eaten at room temperature.  If you aren’t eating them right away, wait to make whipped cream. I like making whipped cream just before using it, so that it stays fresh.  The tarts will keep in the fridge for about a week, assuming that they last that long!

Hugs and puppies!

Mimi

Earl Grey Tea Cookies

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I told you I was a little obsessed with baking cookies! This time I’m sharing a delicious tea infused cookie recipe.  Ever since I was little, I liked nothing more than to curl up with a good book, a hot cup of tea and some cookies. I just thought that there was no better way to while away the afternoon. Nowadays, I like to bake away the day, but there’s always enough time to sit back, pour myself some tea and curl up with a good book (or a text book) and eat delicious snacks straight out of the oven.  Sure freshly baked cookies may have resulted in burnt fingers and tongues (not that I have multiple tongues), but I learned that it’s just so worth it.

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I came across this recipe for tea flavored cookies at Food 52, a fun website where I peruse recipes and cry over the beautiful bakeware that I have yet to afford.  These cookies called for rooiboos tea, which I really like, but did not have on hand.  Instead I just used what tea I had and that was earl grey.  When I first made the recipe, I basically followed it to a tea (hehehe) except when I bit into them I was disappointed to find out that they were overly sweet. The sweetness of the sugar had completely overwhelmed the subtle notes of Bergamot and I was crushed.  But since I could pinpoint what the problem was, I squared my shoulders and made a second batch.  These were much better. I also shaped them differently and I like them much better than the round ones.  I think that these cookies could be made with any tea of your choice, so go for it! I’m even thinking of making these with jasmine tea. I always though jasmine had such a lovely floral scent….

Anyway, let’s get started! Or else I’ll just drift off into blissful daydreams about tea and forget all about this post.

Ingredients:

-1/4 cup vanilla sugar
-2 tbsp Earl Grey tea leaves (about 5 teabags)
-1 1/2 cup AP flour
-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 tsp vanilla
-2 tsp milk

Directions:

  1. Toast the tea leaves in a small pan until fragrant. Transfer them into a bowl and allow them to cool. Crush the tea leaves with a spice grinder our your fingers to get rid of any large tea leaves. You don’t want them getting caught in your teeth afterwards.
  2. Mixed the crushed tea leaves, sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until well combined.  Add the flour and mix until combined.
  3. Once the flour is all incorporated, add in the milk and the vanilla and mix until a dough begins to form.
  4. Gather the dough into a ball and roll gently into a log. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Now at this point you can keep the cookies round or you can shape the log into a square by shaping the dough using the table. I like the bring the press the log down a bit so that the bottom flattens and rotate the dough and repeat until it’s a perfectly shaped square.
  5. Chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes or overnight.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Take the dough out of the fridge and slice into 1/3 inch thick slices.  Lay them out on the parchment paper about 1 to 2 inches apart, the cookies won’t spread much and bake for 12 minutes or until the edges are just beginning to brown. Cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.

I really liked these cookies, they smell so wonderful and of course they go very well with a cup of earl grey tea. I’m thinking of maybe warming the milk in the pan along with the tea leaves for a bit to get more of the earl grey flavor, but am unsure as to how they will affect the leaves (will they rehydrate and become soggy little leaf pieces or will it really boost the tea flavor).  I’m also dying to try this with some other teas, specifically hojicha (a nutty Japanese tea) or Assam or even English Breakfast.

Let me know what your favorite tea is!

Hugs and puppies!

Mimi

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

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Happy December! Now that Thanksgiving’s over, we can start getting ready for christmas right? Either way, I can’t think of any better way to kick off this holiday season with these chocolate peppermint cookies.  Chocolate and peppermint go so well together and I feel like they truly represent the cold winter months.  The warmth and richness of the chocolate is balanced by the cool kiss of peppermint.  It kind of reminds me of drinking hot chocolate while walking through the snow.  Also the peppermint comes from candy canes. Because to me candy canes = winter holidays.  I used to love trying to lick the candy cane into a nice sharp point without breaking it.  Wait, I still love doing that, I just can’t stand the sugar for very long and end up tossing the rest of the candy cane. Anyway, I’m getting off track. I’ve been really into baking cookies lately and I think it’s because they seem like the baked treat of choice in the winter. Especially with holiday cookie swaps.  I’ve actually never done a cookie swap before and I don’t think I will be participating in one this year, but I’ve decided that this month, I would try and make as many kinds of cookies as I can.  Because along with being a choco-holic, I am a cookie monster.  I’ll probably be making different varieties of these chocolate peppermint cookies, I was originally going to sandwich the two chocolate cookies with some peppermint frosting or whipped cream and then roll the edges in crushed candy canes, but maybe I’ll save that for another time.

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Instead, let’s get started making these delicious cookies!

Ingredients:

Cookies:
-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter 
-1/2 tsp vanilla paste
-2 tbsp granulated sugar
-1 egg
-1 cup AP flour
-1 pinch salt
-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-2 candy canes
Garnish:
-1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
-2 candy canes 

Directions:

  1. Beat together the butter and sugar until nice and fluffy.  Add in the vanilla and the egg and beat until incorporated.  Stir in the cocoa powder, salt and flour until just combined.  Crush the candy canes until they’re almost powdery, there should be small shards, but the pieces should be no bigger than a pea.  Sprinkle the candy cane powder into the dough and knead until well incorporated.
  2. Shape the dough into a rectangle and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  Place in the fridge for 30 minutes or overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Roll out the dough until about 1/8 inch thick and cut into rounds. You can also use fluted cookie cutters or basically any cookie cutter of your choice. I found out that this dough retains it’s shape beautifully when baked.
  5. Place the cookies on the tray about an inch apart, these cookies also don’t spread much, hence why they keep their shape.
  6. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes and cool on the trays.
  7. While the cookies are cooling, crush the remaining 2 candy canes. These can be any size you want. I like to crush them by sealing them in a plastic zip top bag and using a rolling pin to crush them.
  8. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 15 second bursts until the chocolate is melted. Melting them slowly will temper them, thus allowing the chocolate to set at room temperature.
  9. Spread the melted chocolate over the tops of the cookies and sprinkle with candy cane pieces.  I like to do this over a wire rack fitted inside a rimmed baking sheet for easy clean up.

What’s your favorite holiday cookie? I’d love to swap recipes! 🙂

Hugs and puppies!

Mimi