Year: 2011

Hershey Kiss Cut-Out Cookies

I was in Gettysburg a few months ago and we decided to take a day trip to Hershey, PA. It was only a few hours away from where we were staying and it’s a silly place that I’ve always wanted to visit. I have an overly intense, nostalgia-based relationship with candy. Not in the sense that I can’t stop eating it (though KitKats don’t last long with me around..), but in the sense that it reminds me of my childhood, my grandparents, my family, my home. I remember that my grandma loved Krackle and KitKat bars. My grandpa loved Lifesavers. My grandma would always take me to Dinkel’s, our cutely-named mom-n-pop pharmacy, and she’d buy me a roll of Rolos. I once stole a miniature Tootsie Roll from the grocery store (so daring, I was at age 5) and my mom forced me to return to the store, give the manager a quarter, and apologize. I haven’t stolen anything since.

Needless to say, a lot of my memories are tied to candy. Hershey, PA was a pretty sweet town (pun intended). The street lamps are in the shape of Kisses. The two HERSHEY smoke stacks rise high into the sky and can be seen from anywhere in town. The whole town is focused on chocolate and candy. My kind of place. We visited Chocolate World and the Hershey Museum. Hershey Park was closed due to a car show.

— One day in Hershey is plenty. If you go when the amusement park is open, add another day to your itinerary.
— The Hershey Hotel is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. It has to be a 4 or 5 star resort. We had lunch there and had much success in their many shops.
— I couldn’t help but think of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory — and wondered if any oompa loompas worked in the Hershey factory.
— The Chocolate World giftshop was INTENSE. If you so desired, you could buy a 5 lb Hershey Bar or the world’s largest peanut butter cup. I was tempted..
— I wish they offered real factory tours. Not the fake tram ride that they bill as a factory tour. I understand why they don’t — too many trade secrets, I’m guessing.
— And if you are a fan of biographies, read the book titled “Hershey”. It’s fascinating and written in such a captivating way. Milton Hershey really was one of a kind.

I bought a set of Hershey Kiss cookie cutters at the gift shop and finally got around to making cookies! Enjoy!

Hershey Kiss Cut-Out Cookies
Recipe source: Our Best Bites, Savory Sweet Life
Print Recipe

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (dutch-process or natural works)
1 cup (2 sticks) regular salted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light an fluffy (1-2 full minutes). Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined.
3. Whisk flour and cocoa powder together and then slowly add to the butter mixture by spoonfuls with mixer at low speed. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl as needed.
4. Lightly dust rolling surface with cocoa powder or flour or a mixture of both.  Roll dough about 1/4 inch thick.  It helps to roll soft dough in between sheets of plastic wrap or parchment and then place them in the fridge for about 15 minutes (or the freezer for 5-10) until firm.
5. Cut out shapes and place on baking sheets.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until set.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell with chocolate cookies when they are done, so just watch for the dough to not look “wet” anymore and the edges should be holding their shape nicely.
6. Let cookies cool for 2-3 minutes and then use a spatula to place them on a cooling rack.

Chocolate Buttercream:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or 1/2 pound), softened (but not melted!)
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
Cream butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Turn off the mixer. Sift 3 cups powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time.

*I decorated the cookies with silver sprinkles — you can use whatever type of sprinkle you’d like!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all of my wonderful readers! Thank you for all the love, support, comments, and fun over the past year :]

Christmas Ideas 2011

If you’d like to do some last-minute holiday baking, here’s a Christmas recipe roundup for you! Go forth and bake!

1. Red Velvet Whoopie Pies
2. Molasses Cookies
3. Sugar Cookie Squares
4. Mint Chocolate Kiss Cookies
5. Stained Glass Sugar Cookies
6. Pretzel Rolo Turtles
7. Star Cookie Christmas Tree
8. Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes
9. Christmas Cut-Out Cookies
10. Sparkling Peppermint Cookies
11. Butter Pecan Cake
12. Peppermint Mocha Pound Cake
13. Pfeffernuesse
14. Christmas Cherry Cookies
15. Chocolate-Coated Candy Canes
16. Reindeer Cupcakes
17. Chocolate Covered Potato Chips
18. Santa Hat Cupcakes
19. Gumdrop Cookies
20. Candy Cane Blossoms

Christmas Cut-Out Cookies

I have blogged many times about my grandma’s cut-out cookie recipe. It’s one of my all-time favorites, both because of the great flavor and because it makes me so nostalgic. At Thanksgiving this year, my family reminisced about my grandmother and her annual cookie-making endeavor. She didn’t just make a few batches. She made HUNDREDS of cookies. Her house was like a military operation during the first week of December. She’d bring in her sister for help — and occasionally recruit my aunt and I to help decorate. My Omi took her cookies very seriously, as they were a reflection of herself and how much she loved to cook for people.

All of that nice nostalgia aside, my sweet grandmother would also morph into a bit of a dictator around cookie decorating time. She was German, which meant she had one hell of a stubborn streak in her. It was HER way or no one’s way when it came to decorating her sugar cookies. The bells HAD TO BE yellow. The stockings HAD TO BE red. The mittens HAD TO BE blue. And so on. There was no deviation from her norm. None. And if you did, she would remove the abnormal cookie (in this case, maybe a red bell) from the pile and refuse to give it away as a gift.

She was also a stickler about how much decorating sugar was used. You were to LIGHTLY dust the cookie with colored sugar. If you dipped the cookie into the sugar, you might as well have committed murder. She would always chide, “You’re using too much sugars! Too much!”

Why my aunt and I put up with this nit picky-ness, we’ll never know. But we did it because we loved her and if she wanted all of those mittens lightly dusted with blue (and only blue) sugar, OK then. The odd thing was, my grandma was only this stubborn and picky when it came to these cookies. What she cooked or baked was, in her mind, a direct reflection of herself — and she wanted those cookies to be the best that they could be.

Every year my aunt and I laugh about the cookie decorating experiences we had together at my grandma’s house. She and I are both troublemakers and boundary-pushers by nature, so we always had fun with it. One year we put brown jimmies near the butt of a reindeer cut-out – an act that nearly got us kicked out of the house.

This year I decided to make a big batch of Christmas cookies — and to decorate them as closely to what my grandmother would have done as I could remember. I did, however, break her rule regarding the amount of decorating sugar used. I coated those babies in sugar…. dipped ’em right in! Because really, colorful cookies make better photos… and I like sugar.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Omi’s Sugar Cookies
Print Recipe

2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoon nutmeg*

Beat butter and sugar. Add eggs, sour cream, and nutmeg. Add dry ingredients gradually. Chill the batter overnight or for at least 4 hours. Roll out dough and cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 350F until golden (in true fashion, my grandma didn’t give a specific baking time. I baked the cookies for about 8 minutes).

*The nutmeg definitely gives these cookies a distinct flavor. Many peoples’ comment after trying one was “wow, these are really good, but I can’t put my finger on what tastes different”. It’s the nutmeg. And you either love it or hate it. My mom is not a fan, so my grandma would always bake a separate batch of “Jeanne’s cookies” – sans nutmeg.

Omi’s Frosting
2 tablespoons shortening
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons scalded milk
3 cups (or more) powdered sugar

Beat all ingredients together besides the powdered sugar. Gradually add the powdered sugar until you get a smooth and creamy consistency.

Happy Hanukkah!

Happy Hanukkah to all of my Jewish readers!

There is a cute story behind the Star of David cookies above.  My grandmother used to make hundreds and hundreds of cut out sugar cookies every holiday season. There would be Christmas trees, stockings, bells, snowmen, and oddly, Stars of David.  My family isn’t Jewish but each and every year, my grandmother would insist on making Star of David cut-outs and she would also insist on using blue sprinkles.  When I was a teenager I decided to ask her why she did this (considering that again, we’re not Jewish — and Oshkosh has a very small Jewish population).  Her response was, “Don’t be silly, they’re stars!”  She had no idea that the six-pointed blue star that she insisted on making each year was a symbol of Judaism. My grandmother was not AT ALL anti-Semitic, she just didn’t know that the shape was attached to the Jewish faith.

So from that year on, if I make my grandmother’s cut-out cookies, I always make a few Stars of David. Just because.