Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Weather

I realize weather is what everyone talks about all the time, but it is one link that humans have with each other on a daily basis. Everyone can talk about the weather. You will find that are very few instant small talk pointers that people can whip out of thin air while under pressure.

It was gorgeous outside yesterday. With January soon coming to a close, I expected winter weather to still be in full force. The forecast had other ideas and swept in with some sixty degree weather. Perfect for biking.

Me and the kid sister bicycled to downtown Annapolis to enjoy some icecream and the sun.

The weather was simply perfect. I couldn't ask for anything more.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Christmas Cookies - Part Two

I work at Starbucks currently. It is the job that I kind of fell into last August. I had worked there previously back in 2008 in between highschool and college, so it was a coming back to the old stomping ground kind of thing for me. Some of the regulars back in 2008 are still regulars now in 2012. It blows my mind how some people just have the same routine year in and year out. I think I am too antsy for that.

I digress.

So around Christmas I was making some cookies [like a boss obvs] and decided that I have been working at Starbucks for way too long. It was truly apparent that I have been working there far too long because I zoned out for a half hour, and this is what came to my vision after zoning back into reality. 

Yikes. All my gingerbread men were wearing Starbucks aprons and holding Starbucks' red Christmas cups. Two of them were even wearing bowties like my manager does. 

It seems kind of funny, but the gingerbread man above even had an injured foot* like my manager. What are the odds? 

The last kicker in all of this? One of the barista gingerbread ladies has an uncomfortable look on her face, very similar to how I look at work ALL THE TIME! This is truly a creepy coincidence. 

Thankfully after I snapped out of it and stopped icing cookies with Starbucks aprons, I was able to salvage some Christmas trees.

Maybe next year I will have gingerbread men who aren't trying to over-caffeinate the masses with concentrated espresso. Just maybe it will be a Christmas miracle.

And if you are looking for a kick-butt gingerbread recipe, look no farther than Martha Stewart's website. It was the second gingerbread recipe I used during Christmas, and they really turned out so tasty and wonderful. I recommend it highly.

*Chad's foot isn't actually injured, he just wears thrifted boots, which is practically a form of injury.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Christmas Cookies - Part One

What was supposed to be a relaxing day off in December quickly turned into a cookie fest. As it turns out, December is filled with parties and get togethers. It was requested that I turn out a bajillion cookies in order to appease the hungry holiday guests that amass at these various events. My mother is just too popular for her own good and has to be invited to every single event within a twenty mile radius of our home.

I made what was supposed to be sugar cookies. Interestingly enough, they ended up turning out like a mix between sugar cookies and shortbread cookies. They shaped well but crumbled just slightly after they had cooled. They were just delicious. 

2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup superfine sugar (just whipped 1 cup sugar in the food processor until it was blended and then measured out 3/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces & softened
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1) Whisk the flour, sugar, & salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.

2) Beat the butter into the flour mixture, one piece at a time using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, then continue to beat until the mixture looks crumbly and slightly wet, 1 to 2 minutes.

3) Beat in the cream cheese & vanilla until he dough just begins to form large clumps, about thirty seconds.

4) Knead the dough in the large bowl by hand a few times until it forms a large, cohesive mass. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter, divide it in half, and shape it into a two four inch disks. Wrap the disks tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until they begin to firm up, 20 to 30 minutes.

5) Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375. Work with one disk at a time, roll out the dough to a 1/8″ thickness (or however thick you prefer your cookies) between two sheets of parchment paper. Slide the rolled dough and parchment onto a baking sheet & refrigerate again until firm.

6) Working with one sheet of dough at a time cut out shapes using cookie cutters and lay on two parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced about 1″ apart. Bake the cookies until light golden brown, about ten minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.

7) Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for two minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely, about thirty minutes. When cooled, the cookies can be decorated as desired.

Sugar Cookie Frosting
4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup shortening
5 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Food coloring

In a large bowl, cream together confectioners sugar and shortening until smooth. Gradually mix in milk and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth and stiff, about five minutes. Color with food coloring if desired.

The frosting worked quite well for decorating and such. It held its shape well, and it was very smooth. My only qualm with it was that it tasted like shortening to me. If I were to do anything different next time, it would be to either add more vanilla extract, or find a frosting recipe that didn't involve shortening. It just seems to affect the over all taste.