Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Inventing Candy Cane Cookies

Most things that are invented aren't really completely new things that have never been seen before. Most of them are variations on something someone has already done. Just like my candy cane cookies, here. I remember having something like these once, but the details have completely escaped me, so I decided I'd reinvent them.

I made these last night, since we don't have enough cookies around here already, and it's not like people keep giving us more - oh, wait, we do, and they do. Well, I felt like making more cookies, okay? I started with some recipe for pastel cookies I found in a cookbook, but I altered it pretty thoroughly.

Candy Cane Cookies

1 cup butter
1 1/3 cups fine granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 1/4 cups flour
food coloring
optional: other flavorings, such as peppermint extract, and colored decorators' sugar or crushed peppermint candies.

Cream the butter and the sugar thoroughly. Mix in the eggs and milk. Add the vanilla. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl, then mix a bit at a time into the wet ingredients.

Take the dough and divide it into two parts. Take one part and mix in some food coloring (red or green look traditional) and optionally some flavoring such as 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract. Chill dough covered in the refrigerator for two hours.

Take some chilled dough in roughly equal parts of each color, and roll into fat rods of equal length, then stick the rods together and roll out the combined rod to about 3/8" (1cm) diameter. Pinch off about 5-6" (120 - 150cm) and twist (rolling the ends about the center clockwise seems to work well). Roll or dust in colored sugar or crushed candy and form into a candy cane shape or a ring and place on a baking sheet.

Bake at 350° F (175° C) for 10 - 12 minutes. The cookies should not be noticeably browned. Leave the baked cookies on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes to cool before transferring to a cooling rack - the cookies can be fragile. Makes about four dozen.

Now, I skipped the peppermint part because I'm no fan of mint, and I don't have any extract handy anyway, but other flavorings ought to work just fine. Some of the pastel cookie recipes I've seen online actually incorporate Jell-O or Kool-aid so any old flavoring will probably work. I liked plain vanilla pretty well. Tastes like a sweet butter cookie. Yum.

How We Make an Igloo

I'm feeling the effects of a cold, with aches and sniffles and occasional sneezing, but that didn't stop us from heading outside this afternoon to try our hand at making some spare shelter.

Ingredients: Snow, shovel, plastic storage bin. Check.

Fill bin with snow, slide out block. Repeat.

Stack up the blocks in the traditional igloo shape.

Check for fit.

Shape blocks as needed to fit the curvature and let them hold each other up. It works!

Enjoy your new igloo!

Monday, December 22, 2008


So we've had a bit of snow around here - this is what the house looked like after the first day, with 9" of new powder:

And of course, the view from our sunny adirondacks on the deck, before we got another four inches:

Even the new walkway lights look festive with their hats of snow!

But here's the best stuff of all:

This is what Christmas looks like for me and my siblings - sour cream sugar cookies! Made with the traditional buttercreme frosting and sugary decors. I only baked up half a batch this year, since there's only the three of us, and we've already delivered some baked goodies to the friends and neighbors this year. They are still delicious, even if we're a bit tired of being stuck in the house and sharing the same sniffly cold. Santa is going to love eating one of these.