Christmas Cookie Gift Boxes

Oh you know how I love giving away sweet treats for Christmas. Just remember back to when I tried the Christmas Cookie Challenge. I hoped that sharing the experience with all of you would motivate others to give it a try, just as the original blog did for me. I loved the way they turned out and everyone that received one was so surprised at how much work I had put into making them. This year I was lucky enough to have the time to do it all again! So here I am to share it all again and give you a step-by-step guide on how to do this yourself for Christmas!

1. First you will want to make a list of all of the people you plan on giving a cookie gift box to. Mine came out to about 15 people. Don’t make too large of a list or it’ll cost you more time and money. I would say don’t go over 20 people.

2. Begin collecting your favorite cookie, bar, and candy recipes. I went with a dozen recipes, pulling some family favorites and trying several new ones. I had to force myself to stop collecting recipes because there were so many I wanted to make!

3. Stock up on ingredients and supplies for the gift boxes. Here are some items to look out for:

  • Ingredients for baked goods (butter, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla extract, nuts, etc)
  • Large freezer-safe tupperware or gallon-sized plastic zipper bags
  • Parchment paper
  • Gift tags
  • Bows
  • Bakers twine
  • Tissue paper
  • Gift boxes (I found a pretty good deal at Target in the Christmas section, less than $1 per box)

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4. Begin baking, storing everything in tupperware or plastic bags in the freezer to keep them fresh. I recommend saving the more delicate treats for last so they spend the least amount of time in the freezer. I start baking during the last week of November.

5. Decide how to decorate and label your boxes. I found a pretty template to print “Baked With Love” labels and create a list of what kinds of cookies are included in the box here. I also decided instead of bakers twine, I wanted to stick Christmas bows on top of each box alongside the label.

6. Pick a day to assemble your cookie gift boxes and deliver them. For me this was the week before Christmas. I drive around to deliver my boxes, but if you’re shipping them, you’ll have to pack them so that they don’t spoil or get squished. It is probably best to ship them in layers of wax paper in sturdy tupperware containers.

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7. Enjoy the gift-giving and seeing the excitement on your friends and family members faces! Turns out I had so many cookies left over, I  gave my friends a lot of extras and made several cookie trays to pass out at work. As long as you plan ahead, this whole process should be easy-peasy!

Chocolate Peppermint Waffle Cookies

This past month has been all about cleaning out the garage and boxing up most of my grandmother’s things to donate. While I set aside those few, very dear keepsakes I wanted to keep of hers, she has a lot of junk left. My grandmother grew up during the Great Depression and could never get rid of anything she owned. That is just how she was. I’ve come across a ton of bakeware – very old, useful bakeware. One of the most exciting things I came across was a waffle maker! I’ve always wanted one, but it was never a priority for me when spending money.

Other than making waffles, I always thought it would be neat to make cookies in a waffle maker. Use a good enough cookie recipe that doesn’t burn easily or melt all over, you can get some pretty cookies with the waffle pattern. I used this recipe that I found here to make these chocolate waffle cookies with a peppermint glaze. You can easily switch out the peppermint extract for another flavoring to change the flavor of the glaze.

Rating 5/5

 

Chocolate Peppermint Waffle Cookies

Cooking Time: 1-3 minutes

 

1/2 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup white sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

6 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil

1/2 tsp espresso powder

1 cup powdered sugar

4 tsp water

1/4 tsp peppermint extract

Preheat a nonstick waffle maker. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract. Add the flour, cocoa powder, oil, and espresso powder. Beat until just combined.

Using a cookie scoop or spoon, drop a tablespoonful scoop of batter onto each section of the waffle maker. Close and cook until cookies are puffed up and spring back when touched, about 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

In a separate bowl, combine powdered sugar, water, and peppermint extract until smooth and glaze forms. Slowly spoon and drizzle glaze over cooled cookies. Allow to set before storing in an airtight container.

Enjoy.

Pie Crust Cookies

It is official! Baking for Christmas has begun! I stocked up on huge freezer-safe tupperware and plastic bags, unsalted butter, and sprinkles. From now until Christmas I’ll be baking away in my kitchen so I can build pretty little cookie gift boxes to give out to everyone I know. Now that I’m no longer working at a bakery, I can spend my time baking at home instead of baking hundreds of bundt cakes in 12-hour shifts. As much as I love to get paid to bake, I missed having the ability to get creative with what I make.

During a recent day trip to Julian, my sister and I noticed one of the local bakeries featured pie crust cookies. I never thought to use pie dough for cookies because it is normally a very bland tasting dough, but they looked pretty good. I didn’t try one. I looked up some recipes online instead. What a great idea to add to my Christmas cookies. You simply use pie dough, cut into shapes, and top with melted butter, cinnamon, and sugar. It would be a delicate, lightly sweetened addition to my other, more sweet, cookies. This recipe is pretty simple and you can cut them into any shape you’d like. The recipe below has a flaky texture. You can use other pie crust recipes for a more flat, harder cookie.

 

Rating 5/5

 

Pie Crust Cookies

Oven Temp: 450°F

Cooking Time: 8-9 minutes

 

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted cold butter, cut into cubes

1/4 cup cold water

1/4 cup cold vodka

3 tbsp butter, melted

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

 

In a food processor, add flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse for 2 seconds to combine. Add butter cubes and pulse for 10-20 seconds until dough moistens and forms. If you don’t have a food processor, combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and cut in the butter with a fork.

Move dough to a large bowl. Sprinkle the water and vodka over the dough. Carefully knead the dough just until a ball forms. Separate the ball in half and form each half into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness with a floured rolling pin. Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter or the rim of a drinking glass.

Place dough shapes onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon to create cinnamon sugar mixture. Brush each cookie with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake for 8-9 minutes and allow to cool completely before removing from cookie. They will be delicate.

Enjoy.

Strawberry Meringue Cookies

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Meringue cookies are always described as light, airy, and crunchy. Having never baked these cookies myself, they sounded different, but delicious. I had to try these out. They were surprisingly easy and you can make them any flavor and any design you’d like. I have a large collection of piping tips. I ended up using the 1M star tip and 2D star tip to make pretty rose-like swirls and a plain round tip to make heart shapes. This recipe proved to be easy with a very good turnout. I will no longer be intimidated by meringue cookies!

Rating 5/5

 

Strawberry Meringue Cookies

Oven Temp: 190⁰F

Cooking Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

 

3 egg whites, room temperature

3/4 cup superfine sugar

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp strawberry flavoring

few drops red food coloring

 

Preheat oven to 190⁰F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl with a stand mixer or hand mixer, whisk the egg whites until frothy, about 20 seconds. Adding one tablespoon at a time, blend in superfine sugar until dissolved.

(I did not have superfine sugar, so I processed 3/4 cup of granulated sugar in my food processor before adding to the egg whites)

Add cream of tartar and blend another 20 seconds. Then add vanilla extract, strawberry flavoring, and red food coloring. Beat on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the egg whites result in stiff peaks (see picture below).

Add spoonfuls of the meringue mixture onto the baking sheet or use a piping bag and frosting tip to pipe meringue into different shapes. Allow the meringue to sit on the baking sheets for 1 hour.

Bake the two baking sheets for 45 minutes, flipping them around and switching racks, and bake for another 45 minutes. Once the baking time is up, turn the oven off, leaving the meringues inside and propping the door open with a wooden spoon. Leave the cookies in the oven for a minimum of 4 hours, up to overnight. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature.

Enjoy.

Found the recipe on Pinterest here.

Lemon Lavender Shortbread Cookies

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I’m back! Finally after one final year of college, I have graduated with my BS in Foods and Nutrition and I can return to cooking and baking my day away in the kitchen. As soon as I turned in my last final exam, I began planning all of the goodies that I have put on hold for so long! I apologize for the long absence. It was a very stressful and busy school year for me. (I didn’t even get to make my Christmas cookies!)

So to start of my new blog redesign and the beginning of a new chapter as far as posts go, I figured what better way to begin than by using the lavender sugar I’ve held onto for so long. Paired with lemon zest, the flavor of lavender goes great in this buttery shortbread recipe. If you don’t have lavender sugar like I did, you can combine some lavender flowers with granulated sugar. These cookies are perfect for a hot, spring day. I took some on a wine tasting/lunch trip to Temecula.

Rating 5/5

 

Lemon Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Oven Temp: 375⁰F

Cooking Time: 13 to 15 minutes

 

1/2 cup lavender sugar

zest of one lemon

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

 

Preheat oven to 375⁰F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine lavender sugar and lemon zest. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, add butter and cream butter, sugar, and zest together until creamy. Add vanilla extract.

Adding one 1/2 cup at a time, slowly mix in flour and salt until just combined. Dough will be sticky. Shape the dough into a ball using your hands. Once a ball forms, turn it out onto a hard surface and roll into a log shape.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 4 hours or overnight. After chilling, unwrap the dough and slice into 1/4-inch slices using a sharp knife. Place dough cutouts on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until bottoms are light golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

Enjoy.

Found the recipe on the lavender sugar package.

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Cinnamon Frosting

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The weather has shifted from an uncomfortable 93F degrees  to a nice 65F degrees. Starbucks has started selling their fall drinks and I already see Christmas stuff lining the shelves at Target. Seeing pumpkin in everything gave me the urge to make something with pumpkin myself. A family get-together gave me the excuse to bake some pumpkin cookies with brown butter cinnamon frosting.

For the cookies:

2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp pumpkin spice

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups (or a 15 oz) can canned pumpkin

3/4 cup evaporated milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

For the frosting:

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp evaporated milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

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Preheat oven to 375°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin spice. Set aside.

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In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy; about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs.

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Add pumpkin, evaporated milk, and vanilla. Mix until well combined; about 2 minutes.

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Add the flour mixture to your batter and mix until all dry ingredients are well combined.

Grabbing a pastry bag or a large gallon plastic bag, fill halfway with cookie batter and pipe 1 1/2 inch-sized circles onto cookie sheets, spacing them 1-inch apart.

Bake cookies for about 12 minutes or until tops spring back when touched. Cool completely before frosting.

I recommend waiting to make the frosting until all of your cookies are out of the oven and cooled. To make the frosting, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally until butter turns a golden brown; about 3 minutes.

In a large bowl, add powdered sugar and immediately add butter to the bowl. Stir until well combined. Add the evaporated milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Stir until smooth.

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Spread icing over each cookie, allowing it to dry before packing them away. If the icing in the bowl begins to stiffen, add evaporated milk.

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Rating 5/5

These cookies taste exactly how they look. Very delicious. You get the pumpkin and spice flavor that so many people crave this time of year and the frosting makes it even better. It may look like it has a lot of steps, but I found this recipe to be very easy to make. My only problem was with the frosting stiffening up on me before I could frost all my cookies. Just keep the extra evaporated milk (which I didn’t) and you shouldn’t have any issues.

The only changes I made to the original recipe was the additional of cinnamon in the frosting and instead of using cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in the cookies, I just used pumpkin spice (which contains all three).

Enjoy.

Adapted from Martha Stewart.

Lavendar Sugar

While on a vacation in Palm Desert, I came across some culinary lavender sugar in the gift shop of our hotel. I have been wanting to make some type of lavender treat for quite awhile, but never knew where to start. I was intrigued with what the final product would be when using something like lavender sugar or lavender butter. Bought the sugar immediately and now that I am back home it is time to figure out what to use it for. Hmm, shortbread cookies? Scones?

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