Sugar Cookies and Frosting, several recipes in one

Sugar cookies are a holiday favorite. I make hundreds every year. Here are two cookie recipes, one Gluten Free, and several Icing types for you to enjoy. Personally, all my cookies turn out looking vaguely malevolent. This could be due to the fact that when making them for myself in bygone years, I almost exclusively used Halloween cookie cutters. Only these days, with the addition of children to my life, have I indulged in proper Christmas cutters for completely average holiday cookies (into which I intersperse monsters and the like, sometimes also crafting Santa into the fat, scarlet tyrant that he is.).

Tools:

For the following two cookie dough recipes, assume that the tools needed are as follows:

  • standing mixer (you may do this with you hands, but it can get messy. As always, make certain all your ingredients are mixed together thoroughly, during each stage)
  • Bowl
  • Plastic wrap
  • Baking sheets
  • Rolling pin
  • Cookie cutters


Sugar Cookies

(This recipe yields about 5 dozen cookies)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c butter
  • 2 c sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 c flour 
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Instructions:

  1. Cream the butter and sugar. This works best if the butter is cut into chunks and allowed to soften to room temperature.
  2. Beat in the eggs and extracts.
  3. Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together thoroughly in another bowl and then incorporate into the butter.
  4. Turn the dough out. Give it a few good kneads to bring it together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour
  5. Preheat the oven to 400F
  6. Roll the dough out on a floured surface. I recommend keeping the dough about 1/4″ thick, but if you prefer a thicker or cheesier cookie, aim for 1/2″
  7. Cut into shapes and put on sheet
  8. Bake for 6-8 minutes
  9. Allow to cool completely before icing.


Gluten Free Sugar Cookies


(This recipe can be doubled to make about 4 dozen)

  • 1 c sugar
  • ½ c butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon xanthan gum (or, if you cannot use or stand gum, try the following: grind up about 2 Tbsp chia seeds, add 4 Tbsp boiling water and mix very quickly. Allow this to stand for about 5 minutes, and then add a tsp of this mixture in place of the gum)
  • 2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (I almost exclusively use King Arthur brand. You may also mix flours, as in part almond, part all purpose. However keep in mind that certain flours yield grainy textures or simply do not hold together.)

Instructions:

  1. Cream the butter and sugar
  2. Add the egg, milk, and extracts
  3. Add the gum or chia mixture
  4. Incorporate the flour
  5. Chill for at least an hour
  6. Preheat oven to 350F
  7. Roll out and cut into shapes
  8. Bake for 10 minutes or so, depending upon how crispy you want them
  9. Allow to cool before removing from the sheet.
  10. I find them easier to ice if I refrigerate them over night first


Icings

I have recently learned that humans feel quite strongly about how to ice cookies. Some even espouse hatred for anything but their chosen recipe. So I will give you a few classics from which to choose. You take your pick.

For all the following, please presume that the tools are as follows:

  • Standing mixer (can be done with hand held, but you will need to frequently scrape the sides of the bowl) and the paddle attachment 
  • Several bowls for dividing frosting and coloring
  • Silicone spatula for scraping


Butter Cream Icing

Excellent for icing cup cakes or cakes, butter cream has been a standard for years. It can be piped or spread, and it can achieve a hard crust if allowed to dry, though it is usually tacky.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 8 c confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • Food coloring

Instructions

  1. Cream the butter in your mixer, and add the extracts, incorporating fully
  2. Add the sugar one cup at a time
  3. As you add sugar, the mixture will begins to turn crumbly, begin also slowly adding the cream
  4. Beat until creamy. If you want a thinner and more spreadable frosting, add a little more cream. For a thicker piping texture, less cream, which should produce something the texture of a store bought can of frosting.
  5. Divide into bowls and color.


Royal Icing

Most recipes for this have become thoroughly modernized, requiring “meringue powder” and suchlike, which is cheating. You may do it that way if you wish, with perhaps excellent results, but I prefer the old way. It may concern you to use raw egg, but these are pasteurized eggs, and the lion does a fair amount toward also staving off bacteria.

Ingredients:

  • 3 pasteurized egg whites
  • 4 c confectioners sugar
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (more if you would like a thinner icing)
  • Food coloring

Instructions:

  1. Combine the ingredients in the mixer and best together until peaks form. You may add coloring at any time. If you want more than one color, add it by hand after dividing portions.


Plain Sugar icing


This is the most simple icing, and one that can be made very quickly as needed, if you run out during decorating.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp milk
  • 2 tsp corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp either vanilla or almond extract
  • Food coloring (use gel colors with this recipe, as the colors of normal colorings tend to come out muted, and a gel will provide a more vivid color.)

Intrustions

  1. Mix ingredients and color


Chocolate ganache frosting

This can be used fresh as more of a glaze, or it can be turned into a frosting.

Tools;

  • Saucepan
  • Standing mixer or handheld mixer
  • Mixing bowl

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 16 oz chocolate of your taste
  • 2 Tbsp of a flavored liqueor 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Chop the chocolate into tiny bits and place it in the mixing bowl
  2. Heat the cream and extract/liqueor over medium heat until it begins to boil
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth and shiny.
  4. It can now be used as a glaze, but if you wish it to become a frosting, allow to cool for several hours (you may speed this up a bit by cooling it in the refrigerator). To turn it into frosting, put the cooled mixture into the standing mixer and whip it for several minutes. It should become less shiny, paler, and generally take on a thicker consistency.

This is best applied with a piping bag or a knife. Cole down whatever you have frosted in order to help the ganache set. 

Egg Nog, a history in several recipes

Eggnog is far older than most suspect.  It wasn’t invented recently. It has many forms, and many, many names. Historians and Etymologists bandy back and forth about the name, wondering if it originates from one of about ten different sources from Germany to Scotland, to the colonies. The simple truth is, that it is all and none. “Noggin” or “nugge” is a very old word, and it refers to the glass in which hot drinks were served, a “mug”. You may listen to men of science, debating when the exact word “eggnog” must have come about, but that would be silly, in my opinion, because it came about through constant reintroduction of old memories, old ways, and old languages, then was jumbled up again and again in the slang culture of the early Americas.

Warm eggs and alcohol have been a standard since antiquity. They were drunk in the colder months for obvious reasons. Their types range from drinks made with wine, to biersuppe, a German warm soup made from beer, to very loose custards, to curled concoctions that are strange to the modern eye. Here, I will give you a long history of my favorites. You will see the spices shift as the spice trade with he east died and then was reforged with sea power, you will see the introduction of fine white sugar and rum from the Americas. You may wish to make them all, and watch the progress of time through one single food.

Please assume that for all the following recipes, you will need the following:

  • a mixer (hand held works fine in this case)
  • a saucepan
  • egg separator
  • fine grater
  • a whisk

Caudell, a recipe

Very few cook books have survived the eras to mark the existence of the great variety of dishes and their countless preparations, and so no source exists for this recipe. You will have to take my word that it was a drink of choice, particularly for the ill. Saffron was seen to have mystical qualities to the Medieval mind, and it was used in almost everything. Keep in mind that this saffron was not the sort you see today in your grocer’s spice aisle. This was the saffron that now costs hundreds of dollar per ounce — true saffron— and we worked it by the handful.

I recommend eating this with the notion that it is a semi-savory soup. It might assist the modern palette to adjust.

Ingredients:

  • 12 egg yolks
  • 2 cups of ale or sack (white wine) I recommend ale for authenticity. The poor could
  • often not afford sack
  • 1 tsp saffron
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • i leaf of mace
  • several tablespoons of sugar to taste

Instructions

  1. Beat the yolks into the ale, and then put the pot over medium heat, whisking constantly. The mixture will thicken and become frothy.
  2. Once this comes to a boil immediately drop the heat to low and beat in the other ingredients, adjusting to taste

Serve in an open, bowl-like mug

Posset, a recipe

Possets were a kind of custard, sometimes loose enough to be drunk in a mug. In my day they were used primarily as medicine for the sick, or as fortifying drinks for travelers or for the clergy.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • cinnamon
  • several blades of mace
  • Fresh nutmeg
  • 18 egg yolks, plus 8 egg whites
  • 1 pint of sack (white wine)
  • 1 1/2 c sugar

Instructions

  1. Put the milk into a pot and add some cinnamon and mace, and bring to a simmer
  2. While the milk is heating through, in another pot beat the eggs thoroughly. add the wine, a grated nutmeg, more fresh cinnamon, and the sugar
  3. Heat the eggs through and then incorporate the cream once that comes to a boil
  4. Cover and allow to simmer for a time on the lowest heat, stirring occasionally

Serve in a mug with a little sugar on top

Eierpunsch, a recipe

This was a holiday favorite all through the Holy Roman Empire, when I was living in Strasburg

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of white wine (keep in mind that Germany has an excellent tradition of sweet white wines like reisling)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 5 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 c strongly brewed tea
  • 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. Brew the tea and let it cool
  2. Whisk the eggs and add in the sugar and some of the white wine until it begins to get frothy
  3. Add the rest of the wine, cinnamon, cloves, and lemon juice
  4. Put in a pot and allow to heat through, but remove immediately before boiling
  5. Fish out the cloves

Serve in a mug with a little fresh whipped cream

Milk Punch, a recipe

From the early 1700’s the British and French had forged a somewhat calm trade relationship, despite all their bickering, making sherry and brandy fairly common and accessible. This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 8 oz. brandy
  • 4 tsp cream
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Ground clove

Instructions

  1. Whisk the ingredients together until foamy
  2. Spice to taste, while whisking

Serve at room temperature, or turn it into something of a cocktail in these modern times by shaking over ice.

American Nog, a recipe

Trade between the colonies was largely one way for a very long time, that is to say, it was largely a circular endeavor. The British shipped goods to the entire western world, stole slaves from Africa, brought them to the Americas, and then took products from us for sale in Britain and the rest of Europe. This system was entirely focused on the wealth and excesses of England, and cared very little about the colonists. As such, it was tedious getting any items directly from Europe, which meant there was hardly ever brandy to be had. And so, the egg beverages commenced to be cut with rum from the Caribbean.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. brandy
  • 1/2 c. dark spiced rum
  • 1/2 c. sherry
  • 1/2 c. whiskey
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 qt heavy cream
  • 1 qt milk
  • a dozen eggs
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Mix the alcohols. Separate your eggs, setting the whites aside
  2. Put the yolks into your mixer and beat until the the yolks are foamy. Slowly incorporate the sugar and spices.
  3. Add the alcohol slowly
  4. Add the milk and cream
  5. Pour this mixture into a separate bowl. With a clean bowl and whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff, then fold into the alcohol mixture

You may serve immediately at room temperature, or warm it through as needed and top with a little whipped cream. If storing it in the refrigerator, be sure to mix it regularly so that it doesn’t separate.

Modern Eggnog, a recipe

Modern humans are terrified of raw eggs, even when pasteurized. Now they buy rubbish in a carton and microwave it, throw in a shot of bourbon and call it finished, but to me this is a crime. So, allow me to help you out a bit. Here is a modern eggnog cocktail.

Ingredients:

  • 12 egg yolks
  • 4 c. whole milk
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. baker’s sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c. Amaretto or Grand Marnier (I prefer Grand Marnier, as it gives a nice sweetness)
  • 1 1/2 c. brandy (I use Remy Martin VSOP as it is inexpensive, but meshes well)

Instructions

  1. Whip the egg yolks in the standing mixer, then incorporate the sugar. Then the milk and cream until the mixture is frothy and pale.
  2. Slowly incorporate the alcohol

Serve warm or shaken over ice. I would top the warm version with whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg, and the cold version with a twist of candied lemon rind.

I very much hope this brief history of eggnog has pleased you. I hope you can track the similarities, and admire the variety. Perhaps you even have ideas of how to craft a new recipe that borrows from history.

If you do try any of them, please do send me a picture. I post all images of my recipes sent in by readers, as a general rule.