Chocolate Mint Cupcakes with Marzipan Shamrock Tops

I’m not one to make green or Shamrock-covered sweets in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. If anything I might end up with a loaf of Irish soda bread and be done with it. But this week I’ve been spending time with elementary-aged kids, and they wanted nothing more than a bright and cheerful dessert for what they were calling “Leprechaun Day.” So green cupcakes it was. What can I say: welcome to the USA, where the population has their own, only slightly vaguely Irish way of honoring St. Patrick.  2017_03_15_Bruah040

I went with a straightforward Mint Chocolate Cupcake recipe from the Food Network. It calls for chopped up Andes chocolate mints in the batter. This addition really makes an otherwise standard cupcake recipe shine. The frosting was not what I would usually make (as it calls for a cup and a half of marshmallow cream!), but it ended up being a soft and pleasantly tasty topping. Perfect for an after-school treat.

The only substitution I made was to use unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa instead of regular cocoa powder. It went nicely with the mint flavor.

The leaves were created by rolling out marzipan that I dyed green with gel. I used the tops of fluted round cookie cutters to help with the leaf shape. It’s not a perfect job, but it worked in a pinch.

Recipe Credit: Food Network 

Kitchen Mess: 2 out of 4 Stars. The messiest part is adding green gel to the marzipan.

Recommended For: Andes Mint Lovers, People Who Wear Green on Saint Patrick’s Day

Not Recommended For: St. Patrick Purists

Even More Cookie Time: Triple Ginger

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Sometimes you need to pose with a Poinsettia. (But careful, aren’t they slightly poisonous?) 

December doesn’t exist in my head until some kind of ginger spice cookie is ready for eating.

Last year I baked this recipe for Molasses Krinkles, which was enjoyable, but it didn’t seem to be the cookie I loved from previous years. I think I’ve finally located the version that I love. The difference? Lots and lots of ginger: the dough contains chopped crystallized ginger, minced fresh ginger, and a healthy dose of ground ginger to top it off. Just my style. I would even consider measuring out heaping teaspoonfuls (or 1/2 teaspoonfuls) of the spices listed, if you want an extra kick.  This cookie is pure heaven warm from the oven. It also stays softly chewy for a few days, especially if you only keep it in the oven no longer than the suggested 15 minutes.

One caveat: the previous Molasses Krinkle recipe that I made did have a nice texture thanks to the shortening. Maybe I need to combine the best of both worlds and adapt the recipe? Next year it is!

Recipe Credit: Epicurious

Kitchen Mess: 2 out of 4 stars.

Recommended For: Cookie Lovers and Their Friends

Not Recommended For: ?

Moroccan Almond Semolina Cookie Time!

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Dorie Greenspan’s new cookie book looks perfect. Everything I’ve tried so far from various magazine/internet articles has been a winner, so I think it’s time for me to go buy a physical copy. This Moroccan Almond Semolina cookie was the first recipe on my list. In my opinion, semolina desserts are the best. (but so are almond flavored sweets….and lemony scented dessert….and also anything with a splash of orange flower water….so here you have it, a cookie that combines all of these elements!)

If you’re not one for the specific texture of semolina, I’d definitely move on to another cookie. No sense in messing with that crucial element here. However, one item that can be omitted is the orange flower water. If you’d like you can try adding an equal amount of rose water instead, or perhaps a little extra lemon zest. It also says nothing at all is fine too. I’d really suggest trying it out first- it adds a lovely floral hint to the cookie.

This recipe seems to be both very specific and versatile all at once. What is specific is the flavor and texture. The versatility comes in when and where it can be used: I can see this working as part of a whole holiday cookie platter, as a teatime snack, or at a springtime or Easter brunch. Play around and see what makes the most sense!

Recipe Credit: Dorie Greenspan via NY Times

Kitchen Mess: 2 out of 4 stars. Not bad considering it involves a little powdered sugar

Recommended For: A Different Kind of Cookie Platter, Holiday Parties for Adults, Days When You Want To Bake Cookies But You Only Have Canola Oil, Not Butter

Not Recommended For: Kids Parties, People Who Dislike Orange Flower Water

Christmas Cookie Platter

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I take Holiday cookie platters very seriously. Once I start baking a batch during the month of December, I immediately move into this slightly crazy meditative state, not stopping until I’ve made at least 5 varieties in a weekend. (You do have to enjoy baking or else you’ll make yourself miserable) If I had more time this I would make at least 8 batches. They make great gifts for neighbors, work parties, etc.

Variety is of the utmost importance. I like to make one cut-out recipe, something spiced, and maybe a filled version as well. I also listen to feedback from my taste-tester family and friends and make amendments as needed.

This is a variation of a cookie platter that I’ve made for many years. Some of the recipes I’ve been making for 5-10 years, and one standard has been part of my family celebrations for at least 20.

The Almond Cookies are the old favorite, originally from an old Slovak-American cookbook that was my grandmother’s. The cookbook is long gone, but the written version remains in my records. Enjoy.

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Almond Cookies / Makes 4 dozen

Cream 1 cup butter and 1 cup sugar. Add 1/2 tsp almond extract and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 2 egg yolks, beat until light. Add 2 2/3 cup flour sifted flour and 1/2 tsp. salt, mix well.

Roll into 1 inch balls. Drop in the 2-previously-separated egg whites and place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Press down each ball with 1/2 an almond or a fork (or both!)

Bake for 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

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Other recipes: 

Polish Apriot-Filled Cookies: Highly recommended and so worth the work.

Coconut-Orange Snowballs: Also highly recommended, and a little less time-consuming.

Christmas Cutouts with Vanilla Icing:  A solid recipe, though perhaps not my favorite cookie overall.

Molasses Crinkles: Good, but I’m remembering another recipe for molasses cookies that I enjoyed more. I’ll have to revisit this later…