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Friday, December 9, 2011

Santa Face Cookies

By Kerrie
When I was a little girl I would bake and decorate Christmas cookies with my mom.   These cookies were like none other.  They were Santa cookies.   They were the gift given to all of  our friends and family, and the baking and decorating of them is how we ushered in the Christmas Season.    When I had my own little family we carried on the tradition.   Now, with the boys grown and families of their own, we still gather for our annual cookie decorating party the first weekend in December.   My dear daughters in law have embraced the tradition and the grand kidlets are quite the artists as you will see.  

The cookie cutters used for these pretty cookies were originally designed and manufactured by “Aunt Chick” Nettie Williams McBirney, Tulsa OK.    My mother gave me her cutters in the 70’s – which she purchase in the late 50’s.   Sadly, one of them cracked so I was down to just one cutter.   Then, about 15 years ago I found a company that had begun manufacturing these precious cookie cutters again.   Wisely, the cookie cutters are packaged with the original graphics and font.   When you open the package, it is like stepping into the 1950’s.   Here’s a link to get some : Gramma's Cutters

Here is how we make the cookies….


4 ½ cups sifted All Purpose Flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1/2  tsp. baking soda
1/2  tsp. baking powder
1 stick of Crisco butter flavored shortening (1 cup)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Raisins cut in half or quarters if they are large
For decorating the cookies, you will need:
Red sugar crystals
Moist shredded coconut ( I use Baker’s angel flake)
Karo light corn syrup
White creamy frosting – see recipe below

First, pre-sift the flour and then add 4 ½ cups of the pre-sifted flour back into the sifter and then sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.  

Then, to a mixing bowl add the stick of Crisco and beat on medium until soft and creamy.  Then, add the eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Mix on medium high until well incorporated and smooth.

Now, add the flour in two increments to the wet ingredients.   Mix on low until combined.

Divide dough into 3 pieces and roll dough in plastic wrap and chill. I usually allow to chill overnight and bake the next day.

First, brush the cutter to insure it is very clean.  Then spray the interior with canola oil.    You will have to do this again if the dough starts sticking and not releasing.

When ready to roll and cut,  place the dough on a lightly flour dusted work surface.   Pull off only enough dough at a time to roll and cut two or three cookies.   Roll the dough out and press cutter over dough. 

Then, turn cutter upside down and press the dough into the cutter to insure the rounded cheeks and other impressions are pushed into the cookie.  

Then, tap the cutter over your palm or work surface until the cookie releases from the cutter.

When you have a parchment lined baking sheet filled with cookies, press a raisin bit into the eye spot of each cookie.   I use a toothpick to press it into the dough.

Place baking sheet into a 350 degrees F pre-heated oven for 8 – 10 minutes.    

Cookie is done when the shine on top is gone.    You don’t want crisp edges or browning.    Remove from oven and place the parchment sheet with cookies on counter to cool.     Continue the process until all the cookies are baked.    This recipe will yield 28 to 30 Santas, mixing the long and the shorter cutter.

Allow the cookies to cool and rest for at least an hour before handling to decorate.  I usually bake mine the day before and then gather the kids to decorate together.

For the decorating:

First, make the frosting ~ this is the recipe I use:


    ¾ cup ( 1-1/2 stick ) butter  ROOM TEMPERATURE
    1/4 cup white Crisco shortening  ROOM TEMPERATURE
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
    2 - 4 tablespoons milk

First, cream the butter and shortening on medium high until well combined and creamy.   Then add the confectioner’s sugar and mix on low until incorporated.    Now, add the desired amount of milk to get the consistency needed to spread and pipe the cookies.

OKAY, now we are ready to decorate  !!!!

First, using a small craft paint brush, paint the cheeks and smile with corn syrup.   Using a spoon, sprinkle the red sugar crystals over the corn syrup and using the back of the spoon press the crystals into the painted syrup.   Then, using a dry paint brush, brush any crystals sticking elsewhere on the cookie off.    Then, paint the top of Santa’s hat with the syrup and apply the red sugar crystals as done with the cheeks and smile.

When all of the red sugar has been applied to all of the cookies then spread some of the white frosting on the beard impression.  Next, press some of the coconut into the frosting.   Using your fingers, press and shape the loose hanging coconut into the beard.

When all of the coconut beards have been applied to the cookies, using a piping bag and tip, pipe a mustache, eyebrows, and hat trim and tassel end with swirls.

Now, enjoy the cuteness and yumminess of these lovely cookies !!!      Bake plenty ~ they make a great gift for neighbors and friends.

Link for Cookie Cutter history:  Aunt Chick's
Link for Cookie Cutter distributor:  Gramma's Cutters

Other versions of decorated cookies..... 

    Merry Christmas my friends !!!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Persimmon Bread with Tres Leches Brandy Sauce

My daughter in law gave me some gorgeous persimmons because she knows how much I love to bake with them.   Since it is the Christmas Season, and it is nice to have a special treat to place on a party table, I would like to share with you Persimmon Bread with a Tres Leches Brandy Sauce.  Inspiration for this  bread recipe comes from a cookbook titled “Beard on Bread” by James Beard.   I tweaked it a bit, but will give you a link for the cookbook below – which is one all bread lovers should have in their collection.  The sauce is inspired by a recipe found in “Cuisine at Home” magazine.

Ingredients for Bread – yield is two loaves
   3 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
   1 ½ teaspoons salt
   2  teaspoons baking soda
   1 teaspoon ground mace
   1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
   2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
   1 cup melted butter (2 sticks)
   4 eggs
   2/3 cup orange juice
   4 large or 8 small persimmons (enough to make 2 cups of puree)
   1 cup coarsely chopped walnut
   1 cup dried currants

Ingredients for the brandy sauce:
   1 can sweetened condensed milk  (14 oz.)
   1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
   ½ heavy cream
   ½ cup Brandy( a little more if you want a more intense flavor)

First, bring a pot of water to a boil.   When you have a roiling boil, drop the persimmons into the water and remove the pot from the burner.   Allow the persimmons to sit in the hot water for about 5 minutes.   Then, remove the persimmons from the water to cool in a colander.  Set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

To a large mixing bowl add the sifted flour.   Then, to the flour add the salt, baking soda, ground mace and cinnamon.  Dry whisk vigorously to distribute the leaven and spices.   Set aside.

Now, remove the green tops from the persimmons and quarter them.   Place the quarters in the bowl of a food processor.  Run on medium until the persimmons are pureed.

Then, to the persimmon puree add the eggs, sugar, melted butter and orange juice.    Run the food processor on medium for about a minute to beat the eggs and incorporate all ingredients.

Now, pour the wet mixture from the food processor over the dry mixture in the mixing bowl.   Using an electric mixer, gently combine.  Scrape the sides and bottom.

Then, using a large spoon fold the chopped walnuts and currants into the batter.

Now, pour the batter into buttered or lined baking pans.   I am using one standard loaf pan, and a fluted brioche pan.   In fact, I had extra batter so I filled 8 muffin cups and set the muffin tin aside until the bread loaves were finished baking - then I placed the muffins in the oven to finish up the batter.

Bake bread loaves for 1 hour in a 350 F. degrees oven.    When loaves are done, remove from oven and cool in pans for 5 minutes.   Then turn the loaves out and finish cooling on a wire rack.

While loaves are cooling, make the brandy sauce.

This sauce is very simple but needs babysitting to prevent scorching.   Be prepared to not walk away from it.  Two things are key to its success:  Use a large saucepan.  With the larger cooking surface area, the mixture will reduce a little faster and be less prone to boiling over.   Next, stir the sauce constantly!!!!

Combine the condensed milk, evaporated milk, cream, and brandy in a large sauce pan over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.  Bring mixture to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and continue simmering and stirring until reduced to about 2 cups.  This may take as long as 25 – 30 minutes.

Slice the bread and enjoy with the brandy sauce spooned over it.

Enjoy !!

Link for cookbook:  Beard on Bread
Link for magazine:  Cuisine at Home Magazine