Red White and Blue Pinwheel Sugar Cookies

Happy 4th of July (one day late)! I had a great day off from class yesterday, which was a much needed recovery and chill out day after a weekend of ultimate frisbee. If you’ve ever heard of Potlatch, a big ultimate frisbee tournament held in Redmond, WA every July, then you know how much fun I had over the weekend. Unfortunately I missed the last day of the 3-day tournament for class, but we did have yesterday off, so I took advantage of it by going to a friend’s house for a barbecue, and I brought these patriotic themed cookies as my contribution. I found this recipe from Just a Taste, but I didn’t really have the time to wait for hours for the dough to chill, so I just did a combination of fridge, freezer, and improvisation. I added a little more flour to make the dough a little stiffer so I didn’t have to refrigerate it as long. I also added some almond extract to the dough to give it a little more classic sugar cookie flavor, and shortened the baking time to keep them nice and soft. They turned out wonderfully soft and chewy and although I didn’t get the colors exactly right, they were still pretty! Please note that I used about 20 drops of food coloring to get to the color in these photos, so to get a deep red and blue, you will have to use a LOT of food coloring, or it might be best to resort to the gel or something with a more powerful color. In any case, here’s my recipe!

Patriotic Pinwheel Sugar Cookies

adapted from Just a Taste

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Ingredients

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

2 eggs

Blue food coloring (I used 20 drops to get to light blue)

Red food color (I used 20 drops to get to a dark pink)

Directions

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl or a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add in both extracts and eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined.

Separate the dough into three equal parts. The first part will be the white part of the cookies. Mix blue food coloring into the second part until the desired blue consistency is reached. Wash the bowl and mixer (or use a second bowl) and mix red food coloring into the third part until desired red color is reached. Wrap all the dough in plastic and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

After the dough has chilled, remove from the fridge and divide each third into two equal parts. Between two sheets of wax paper, roll each portion of dough into a rectangle of about the same size and shape, about 1/8 inch thick. Chill the dough in the fridge between sheets of wax paper for another 15-30 minutes.

After the second chilling, remove the dough and use the wax paper to put together the layers. I put the blue on the bottom, then white in the middle, and red on top. Use the wax paper to place the layers, peeling off the bottom wax paper first, laying down the dough, then peeling off the top layer of wax paper.

Roll the layered dough into a tight log, then roll out the log until it is the desired diameter of your cookies (mine was about 1 1/2 inches in diameter). Place in the fridge for another 30 minutes (or you can probably skip this step if you have a sharp enough knife and don’t mind the cookies not being entirely round, which is what I did).

Once you are done chilling the dough logs, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Cut the cookie logs into rounds about 1/4 inch thick, and place about 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake for 8 minutes, so the cookies are just baked but not yet browning on the bottom. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a couple minutes before moving them to cooling racks to cool completely. Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Molasses Pumpkin Chip Cookies

Well, I’m 23 years old and just experienced my first snow day. Yes I’m from California, and cannot wait to go back, but my grad school experience up here in Seattle is definitely giving me a taste of what winter would be like if I lived in a place with seasons. I woke up this morning to a few inches of snow blanketing the ground, and everything looked pristine and sparkling white. It was quite beautiful. I walked down the street to a park and saw lots of families sledding and building snowmen and enjoying their day off of school/work. Here’s a little taste of the winter wonderland that is Seattle right now!

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Anyway, onto the cookies! I actually made these last year, when there were sales on pumpkin-related items after Thanksgiving, but haven’t gotten around to posting it till now. I got pumpkin chips for half off at QFC in the clearance section, and was inspired to make cookies! So I looked up some cookie recipes, and found this one at My Baking Addiction, increased the spices and added the chips, and these cookies were born! Sorry for the blurry pictures, I took them in low light and didn’t really look at them before the cookies were demolished, but the cookies were wonderful! The pumpkin and molasses keep this cookies soft and chewy, and the pumpkin chips at little bursts of melty pumpkin spice sweetness. Perfect for a snowy day like today, but alas, I used up the chips long ago. Perhaps I’ll just have to make something else. But in any case, here’s the recipe!

Pumpkin Molasses Pumpkin Chip Cookies

adapted from My Baking Addiction

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cloves

1 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup molasses (not blackstrap)

2/3 cup pumpkin puree

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup pumpkin spice chips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter, then beat in the molasses, pumpkin, egg, and vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until well combined.

Use a small cookie scoop, or scoop about 1 tbsp balls of cookie dough onto the baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just set. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from the baking sheets. Enjoy!

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Molasses Ginger Cookies and a Swim Workout

Hello! I just saw that my last post was several months ago so… I’m alive! I have also relocated to Seattle, to start physical therapy school at the University of Washington! We had our first three days of school this week, and, as it turns out, grad school is not a joke. These cookies were the result of some Friday night stress baking after getting a little bit overwhelmed by all the work we have for all of our classes already. It seems a little surreal to me that I’m actually starting PT school, after working towards it for so many years, but I’m sure the workload will soon bring me back into reality. One of my favorite things about being in Seattle is the views of Mount Rainier that pop up everywhere! Here’s just one of the views we have from campus (on a clear day).

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Anyway, onto more important things: cookies! It’s officially falltime, the leaves are starting to change color (I’m living in a place that actually has some weather now!), and, the clearest indicator, Trader Joe’s has started to carry pumpkin products! My plan is to do a review of all the TJ’s pumpkin products that I’ve tried, so hopefully that will come soonish.

Last night, I wanted to make some cookies, and I had just bought some molasses, but I realized I had no eggs. Whammy. Well, as it turns out molasses is a pretty great substitute for eggs, and gives the cookies structure and chewiness! I found this recipe from Spice Up The Curry, and doubled it, upping the spices a little bit, as is my habit. The results were an amazingly chewy, spicy cookie with a crackly sugar crusted top. Delicious! Here’s the recipe I used:

Molasses Ginger Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus a little more for rolling

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup unsulphured molasses

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp water

Directions:

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.

Cream together the butter and sugar until a smooth paste forms. Add the molasses, vanilla, and water, and beat until well-combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir together until a thick, slightly crumbly dough forms. Cover and refrigerate for 20-30 min to help the dough hold together.

When ready to start rolling the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚F and pour a little granulated sugar into a shallow dish.

Scoop out about 2 tsp of dough, roll into a ball (you may have to smush it a little with your hands to help it stay together), then flatten and lightly press one side into the sugar. Place the cookie, sugar side up, on a baking sheet. Place them a couple inches apart, as they will spread a bit. Repeat until your baking sheets are full. Bake for 8-9 minutes, until the tops are crackly. Remove and allow to cool before removing and eating. Enjoy!

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Now for the second part of this post, a swim workout! This is mostly for my sister’s benefit and my own use for inspiration for future workouts, but perhaps someone else can find these of use. One thing that’s very sad about moving out of California is the lack of outdoor pools here. Sigh. But it hasn’t stopped me from swimming! Here’s a workout I did earlier this week:

4400 yard Energy System Monday

200 free, non free, pull

6×50 kick/swim, 100 pull

4×50 kick/swim, 200 pull

2×50 kick/swim, 300 pull

2×50 fly/free, 300 pull

4×50 fly/free, 200 pull

6×50 fly/free, 100 pull

4x(150 IM, double odd strokes on odd 150s, double even strokes on even 150s, 3×50 fast free)

200 easy

4400 yds

Napoleon’s Hat Cookies

Happy Tuesday! It’s been a while since my last post, but on a dreary gray day like this I figure some people might need a sweet treat. I love anything and everything almond, so when my mom picked up a couple Napoleon’s Hat cookies from a bakery for us to try, I knew I just had to make them at home. These cookies are buttery, soft, with an almond marzipan filling bursting with almond flavor. Delicious. I adapted this recipe from Scandinavian Today based on the ingredients I had, and they turned out great!

Anyway, my adaptations included using 7oz almond paste instead of the 6oz marzipan called for in the recipe, since it comes in a 7oz tube. I also added a little almond extract to the cookie dough to get a little extra almond flavor, since you can never have enough. The cookies turned out soft and flavorful, and filling was deliciously chewy, and the chocolate added the perfect final touch. Unfortunately, I can’t remember how many cookies they made, but my guess is around 20. Maybe I should count next time. Here’s the recipe!

Napoleon’s Hat Cookies

Adapted from Scandinavian Today

Ingredients

Cookies:

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 1/2 oz (7 tbsp) unsalted butter

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp almond extract

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp ice water

Filling:

7 oz almond paste

3 oz granulated sugar

1 egg white

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, or 6oz chopped chocolate

Directions

To make the cookie dough, cut the butter into the flour until soft crumbs form. Add the powdered sugar, almond extract, egg yolk, and ice water. Mix until just combined. Form a disk with the dough, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for half an hour.

To make the filling, cream together the almond paste, sugar, and egg white until a smooth paste forms.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Take the chilled dough out of the refrigerator and roll to a 1/4 inch thickness. Use a glass or cookie cutter about 3 inches in diameter and cut circles. Place on a baking sheet. Scoop ball of the filling, 2 tsp each, into the center of each cut circle. Lifting the circle of dough with the filling in the middle, gently pinch together three corners of each cookie, making the triangular hat shape.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just barely golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Melt the chocolate in a shallow dish, then dip the bottom of each cookie in chocolate. Place on wax paper to cool and allow the chocolate to harden. Enjoy!

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Sugar Cookies with Simple Icing

Happy New Year everyone! I decided that I should get in at least one blog post in the new year, so here we are. This is my first winter without a winter break, since I’m not a student for the year, which has been a little sad. At least work has been pretty quiet the last couple weeks. But, my sister is still in college, so she’s been home for the last three weeks, and we’ve had lots of fun making and decorating gingerbread cookies and sugar cookies! This is my mom’s favorite recipe for sugar cookies. I have no idea where it came from, since it’s just handwritten on an index card she has filed away, but it’s the recipe we’ve been using for years, and I’m a fan of it.

These cookies are sweet, as sugar cookies should be, and pretty delicious by themselves. However, half the fun is decorating them! Plus adding a little sugar can only improve the flavor, right? Right. We didn’t do any fancy royal icing, so it’s a little more delicate, but once you ice the cookies, if you let them dry for a few hours, you can stack them with wax paper with little damage. The cookies have a light, delicate crumb, and I baked them for a little less time than recommended, to keep them nice and soft, while still sturdy enough to hold icing. With a little time and patience, these can be a fun family (or in my case, sibling) project, and they make great holiday giveaways! Get creative and have fun with your cookies, they’ll still taste great no matter how they look! Also if you really mess up, you can just eat it and no one will be the wiser… Not that we’ve done that or anything. Anyway, here’s our family holiday recipe.

Sugar Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cream of tartar

3 cups all-purpose flour

Icing

2 cups powdered sugar

2-3 tbsp milk, or to desired consistency

1 tsp vanilla extract

Few drops food coloring of choice

Directions

To make the cookies, cream together the butter and sugar by hand or with a mixer, until a smooth paste forms. Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Whip in the baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar, then stir in the flour until just combined. The dough will be pretty dry and crumbly, I often have to mash it together with my hands at the end. Divide the dough into two parts, form each into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight.

When ready to roll out the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a floured surface (we use cutting boards), roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Use cookie cutters of your choice, or just round glasses will work if you don’t have cookie cutters. Once you’ve finished with the sheet of dough, press the scraps together gently and roll out again, trying to handle the dough as little as possible. Continue to cut cookies and roll out the scraps until you’ve exhausted all the dough. Transfer cut cookies to the prepared baking sheets and bake for 6-7 minutes, until puffy, but before they begin to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. It is important that the cookies are completely cool before decorating, otherwise they will heat up the icing and make it run everywhere.

While the cookies are cooling, make the frosting. Stir together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla, until the desired consistency is reached. If you want to add food coloring, add a couple drops at a time, until the desired color is reached. Fill a ziploc bag (I use the cup method) and cut a tiny (like 1-2 mm tiny) hole in one corner of the bag (you can always cut it bigger, but it can’t be cut smaller, so start small). Decorate the cookies as you wish. Allow the icing to set for a few hours before stacking and storing them. Enjoy!

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Homemade Boba (Pearl Milk Tea, Bubble Tea)

I don’t know what you call this stuff, but I’ve finally converted to calling it boba. All my UCLA friends made fun of me for calling it PMT (pearl milk tea), since apparently that’s just a Palo Alto thing, but I’ve been in SoCal so long that now I default to boba. Pearl milk tea makes sense, since the tapioca balls are the pearls, and they’re in milk tea. But the tapioca balls are also called boba, so I guess that makes sense too. However, I guess the rest of the US calls it bubble tea and that’s just weird. What part of boba is like a bubble? Maybe the fact that they’re round. Are they hollow? No. Can you pop them? No. Anyway, whether you call it boba, pmt, bubble tea, pearl drink, or something different altogether, it’s delicious. This surprisingly refreshing combination of tea, milk, and chewy, sweet tapioca pearls has a special place in my heart. However, it’s getting more expensive around here (Often over $4 a drink? Really?!), so I’ve resorted to making it myself. It turns out to be a lot easier than I expected, and really tasty, since you can customize it to your exact preferences.

The hardest thing about making this is perfecting the pearls. I made these quite a few times before finding the optimal cooking ranges. Trial and error! I cooked some too little, so they were hard and chewy in the middle, and I cooked some too much, so they were soft and stuck to your teeth. But I think now I’ve figured out how to do it best. There’s a range, depending on how you like your pearls, but since you’re cooking it yourself, you can adjust as necessary! That’s the beauty of making it at home. Also important, use the pearls within a few hours of cooking, or they’ll get hard. Until you use them, leave them soaking in the simple syrup. They’ll just get sweeter and more delicious!

As for buying the pearls, I found mine at Ranch 99, the nearest Chinese supermarket to my home. It was something like $4.99 for 2.2 pounds of dried tapioca pearls, or 2.99 for 1 pound. They came in options of black or rainbow, and I opted for black, since the pearls they have in boba cafes are always of the black variety. I got the 2.2 pound package, because they were the better deal. Obviously. Also, you can never have too much boba.

Anyway, the tea is also cheap at Ranch 99, so I got myself some osmanthus tea, which I discovered was actually gui hua, a fragrant tree we have in our backyard. I only ever knew the Chinese name for it, so I was happy to find out that this fragrant flower yielded a subtly fragrant and refreshing tea. I also have learned to appreciate jasmine green tea, so I picked up a box of that as well, and I have made boba with both of these tea varieties. Play around with it, and find a tea that you like! Here’s the recipe I follow, roughly.

Homemade Boba (Pearl Milk Tea, Bubble Tea)

adapted from The Kitchn

Makes 1 serving, multiply as necessary

Ingredients

¼-⅓ cup dry black tapioca pearls (I use ⅓ but you can increase or decrease depending on your pearl to drink ratio preference)

¼ cup honey

¼ cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar

⅓ cup hot water

1-2 tea bags of your choice, depending on how strong you like your tea (my favorites are osmanthus tea and jasmine tea)

¾ cup hot, almost boiling water

½ cup (or to taste) milk of your choice (I used soymilk)

Ice

Directions

In a measuring cup or bowl, combine the honey, ¼ cup of sugar, and hot water. The water just has to be hot enough to make a simple syrup, and this can also be achieved by adding cold water and microwaving and stirring until the honey and sugar dissolve.

Place the tapioca pearls in a pot and add enough water to have about an 2 inches above the level of the pearls. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring so the pearls don’t stick to the bottom, and boil for 5 minutes. Decrease heat to medium, add the extra 2 tablespoons of sugar, and simmer for 7-12 minutes. Do 7 if you prefer more chewy pearls, 12 if you prefer them super soft. Remember that when added to a cold drink, they will harden up a little bit, so cook them to be a little softer than you want in your drink, taste-testing encouraged!

In the meantime, steep your tea bag(s) in the almost boiling water. As the pearls cook, the tea will steep and cool. If you are making a warm drink, wait to do this step until about 5 minutes before you are done soaking the pearls.

After the pearls are cooked to your preference, drain the pearls and place in the simple syrup mixture. Allow the pearls to soak for at least 10 minutes, but the longer they sit, the more sweetness they will soak in.

Pour the cooled tea into a pint glass, then add the pearls, along with some of the simple syrup. Add the milk to taste, then sweeten with simple syrup to taste. If you desire a colder drink, add ice to the glass. Place a straw in and enjoy your homemade boba!

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Tip: Next time you buy boba, take a few extra straws, so for every time you splurge out, you can enjoy your own homemade variety at home a few times! Or you can use a spoon to scoop out the pearls, but it’s not quite the same experience.

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Boba time!

Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Brownies

Hello fall! I guess it’s been officially fall for a few weeks now, but it doesn’t quite feel like it. Still 80˚F outside, typical California. Can’t say I’m complaining! However, to make it feel a little more fall-ish, I decided to break out the pumpkin recipes! I made this delicious pumpkin bread earlier this week, which required 2 cups of canned pumpkin, and it turns out a 15oz can of pumpkin has one and a half cups of pumpkin. So I used a a can and a part of another can, so I had 1 cup of canned pumpkin left. What to do with this? Well, I’ve wanted to make pumpkin brownies for a while, so I decided to develop a recipe to fit the ingredients I had. I used one of my favorite brownie recipes from Something Swanky, and combined it with the pumpkin layer of a pumpkin brownie recipe from Smitten Kitchen. The brownie recipe I pretty much left alone except I left out the chocolate chunks, since there was going to be a whole pumpkin swirl layer to provide a flavor boost. We all have to make some sacrifices, and this one was worth it.

For the pumpkin layer, I got a little more creative. The original recipe would have ended up with 2 eggs in the pumpkin layer, but that seemed excessive to me. Pumpkin is an egg substitute and tends to make things more light and fluffy, and I wanted a dense, fudgy pumpkin layer, to match the fudgy brownie layer. So I decreased to one egg. It also called for granulated sugar, I since brown sugar holds moisture a little better, I decided to substitute that in. I increased the spices, as is my habit, since I really wanted the pumpkin spice flavor to come through. Since I only had 1 cup of pumpkin left, even though the original recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups, I just left it with 1 cup and they turned out fine, and the batter was probably denser and better for it. The bake time actually was shorter than I expected, I took them out at 30 minutes and they were just about perfectly baked. If you prefer gooier brownies and bars, then I’d probably take them out a few minutes earlier. If I were to make these again, I’d probably only bake them for 25-27 minutes, instead of the full 30. But anyway, here’s the recipe, so you can welcome in the fall!

Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Brownies

adapted from Something Swanky and Smitten Kitchen

Makes 20 brownies

Ingredients

Brownie Batter

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

Pumpkin Batter

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp ginger

¼ tsp cloves

¼ tsp allspice

¼ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened

¼ cup vegetable oil

¾ cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup pumpkin puree

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease a 9×9 baking pan.

For the brownie batter, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. In a medium bowl cream together the butter and the sugar until a smooth paste forms. Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and fold together until just combined. Spread the batter in a layer in the prepared pan.

For the pumpkin batter, sift together the flour, spices, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. In a medium bowl cream together the butter, oil, and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy, then beat in the pumpkin puree until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold together until just combined. Spread the pumpkin batter over the brownie batter in the prepared pan.

Using a spatula or knife, swirl together the brownie and pumpkin layer to create a marbled look. The brownie batter is much thicker than the pumpkin batter, so you may have to lift some of the brownie batter up over the pumpkin if you want it truly swirled together. I settled for a little more subtle marbling, with the layers still relatively separated. Bake the bars for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Do not overbake! Allow to cool in the pan for at least 20-30 minutes before cutting and serving. Enjoy!

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