Jimmy’s Pink Cookies

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Just in time for Valentine’s Day – barely! (and let’s not talk about how I didn’t post a single recipe all of January). I read about these cookies awhile ago, and have been patiently waiting for the right time to make them. And while one could argue that anytime is the right time for pink cookies, I think these are best saved for either a (baby girl) baby shower or Valentine’s Day. I made them for my sister-in-law’s baby shower a couple weeks ago, but of course didn’t think to take pictures, so I had to make them again this week for the blog (the sacrifices I make for you people!). They’re super easy, adorable, and delicious, so if you’re in need of a last minute treat for Saturday, I think these might be it.

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I read about these cookies in Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life. Molly Wizenberg of Orangette and Delancey, so if she’s writing about a sugar cookie you know it must be good.  I’m guessing Jimmy is her friend; she credits him with the recipe.  I make sugar cookies pretty frequently so I’m a little disenchanted with them, but something about these – be it the excessive amount of butter, the cream cheese frosting, the pink – really makes them extra special.  They might not be as fancy as my usual royal-icing holiday cookies, but they taste a lot yummier – and you can frost them in about one-fifth of the time.  Coming from someone who was up an extra three hours last night (and missed Scandal) outlining and flooding three dozen Valentine hearts, that’s worth a lot.

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Please note the cherry extract in the photo. The frosting calls for kirsch or cherry extract – per my Google research, kirsch is a cherry-flavored brandy, traditionally used in fondue (gross?). I couldn’t find it anywhere, although if I’m being honest I didn’t look that hard, because cherry extract sounded more like something that belongs in frosting. However, when I made these for my sister-in-law’s baby shower a couple weeks ago I couldn’t find the cherry extract either, and I actually DID look – at seven different stores.  SEVEN. Including a Wal-Mart, because when I Googled “cherry extract” Wal-Mart popped up. Again, the things I do for this blog – it takes a lot to get me into a Wal-Mart. But alas, they didn’t have it, nor did any of the other six places I tried – so I just used vanilla and the cookies were delicious. And then for purposes of blog accuracy I ordered cherry extract on Amazon and used it this time, and I have to admit I kind of liked it. But I have a weird palate for artificial fruit flavor I think – it smells just like cough syrup, which I also weirdly love.  All of this is to say, if you have kirsch on hand (or find yourself at a liquor store and feel like splurging on a bottle, even though you only need a teaspoon for this recipe), by all means please try it (you can always use the rest of the bottle for fondue, apparently). If you’re planning ahead and want to order cherry extract on Amazon, I definitely wouldn’t discourage you (you could also just borrow mine). But if both of those options sound stressful, you could definitely use vanilla – or almond – or any flavor you like – and your cookies will be just fine.

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Aren’t they so cute? My only regret is that I didn’t use more frosting – Molly tells you to spread it on thick but I was worried about running out so I scrimped a little, and then of course I had tons left over. The frosting really makes the cookie – I think it should be as thick as the cookie itself. Happy Valentine’s Day! (And incidentally, happy second birthday to B&B! Valentine’s Day Year One and Year Two, if you want to kill some time). XOXO.

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Jimmy’s Pink Cookies, from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

For the Cookies
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons (3 ounces, or 3/4 of one stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/4 teaspoons kirsch, or more to taste, or a capful of cherry extract
Red (or pink) food coloring

To make the cookies, combine the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat, first on low speed, and then slowly increasing to medium, until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt and whisk well. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating until the flour is just absorbed. Add the vanilla and beat well to incorporate. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on a large, clean surface, and turn the dough out onto it. Gather the dough into a ball, press it into a thick disk, and wrap it well. Refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. On a clean, floured surface, roll the dough out to a thickness of 3/8 inch. (If you don’t have a lot of room, cut the disk of dough down the middle and work with only one half at a time, leaving the second half in the refrigerator until ready for use.) Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into whatever shapes you like. Molly uses a 2 1/2 inch round cutter, which, once the cookies have puffed slightly during baking, yields a 2 3/4-to-3 inch cookie. Jimmy uses a much bigger cutter, often in the shape of a heart. I used small (2″) and medium (3″) hearts – the cookies are pretty rich so I opted not to use my large (4″) heart, but you definitely could just go for it and make them huge.

Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake them one sheet at a time, keeping the second sheet in the refrigerator or freezer until the first one is done, for 16-20 minutes, or until the cookies are pale golden at the edge. Do not allow them to brown (oops, some of mine did!). Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and cool the cookies completely on the pan.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat on low speed to fully incorporate, then raise the speed to medium or medium high and beat until there are no lumps, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the kirsch (or extract) and a couple drops of red (or pink) food coloring and beat well. The frosting should be a pretty shade of pale pink. Taste, and if you want more cherry flavor, beat in a bit more kirsch (or extract). Generously spread frosting onto fully cooled cookies. Decorate with sprinkles if you’re so inclined.

Stored in an airtight container, pink cookies will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days – and they’re delicious cold – or you can freeze them indefinitely.

Yield: 20-24 (3-inch) cookies (I yielded 15 3″ hearts and 15 2″ hearts)

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Gingerbread Maple Muffins

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I looked at my calendar this morning and realized the Christmas countdown has officially begun. Two weeks from today! Are you ready? I have good years and bad years in terms of Christmas preparedness – some years I have my shopping done well before Black Friday; other years, not so much.  Last year I had 200 Christmas cards stamped, addressed, and ready to go out on December 1st, yet somehow I found myself at the mall on Christmas Eve with quite a few people left on my list. This year, I’m not even sending cards, but my shopping is complete and everything is wrapped and under the tree. Some presents even have personalized wrapping paper (because I couldn’t pass up the Minted sale entirely). All that’s left to do is bake a few hostess gifts – and come up with an idea for the cookie exchange I’m going to on Monday. And while I probably should be working on those two projects, I saw these muffins on Instagram the other day and decided I should probably make them instead.

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I just started to write the sentence “I’m not really a gingerbread fan, except for…” and then listed quite a few things – so perhaps I’m a bigger gingerbread fan than I once thought.  Gingerbread lattes are one of my favorite things about the holiday season, although I’m only allowed to get one per week (have you seen the calories?) – so a one-pump-gingerbread Americano is my almost-as-delightful alternative. I also really love gingerbread biscotti. Outside of Starbucks, though, I don’t normally get too excited about gingerbread. My mom usually makes it for dessert on Christmas night, and it’s delicious and festive, but I always thought once a year was enough for me. However, when these muffins popped up on my Instagram feed last week, I wondered if there might be a place for gingerbread beyond Starbucks syrup.

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The answer is yes. These muffins are light and airy, not too sweet, and not too spicy – the perfect treat for a cold and rainy December day. They also couldn’t be easier to make – I had them in the oven less than ten minutes after I confirmed I had all the ingredients on hand, and out of the oven twenty minutes later. Which means that in half an hour you can bake a delicious homemade treat and make your house smell amazing and Christmas-y. Incidentally, they would also be perfect for hostess gifts – as muffins or as adorable mini loaves (and they’re a lot easier than the homemade marshmallows I’ve been eyeing). So no matter how on top of your Christmas prep you may or may not be, these muffins are a great way to get you in the spirit – and possibly a way to cross something off your to-do list at the same time.  Happy Baking!

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Muffins, previously: blueberry, pumpkin, pear hazelnut, carrot zucchini

Gingerbread Maple Muffins, from How Sweet It Is

Yield: 12-16 muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup milk
turbinado sugar for topping

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with liners (or spray with PAM for baking). In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking pwoder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cloves. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and egg. Once combined, whisk in the molasses, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Stir in the melted butter until fully combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined – do not overmix! Before the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, stir in the milk until you have a smooth batter.

Scoop the batter into the muffin tins, filling them up about 3/4 of the way full. Top each with a generous sprinkle of turbinado sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the muffin tops are golden brown and fully set.

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