Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cookies, Treats, and Bag Toppers

Recently I had a friend ask about making cookies for a party.. I thought I'd share some tips I discovered while making cookies for various events and a way to make ANY treats look special.

I really adore thick cookies.. even if they aren't big, they seem more luxurious than a thin brown cookie you had to scrape off the pan, that are about to crumble at any moment.

After lots of research I found an awesome recipe on the Wilton discussion forums. Forums are dangerous places my friend! I don't even care what the topic is, you can get lost for hours looking at questions and answers for things you weren't even looking for... hence my reason for not fighting off the urge to join Pinterest. (I have since joined the masses but I was strong for a long time!)

Anyhow, my tried and true go to recipe for cookies. It's especially important to know they can be made ahead so you aren't making cookies at 2am the night before the party... ahem, we've all been there with one project or another!


2 sticks of Land of Lakes sweet cream salted butter
1 large egg
1 cup of sugar
vanilla-I don't measure-Just splash it in
Mix until creamy
2 3/4 to 3 cups of plain flour

Bake at 400 for 7 to 8 minutes

Additional notes about these yummy cookies:

The dough should not be crumbly -- No need to chill this dough, you can use it from the bowl to rolling out.

I use about 1/3 of the dough at a time to roll -- I don't have luck keeping consistancy with thickness with larger portions -- I try to use all the dough I can, to prevent getting additional flour by using over and over.

Some people find it not sweet enough - That's another benefit for me -- they are more "cakie" -- more like a shortbread type -- I find with the icing, they are so tasty and again "real" butter is a huge factor in taste--I only use Land of Lakes.

I don't like crunchy cookies -- I don't like thin cookies -- I like thick and soft cookies!

Why in the world do you bake at 400? I dont bake much of anything that hot" -- I don't have an explanition, except for That's what I've always bake them at and for that amount of time.

I roll cookies thick -- a good 1/4" + and right on the formica

another note -- use a cookie sheet without sides -- a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with sides hold the heat -- the cookies next to them will brown faster

I perfer my cookies to be "just barely" done -- they are just set and barely if at all brown --- I don't like browned bottoms for taste or looks -- or hard cookies.

Let them cool competely before decorationg.

I freeze them undecorated for up to 2 months in vacummed sealed containers or tightly sealed -- they freeze very well.

Unfrozen and Packaged in cellophane, they will keep up to 3 weeks -- I've pushed it with 4 -- but definitely 3.

I have this recipe and notes and keep them in my recipe binder. I have used other brands of butter and they're still just as good. I've also added Lemon or Vanilla extra to add a little flavor, both equally delicious.

Here's another trick if you don't have rolling pin spaces.. these are made to keep your dough even. Whenever I try to do it freehand, I always end up with one side of the cookie thinner (and they bake uneven, or there's a dip in the middle- ugly).

Go to your local hardware store's paint department and ask them for their LARGE paint stir sticks (you'll need two)... Place a ball of dough on a piece of parchment (or wax) paper. Then cover with another piece of the same. Using the paper will mean you aren't using additional flour for rolling.

Place the handle part of the stirring sticks on either side of your dough.. place your rolling pin on top of sticks and start to roll.. your cookie dough will be in between and won't touch the sticks because of the parchment paper.. voila! Your cookies are now about a quarter of an inch think and even on all sides!

Here's another trick.. Fondant always looks gorgeous but can be pretty tasteless. On the same Wilton forum I found a recipe for Marshmallow Fondant... that's right, it's made from mini marshmallows and tastes sweet but rolls out very smooth. If you roll it thin enough, you can stack to create designs.

I usually roll small batches of the fondant so I can make several colors. I use the same cookie cutter I used for the cookie for a base. If you start cutting out your fondant while the cookies are baking, you'll be able to pop them onto the cookies just as they're coming out of the oven.. this will make the fondant melt slightly and adhere to the cookie! They don't get hard but can be put into bags or stacked without worry.

Marshmallow Fondant 

1 cup mini marshmallows
1 tbsp water
1 1/2- 1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
Crisco for rolling/your hands

Place marshmallows in a standard 1 cup measuring cup and push down and pack them in. Place in a microwave safe bowl and add the water. Put in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Just long enough for them to soften and puff up. Take out and stir with a spoon until it is combined well. At this point it looks kind of soupy. Then add the sugar and mix and fold until all is incorporated and it is no longer sticky. I take it out of the bowl when it gets to the point where most of the sugar is incorporated and I knead it in my hands. This takes roughly about 5-7 minutes. Take a fondant roller or a regular rolling pin and roll out just as you would Wilton's fondant. You can get this fondant almost paper thin and it also repairs well. It's cheap, easy to work with, and tastes great too. ***Microwaves times vary so please adjust to your own microwave.

1- 16 oz bag of mini marshmallows
2 tbsp water
7 cups powdered sugar (2 pound bag MINUS 1 cup)

Do the same procedure as above for the small batch.

If it is way to sticky to work with then cut back on the amount of liquid that you used by about 1/2 tsp. This will help. 
Let it sit out and "air dry" for about 10 minutes. 
Use a small amount of Crisco on your work surface, rolling pin, bowl,and hands. A little goes a very long way so don't go over board with the Crisco.
Dust your MMF ball with a powdered sugar poof. You can also use a cornstarch poof but it will tend to dry out the MMF faster.

++Another important point.. even if your goodies don't look as good as the ones "professionals" make, they make a big impact on the person receiving them.. something more special that a package of cookies from a box at Costco.
These were for a MOMS CLUB cookie exchange and had the recipe on the back.. My daughter decorated them, making them extra "sweet".
Cookies.. not perfectly gorgeous but the guests only remembered how good they tasted and the cute bags they came in!

See... imperfect but completely cute with a ribbon and tag tied on the bag!
Even if you don't want to make your own goodies.. store bought things look special with a personalized bag topper. These can be used as part of your party favor bags or for snacks during a party.
Family Game Night Snacks made special with individual treat bags
Snacks for hungry hikers during a 60th surprise outdoor party.. even trail mix can be cute!
 Please let me know if Park Talk Printables can help create a topper for your party!
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