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Day of the Dead Amaranth Skull Cookies

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This year to celebrate Day of the Dead, I decided to make some cookies utilizing ingredients that were more commonly used in more traditional Mexican cooking. I used Amaranth and an assortment of seeds and dried fruits to decorate the cookies. Amaranth has being cultivated in Mexico by the Aztecs 8,000 years ago. It was a great source of nutrition for them. The real value on amaranth was and is its seeds. These tiny little seeds are loaded with 12 to 17% protein and are high in lysine and essential amino acids. Amaranth seeds are also high in Calcium, Iron, Magnesium and many more minerals and vitamins. I think we should start looking at this plant and its nutritional value with wider eyes. Puffed amaranth seeds taste like a nutty popcorn. They are soft, tender and hold a great natural flavor.

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The intention behind the natural ingredients was to make a delicious cookie without utilizing too much sugar and to avoid the artificial coloring which in my opinion can affect flavor. I left those bright colors for the decorations on the altar and I like to leave the edible food more natural. Beside the looks, these seeds and nuts when baked into the cookies gives them a delicious flavor. I used pepitas for the flower decoration on the eyes, chocolate chips and dry cranberries for the eyeballs. For the teeth: Pine nuts and Sunflower seeds, almonds for the nose, and cashews for the gentlemen’s mustaches. These cookies are just the perfect treat for Day of the Dead. They are sweet but not overly sweet, just the way I like them. Amaranth gives the cookie a great texture and lots of seeds that give flavor and character to this buttery and nutty cookies.

It is really fun to decorate with seeds, utilizing their different shapes and combining colors and textures. Use your imagination and have fun. I think this can be a fun project that can involve your kiddos, whether you believe in tradition or if you are Mexican and have forgotten about this great tradition, this can be a great project to get in touch with your roots and pass along some history and memories with your kids.

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Lets get started!, for the cookies you will need…

Day of the Dead Amaranth Skull Cookies

Makes 14-16 / 4″ cookies

For the dough:

2 sticks butter room temperature
1/2 cup melted piloncillo syrup*
1 stick of Mexican Cinnamon
The zest of 1 large lime
The juice of 1/2 lime about 2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached All purpose flour
1 cup unbleached whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup puffed amaranth

To decorate:

1 egg whisked with 1 teaspoon of water
1/4 cup raw pepitas-pumpkin seeds, for around the eyes and nose
1 Tablespoon Raw almonds, for the gentleman nose
2 Tablespoons Pine nuts, for the teeth
1 Tablespoon Cashews, for mustaches
2 Tablespoon Golden Raisins, for eyeballs
1 Tablespoon Cranberries, for eyeballs, lips, and chicks
1 Tablespoon Dark chocolate chips, for eyeballs
1 Tablespoon White chocolate chips, for eyeballs

Preparation method:

1. In a small pot place the piloncillo cone, cinnamon stick and 1/2 cup water. Heat up and bring to slow simmer until all the Piloncillo cone has dissolved, and it resembles to the consistency of a thick syrup almost like honey. Let it cool off while you prepare the rest of the steps. See picture below.

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2. In a medium size bowl, using a hand mixer, whip the butter until pale. Add the lime zest, lime juice, vanilla extract, and the cooled Piloncillo syrup. Whip for 2 more minutes with the hand mixer.

Day-of-the-Death_Amaranth-cookies-whip-butter-lemon-zest-and-piloncillo-syrupDay-of-the-Death_Amaranth-cookies-Whiping-the-butter-for-cookies3. Sift both flours and salt over the butter mixture. Using the hand blender on low, mix until flour is incorporated, about 15 seconds. Add the puffed amaranth and whip for 5 seconds until its incorporated. Do not over mix.

Day-of-the-Death_Amaranth-cookies-sift-the-flours Day-of-the-Death_Amaranth-cookies-Puffed-amaranth
4. Dump the cookie mixture into a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a flat spatula spread the cookie dough into an even rectangle. Place another piece of parchment on top of the spread out cookie dough. With a rolling-pin evenly flatten the dough until it’s about 3/4″ thick.

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5. Carefully slide the papered cookie dough into the baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, 30 minutes its best.
6. Once the cookie dough is chilled, prepare a baking sheet lined with a silpad, or parchment paper. Place the cookie dough into a flat clean surface, peel the top parchment paper and cut out the cookies with a skull shaped cookie cutter. Place the shaped dough into the tray about 1/2 inch separation in between each cookie. By now you should have about 14-15 uncooked cookies. Gather the rest of the dough and gently press it together, place the parchment paper on top, roll it up and refrigerate for next batch.Day-of-the-Death_Amaranth-cookies-making-cookies-cut-out-shapes

7. Now the FUN begins! brush each cookie with some egg wash and start decorating the cookies. Make sure when you place each seed to GENTLY press into the cookie. See picture below.

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8. Final, lightly brush the cookies for a second time with egg wash. This will protect the seeds from burning when baking and it will give the cookies a beautiful glossy finish. Place the cookie tray in the coolest part of your refrigerator for about 15 minutes before baking.

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9. Pre-heat  the  oven at 375F / 190C
10. Remove cookies from refrigerator and Bake for 15-18 minutes. Check cookies at 13 minutes and rotate the pan, so they brown evenly, give them another 2-5 minutes to finishing cooking. At this point, Keep an eye on them, to pull them right when they look golden brown, check the bottom of one cookie it should be deep golden brown, and the seeds look toasty. By now, your house smells fragrant, buttery and citric. Smell is always a good indicator when food is done : )
11.Remove the tray from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for another 2-3 more minutes until they firm up and are ready to handle. With a cookie spatula, gently transfer them to a cooling rack.Please eat a cookie NOW! Once they are completely cool, keep them on an airtight container. These Amaranth Skull Cookies last for 4-5 days, (if you are lucky) They are great for breakfast with a cup of tea or coffee, or ideal for an afternoon pick me up snack.

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Day-of-the-Death_Dia-de-los-Muertos_Amaranth Skull Cookies_Calaveras_y diablitos Yes,-more-Please!

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The Day of the Dead is coming soon, starting October 31st with All Saints Eve, November 1st All Saints Day and ending November 2nd with All Soul’s Day. I have written a previous post with the origins and history about Day of the Dead, and this beautiful Mexican tradition. Dia de los Muertos, It is not only about the cool and colorful looking skulls, It has a deeper meaning with strong roots and traditions since pre columbian times. If you want to know more about it, please check this previous post that also includes a great recipe for Pan de Muerto and the easiest recipe for Sugar Skulls!

 If you want to learn more about it click here.

Feliz Dia de los Muertos, Let’s celebrate life after dead!

Music Pairing: La Llorona- Eugenia Leon

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Blueberry Lemon Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

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Cookies for breakfast? Hell yes! That is the concept behind these cookies, because… YES.
This oatmeal cookie its a little break after all that holiday cooking, prepping, and wrapping. These Blueberry Lemon Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies are just for you to indulge a morning craving, to power up your day.
Why?, because these good-hearted creatures are made with whole grain flour, oats flakes, wheat of germ, fresh blueberries, and a good punch of lemon zest…Something to lift up your morning. Lots of energy, antioxidants, fiber, and all those things that are as important as having a big smile on your face!…right?…

Can you eat this cookie instead of breakfast? Perhaps, but I recommend some protein to go along with them, like a cup of yogurt, nuts, and a cup of coffee or tea. Bake them regular size for breakfast or in a smaller bites for an afternoon snack.

Bake a batch over the weekend and power up your breakfast, whether you are preparing to take a hike, go to the park, or take down the holiday decorations…Please save some time to snuggle under a blanket, or sit on your porch with a good friend and enjoy a cookie and great cup ot tea.

Have a great weekend!

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Oatmeal-Bluberry-Lemon-Breakfast-Cookies_ingredients

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Scribbles Garabatos Cookies

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At less than 10 days until Christmas there are too many cookies and so little time! This year I decided to go with just ONE cookie, yes believe it or not just one… Ahem.. let me re phrase that…because there is no way I can eat just one of these buttery and nutty lil cookie sandwiches. I mean one type of cookie, and I chose my favorite ones Garabatos, which translates to: scribbles. The name of these Scribbles Garabatos Cookies comes from the freedom and delightful abandon in which the chocolate is drizzled all over these buttery cookies.  This cookies are very popular and loved in Mexico.

These crisp cookies with a soft crumb like a shortbread are filled with raspberry jam, chocolate ganache or hazelnut spread. A fine scribbling drizzle of dark chocolate, makes these little cookies not only delicious, and appealing, but equally easy to make. Dough is made in a flash in the food processor, chilled for 30 minutes, then rolled, cut, and baked 8-10 minutes. When you bake these cookies a butter cloud hugs you with love and Christmas feelings.

If you want to enjoy and make a simple and delicious effortless buttery cookie, start scribbling, this is the perfect last-minute letter to Santa! Ho, ho, ho!

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Whole Wheat Ginger Men Cookies

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Here comes Santa! When you bake cookies expect anyone to come around them: kids, gnomes, reindeer, elves, gremlins, dogs, cats, ants, aunts grandpa’s, grandmas, fuzzy teenagers, obnoxious neighbors, you name it! Everybody loves cookies…And since its Christmas lets share some cookie love!
Here is my recipe for Ginger Men. Why whole wheat? I love the nutty flavor that this flour gives to the ginger cookie. Not a fan of whole wheat?… You can substitute white flour but you might have to adjust and add ½ to 1 cup more flour.

I love to make these cookies because the house smells so good and kicks up your Christmas Spirit.
I owe you the photo steps, Ian has had an overload of work and for me, it its a bit hard to shoot with floury hands, so I made some drawings to illustrate a couple of steps. If you have any questions please send me a comment I will guide you.
I’m certain that these cookies are so easy to prepare you’ll have no trouble at all!
Enjoy!Whole-Wheat-Ginger-Men-mousthacehe-2

Whole Wheat Ginger Men Cookies

Makes 2-3 dozen depending on the size of your cookie cutter.

4 cups whole wheat flour ( I used King Arthur 100% organic whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup Butter
¾ cup organic blackstrap molasses
¾ cup brown sugar

Spices:
2 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger

3 large eggs

Preparation Method:

1. In a medium size bowl whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.
2. In a medium-sized pot, over medium heat, melt butter, molasses, brown sugar and all the spices until well combined. Set aside and let the mixture cool down.
3. Once this mixture has cooled down whisk in the eggs one at a time.
4. Add the flour mixture one cup at a time and incorporate with a spatula in folding movements until well combined do not over mix.
5. Divide the dough in two and place each half of the dough into a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten as much as you can and shape into a rectangle, and then place a second piece of parchment paper on top. Follow the next steps before chilling.

Now, in my opinion, the best technique to use is from Martha Stewart. No doubt, she is the queen of cookies right? What is this technique about?,basically you roll the dough before chilling, about 1/4”inch between two pieces of parchment paper. It helps using two wood dowels along the sides to ensure an even thickness of the dough slab.

This technique is great, because not only will speed up the process of chilling the dough to about 1 hour, it also leaves you with 2 or 3 cookie dough slabs ready to cut. I love this simple trick, because it saves you the step of having to deal with rolling a cold hard dough. Once you roll the dough in between the parchment papers, just transfer this sandwich into a cookie sheet.These simple step make it so much easy to transport back and forth from the refrigerator or the freezer to chill the dough.

After 1 hour, Remove from fridge and peel the top parchment paper and start pressing your cookie shapes. Remove the negative dough space. This will leave you with a tray ready to bake, no need to deal with misshaped cookies or trying to transfer them as you cut. Its so easy! check this lil drawings it might help…

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Bake for 7-10 minutes. Bigger cookies might need 10-12.
Remove cookies from the oven and let them cool on the sheet for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

Something to consider: When choosing a cookie cutter try to avoid intricate shapes or in the case of this Ginger man use a Ginger man with an evenly shaped figure so the cookies bake more evenly.

Icing:

1 cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoon meringue powder or dry egg whites.

Mix the powdered sugar and meringue powder together.Add the lemon juice to this mixture and whisk well until slightly pasty. At this point you can divide the icing and add a little food coloring. I like to use natural colorings like this kind.

If the icing is too thin, add more powdered sugar, if it’s too thick add a drop of lemon juice.
Use a piping Bag, or squeeze bottles to decorate.

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~ Have fun! ~

Music pairing: Santa Claus is coming to town-Ella Fitzgerald

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