Grownup Gingerbread Cookies with Ultra Gel

Of the many things that say it’s Christmas time to me Gingerbread Cookies rank right up there with Frosty and Rudolph. I love ginger and gingerbread and, to be honest, my absolute favorite gingerbread cookies are these Ginger Snaps by Alton Brown. However, those are a ginger drop cookie, and as good as they are sometimes you need a lovely gingerbread that can be shaped, but isn’t so dry and hard that you can use it as construction material.

Enter my Grownup Gingerbread cookies. Why Grownup? Because these are serious gingerbread, people. They are made with dark brown sugar, and black strap molasses and a whole tablespoon of powdered ginger. We are not messing around with flavor here, but they are flavors that sometimes small children don’t care for. But fear not, the kids can still be involved in all the rolling and shaping and decorating (which my daughter thinks is the best part anyway) and then you can enjoy a wonderful ginger and molasses treat with your hot chocolate.

These start out as a nicely chewy cookie. If you want a bit more snap, just leave them on the counter to dry out for a day versus packing them into an airtight container.

Don’t forget to leave a few out for Santa. You know he knows his gingerbread!

Grownup Gingerbread Cookies with Ultra Gel

3 cups flour

1 Tablespoon ground ginger (The good stuff people!)

1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (or 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon each ground cloves, nutmeg and allspice)

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

3/4 cups dark brown sugar

12 Tablespoons butter, softened

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup molasses (blackstrap if you want a dark cookie, non blackstrap if you don’t like the flavor)

1-2 Tablespoons milk (as needed)

Royal Icing

2 pounds powdered sugar

1 Tablespoon Ultra Gel

5 egg whites*

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine butter and sugar and whip until well combined. Add egg and mix well. Add vanilla and molasses and beat, scraping down sides at least once. Sift in dry ingredients and milk as needed to bring together into a soft dough.

Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.

Roll dough into a sheet 1/4 inch thick. Punch out Christmas shapes with cookie cutters. Move shapes to a baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Reroll scraps until they’re all used up or dough begins to toughen.

Bake for 8-9 minutes. Cool and set aside.

For icing:

Pour powdered sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl with an electric mixer on hand and mix lightly with salt and Ultra Gel. Make a well in the center. Separate eggs (Keep the yolks for pound cake! or custard!) placing whites in the middle of the dry ingredients. Mix just to combine then turn to full speed and whip for 3 minutes. You don’t want to over whip the icing because that can trap bubbles and make it hard to pipe later. Scrape down sides at least twice during this process. Add vanilla and mix.

Icing can then be colored (gel or powdered colors work better) and used immediately. Alternatively move to an air tight container and press plastic wrap against the icing before lidding and move to the fridge. This will generally keep in the fridge for upto a week.

*I recommend using pasteurized eggs and don’t fret at all about the fact these are raw. If you are concerned you can use pasteurized egg white mix or meringue powder in place.


National Ice Cream Day

So today is not only National Junk Food Day but also National Ice Cream Day. Personally I find Ice Cream day more appealing so we’re going to focus on that. Now, I lost track of my days and didn’t realize today was an Ice Cream holiday until about 30 minutes ago. So this is going to be a two part post. This part is just going to talk about making ice cream and some recipes we’ve done before. On Friday I’ll post pictures of the ice cream I’m making today as it needs about 10 hours to let all the flavors come together before churning and we’re celebrating Pioneer Day on Friday so it’s the perfect time to share. I know, I can hear you going, 10 hours?!? I don’t want for any food 10 hours. Well, make this an exception because Ice Cream which is allowed time to sit and bring out flavors before churning is phenomenally awesome.

However, for those who want something a little faster I’ll direct your attention to a previous post on this subject using Ultra Gel and a cold ice cream starter to get a beautiful blackberry ice cream.

And here I’ll share another recipe for what is called a no churn ice cream. In this case you don’t need an ice cream machine of any sort, just a good stand mixer, or a whisk if you don’t mind stirring for a while!

ice cream

No Machine Vanilla Ice Cream

1 pint whipping cream

1 Tablespoon Ultra Gel

1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk

Scrapings of one vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract (You can use other flavors as desired)

Whip cream and Ultra Gel until stiff peaks are formed. Fold in condensed milk and vanilla. Don’t be too vigorous with this or you’ll deflate the cream. move to a freezer save container and freeze hard. Serve! It’s amazing how much flavor you get with this version and the Ultra Gel helps to keep the crystal formation very fine so you get a better mouth feel.

Emergency Sugar Cookies

These were not the Valentine’s sugar cookies that I was going to share with you this week. I have a recipe for kick butt sugar cookies. They’re thick and chewy and hold shape beautifully and freeze and if they get dried out you use them for cookie crumb on the bottom of a cheesecake. I intended all those things. Then this week totally got away from me and I found myself in a sugar cookie emergency as I had to have cookies for an activity on Wednesday no matter what. Now…I pondered just pushing through said sugar cookie emergency and still making the original recipe today, but, truth told, the emergency sugar cookie recipe is also kick butt. So after much pondering today you’ll get my emergency sugar cookie recipe, which is a go to, works-every-time, learned to make them when I was 6 recipe, and then we’ll do a surprise flash back next week and give you the roll out version.

Soo…as I was saying, these sugar cookies are fast and phenomenal. They are wonderful to eat plain, are a perfect base for fruit pizzas, frost like a dream or can be rolled in sprinkles, nuts, powdered jello or colored sugar for many different effects. They freeze well either as dough balls, large rolled in sprinkles logs or after baking. As well our sugar cookies strike the perfect balance between the camps of crispy cookie and chewy cookie with a crisp buttery edge and a rich chewy center. And the batter only takes about 15 minutes to whip together and you’re good to go, talk about an ideal cookie.

One of my other favorite things about this recipe is how kid friendly it is. It’s simply enough that even very young children can help make the dough, and everyone can get involved when it comes to decorating whether you’re topping it with fruit or frosting, sprinkles or M&Ms.

Quick Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, soft

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a stand mixer combine the butter and sugar and whip until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl combine all dry ingredients and stir well. Mix dry ingredients into creamed mixture until thoroughly incorporated. If serving plain scoop by tablespoons onto cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes until edges are golden brown. For other uses chill the dough for at least 15 minutes to make it easier to work with. For fruit pizzas scoop into 3 ounce balls and place on cookie sheets. Bake for 15-18 minutes until edges are golden brown. Allow to cool on tray for 3 minutes before moving to cooling racks. For sprinkle covered cookies, scoop by tablespoons and roll into a ball, roll the ball in desired topping and move to cookie sheet (If you are worried about the topping making a mess you can line your cookie sheet with parchment paper). Cook for 10-12 minutes until done through. To freeze: either scoop dough into balls and freeze individually before moving to a freezer bag, or form into long logs, roll in sprinkles and then roll in waxed paper and aluminum foil. Date and freeze. Good for upto 3 months.

Buttercream Icing

1 cup butter, soft

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

3-4 cups powdered sugar

milk or cream as needed to achieve desired consistency

In a stand mixer combine butter, salt, vanilla and Ultra Gel with 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Beat until very thoroughly combined. Scrape down sides and beat an additional 30 seconds. Add additional powdered sugar to reach a spreadable or pipable consistency. Thin if needed with milk or cream. Color and get to icing! (This recipe is excellent for cake as well, though sometimes I’ll add a Tablespoon or two of Jam in a Jiffy raspberry jam for flavor and color and it’s excellent!)


Tips for Cream Pies and Fabulous Meringue

Cream piesWith Thanksgiving around the corner I’ve been getting a lot of questions about pies. Since the pies are my favorite part of the holiday, and usually the one I’m in charge of, I do have some tricks of the trade to pass along. So pull out a chair and come into my parlor.

Five Tips for Amazing Cream Pies

1: Use a cooked custard for your filling. Whether you use the recipes from Cornabys (And we have some great ones), or you love your Jello, go with the cooked versions. The benefits of the cooked versions are two fold. Part the first, the cooked custard sets more firmly and will be much easier to slice without making a huge mess. Part the second the lactose (milk sugar) in the dairy when cooked caramelizes and tastes fantastic, so you’ll get a much richer flavor from the cooked versions than the instant ones.

2: If you don’t use a cooked custard make sure to decrease the amount of liquid going into your instant pie filling so the starches can give you a more stable set.

3: Watch your heat! When cooking a pudding or custard there is the vast temptation to get the job done and kick the heat to high. Dairy does not like heat and in particular it doesn’t like to boil. When you boil your puddings you end up with scorching and a curdled mess. So cook your fillings on medium heat. It takes longer, but it gives you a better result.

4: Do not add flavorings or fruit to the custard until it has cooled for at least 10 minutes (the exception to this is cocoa powder which in a homemade custard you’ll add at the beginning and cook the product with the cocoa in it). Many of the extracts we use in cooking have an alcohol or oil base and if the custard is still too hot that will boil off immediately and many of those flavors will be lost. As well fruit can partially cook and brown and cookies will go soggy. So be patient.

5: Wait to top with whipping cream until your pies are completely cool. If they’re still warm they’ll liquify the cream and that is not a happy thing. As well…do your wonderful pies the justice of really good whipping cream. Many non dairy creamers are stable, but not particularly tasty or good for you. So look for a good real cream whipping cream. If you’re worried about your cream falling, just add 1 tsp of Ultra Gel per pint of cream when you’re whipping it and watch the magic. 🙂

Now, speaking of toppings, one of the toppings that many people like but struggle with is the meringue. Meringue is usually a combination of egg whites and sugar which has been whipped and then cooked just long enough to get a good set and a crispy exterior. Some recipes include a little cream of tartar to help stabilize the whip. Given all of that this is still a topping that many people struggle with because it can weep and break. So there are a few things I can suggest to keep this topping fantastic.

1: Always make sure your meringue comes all the way to the edge of the pie. If it’s just sitting in the center as it cooks the sugar around the edges will cause the meringue to melt and ooze. As long as you get the meringue to the crust or edge of the pie plate it will have something to bind to that isn’t sugary and won’t be as prone to break down.

2: Add a little Ultra Gel to your recipe (about 1 tsp per egg white). Add the Ultra Gel early on when you are first bringing your meringue to a foam and it will help to hold the moisture in the meringue and keep it from breaking both upon the first serving and even into the next day.

Here is our favorite recipe for meringue. We’d love to see yours!

Ultra Gel Meringue

3 egg whites
3 tsp Ultra Gel
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

In large bowl, beat egg whites Ultra Gel and cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually, 1 Tbsp at a time, add sugar, beating until fully incorporated before adding the next Tbsp. Beat to stiff peaks. Spread over prepared pie and bake at 350 until top is just browned. Enjoy!


Easy Chocolate Orange Cake

It was Bunneh’s birthday a  couple of weeks ago and my day  was…how do i gently say…crazy!!!  So I knew I needed a cake, but there just seemed to be no time.  I couldn’t fail the bunneh though, so I went for simple, but ever so tasty.  I’ve talked about Cheater Chocolate Cake before and this is a yummy adjustment on that recipe for a fresh but decadent cake.

Easy Chocolate Orange Cake

1 box devil’s food cake (I like Duncan Hines or Pillsbury)

1 9×13 sized dark brownie mix

zest of one orange

juice of one orange

Combing cake mix and brownie mix in a large bowl.  Follow the recipe on the back of each box adding 1/2 cup Ultra Gel to the dry mix and substituting the fresh juice for some of the water.  IE: If the total in the recipe is 1 1/2 cups water and you got 1/2 cup orange juice, add 1 cup water and 1/2 cup juice.  Fold zest in last before pouring batter into a greased and floured 9×13 dripper pan.  Bake until tests done.  Serve with favorite chocolate frosting.  In my case I made a Ultra Gel chocolate whipped cream and added more orange zest to that!

Decorate with candles only if husband is under forty….



Easter feasting

So yesterday was Easter and also Bunneh’s birthday.  It doesn’t happen often that the two happen on the same day, but this year was a happy circumstance.  And no I’m not going to tell you how old Bunneh is.  He’s just the right age for me.  🙂

Most of the time Bunneh’s birthday would be a day for me to eat, but he’d found a beautiful rib eye roast and he was dying to try something new, so for his birthday I let him do the cooking.  I know it sounds weird, but it made him very happy.  He coated the roast with garlic and herbs, then cooked it for about 30 minutes at 500 degrees.  After that he turned it down to 240 and just let it low and slow its way to the right temp.  Dinner was finished off with a bit of spaghetti squash and some lovely fried potatoes.  It may not be other people’s idea of an Easter feast, but for us…holy yum.

So here’s our feast…and some random kitty pictures, cause she’s just so cute.


Happy Labor Day

Today we spent much of the day down in Payson, Utah at Golden Onion Days.  It was the first time back to my hometown in over a decade.  It was fun and a little weird to see what was the same and what had changed.  They still know how to put on a party.  🙂

We’re grateful today for a small but prospering company and good friends and family, including all our online friends.  We don’t always hear from you, but we know you’re out there.

Happy holiday to those in the US, and happy Monday everyone else.

Jana Brown