August 13, 2014

Vanilla Syrup for Coffee or Tea

I love coffee. I really truly absolutely love coffee. I drink a seriously insane amount of coffee every day. It actually calms me when I am stressed and I will enjoy a yummy cup in the late afternoon or early evening on a stressful day, knowing full well that I will also have a hard time falling asleep that night if it is too late in the day for caffeine. 

During the summer I love drinking cold pressed coffee over ice. It is so refreshing and yummy. I sometimes drink several cups throughout the day. I love to drink iced coffee just slightly sweetened with a bit of simple syrup. No creamer, or cream of any kind. And not sugar, it doesn't dissolve all the way. During the fall and winter I make a full pot of coffee. When it is hot I love to be a bit creamy so I started putting a little half and half in my coffee instead of the non-dairy creamer I used to use so much of. For the sweetener, I have tried agave and it's good, but a bit costly and I like stevia but also a bit costly. So a homemade simple sugar syrup works perfectly as it is very cheap to make and I can control what type of flavor profile it has. It is also a versatile syrup that can be used in tea as well. I love tea almost as much as I love coffee. Almost.

This syrup is really so simple to make and I make it a few times a week in small batches. And you don't even need to use the stove if you do not want to. I use dark brown sugar because it gives the syrup a richer almost caramel flavor. White sugar just gives a flat sweet flavor. Sometimes I combine the two sugars depending on how much brown sugar I have in my kitchen when I make it. 

So here is how I make my syrup. 

Simple Syrup on the Stove: 

1 cup of brown sugar (or a mix of white and brown) 
1 cup of water

Flavor as desired:
1-2 tsp vanilla 
1/4 - 1/2 tsp almond extract 
 Any other extract you desire in any amount you like.
Start small and add until you get the flavor profile you are looking for. 

Combine sugar and water and extracts in a small saucepan. 
Stirring constantly over medium to medium high heat bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. 
Turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature before doing anything with it. Including taste it. Sugar boils at a higher temperature than water so be very very careful handling the boiling sugar water. You do not want to be burned by it. 
Transfer to a container and store in the fridge.

Simple Syrup in the Microwave

1 cup dark brown sugar (or a mix of white and brown)
3/4 cup water

Flavor as desired:
1-2 tsp vanilla 
1/4 - 1/2 tsp almond extract 
 Any other extract you desire in any amount you like.
Start small and add until you get the flavor profile you are looking for.

In a microwave safe bowl or cup (I use a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup) combine the sugar, water and extract.
Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir until dissolved. Sometimes it needs another 30 seconds or so in the microwave to finish dissolving the sugar.
I use less water in the microwave because it isn't given the opportunity to evaporate like on the stove.

And there you go. Quick and easy simple syrup for your coffee or tea flavored the way you want it.

December 15, 2013

Gluten Free Rolled Sugar Cookies

Christmas time is cookie time. We love to decorate cookies at Christmas time. Even if it means decorating them after Christmas because life gets too busy to do it before then, we still decorate cookies. -- It's tradition! 

And according to my kids, you don't mess with traditions. 

I have my go to recipes for all the types of cookies I make this time of year even one for gluten free sugar cookie cutouts. I have tried many gluten free cookies and roll outs were not successful until this recipe. Now, every time I need gluten free sugar cookies this is the recipe I use. Don’t let the amount of flours scare you. They all have their own purpose and function in the mix to help mimic how regular all-purpose flour acts in a cookie, that you roll out and cut and then bake. And if you think about it, many regular roll out cookie recipes are not that great when it comes to the cookies rolling out well, or keep their shape throughout the process and then still taste yummy when your are done.

Gluten Free Sugar Cookies

1 cup brown rice flour
¼ cup tapioca
¼ cup potato starch
¼ cup sweet rice flour
1tsp arrowroot
1 egg
1 egg yolk
½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. almond extract
1/8 tsp. kosher salt

In a small bowl, combine the brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch and sweet rice flour together. I use a fork or a small whisk for this so that the fours will be fully incorperated.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until the butter is light and fluffy.

Add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla, almond extract, salt and arrowroot to the butter mixture. Blend everything together.

Add 1 cup of the flour mixture and mix it together. Then add flour ¼ cup at a time stirring well with each addition. You will not use all of the mixture most of the time, it really depends on the humidity and size of eggs on if you will need it all.

Your dough will be sticky and soft but very pliable. This is what you want. If you make it more solid like normal sugar cookie dough your cookies will be dry and brittle.

Separate the dough into two mounds, wrap each mound in some plastic wrap and flatten into disks. Put the dough in the fridge for at least a half hour.

Preheat the oven to 350. Prep a cookie sheet or two with parchment paper. Now time to have some fun.

Roll out half the dough in-between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper to somewhere between 1/8 and ¼ of an inch thick. You don’t want to roll the dough too thin because it will be really hard to transfer the shapes to the pan.

Cut out as many cookies from the rolled out dough as you can. I like to make the cutouts as close to each other as possible so I don't have to handle the dough more than necessary.

Transfer the cutouts to the pan carefully. I like to lift up the plastic wrap and gently place the cookie upside down in my hand and then put it right-side up onto the pan. I find this helps keep the shape better. Gluten free dough is much softer and a bit more fragile than white flour dough.

When the pan is full of cookies spaced about 2 inches apart, place the pan in the freezer for about 5 minutes for the butter to get really cold. It will help them not spread or lose their shape while cooking.

Bake the cookies for 6-8 minutes. They should just barely turn golden on the edges before you pull them out.

Let them cool on the pan for just over 5 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack or whatever you have to finish cooling them. I often use a paper bag that has been cut and put inside up when I am making a large batch of cookies.

These are tender cookies with a really nice flavor. If you want more almond flavor you can add a touch more and it will work nicely.You can also change out the extract to another flavor like lemon or even peppermint.

I usually make them the day before we plan on decorate so that they will be completely cool and ready. Here is my post about how we decorate cookies. We turn it into an afternoon of fun. 

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