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The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

Somehow I have made it 30+ years in life and never made sugar cookies from scratch. Something about that “advanced preparation” tag at the beginning of the recipe always seems to steer me in a different direction, usually towards a cookie that can be baked and eaten in under an hour of when I decide I’m craving some cookies. So, the prospect of finally taking on this labor-of-love cookie seemed pretty exciting.

The mandatory components of this challenge where that we made a basic sugar cookie from scratch from the provided recipe, and that we decorated the cookies with the theme of “September.”

We were allowed to make variations to the sugar cookie dough by adding our own flavorings, and we could opt to make the royal icing from scratch or use a store bought mix.

After taking stock of what ingredients I already had in the kitchen I decided to make my sugar cookies and royal icing using the recipes included in Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking. When thinking about the theme of September, I decided that for me, this September has really been all about the anticipation of all the wonderful Fall flavors that will soon be gracing all my favorite products and recipes (think pumpkin everything for the next two months!). So in honor of this, I decided to add 1 1/2 teaspoons of homemade pumpkin pie spice to the cookie dough. I also dusted the decorated cookies with more of the pumpkin pie spice after the royal icing had begun to set up.

Sadly, (as usual) I had some issues with rolling all the dough to the same thickness and had some cookies that didn’t survive the baking process, but those that persevered (ie., were rolled to the appropriate thickness) were super delicious and just the right thing to get my “celebration of Fall flavors” started!

If you would like to get all of the challenge recipes for the sugar cookies and royal icing please follow this link to download the printable PDF. There is a wealth of information on decorating with royal icing that really makes it worth the download!

Thanks for a great challenge Mandy!


Apple Butter
The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun
. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

This month’s challenge was all about the wonderful world of food preservation. While food preservation in and of itself is quite a broad topic, the focus of this challenge was really geared towards learning about home canning and freezing. The main recipe for this challenge was for apple butter (which can be frozen or canned), but recipes for preserving roasted tomatoes and bruschetta were also provided for some variation. Since apples are just starting to come into season around here, it seemed like the perfect time to make my first batch of homemade apple butter using local apples. I opted to use sweet, Jonagold apples for the recipe.

I have to be quite honest, the prospect of home canning absolutely terrifies me. As much as I would’ve liked to conquer my home canning phobia, I simply could not muster up the courage to give it a shot, so freezing was my food preservation method of choice.

Here is some great information about freezing from our challenge host:

Freezing refers to storing foods in airtight containers at 0ºF (-17.8ºC) or lower. Freezing does not kill bad bugs. The cold temperature causes the microorganisms to go into hibernation/suspended animation.

Freezing is the easiest food preservation method, especially with modern freezers.

The main pointers for freezing:
1) Freeze foods quickly. Quickly freezing creates smaller ice crystals. Water is a funny substance where water expands when frozen. This means larger ice crystals can puncture cell walls (such as whole berries) so when defrosted you end up with a mushy mass.
2) Try not to freeze too much at once. Typical advice 2 to 3 lbs (1 kg) per cubic foot (28 Liters) of freezer space.
3) Containers should be airtight and leak proof.
4) Minimize air and gaps in the packaging. This reduces the chance for freezer burn – drying.
5) Label and date the package. Frozen foods tend to look the same over time, especially when a layer of ice has formed.
6) Vegetables can be blanched to deactivate enzymes. Blanching is quick cooking in boiling water for a few minutes and cooled rapidly in ice water.
7) For initial freezing using pliable freezer bags, freeze on a smooth, flat surface to prevent the bag from molding itself to the rack.

If you’ve never made apple butter, you essentially start by making applesauce. Once you reach the applesauce state, you add your desired spices and cook the applesauce down until it becomes a thick spreadable consistency. It’s absolutely delicious and great used as a spread on sandwiches, an ingredient in baked goods, or a topping for a super delicious bowl of Fall flavored oats.

Fall Flavored Oats

You can view the recipe and procedure for making the apple butter after the jump.

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