Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's a fine day to make a big o' mess of shamrock cookies

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Children love holidays like St. Patrick's Day -- especially when it involves getting messy while making something of their own.

"Clinical research shows that creative messy activities like cooking and baking engage all of a child's senses, helping them explore new ideas and teaching them how to solve problems," said Karen Deerwester, child development expert and founder of Family Time, Inc. "It also provides valuable time together, as well as an opportunity to teach basic math skills, cleaning habits and nutrition."

So what can you make on St. Patrick's Day?

How about green eggs and ham?


Most kids are not big on eggs. As for those holiday motif cut-and-bake sugar cookie kits, they are great but at this point the dancing leprechauns are long gone, no doubt replaced by bouncing bunnies. Knowing the holiday falls on a weeknight and that there would be a lot of moms in the same Irish boat the cooks in Wilton's test kitchen created a recipe for shamrock cookies that's easy to bake and decorate. It's a great way to add fun, color and sweetness to your family's St. Paddy's Day party and should a friend or two stop by the batch is big enough to serve the whole crowd.

But don’t go it alone. Since children learn many of life's greatest lessons through play Deerwester encourages parents to allow even the youngest chef to help by pouring ingredients like flour, sugar and eggs into the bowl. While you're spreading the dough, be sure to spread some praise too!

"Not matter the outcome, always encourage their effort," said Deerwester. "Remember, practice makes perfect."

Lucky Giant Shamrock Cookie
Makes about 15 servings

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1     teaspoon baking powder
1     teaspoon salt
1     cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1     egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2   teaspoon almond extract
2     cans (16 ounces each) white ready-to-use decorator icing
      Kelly Green icing color
      Light corn syrup
      Green candy-coated chocolates

Preheat oven to 375°F.
In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy; beat in egg and extracts. Add flour mixture to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Do not chill dough. Press into bottom of ungreased shamrock pan. If you can find a pan consider creating a cookie mold out of aluminum foil and use it to cut out your shape.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until edges of cookie are lightly browned. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely. Place cooled cookie on foil-wrapped cake board or large serving platter.

To decorate, start with white ready-to-use decorator icing in a can (no special skills required). Use part of it to ice the background and sides of the shamrock. Tint a portion green and ice the shamrock shape on top of the cookie, then add green candy-coated chocolates to outline the edges. The message is written with the remaining white icing. Tip: thin white icing with corn syrup.

Convenience Tip: Substitute two packages (18 ounces each) of refrigerated sugar cookie dough for recipe above.

Visit Wilton's decorating site for additional ideas for celebrations of all kinds.

Today's muse
May you always have walls for the winds, a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire, laughter to cheer you, those you love near you, and all your heart might desire -- Irish Blessing

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