Basic Recipes

Having foolproof recipes can be your greatest strength in the kitchen. It is important to me to have perfect "basics" for most treats- cakes, cookies, icings, etc. This way all of my recipes have room to grow. With the perfect shortbread cookie recipe, I can easily transform that simple shortbread into a dark chocolate mocha shortbread with just a few extra ingredients. Here you will be able to find some of my favorite basic recipes- tested by me. I use them over and over again, and I love having the flexibility to transform each of them into new and exciting things! Not all of them may be your favorite, and that is completely fine. These are just the recipes that work for me. It's important to find the recipes that work for you. =)

Basic Pie crust
Shortbread Cookies
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Basic Pie Crust
This pie crust is so versatile. It is flaky, sweet, and super tasty. It's so versatile, it can be used with a variety of pies- apple, pumpkin, cherry, or pecan. This crust is very easy to make, only requiring a few ingredients and tools. If you would like to use this crust for a savory pie or quiche, then omit the sugar.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup all vegetable shortening
1/4 cup very cold water
1 tablespoon sugar

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. Cut the ingredients into one another using a pastry blender.
2. Once ingredients are thoroughly combined, form dough into a disc and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes. Cold dough bakes up flakier.
3. Turn out the cold dough onto a well floured surface.
4. Roll out dough to an 11 inch circle.
5. Transfer dough to an ungreased pie dish by rolling the disc back over itself on the rolling pin and then rolling it out onto the pie dish.
6. Crimp the edges of the crust.
7. If the crust needs to be blind baked, poke holes in the bottom using the tines of a fork to allow steam to escape.
8. If it does not need to be blind baked, fill and bake as the recipe directs.

Back to top.

Shortbread Cookies
My favorite shortbread cookie recipe is from my favorite baking website Joy of Baking. All of the recipes on this site are tested for quality, so they always turn out perfectly! These cookies don't get any better. Shortbreads are so simple, but so delicious. In this recipe, it is important to use fresh unsalted sweet cream butter and pure vanilla extract.  This is my absolute favorite recipe for cookies that I decorate with color flow icing for 3 main reasons.
First, the flavor is excellent. It is not an overly sweet cookie, like sugar cookies, so it can stand up to a thick layer of sugary frosting without being too overwhelmingly sweet.
Secondly, the shape holds through the baking process. I have found that sugar cookies tend to spread out and puff up a lot after they're baked, these do not. They remail flat on top for easy frosting application, and they are only slightly larger than that size of the dough was before it was baked. One time I made wedding dress cookies for a bridal shower- I baked shortbreads and sugar cookies. The sugar cookies spread so much that the dresses looked like they were "plus size" gowns, while the shortbreads held a slender shape.
Finally, the color is beautiful. Many cookies bake up with a deep golden color that does not always look pretty. These shortbreads are very light and slightly golden so, they lend themselves to be a very neutral palette for decorating.

Chicago Skyline Dark Chocolate Mocha Shortbread & Chicago Flag Shortbread Cookies
Wedding Gown Shortbread Cookies
Princess Tiara Shortbread Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In small bowl sift together the flour and salt.
2. In a large bowl beat the butter with a mixer until it is smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla and continue to mix until it is smooth. 
3. Slowly incorporate the suagr into the butte mixture  and mix until well blended.
4. Add the flour and salt in batches just until incorporated.
5. Form dough into a ball and turn out onto plastic wrap, press into a disc and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour to firm up.
6. Preheat the over to 350 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick silicone baking mats.
7. Roll out dough onto a clean and lightly floured surface. It will be very firm and will require some kneading to make it pliable and easy to work with.
8. Flatten into a disc again and roll it out with a rolling pin to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out shapes using any cookie cutter. Line shapes on prepared baking sheet and refrigerate another 10-15 minutes before baking. The chilled dough will help the cookies hold their shape and they will bake up light and flaky.
9. Bake each batch for 8-10 minutes until very lightly golden. Gently transfer the baked cookie to a wire rack where they should cool completely before handling.

Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.
Depending on the size of your cookie cutter, this recipe will make roughly 20 cookies.

Original recipe here.

Tip: If you do not need special shaped cookies, you can save a step by rolling the dough into a long log shape before wrapping in plastic wrap and refrigerating. When it firms up you can cut 1/4 inch thick discs off, instead of having to roll out the dough each time.

Back to top.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
This buttercream recipe is probably the most basic of all buttercream recipes. It uses all real butter and milk. While it is delicious, it is not ideal for decorating because it does not have a good crusting quality to it, frosting decorations and flowers may droop after awhile. This recipe is also very versatile because it can be flavored easily with extracts, oils, zests, or cocoa. When making frosting it is important to start by mixing the fat with the liquid and adding the sugar last. This ensures an evenly flavored and smooth frosting.

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons milk
1 pound confectioners sugar

1. Mix the butter with the vanilla extract until smooth. Add the milk and blend until smooth and thoroughly incorporated.
2. Gradually add the confectioners sugar in batches while mixing on low speed to reduce the amount of air bubbles. Continue until all of the sugar has been added.

Store in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Makes enough frosting to frost 1 dozen cupcakes, or 1 8 inch cake layer.

Back to top.