Treat Day – Week 1 (Frosted Sugar Cookies & Cinnamon Toast Bars)

Hey, hey! It’s finally here…FOOTBALL season is underway and it feels great to be a BEARS fan!  What an exciting week of changes and good vibes we’ve got going on here in Chicago and I CAN NOT WAIT to watch the Bears play the Packers on Sunday night.  To kick off the Thursday-Treat-Days, I put some extra lovin’ in my oven (I know, I am a nerd) and wanted to show some team spirit, so made super fun cut-out “C” logo cookies for the guys.  I also made “Cinnamon Toast” bars, that were not only delicious, but one of the easiest cake-bar recipes I’ve come across in all my years baking. You don’t even need a mixer…or eggs for this recipe! I’m really excited to share both of these recipes with all of you and want to give shout-outs to the bloggers that were nice enough to print and share them originally.

First, let’s talk about the sugar cookies.  I actually found this recipe last season when I was asked to bake for a luncheon honoring breast cancer survivors. I searched high and low for a delicious basic sugar cookie recipe, as well as a “flooding” frosting – otherwise known as “royal icing”.  After reading dozens of blogs and recipe sites, and actually test-baking three different doughs, I ended up liking this one from Jill Saunders on – and my instinct was right… it got RAVE reviews both last year as well as this week.  The recipe says to chill the dough for at least an hour, but each time I’ve made them, I’ve let it chill overnight. Give it a try, you will not be disappointed! Oh, and if you find that the dough is a bit sticky, be sure to flour your counter top well, and also flour your rolling pin every time.  Another trick is to put the dough between a layer of wax or parchment paper and roll it out that way.  I’m telling you, several people have told me that these cookies were the best they’d ever had…thus, the title here in this link is true: The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies

Now for the frosting.  I really wanted to learn how to frost using the “flooding” technique, so I  did several hours of researching Royal Icing for cookies.  From major sites like the Food Network, to random bloggers, to YouTube video tutorials, all talked about and gave recipes that either called for Cream of Tartar, egg whites, or Meringue Powder.  I made a few versions, and each had a rather distinct taste to them: sort of sour, and sort of not-so-great, in my opinion.  They weren’t bad, and I even brought some into the office and had co-workers give me feedback. But in my heart I knew I could find something a just notch better that would taste “great” to everyone. So I then started making calls to friends and family who I knew made frosted Christmas cookies each year, and  I collected all of their thoughts and comments on what they used for an icing.  I finally found this recipe from “The Slow Roasted Italian”, which is easy, delicious, frosts and dries shiny and smooth…and I will never deviate!  It is just about identical to a recipe that my cousin Mary Jo gave me, except this one yields a big batch and I don’t use any almond extract… I omit it altogether.  However, you could add a touch of vanilla extract if you’d like. The Best Tasting Royal Icing

I stayed up very late into the night, and the wee hours of the morning frosting these “c”s, while listening to some of my favorite tunes… and I had a blast – it was just like being back in college art class.  Didn’t even notice the time getting so late, it was so therapeutic.  I had purchased a logo cookie cutter that came in a couple different sizes. Look how cool and fun they turned out! (I need to do a little more research on layering color frosting, like, I  wonder if it would have been better for me to flood the whole cookie in white and then do a a layer of orange on top leaving a white boarder.  They are not perfect, but over all I was happy with the way they looked, and the fact that everyone thought they tasted great…that was all that was important to me).


Now, for the “Cinnamon Toast” Bars.  As you follow me throughout the season, you’ll know that I always send some sort of bar to go along with the cookies because bars, in general, are pretty easy, yield several servings, especially since you can cut them small, and they are a great “grab-n-go” treat that don’t make much of a mess.  That said, this opening week, I wanted to give them a new bar that I’d never made before.  I found this recipe from a blogger named “Barefeet in the Kitchen”, and boy am I glad I found her!  You guys – if you like cinnamon, sugar and butter… try this recipe!!!  Also, she gives a gluten free option, which is nice.  I don’t do GF, but I know a lot of people these days appreciate it as they can’t take the gluten.  Here is a link to the recipe: Barefeet In The Kitchen – Cinnamon Toast Bars  This recipe reminds me of that little cinnamon sugar filled Bear-shaped shaker that my mom would always have in the morning and use to make us cinnamon toast. Sweet memories 🙂

Obviously, those are the before & after pics. This is a half sheet cookie sheet (or jelly roll pan) so this made a ton of servings. The topping is a melted butter/sugar/cinnamon that you pour over the cake after 23 minutes, and stick it back in the oven for an additional 8 minutes or  until it bubbles and becomes almost like a creme brulee topping. Please make sure to keep the bars in long enough so the butter/sugar actually starts to boil on top of your cake, otherwise, you won’t end up with that delicious caramelized top.

I hope you enjoy the recipes and if you decide to make them, please write to me and let me know how they turned out and what you thought of them!

So, so excited that Treat Day Week 1 was a hit!  Come back next Friday to see what I made for Treat Day Week 2.

Go Bears!

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2018 will mark my 7th Season making treats and baking for the Chicago Bears. You might be thinking, how does one land that gig? Well, let me tell you. It’s riveting… My younger brother, Danny, works full-time for the Bears. Our entire family have been life-long Bears fans, btw. Back in the summer of 2012, he came to me and said, “Hey, we need someone to make treats for the team. Do you think you can do it? Because my boss said, Dan, you’ve got all those sisters, can’t one of them bake? So, I volunteered you.” My first response was, “YES, but I don’t know how to bake”. I mean, up until that point, the only things I remember ever baking were 1) S’mores Bars back in the 80’s off a recipe on the back of the Golden Grahams cereal box. Come to think of it now, I don’t even think those things went into the oven – so technically that wasn’t baking. And 2) Good old Nestle Toll House cookies – which NEVER turned out the same each time I baked them and it drove me nuts and got me to HATE baking for that very reason. I was always in love with cooking, though. I was the gal who threw dinner parties often and provided an obnoxious array of hors d’oeuvres and wine – that’s more my thing. Side note: I learned the hard way that baking and wine don’t mix. Ha! However, I was honored and excited to have been asked to step up to the plate for this little baking / treat-making gig, for THE CHICAGO BEARS, no less. So my answer was an enthusiastic, YES! I figured I still had a month before the first regular season game, which is when the “treat days” begin – every Thursday during the regular season (not preseason). So, I hit the streets in search of good recipes and then got to work test-baking in the kitchen for the rest of that summer. As I became more internet savvy, I started following lots of baking bloggers and watching video tutorials. I would go to parties and if I tasted something that I thought was exceptional, I would never hesitate to ask for the recipe. Baking for the Bears is always in the back of my mind when eating desserts. I now have an arsenal of treat recipes worthy of offering at a bake shop, if I do say so myself;) . I started getting requests for my pound cake, outside of Baking for the Bears, and my Double Chocolate Chip Sea Salt cookies have been quoted as “The best cookies in the world” by a well-known player, as well as friends, family and neighbors. One of the first things I did was perfect a cookie of my own that comes out pretty consistently crunchy on the outside but chewy on the inside. I no longer rely on the old Toll-House recipe. It’s the one thing I never get tired of baking. The guys get them every week. With that said, this season, I plan to blog my recipes each week, and share with you whatever it is I am making for the Bears. I’ll also give you tried & true feedback on what worked, what didn’t, and any fun comments that the players, staff, friends & co-workers might have regarding the treat of the week. My office colleagues love it when football season rolls around, because I typically find new recipes and test-bake on Sundays to bring in on Mondays for critical reviews. From there, I decide if they are Bear-worthy for Thursday Treat Days at Halas Hall. I hope you will check in periodically and enjoy my blog. I’m super excited for the 2018 Bears football season both on the field and in the kitchen! GO BEARS! This is gonna be a good season… I can feel it!

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