The holiday baking is done, the cookies have been iced, and the tins and boxes have been filled. Whew! This weekend has been more like a workend!
The holiday baking is done — a little later than normal, but the last few weeks have been a lot busier than I expected — and this morning the last step in the process has been completed.
My Christmas cookies have been placed into festive cookie tins lined with bright striped paper. The bar cookies and heavier items go on the bottom and the iced sugar cookies and lighter fare sit on top. I always aim for a colorful presentation so that when the recipients open their cookie tins they are greeted by a riotous selection of different options and have to make a tough initial choice.
With the delivery of my cookies, my last pre-Christmas task has been completed. Now I can sink back with a sigh and revel in the holidays and my family.
I like to experiment with cookie recipes to try to fill a perceived hole in the cookie spectrum. This year, I decided I needed a non-lemon fruit bar cookie, so I came up with the recipe below. It worked out well. It has a nice, rich color that looks good in a cookie box, and it tastes good, too.
Nutty Raspberry Bars
Ingredients: 1/2 cup margarine, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 cup raspberry jam, 1/2 cup Grape Nuts
Heat raspberry jam in a microwave for 45 seconds or until it is loose and easily spreadable. Pour jam over bottom layer, spreading with a spoon or spatula until bottom layer is covered. Sprinkle Grape Nuts over raspberry covering. Return to oven at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. After removing from the oven, let stand for several hours, until the jam topping as solidified, then cut into bars.
Ah, fruit and spices. With them in a cookie, how can you really go wrong?
Ingredients: 1 cup butter, softened; 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar; 3 eggs; 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda; 2 teaspoons cinnamon; 1 teaspoon ground cloves; 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg; 1 1/2 cups finely chopped dates; 1 cup chopped raisins, 1 cup chopped walnuts.
Combine flour, soda, and spices. Gradually add to the butter mixture. Stir in dates, raisins, and walnuts. Gather dough into a ball. Flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease baking sheets. Roll out dough into 1/2-inch thickness. Use a round cookie cutter to cut out cookies. Arrange on baking sheets leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Cool cookies on baking sheets.
Ingredients: 2 cups confectioners’ sugar; 2 tablespoons lemon juice; 2 tablespoons water.
Combine sugar, lemon juice, and water. Stir to a smooth glaze. If glaze is too thick, add additional water to thin. While cookies are still warm, coat with thick layer of glaze. Cool completely.
Ms. Martha, one of my mentees at work, offered this recipe. I made it yesterday and it is just an excellent cookie, period. Ms. Martha is an experienced baker with very strong opinions about baking-related issues. She insisted, for example, that this recipe must be made with King Arthur Flour, as “the true baker’s flour,” and that I not substitute green and red M&Ms for the semisweet chocolate. Of course, I complied with her wishes, and I was pleased indeed with the results. And, given the name of the cookies, I tip my cap to Aunt Ann, whoever she may be.
Aunt Ann’s Delicious Peanut Butter Cookies
Ingredients: 1 cup unbleached all-purpose King Arthur flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup natural peanut butter (about 9 ounces), 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 5 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped. (I used large semisweet morsels for the coarsely chopped chocolate, and they worked well.)
In a separate large bowl, beat peanut butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, honey, egg, and vanilla with an electric mixer until well blended. Stir the flour/baking soda/salt mixture into the peanut butter mixture, one half at a time. Stir in the chocolate.
For each cookie, scoop about three tablespoonfuls of dough onto the baking sheets, spacing about 2 1/2 inches apart. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the cookie puff, begin to brown on top, and are still very soft to touch. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then use metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a rack. Eat warm or cool completely.
In response to my 2010 call for Christmas cookie recipes, faithful reader Mike N. sent me the Columbus Dispatch 2010 Holiday Cookies recipe guide. A number of the recipes look interesting. I tried the recipe below because it looked tasty, traditional, simple, and fun to make — how often do you get to roll cookie dough into ropes, anyway? — and it was.
Ingredients: 1/2 pound butter (not margarine); 1/2 cup sugar; 2 egg yolks; 2 1/2 cups flour; 1/4 cup cinnamon; 1/2 cup sugar.
Mix cinnamon and remaining 1/2 cup sugar on plate. Roll cookie dough into ropes. Cut each rope into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Roll pieces in cinnamon-sugar mix, being sure to coat ends.
Arrange cookies on baking sheets, and bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until firm to touch.
I like a good chewy cookie, and these fill the bill. They also are a bit different to make, and a good change of pace cookie on a long day of baking.
Ingredients: 5/8 cup all-purpose flour; 1/2 cup rolled oats; 1/2 cup all-purpose flour; 1/2 teaspoon baking soda; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1/3 cup brown sugar; 1/3 cup white sugar; 1/2 cup dried cranberries; 1/2 cup white chocolate chips; 1/2 cup chopped pecans.
Layer these ingredients in a large jar, in the order listed.
Other ingredients: 1/2 cup softened butter; 1 egg; 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a cookie sheet. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together butter, egg, and vanilla until fluffy. Add the entire jar of ingredients, and mix together by hand until well blended. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes, then move to a plate.
I have baked my last batch of Christmas cookies for 2009.
Yesterday I baked some of the excellent Dutch spice cookies, and this morning I got up very early, baked the classic sugar cookies, and iced them up. These two recipes are perennial favorites, and I wanted to have some cookies to take up to Gramma K. and the Kishman cousins during today’s visit. Both cookies turned out pretty well. Fortunately, Russell had his digital camera around, so we were able to take some pictures which I have included with this post.
Patty asked today about the icing on the sugar cookies. I use a few drops of evaporated milk and mix it with confectioners sugar until it reaches a thick, yet still spreadable, consistency that is sufficiently moist that it runs enough to leave a smooth look. I then use food coloring to give the icing some pizzazz. I like decorating the iced cookies with colored sugar, nuts, or dried fruit like cherries or cranberries. Of course, nothing makes a better red nose for Rudolph than a cinnamon drop.