We have family coming in for the holidays, so I’m whipping up some cookies for people to nibble while we sit around and catch up on what everyone has been up to during 2017. I’m therefore making my favorite cookie — Dutch spice cookies. I like the brown sugar/cinnamon/nutmeg/clove flavor, which says Christmas to me, but they’re also fun to decorate. You can put anything from M&Ms to decorators’ sugar to nuts on these cookies, and they all seem to go perfectly.
Last night I iced and decorated the sugar cookies, and then I got up early this morning to finish putting the cookies into festive tins and writing notes for the recipients of this year’s holiday baking — who I hope will enjoy the new recipes and the new twists on old favorites.
And, because no job is truly completed until the clean-up work is done, this morning I also stashed the baking implements and remaining supplies and wiped down the countertops, so there’s nary a sign of a marathon baking effort. Now, I can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee . . . and, admittedly, a warm feeling of accomplishment, too.
Every successful holiday baking day starts with a carefully prepared shopping list. Preparing the list is, and should be, an involved process. You need to sift through your recipes, decide which ones you’ll be making this year, and take inventory of what you’ve got in the cupboard already — and whether you’ve got it in sufficient quantity. If you’ve made a good list, you won’t be caught short on a particular recipe and have to make an annoying one-ingredient dash to the store midstream.
The list is the first step on the journey.
Every year, the Columbus Dispatch publishes a holiday cookie section with some new recipes. Knowing that I would be doing my holiday baking, Mom would send me the Dispatch cookie section to give me some new ideas, and to say thanks I would always make sure that a big plate of cookies went her way at the end of the process. Mom always enjoyed a good Christmas cookie!
So, as a tribute to Mom, I visited the Dispatch cookie guide webpage for 2017 and tried to pick out a recipe that I thought Mom might like. She had a taste for the simple sugar cookies, and this rosemary cookie recipe (from Margaret M. Titerington of Ostrander) looked intriguing — the sort of straightforward cookie that Mom might have liked and that might have been baked back in old England during the holidays and consumed with a cup of tea with lots of milk.
Ingredients: 1 cup butter; 1 cup sugar; 2 eggs; 1 teaspoon baking soda; 4 cups flour; 1 cup oil (I use extra light olive oil); 1 cup powdered sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla; 1 teaspoon cream of tartar; at least 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all ingredients, except rosemary, in mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly. You might need to add a little more flour if dough appears sticky — add 1 tablespoon at a time. Add rosemary and gently mix into batter. Chill the dough thoroughly until very firm.
Roll dough in small balls and then in sugar and flatten with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.
Bake, watching carefully until light golden — about 5 to 10 minutes. Baking time depends on how large you form the cookies.
Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2017 (I)
Mom and Grandma Webner had a Betty Crocker cookbook in the kitchen, and Kish’s Mom did, too. So when the time comes to look for some new Christmas cookie recipes to try this year, the Betty Crocker website — hey, who actually messes with looking at a book anymore? — is one of the first places I check out. I’ve been brought up to trust Betty, and her website always has lots of good options.
I’m always on the lookout, too, for different options for bar cookies, and for some new ways to add a little color, variety, and eye-catching zing to the collection of cookies I’ll be putting into tins and sending out to my friends. The recipe below caught my eye because of its color, shape, and use of cranberries, a perennial holiday favorite. And since I like the taste of cranberries, how can I resist?
White Chocolate Cranberry Cookie Bars
Ingredients: 1 pouch (17.5 oz) Betty Crocker™ sugar cookie mix; 1/2 cup butter, softened; 4 oz (half of 8-oz package) cream cheese, softened; 1 egg; 1/4 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries; 1/2 cup white vanilla baking chips. Frosting and topping: 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened; 1/4 cup butter, softened; 1 teaspoon vanilla; 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar; 1/3 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries
Heat oven to 350 degrees and spray 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, 1/2 cup softened butter, 4 oz. cream cheese and egg with spoon until soft dough forms. Stir in 1/4 cup cranberries and the white chocolate chips. Spread dough in bottom of pan. Bake 20 to 23 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on cooling rack, about 1 hour.
In large bowl, beat 8 oz. cream cheese and 1/4 cup softened butter with electric mixer on medium-high speed until smooth. Beat in vanilla. On low speed, beat in powdered sugar until frosting is smooth and creamy. Spread frosting over top of bars; sprinkle 1/3 cup cranberries over frosting. Cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.
My mother used to say that you learn something new every day. She was right — as mothers always are.
This morning I learned that gluten-free food can actually be pretty tasty. Because we’ve got a gluten-free guest coming for the holidays, I made these cookies with tahini — which is crushed sesame seeds ground into a kind of peanut butter consistency — the ever-unpronounceable quinoa, honey, brown sugar,, and rice flour. They’re crunchy and really good. I am also making some gluten-free spice cookies with cranberries and almonds and macadamia nuts.
Tasty, and gluten-free? Who knew?
I woke up early this morning to tackle the second day of my 2016 Baking Weekend. With careful management of my two ovens, I was able to finish everything except icing my sugar cookies — which I am going to save for later this afternoon. Right now, I need a break from the flour dust.