Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays to all!
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays to all!
The library staff at our firm is pretty creative when it comes to holiday decorations. I particularly like this year’s festive book tree.
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
How lovely are thy volumes!
The cookies and fudge have been carefully — and more or less equally — distributed to their respective tins, in the last step in the holiday baking process. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I baked just the right amount to fill up our tins, without a lot of tempting cookies left over or an egregious shortfall.
This year we’ll be sending out 24 tins to friends, family, and colleagues– the most ever. And I can fairly say that, after the last few days, I will be perfectly content not to see a cookie for a while.
Tonight has been spent icing sugar cookies. It’s a very labor-intensive chore, but it affords an opportunity for creativity and it’s just plain fun.
Icing the cookies is the penultimate step. Tomorrow morning we’ll put the cookies into tins, and then we’ll be done.
The internet is a wonderful thing — at least, some of the time — but sometimes sifting through the mass of available information seems overwhelming. Run a search for Christmas cookie recipes and you will get an avalanche of hits that leaves you no method, aside from random chance, to pick which website to review. They all promise to offer favorite recipes that people will love.
That’s where the use of finer search terms become necessary. I realized this when I happened across a website post that featured the best soft Christmas cookie recipes — just in case you’re baking for the toothless among us who must gum their holiday delicacies. So this year I did a search for Christmas cookie recipes from the 1960s and ran across a treasure trove of options, including this gem, which is described on yellowed print as “Easy-to-make cookies for those who like a not-too-sweet dessert” that are “good keepers and shippers.” I’m pretty sure Mom made these, by the way.
Ingredients: 1 cup soft butter; 1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; 2 1/2 cups unsifted flour; 1/4 teaspoon salt; red and yellow food coloring
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla until light. Stir in flour and salt until well blended, then divide dough in half.
Color one half with 1/4 teaspoon of red food coloring and 7 drops of yellow food coloring. Leave other half uncolored. Chill the dough.
Press together one level teaspoon of each color. Roll into a pencil shape, then form in a coil on the baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes at 375 degrees.
Has anyone else stopped to notice that it is December 9, 2019? That means we’re only three weeks or so away from a new decade and a new year that will remind those of us old enough to remember it of a TV news show featuring Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters. It also means we’re about to commence our twelfth year (yikes!) of publishing Christmas cookie recipes on the Webner House blog.
And yet — there are still unknown cookie recipes lurking out there, just waiting to be tried and enjoyed for the holidays. Thus, our voyage of baking discovery continues. If you’re interested in the recipes from the prior years, you can find all of them by clicking on and following the links for each year at the bottom of this post, which in turn have links to all of the recipes provided in that particular year.
The first recipe for 2019 comes by way of Aunt Corinne and the Food and Wine website and blogger Luisa Weiss. The first sentence of the description of the cookies reads: “These German raspberry-hazelnut macaroons require just five ingredients and are extremely no-fuss.” That’s a pretty compelling recommendation for cookies that will be prepared by a novice baker in the German Village neighborhood of Columbus.
Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups of whole hazelnuts; 2 large egg whites; 1/4 kosher salt; 3/4 cup sugar; 1/2 cup raspberry jam
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread hazelnuts in a pie plate and toast for about 10 minutes, until the skins split and the nuts are fragrant. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and rub together to release the skins, then let the hazelnuts cool completely.
In a food processor, pulse the hazelnuts until finely chopped. In a medium bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt at medium speed for about two minutes, until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating for five to seven minutes until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted, then fold in the chopped hazelnuts.
Use a soup spoon to scoop 1 1/2-inch rounds of the batter onto the baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake the cookies for 11 to 13 minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned; rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Remove the cookies from the oven and, while they’re still hot, carefully make an indentation in the center of each with the back of a teaspoon.
In a small saucepan, boil the raspberry jam for 30 seconds, until slightly thickened. Carefully spoon about 1 teaspoon of the hot jam into the center of each cookie. Let the jam set and the cookies cool completely before serving.
The holiday baking season is rapidly approaching, which means its prep time.
Prep time involves taking stock of what’s in the cabinet and what I’ll need to get from the store before the baking begins in earnest. After I check on that’s in the cupboard, and how much is really left in that bottle of vanilla or that container of nutmeg, I’ll prepare a comprehensive list and then make a big trip to the store. Prep time also means checking on the continuing functionality and status of the KitchenAid mixer, the Cuisinart, the cookie sheets, the mixing bowls, and the other implements that are a key part of the baking process. And where are we on cookie tins?
Since I like to try to make a few new recipes every year, the prep process also means checking out cooking and baking websites to look for some interesting new recipes. I’ll be doing that over the next few days, too. If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears.
We’ve got our Christmas lights up, and they look very nice — so nice, in fact, that one of our neighbors came up to me and thanked us for making the street more festive.
The neighbor asked me if I had put up the lights. I found this flattering, and funny. My Christmas light-stringing days are well behind me, and there is no way I would flirt with disaster and climb up a long ladder to get the lights up to the top of our tall tree. I told the neighbor, without a hint of personal masculine embarrassment, that we had hired a service to put up the lights and were pleased with the job they had done.
In my book, if you want Christmas lights done right, hire a professional — one covered by the workers compensation laws.
Thanksgiving is over, so it is officially okay to start thinking about Christmas. If you’re in Columbus and looking for a Christmas tree, stop by St. Mary’s Church in a German Village. This morning volunteers laid in a huge selection of trees to help make your holidays more festive — and pine-scented.
We’re well past the growing season in central Ohio, and it’s been too cold to enjoy sitting outside. But that doesn’t mean that flowerpots and outside benches can’t be put to good use. In our case, a few pine swags, some white birch logs, and some strategically placed pine cones and red berries give the area by our front steps a decidedly festive winter look, just in time for the holidays.
May your day be merry and bright
And my all your Christmases be white!
(And sometimes you need to take your white Christmases where you can find them.)
May you find some red and green in your day today!
If you’ve got to be traveling around Christmas, and dealing with the overall airport madness, a surprise upgrade to first class sure is a nice present. Who cares if the TV screen is mysteriously missing? It’s the additional leg room and wide seats that make all the difference, anyway.
Merry Christmas, indeed!
When I’m trying to figure out what to bake each Christmas, whether something looks like it would be tasty is always the first and most important criterion. Once that threshold is passed, however, I’m always looking for something with color and texture that will add a little dash to the cookie tins, and I also like to try recipes that are different from what I already prepare.
This recipe, which I found on the www.dinneratthezoo.com website, meets all of those requirements. The cookies are made with cornflakes, which sounds intriguing, they look great, and they are “no bake” cookies that supposedly can be made in 10 minutes — which is something I’ve not tried before.
Christmas Wreath Cookies
Ingredients: 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup); 30 large marshmallows; 1 and 1/4 teaspoon liquid green food coloring; 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract; 5 cups cornflakes; 1/2 cup red candy coated chocolates such as mini M&M’s; cooking spray
Every would-be cookie baker needs a taster — that person who will sample your fare and tell you whether the batch is brilliant . . . or a bust. I’m blessed to have the greatest taster of all under our roof, so when Kish sent along some holiday cookie recipes from the New York Times I had to pick one to try this year. I like coconut, so this was my choice.
Toasted Coconut Shortbread
Ingredients: 2 1/4 sticks cold salted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces; 1/2 cup granulated sugar; 1/4 cup light brown sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour; 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (plus more for rolling); 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon; 1 large egg, well beaten; sanding sugar
Using an electric mixer and medium bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Use a spatula to scrape down sides of bowl, then put mixer on low speed and slowly add flour, followed by 1/2 cup coconut and beat until blended.
Divide dough in half and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap. Sprinkle each piece of dough with half of the cinnamon, then fold plastic over to cover dough and use your hands to form dough into a log shape about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Chill logs in the refrigerator for 1 1/2 hours, until they are firm.
Heat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush outside of logs with egg wash, then roll logs in unsweetened coconut. Slice each log into 1/4-inch rounds. Dip each round on one side into sanding sugar and arrange on backing sheet, sugar side up, 1 inch apart. Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, until edges are just beginning to brown.