Sunday, November 13, 2011

Christmas Cookies!

I just spent a fabulous 4 days in Charleston, SC, so I have a ton of pictures to download and organize for another post about eating my way though the city. While that is in progress, I thought I would share a few of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes that I'm planning to make this year. I will take some pictures of the finished cookies when I make them and post later.

I like to take a whole day and do nothing but make dough. One big day of trashing my kitchen and massive cleanup, and then when I'm ready to bake it's not such a mess. I scoop the finished dough into large Ziploc bags that I've labeled with the name, oven temp, baking time, and any other unique instructions, so when I'm ready to bake I can dig right in without having to pull the recipes again. Flatten the dough inside the bags, and they will stack up nicely in the freezer. It works best to thaw them out in the fridge when you're ready to use them, so allow enough time for that if you decide to go that route.

Here goes:


I'll start with this because it works with 2 of the recipes I'll post. If you are uncomfortable with using raw egg white, you can substitute meringue powder (the icing won't taste as good) or use the egg whites in the carton. Eggs in the U.S. are pasteurized, and there is some process with the sugar that "cooks" them, so there really isn't anything to worry about... I have been making this for many years and nobody has ever gotten sick from eating my cookies.

2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg white
1 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Food coloring as desired (The paste coloring in the little jars works best, you can control the intensity of the color very easily and get darker colors if you want.) The icing is a nice white color, so it's not necessary to color it if white is what you need.



These are cute little star-shaped delights. I got the recipe from a magazine page that someone had brought to work - I have no idea what magazine it was because it was probably close to 20 years ago. You can dust the finished cookies with powdered sugar, but I like to ice them with the Decorative Icing recipe above with a little coffee added for flavor.

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon water

2 cups flour
Beat 1 cup unsalted butter or margarine, 1 cup white sugar, 6 tablespoons cocoa powder and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a large bowl . Beat in egg. Stir 2 teaspoons coffee powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon water in a cup to dissolve coffee. Beat into butter mixture. On low speed, beat in 2 cups flour just until blended.
Divide dough in half and shape into a disk. Wrap and chill until firm.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Have ready a 3 inch star cookie cutter. Roll dough on a well floured rolling surface to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out stars and place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. I know that may sound a little too close together, but they will not spread while they're baking, so it's okay. Bonus is that you can get a lot of cookies on the sheet. Bake for 8 minutes or until crisp.
Frost with Basic Decorative Icing flavored by using strong coffee instead of the water.



This is a great variation on the old stand-by Peanut Butter Blossoms that everyone makes. The cookies are very festive looking with their pretty pink color and little bits of cherries throughout, and we all know chocolate makes everything better! It's nice if you can find the bags of unwrapped Hershey's Kisses, otherwise have fun unwrapping. I have also made these with Brach's chocolate stars.

1 cup butter (softened)
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp Maraschino cherry juice
½ tsp almond extract
3-4 drops red food coloring
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp salt
½ cup chopped Maraschino cherries
48 Hershey’s kisses, unwrapped

Heat oven to 350F. In large bowl combine butter, powdered sugar, cherry juice, almond extract and food coloring; blend well. Stir in flour and salt. Add cherries; mix well. Form dough into 1 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately top each cookie with a chocolate kiss. Remove from cookie sheets and cool on rack - the kisses will melt but will hold their shape and firm up again while they cool.



This recipe came from a lovely lady named Opal that I knew when I lived in McCook, NE back in the early '80s. I've seen this recipe called "Reindeer Poop", but I am not going there. "Haystacks" may be another name for them. I cannot stress enough to work quickly when you are spooning this onto the waxed paper, it sets up really fast.

3 cups quick oats
¾ cup coconut
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
½ cup evaporated milk
½ cup butter (1 stick)
1 tsp vanilla

Mix oats and coconut in a large bowl, set aside. Mix sugar, cocoa, evaporated milk and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in vanilla. Pour over oat/coconut mixture, mix well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper – work quickly!



Back in 1991 I spent the first half of the year in Sioux Falls, SD, studying to become a nurse practitioner. This recipe came from Teri, a fellow student. It was from one of our many get-togethers where we shared our favorite treats and recipes, and the gatherings usually involved adult beverages. We had to fit in some fun somewhere in between the hours spent in the medical library and the classroom! This makes wonderful melt-in-your-mouth shortbread that is not too sweet, which is a nice change from the onslaught of sweetness we subject ourselves to during this time of year.

3 cups flour (sifted)
1 cup rice flour
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp sugar
1 lb. salted butter
½ tsp salt

Heat oven to 390 degrees (I know this sounds weird, but I swear I copied it correctly. My oven has digital setting, so it will do this, otherwise just set it at 400 and watch it so you don't overbake.)

Cream butter and sugars. Mix in flours and salt. Spread in 10 x 15 inch pan leaving a ½ inch rim around the edges.

Bake at 390 degrees x 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake an additional 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from oven and immediately prick all over with a fork. Cut while still warm.



This is my go-to recipe for whenever I need cutout sugar cookies any time of the year - I love that they are like little blank canvases to be filled with whatever your imagination desires. You need to make the dough the day before you bake so it can chill in the fridge overnight. I will often bake them one day and then frost and decorate the next, or freeze the undecorated cookies to use later. Just make sure they are completely cooled before you ice them.

2 ½ cups flour
1 cup butter (softened)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 ½ tsp grated lemon peel
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla

Combine butter and sugar, cream until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, lemon peel, and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients just until combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Heat oven to 350F. Grease 4 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. Divide dough into quarters, working with 1 quarter at a time. Place between 2 pieces of waxed paper and roll out to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into shapes with floured 2” cookie cutter. You can place them fairly close together because they should hold their shape and not spread out when they bake.

Bake 8-9 minutes until edges are barely golden - it's best if the edges don't brown at all. Cool on wire racks. Makes 7 dozen - depending on the size of your cookie cutters. Ice with BASIC DECORATIVE ICING and decorate as desired.



This is one of my dad's favorites. I got the recipe a couple of decades ago from a friend and co-worker, Peg. The cookies are spicy, chewy, and so delicious. To dress them up, dip about 1/3 of each cookie into melted white almond bark and sprinkle with some colorful edible glitter, sanding sugar, or finely chopped candied ginger.

2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp cloves
1 tsp ginger
¾ cup Butter Crisco
1 cup sugar
1 egg
¼ cup molasses

Mix Crisco and sugar. Add egg and molasses. Sift all dry ingredients twice, then add to mixture. Shape into tablespoon sized balls and roll in sugar.
Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.


Alright then, that should be enough to get you started if you want to try these. More to come later!