Sunday, December 18, 2011

Three Great Holiday Cookies

Ah, Christmas.  The season of hope, joy, peace and cookies.

Cookie #1 in this lineup may be basic-looking the flavor and aroma are unbeatable.  This recipe is from the fantastic book Fix Freeze Feast by Kati Neville and Lindsay Tkacsik (Storey Publishing).  Several dozen of these unbaked cookies are patiently waiting in the freezer, just waiting to be enjoyed.  Sweet!  Break out the stand mixer for this one!  Behold, the Very Vanilla Snickerdoodle.

2 cups butter, softened 
3 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons double-strength vanilla extract (I use Hawaiian Vanilla.  Amazing.)
31/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons baking powder (Open a fresh can for holiday baking!)
1/2 teaspoon fine salt

Scant 1/2 cup vanilla sugar (See below. )
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (Open a fresh jar of this, too!)

For vanilla sugar, pour 1 cup granulated sugar in the bowl of a food processor.  Add 1/4 of a vanilla bean.  Process for 30-60 seconds or until the vanilla specks are well distributed throughout the sugar.  Pour the vanilla sugar through a fine strainer to remove any large particles.  Cure the sugar in an airtight container for one week before using.  Vanilla sugar is also available in larger markets and cookware stores.

Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Set the mixer at medium-high speed and run it for about 5 minutes.  I always cream the butter and sugar for every cookie and cake that I make.  Proper creaming makes a world of difference in the finished product.

Reduce the speed to medium and add egg, milk and vanilla.  Mix until well incorporated.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add half the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat well, starting at low speed and gradually increasing it.  Beat in remaining flour mixture.  The batter will be stiff.

In a small bowl, mix Topping ingredients.  Label seven quart-sized freezer bags.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll the dough balls in the Topping and place on a rimmed baking sheet.  Place in freezer for 30 minutes.

Remove dough balls from freezer and place a dozen into each labeled bag.

Seal and freeze.  To bake one dozen cookies, place frozen cookies 3 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.   Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until tops crack.  Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes.  Remove them to a cooling rack.

<<-  <<-  <<-  <<-  <<-  <<-  <<- <<-  <<-  <<- <<-  <<-  <<-  <<-  <<-  <<-  <<-

Cookie #2 was inspired by a trip down the baking aisle at a local warehouse club.  This recipe was printed on the back of Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownie Mix box!  I baked these, cooled them completely, stashed them into freezer bags and will thaw them out--in the bags--the day before stashing them into gift tins.  They are chewy, crunchy with the addition of nuts and have a perfect balance of chocolate and coffee flavors.  Behold, Chocolate Espresso Cookies.

3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee powder or instant coffee powder
1 package Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownie Mix
1 large egg
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.  (I'm partial to the parchment.)  Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine water and espresso powder.  Stir until dissolved.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine brownie mix, egg, oil, cinnamon and the espresso mixture.   Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl.  Stir in chocolate an nuts with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheet.

Bake about 6-8 minutes or until edges are just set.  (Centers may appear doughy.)  Do not overbake.  Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.

I used a tablespoon-sized Wilton cookie scoop and leveled off the dough before depositing the dollops onto the cookie sheet.  My cookie took about 15 minutes to bake.  You do want the centers to look a little moist; this is what creates the chewy texture.  You don't want them to taste like raw dough, though. The tops should look matte and set.  

<<-  <<-  <<-  <<-  <<-  <<-  <<-  <<-  <<-  <<-  <<- <<-  <<-  <<-  <<-  <<-  <<-

Last, but not least, is a cookie that is the very essence of Christmas for me.  The season always divides the world into two groups:  Those who love fruitcake and those who hate it.  I'm definitely in the former camp.  If you hate fruitcake, at least try it in this cookie form.  This jumble of fruits, nuts, butter and brandy may very well expand your horizons!

Fruitcake Cookies

1/2 cup softened, unsalted butter
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
1/2 cup brandy or bourbon
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 pound golden raisins
1/2 pound Sunsweet whole pitted dates, chopped 
1/4 pound candied, chopped orange peel
1 pound candied red cherries, chopped
3/4 pound candied pineapple, chopped
1/2 pound walnut halves
1/2 pound pecan halves

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar for five minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.  Add milk, vanilla and brandy and thoroughly mix.  It may appear curdled.  That's okay.  Add 3/4 cup of the flour, mix well and set aside. 

In a separate large bowl, add remaining flour, spices, fruits and nuts.  Toss to combine.  Pour the batter over the fruit and nut mixture and stir well with a wooden spoon.  Refrigerate overnight.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Using a tablespoon-sized cookie scoop, portion out the dough.  Firmly compact the dough while forming it into balls.  Place the dough balls on the baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.  Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned and set.  Rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking.  Allow to cool for 2 minutes before transferring the cookies to a cooling rack.  Cool completely and store them in an airtight tin.  These are delicious when freshly made, but they're even better after a week of aging.  If they last that long, that is.  My supply is dwindling!

Enjoy and have a wonderful, blessed Christmas!

Pin It

1 comment:

  1. the snickerdoodle looks amazing! i might have to try this. snickerdoodles are the hub's favorite cookie.



Related Posts with Thumbnails
A smiling face is half the meal. (Latvian proverb)