a christmas cookie sampler

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Clockwise from the top: black and white and green cookies; Mexican wedding cakes rolled in strawberry sugar and plain; Cranny Garcias (a riff on Cherry Garcias); chewy cinnamon snickerdoodles; and in the center, iced gingerbread stamped cookies

These cookies have the slightly bitter taste of mint, the sweetness and crunch of coarse sugar, and the smooth caress of chocolate. To ramp up the peppermint flavor, I have added a drop or two of peppermint.

Black and White and Green Cookies (adapted from Bon Appétit)

2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups (320 g) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt, plus more (1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt)
2 cups (packed; 45 g) fresh mint leaves
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks or 284 g) frozen unsalted butter, grated
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1-2 drops peppermint extract, optional

Toppings
Coarse white sanding sugar
1 cup (120 g) powdered sugar
2 tablespoons (20 g) Dutch process or unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon light corn syrup*
*Substitute golden honey or simple syrup (1 cup sugar to 1/4 cup water, heated until dissolved)

Special equipment:
One 3-inch diameter cookie cutter

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicone baking mat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk to combine 2 teaspoons baking powder, 320 g flour, and 1 teaspoon salt. Pulse 45 g mint and 200 g sugar in a food processor until mint is finely chopped. Add peppermint, if using. Add 284 g butter and pulse until just combined; butter will still be visible. Add dry ingredients and pulse to combine. Add egg and egg yolk. Pulse until a shaggy dough forms.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead just until dough holds its shape. Divide dough in half; pat each portion into a one-inch thick disk. Wrap disks in plastic and chill until firm, at least 2 hours. Can DO AHEAD.

Place rack in middle of oven. Preheat to 350˚F/175˚C. Working with one disk at a time, roll out dough on a silicone baking mat to about 1/4 inch thick. Dusting mat with flour may not be necessary. Cut rounds with lightly floured cookie cutter and arrange on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1-inch apart. Only make enough rounds to fill one baking sheet. Refrigerate the left overs until ready to use. Pat dough scraps into a 1-inch thick disk, wrap in plastic, and chill 10 minutes if soft. Repeat process with scraps.

Hold a bench scraper upright 1-inch from the edge of the cookie to mark off a shallow semicircle (see picture above) but do not press down into the dough. While holding the scraper steady, sprinkle sanding sugar within the semicircle, gently pressing to adhere. Lift up the scraper. You should have a tidy sugared edge. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Baker’s Note: You’ll be making a “V” with a sugared edge on one wide and chocolate on the other

Bake cookies one batch at a time. Rotate baking sheet halfway through until edges are lightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Cool 10 minutes on baking sheet then transfer cookies to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Cool completely. DO AHEAD: 1 day. Store tightly wrapped on a rimmed baking sheet at room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Add corn syrup/honey/simple syrup, pinch of salt, and 2 tablespoons warm water. Stir until smooth and glossy.

Position bench scraper to make another shallow semicircle on the other side of the cookie, angling it so that it forms a V with the sugared edge. Lightly press the scraper into the cookie to make a barrier. While holding the scraper, spoon 1 teaspoon glaze on the exposed semicircle. Use a toothpick to help coat evenly, letting the excess chocolate drip over the edges onto the baking sheet below. Lift scraper straight up and over the chocolate side to create a neat edge. Repeat with remaining cookies. Let sit until glaze is set, at least 2 hours.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Mexican wedding cakes also called Russian tea cakes, are a favourite during the holidays. Lightly sweet with every bite the taste of almonds. This year, I rolled them in strawberry powdered sugar.

Mexican Wedding Cakes

1 cup (2 sticks or 227 g) frozen unsalted butter, grated
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, or other nuts, toasted and finely ground (if using hazelnuts, wrap in a dishtowel while still warm and roll about until most of the brown skins come off)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then nuts. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F/175˚C. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and cinnamon, if using, in pie dish to blend. Set cinnamon sugar aside.

Working with half of chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls. Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing cookies 1/2 inch apart. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 18 minutes. Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon sugar to coat completely. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. (Cookies can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature; reserve remaining cinnamon sugar.)

Sift remaining cinnamon sugar over cookies and serve. Makes about 4 dozen.

Variation:
Pastel Mexican Wedding Cookies:
½ cup freeze dried fruit, e.g. strawberries, kiwi, blueberries, mango
½ cup powdered sugar
Process the freeze dried fruit and powdered sugar together until very fine. Roll the warm cookies in the sugar then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

This year, I substituted a cup of cranberries soaked in a tablespoon or two of rum (exact measurements don’t matter!) and warm water. Result: “Cranny” Garcia cookies!

Cherry Garcia Cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup dried cherries (or cranberries)
1-1/2 cups (192 g) flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (113g) frozen unsalted butter, grated
1/2 cup granulated white sugar [substitute superfine or caster sugar]
1/2 cup light brown sugar, (packed then sifted)
1 egg
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely-chopped unsalted macadamia nuts or almonds (optional)

Preparation:
1. Place dried cherries on a cutting board and coarsely chop. For a moister cookie, soak the cherries in hot water for a few minutes to plump them up. Drain well or squeeze out the water. For more of a kick, soak cherries in rum or brandy.
2. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. In a separate large bowl, cream together butter and the sugars on low speed. On low speed, beat in egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Add flour mixture to butter mixture half at a time and mix on low speed until combined. By hand, fold in cherries, white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and nuts, if using.
4. Refrigerate cookie dough 30 to 45 minutes to firm up.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners.
6. Using a cookie scoop, drop dough onto prepared baking sheets, placing cookies about 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart. Bake one batch at a time.
7. Bake each batch 12 to 14 minutes (10-12 minutes in a convection oven) until lightly browned around the edges. Cool 10 minutes on cookie sheets before removing to racks to cool completely. Store air tight in a covered container.

There’s nothing that says “Christmas is here” than these chewy cinnamon cookies.

Snickerdoodles

1 cup (2 sticks, 227 g) frozen unsalted butter, grated
1 1/2 cups (300 g) superfine sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups (352 g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cinnamon sugar
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Heat oven 375˚F/200˚C. Prepare a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix until fully incorporated. With the mixer on low, add the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out rounded balls and put them close to each other on the cookie sheet. It’s recommended to do one batch at a time.

Mix together the 3 tablespoon sugar and cinnamon in a medium sized bowl. Roll each ball in the cinnamon mixture and place on the baking tray about two inches apart. Bake 6-8 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheet and let cool on wire cooling racks.

I had plans to make and decorate gingerbread this year. But it was not to be! The cold weather abruptly left me with a hot kitchen. Chilled cookie dough rapidly softened in the heat. So instead I made iced gingerbread stamped cookies using the stamps from a moon cake mould I bought on Amazon.

Iced Gingerbread Stamped Cookies

wet ingredients
Servings: 14 cookies
Cook Time 10 mins
Calories: 154kcal
6 tbsp 85 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 packed cup plus 2 tbsp (90 g dark brown sugar), sifted to get out the lumps
1/3 cup 100 g molasses
1 large egg yolk
dry ingredients
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp (235 g all-purpose flour) 1 tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
glaze
1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar 1 Tbs/15g unsalted butter melted 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp warm water
Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 375F/190C Put your cookie stamps in the freezer to chill. Skip this step if the stamps are plastic.
2. Cream together the butter, sugar, and molasses in a stand mixer or with electric beaters. Beat in the egg yolk.
3. Sift together the dry ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, beating on low until the dough comes together.
4. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until all the floury crumbles are incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk and then roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness. I did not have to chill my dough before rolling, but if yours is very soft, you may want to.

5. Dip the cookie stamps in a little flour. Press the cookie stamps firmly into the dough, and then use a round cookie cutter slightly larger or slightly smaller than the stamp itself to cut out the cookies.
6. Transfer the cookies to a lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. You don’t want to over bake these cookies, so do a test cookie or two to figure out the best timing for your oven. The cookies will be soft when you remove them from the oven, but will firm up as they cool.
7. While the cookies are baking whisk the glaze ingredients together until they become a smooth thin glaze. Add more water if the glaze is too thick, it should have the consistency of maple syrup or a thin honey.
8. Put the cookies on a cooling rack and brush them with the glaze while still slightly warm. The glaze will dry in about 30 minutes.

Happy Holidays!

chocolate chip cookies

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When we lived in Milwaukee in the 80s this recipe was printed in the Milwaukee Journal. This was before the internet so instead of copying and pasting the recipe, I clipped it from the newspaper. It’s been in my recipe collection ever since. This cookie is chewy and soft, just the way I like it.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from The Milwaukee Journal

1 cup or 16 tablespoons shortening (or 1/2 unsalted butter, 1/2 shortening), room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar, sifted to get out the lumps
1 cup white sugar (substitute 1/2 cup Domino Light sugar)
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 pkg (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375˚F

2. Let butter/shortening soften at room temperature. In a bowl put shortening with butter, if using, add sugar and cream until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla.

3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture. Mix thoroughly. Add chocolate chips by hand.

4. Scoop dough in a cookie scoop onto ungreased cookie sheet. Set each cookie dough ball 2 inches apart. Bake at 375˚ for 8-10 minutes or until done. Cookies are done when touched in the center and your finger barely leaves an imprint. Cool cookies on a wire rack before stacking.

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four days before christmas: mexican wedding cakes and more cookies

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(Left to right) Cherry Garcia and Ginger Cookies, Mexican Wedding Cakes

Because I didn’t have time to bake yesterday, I decided to experiment with refrigerating the cookies for 24 hours before baking. I don’t know if it helped, but I got very plump cookies from all of these recipes.

The first one, Cherry Garcia is named after the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. They are filled with cherries, chocolate white and dark, but no nuts. I left that out–just a preference. The second recipe, Ginger Cookies, I used fresh ginger because I had it on hand. I didn’t notice any difference in sweetness, but then I don’t like a very sweet cookie. The third recipe, Mexican Wedding Cakes, is variously called Snowballs or Russian Tea Cakes. I used almonds to make this batch but the original recipe from The Smitten Kitchen said to use pecans or hazelnuts.

Cherry Garcia Cookies
(From Marcy Goldman, Pastry Chef, Montreal, Canada, for About.com)

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 10-14 minutes

Ingredients:
1 cup dried cherries
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (113g) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated white sugar [substitute superfine or caster sugar]
1/2 cup light brown sugar, (packed then sifted)
1 egg
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely-chopped unsalted macadamia nuts or almonds (optional)

Preparation:
1. Place dried cherries on a cutting board and coarsely chop. For a moister cookie, soak the cherries in hot water or cherry liqueur for a few minutes to plump them up. Drain well or squeeze out the liquid.
2. Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. In a separate large bowl, cream together butter and the sugars on low speed. On low speed, beat in egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Add flour mixture to butter mixture half at a time and mix on low speed until combined. By hand, fold in drained cherries, white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and nuts, if using.
4. Refrigerate cookie dough 30 to 45 minutes to firm up.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
6. Using a cookie scoop, drop dough onto prepared baking sheets, placing cookies about 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart. Bake one batch at a time.

Baker’s Note: I roll each dough ball lightly in my hands to round the cookies evenly.

Bake each batch 12 to 14 minutes (10-12 minutes in a convection oven) until lightly browned around the edges. Cool 10 minutes on cookie sheets before removing to racks to cool completely. Store air tight in a covered container.

Ginger Cookies (adapted from: foodnetwork.com)

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
5 turns freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter or vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 cup (112g) white granulated sugar (use 1/2 cup brown sugar if you’re using maple syrup)
1/4 cup (50g) dark brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses, honey, or maple syrup
2 tablespoons ginger preserves or grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup demerara sugar for rolling cookies

Preparation:
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, mustard, salt and black pepper together.

In a large bowl, beat the butter/shortening and the sugars with an electric mixer on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat on medium speed until just incorporated, about 20 seconds. Add the molasses and ginger preserves and continue beating until the batter is an even light brown color, 30 seconds more.

Add the dry ingredients all at once, beating slowly to make a soft, smooth dough. Use a rubber spatula to make sure all ingredients are combined. Then beat again for 20 seconds. Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate the dough until firm, about 25 minutes.

Put about 1/2 cup demerara sugar in a small bowl. With a cookie scoop or a small ice cream scoop, portion the dough into a slightly heaping tablespoon for each cookie. Roll the dough, by hand, into balls. Roll the tops of the balls in the sugar, and space them 2 inches apart on a nonstick or lightly oiled cookie sheet. Alternatively, line the pan with parchment and do not grease. Refrigerate until firm, about 25 minutes. (The chilling is what gives this cookie a beautiful, crackly crunch on top, and a soft, chewy center.)

Preheat oven to 375˚F. (Preheat convection oven 180˚C). If using a pan with a dark non-stick finish, reduce heat to 350˚F.

Bake until the top is crackly, and the insides peeking through the cracks are dark and moist but not raw, about 15 to 20 minutes (10-15 minutes in convection oven). Cool the cookies 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Serve or store in a tightly sealed container for up to 3 weeks.

Baker’s Note:
ϖ Ginger preserves give lots of flavor without the hard chunks of crystallized ginger. It is found in Asian grocery stores.
ϖ To substitute for preserved ginger, use grated fresh ginger. Add sugar to taste for every tablespoon of fresh grated ginger. I didn’t add any extra sugar and the taste was just fine!
ϖ Makes about 30 cookies using a 1 1/2 inch scoop.

Mexican Wedding Cakes (adapted from The Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:
1 cup (227g or 2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup almonds, toasted and finely ground (it will be the texture of demerara sugar)

Preparation:
Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then almonds. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes.

Baker’s Note: If you refrigerate the cookie dough overnight, let it sit 5 minutes on the counter top before scooping them into balls. This will allow the butter to soften.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered in pie dish. Set sugar aside.
Working with half of chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls.

Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 17-18 minutes. Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Remove to wire rack to finish cooling. Gently toss cooled cookies in sugar to coat completely. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough.

Baker’s Note: I used 1 1/2 inch scoop.

Sift remaining sugar over cookies and serve. Makes about 4 dozen. With scoop I got about 3 dozen cookies.

Cookies can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature; reserve remaining sugar.