Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Cookie Ideas

Though I'm not Christian, I love making "holiday" cookies.  Okay, let's not kid ourselves.  These are actually Christmas cookies, but somehow calling them "holiday" cookies alleviates any sense of Jewish guilt I have over baking them.

Every year, I make big batches of cookies and then divide them up to give as gifts. I usually have a few standbys that I go to every year, like lemon gingerbread trees or chocolate snowfall cookies. But this time of year is also a time to try out some new recipes, usually with the aid of my partner-in-holiday-baking, poet Jeanne-Marie Beaumont.

This year, we tried out four recipes, all of which were hits:  "Amy-o's," which were chocolate wafer sandwich cookies filled with Kahlua buttercream, from a book called The Good Cookie; citrus thumbprints and pistachio-raspberry cookie sandwiches, both delicious and both from the very last stand-alone issue of Everyday Food; and finally "cinnamon sledges," which should be called "cinnamon pecan bars," from an old issue of Ladies Home Journal. They're easy and phenomenal-tasting!  I've attached a photo of the recipe here.

A couple of other recipes I tried this year included candy cane cookies, pictured above. I'd always wanted to make them, and though they look pretty, they're a bit of a pain because the dough is quite finicky to roll out and braid to achieve the candy cane look. Though they're traditionally peppermint-flavored, I did these with almond, just for  a change of pace. The results were a fragile cookie that was a bit dry, but very tasty right out of the oven. I'd like to experiment with them more to see if there isn't some way to liven them up.

I was a huge fan of another new recipe:  peppermint sugar chocolate-chip cookies. I suppose you could make these in different flavors, but I love the way the crushed candy canes sprinkled on top look on the cookie. These, plus the cinanmon sledges, have been my favorites of the holiday baking season.  Enjoy!

Peppermint Sugar Chocolate Cookies
(adapted from Everyday Food)

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4-1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
3-5 tablespoons heavy cream
12 round peppermint candies, crushed, for decorating

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat butter, granulated sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract on medium-high until pale and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in egg, then flour mixture on low. Stir in chocolate chips.

Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place, 2 inches apart, on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until edges are lightly golden, about 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to racks and let cool completely.

Stir together confectioners' sugar and enough cream to make a spreadable glaze (if you like a strong mint flavor, stir in up to 1/4 teaspoon extract). Spread a thin layer of glaze on top of each cookie and sprinkle with candies. Let dry completely on racks.