Sunday, December 13, 2015

Holiday Cookies, 2015 Edition

After last year's holiday cookie fest, I decided to cut the number of cookie flavors I'd make by a third. Instead, this year I ended up with two more.

I began the process this fall, going through magazines, cookbooks, and websites, trying to find the right balance of flavors, colors, and textures for my table. Then, in mid-November, I began making doughs and stuffing them into my freezer. Last week and this week, I've been steadily baking them off, ending with a frenzied day of decorating before the party.

There's no time for actual baking on the day of the party. It takes two hours to simply place all these different cookies on plates!

Here are a few closer up shots of the cookies:

The brownie-stuffed chocolate chip cookies were the hands-down most popular cookie--all gone by the party's end.

My favorite are the gingerbread (far left).  Also pictured here are (on the first tiered stand, top to bottom), lime beltways, dark chocolate stars, caramel crumb bars, orange cookies, black forest (cherry-chocolate) cookies, and oatmeal lace.

On the glass tiered stand, you can see girl scout thin mints, jam-filled pinwheels and windows, and rose sandwich cookies, so difficult to make, but beautiful. On the silver stand are some banana bars with cream cheese frosting, peanut butter blossoms, and extremely delicious coconut macaroons.

At the top of the picture are some key lime pie cookies (my adaptation in miniature of a key lime pie cupcake sized version) and black and white cookies. In the center of the picture are almond crescents dipped in powdered sugar and chocolate cookie cups with milk chocolate ganache filling. In front are cinnamon espresso cookies (filled with chocolate covered espresso beans), candy cane cookies (so fragile, I prayed they'd make it to the party without breaking too much!), and gluten-free plus dairy-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies (no flour or butter, pretty much peanut butter and sugar!).

At the bottom of this picture, you can see a great shot of a plate of assorted thumbprints. Using two types of dough, you can make an amazing number of different flavored cookies. My favorite was a vanilla dough, rolled in non-pareil sprinkles, and filled with white buttercream frosting--an insanely rich guilty pleasure. Next to that are lemon bars, which were a sticky favorite that I had to keep refilling during the party.  At the top right is a tiered stand with pecan tastes, lemon cardamom crinkles (one of my favorites), and cranberry bliss cookies, an inspired riff on the Starbucks cranberry bliss bar.

Behind the lemon bars are Mexican hot chocolate cookies, drizzled with cajeta, a goat's milk dulce de leche. Next to those are a trifle dish filled with pumpkin macarons sandwiched with pumpkin ganache--a very difficult cookie to make, but very popular as well. Up front is a tray of Italian-themed cookies:  pignoli, or pine nut cookies, dipped in powdered sugar; milano sandwich cookies, some flavored with mint (pink) and others with almond (blond); a ring of pistachio and chocolate checkerboard cookies--absolutely buttery and delicious, from the cookbook The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle.

On the top left, we have my mom's Hannukah cookies, decorated in pink, yellow, green, blue, and purple buttercream frosting. On the raised plate in back are linzer cookies, almond-vanilla dough filled with raspberry jam and topped with powdered sugar. Finally, in front are red velvet whoopie pies with cream cheese filling, a perennial favorite. I can never make enough of them!

Here's a complete list of the cookies below, as well as links to some of the recipes if you want to try them at home!  The recipes without links were not available online, but I may be adding them over time...

1.  Gingerbread with lemon icing
2.  Lime meltaways
3.  Dark chocolate stars
4.  Caramel crumb bars
5.  Orange cookies
6.  Black forest (chocolate cherry) cookies
7.  Oatmeal lace cookies (bake these on silicon mats for the best results)
8.  Chocolate covered thin mints
9.  Jam-filled pinwheels and windows (bake these at 350, not 375 as the recipe directs and PINCH HARD or the cookies will explode in the oven)
10. Rose sandwiches with fluff buttercream
11. Brownie-stuffed chocolate chip cookies
12. Banana bars with cream cheese frosting
13. Peanut butter blossoms
14. Coconut macaroons
15. Almond crescents (from Joy of Cooking)
16. Cinnamon espresso cookies
17. Candy cane cookies
18. Key lime pie cookies (make these in mini muffin tins, bake the crust for 5 minutes only)
19. Black and white cookies
20. Chocolate cookie cups with milk chocolate ganache filling
21. Gluten-free/Dairy-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies
22. Pecan tassies
23. Lemon cardamom crinkles
24. Cranberry bliss cookies
25. Assorted thumbprints
26. Mexican hot chocolate cookies
27. Lemon bars (the best lemon bars ever, hands down)
28. Pumpkin macarons with pumpkin ganache (this recipe has several mistakes in it and is difficult to make. Only attempt if you're an experienced baker with a lot of patience and time on your hands)
29. Frosted sugar cookies
30. Milano sandwich cookies
31. Chocolate pistachio checkerboard cookies
32. Pignoli cookies
33. Linzer cookies (a tough dough to work with out of the fridge, but it gets easier as it goes along and is so wonderful to taste!)
34. Red velvet whoopie pies (I omit the peppermint in the recipe, replace it with vanilla in the filling)