Christmas cookies and holiday recipes

Over the years, I’ve made it a goal to develop Christmas cookie recipes that flirt with, but don’t stick to, tradition.

Chocolaty Snow Day Cookies

Snowed in or don’t want to face the bitter cold? Make these fun cookies and bake the day away.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Recipe from Susan Nye’s Around the Table

Ingredients:
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. instant coffee
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Confectioners’ sugar
White chocolate truffles
Mini chocolate chips
Coconut (optional)
Orange candies – gumdrops, jellybeans, candy corn or Swedish Fish
Directions:

Put cocoa powder, flour, coffee and cinnamon in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Put butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and continue mixing until well combined.

Add dry ingredients and, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times, mix on low speed until combined. Divide the dough in half, wrap each half in plastic, and flatten into disks. Chill until firm, at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicon baking mats or parchment paper.

Lightly sprinkle a clean work surface with confectioners’ sugar. Roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Staying with the snow day theme, use snowflake cookie cutters to create a chocolaty blizzard. Alternatively, cut 2-3 inch circles and use them as the base for Melted Snowman cookies.

Spacing the cookies 1/2 inch apart, place them on the baking sheets.

Gather and chill any excess dough and roll out again.

Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes. Let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for 5 minutes; transfer to wire racks to cool.

Decorate the Snowflake Cookies: Use a knife or a pastry bag with a small decorating tip to frost the cookies with warm White Chocolate Ganache and sprinkle with coconut.

Decorate the Melted Snowman Cookies: Cut the truffles in half. Cut the orange candies to resemble a tiny carrot.

Spoon warm White Chocolate Ganache on top of each cookie to cover and resemble a pile of melted snow. Top with a truffle half. Add eyes and buttons with mini chocolate chips. Add a nose with a piece of orange candy.

White Chocolate Ganache
12 oz. white chocolate
3 T. butter
6 T. heavy cream
4 T. sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Put chocolate, butter and cream in a heavy sauce pan over low heat. When the chocolate starts to melt, remove from heat and let sit for about 3 minutes. Whisk the chocolate until smooth; add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and whisk again until smooth.


Sugar and Spice Cookies

Instead of plain old sugar cookies, I bake sugar and spicy sandwich cookies. They’re filled with chocolate, and who doesn’t like chocolate?

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Recipe from Susan Nye’s Around the Table

Ingredients:
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
Grated peel of 1 orange
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 large egg
1 T. orange juice
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for rolling out the dough

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and spices.

Put the butter and sugars in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the flour mixture to make a rough dough. Press the dough into a two balls and then flatten into disks or form into logs. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours or until firm.

Evenly space the racks in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Transfer the dough to a work surface lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Roll out the dough to about 1/4-inch thick and cut into cookies with decorative cutters. Press the excess dough together, roll and cut more cookies. Or slice 1/4-inch rounds from the logs you formed. Transfer the cookies to a parchment-lined or nonstick baking sheet.

Leave the cookies plain, sprinkle with colored sugar or decorate with chocolate chips, raisins or currants. Bake until the cookies’ edges are golden, about 20 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Once cooled, frost the undecorated cookies with Royal Icing (recipe follows) and then decorate with sprinkles, chocolate chips, raisins, currants and/or colored sugars.

Christmas Royal Icing
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

3 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar
5 T. meringue powder (egg white powder)
1 tsp. cinnamon
5-7 T. orange juice
Food coloring (optional)

Place the confectioners’ sugar, meringue powder and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine. With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the orange juice until icing is thick and stiff peaks form.

If you want colored frosting, slowly add the food coloring a few drops at a time and mix until the color is uniform and the desired tint.

Ice the cookies and decorate with sprinkles, chocolate chips or candies. Let rest until the icing sets, about 30 minutes.


Sugar and Spice Sandwich Cookies

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Recipe from Susan Nye’s Around the Table

Ingredients:

2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
Pinch nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache (recipe follows)

Directions:

In medium bowl, whisk together flour and spices.

Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add sugar and beat for 3 minutes more. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add dry ingredients and beat on low speed until combined.

Divide dough into two balls and flatten into disks. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.

Evenly space racks in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats.

Put dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out dough and cut into cookies with round cookie cutters. Press excess dough together, roll and cut more cookies. You may want to stick the dough in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up. Transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheets.

Using decorative mini-cutters – stars, trees, etc. – cut out the center of 1/2 of the cookies. Place the mini-cookies on a separate baking sheet or use the dough to make more sandwich cookies.

Bake until the cookies’ edges are golden, about 7-10 minutes. Cool on a rack.

When cooled, spread Chocolate Ganache on the cookies that you left whole. Top with the cookies with the holes. (Enjoy the mini cookies with your mid-morning coffee.)

The cookies can be stored for up to 1 week in an airtight container.

Chocolate Ganache

4 oz. chocolate (milk or dark – whichever you prefer), chopped
1 T. butter
3 T. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. powdered expresso or coffee
2-4 T. sifted confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Heat cream and melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir in espresso. Add chocolate; remove from the heat and let sit 5 minutes. Stir to combine; if necessary return to low heat for a few minutes, and continue stirring until smooth. Add confectioner’s sugar and stir until smooth. Let cool for a few minutes before frosting the cookies.


Spicy Gingerbread Houses and Cookies

You can use this recipe to make a gingerbread house or gingerbread cookies.

Recipe from Susan Nye’s Around the Table

Ingredients:
6 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 T. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 c. dark molasses
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Snowy Icing (recipe follows)

For decorations: Assortment of colorful candies such as Necco Wafers, gum drops, peppermint drops, M & M’s, chocolate chips, raisins, Red Hots, Snow Caps, Life Savers, mini Tootsie rolls, candy canes and a variety sanding sugars and granulated sugar

For snow people: Marzipan and food coloring or marshmallows and pretzel sticks

For a base of the gingerbread house: Heavy cardboard or a cutting board

To make the gingerbread dough:

Put flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg in large bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, molasses and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Add dry ingredients a little at a time, mixing after each addition until just combined. Shape the dough into 3 or 4 thick disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

To bake, assemble and decorate a Gingerbread House:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for your gingerbread house mold or line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out 1/4-inch thick and press into mold. If you don’t have a mold, cut out walls and roof (see sample templates).

Bake until firm about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool completely.

Find a spare cutting board or cut a heavy cardboard base that is large enough to hold your house, a few snowdrifts and a snowman or two. Use a pastry bag filled with icing and fitted with a medium plain tip to assemble your house. Glue house walls together by setting them up on the base and piping icing at the joints.

Go out in the snow and play for 30 minutes while the walls set.

Using the pastry bag and medium tip; attach the roof pieces with more icing.

While the roof pieces are setting, make snow people. For marzipan snow people, use food coloring to dye the marzipan. Work the marzipan like Play-Doh to form figurines. For marshmallow snow people, use a dab of snowy icing to glue marshmallows together. Create arms with pretzel sticks and eyes with whole cloves or mini chocolate chips.

When the roof has set, decorate your house and yard with more snowy icing, colorful candies and white sanding or granulated sugar.

To bake and decorate gingerbread cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats

Cut dough with a variety of holiday cookie cutters. Lay cookies onto baking sheets about 1-inch apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes; cool on the pan for 5-10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Use pastry bag filled with icing and fitted with a small tip to decorate cookies. Sprinkle cookies with colorful sanding sugar and embellish with colorful candies, chocolate chips or raisins.

Snowy Icing

1 lb. confectioners’ sugar, plus more if needed

6 T. egg white powder

About 1/4 c. water

With a hand mixer beat sugar, egg white powder and water on low speed until smooth. Add more sugar or water to get a pipeable consistency.


Ginger Shortbread

As for ginger, a staple flavor in holiday baking, I prefer my ginger shortbread to an army of gingerbread boys and girls. And, of course, they’re dipped in chocolate, too.

Recipe from Susan Nye’s Around the Table

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 c. finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 sticks (1 cup) butter at room
temperature
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
6 oz. chocolate (milk or dark – whichever you prefer), chopped

Put flour and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add orange zest and crystallized ginger and whisk again.

Beat butter and sugar in large bowl at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add dry ingredients and beat on low speed until combined.

Divide dough into 3 or 4 pieces. Shape each piece into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper orsilicon mats.

Using a sharp knife, cut logs into 1/3-inch thick slices. Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake until edges are golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Put chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and zap in the microwave for 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir. Continue to zap in 10-15 second intervals and stir until the chocolate has just about melted. Let the chocolate sit for a minute or two and stir until smooth.

Dip cookies in the chocolate or spread chocolate on each cookie. Let the cookies sit for about 30 minutes to set.

The cookies can be stored for up to 1 week in an airtight container.

Categories: Recipes, Winter Holidays

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