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Christmas, Holiday, Recipe

December 16, 2009

Baking Christmas Cookies


I love to soak up all the joys of the season! This past weekend I had the unique opportunity of decorating sugar cookies without any of the measuring, mixing or clean up. Icing options and trimmings were infinite. The cookie decorating party was a fun idea and so sweet (thanks Elana!)

When entertaining with cookies, I try to always serve a variety of flavors, colors and textures. I dip pretzels and Oreos in chocolate and coat them with sprinkles or other decorative toppings (nuts,crushed candy canes, M&M’s or cookies crumbs) I have traditional recipes I make every year and I usually try at least one new cookie recipe each season.

Tomorrow is my turn to bake. My sous chef will be a two and a half year old so, I will stick to easy recipes as spending time with her will trump any cookie concoction I could come up with.

My favorite cookies are:

Spritz

* 1 cup butter, softened
* 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
* 1 cup white sugar
* 1 egg yolk
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Lightly grease cookie sheets.
2. In a large bowl, cream together butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Stir in flour until well blended. Drop dough by spoonfuls or use a cookie press to place onto prepared cookie sheets. If using floral cookie press design, make an indentation in the center with a thimble, fill with preserves, or press candy into center.
3. Bake for 15 minutes in preheated oven. Cookies should be pale.

(Notes: If you don’t have a cookies press, as Santa, they are fun, but not a requirement, you can roll the dough into balls or roll out and use cutters in stead. I always divide the dough into thirds. I add red and green food colored to some of the dough and leave some in it’s natural color. Colored sugar is the best topping for Spritz cookies and there are recipes for Spritz cookies with out cream cheese, those are delicious as well.)

Mexican Wedding Cakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Toast Nuts: Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, or until lightly brown and fragrant. Cool. Once the nuts have cooled completely place them, along with 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of the flour from the recipe, into your food processor, fitted with a metal blade, and process until they are finely ground (but not a paste). Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the remaining flour and salt and beat until combined. Stir in the nuts. Cover and refrigerate the dough for about 1 hour or until firm.

Form the dough into 1 inch (2.54 cm) balls and place them 2 inches (5 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 12 – 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, line another baking pan or tray with parchment or wax paper. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the confectioners’ sugar on the bottom of the pan and then place the slightly cooled cookies on top of the sugar. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a fine strainer or sieve and then sprinkle the tops of the cookies (or you can just roll the cookies in the sugar).

Store in an airtight container. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

2/3 cup (65 grams) toasted almonds (or other nut if you prefer)
1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (30 grams) confectioners’ (powdered or icing) sugar
1 teaspoon (2 grams) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping:

1 cup (110 grams) powdered (icing or confectioners) sugar, sifted


Chocolate Chow Mein “Haystacks”

(note: easiest recipe ever!)

1 (6 oz.) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1 (3 oz.) can chow mein noodles

In 3-quart casserole or large bowl, place chocolate pieces. Cover with lid or plastic wrap. Microwave at medium or low 3 to 4 minutes until melted. Stir chocolate smooth; add noodles and using two forks, toss to coat well. On strips of foil or wax paper, form into 1 1/2 inch clusters. Cool to set. Makes about 24 (1 1/2 inch) “haystacks.”

When entertaining with cookies, I like my plate to have a variety of flavors, colors and textures. I dip pretzels and Oreos in chocolate and coat with sprinkles or other decorative toppings. I have my traditional recipes every year, but usually try at least one new one.

(Note: Chow mein noodles are very difficult to find in Manhattan, or at least they used to be, if you find them stock up!)

*2009 Debut

Red Velvet Cookies

1 (18 1/4 ounce) box of red velvet cake
1 (8 ounce) container Cool Whip
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

1. Mix all ingredients.
2. Form into balls.
3. Roll in confectioners’ sugar.
4. Bake at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Cool in pan a few minutes before removing.

(Confession: I’ve made lemon flavored cookies using this recipe but not red velvet, so I plan to test this recipe tomorrow, I’ll let you know how they turn out.)

What is your favorite Christmas Cookie?

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