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Entries in christmas cookies (15)

Monday
Dec232013

Baker's Dozen: 13 Quick and Easy Christmas Cookies

Look, I'm not going to judge you for waiting til right now to start your Christmas cookie baking. I understand that stuff happens.

What I want to do is enable you to make delicious magic for yourself and all your friends, so I have assembled this list of 13 easy, quick, and highly delicious Christmas cookies. You might not be able to make all of them, but at least choose a couple! 

1. Snowballs: no matter what you wanna call them, they're an easy, classic, and best of all, crowd-pleasing cookie.

2. Nanaimo bars: Seriously. I can't believe you haven't made these yet!

3. Gingerbread Nanaimo bars: the aforementioned everyday classic gets a holiday makeover. Yum!

4. Pistachio cookies: a personal favorite of mine, and a "lost" recipe I revived from family archives.

5. Christmas Kaleidoscope cookies: Taste the rainbow...or, you know, many holiday hues at once.

6. Berlinerkranser: I believe the official translation is "highly tasty cookie".

7. Gingerbread men: or, make them look like characters from a TV show: Gingerbread Mad Men!

8. Candy cane cookies: This is such a nostalgic cookie - give it a try if you've never made them.

9. Jam thumbprints: another classic, these ones are bound to please a crowd. Nutty and with a touch of fruit from the jam, so that means they're health food.

10. Mint candy butter cookies: Great for cookie swaps, or just stuffing in your mouth (let's be honest).

11. Eggnog Nanaimo bars! Seriously. A great accompaniment when you're sloggin' some nog.

12. Baby buche de noel cookies: not to who off, BUT, I contributed this adorable recipe to Food and Wine.

13. Red and green christmas cookies: like black and white cookies...but green and red! Festive!

While you're baking, kill time waiting for cookies to bake by reading about the first published Christmas cookie recipe in America, and the history of the tradition of Christmas cookies.

Season's sweetings! 

Sunday
Dec152013

Tubular: Easy Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies Using Refrigerated Sugar Cookie Dough

Cookie tree

Somehow, it's happened: you find yourself in need of a batch of homemade cookies, STAT. It might be for the cookie swap you thought was tomorrow, not today, or the school party you totally forgot, or maybe you just want to whip up something sweet in record time.

Green cookies

As these cookies prove, a time crunch need not mean that you sacrifice all the fun of baking--they are actually made from "doctored" refrigerated sugar cookie dough. They're assembled in less than five minutes and baked in about 10 minutes--even with cooling time, the process of going from mere ingredients to "let's party" all happens in about 30 minutes. 

ALL YOU NEED:

Green cookies

All you have to do? Mix that dough with mint and chocolate chips (they're easily found in the baking aisle this time of year), a teaspoon of peppermint extract and maybe a few drops of green food coloring. Roll into balls and bake as specified on the package. They bake up like a minty, buttery, sweet Christmas miracle!

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies Using Refrigerated Sugar Cookie Dough

Makes about 24

  • 1 tube refrigerated sugar cookie dough
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 cup mint and chocolate chips, mixed together
  • 4-5 drops green food coloring

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, break up the refrigerated cookie dough by hand. Add the food coloring and peppermint extract. Combine well.

Make them green

Add the morsels, mixing by hand to knead them evenly but gently throughout the dough.

Green cookies

Divide the dough into 24 equal parts. (First divide in two, then those two pieces into two to make four, then break each of those parts into three pieces, then divide those in two. You'll have 24. Don't get confused.)

Roll each piece into a ball and place on the baking sheet, well spaced. Green cookies

Bake for 8-11 minutes, or until soft in the center but lightly browned on the edges. I don't know how to say it other than this, but the middles might not look 100 percent set. They will bake a touch more when you remove the cookies, though, so it's ok.

Green cookies

Note: At this point, instead of baking, you can freeze the dough balls on the sheets if you prefer not to bake right now (if you want to do it in the morning, say). Just don't forget to turn off the oven and remember to preheat it again before you bake. 

Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 6 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Use a spatula for the transfer; if the cookies seem too soft, wait another minute or two before transferring.

Sunday
Dec232012

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies for Christmas

Cookies

One of the most wonderful things about a recipe is all the places it can go.

Take, for instance, a recipe for two-tiered Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies that appeared in a women's magazine in the early 1980s. How could the recipe developer have known what a role this recipe would end up playing in the Spy family's lives?

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies

After all, it was this recipe that struck the fancy of my mother (you know her as SpyMom) and intrigued her enough to bake a batch. And the whole family loved them. They were buttery and lightly crumbly but so soft and just ever so slightly chewy in the center, and the walnuts and pistachio and chocolate just worked so perfectly together. We all loved them so much, in fact, that the next year, she made them again. And the year after that. A tradition was born.

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies

But somewhere along the line--was it when her children went to college, moved away, began having their own lives?--the cookies stopped being made. Every year someone (usually me) would lament the fact that they were missing from the festivities, but year after year, they did not make an appearance.

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies

But this year, we brought the recipe out from hiberation. SpyMom found the handwritten recipe and told me that this was during her "penmanship phase", when she would stay up at night practicing perfect penmanship, trying to will her handwriting into something more perfect than it was. 

Pistachio Cookies

Since then, her handwriting has reverted back to its old, slighly messier, but in my opinion, more charming form.

But how wonderful to encounter this little slice of the past, complete with doodlings (mine? My little sister's?) and speckled with baking debris from years past. 

I baked the cookies while my parents were out, and when they returned, my mother shrieked. Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies"What?" I cried out, thinking that perhaps she'd seen a mouse. But no. "They're just like I used to make!" she said. And I may be getting a bit flowery here, but I think that she and my dad both had a little moment, thinking sweet memories. And that made me extremely happy, in turn. 

How's that for season's sweetings?

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies

Makes about 24

  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 package (3 3/4 ounces) instant pistachio pudding (NOT sugar-free)
  • 6 ounces (half a bag) semisweet chocolate chips, plus 20-30 chips for garnish
  • confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or lightly grease them.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth, 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla; blend until creamy. Add the flour mixture in 3-4 increments, mixing until a stiff dough forms. Remove 1/4 of the dough to a separate bowl; add the walnuts.
  4. To the remaining dough, add the pudding mix and stir until completely combined. Fold in the 6 ounces of chocolate chips.
  5. By rounded teaspoonfuls, form the green dough into balls, and place 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared sheets. Using the back of a teaspoon or a floured drinking glass bottom, gently flatten the tops of these dough rounds. 
  6. Grab the small bowl of walnutty dough. Form the dough into marble-sized pieces, and place a ball of this dough on the top of each pistachio dough mound. Sort of like a two-part snowman. 
  7. Place a single chocolate chip on top of each of the cookies, pressing gently to make sure it will stay in place.
  8. Bake in your preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until set. It's going to be hard to see if they have become golden on the bottom, so mainly just look for a matte finish and an ever so slight golden color around the bottom edge. Remove from the oven and let cool on the rack for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. If desired, dust with confectioners' sugar.
Monday
Nov262012

Holiday Magic Cookie Bars with a Shortbread Crust

Magic Cookie Bars

It's been days, absolutely days, since the Thanksgiving feast, and you're looking awfully skinny.

Luckily, we have officially entered Christmas Cookie Season, so it won't be hard to remedy this situation. My esteemed sugary suggestion? Holiday Magic Cookie Bars with a Shortbread Crust. 

Baked

Now, if you already know what a Magic Cookie Bar (or 7-layer bar, or Hello Dolly Bar, etc) is, then you know that these decadent bar cookies, made with a buttery graham crust topped with a slurry of condensed milk, nuts, chocolate and/or butterscotch morsels, and coconut, are pretty much heaven on earth.

But there's always room for more magic, right? 

I got the idea for these bars when I spied Nestle Toll House Holiday Morsels (have you ever seen them? I hadn't!) in the grocery store, accompanied by recipe cards. Naturally I thought the bars would look adorable all dressed up for the holidays, and considering I still had a ton of shortbread from Walker's Shortbread (who sent me samples, and with which I've already made one of my new favorite things, Million Dollar Shortbread Bars), I decided to do a recipe mashup. 

Shortbread

And I can now report that yes, the bars get even better when you swap the graham crackers for crushed-up shortbread cookies in the crust. This magical union of shortbread, butter, and all of the delightful toppings makes for a sort of no-holds-barred extreme richness on all sides that will make your mouth and soul happy.

These are an ideal morsel for a cookie exchange or holiday party, as they're decadent to eat and festive to look at, too. As for the coconut haters? Sorry, but they're just not the same without!

Here's the recipe, adapted lovingly from "Yuletide Layer Bars" by Nestle Toll House.

Ready to bake Yum

Holiday Magic Cookie Bars with a Shortbread Crust

Makes about 24 - Active time 10 minutes, total time 1 hour 30 minutes, includes cooling

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • Shortbread crumbs (about 2-3 boxes' worth of Walkers Shortbread (I used this kind); less for a thinner crust, more for a nice fat crust)
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used a mix of almonds and walnuts)
  • 1 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • One bag Nestle Toll House Holiday Morsels
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Melt butter in a 13x9" baking pan in oven; remove from oven. Sprinkle shortbread crumbs over the melted butter; stir well, and press onto bottom of the pan (it might get hot, so press with a sheet of waxed paper or the back of a rubber spatula). Sprinkle the nuts and coconut (make sure they are evenly distributed). Gently, so it doesn't disturb your carefully laid-out toppings, pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over top in an even layer. If you need to distribute the milk, tilt the pan rather than stirring, as the crust might be torn up if you are too vigorous. Sprinkle the morsels on top.
  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until light golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing into bars with a very sharp knife.
Tuesday
Nov202012

Letter to the Editor: Thanksgiving Pies are Boring, Says Christmas Cookie

Dear "Cake Spy",

I need to state it directly: it is my firm belief that Thanksgiving pies are boring and overrated.

Don't get me wrong. They are entirely pleasant. They are worthy of respect. They have meaning, both historically and nostalgically. I can appreciate that. 

But seriously. Am I the only one that considers them the final barrier, a frumpy and dull diversion leading up to the real sweetness of the season: Christmas cookies?

Full disclosure: I say this with a bias, as I personally AM a Christmas cookie. A Snowball, in fact. Of course, you may know me as Mexican Wedding Cake or Russian Teacake or any number of names. You may know me by many names:

Let it Snow Confectioners' Sugar

But I have taken efforts to remove the personal connection to bring you a detailed laundry list of why each pie is overrated.

Let's start with Pumpkin pie. For one thing, it's entirely too virtuous. If you look at the classic Libby's recipe, there's something important missing from the recipe: BUTTER. Sure, you may argue, it's got sugar and milk and eggs and stuff, but I say it doesn't matter. Butter makes it better, and this pie is alarmingly devoid. Add to the fact that it can often be gummy and tastes more like spice than anything else, and you've really just got a vehicle for the whipped cream topping and crust, which should have butter. Or lard. 

The First Pumpkin Pie of the Season

And don't even get me started on Sweet Potato Pie. Talk about a pie with no personality other than that of the spices which impart flavor and a texture that is just downright weird for a dessert. Sweet potato ought to be relegated to side dish material only. It's way too healthy to be a pie, unless it's a breakfast pie. 

Apples Vs Pie

Apple pie, that symbol of hearth and home, needs to stop pretending to be dessert. What Apple Pie is, is health food. Apples are too virtuous to be considered dessert, and your butter and sugar would be better used in a batch of cookies. With apple pie,  the best part is the crust and the crumb topping.

Pecan pie is on the right track, what with the corn syrup and butter, but is really more of a tooth-number than anything of real interest.  Would it kill you to add something--anything--to offer a little flavor contrast?  Some chocolate, some cranberries...something.

Also, not that I want to get petty or anything, but as a general note, Thanksgiving pies are just downright homely. Sure, they have a certain je ne sais quoi just out of the oven, while cooling, but you try and show me a pie that's good-looking once cut into. Nope--it all turns into a lumpy landscape of beige and orangey earth-toned stuff. 

Thanksgiving Pie!

Christmas cookies, on the other hand, really know how to liven up a table. In festive colors with sparkling sugar and sprinkles, these little nuggets of pure decadent joy form a village of deliciousness when displayed on the dessert table. And we're indulgent. We're full of butter and love and joy, all in easy-to-pop-in-your-mouth-sized servings. We're like the holiday equivalent of the Fun-size candy bar: bet you can't eat just three. Christmas cookies are bountiful, are pretty, are playful in a way that pies will never be. 

 

So, in closing, let me say that I get it. I know I'm not going to change the world with a mere letter to the editor. We all have to pay homage to the tradition of Thanksgiving pies. After all, they are representative of the earth from which our feast comes from, a symbol of survival in the new world. And it's really a rather nice tradition.

But to the cookie enthusiasts out there, those who find the pies, well, just a litting boring--you are not alone. I know that you're all really looking forward to the cookies, and it's only a few days til the season really begins.

Respectfully,

A Christmas Cookie named Snowball

- - - - - - - -

 

Dear Snowball,

I'd like to make it clear to my readers that your point of view is not intended to be the CakeSpy point of view on the matter. While I can agree that cookies make for a splashier dessert spread visually, we must pause to appreciate the pie. 

For one thing, as you do point out, there's the tradition aspect. Pies have long been a symbol of hearth and home, and perfectly suited to this family-oriented holiday. And I beg to differ about the virtuousness of pies. I think that if you were to try the recipes below, you might be singing another tune:

Perfect Sweet Potato Pie via Joy the Baker

Presidential Pumpkin Pie 

Cranberry Pecan Pie

"Peace" of Pie

Caramel Apple Crumb Pie from The Kitchn

Plus, cookie, you might find that you have more in common with pie than you think. In fact, one of the first cookies my mom used to make during the Christmas season was actually made using the crust from the Thanksgiving pies, which she'd brush with butter and cinnamon-sugar and roll up. Good gravy were those things good. Here's a recipe that is similar.

I think that's proof that we can all get along and co-exist deliciously.

Love, 

CakeSpy

Monday
Dec052011

Mac Attack: Christmas Tree Coconut Macaroons Recipe for Serious Eats

In general, coconut macaroons are not what would be considered a "cute" cookie.

But that's about to change: introducing the Christmas Tree Coconut Macaroon!

These sweet little somethings are rendered adorable simply by tinting the coconut with green food coloring and then decorating with sprinkles and writing icing post-baking. They're fun and easy to make, sweet to eat, and it's a very child-friendly baking project to boot!

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Thursday
Dec232010

Rule of Thumb: Thumbprint Cookies Recipe from Cake Gumshoe Alana

Hi, my name is CakeSpy. And as a professional sleuth of sweetness, I just want to give you fair warning: if you give me a secret family recipe, I will share it.

Oh, just kidding. Clearly this recipe, from Cake Gumshoe (and buddy) Alana isn't a big secret, otherwise she wouldn't have given me a recipe card along with the tin of yum she delivered last week, brimming with soft molasses cookies and (my favorite!) jam-filled thumbprints.

And I'm totally passing on the recipe to you, sweet readers. 

Alana's No-Longer-Secret Family Recipe for Thumbprint Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
  • 8 ounces raspberry jam

 Procedure

  1. In a large bowl, mix butter, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla until smooth. Sift together f lour and salt and then work into batter. Chill  dough for at least one hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 375. Form dough in 3/4 inch balls.
  3. Beat egg whites in a bowl with a fork til slightly bubbly.
  4. Roll the balls in the egg whites, then in the chopped nuts.
  5. Place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake at 375 for 5 minutes. Remove cookie sheet from oven and press the back end of a wooden spoon into the centers of the cookies to form a small indent.
  7. Return cookies to the oven; bake for 8 more minutes, or until golden brown.
  8. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and fill with a generous dab of jam. Let cool.

 

Monday
Dec202010

Snowbound: Snowy Snickerdoodles Recipe from SpyMom

Lucky, lucky you. SpyMom has another sweet holiday recipe to share: Snowy Snickerdoodles. No, you won't get an explanation of where the name comes from, but you will get a recipe that is bound to be delicious, because that's how she rolls.

Snowy Snickerdoodles

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • cinnamon sugar

Procedure

  1. In a mixer bowl, cream together sugar and butter; beat in egg and vanilla
  2. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt
  3. Add to butter mixture
  4. Blend well
  5. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or till firm enough to roll into balls
  6. Shape dough into small balls about 3/4-inch in diameter
  7. Roll in cinnamon sugar to coat
  8. Set cookies 1-inch apart on lightly greased cookie sheets
  9. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or till the edges are lightly browned.
  10. Cool slightly on pans, then remove to racks to cool completely.

 

Friday
Nov262010

Kicking off Cookie Season: Mint Candy Butter Cookies Recipe from Crazy About Cookies by Krystina Castella

Thanksgiving's over. But don't cry into your empty pie plate (or empty Pumpkin Pie Shake), because that means it's officially Cookie Season.

And let's kick things off with one that is simple but classic and completely delicious: Mint Candy Butter Cookies from Krystina Castella's Crazy About Cookies (also check out the other posts from all week dedicated to Krystina's work: Pumpkin Cheesecake Pops, Zen Stone Cookies, and a giveaway featuring her super awesome book A World of Cake!). To get in a Christmas-y mood, I used candy canes. When served at the store, they disappeared in record time. Black friday was red and white and buttery all over, baby!

Mint Candy Butter Cookies

Adapted from Crazy About Cookies by Krystina Castella

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • Royal icing
  • 1 1/2 cups mint hard candies or candy canes, crushed

Procedure

  1. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk. Add the whole egg, salt, and vanilla, and stir to combine.
  2. Gradually stir in the flour. Form the dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
  3. Preheat oven to 350. Get 2 cookie sheets ready to go, no need to grease 'em.
  4. Roll the dough out on a floured surface, to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 3-inch squares. Place the squares on the baking sheets and bake for 15-18 minutes, until the edges begin to turn golden. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. (Note: While still warm I cut the cookies into fourths, because I was sharing them at my store and wanted bite-sized cookies)
  5. Cover with icing. While icing is still wet, top with the crushed candies.
Saturday
Jan022010

The Splendid Tableau: A Cookie Tableau Adventure from Cake Gumshoe Megan

Cookie Tableau

CakeSpy Note: This is a post from Cake Gumshoe Megan, who gets in over her head every Christmas...

Despite the fact cake is actually my drug of choice, every year at Christmas I become a cookie dervish. I tell myself it's because I'm developing the repertoire I will be known for later in life, but I think it's really just because I finally have an excuse to bake and bake and bake and no one will ask me what I'm going to do with all of those cookies.

Seventeen or so dozen cookies later (gingerbread, sugar, springerle, candy cane cookies, brownies, chocolate raspberry drizzle, chocolate peanut butter chunk, stained glass, macaroons and chocolate butter snowflakes, if anyone was interested), I turned my attention to a cookie tableau. Reading a Theresa Layman book on gingerbread gave me the idea for a tableau, but I decided to make mine out of sugar cookies and have an undersea theme. I have a very good friend who has been so supportive in pretty much every area of my life, and I knew he'd appreciate something edible for the holidays.

What I didn't know was that Mother Nature was conspiring against me.

The blizzard that dumped two feet of snow on the mid-Atlantic forced me to fly home for Christmas two days early and sent my tableau plans sprawling. The Christmas rush forced me to give a non-edible present to my friend, but I still wanted to make a tableau, so I shifted my sights to a gingerbread winter scene.

A trip to Michael's yielded gel paste food coloring and a foray into Wegmans' bulk candy aisle gave me all the decorations I needed (and plenty to snack on). I ended up using Spree, Jelly Belly jelly beans and candy canes.

I would recommend a little planning with this since my lack of design had me dithering in the candy aisle for longer than absolutely necessary, but if you're at all like me, you can totally do this by the seat of your pants too.

First I used a lebkuchen recipe from Festive Baking by Sarah Kelly Iaia. This is my go-to gingerbread recipe. It uses honey instead of molasses, so you can taste the spices rather than the syrup. I used one whole recipe total in making the background and then the buildings and little gingerbread man. I drew templates free-hand and cut them out with a paring knife.



Baking them in an unfamiliar oven yielded slightly crispy edges, but those were neatly covered by royal icing.


From there I just decorated the buildings as my imagination dictated and space on the background allowed. I did make one mistake which couldn't be fixed due to lack of time. I added too much water to my yellow piping icing, so the windows to the church weren't fully flooded. Some of the "icing" soaked into the cookie.


I also wouldn't recommend taking shortcuts with the icing as I did with the sky. Rather than make a whole new batch of royal icing, pipe a border and then flood, I just flooded the whole thing, which led to rather messy edges. I wasn't too worried about thin coverage in the middle since the buildings were going to cover most of it.

I made a few sugarwork decorations and let everything dry for two days. A little Karo syrup glue to attach the buildings to the background, and I was finished. The final size was about 8 1/2 by 11 inches.


I really enjoyed myself despite a total lack of architectural and drawing skills, and I definitely plan to make another one soon. This time I will have a much more detailed plan beforehand!

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