Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Cookies Galore!!!

Last night, we had our annual Christmas party. It was a great time and the dessert table was a hit. I included the Monster Cookies, Tipsy Turtle Bark, Red Velvet Peppermint Whoopie Pies, and Sugar Cut-Outs that I did last year. (You will also find, in that link, the tried-and-true favorites like Tomato Soup, Truffled Beef Sandwiches, and Rosemary Almonds). Every year, I throw out the cookies that weren't total successes and add in some new ones. I'm happy to report that this year's cookies were all pretty darn good, so I wanted to share them with YOU! I hope that you will make and enjoy these cookies and then cleanse with me in the New Year!!

Strawberry Shortbread, Adapted from Christmas Cookies Magazine, 2007

Prep: 45 min, Bake 12 min per batch, Freeze 1 hr

2 T strawberry preserves
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Strawberry Glaze:

1 T strawberry preserves
2 cups powdered sugar
1(+) Tablespoon milk

Coarse sugar (optional)...I used pink

1. Snip any large pieces of fruit in the strawberry preserves. Beat butter, strawberry preserves, and almond extract in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Transfer butter mixture to a sheet of plastic wrap; shape mixture into a 6-inch log. Wrap and freeze for 1-2 hrs or until firm.

2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Stir together flour, granulated sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter mixture, breaking or cutting log if necessary to fit in bowl. Cut butter mixture into flour mixture with a pastry blender until mixture starts to cling together. Knead dough until smooth; form dough into a ball.

NOTE: Here is where I started to have trouble with this recipe--my dough wouldn't hold together so instead of trying to force it, I just patted the mixture I had into a pan (I used 8x8 which made for pretty thick cookies...might do a rectangular pan next time), baked and then while soft, cut them into little Christmas-shaped cookies. You could also just cut into squares or triangles.

3. (This is the rest of the recipe which I did not follow, see note above). Divide dough in half. Roll each portion of dough to a 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut out dough rounds with a scalloped 1 1/2-2-inch cookie cutter. Place cutouts 1 inch apart in ungreased cookie sheets.

4. Bake in a preheated oven for 12-16 minutes or until edges start to brown. Transfer cookies to wire racks and cool completely. Spread tops of cookies with Strawberry glaze; if desired, sprinkle with course sugar. Let stand until set. Makes about fifty-four 2-inch cookies or seventy-six 1 1/2-inch cookies.

Strawberry Glaze

Microwave 1 T strawberry preserves in a medium microwave-safe bowl on 50 percent power for 3-0 seconds or until melted; snip any large pieces in the preserves. Stir in 2 cups powdered sugar and 1 Tablespoon milk using a wire whisk. Stir in enough additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to make a smooth glaze of spreading consistency. Makes about 2/3 cup.

To store: Place cookies in layers separated by pieces of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.

Rosemary Shortbread, Adapted from Rustic Kitchen Blog

Note: If herbs in desserts is new for you, I really encourage you to try this recipe. It is unbelievably good.

Makes 16 triangles

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling (I put pink Himalayan salt in the cookies and sprinkled with kosher salt)
1 to 1 1/2 Tablespoons minced fresh rosemary, plus extra for sprinkling
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat to 325 degrees. Stir together butter, sugar, and salt, then stir in rosemary. Mix in half the flour, then add remaining flour and combine. Press into an 8-inch square pan and the sprinkle with a little extra rosemary and course salt. Bake until lightly golden around the edges, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately cut into triangles. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Raspberry Lemon Thumbprint Cookies, Adapted from Emeril Lagasse on

Prep time: 15 minutes, Cook time: 20 min, Serves 4 dozen (more like 3)

1/2 c raspberry jam or jelly
1 Tablespoon Chambord or kirsch (I left this out because I didn't have any but I would use)
2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter at room temp
2/3 c sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put down parchment or Silpat on baking sheets. In a small bowl, combine the jam and Chambord. Stir to combine. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to blend. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the egg yolks, lemon and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 2 additions and beat just until moist clumps form. Pinch off dough to form 1-inch balls. Place on prepared baking sheets, 1 inch apart. Use your floured index finger to create depressions in the center of each ball. Fill each indentation with nearly 1/2 teaspoon of the jam mixture. (I put the jam in the microwave for 20 seconds which made them a lot easier to fill). Bake until golden brown, about 20 min.

Transfer to wire racks to cook completely.

M&M Pretzel Bundles, a good one for kids...

Melt 1 3/4 cup chocolate (I used half Dove and half semi-sweet Ghiradelli chocolate chips) over a double-broiler or at half-power in microwave. Stir in broken pretzel sticks (about half a large bag). Put Tablepoon-sized clumps on parchment paper and top with some red and green M&Ms.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Balls, from Christmas Cookies Magazine, 2007

1 cup butter
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweeted cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

1. Toast pecans in a 325 oven for 8-10 minutes. Cool and chop. Leave the oven on.

2. Beat butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium high to high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and vanilla until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and pecans.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to wire racks and cool completely.

4. Combine remaining 3/4 cup powdered sugar, remaining 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon mixture in a small bowl. Roll cooled cookies in mixture. Makes 48.

To store: Place cookies in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temp for up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months. Thaw cookies, if frozen, before serving.

Coconut Candy Bars AKA Homemade Almond Joys, from Christmas Cookies Magazine 2007, also known as The Bars Suzanne will Live to Regret because She Can't Stop Eating Them They're So Good

2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted*
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 c butter, melted
1 14-oz package flaked coconut
1 14-oz can (1 1/4 cup) sweetened condensed milk
18 oz dark chocolate pieces, melted**

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For crust, place graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup of the almonds, and the brown sugar in a food procesor. Cover and process until almonds are finely chopped. Add butter; cover and pulse with four or five on-off turns or until mixture is well combined. Press crumb mixture on bottom of an ungreased 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Bake in preheated oven for 12 min.

2. Combine coconut and sweetened condensed milk in a medium bowl. Spread mixture evenly over crust. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup almonds evenly over coconut layer. Bake for 10 min.

3. Spread melted chocolate evenly over top of baked mixture. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. (If desired, chill in the refrigerator until the chocolate is set). Cut into bars. Makes 36.

Note*- To toast nuts, spread them in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes or until nuts are slightly golden brown, stirring once or twice.

Note**-To melt dark chocolate pieces, place chocolate pieces in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on 50% power for 3 minutes or until mixture is melted and smooth, stirring once or twice.

To Store: Place bars in a single layer in an airtight container; cover. Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.

Printable version here.