Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Three top Christmas cookies, and an honorable mention

I tried a bunch of cookies for Christmas, and these are three good solid choices. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to delve into spice cookies, which I always find so Christmas-y, but if I get to it before the holidays, I’ll let you know.

Cookies with jam
1/2 cup of butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
Raspberry preserves
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a medium mixing bowl, cream butter, sugars, salt and vanilla until light and fluffy. Blend in flour and milk. Stir in chocolate chips.
Shape dough into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased baking sheets.
Make a small indentation with thumb in the top of each ball. Use a teaspoon to place a small amount of raspberry preserves in each indentation.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from sheets and cool on wire racks.
Yields about 3 dozen cookies.

These are from about.com, and they are big time winners. They score high marks for Christmas-y-ness because they are brightly colored and fun. High marks for overall good cookie-ness because they are really tasty, and super high marks in the fun-for-kids category as well.

The boys loved making these! They always like the measuring and pouring and mixing and all that, but these were special. They got to roll all the dough into balls, then they got to poke their fingers in them to make holes, and they got to fill up all the little holes with jam. Seriously, what could be a more fun cookie baking experience. It’s practically sand castles.

The dough was really good. It held it’s shape well even if it had to be re-rolled. Also it didn’t suffer from sitting long enough for two little boys to fill all those holes very carefully and slowly. Fine stand up dough.

I tried a second batch of these on my own with a couple of variations. I thought it would be fun to do red and green cookies, so I made one batch with lemon and lime jam (the only strikingly green jam I could find), and dark chocolate chunks. Then I made some with the raspberry jam to go with them, but I used white chocolate chips (because white chocolate goes really well with raspberry).

The lemon lime ones were ok. They wound up tasting like Jaffa Cakes. Not a horrible loss, but not nearly as good as the white chocolate raspberry ones. In the end I decided that they don’t have to be green and red. The red is festive enough on it’s own.

These are really nice. The way they are made, with the jam in the center of a ball means that when the cookies spread, the jam will stay in the center well, and not run off or burn, and the dough makes a nice soft cookie, good consistency, good taste. It looks like it’s a lot of steps to do, but it’s actually quite fast and easy (if you aren’t working with kids).

These get my vote.

Creamed Choc-Oat cookies

125g white chocolate
125g plain chocolate
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g caster sugar
1 medium egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g porridge oats
150g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder

Preheat to 180 and lightly grease two baking sheets. Using a sharp knife chop the chocolate into small chunks, no larger then ½ inch
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl till pale. Add the egg, vanilla, and oats. Sift in the flour and baking powder, and mix until evenly combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks.

Place dessertspoonfuls of the mixture onto baking sheets, spacing them apart to allow room for spreading. Flatten each one slightly with the back of a fork.
Bake for 12 – 15 min until risen and turning golden. Leave on the baking sheets for 5 min, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight tin for up to one week.

These came from Good Housekeeping Step By Step Cook Book.

These are excellent! They are not especially Christmas-y at all, but there’s no reason why they can’t be. Especially when they are so unbelievably easy and good. Even if you don’t make these as a Christmas cookie, try them. After making these only once, I have designated these as my go-to-cookies. When I just need a cookie, and I don’t want to try anything new and fancy, these are the ones to make.

Oatmeal adds the really nice chewy-ness that all superior cookies should have, and the two kinds of chocolate, in chunks, not chips makes them decadent.

These are in my top three, even if they are not officially Christmas cookies.


Beat until well blended, 15-20 seconds:
½ lb unsalted butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
Add all at once and beat on a low speed, just until the dough comes together, 10 – 15 seconds:
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
Divide the dough into thirds. Flatten each third into a 6x4 inch rectangle, or a 6 inch circle. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or packed airtight and frozen for up to 1 month.)
To bake, position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350f. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk together:
1/3 cup sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
working quickly with one portion of dough at a time (leave the remainder refrigerated), generously sprinkle a work surface, and the top of the dough with:
All purpose flour

For rectangle rugelach:
Roll each portion into a 16x10 inch rectangle, about 1/8th inch thick. Brush the excess flour from the top and bottom of the dough, and turn the dough so that the long side of the dough is parallel to the edge of the work surface. Leaving a ¼ inch border, spread 1 rectangle with:
¼ cup raspberry jam or apricot preserves
Along the edge of the jam on the long side nearest you, place a line of:
¼ cup raisins or chocolate chips
Sprinkle the rest of the surface with 2tsp of the cinnamon sugar and:
2&1/2 Tbsp ground walnuts
Roll the dough, starting at the raisin edge, gently tucking and tightening as you go.
Finish with the seam of the roll facing down. Cut the roll into 1&1/2 inch thick slices. Repeat with the remaining rectangles.

For crescent Rugelach:
Shape by rolling each portion into a circle about 14 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick. Spread the jam in a thin layer, leaving ¼ inch border, then sprinkle the entire surface with the raisins, cinnamon and sugar, and ground nuts. Cut the circle like a pizza, creating 8 (for large cookies), or 16 (for small cookies)even triangles. Roll up from the wide end to the point, tucking the point over. Repeat with the remaining circles.
With a spatula, transfer the rugelach to the cookie sheet. Sprinkle each cookie with 1/8 tsp of the cinnamon and sugar. Bake until the bottoms are light golden (the tops will be blond), about 25 min. Remove the sheet to a rack and let stand until they firm slightly. Transfer to racks to cool.

This recipe is just the plain old Joy of Cooking recipe for rugelach, but it was really great.

It’s interesting because the dough itself has no sugar in it at all, it’s only the topping that is sweetened, which means that you can have a lot more control over how sweet you make them. The dough, being pretty much cream cheese and butter, is really soft and lovely and just a little bit tangy from the cream cheese. Also so so so easy to make, takes no time at all.

As for the fillings, I tried two different ways, and I would recommend using both. There are three sets of dough, so I say use Raspberry and white chocolate chips for one batch, apricot and raisins for the next, then the third can be whichever strikes your fancy.

These are one of my top three choices of all the cookie recipes I’ve tried this year. I whole heartedly recommend them.

And, as an honorable mention...

Christmas sugar cookies
½ pound unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
¼ tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp vanilla
2 1/3 cup flour

Beat the butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the egg, baking powder, salt and vanilla and beat until well combined.
Then stir in the flour till well blended and smooth.
Divide the dough in half. Place each half between two large sheets of parchment paper. Roll out to a scant ¼ inch thick, checking the underside of the dough and smoothing any creases. Keeping the paper in place, layer the rolled dough on a baking sheet and refrigerate till cold and slightly firm but not hard, 20-30 min.
Preheat the oven to 350F Grease your cookie sheets.
Working with one portion of dough at a time (leave the other in the fridge), gently peel away and replace one sheet of paper (this will make it easier to lift the cookies from the paper later). Peel away and discard the second sheet. Cut out the cookies using 2 or 3 inch cutters. With a spatula, transfer them to cookie sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Roll the dough scraps and continue cutting out cookies until all the dough is used. Briefly refrigerate the dough if it becomes too soft to handle. If desired, lightly sprinkle the cookies with colored sprinkles, or colored sugar.
Bake 1 sheet at a time, just until the cookies are lightly colored on top, and slightly darker at the edges, 6 to 9 minutes. Rotate the sheet halfway through baking for even browning. Remove the sheet to a rack an let stand until the cookies firm slightly. Transfer to racks and cool.

These were one of two cookie recipes that I took from the Joy of Cooking this Christmas.

It’s a classic, so I thought it would be a real winner. I got the cookie cutters in all the Christmas shapes. I have to say, that the cookies themselves were actually very nice. They were light and buttery and lovely tasting. There was no problem with the cookies themselves. The problem was that I though cookies like that would be a perfect activity for the boys, Christmas cookies with their Christmas cutters. We did make them all together as a group, but what I learned is that any recipe that says to put the dough back in the fridge if you need to firm it up, is going to be no good at all for tiny little, warm, and inefficient hands. They had a great time, but by about the third cookie, the dough had gone too soft from being touched and left out long enough for little kids to get three cookies cut. It was fine, we just cut a few cookies from each batch of dough, then I put all the rest back in the fridge. The kids had a great time, as kids do, but they got a bit frustrated at not being able to get the shapes to come out correctly, and at the dough being too soft and sticking to the cutters (my younger son just switched to making balls out of the dough and squishing them).

For the record I should say that I did the left over dough by myself, to see how it went, and an adult working on their own should have no trouble with this dough at all. It’s just that fun fun cookie cutters really kind of cry out for little kids.

Top scores for Christmas-y-ness, good scores for overall taste, but low low scores for making with kids.

No comments: