Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Cookies!

Internet friends, what is more Christmasy that baking a whole bunch of cookies on a cold day with family? The only thing I can think of it going to the thrift store. Seriously, if you're not in the Christmas spirit yet, go to your local thrift store and buy some cheap decorations and ornaments. Memories already built in!

Also! Here's me and my nephew Luke! He slept and pooped and generally kept spirits high while Sharon, Sara and I were baking. Sharon is my fiancé Nate's mom, Sara is Nate's brother Jake's wife (so my future sister-in-law), and Luke is Jake and Sara's fat little baby.

I usually don't give straight up recipes on this blog since it's all about deviating and experimenting, but when it comes to Christmas cookies... some things you just don't mess with. With permission, I'm giving out secret family recipes - so show some respect! Do it right! It's worth it.

But don't worry, I did screw around with some chocolate chip cookies at the end. Mmm. Experimentation... Mmm...


Peanut Butter Blossoms

Sara is a pro at peanut butter blossoms. And she looked cute the whole time. These are a classic. Sift together:
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Then cream together:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Then add
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
and then mix in the dry ingredients. Make one to 1 1/2 balls and roll them in sugar. Bake at 355 for 10 minutes. Take them out and press in some chocolate swirls. My friend Margaret uses Hershey's Kisses in her peanut butter blossoms, but Rowan tradition is Brach's swirly chocolate stars. Once you press them into the balls, bake two to five extra minutes.

These are so freaking good fresh out of the oven so that the chocolate is melty. mmm.

Spritz Cookies

Sharon has a family tradition of spritz cookies. They're like sugar cookies, but they taste like almonds and are more complicated. You have to have this piece of hardware that spits out little cookie shapes. It's makes me feels like I'm molding Play-Dough, but instead of crazy hair on some crazy head, you're pressing out perfect little flowers and wreaths and stars. Check it out.

The spritzes were particularly fun because I dyed my hands many colors working on them. Food coloring is amazing and I think I need to incorporate into my cooking more often.

To make spritzes, you'll need:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs (sm) or 2 (lg)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 cups flour
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs (unbeaten), then add in the sifted dry ingredients and the almond extract. Use a cookie/biscuit press to form the cookies. We had the press set on "2" so that the cookies were bigger and puffier. Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes.

To add the food coloring, I took a lump of dough, put some drops on it, then folded it up in my hands over and over until it changed via my wandless magic. Take that, Harry. I also had to warm it up because Sharon had actually made the dough the day before and refrigerated it.

Oh! Another hint: We used parchment paper to bake all of our cookies, BUT when you're using the cookie/biscuit press, the dough needs to be able to stick to the cookie sheet to pop off the press. So don't use parchment paper with the spritzes because it's too slippery!

Sugar Cookies

I was very excited for sugar cookies because I have a zillion cookie cutters. And I never get to use them as often as I'd like to. Sara had an excellent sugar cookie recipe from her grandmother. We burnt one batch, but otherwise these cookies were perfect. Just barely brown on the bottom, golden on top.

We used Sara's grandma's recipe for sugar cookies. Sometimes I give in and use Betty Crocker's sugar cookie mix because it's really easy, but, holy cow, Grandma Anderson's recipe is so much better. You'll need:
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
Cut these ingredients like you're making pie crust, then add:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Roll the dough, and cut into your favorite shapes. Bake at 350 until slightly browned.

I think the best way to roll dough is to do it right on a table cloth. I put flour down on the cloth, all over the rolling pin, and a little right on the dough. Roll it to 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick. After many trials of sugar cookies throughout my life, I would venture that the real key to success is cutter size consistency. Larger cookies bake more evenly. If you have a mixture of different size cookies on the same pan, edges and corners burn. The big hearts and stars are great, but I love my wolves and violins and pineapple cutters too, so when I use them, I have to do all small cookies on the same pan and cook much shorter a time.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cherry Cookies

We also had some chocolate chips. I experimented a little and threw together these whole wheat chocolate cherry cookies. I just followed the Nestlé Tollhouse recipe (... Remember that episode of Friends?? I didn't, but Sara did...), but used whole wheat flour and added chopped cherries. And a little bit of organic peanut butter. They were ... really good.

So here's to the Christmas spirit. I already miss Thanksgiving, but I'm getting ready for Christmas. Expect posts from Louisiana, where the Internet will finally meet my Maw-Maw. All will love her and despair!* Because her cooking's so good. There's no way mine or yours will ever match it in deliciousness.

*Lord of the Rings quote indicates that Nate and I have finished our annual winter LotR marathon. Look out, Christmas!

1 comment:

david santos said...

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