It’s Christmas Cookie Time!

It’s the holiday season which means in our household, baking. Baking cookies, cupcakes, candy, and pies. I always make the old family favorites but always like to try a few new recipes.

For me, baking is a creative outlet. The problem is the eating part. I will eat them all, so I need places to share them. Christmas cookie exchanges are the perfect solution. I also become a Christmas cookie elf and make unexpected deliveries of cookies and cupcakes. This way I can share my joy of baking and share the equal joy of not eating them all.

Here are a few recipes that intrigue me enough to bake them, as well as a tried and true family favorite.

PEPPERMINT MERINGUE KISSES

This type of cookie is often called Forgotten Cookies because they bake at a very low temperature for a long time. Some recipes call for turning off the oven and leaving them in overnight after their required baking time. Thus, the forgotten name.

5 large egg whites

3/4 c. granulated sugar

1 1/4 c. powdered sugar

2 – 3 drops red food coloring

1 to 2 tsp. Peppermint extract

Melted chocolate

Crushed candy canes

Pre-heat oven to 225°F. (or the lowest temperature on your oven) Line two sheet trays with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the egg whites on medium low until little bubbles form along the edge of the mixture. Increase speed to high and gradually add in the granulated sugar. Whisk until stiff glossy peaks form.

Carefully fold in powdered sugar followed by food coloring and peppermint extract. Work quickly once you add the peppermint extract because adding the extract can cause the egg whites to deflate and break down.

Fill a piping bag fitted with a large star tip with the meringue. Pipe out meringue into kisses with about 1 inch space between them. Depending on how big you make the kisses you should pipe out about 24.

Bake meringues for 45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Kisses should be dry to the touch. Turn off oven and let meringues cool in the oven as the oven cools.

When cool, dip the bottom of the meringues into melted chocolate and then into a bowl of crushed candy canes. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet to dry. Store the meringues in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Makes about 2 dozen kisses.

HOT COCOA COOKIES

For the cookies

1/2 c. unsalted butter 1 stick

12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

1 1/2 c. flour

1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/4 c. brown sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

25 large marshmallows approximately

For the icing

2 c. powdered sugar

4 tbsp. unsalted butter 1/2 stick, melted

1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 c. hot water

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

assorted sprinkles

For the cookies:

In a medium saucepan (or in a microwave safe bowl, using 50% power), melt the butter and chocolate, stirring frequently. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar, eggs, and vanilla on low speed until well combined.

Add the cooled chocolate mixture and blend until just combined.

While mixing, add the flour mixture slowly and blend until just combined.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  The dough should be firm.  If making the dough a day ahead, let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before shaping.

Preheat oven to 325ºF and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat type liner. Use a tablespoon (or a tablespoon sized cookie scoop) to scoop the dough, then roll the dough in your hands to create balls. Arrange the balls about 2 inches apart on your baking sheets, then flatten slightly.

Bake cookies for about 12 minutes.

While the cookies bake, cut the large marshmallows in half (crosswise). When the cookies have baked, remove from oven and press one marshmallow half (cut side down) into the center of each cookie. Return the cookies to the oven and bake another 2-3 minutes. Allow the pan of cookies to cool for a few minutes, then transfer cookies to cooling rack.

Cookie icing:

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix together with a whisk. Place wire cooling rack (with cookies on it) over a baking sheet (to catch any excess icing). Spoon a small amount of icing onto the top of each marshmallow, and use the back of the spoon to spread it a bit. After icing just a couple cookies, top with sprinkles before the icing dries.

Allow icing to set up about 30 minutes before serving.

And here is a family favorite.

CHOCOLATE CHERRY COOKIES

These are moist, brownie textured cookies topped with a cherry and covered with chocolate.

1 ½ c. flour

½ c. unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. baking soda

½ c. butter, softened

1 c. sugar

1 egg

1 ½ tsp. vanilla

1 10 oz. jar maraschino cherries

1 6 oz. pkg. semisweet chocolate pieces

½ c. sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, stir together flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, baking soda. In mixer bowl beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well.

Gradually add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and beat until blended.

Drain cherries, reserving the juice. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Press down slightly the center of dough with your thumb and place a cherry in the center of each cookie.

In a small saucepan, combine chocolate pieces and sweetened condensed milk. Beat until the chocolate is melted. Stir in 4 tsp. of reserved cherry juice. Spoon about 1 tsp. of frosting over each cherry, spreading to cover the cherry. (Frosting may be thinned with additional cherry juice if necessary.)

Bake in 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or till done. Remove to wire rack and cool. Makes 48 cookies.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature or up to 6 days in the refrigerator.

EGGNOG GOOEY BUTTER COOKIES

2 ½ c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. nutmeg

½ c. unsalted butter

8 oz. cream cheese

1 ¼ c. sugar

1 egg

⅓ c. eggnog

1 tsp. vanilla

Powdered sugar for rolling

INSTRUCTIONS

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter together. Add sugar and cream together until mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the egg, followed by the eggnog and vanilla.

Gradually add in the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Chill dough for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Once dough has chilled, form into one-inch balls and roll in powdered sugar. Place onto prepared baking sheet, about two inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until puffy and edges have set and tops are just set.

They may look slightly undercooked, but they will firm up as they cool. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for about 10 to 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

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