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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

This cookie is relatively new to my holiday repertoire, and quickly has become a favorite. It is packed full of great winter flavors: cranberry, citrus, toasted pecans and maple syrup. It is super easy to put together and have in the refrigerator or freezer for those times when you suddenly need fresh-baked cookies on short notice (something that seems to happen often this time of year). And finally, I love that the dough is not overly sweet.

With all that fruit and nut goodness, and some whole wheat flour thrown in, I can almost convince myself that these are good for me.

Cranberry Orange Pecan Shortbread

Adapted from Whole Foods Market

Makes 32 cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup candied orange peel, diced

1 cup pecan pieces, toasted and chopped

Directions:

In an electric mixer, cream together butter, sugar and maple syrup until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Add flour and salt, one cup at a time, mixing well after each cup is added. Stir in the cranberries, orange peel, and pecans.

Shape dough into two logs and chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut dough into 1/2-inch slices and arrange on baking sheet. Bake for 18 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Cookies will keep several weeks in an airtight container.

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Almond Crescents

I’m often tempted at the holidays to bake elaborately decorated or fancy cookies. And they undoubtedly have their charms.  But, sometimes, simpler is better.

Nothing could be more perfect in its unassuming splendor as these almond crescents. They look like nothing special, but then you bite in, and the cinnamon sugar yields to the tender butter crumb, and then that yields to the subtle flavor of ground almonds.  And then it’s gone, and you find yourself reaching for another, thinking, “well, that was so small, surely one more won’t hurt,” and before you know it you’ve polished off a dozen and wonder what happened.  A couple dozen of these, wrapped in red tissue paper makes a gorgeous gift for someone you really love.

Almond Crescents

Adapted from Rose’s Christmas Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen crescents

Ingredients:

Cookie dough:

2 ounces (about 2/3 cup) blanched slivered almonds

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup unsalted butter

1 2/3 cup all- purpose flour

Topping:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, grind the almonds and sugar together until the almonds are very fine. Add the butter a couple tablespoons at a time, with the motor still running, and process until smooth and creamy.  Add the flour and salt, and scrape the sides of the bowl.  Pulse the processor a few times, just until the flour is incorporated.

Scrape the dough into a bowl, and cover with plastic.  Refrigerate for two hours or until firm.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Roll a piece of dough into a ball less than an inch in diameter.  Roll it between your palms, until it is in the shape of a cylinder, with slightly tapered ends on both sides, about 3 inches long by 1/2 inch thick. Form each cookie into a crescent shape and place on an ungreased cookie sheet, about an inch apart.

Bake 14-16 minutes, or until set but not brown. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer them while warm into a bowl of cinnamon sugar (see topping, above), turning gently to coat thoroughly, one at a time.

Keep in an airtight container for up to one month.

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Gingerbread People

Certain cookies are iconic at this time of year, but they often don’t taste as good as they look.  Thankfully, these are the perfect gingerbread cookies — adorable, spicy, a tad chewy, and utterly delicious.  I make them every year, and people always say they are the best gingerbread cookies they’ve ever had.

Once again, my reputation as a baker rests on the shoulders of Rose Levy Berenbaum.  Her book, Rose’s Christmas Cookies, should be on the shelf of everyone who bakes cookies at the holidays.

Gingerbread People

adapted from Rose’s Christmas Cookies

Makes about 40 small or 25 large gingerbread people

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup Grandma’s molasses (unsulphured)

1 egg

Royal Icing, for decorating

Directions:

Mix together the flour, salt, baking soda and spices in a small bowl.  In a separate bowl, cream together the brown sugar and butter until fluffy (about 3-5 minutes using a stand mixer). Add the molasses and egg and beat until blended. On low speed, add the dry ingredients until well blended.

Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a sheet of plastic wrap.  Form into a flat-ish disc or rectangle. Wrap tightly and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, or overnight, if necessary.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, to about 1/8 inch thickness or so.  If the dough is very cold, you may need to let it warm a bit on the counter before you begin to roll it out. Cut out the dough with cookie cutters in the shape of people, large or small.  Place the shapes on a piece of baking parchment or a lightly greased cookie sheet, leaving an inch or so between them.  Bake for 8-10 minutes for the small cookies, a couple minutes longer for the large ones.  Cookies will not color appreciably in baking, so look for them to rise a bit in the center, and be just starting to firm up.

Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to wire cooling racks.  Decorate with royal icing (or melted white chocolate).

These cookies keep for months, stored in an airtight container, making them the perfect cookie to make early in your holiday season.

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