Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Foods - Cookies

For many, Christmas cookies are in integral part of the Christmas season and celebration. People make several different varieties and batches of traditional favorites, new recipes, and seasonal delights. From the ever popular chocolate chip cookies to the beautiful and creative Christmas cut-outs, cookies are a delicious and much anticipated part of any Christmas table. This year, let's put our collective Christmas cookie recipes out there to broaden our repertoire and fill our cookie plates.
Before we begin the recipe swap, remember that cookies are not just a supplement to a dessert buffet or a snack; they are tasty, attractive, and important enough to be the sole offering for dessert. In our home cookies are the only dessert offered on Christmas Eve and several nights leading up to Christmas. Pies are reserved for Christmas night, and, in my home, perhaps a cake for my father's Christmas birthday (although he much prefers a fantastic cheese danish! Okay, Dad, this year I'll try to accommodate you!)
What is your cookie creation you are most proud? Is it a long family favorite? Something new you got from a magazine last year? Is the process to make the cookies laborious or quite simple? Do you "bake from scratch" or take help from a tube of dough and "doctor it up"? Do you make one or two kinds or whip up no less than seven different batches of Christmas cookies? If you are not the baker, but you are a champion consumer of Christmas cookies, what are your favorites? Do any of you rely on store bought items to make or round out your  Christmas cookie platters? Do you add Christmas candies, i.e. fudge, toffee, etc., to add to your cookie plate? Whereas many of us have the tried and true recipes that work, it would be lovely to be able to have some new ones that are proven to choose. So, please leave a comment listing one of your favorite cookie/candy recipes or ideas that help you entertain for the sweet part of your meal. Be it slice and bake cookies, microwave fudge, Rice Krispie Treats, or homemade pecan sandies, put a tidbit down for us to share.
My staples are the following:

Nestles' Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies
The recipe can be found on the bag of semi-sweet morsels that Nestles' sells. It is the original recipe developed by Ruth Wakefield who owned an inn, The Toll House Inn. Upon starting a batch of chocolate cookies she had often made for her guests, Mrs. Wakefield discovered she was out of baker's chocolate. She found and substituted in Nestles' semi-sweet chocolate, breaking the pieces into her bowl figuring it would melt and turn her dough into chocolate. Instead, the chocolate held its shape yielding the ooey gooey chocolate chip cookie! This is a standby for me year round, but my children (and my big brothers) request these cookies during the Christmas holidays annually. I follow the recipe and make these from scratch - totally worth it!

Sugar Cut-Out Cookies
There are myriad recipes for the simple yet tasty sugar cookie. I have never used the same one consistently and now, due to time constraints, most often use one of the offerings at the grocery store. I have used the tube doughs which instruct adding flour to stiffen the dough for rolling out and punching out the dough with cutters, and a boxed mix that is also simple and yields delightful cookie dough. To me, the sugar cookie is made to decorate so I try not to take too much time in the making of the dough/cookie. I am much happier having the cookies cut out and baked so my children and I can get to the decorating. We use frosting, sprinkles, and our imaginations to make these ornament-worthy cookies. We do all of the traditional shapes for Christmas (bells, Santas, trees, and stars) but this year we are adding some new characters my boys received for their birthdays this summer - Star Wars characters! We will add Yoda, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and Storm Troopers to our mix of Christmas regulars. It's cool, it goes with the Star Wars garland that hangs in the kitchen!

One Bowl Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge
This recipe keeps my husband loyal to me and my cookie plate all season long! As simple as it is, this fudge packs amazing taste and texture and is thankfully easy to make more as we tend to run out of it a lot!

2 packages (8 squares each) Semi-Sweet Chocolate
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter

Microwave chocolate and milk in large microwavable bowl on HIGH 2 to 3 minutes or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring halfway through heating time. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
Stir in vanilla. Spread in greased 8-inch square pan. Drop 1/2 cup peanut butter  by teaspoonfuls on top of fudge. Swirl with knife to marbleize. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into squares.
Makes 4 dozen


Chocolate-dipped Pretzel Rods
This year I tried an entirely new recipe in the hopes that I could not only add this to my Christmas cookie offerings, but also dress the items up for gift-giving. I luckily stumbled on to an easy and lip-smackingly pleasing concoction.

1 package chocolate melts (sold at craft stores and Wal*Mart)
1 container tall pretzel rods
Various containers sprinkles, crushed candy canes, and/or cookies

Line large baking sheets with waxed paper. Set out bowls of sprinkles, candies, and/or crushed cookie bits. Microwave chocolate disks according to package. Dip pretzel rod in melted chocolate using a spoon to help coat the majority of the rod but being careful to leave the top plain to use as a handle. Once thoroughly coated let the excess drip off into the chocolate bowl so as not to waste the chocolate. Using a spoon, shake the sprinkles, candies, and/or crushed cookie pieces onto chocolate sides of the pretzel rod. Once covered to your liking gently place the rods on the waxed paper to dry. Continue until you run out of chocolate. If chocolate gets hardened before you are finished simply put back into the microwave for a few seconds. Once the chocolate-dipped pretzel rods have air dried, package in cellophane bags for gift-giving or stack in a tin or box that is air tight for storage. I do not know how long these last time-wise before they "go bad" as they haven't lasted that long here - they keep getting eaten! I am giving these as bus driver and teacher gifts, as part of gift baskets, and in stockings. They will also be part of my Christmas cookie platter.

In addition to the confections I make in my own kitchen, I always supplement with cookies from my friends (thank you Gretchen!) and store-bought treasures like Reeses' peanut butter trees, Lindt truffles, and red and green M&Ms.

I look forward to reading your recipes, ideas, and stories. Until then...

4 comments:

  1. I do not like them sam i am. :P

    actually i do enjoy a cookie every now and then. we just don't have cookies at christmas. i have a christmas cake that is requested by all those who have ever had one. my best friend has already texted me to make sure she'll be getting one again this year. we've been friends since 5th grade, so she has grown up with the cake like i have. ;)

    this year however, i am going to try chocolate chip & BACON cookies. i'll let you know how that turns out.

    last year, i tried a recipe that produced very yummy cookies, but the dough is SO incredibly sticky that it made the process much less fun than cookie making should be. If you are brave enough to try it out, here is the recipe (i had to search the internet since i think i threw the recipe out in frustration):

    3-Ingredient Cookies
    1(18 1/4 ounce) box cake mix (lemon is best)
    1 (8 ounce) container Cool Whip
    1 egg

    1. Mix all ingredients.
    2. Form into balls.
    3. Roll in confectioners' sugar.
    4. Bake at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes.
    5. Cool in pan a few minutes before removing.

    Enjoy!

    also, last year, i made jewish hanukkah donuts for a friend and the family has requested them again this year. so, i will probably be making them as well.

    enjoy all your cookies! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Perhaps my favorite cookie at our house is simple(?) rolled-out, cut-out sugar cookies that Mary makes from scratch. It is the generous amount of butter in the dough mix that sets these apart from many sugar cookies. It seems that Mary makes these only during the Holidays and around Valentines Day. So, I am definitely overdue for some.

    ReplyDelete
  3. A fabulous ginger man shortcut: The Immaculate Baking Company's Ginger Spice Cookie Dough, ready to bake, with some plain decorating sugar included (not holiday decorations). At Whole Foods and some Safeway Stores, probably other natural grocers too. Combine the 24 individual cookie dough lumps; roll out and cut in your favorite holiday shapes...little ginger people or otherwise. A great time saver and all natural ingredients too, so free of trans fats and high fructose corn syrups. Yum!

    ReplyDelete