Ah, the holidays! The Great Cookie Swap is finally here! I have a couple of books dedicated to baking cookies and while it was super cold and wet last weekend, I decided to dedicate my past time to baking. I made some cookie tins for colleagues at the organization where I work because,..why not?! I love to bake cookies for the holidays with my daughter. Her favorites to bake are Snickerdoodle and Gingerbread. I wanted to post some of my favorite cookies to bake around this time of year because they are very easy, delicious, and you get to impress your friends while wearing an ugly Christmas sweater with a huge smile.
Many of my cookie recipes use sugar (at least 1 cup), flour (at least 2 cups), baking powder, unsalted butter, extract flavor, a pinch of salt (1/2 tsp), and large eggs (only 2). I always cream the wet ingredients first and sift the dry ingredients second before combing (dry into wet). The temperature is always a preheated oven set at 350 degrees. They are also wrapped in waxed parchment or plastic wrap and chilled for at least an hour or overnight in the freezer. Cooling on a wire rack helps the cookies maintain their texture and chew. So while some recipes may come from a book or magazine for inspiration, many of these are my own recipe.
Orange Cranberry Shortbread
Shortbread cookies are by far the easiest to make because they literally only contain 3 ingredients : sugar, butter, and flour. All of my recipes use all purpose flour (bleached or unbleached doesn’t matter to me). I also bake all or most of my cookies at 350 degrees. The shortbreads were a favorite because they were not too sweet and very buttery. One can create their own rendition such as almonds, lemon, ginger, lavender, poppy seed, and so on. I used dried cranberry (craisins soaked in red moscato and brandy), orange zest and orange extract for flavor. I mixed about 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 stick of cold butter, and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, and a pinch of salt in a bowl, added the orange and cranberry, wrapped in plastic, and chilled for about 2 hours until stiff. The dough was sliced into about 1/4 in in thickness. Sugar can be sprinkled on top for crunch right before baking. These were mainly eyeball-baked, but if given a time, I’d say around 10 minutes making sure that the cookies are a very light brown. Cool in a wire rack and you’re all done. I love making these especially for a quick sweet tooth fix. However, if you’re being health conscious, the butter certainly does not make these the healthiest.
Cherry Almond Biscotti w/White Chocolate Drizzle
These were very fun to make and my favorite. These Italian favorites are traditionally twice baked, meaning they are baked once for 30 minutes, then sliced and baked again at a lower temperature until dried and crunchy. Biscotti typically uses nuts such as pine and almonds, but there are other varieties that I have seen using pecans, pistachios, and walnuts. These cookies are served after dinner with wine or coffee for dunking. I chose to make Biscotti using Maraschino cherries and slivered almonds. White chocolate was drizzled on for aesthetic purposes, and it made the cookies sing! Three and 1/4 cups of flour was used along with 2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt was sifted. I creamed 2 sticks of butter, vanilla and almond extract, 11/4 cup of sugar and added 2 eggs. I added the dry to the wet at about a few heaping tablespoonfuls at a time until well incorporated. The maraschino cherries were rough chopped and added in along with 8 oz (1 cup) of slivered almonds. The dough was chilled for about 1 hour before baking. The biscotti was cut into 2 long shaped pieces at about 7 in wide and 2-3 in in height. The biscotti was baked for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Once cooled for about 20 minutes, they were sliced at about 1/2 in thick and baked flat side down at 300 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes, making sure to turn them over to dry out on the other side. I had to be real careful with the second batch I made as the first batch was left at a higher temperature than it should and some ended up burning. So once done, they were cooled and drizzled with melted white chocolate. I think it tastes best dipped in some tea and hot cocoa.
Chunky Chocolate Chip
I used a basic Chocolate chip cookie recipe. 1/2 cup each of brown sugar and white sugar along with 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of softened butter, 1/4 cup of butter flavored shortening, 2 1/2 cup of flour, 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt. I had to use vanilla bean since I ran outta extract. Milk Chocolate and Semi Sweet chips were used. I believe the key is watching the portion size to get the right amount of chew by dropping them by the spoonful versus cutting them into slices. Still, they were buttery, chocolatey, and not hard.
The Kitchen Sink
The Chunky chocolate chip recipe was used and added some ingredients from the other cookies. White chocolate, Semi Sweet Chocolate chunks, potato chips, oats, and almonds were used. Of course, if I wanted to make it a true kitchen sink, I would have also used the dried cranberries or raisins I had lying around. But they were baked in the same manner and cooled. They were also a big hit.
Lemon, Ginger, and Brown Butter Crinkle Cookies
I made these cookies again adding ginger this time. Lemon and ginger are the dessert version of peas and carrots. One can never go wrong with this combo. I used the same recipe from the Martha Stewart Living October (or was it November) edition. Read my review here.
I’ve made these plenty of times before but for some reason, there was some trial and error last weekend. The first batch came out crunchy. While the flavor was not bad, I prefer a chewy cookie. So I made some adjustments. Move the rack to the middle rack in the oven and chill the cookies for an hour. Second batch came out perfect. I creamed 1 cup of butter softened with 1 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, and 2 eggs. The dry ingredients using 2 3/4 cup of flour, 2 tsp cream of tartar, 1 tsp baking soda and a pinch of salt were mixed and added to the wet ingredients. The dough was chilled for an hour and rolled into small balls coated with cinnamon sugar (Tip: flatten in the middle using your thumb). The snickerdoodles were baked for about 5-8 minutes until lightly brown with a slight underbake for chew. I now know why these are my daughter’s favorite.