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Holiday Cookies

It’s the last week before Christmas and definitely Cookie Week!  Cookies are the perfect dessert for a houseful of guests, and a beautifully wrapped tray or colorful bag of cookies makes the perfect gift for friends and neighbors.  If you get started today and bake a bit at a time, you’ll have quite a selection by Christmas day.  Here is a collection of my favorite Holiday Cookies which emphasize distinct flavors, varieties and colors to make gorgeous cookie trays!

CUTOUT SUGAR COOKIES:

Cream:
1/2 cup Butter
1 cup Sugar
 
Add:
2 Eggs
 
Combine and add:
2  3/4 cup AP Flour
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1  1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Chill.  Roll out to 1/2″ thick.  Cut with desired cookie cutter shapes.  Bake on cookie sheet in 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.

ROYAL ICING:
Place in mixing and whip at high speed:
2 cups Powdered Sugar
1 Tabl. Dry Egg White Powder (found in baking aisle of grocery store)
1/4 cup Water
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Add more water as needed to make spreading consistency.  Icing can be colored with food colors.  Ice cool cookies.  Allow the icing to dry completely.

Tip:  If you are doing more than one color on each cookie, allow to completely dry before adding the next color.

CHOCOLATE DIPPED SHORTBREAD COOKIES:

Cream:
3 cups Butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Sugar
 
Gradually Add:
3 Egg Yolks
1-1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
3 Tabl. Milk
 
Add to above and mix until all is incorporated:
6 cups AP Flour

Chill the dough 30 minutes before using.  Roll out the dough and cut with cookie cutters into desired shape.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Cool completely.

Melt a good quality chocolate and dip 1/2 of cookie in melted chocolate.  Place each dipped cookie onto a parchment sheet.  Allow the chocolate to dry well before stacking and freezing.

 

CHRISTMAS BONBON COOKIES:

Cream:
1 cup Butter
1-1/2 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar
 
Add:
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
 
Mix in:
3 Cups AP Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
6 Tabl. Cream or milk

When the dough comes together, wrap it in plastic to chill.  Take your “surprise” (I use Hershey’s Kisses) and press it into the center of a 1″ ball of dough.  Roll the dough into a ball to cover the “surprise”.

Place on parchment lined or greased cookie sheets.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-14 minutes, or until lightly browned.

When completely cool, ice with royal icing and colorful sprinkles or dip in melted chocolate.

GINGERBREAD COOKIES:

Cream:
1-1/2 cups Butter, room temp.
1-1/2 cups Brown Sugar
 
Add:
1-1/2 cups Molasses
 
Gradually add to above, one at a time:
3 Eggs
 
Add to above:
7-1/2 cups AP Flour
1 tsp. Salt
1-1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
2 Tabl. Ground Ginger
2 Tabl. Cinnamon
2 Tabl. Ground Cloves
 

Chill the dough.  Roll out and cut with gingerbread men/women (whatever) cutters. Before baking, you can add red hot cinnamon candies and press into the dough if you wish.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.  Cool completely.  Ice with Royal Icing.

ALMOND CRESCENT COOKIES:

Cream:
2 cups Butter, softened
3/4 cup Sugar
 
Add:
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp. Almond Extract

Stir in:
3 cups AP Flour
2-1/2 cups Almond Flour*
1 tsp. salt

Chill the dough for at least one hour.  Scoop out 1-1/2″ balls.  Roll the dough into a cylinder and shape with fingers.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 15-17 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Cool completely.  I keep mine in the freezer and shake them in a bag with powdered sugar before I serve.

*Almond Flour used to be only accessible at specialty baking stores, but now, you can find it in regular grocery stores in the baking aisle.  If you can’t find it in your store, finely grind the almonds with 3 Tabl. of Flour in a food processor – and you have almond flour!

SOUR CREAM CUTOUT COOKIES:

Cream:
1 cup Butter
2 Cups Sugar  
 
Add:
2 Eggs
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
 
Sift Together:
5-1/4 Cups AP Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg  
 
Mix alternately with flour:
1 Cup Sour Cream

Chill the dough for a few hours or overnight.  Roll out on floured surface to 1/4″ thick.  Cutout with your favorite cookie cutters and place on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Ice with Royal Icing – Decorate as desired!

 

CRUNCHY PEANUT BUTTER BUCKEYES:

Melt in a pan over low heat:
1/2 cup Butter
2 cups Peanut Butter
 
Combine in a large bowl:
5 cups Rice Cereal
1 cup Powdered Sugar

Pour the melted butters over the dry mixture.  Stir to coat evenly.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.  Form the peanut butter mixture into small balls, pressing firmly together and shaping with your hands.   Place on parchment lined baking sheets.  Melt 1 package of your favorite Chocolate.  Dip COLD balls into the chocolate and place on parchment to set the chocolate. These freeze very well – not that you’ll be able to keep them there.  Enjoy!

 

PEANUT KOOKIE BRITTLE:

Cream:
2 cups Butter, soft
2 cups Sugar
 
Add:
1 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
 
Add:
4 cups Flour
 
Stir in:
2 cups cocktail peanuts

Press firmly into the bottom of 1″ sided cookie sheet.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 25-30 min.  Cool for 15 minutes before cutting.  Allow to completely cool before serving/freezing.

RUGELACH:

CREAM:
8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
8 oz.  Butter, softened
 
ADD:
1-1/4 cups AP Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt

Place the dough onto plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Divide the dough in half.  Shape each half into a rectangle and roll out with rolling pin until fairly thin.  *For my cinnamon nut, I spread soft butter over the dough, drizzle honey on top of the butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and chopped walnuts. Now, roll the rectangle up, starting from the long side, forming a long roll, approx. 1-1/2″ in diameter.  Wrap that roll in plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator.

When you are ready to bake, cut 1-1/2″ pieces with a sharp knife. Brush each piece with milk and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake in HOT (pre-heated) oven at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until nicely browned.  These freeze very well.

*Experiment with fillings, spread apricot jam and roll, or use raspberry jam and mini choc.chips, use you imagination!

 

CHOCOLATE CRACKLETOPS:

Melt in microwave (low heat and gradual):
5 squares of Baking Chocolate
1/2 cup Butter
 
In mixing bowl, place:
2 cups Sugar
 
Add melted chocolate to the sugar and mix.
Beat in one at a time:
3 Eggs, large
 
Add and mix:
2-1/2 cups AP Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup Walnuts (optional)

Refrigerate the dough overnight or at least 6 hours.  Roll COLD dough into balls.  Roll each ball in confectioner’s sugar and place on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Bake in a 300 degree oven for 12-14 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before removing from pan.

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Oatmeal Scotchie Cookies

I love butterscotch – almost more than chocolate.  You might remember your grandmother making these traditional cookies.  Of course I know that butterscotch chips are artificially flavored, and you might think that would deter me from enjoying them.   The problem is, these cookies are more than the sum of their parts ~ they are “portable memories”.  They transport me to grandma’s house and I’m 11 years old waiting for them to cool enough to eat.  When you’re over 50 years old, transporting back to 11 is “a good thing”!

This recipe makes 4 dozen cookies.
 
In a mixer bowl, cream:
1 cup Butter, room temp.
1 cup Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup Sugar
 
Add to creamed mixture:
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
 
Add to above:
1-1/4 cups AP Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
 
Stir in:
3 cups Old-Fashioned Quaker Oats
1 (11 ounce) package Nestle Toll House Butterscotch-flavored morsels
 
Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes or more.  Roll the chilled dough into 1″ balls and place on parchment lined or lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. 
 
     

Peanut(ty) Butter Cookies

Otherwise know as “Whole Jar” Peanut Butter Cookies, this recipe is my very favorite.  Having had a “peanut free” bakery, I often found myself craving peanut butter.  Occasionally on my day off the car would lead me to a nearby bakery, aptly named “Happiness Is..” for their delicious peanut butter cookie, which I believe to be this recipe.  I’m guessing the original recipe came from one of the peanut butter companies, because of the “whole jar” of peanut butter called for.

As an aside, who didn’t grow up eating peanut butter??!!  Really, we practically lived on peanut butter sandwiches as did every other kid in my school.  For what I believe must be environmental, many children find themselves allergic, so Perfect Endings Bakery was a peanut-free bakery.

If you are fortunate enough to not have a loved one with a peanut allergy, do enjoy these cookies, as you won’t get any more peanut butter flavor than this.

In a mixer bowl, cream:
1 cup Butter, room temp.
 
Add to the butter and cream well:
1 cup Sugar
1 cup packed Brown Sugar
 
Add to above and mix well:
2 Eggs, whole
1 Egg Yolk
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 whole jar (18 ounce) Peanut Butter, creamy
 
Combine dry ingredients in another bowl and then add to above:
2 cups AP Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
 
Stir in:
1 cup Peanuts, coarse chopped
 
Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.  Roll into 1-1/2″ balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheets, leaving room for spread.   Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 9-12 minutes, or until lightly browned, but still soft in the center.  When removed from the oven, immediately press down the cookie with a flat spatula.  As with most cookies, these freeze well. 
 
  

Millionaries Shortbread Layer Bars

Millionaires Shortbread is, as you can imagine by its name, RICH!  So, what do you have against “rich”?  Personally, I’d prefer “rich” over sweet any day and believe me, there is a difference.  It’s not the sweet that makes your teeth ache, but the richness that brings satisfaction.  This recipe makes a small 9″ square pan, but because of its richness, it makes 2 dozen servings.

You’ll want to make the caramel filling first and allow it to cool a bit before adding it on top of the crust.  Line your pan with foil to make easy pull out for cutting and fast clean-up!

 

 

CARAMEL LAYER:
In a saucepan, stir together:
1 can Condensed Milk
1/4 cup Butter
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
Pinch of salt
 

Cook on low heat, stirring constantly, for about 20 minutes until thick.

 
Remove from heat and stir in:
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Leave on the counter to cool.

     

SHORTBREAD LAYER:
Mix together in mixing bowl:
2-1/4 cups AP Flour
1/2 cup Confectioner’s Sugar
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 cup Butter, cut into small pieces

Firmly press the dough into the bottom of the pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes until lightly browned and done.

  

Pour the Caramel over the warm crust and spread.  Cool completely.

CHOCOLATE LAYER:
In a bowl combine:
1 cup Chocolate Chips
2 Tabl. Butter

Melt in a microwave on low heat.

Remove from microwave and add:
2 Tabl. Corn syrup
 
  

Stir until smooth.  Pour over cooled caramel layer and spread to cover the top.  Sprinkle top lightly with Sea Salt (optional).  Allow the bars to set up completely before cutting.

  

Raspberry Linzer Bars

Who doesn’t like a delicious Linzer cookie?  Typically, these delicate cookies are made, rolled, cut out and baked, then, filled with raspberry jam, topped with another fragile cookie and dusted with powdered sugar – WHEW!

I spent years making these cookies the “traditional” way, but this recipe (a Daniel Boulud original recipe)  was so popular that making them every day in a busy retail bakery proved to be a bit too time consuming.

So, In an effort to be more efficient, I made Linzer bars: same great taste but in a more convenient, efficient bar.

Cream in a mixer bowl:
1-1/2 cups Butter, softened
1/2 cup Sugar
 
Gradually add to the creamed mixture:
3 cups AP Flour
2 cups Almond Flour*
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Tabl. Lemon Zest

Divide the dough in half.  Roll 1/2 of the dough out onto a parchment paper and then flip over into a 9″ X 13″ pan (I recommend lining it with foil to easily remove when cool) and press down firmly. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  While the crust is baking, repeat the process of rolling the other 1/2 of dough onto another sheet of parchment paper.

Remove the hot crust from the oven and spread it with 1-1/2 cups of raspberry jam.  Flip the remaining dough over onto the top of the jam and remove the parchment paper.  Put it back into the oven and continue to bake 30-35 minutes until lightly golden and bubbling.  Cool completely before cutting into squares.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

                  

*Almond Flour used to be only accessible at specialty baking stores, but now, you can find it in regular grocery stores in the baking aisle.  If you can’t find it in your store, finely grind  3 cups of almonds with 2 Tabl. of flour in a food processor – and you have almond flour!

Oreo Truffles

One of the recipes that has gone round and round the internet is Oreo Truffles.  Rachel and I decided to try them and serve them at her son’s party.  To say they were a “hit” would be an understatement!  I thought we made way too many, but as it turned out, they disappeared in no time at all.

I’m warning you: these are rich AND addictive.  You’ll eat one too many, but have no regrets!

In a food processor, process until fine crumbs are formed:
1 bag of Oreos
 
Add and pulse in food processor until it comes together:
8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
 
Refrigerate the “dough” for at least one hour.  Roll in balls approx. 1-1/2″ rounds.  Stick a candy stick (available in craft stores) through the center of each ball.  Press firmly around the stick to secure.
 
Place the balls on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Refrigerate again.  (the warmth of your hands will soften the dough as you shape, so refrigerating again will allow them to chill off properly before dipping.)
 
        
 
Melt slowly over a hot water bath:
1 bag of Chocolate Chips (Milk, Dark, White or colored or all –  in separate bowls)

When the balls are sufficiently chilled and the chocolate is melted, dip each in the chocolate up to the stick.  At this point, if you wish to roll or dip them in something such as Oreo crumbs, ground nuts, powdered sugar, (anything, really) do so now, before the chocolate sets up.  Place each back on the parchment and allow to chill before serving.

I suggest storing them in the refrigerator because they melt fairly easily due to the cream cheese.  We drizzled our truffles with colored chocolate after the dark chocolate had set.  These also would freeze well.

“Sinful” Bars

While scanning the internet, I found a recipe made by Heather, of Making Life Delicious.  Heather got the recipe from “The Great American Bake Sale” Cookbook. I knew Rachel and her husband Steve would love because of the peanut butter/chocolate combination.  I asked Rach to make and review these and she anxiously agreed.  She might not agree so readily next time because she is cursing me for the calories of this dessert.

“Sinful is the perfect name for these rich and delicious bars.  They were so divine that I was willing to trade breakfast, lunch and dinner for 1 large piece!  The recipe was extremely easy to follow and reminded me of what we call Buckeyes in Ohio.  The peanut butter- chocolate combination is amazing!  I used extra chunky peanut butter because I knew it would give the bars a wonderful crunchy consistency, but you can use smooth.

The original recipe called for 4 cups of powdered sugar, but I only used 3.  If I were to use this recipe again I would omit the stick of butter that is combined with the chocolate for the topping.  I would just spread melted chocolate to cut the calories of the butter because it wouldn’t compromise the taste and it would allow me to eat two pieces without feeling extremely guilty!   Try this recipe for yourself- it truly is sinful.”         – Rachel

Melt in microwave:
1 cup (2 sticks) Butter
2 cups Chunky Peanut Butter

Stir into above:
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 cups Graham Cracker crumbs 
3 cups Powdered sugar

Line a 9 X 13-inch pan with foil allowing it to extend about 2 inches up past the two long sides of the pan.  Pat the peanut butter mixture into the lined ungreased 9 X 13-inch pan.  Refrigerate to chill.

Slowly melt in microwave and then spread on cold bars:
7 ounces Semisweet Chocolate Chips
4 ounces Milk Chocolate Chips
Pinch salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter (optional)

Chill in refrigerator to set.  Pull the foil out of the pan by the edges.  Place on cutting board and use a hot knife to cut “clean” pieces.  Enjoy!!

Lemon Butter “Refrigerator” Cookies

This Spring has brought some deadly weather across our nation.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been devastated by tornadoes.  While the rest of us prepare to enjoy a relaxing Memorial Day weekend, many are truly struggling for their daily living.  

Here in NY, we’ve gone right from the daily rains of Spring into the hot/humid weather one would expect of August, not May.  This is Memorial Day weekend, with bright sunny, hot days in the weather picture to help welcome summer.  Many of us will be swinging on the porch swing, drinking lemonade and enjoying the sunshine.  Just in time for your Spring luncheons or Memorial Day picnics are these delicate, tangy lemon cookies.

 
 
Cream until light colored and fluffy:
3/4 pound of butter (3 sticks), room temperature
1 cup Sugar
 
Add:
1 Egg and 1 Egg Yolk
1 Tabl. Cream or Milk
1 Tabl. Lemon Juice
1 tsp. Lemon Zest
1 tsp. Lemon Extract
 
Stir in:
3-1/2 cups AP Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt

      

Divide the dough into 2 and place on parchment sheets.  Roll each into a cylinder approx. 2″ in diameter.  Roll up the parchment encasing the dough and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and using a sharp knife, cut into 1/4″ slices, placing the cookies on parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.  Do NOT allow the cookies to get brown.  Cool.  Glaze cooled cookies with the following glaze.

GLAZE:
1-1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp. Lemon Extract
2-3 tsp. Hot water

S’more Cookies

Today, Rachel writes about a new recipe which has been floating all over the internet – S’more Cookies.  In this case, the cookie dough is baked directly on top of the graham cracker.  There are a hundred more ways to make cookies with this famous combination – who knows who even thought of it any more?  You’ll see that Rachel made a couple of changes herself.

“To me, the word S’more promises rich chocolaty goodness combined with gooey marshmallows all jumbled up on top of a crisp graham cracker.  I think campfire, warmth and sweetness.

I tried this recipe, and while it was certainly an easy one, there is one change I would make.  I would omit the cinnamon so that when you bite into the cookie your senses aren’t thrown off by the aroma of cinnamon.  And since cinnamon isn’t a traditional component of S’mores, it would be easy to omit.  The graham cracker actually stayed crisp – which was great.  I did try to add broken pieces of the graham cracker to the cookie batter itself but it didn’t work because the cookie needs the cracker on the bottom to give it stability.

For simplicity sake, I combined the marshmallows and chocolate bar chunks in the batter instead of adding them in the middle of baking.  Overall, this cookie wasn’t one of my favorites, but worth trying for a kids party or to quickly satisfy a S’more craving – without the campfire.”  – Rachel

 
Cream until light and fluffy:
3/4 cup Butter (1-1/2 sticks) room temperature
1 cup Brown sugar
1/2 cup Sugar
 
Stir in to above:
2 Eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
 
 
Combine dry ingredients and add to above.  Mix well:
2-½ cups AP Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon (OPTIONAL)

Stir in:
1 cup mini Marshmallows
3 Hershey’s bars, broken into pieces (I used Hershey’s dark choc.)

Graham crackers, broken into squares

Lay out graham crackers side by side on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Place one scoop or ball of dough in the center of each graham half.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 12-14 minutes. 

    
     
        

Chinese Almond Cookies


I’m not a big fan of Chinese food – unless it is authentic, in which case, bring it on!  What I do love, is Chinese Almond Cookies. You know, the cookies which are almond flavored, have a “sandy” texture to them with a glaze and almond on top.  This recipe is simple, though if you choose my way of placing almonds on top, a bit time consuming. Alternatively, just press one almond half down in the center of each cookie prior to baking (that is more traditional anyway, but not as pretty).   This recipe makes 2-1/2 doz. cookies.

In a mixer bowl combine:
2-3/4 cups AP Flour
1 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
 
Add and continue to mix with dry ingredients until course crumbs form:
1/2 cup Butter, soft, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup Shortening
 
Add to above and mix just until combined:
1 Egg, whole and 1 Egg White
1-1/2 tsp. Almond Extract
 
        
 
Roll the dough into large 2″ balls and press down slightly to make a disk.  Arrange almond halves or almond slices on top of each.  Brush each cookie with egg wash.  Sprinkle each cookie with sugar.
 
Egg Wash:
Whisk together:
2 Eggs
1 Tabl. Water

            

Bake cookies 14-16 minutes in 350 degree oven.  Cool and store in air-tight container.

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