On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, cookies a-baking ... five golden rules, "You're Invited!" cards, gifts for my friends, ways to spread the love and a little time reserved just for me.
There's just something about this season that lends itself to baking. Maybe it's the holiday memories and traditions associated with the kitchen.
In my house, the week before Christmas is cookie time. We don't have the time to make dozens of different cookies on Christmas Eve and there wouldn't be any left if we made them too far in advance, so the week before it is.
While everyone has their own family recipes and dietary restrictions, there is really only one secret to amazing cookies. It's butter. Not margarine, not shortening ... butter, Paula Dean style.
I apologize to those of you on diets and those choosing vegan (really?) or gluten free, but these are Christmas cookies, and they should not be tampered with.
I'll share a few of my favorites with you, in the hope you'll share a few of yours with me. We'll make this a virtual cookie swap.
Also known as the Molasses Crinkle, you'll notice my version of the snap is a bit more chewable than the break-your-teeth spice cookie you get in the store (although I also love that).
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup butter, softened (I prefer unsalted)
- 1/4 cup molasses (or more to taste)
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
First cream together sugar, butter, molasses and egg, then add your flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Betty Crocker would have you refrigerate this mix for an hour, but it really doesn't affect the taste and who can wait an hour to eat cookies?
Heat your oven to 375 degrees and drop the dough into rounded teaspoonfuls on a buttered baking sheet. If you do it right, in 10-12 minutes your cookies will be done with those beautiful little cracks all over the top. Cool them on a cookie sheet.
My dad loves all cookies, but absolutely demands at least two batches of Russian teacakes every year. You may also know these one-bite wonders as Almond Crescents. Regardless of the name, they are buttery, sugary heaven.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup nutes (almonds or walnuts seem to work best)
- (To taste) Feel free to add 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract to enhance the flavor
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cream together the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix the flour, salt and nuts into the butter-sugar mixture and stir until the dough holds together. Roll the dough into little 1-inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. These cook until brown, 10-12 minutes.
Now the amazing part. While they're still warm (not hot), roll them in a bowl filled with powdered sugar. You can roll twice if you're really feeling the sugar high.
Sugar Cookies (for decorating)
I'm not afraid to admit I still love decorating sugar cookies. I'm absolute rubbish at it, but I love it all the same. Over the years I've collected quite an assortment of Christmas-themed cookie cutters and even though the bell always comes out better than the candy cane, I love them equally.
A secret for icing the cookies? If you're not buying that expensive frosting in the tube, then make sure you have a plastic baggie you can turn into a piping unit. The mess will be slightly less, depending on the age and maturity of the frosters.
- 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
- 2 cups white sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
Like every other cookie recipe, you're going to cream together the butter and sugar first before adding in the eggs and vanilla. Then you're adding the dry ingredients to the wet, vigorously mixing the flour, baking powder and salt. This mix you do have to chill for at least one hour, or overnight if you can wait that long.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the dough on a floured surface (use parchment/wax paper between the flour and your countertop or table) so its no more than a half inch thick. Cut the shapes with the cookie cutters of your choice and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake six to eight minutes and cool completely before icing.
- 2 cups confectioners sugar
- 2 tablespoon milk (less milk means thicker frosting)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir confectioners sugar, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of milk in a bowl and mix together. Gradually add the remaining milk, just a few drops at a time until you reach the frosting consistency you desire. Try not to eat the frosting before it hits the cookies.