Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Preparation Commences! COOKIE RECIPES!!!

Christmas, Yule, Winter Solstice, Winter Holiday...whatever you wish to call is right around the corner! (Sorry I missed the start of Hanukkah!)
Almost all cultures/societies/religions have some sort of celebration in the colder winter season. I think humans need a holiday/feast day/celebration at this point of the year.
It is cold and possibly snowy. Everyone is getting cranky and showing signs of cabin fever. Spring is s-o-o-o-o-o far away. We have to have something to look forward to!
It seems all the celebrations involve LIGHT....Pagans have the Yule log and burning torches, Jews light the Menorah, Christians celebrate the arrival of the "Light of the World" and light candles and/or decorate trees with lights, various Asian cultures light lanterns for their celebrations.
And all us humans FEAST!
There is a special satisfaction in creating a meal of stupendous proportions in the depths of winter. The heady  aromas of roast meat, the enticing scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, the sweet smell of cookies and homemade candy wafting through the house. The table groaning under the unaccustomed weight of so much food!
And the cookies...oh, yes, the cookies! I adore baking cookies almost as much as I like eating them!
This year I will have snickerdoodles, spritz, Scottish shortbread, sugar cookies, jam thumbprints, and several others. I will also bake gingerbread cookies.
I pack a lot of cookies into tins to give as gifts. Last year my Darlin' Man was in Iraq and I sent about 30 pounds of cookies to him, which he shared with other guys (and gals) in his unit.The snickerdoodles were the most sought after!

Snickerdoodles (Please read ENTIRE recipe before starting!)
Makes three dozen 3 to 4-inch cookies. Your mileage will vary by the size scoop you use.
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 stick or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, plus more if needed
2 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 400°, with one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.
Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine. At this point, I chilled the dough for an hour (or you can overnight) before scooping it, because I otherwise found it too difficult to scoop into balls.If you can't wait for it to chill, don't scoop, pinch off dough and roll into balls.
Once dough has chilled, in a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the ground cinnamon. Use a small ice-cream scoop to form balls of the dough, and roll in cinnamon sugar. Place about two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are set in center and begin to crack (they will not brown much, if at all), about 10-12 minutes.. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool about five minutes before transferring the cookies to the rack. In theory, they can be stored in an airtight container up to two weeks, but I say good luck with that! They are SO GOOD warm from the oven!!!
Now, if you don't have Cream of Tartar in your baking pantry, use TWO teaspoons of baking powder and proceed with recipe.If you don't have an ice cream scoop, pinch off chunks of dough and roll into balls about the size of a ping pong ball (about an inch in diameter or a little less), roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture and place balls on cooking sheet and squash down with the a drinking glass (that's what I normally do)
These cookies ship well, so if you are mailing them, pack them tightly in a tin, layering wax or parchment paper between each layer.
They are terrific with a mug of hot chocolate, cup of coffee or cup of hot tea or mulled cider. They also work well with a glass of cold it's the perfect cookie to leave out for Santa!

I know a lot of folks out there are dieting...but this is not a recipe for dieters! Never, EVER substitute margarine for butter---the results will NOT be "just as good"--it will screw up the baking, the flavor, the texture...margarine will just screw up cookies---period!

Jam Thumbprint Cookies


  • 2/3 cup butter softened slightly
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup strawberry preserves or apricot jam or orange marmalade or blackberry or raspberry seedless jam 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, vanilla, and salt. Gradually mix in flour.
  3. Shape dough into 3/4 inch balls. Dip in lightly beaten egg whites, then roll in finely chopped walnuts. Place 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets. Press down center of each with thumb.Fill thumbprint with scant teaspoon of jam. You can wait until cookies are cool to fill thumbprint with jam, but I am always so busy, it is easier for me to fill before baking.I usually mix it up a bit so that there are a variety of jams--that one of someone doesn't like strawberry jam, they can nibble away on the ones filled with blackberry or apricot jam!
  4. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. If you are shipping cookie, layer with wax or parchment paper, otherwise they will stick together. These will keep pretty well for about a week.

Christmas morning here will find my household opening gifts while having a traditional (for me) breakfast:
Big mugs of hot chocolate and Scottish Shortbread!
I luvs me some Scottish Shortbread!!!

Scottish Shortbread
This Martha Stewarts recipe, that I used last year...turned out REALLY good!

  • 1 1/3 cups (2 sticks plus 6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans

  • 2/3 cup sugar

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-by-1-inch baking pan, and line bottom with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add salt and vanilla, and beat to combine. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, beating on low speed until just combined.

  • Press dough into prepared pan, leveling and smoothing the top. Using a dough scraper or the back of a knife, cut dough lengthwise into nine strips, each slightly less than 1 inch wide. Cut the strips crosswise into thirty-six 3-inch bars. Using the tines of a fork or a wooden skewer, create a decorative pattern on the surface.

  • Bake shortbread until evenly pale golden, but not browned, 70 to 85 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool. Invert pan, and remove parchment. Turn shortbread over, and carefully break, or cut with a serrated knife, into bars. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

  • For a yummy variation, dip one end of each bar in dark chocolate!

    I might use this recipe this year and see how it goes...


    • 2 ½ cups flour
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
    • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (optional)


    1. Mix the flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
    2. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the crumbs are pea size and begin to stick together.
    3. Knead the dough with hands until smooth.
    4. Roll dough 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, put on buttered parchment sheet on cookie sheet or directly on buttered cookie sheet. Cut before baking into bars, squares or wedges and prick dough at regular intervals with fork.
    5. Bake in a 325°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the bottom starts to brown. Remove from oven and dust lightly with powdered sugar if desired.
    6. Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

    The nice thing about Scottish Shortbread is that it tastes better after being stored for about a week or two, so it is PERFECT to make ahead or ship! Shortbread is, in fact, good after a month, if stored in an airtight container.

    Now, I am hungry, lol! And not a cookie in the house (yet!).
    Enjoy the season! Enjoy the baking!
    Enjoy the cookies!!!

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