Yesterday's post with our Lucy Burdette's adorable Key West cookies got me all fired up!
I may be a fairly decent scratch cook, but I have never been a baker. So when it comes time for Christmas cookies, I am seriously deficient. In fact, I have to confess that I have NEVER made a batch of Christmas cookies! My mom didn't bake Christmas cookies. And while my grandmother's Snickerdoodles were a family fave, she never made anything special for Christmas.
So when a friend told me last week that she'd already made her four different kinds of Christmas cookies (the same friend who has all her presents bought AND wrapped by Thanksgiving) I thought that maybe, this Christmas seeming slightly less frantic than usual, I should give cookies a try. It would be nice to have little gifts for friends and neighbors. (And even to eat a few!)
But, help! Where to start? The Internet is awash with cookie recipes. Which ones are good? Which ones are easy for a not very proficient baker?
So, REDs, do you make Christmas cookies? If so, what are your tried and true recipes? Please share!
LUCY BURDETTE: Well Debs, you have mine already from yesterday's post--great minds think alike!
HALLIE EPHRON: My favorites are WALNUT BUTTER CRESCENT. Super easy, from a calendar someone gave me decades ago.
1 cup butter
5 T sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1 T water
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup coarsely ground walnuts (a few turns in the food processor)
Cream the butter and sugar. Add other ingredients.
Form cookies in crescent shape, about the size of your thumb.
Bake on cookie sheet @350 until slightly browned (10-15 minutes)
ROLL in powdered sugar so they're thoroughly coated.
I also love to make gingerbread cookies. The Betty Crocker mix is terrific. Cut them into Christmas shapes. Then make a lemon juice and powdered sugar icing (those are the ingredients, lemon juice and powdered sugar; mix together into a sludge; it hardens on the cookie), put the icing into a baggie with a corner cut out, and pipe it onto the cookies.
RHYS BOWEN: I've never been a successful cookie baker, partly because baking cookies was not part of the British tradition for Christmas. Our holiday treats were the big Christmas cake, decorated with royal icing, and then little mince pies. I still bake many, many mince pies--they seem to disappear like magic when the family is here, and sausage rolls to eat warm while we open presents on Christmas morning.
It's a super easy recipe. At its basic you make your favorite pastry dough, cut in circles and place in muffin pan, open a jar of mincemeat and spoon into pastry shells, add a second circle as the lid, crimp shut, brush with egg, sprinkle with sugar and bake at 425 degrees.
If you want to make the deluxe version the dough should be made with half a pound of butter, about three quarters of a pound of flour, and a quarter cup of sugar. Work lightly to rub in the butter or use food processor so that the dough does not become heavy. Chill. Roll out thinly.
I recommend Crosse & Blackwell's mincemeat with brandy. To this you can add more brandy (???) some finely chopped apple, dried apricot.
Bake as above. Always serve warm. Mmmmm.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: First, I must say I am completely delighted and heart-warmed (?) that you think I have a cookie recipe. A cookie recipe! We used to make holiday sugar cookies with massive amounts of colored sugar on the top. And my sister and I would try to make sunny shapes, and mom would get mad. And what were those little silver balls? I was always afraid they would break my teeth. ANYWAY. I was in despair when you told me you were asking for cooking recipes, and feared I would have to call my chef sister Nancy and cadge one from her.
But then, a Christmas miracle! I gave a talk at the Sandwich Public Library last week, and one attendee brought cookies. And they were completely fabulous. And easy as..well, pie is hard. Listen to this.
Grid pretzels (one per cookie)
M & M's (one per cookie)
Hershey's kisses (one per cookie)
Put kisses in microwave just enough to soften. Put one on each pretzel grid. Smoosh one M into each kiss.
Done. Here's a photo.
Brilliant! And SO very delicious. Thank you, Sandwich Santa!
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I don't bake cookies for Christmas - it's one of those things I took off my list many years ago and have never regretted leaving behind. Which is not to say I don't love EATING Christmas cookies... I do, however, bake desserts that come in pans, and this gingerbread is the best one I've ever made. It's from RECIPES FROM A VERY SMALL ISLAND by Linda Greenlaw and Martha Greenlaw, and it makes a perfect hostess gift. The cookbook would make a wonderful gift, too.
3 cups flour
2 t cinnamon
1 1/2 t ginger (ground)
1/2 t nutmeg
1 t each baking soda, baking powder and salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 c packed brown sugar
1 c dark molasses
2 large eggs
1 c hot water
1/2 c chopped crystallized ginger (this is where the magic happens!)
Pre-heat over to 350 and butter and flour a 9x13 pan. You can halve the recipe and use an 8x8 pan as well.)
Whisk together the flour, spices and baking soda/powder/salt
In a separate bowl, beat butter and brown sugar together until fluffy. The book says use an electric mixer, but I do it by hand. Add molasses, eggs and hot water, beat until blended.
Gradually blend the dry ingredients into the wet, then add chopped ginger.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until the traditional toothpick in the center comes out clean.
You can serve it with whipped cream or apple sauce, but this gingerbread doesn't really need any accessorizing. So good!
DEBS: Okay, cookies it is! But, first, I have to make Rhys's non-cookies:-) I ADORE mince pie, especially made with Cross & Blackwell mincemeat, but no one else in the family likes it and I end up with half a pie left over. I'll bet you could make Rhys's little tarts and put some in the freezer...
Julia, your gingerbread sounds amazing, too. I have a good recipe but may have to try yours instead.
READERS, if you'll share your favorite recipes, we'll have a cookie library right here on the blog!
PS: Julia, is that Linda Greenlaw, the deep sea fishing boat captain? I've met her--she's fabulous!