Baking For Christmas

I am still baking for Christmas.  I know I have written about organizing and doing Christmas cooking way ahead and having a less stressful holiday season; still there’s something to be said about doing the baking while it’s snowy and the carols are playing.

In this part of the country, cookies are mostly Scandinavian or German—as are the myriad breads and cakes baked at this time of year.  Here are the cookies that I traditionally bake for our family (and woe is me if I forget one).


Snowballs, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Russian Teacakes or White Mice (all the same cookie)

Note: these cookies are a staple at most cookie spreads at Christmas; however, there is a great difference in them.  Many are so dry and powdery that people avoid the powder-sugar coated balls because they have been stung so many times.  I guarantee that if you use this recipe, the cookies will melt in your mouth and everyone will go back for more.  I can’t keep these in the house without freezing and hiding them.

1 cup butter (no substitutes)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. water
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Cream butter and sugar; add water and vanilla.  Mix well.  Add flour and pecans; chill 3 or 4 hours.  Shape in balls 1” diameter.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheet in 325 deg. oven about 20 minutes.  Cool; roll in powdered sugar.

Scotch Shortbread

Note:  these have to be the easiest good cookie in the world; three ingredients—no chilling time—can be rolled over more than once and decorated any way you like.

¾ cup butter, softened (no substitutes)
¼ cup sugar
2 cups flour

Heat oven to 350.  Cream butter and sugar in mixer.  Add flour.  If dough is too crumbly you can mix in 1 to 2 Tbsp. soft butter.  Roll dough ½ to 1/3-inch thick on lightly floured board.  Cut into small shapes (I use tiny cookie cutters) or cut with a fluted cutter into diamond shapes.  Place ½ inch apart on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake about 20 minutes or until set.  Remove from baking sheet and decorate with frosting, powdered sugar or melted white chocolate and sprinkles.

Gingerbread Boys

½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup dark molasses
¼ cup water
2 ½ cups flour
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. soda
¾ tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice
Raisins
Candied cherries
String licorice
White icing (recipe follows)

Cream butter and sugar.  Blend in molasses, water, flour, salt, soda, ginger, nutmeg and allspice.  Cover; chill 2 to 3 hours. Heat oven to 375.  Roll dough 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut with gingerbread boy cutters; place on ungreased baking sheet.  Press raisins into dough for eyes, nose and buttons.  Decorate and trim as desired with other decorations.  Bake 9-11 minutes.  Remove from baking sheet and trim with white icing.

White Icing

2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. soft butter
2 tsp. hot water.

Mix and add more water, a few drops at a time until icing is of the consistency that can be used in a pastry tube or plastic bag with corner snipped off.

Blackberry Thumbprint Cookies

2/3 cup sugar
1 cup butter softened (no substitutes)
½ tsp. almond extract
2 ¼ cups flour
½ cup blackberry preserves (seedless)

Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
1 ½ tsp. almond extract
2 to 3 tsp. water

Combine sugar, butter and almond extract.  Beat at medium speed until creamy (1-2 min).  On low speed, add flour and beat 1-2 min.  Shape into 1-inch balls.  Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  With thumb, make indentation in center of cookie.  Fill each center with about ¼ tsp. preserves.  Bake for 14-18 minutes until edges are lightly browned at 350. Make glaze and drizzle over warm cookie.  Makes 3 ½ dozen.

Here’s another really easy, really fast and really good cookie.  These are the ones I go to if I need a lot in a hurry.

Almond Toffee Bars

1 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup butter
1 egg yolk
½ tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. almond extract
1 largest-size milk chocolate Hershey Bar
½ cup finely chopped walnuts or almonds

Cream butter and sugar in mixer.  Add rest of ingredients and mix until well blended.  Pat with hands (flour hands or spray with Pam first) evenly into jelly-roll pan.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes (do not over bake).  Lay Hershey bar on top of hot cookie dough.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Spread evenly over dough—sprinkle nuts over chocolate.  Cut into small squares.  Makes 70.

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