I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but one of my absolute, hands-down favorite things to do around the holiday season is baking. If you live next door to me, you’d better believe that you’re getting a tin of cookies. If you’re a member of my family, you’re getting cookies. Do you cut my hair? I see cookies in your future! If you come over to repair my dishwasher anytime in the month of December…ta-da! Cookies! (Side note: I got irrationally excited when I realized that we had FOUR security guards working the entrance gate to our neighborhood because that was FOUR MORE people to add to my cookie-gifting list. Not even kidding–just ask Handsome Husband. Me: “Oh, they’d better watch out–they are ALL getting cookies.”)
I’m thinking of coining a new phrase, actually. Perhaps turning “cookie” into a verb? It would go something like this: “Boom! You just got cookied!” But, I digress…
Here are 3 fantastic cookies coming out of my kitchen this month. I have made two of them a million times and one is a new addition, but all of them have been tested (and tweaked!) by yours truly. I invite you to try some of these (I’d love to hear your feedback and any changes you made to the recipes) and I would really love if you share some of your favorite recipes with the other SMB readers–a Virtual Cookie Swap, if you will!
*General baking tip: Always set butter and eggs out early to bring to room temperature–it really does make a difference! If you forget, don’t sweat it. Place eggs in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and place butter in the microwave for 5 seconds at a time, being careful not to melt, only soften. Also, always use real vanilla extract rather than the imitation stuff. Just sayin’.
THE BEST SUGAR COOKIES ON THE PLANET!
My 15-year old son, Zoe, and I have been making this recipe together since he was a toddler. I have a photo of him making them every year (and, yes–even at 15, he still lets me snap a pic of cookie decorating). I’ve tried many, many classic sugar cookie recipes, but this is the variation that stuck. They are delicate, buttery and flaky and literally melt on your tongue. I like to use dainty little 1” cookie cutters for these–cute beyond words.
1 cup salted butter (at room temp) 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar 1 tsp baking soda
1 egg (at room temp) 1 tsp cream of tartar
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
colored sugars (or Royal Icing, or whatever you like to decorate with!)
1) Cream butter and confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until fairly smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla until fluffy.
2) In another bowl, whisk flour, soda and cream of tartar. Blending at low speed, add in thirds to the butter mixture.
3) Divide dough in half and flatten each into disks, wrapping in plastic wrap, waxed paper or foil. Chill for 1 ½ hours (or cheat like I do and stick them in the freezer for 30 minutes!)
4) Flour a work surface and rolling pin and roll out one disk of dough to about a ¼” thickness. Bust out your cookie cutters and cut away! Transfer your creations onto ungreased cookie sheets and decorate with colored sugars, nonpareils, or whatever your heart desires. (If you’re using icing, wait until cookies are baked and cooled.) Continue gathering and re-rolling dough until all of it is used.
5) Bake at 350 for 5-8 minutes, depending on size of cut-outs and thickness of dough. When the edges get just a little golden, they’re ready!
GINGER MOLASSES CRINKLES
I’m a huge fan of ginger. This recipe originally called for a measly ½ tsp of ground ginger. The first time I made these, I knew what was missing. I use about 1 ½ tsp of ground ginger (I’m a guesstimator in the kitchen) and then add at least a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger on top of that. Make these right before your in-laws come over–the smell alone will have them thinking you’re a total Martha Stewart.
¾ cup salted butter (at room temp) ½ tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar 1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg (at room temp) ½ tsp ground cloves
¼ cup molasses 1 ½ tsp ground ginger
2 cups all-purpose flour 1 TBS-ish grated fresh ginger
2 tsp baking soda
1) Cream butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth. Beat in molasses and grated fresh ginger.
2) In another bowl, whisk flour and all dry spices together. On low speed, beat dry ingredients into butter mixture. Refrigerate for an hour (or pop in the freezer for 20 minutes!).
3) Roll dough into small balls (I like to make them super-tiny for gifting), then roll into granulated sugar. I use a mixture of white, red and green sugars.
4) Place cookies about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 375 for 6-8 minutes, depending on how small you rolled the balls. The tops should look lightly cracked when they are done.
SAVORY GORGONZOLA PECAN SHORTBREAD
So, this is a new one for me this season! This is a savory cookie that works well as a holiday appetizer–I used little star and tree-shaped cookie cutters. I thought they were too pungent by themselves, so I decided to serve them with fig preserves. The salty/sweet combo is just perfect! I also used some of the cookies as lovely croutons on a wilted arugula, bacon and pear salad I made the next day. Added bonus: The hostess of the party where I served these called me “fancy”. Heck, yes.
2/3 cup pecans 1/4 cup cornstarch
8 ounces gorgonzola, crumbled salt & pepper to taste (about ½ tsp of each)
6 tablespoons butter (at room temp) 1 cup all-purpose flour
1) Pulse pecans in food processor until finely ground. Bake in single layer at 325° for 8 minutes or until lightly toasted. Cool 30 minutes (or, of course, pop them in the freezer for 10!).
2) Process gorgonzola and butter until creamy–15-20 seconds., scraping sides as needed. Add flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper and pulse 9 to 10 times or until crumbly. Add toasted pecans; pulse until mixture forms moist clumps.
3) Flatten dough into a disk onto plastic wrap, foil or waxed paper–wrap tightly and refrigerate for an hour (or 35 minutes in the freezer–BAM!)
4) Flour your work surface and rolling pin and roll dough to ¼ “ thickness. Cut with adorably tiny holiday cookie cutters. Place onto ungreased cookie sheets. You can place them quite close together–they don’t spread out at all.
5) Bake at 325° for 16 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Serve on a beautiful plate with a small bowl of fig preserves in the center and you will look like a culinary rock star. No joke.
Please share your favorite recipes with your fellow SMB Readers!!
If the recipe you love is available online, you can just post a link. I can’t wait to try some of your faves!