Favorite Christmas Cookies

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is baking Christmas cookies. We made rolled and cut-out decorated cookies growing up, and I continue that tradition with my children. One year I got the idea of decorating our Christmas tree with the cookies; only to watch the decorations disappear one by one. But it was fun. I bake cookies for our family, to share as gifts and always look forward to getting my creativity in motion as the aroma of fresh baked cookies fills the house.

Christmas Cookies - IMG_1466_1

Each season, I like to try baking a few new kinds of cookies. I’m a sucker for buying those food-related magazines at the grocery store check-out lane–and have stacks of magazines with sticky-notes to attest to it. Many of the recipes are actually pretty good. And since I’ve baked so many cookies over the years, I’ve got a good idea on what makes a pleasing cookie.

Magazine Favorites

Can you judge a magazine by it’s cover? The art work on the food magazine covers is all beautiful. I think this year’s “Bon Appetit” won my pick for best cover and I consistently enjoy the recipes–especially the section of recipes shared by restaurants that readers request.

Best magazine that with stood the test of time is one of those specialty magazines by “Better Homes and Gardens”. Every recipe in that issue was a winner. And I’ve discovered that “Better Homes and Gardens” repeats many of the recipes from year to year–so if you purchase this year’s magazine; you’ve probably got the best of past years, too.

My pick for best over-all magazine always goes to “Taste of Food.” It’s the 1/2 page size magazine that sits right by the check-out cashier. Kind of deceptive. All the recipes are submitted by readers that took the prepared recipe to some sort of family gathering, social function; so you know those recipes are good. This year I found a couple of recipes in the “Taste of Food” magazine that were exceptional.

What makes a good sugar cookie?

Here’s one recipe category where nutrition gets moved to the back plate. Good cookies are made with butter–I usually use half butter and half solid-type margarine.  The butter gives flavor and richness. The margarine helps make the dough pliable.

Sugar cookies become much more flavorful with additional ingredients, specially citrus: grated orange peel, lemon or lime. It turns a plain cookie into something special.

Some of my other favorite additions are: nuts (especially walnuts), cereals (i.e. oatmeal, cornmeal, corn flakes), brown sugar and flavorings (molasses, almond flavor) and chocolate, yum!

Baking the cookies so they don’t burn but are’t doughy-tasting is tricky. Generally, I find that refrigerating the cookies for a couple of hours makes them easier to handle, and then baking is more even–they don’t burn so quickly. Sugar cookies are baked in a hot oven at 375 or 400 degrees for a short time. They require alot of attention while baking.

I bake the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. This avoids a burnt or fried taste of an baking on an oiled cookie sheet. And I make small cookies. Since they are so rich, you really only need small bites.

I like to decorate the cookies, but I’m no Martha Stewart. Although her cookies are beautiful, they must take hours to make. With small children this not practicable. Icing the cookies with a powdered sugar glaze and adding colored sprinkles before the icing sets works well to spark up the cookies.

This Year’s Cookies

I made three cookie recipes this year, pictured above. They all turned out great.

The first one is a sugar cookie made with cornmeal, lime juice and grated lime peel. The cornmeal gives an interesting taste and texture. The powdered sugar and lime juice glaze gives a sweetness and complements the plain cookie. It is from “Taste of Home: Cookies Handbook.”

The second one is a sugar spritz with added lemon juice and lemon zest. It is iced with a bittersweet chocolate glaze. Also from “Taste of Home: Cookies Handbook.”

The third cookie is now one of my favorite chocolate chip cookies. It has molasses added to the dough. It’s a soft and chewy cookie and the molasses gives it a unique taste. It was first served in President Carter’s White House years, according the the source, “Dessert University” by Roland Mesnier with Lauren Chattman. Roland Mesnier is the longest tenured White House chef, retiring in 2006. It is indeed a great cookie.

I could go on and on–I love reindeer cookies with pretzel antlers and gingersnap ice cream sandwich cookies. Another blog. In the mean time, have a wonderful holiday.

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