Saturday, December 24, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

As I mentioned earlier, I found myself with a bag of fine-grind espresso this year and was looking for some recipes to use it. I found this one online, but now I can't find the link to it. The shortbread melts nicely in your mouth and the chocolate/espresso combination brings a great flavor to the shortbread.
Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
1 tbsp fine-grind espresso
1 tbsp boiling water
1 c butter, at room temperature
2/3 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
3/4 c mini chocolate chips
Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

Dissolve the espresso in the boiling water and set aside. Cream the butter and the powdered sugar together, until very smooth. Add the vanilla and espresso. Using a low speed, add the flour, mixing only until it is incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Using a spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9 x 10 1/2" rectangle, 1/4" thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. Seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

When ready to bake, put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets.

Bake at 350 for 18 to 20 minutes. The cookies will be pale. If you’d like, dust the cookies with powdered sugar while they are still hot. Allow to cool on cooling racks.

Friday, December 23, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Snowdrop Cookies

Snowdrop cookies are a favorite of mine. There is just something so appealing about the texture and lightness of this cookie. It is versatile enough to be enjoyed year round, but the name certainly conjures up winter time.

I have had this recipe for years. The mom of the man that I dated for most of college shared this recipe with me - after I had enjoyed a good number of them at her house. Based on 3 dozen cookies, there are just 23 calories (and not much else) per cookie - at least that is what her recipe card says!

Snowdrop Cookies
3 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tarter (or 1 tsp white vinegar)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c mini chocolate chips

In mixer bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add cream of tarter and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form. Add sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition. Fold in Chocolate Chips. Drop onto ungreased, foil-lined cookie sheets. Bake in a preheated 250 oven for 25 minutes. Turn off oven and leave cookies in a closed oven for 30 minutes more.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Caramel Tassies

Growing up, I can always remember my mom making Pecan Tassies. I thought it was so cool that she was making these little pie cookies, but not being a nut eater, I wouldn't touch them. Then, one year, when I was living in Pittsburgh, I found a recipe in the newspaper that I knew that I needed to try. It was called Caramel Tassies. They were cute little caramel filled pies. I used these for cookie exchanges that first year and then made them as part of my regular rotation. I skipped them this year, but think I will make them again soon.

Caramel Tassies

1 c butter
8 oz cream cheese
2 c flour

Cream together the butter and cream cheeese. Add the flour to make a soft dough. Press on the bottom and up sides of a mini-muffin pan. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes and remove tarts from pan. Set on a cooling rack to cool.

14 oz caramels
1/2c (4 oz) evaporated milk
1 tbsp whiskey

Mix above ingredients in a double boiler. Stir occasionally until mixture is melted and smooth. Place a teaspoonful of filling in each tart shell and allow filling to set for an hour.

1/2 c butter
1/2 c shortening
2/3 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c + 2 tbsp evaporated milk

Cream butter and shortening. Slowly add sugar and milk. Beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and beat for another few minutes. Using a piping bag (or a ziploc bag with a corner cut), pipe the topping on each tart.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Peppermint Meltaways

This cookie is actually not one that I have made yet, but one that I acquired at the cookie exchange that I participated in at work this year. As soon as I tasted them, I had to ask for the recipe. Since it is only a few ingredients, she was easily able to remember it and share it.

These cookies have a great flavor and texture and are definitely on my must make in the future list.

Peppermint Meltaways
1 c butter
1/2 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 1/4 c flour
1/2 c cornstarch

Cream butter, powdered sugar and peppermint extract. Add flour and cornstarch, mixing on low until incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour. Remove from refrigerator and roll into 1" balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, until edges start to brown. Allow to sit for a minute, then move to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

For glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 to 2 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
2 to 3 drops red food color
Candy canes or hard peppermint candy, crushed

Combine powdered sugar, butter, peppermint extract and enough milk for desired glazing consistency in small bowl. Stir in food color, if desired. Drizzle over cooled cookies. Immediately sprinkle with crushed candy.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies

As I mentioned before, each year it seems that I find an opportunity to try a new recipe or two. This year, I found myself with a bag of fine-grind espresso and went off looking for some recipes. Always a fan of chocolate, it was hard for me to pass on this recipe, which was originally shared by The Naptime Chef (great name! - how much of my cooking and baking used to be done while the children slept) on Food52.

I love how the espresso enhances the chocolate flavor. I learned in searching for recipes that the famous Neiman-Marcus chocolate chip cookie recipe, that is part of urban legend that someone paid a ton of money for, uses coffee in it too. This cookie was such a hit at the office, I think I shared the recipe with 3 or 4 people (normally, people like cookies, but they don't ask for the recipe).

Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies

1 1/8 c butter, softened (2 1/4 sticks)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp Kosher salt
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
12 ounces chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Then, add eggs one at time, mixing after each addition.

In a separate bowl mix together dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder. Mixing on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Using a wooden spoon, stir in chocolate chips.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoon on a cookie sheet about 2" apart. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and serve.

I was able to get just over 5 dozen cookies from this recipe. They seem to be the right size cookie for me.


Monday, December 19, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Fudge

When I was growing up, I remember Thanksgiving being the start of Fudge season (is there such a thing?). After Thanksgiving Day with my mom's family, we would head down to my dad's brother's house to enjoy the evening with them. The two things I remember most (at least from a food perspective) are fruit salad with Pomegranates and Fudge.

The recipe that I have for fudge is the one that my mom always has made. I think that it had it's origins on the back of a jar of Kraft Marshmallow Creme, but to me is simply my mom's recipe.
3/4 c Butter
3 c Sugar
2/3 c (5 oz can) Evaporated Milk
12 oz Chocolate Chip
7 oz Marshmallow Creme
1 tsp vanilla

Mix butter, sugar and evaporated milk in a saucepan and bring to a full, rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue boiling for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in chocolate chips until melted. Add remaining ingredients, mixing well. Pour into greased pan. Cool at room temperatures.

Sure, you could add nuts, but you see, I don't eat nuts, so I don't normally think about "messing up" good chocolate by adding nuts. You would just mix them in, in the last step.

You want to select a saucepan that is big enough to accommodate all of the ingredients and some extra space for stirring when you first add the marshmallow and it hasn't started to melt in. I suppose you could change the flavor by changing your chips, but I am a chocolate purist, so I haven't tried that.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Lemon Cookies

One of my Christmas cookies each year is a lemon cookie. Normally, I make Lemon Bars, but this year I decided to go with Lemon Cookies.

The recipe for Lemon Cookies is so simple and yet the result is so easy. My childhood best friend was the source of this recipe. The recipe is appropriate year round (especially yummy cold in the summer) and I have tried it with Strawberry and other flavors of cake mix as well.
Lemon Cookies
1 - box Lemon Cake Mix
1 - egg
1 - tub Cool Whip

Mix to combine ingredients. Place mixing bowl in freezer for about 15 minutes (makes it easier to work with). Roll dough into balls and roll in powdered sugar. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes on the pan and then transfer to cooling racks.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: 7 Layer Cookies

Many of the cookies that I make are cookies that I remember helping my mom make when I was a kid. One of those cookies is called 7 Layer Cookies. There are two thoughts I have about this cookie - first, I don't actually eat them because I don't like coconut or walnuts and second, there are also only 6 ingredients - so is my 7th layer the pan? I always wonder what I am missing. I am pretty sure that I copied the recipe just as my mom had it written. This year, I added some Butterscotch Chips (did 1 c chocolate/1 c butterscotch) - so I actually had 7 ingredients this year.

7 Layer Cookies
1 stick butter, melted
1 c graham cracker crumbs
1 c coconut
1 c chopped walnuts
1 pkg chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Combine butter and graham crackers and press into the bottom of an 8" square pan. Add each ingredient as a layer. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.


Friday, December 16, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Eggnog Cookies

Eggnog cookies were a new try for me this year. I was a little unsure of what recipe to try, so I tried two.

The first I had found in a local grocery ad. The cookies are chewy and perhaps a little doughy.

The second I had in my collection of to try someday recipes. The cookies are definitely more dense and snowball like.

Both cookies I topped with a powdered sugar glaze, that I enhanced by using eggnog instead of milk or water.

Eggnog Cookie #1
(not sure why this image rotated?)
1 c butter
1 c sugar
1 egg
1 c eggnog
3 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar, until fluffy. Add egg and eggnog, mix. Add dry ingredients, stirring between additions. Using a spoon, drop on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

I got about 5 dozen cookies.

Eggnog Cookies #2
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup eggnog
4 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
7 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar, until fluffy. Add vanilla extract, milk, and eggs, mix to combine. When the mixture is smooth and consistent, add the baking powder and salt and the flour one cup at a time.

When the dough is no longer sticky (you may need a little more flour), roll into 3/4” balls and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are a light golden brown. Cool on cooling racks.

I got about 6 dozen cookies.

Powdered Sugar Glaze
1 c powdered sugar
2 tbsp eggnog
1 tsp corn syrup

Stir to combine. Add additional eggnog as needed for the right consistency.

Once I had removed my cookies from the pans, I topped them with a bit of glaze and some sugar sprinkles. Allow the glaze to dry before storing.

I like the result of both cookies, but for different reasons. I'm actually tempted to meet in the middle on the key ingredients and see what happens. (or maybe I will see if there are some recipes out there that are already in the middle)


Thursday, December 15, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Brown Sugar & Spice Cutout

When it comes to holiday cookies, for the most part I like to simple to simple cookies. Not necessarily simple in recipe, but simple in delivery. To me, the best cookies are ones that can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere. There are some cookies that I make for others, but there is one cookie that I make for myself, because I love them - Brown Sugar & Spice Cutouts. I'm not really sure where I found this recipe, but I know I tried it the first time because I like spice cookies (generally molasses based, but this one is not), but continue to make it every year because I enjoy the flavor.

Brown Sugar & Spice Cutouts
1 c light brown sugar
1/2c butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat brown sugar and butter in large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until creamy. Stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Gradually add to the sugar mixture.

On a well floured surface, roll out half of the dough at a time to 1/8" thickness. Cut into shapes with floured cookie cutters. Bake 12-15 minutes.


Some thoughts...I tend to refrigerate the dough before rolling it out, probably because my regular cut out dough is supposed to be refrigerated, but also because I think it makes it easier to work with. Although they are delicious without any frosting, I usually frost at least half of them and when I do, I always add maple extract to my favorite frosting when decorating these cookies. (my frosting is a butter/powdered sugar frosting) I tend to use a smaller cookie cutter for these than for my regular cut out cookies.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Mint Chocolate Cookies

When I was first out of college, and had more time, I participated in a number of cookie exchanges and even cookie baking days with friends. One of my all-time favorite cookie recipes came from one of those exchanges. It is a simple three ingredient cookie, that is full of flavor and texture.

One of my favorite and super easy, super good anytime cookie recipes is for Mint Chocolate Cookies. They taste similar to Girl Scout Thin Mints and the best part is, since you make them, they are available year round. I use the bags of chocolate discs found at craft stores like Michael's. If they aren't on sale, they are usually what I use my weekly coupons on. For the sprinkles, colored sugar crystals do not work so well, they sort of melt into the chocolate and don't stand out well against the chocolate. The best ones to me are the little balls - generally multi-colored.
Mint Chocolate Cookies

2# Mint Flavored Chocolate
One box of Ritz Crackers

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Stir until smooth. Dip crackers in chocoate coating both sides. Place on wax paper to cool. Top with sprinkles before the chocolate sets. Once the chocolate is fully set, you can store them in a cool place.

Me, I can't ever wait for them to fully set at room temperature, so I use a cookie sheet which, once sprinkled, I can place in my freezer to finish setting. This lets me place them in my storage container sooner. Much like Thin Mints, these cookies are best eaten cold in my opinion. In the winter, I store the container (Tupperware) in the garage to keep them nice and cold.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Brutzel Bars

Many years ago, when I was first out of college, I participated in my first cookie exchange. Certainly, as expected I received some tasty cookies, but even more so, I received some new recipes that have become a permanent part of my holiday cookie baking.

What I love about this recipe is the simplicity - 4 simple ingredients, which I tend to have in my pantry and fridge at any given moment. Together, these create yummy, addictive cookies. There is just something about the way the butter and sugar caramelize combined with the salty crispy base and the milk chocolate top that keeps me wanting more.
Brutzel Bars
1 Sleeve Butter Crackers (Club)
1 cup Butter
1 cup Granulated Sugar
12 oz Milk Chocolate Chips

Line a 10x15 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Arrange crackers in a single layer over the foil.

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and sugar. Bring to a boil. Boil for one minute and then, gently pour over the crackers. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over top. Wait 2 to 3 minutes, until chips begin to melt and then carefully spread melted chocolate over the top.

Cool and refrigerate for a few hours. Remove from refrigerator and break into bars following cracker lines as a guide.

I make these cookies at the holidays, but they really could be made anytime.