When it comes to Christmas cookies, I simply go whacko. I love Christmas cookies and candy and just don’t feel I have done my proper duty as Mrs. Santa unless the pantry is brimming with several varieties. (It’s my mother’s fault, she too loved to bake at Christmas and guess who loved to help her?) Anyway, how could I possibly send out a Christmas package to my kids who live all over the planet if it didn’t include some goodies to remind them how wonderful I am! Really – nothing says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven. Actually, over the years I have derived a great deal of pleasure from packaging up those little reminders of home to share with my darlings who no longer live in the vicinity. Just lets them know how much I love them, that I am thinking of them and how honored I feel to have been a part of their early life.
And then of course there’s Mr. C. It’s just so much fun watching him open all the Christmas tins each day looking for just the perfect cookie or piece of candy to go with his mid morning latte, afternoon pick-me-up, etc. etc.
While you are baking away, consider giving a tin of cookies to an elderly neighbor or someone who might be struggling with ill health or the loss of a loved one. It might just possibly be the kindest thing anyone does for them during this sometimes stressful season.
So however you celebrate the season, don’t forget to prepare a cookie or two. You don’t have to go nuts like I do, but should you choose to do so the recipe below should help you achieve that goal.
- 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
- 1 c. powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/4 tsp. salt (if using unsalted butter, add ½ tsp. salt)
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 3/4 c. white, milk, or semi-sweet chocolate chips or equivalent in bulk chocolate
- 1 scant tsp. Crisco
Combination 1: zest of 2 oranges and ½ cup chopped dried cranberries
Combination 2: ¼ cup finely chopped candied ginger (best not to dip this one in chocolate)
Combination 3: ¼ cup mini chocolate chips and ½ cup diced maraschino cherries. (After you have diced the cherries, place them on a paper towel to dry out a little.)
Combination 4: ¼ cup mini chocolate chips and ½ cup chopped good peppermint candy (like King Leo or Sees peppermint sticks)
Combination 5: ¾ cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans (will taste just like Russian Teacakes if you sprinkle with powdered sugar and forget the chocolate dipping part)
Combination 6: 1 cup chopped mint flavored baking chips
Combination 7: 1 tablespoon ground coffee beans (use the grind setting for a French Press)
With an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth. In a separate bowl combine the flour and chosen combination of ingredients. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture, mixing just until a dough forms. Place dough on a long piece of plastic wrap. Using your hands, wrap the dough into the plastic wrap gently shaping it into a square or round log about 1 1/2-inch wide. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Un-wrap log and using a serrated knife slice dough 3/8 inch thick (if dough feels really hard, leave at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes). Arrange slices, about 1 inch apart, on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Bake until lightly golden around the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. (Do not under-bake.) Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (Do not discard the parchment paper at this point.)
When the cookies are completely cool, combine your chocolate of choice and Crisco and slowly melt together in microwave. When fully melted, whisk together until creamy and smooth. Dip one third of each cookie in the chocolate and place back on the parchment paper covered baking sheet to harden. Store in a tightly covered container hidden away from your family.
Note: If you want to add variety to your Christmas assortment of cookies, add the flour sans any additives to the butter mixture. Then divide the dough in half and add a half recipe of any of the above combinations. Wrap each flavor separately and viola, 2 kinds of cookies. Or go completely over the top and make a double batch of cookie dough and divide in 4. Roll 2 types square, 2 round. Then you have a quartet of wonderful cookies with which to delight your family and friends. Isn’t Christmas baking fun???
Also, if you don’t want to do the whole dipping in chocolate bit, you can simply place some powdered sugar in a fine mesh strainer and shake it over the cookies. Either way you choose to “garnish” the cookies, they will look lovely and festive.