When my children were very little, I began the cookie tradition for Christmas. It was simple then- just a few cookies: sugar cookies cut into snowmen, angels and bells, chocolate chips and peanut butter kisses. Each year, I added a few and at one point, I was making about twenty different types of cookies. The children loved to help decorate the cookies and, of course, eat them. They knew the tradition required that they had to wait until Christmas Eve to eat the cookies. During the years, it became a joke – no cookies until Christmas Eve. As grandchildren arrived, they too, looked forward to the Christmas cookie tradition. Often their parent would tell them not to eat a certain cookie because it was the parent’s favorite. The grandchildren caught on quickly and were not intimidated. My children still look forward to these cookies when we get together, even though, they are adults. They all live in different parts of the country, now, but I manage to see one or two of them during the holidays or send them a care package. However, these days I have reduced the number of cookies I make to the most popular seven, otherwise, we would have cookies around until the fourth of July!

Since these cookies are a once a year treat, I have not reduced the fat or used alternative ingredients in the recipes, because I want to preserve the tradition and memories I established with these cookies for my family.

I share the recipes with you here:

The number 1 favorite, without a doubt is:

Venetians                                                                                                   

Ingredients:

  • 1- 8 ounce can almond paste
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 drops green food coloring
  • 8 drops red food coloring
  • 1- 12 ounce jar apricot preserves
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dishes; line with waxed paper; grease paper.

2. Break up paste in large mixer bowl with fork. Add butter, sugar, egg yolks and extract and beat with the mixer until fluffy, 5 minutes. Beat in the flour and salt.

3. Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into almond mixture with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.

4. Remove 1-1/2 cups batter; spread evenly into one of prepared pans. Remove another 1-1/2 cups batter to small bowl; tint green with coloring. Spread into second pan. Tint remaining 1-1/2 cups batter red. Spread in remaining pan.

5. Bake 15 minutes or until edges are lightly golden; cake layers will each be 1/4 inch thick. Immediately remove cakes from pans onto large wire racks. Carefully peel off waxed paper. Cool.

6. Place red layer on upturned jelly-roll pan. Heat preserves; strain; reserve chunks in strainer for other uses. Spread half of strained preserves over red layer. Top with white layer. Spread with remaining preserves. Cover with green layer, top side up.

7. Cover with plastic wrap. Weigh down with large wooden cutting board, heavy flat tray or large book. Refrigerate overnight.

8. Melt chocolate in top of double boiler over hot water. Trim cake edges even. Cut cake crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips. Frost layer of one strip with chocolate. Turn strip on side and frost the other side. Let chocolate dry. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Repeat with remaining strips. Makes 6 dozen. Cookies freeze well.

The number 2 favorite:

Marshmallow Fudge Squares                                                                                                                    

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon. salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 (6 oz) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate pieces (1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 30 large marshmallows

Directions:

In a 1 quart saucepan melt butter and chocolate squares. Remove from heat.

Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Into large mixer bowl, measure flour, sugar, salt, vanilla and eggs. Beat at low speed until blended, scraping bowl occasionally. With spoon, stir in chocolate mixture. Spread mixture in prepared pan. Bake 15 minutes

Remove baking pan from oven; arrange marshmallows in rows on top of baked layer. Bake 5 minutes longer or until marshmallows are soft and puffed. Remove to wire rack. With metal spatula flatten marshmallows and spread evenly.

Meanwhile, in small saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate pieces and milk. Remove from heat.

Drizzle melted chocolate mixture over marshmallow layer. Cool on rack 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate, until cold and top is firm, about 2 hours. When cold, cut into small squares,

Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator to use up within 3 days.

Cookies may be frozen between layers of wax paper.

Butter Cookies                                                                                                                      

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies

“This is an heirloom recipe, brought from Europe, and published by cookbook author John Hadamuscin. It is perfect for cutting with traditionally-shaped cookie cutters. The yield will depend on the size of your cookie cutters.”

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups butter ( 4 sticks)
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups flour
  • Powdered sugar icing (see below)
  • Red and green colored sprinkles, for decoration

Directions:

In a large electric mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and smooth.

Separate 3 of the eggs; Beat the 3 egg yolks and the remaining whole egg into the butter-sugar mixture. Set aside the eggs whites and use for another recipe.

Beat in vanilla. Gradually add the flour and mix well. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease baking sheets.

Divide the dough into four equal parts and keep dough covered with plastic wrap. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one fourth of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out shapes with floured cookie cutters. Transfer cookies to baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough and re-roll scraps until all the dough is used.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Frost the cookies lightly with the icing and sprinkle with colored sprinkles.

Store in tightly covered containers for up to two months in a cool place, or freeze for up to 6 months.

Powdered Sugar Icing

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon milk

Mix together to make a thin icing.

Italian Pecan Cookies                                                                                                                  

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 heaping tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pecans halves
  • Powdered sugar icing, see below
  • Multicolored sprinkles 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Beat butter, powdered sugar, water and vanilla until creamy in electric mixer. Add flour and salt. Mix well.

Completely cover a pecan half with 1 tablespoon of dough and place on cookie sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes until lightly brown. Cool cookies on a rack.

Frost with powdered sugar icing and sprinkle colored sprinkles on top.

Powdered Sugar Icing

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon milk

Mix together to make a thin icing.

Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies                                                                         

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups, softened (2 ½ sticks)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Red food coloring

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream together butter, egg, powdered sugar, peppermint extract, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add flour and salt. Divide mixture in half. Add 1 teaspoon red food coloring to ½ the dough. Chill both halves.

On lightly floured surface, roll 1 teaspoon of plain dough into a four inch rope. Repeat, using 1 teaspoon of red dough. Place ropes side by side and gently twist together. Pinch ends to seal. Curve one end of twisted ropes to form the handle of the candy cane. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough. Bake on  for 10 minutes.

These cookies also freeze well.

Pine-nut (Pignoli) Cookies                                                                                                

Use only almond paste, not marzipan or canned almond filling

Ingredients

  • 1 can (8-ounce) almond paste, cut in small pieces
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 egg whites, from 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup pine nuts, pignoli

Directions

Heat oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In mixer bowl beat almond paste, sugar, egg whites, and lemon peel with an electric mixer until smooth. Drop by heaping teaspoons, 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet. Sprinkle with pine nuts to cover, then press them gently to adhere.

Bake 22 to 25 minutes until tops feel firm and dry when lightly pressed. Cool completely on cookie sheet on wire rack. Store airtight at room temperature. (Cookies are best eaten within 2 weeks, or they can be frozen.)

Italian Wedding Cookies                                                                                                            

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups sifted flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • powdered sugar ( for rolling baked cookies in)

Directions

Cream together butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy; stir in vanilla.

Whisk together flour and salt; add gradually to butter mixture; stir in chopped nuts.

Chill dough if it seems too soft.

Form dough into 1 inch balls and place onto parchment-lined or ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 400°F.  for 10 minutes or just until the cookies start to turn light golden-brown; remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.  While cookies are still warm (but NOT hot) remove them from baking sheets and roll, a few at a time, in powdered sugar until evenly coated; cool cookies completely on wire racks.

Cookies may be rolled in powdered sugar a second time once cooled to room temperature. Cookies freeze well.

Yield: 48 cookies.

Advertisements