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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Christmas cookies

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Butter Cookie Cutouts

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies

I have been making this recipe since 1986. It is an heirloom recipe brought from Europe and published in The Holidays by cookbook author, John Hadamuscin. It is perfect for cutting with traditionally shaped cookie cutters. When my children were young, they use to love to help me make these cookies. These cookies are also their favorite cookie of all the cookies I make for Christmas. I have been making the same cookies every year since they were small. That is how they like it – no deviations.

Ingredients

1 cup sugar
2 cups butter ( 4 sticks)
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups flour
Powdered sugar icing (see below) and 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, such as the Pignoli cookies below.

Beat in the 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.

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover the baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into four equal parts. 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. Cool.

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

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

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Powdered Sugar Icing

Ingredients

1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk

Directions

Mix together to make a thin icing.

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Pine-nut (Pignoli) Macaroons

Use only almond paste, not marzipan or canned almond filling.

Makes 2 dozen. I usually double the recipe.

Ingredients

8-ounces almond paste, cut in small pieces
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg whites, from 2 large eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
Pine nuts (pignoli)

Directions

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

In mixer bowl beat almond paste, sugar, egg whites and almond extract with an electric mixer until smooth. Drop heaping teaspoonfuls pf dough 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets.

Sprinkle with pine nuts to cover, then press them gently to adhere.

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Bake 20 minutes or until the 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.)

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cookietreatscover

Cakes of all shapes and sizes (including cookies) have been part of festive holiday rituals long before Christmas. Ancient cooks prepared sweet baked goods to mark significant occasions. Many of these recipes and ingredients such as cinnamon, ginger, almonds and dried fruits were introduced to Europe in the Middle Ages and they were incorporated into European baked goods. Christmas cookies, as we know them today, trace their roots to these Medieval European recipes.

Dutch and German settlers introduced cookie cutters, decorative molds and festive holiday decorations to America. Dutch New Year’s cookies were also sometimes molded into fancy shapes. German lebkuchen (gingerbread) was probably the first cake/cookie traditionally associated with Christmas. Sugar cookie recipes descended from English traditions.

By the 1500s, Christmas cookies had caught on all over Europe. German families baked up pans of Lebkuchen and buttery Spritz cookies. Pepparkakor, spicy ginger and black-pepper cookies were favorites in Sweden and the Norwegians made krumkake,  thin lemon and cardamom-scented wafers. The earliest Christmas cookie recipes in America can be attributed to the Dutch in the early 1600s.

In the article  “America’s Best Holiday Cookies,” from McCall’s magazine, December 1994, comes this bit of  food history:

The flood of cheap imported wares from Germany between 1871 and 1906 inundated the markets with cooking utensils, such as cookie cutters. Unlike homemade counterparts from the local tinsmith, these tools depicted highly stylized images, often depicting subjects designed specifically to hang on the Christmas tree. Likewise, recipes appeared in popular cookbooks to better match the demands of such utensils. With the advent of inexpensive tin cutters, new emphasis was placed on shape, where in the past, many homemade cookies simply had been square or round. Bells, Christmas trees, camels, cutters with zigzag edges, Santa Clauses and turkeys created a new tradition.

Very early recipe:

“To three pound of flour, sprinkle a teacup of fine powdered coriander seed, rub in one pound of butter, and one and a half pound sugar, dissolve one teaspoonful of pearlash [a rising agent] in a teacup of milk, knead all together well, roll three-quarters of an inch thick, and cut or stamp into shape and slice you please, bake slowly fifteen or twenty minutes; tho’ hard and dry at first, if put in an earthen pot, and dry cellar, or damp room, they will be finer, softer and better when six months old.” —American Cookery, Amelia Simmons, 2nd edition [Albany:1796] (p. 46).

[NOTE: this book is considered by most food historians to be the first American cookbook.]

cookietreats5

Spumoni Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup shelled pistachios
  • Green food coloring
  • 1/3 cup red candied cherries
  • Red food coloring

Directions

Line a 9-inch by 5-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, letting wrap extend on all sides. On waxed paper, combine flour, baking soda and salt.

In large bowl with mixer at medium speed, beat butter and sugar 4 minutes or until light and fluffy, occasionally scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Add egg and almond extract and beat until well blended. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture just until blended, occasionally scraping bowl.

Transfer 1 rounded cup plain dough to a medium bowl; with spoon, stir in pistachios and enough green food coloring to tint dough bright green.

In another bowl, place 1 rounded cup plain dough; stir in cherries and enough red food coloring to tint dough bright red.

Evenly pat pistachio dough into the bottom of the prepared pan; freeze 10 minutes.

Pat plain dough on top of pistachio layer; freeze 10 minutes. Pat cherry dough on top. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight, until the dough is firm enough to slice.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove dough from the pan. With a serrated knife, cut dough crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut each slice crosswise into 3 cookies.

Place cookies, 2 inches apart, on ungreased, large cookie sheets.

Bake cookies 10 to 12 minutes or until firm and golden brown at the edges. Cool cookies on the cookie sheet on a wire rack 2 minutes. With a wide spatula, carefully transfer cookies to rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Store cookies in tightly covered container at room temperature up to 2 weeks, or in freezer up to 3 months.

cookietreats1

Apricot Crumb Bars

2 dozen

Ingredients

Cookie Crust

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Topping

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup apricot jam

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 13 by 9 inch metal baking pan with nonstick baking spray; line pan with foil, then spray foil.

With mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, brown sugar and salt until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low-speed, beat in flour until just combined.

Transfer to prepared pan. With lightly floured hands, spread into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes.

For the topping:

Combine in a medium bowl: 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 3 tablespoons softened butter and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon; pinch with fingers until clumps form.

Take crust out of the oven and spread crust with the apricot jam. Sprinkle with the topping. Bake 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cool completely on wire racks.

Once cool, cut into 2-inch squares.

cookietreats2

Pistachio Thins

4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup pistachios

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray an 18 by 12 inch rimmed baking sheet with nonstick baking spray; line pan with foil, then spray foil.

With mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low-speed, beat in flour until just combined.

Transfer to prepared pan. With lightly floured hands, spread and press into an even, thin layer.

Sprinkle with pistachios and press the nuts into the dough. With a pizza cutter or very sharp knife, cut dough lengthwise into 3-inch-wide rectangles, then crosswise to form 3-inch squares. Cut squares diagonally into triangles.

Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on wire racks. Gently break triangles to separate.

cookietreats3

Hazelnut Bars

3 dozen

Cookie Crust

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Topping

  • 1/2 cup hazelnut chocolate spread (Nutella)
  • 1 cup toasted hazelnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 13 by 9 inch metal baking pan with nonstick baking spray; line pan with foil, then spray foil.

With mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, brown sugar and salt until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low-speed, beat in flour until just combined.

Transfer to prepared pan. With lightly floured hands, spread into even layer.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until deep golden brown around edges. Cool completely on wire rack.

Spread crust with hazelnut chocolate spread. Sprinkle with hazelnuts; press to adhere. Using the foil, remove from the pan. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares.

cookietreats4

Italian Angelette Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons  butter
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or lemon extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup colored candy decorations

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease large cookie sheet.

In large bowl with mixer at low-speed, beat granulated sugar and butter until blended. Increase speed to high, beat 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.

At low-speed, beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beat in vanilla or lemon extract until mixed. Beat in flour, baking powder and salt just until blended.

With heavily floured hands, shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Place balls, 2 inches apart, on cookie sheet. Bake cookies 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

In small bowl, whisk confectioners’ sugar and 3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons water until blended.

Dip the top of each cooled cookie into the glaze. (Whisk more water into the glaze if it becomes too thick.)

Place cookies on wire rack set over waxed paper to catch any drips. Sprinkle with candy decorations. Allow glaze to set, about 20 minutes. Store cookies in a tightly covered container, with waxed paper between layers for up to 2 weeks.


cookiegiftscover

Homemade Christmas gifts are a great way to add a very personal touch to your gift giving during the holiday season. There are countless ways to spread Christmas cheer and, for hundreds of years, one of the world’s enduring time-honored traditions is that of giving food gifts. The cookie recipes below make excellent gifts but they are also good to take to a Christmas party or a cookie exchange. Packaging them in decorative bags, jars or boxes or arranging them on Christmas plates, makes these gifts very festive.

cookiegifts1

Lemon Pecan Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped, toasted pecans
  • Lemon Icing, recipe below

Directions

Beat the butter and sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until well mixed. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour and the lemon peel.

Divide dough in half. Shape each dough portion into an 8-inch-long log. Sprinkle half of the nuts on a sheet of waxed paper. Roll one log in the nuts to coat. Repeat with remaining nuts and log.

Wrap logs in plastic wrap. Chill about 2 hours or until firm enough to slice.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

If necessary, reshape logs to make them round. Cut logs crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place slices 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets covered with parchment paper.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or just until edges are firm and tops are set. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool completely.

Lightly cover cookies with Lemon Icing. Let stand until the icing sets.

Lemon Icing

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons milk

Directions

In a medium bowl, stir together powdered sugar, lemon peel, and enough milk to make a spreading consistency.

To store:

Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container. Cover; seal. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

cookiegifts3

Dark Chocolate Cookie Kisses

Makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
  • 36-40 dark chocolate candy kisses and/or dark chocolate stars

Directions

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until combined. Add the baking powder and salt; beat until very light and fluffy.

Beat in egg white. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour and the orange peel.

Cover the bowl and chill dough about 30 minutes or until easy to handle.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets covered with parchment paper. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or just until the edges are set and the bottoms are very lightly browned.

Immediately press a chocolate kiss or star into the center of each cookie. Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool completely.

To store:

Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container. Cover; seal. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

cookiegifts4

Chocolate Sugar Cookie Stars

Makes about 30 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 recipe Vanilla Icing and Chocolate Icing

Directions

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until combined. Add baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Add egg and vanilla; beat until combined. Beat in cocoa powder. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 to 2 hours or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough, half at a time, to just under 1/4-inch thickness. Using 1- to 2-1/2-inch star-shaped cookie cutters, cut into stars. Reroll scraps as necessary. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets covered with parchment paper.

Bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until edges are firm and centers are set. Transfer to wire racks; cool completely. Drizzle cookies with Vanilla and Chocolate Icing.

Chocolate Icing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 – 6 teaspoons milk

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla, and enough milk to make drizzling consistency.

Vanilla Icing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 – 4 teaspoons milk

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, vanilla, and enough milk to make drizzling consistency.

To store:

Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container. Cover; seal. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

cookiegifts2

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Sticks

Makes 16

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces white baking chocolate (with cocoa butter), semisweet baking chocolate or dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped, toasted pistachios
  • 16 pretzel sticks
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped dried tart cherries

Directions

In a small saucepan, heat chocolate over low heat until melted and smooth, stirring frequently. Spread pistachios on a sheet of waxed paper.

Dip each pretzel into the  melted chocolate, covering about two-thirds of the pretzel. Let excess chocolate drip off.

Roll dipped pretzels in pistachios to coat. Press a few cherry pieces into the chocolate on each pretzel. Place pretzels on a clean sheet of waxed paper; let rest until the chocolate is set.

To store:

Layer pretzels between waxed paper in an airtight container. Cover; seal. Store at room temperature for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.

cookiegifts5

Cranberry Cornmeal Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold butter
  • 4 ounces chocolate chips
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • One 8 – ounce carton light dairy sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Place cranberries in a small bowl; add enough boiling water to cover. Let stand for 5 minutes; drain well.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in drained cranberries and chocolate. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.

In a small bowl, combine egg white, sour cream and milk. Add egg white mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir until combined.

Drop dough by well-rounded teaspoons, 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until the edges are lightly brown..

Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool completely.

To store:

Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container. Cover; seal. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.



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