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Ho-ho-ho, got cookies for Santa?


Senior Airman Elisa Labbe (USAF), Wikimedia Commons

A traditional favorite for the holidays, gingerbread cookies are fun to make and eat.

 

It’s never too early to make holiday cookies.


I used to make batches, then wrap and freeze them. During my busiest baking years, I was very fortunate to have a chest freezer that was in a small building separate from the house.


In other words, I was lucky because it would take some effort to open the house door, go out in the cold, walk a short distance, open the door to the little building, open the chest freezer, dig around for the cookies, go back to the house, unwrap them, thaw them out and THEN finally be able to eat one or two (or more). It would have been a disaster if I had kept those cookies in the house, where I could get into them at any time.


My oldest boy, when he was still young enough to sleep in a crib, seemed to have a friendly helper.


One morning, I got up and went straight to his room, where I found him sitting in his crib munching on a whole bunch of Christmas cookies. He was not able to get in and out of his crib and not tall enough to reach doorknobs, nor open and then close the chest freezer.


Whatever the explanation, he sure had a big smile on his face. The rest of us, however, will have to either buy or make our cookies, as I highly doubt we have any invisible friends to bring us any.


Here are some recipes you may want to browse through.


Chocolate crinkles


1 3/4 cups flour


3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder


1 teaspoon kosher salt


1 teaspoon baking powder


3/4 teaspoon baking soda


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted


3/4 cup sugar


1/2 cup packed brown sugar


3 large eggs


Confectioners’ sugar, for rolling


1. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda.


2. In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, sugars and eggs until well combined. Pour into dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.


3. Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. If dough is too sticky, wet your hands slightly to help roll dough. Roll dough into powdered sugar, coating well and then place on prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart. After rolling all the dough in powdered sugar, roll each piece again in powdered sugar. This will help get a more dramatic crinkle when the cookies bake.


4. Bake cookies in preheated oven about 14 minutes, or until the cookies puff and crack. The edges will just be set, but the cracks will still look slightly underdone. Let cool on baking sheet. Makes 18 cookies.


Panettone cookies


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened


1/2 cup sugar


2 large egg yolks


2 3/4 cups flour


1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


2 tablespoons whole milk


1/2 teaspoon orange extract


3 tablespoons almond slices, plus more for sprinkling


3 tablespoons chopped candied orange peel


3 tablespoons dried black currants


3 tablespoons finely chopped dried apricots, plus more for sprinkling


3 tablespoons semi-sweet mini chocolate chips (optional)


10 ounces white chocolate


1. In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.


2. Reduce mixer speed to medium-low. Add egg yolks and beat to combine. Scrape down bowl. Add flour and salt and mix on low speed just to combine. Add milk and orange extract and beat to combine. Fold in almonds, orange peel, currants, apricots and mini chips.


3. Turn out dough onto a long piece of plastic wrap. Roll into 2 (16-ounce) logs about 9 1/2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Refrigerate at least 1 hour 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.


4. Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice log into rounds a little more than 1/2-inch thick. Arrange on prepared sheets, spacing 1 inch apart.


5. Bake cookies in preheated oven, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely.


6. In a medium heatproof bowl, microwave white chocolate in 10-second increments, stirring in between, until melted and smooth. Dip one-half of each cookie into chocolate and place on parchment. Sprinkle cookies with almond slices and dried apricots. Makes 28 to 30 cookies.


Gingerbread cookies


The dough must be chilled, so you may want to prepare it ahead of time.


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened


3/4 cup packed brown sugar


2/3 cup molasses


1 large egg


1 teaspoon vanilla extract


3 1/4 cups flour


1 tablespoon ground ginger


1 teaspoon baking soda


1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1/2 teaspoon ground cloves


1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg


1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated (optional)


Zest of one orange, grated (optional)


1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper (optional)


Sugar cookie icing, for decorating


Colored sprinkles, for decorating


1. In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat softened butter, brown sugar and molasses until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined.


2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, spices, baking soda and salt until combined. With the mixer on low, gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, as well as fresh ginger, orange zest, and black pepper (if using), until dough just comes together. (Do not overmix.)


3. Divide dough in half and create two discs. Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2 to 3 hours. (Alternatively, divide dough in half and roll each piece of dough between two pieces of parchment paper to 1/4-inch thick. Chill until firm.)


4. Preheat oven to 350 and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place one disc of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll until 1/4-inch thick. (Alternatively, peel off both sheets of parchment from dough, then replace one sheet of parchment back underneath dough.) Cut out gingerbread men with a 3-inch-wide cutter and transfer to baking sheets.


5. Bake in preheated oven until slightly puffed and set, 9 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of your cookie cutters. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.


6. Repeat with remaining disc of dough. Decorate with icing and sprinkles as desired. Makes about 25 cookies, depending on size.


Apple pie cookies


3 tablespoons salted butter


2 apples, peeled and diced


1/2 cup packed light brown sugar


Juice of 1/2 lemon


2 tablespoons apple juice or cider (or use water)


1 tablespoon cornstarch


1 package (14-oz.) refrigerated pie dough (2 crusts)


1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar


2 to 3 teaspoons heavy cream


1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)


1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the apples and cook until they start to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and lemon juice, bring to a simmer and cook until the apples are soft and the liquid is starting to reduce, 3 to 4 more minutes. Whisk the apple juice and cornstarch in a small bowl and add it to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens, about 1 more minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool.


2. Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out 1 piece of pie dough into a 12-inch round. Using a 3-inch cutter, cut out 12 small rounds and arrange on the baking sheet. Reroll the scraps and cut out 2 more rounds. Roll the other piece of dough into a 12-inch round. Cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Cut the strips into shorter 3 1/2-to-4-inch pieces (you should have about 56 pieces).


3. Arrange the dough rounds on the baking sheet. Place 1 tablespoon of the apple mixture in the center of each. Lay 2 parallel strips of dough on top, then lay 2 more strips perpendicular to the first to look like a lattice. (Alternatively, weave the strips into a lattice.) Trim the edges of the strips, then press around the edges with a fork to seal. Bake until golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool.


4. For the glaze: Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, heavy cream and cardamom, if using, in a small bowl. Drizzle over the cookies. Makes 14 cookies.

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