Christmas Cookies

I love cookies. They make me happy (and fat). I really like Christmas and Holiday cookies. Last year, I hosted a holiday cookie exchange at my house. My husband didn’t get it. He would have been happy to just have everyone over to eat and drink, “We’re making cookies and trading them like baseball cards?” Well, not quite. I guess it’s a chick thing. That said, everyone had a great time and the kids were thrilled.

The fun part, for me anyway, was finding cookies that were different than the usual chocolate chip or shortbread. There were and are literally thousands to choose from. I’ve looked in my cookbooks, online, my grandmother’s recipe box and in my favorite magazines. It is now December which means the calendar gives me permission to bake with abandon. So I am!

Here are a few of my favorite holiday cookie recipes. The cherry tarts are one of the finds from our cookie exchange. They are time consuming but so worth it. The layer bars are the very definition of indulgence, of course you would expect that from a Paula Deen recipe. The Swedish Ginger Cookies, or “Gingies” as we call them, are a family favorite. They are easy to make and go great with tea & coffee and you can keep a log in the freezer to cut and bake as needed.

When in doubt make more than you need as it’s always fun to share and of course your inner Martha Stewart will tell you that giving cookies as gifts would be a Good Thing

Cherry Tarts
From Cook’s Country
December/January 2012

Why this recipe works:
Rather than prepare a complicated filling from scratch for these Cherry Tarts, we found canned cherry preserves provided the ideal consistency and flavor. To ensure the cookies had substantial heft to hold up to the preserves, we combined two dough rounds for each tart to sandwich in the filling. Crimping the edges with a fork ensured our tarts didn’t disintegrate the moment we took a bite.

Makes about 18 large cookies

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg plus 1 large white
1 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup cherry preserves
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in bowl.

Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons milk, whole egg, and almond extract and beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, and mix until just combined, scraping down bowl as needed.

Lightly beat egg white in bowl. Working on lightly floured counter, divide dough in half and form each into 4-inch disk. Roll each disk into 1/4-inch-thick circle. Using 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut out rounds, gathering and re-rolling dough as necessary. Transfer half of rounds to prepared sheets, 1 inch apart. Place heaping teaspoon of preserves in center of each round. Top with remaining rounds and crimp with fork. Brush filled rounds with beaten egg white and cut 1/2-inch X into center of each.

Bake until edges are lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. Whisk confectioners’ sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons milk, and vanilla in bowl until smooth. Brush cookies with glaze and let sit for 30 minutes. Serve. (Tarts can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.)

Six-Layer Bars
Adapted From Paula Deen for Food Network Magazine

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick salted butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup shredded coconut
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl. Press into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle pecans, chips and coconut on top. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the mixture and bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely and cut into bars.

Swedish Ginger Cookies
Makes approximately 7 Dozen

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange rind
1 tablespoon water
3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Additional sugar or almonds

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and beat. Add corn syrup, orange rind and water; blend thoroughly. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Stir in dry ingredients.

Mold dough with hands into 2 rolls or oblong shapes about 10-in. long and 2-in. thick. Wrap in waxed paper and chill in refrigerator overnight or longer.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice rolls thinly with sharp knife. Place about 2-in. apart on greased cookie sheet. Cookies may be sprinkled with sugar or topped with almonds. Bake for about 10 minutes. Leave on cookie sheet to cool.

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