recipes

Christmas Cookies

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The holiday season is finally here! It’s such a great time of year, with so many opportunities to be with friends and family.

And did I mention the food? That’s pretty great too.

One of my favorite holiday events is my friend Laura’s annual cookie exchange – we call it “Cookie Bake.” Laura sets her oven to 350°F, and friends and family gather at her house to bake and decorate hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of cookies. It really is impressive. At the end of the day, everyone fills their tupperware and tins with an assortment of cookies. I’ve heard they’re great to share with coworkers, but mine don’t usually make it that far.

Do you see that gingerbread lady up there in her itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny yellow polka dot bikini? My friend Tina decorated her, and I took her home. She’s almost too cute to eat. Almost.

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I typically make two kinds of cookies for our exchange – one classic and one experimental.

My favorite classic cookie is a peanut butter cookie with a Hershey’s Kiss pressed on top. Maybe you call them Peanut Butter Blossoms, but my sister Michele and I always called them Peanut Butter Kisses. That peanut butter and chocolate combo is so delicious, and I know of at least three people at our party who call this cookie their favorite. So I keep making ’em.

I’ll let you in on a secret about my Peanut Butter Kisses – they’re made with Betty Crocker mix. At my first cookie bake in 2011, I brought the bags of mix to Laura’s house and got razzed by our friend Tammy for not making them from scratch. The next year, I made them from scratch and… they weren’t as good. The cookies flattened out more, instead of holding that nice round shape that hugs the chocolate kiss. Sorry, but Betty can’t be beat. So buy that Betty Crocker mix, mix it up at home, and bring it to your friend’s house in a bowl for the baking – they’ll never know. Unless you write a blog post about it.

 

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The other cookie I made this year was inspired by one of my husband’s favorite treats, turtles. Chris will tell you he’s not big on sweets, but give him a box of those caramel- and chocolate-covered pecans, and he’ll devour them. And I can’t blame him, they’re delicious.

 

To share with others, package your cookie assortment in cheerful tins, or display on a plate and be the best daughter-in-law, or brother, or coworker EVER. Or keep them to yourself. I won’t tell anyone.

 

If you plan to make your dough ahead and bake the cookies at someone else’s house (as we do for our cookie exchange), make the dough as instructed, cover and chill the dough, and bake later. You can make the dough the night before or the morning of. The recipes below are written as you would bake them right away.

 

Peanut Butter Kisses – adapted from Betty Crocker
Makes about 65

2 – 17.5oz bags Betty Crocker Peanut Butter Cookie Mix
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons water
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 – 12oz bag Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Kisses, unwrapped
granulated sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper (about 4 cookie sheets, or 2 half sheet aluminum baking pans); set aside.

Whisk together the vegetable or coconut oil, eggs, vanilla extract, and water. Add the Betty Crocker mix and flour, and stir until combined, taking care not to over-mix (over-mixing creates tough cookies).

Place sugar (about 1/2 cup) in a shallow bowl or plate. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, then roll in sugar. Place balls about 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets.

Tip: You will probably only have room for two sheets in your oven at one time. If using cookie sheets, bake the cookies and top with kisses as directed below, then place remaining cookie sheets in oven and bake as directed. If using half sheet baking pans, you could fit both in at the same time.

Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes. They will have spread just a bit, and the tops will still look slightly underdone or wet. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven, and immediately press one Hershey’s kiss into the top of each cookie. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet until they have firmed a bit, about 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Cookies will firm up more the longer they sit.

Recipe Notes
Make ahead: Cookie dough can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead of baking and stored in the refrigerator.
Storage: The cookies can be kept in an air-tight container for about 5 days.

 

 

Turtle Cookies
Makes about 65

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1.5 – 12oz bag Rolo Caramel Candies, unwrapped
About 1 cup pecan halves

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper (about 4 cookie sheets, or 2 half sheet aluminum baking pans); set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter, granulated sugar, and molasses until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating well to combine. Gradually beat in the flour mixture, making sure not to over-mix (over-mixing creates tough cookies). Roll into 1-inch balls and place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

Tip: You will probably only have room for two sheets in your oven at one time. If using cookie sheets, bake the cookies and top with Rolos and pecans as directed below, then place remaining cookie sheets in oven and bake as directed. If using half sheet baking pans, you could fit both in at the same time.

Bake for 11-13 minutes. The tops will look a bit underdone or wet. Remove from oven and immediately press one Rolo into the top of each cookie. Put the cookies back into the oven for about 2 minutes to melt the Rolos slightly. Remove from the oven and press one pecan half into the Rolo. Cool completely on baking sheets.

Recipe Notes
Make ahead: Cookie dough can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead of baking and stored in the refrigerator.
Storage: The cookies can be kept in an air-tight container for about 5 days.

 

 

Happy baking!

 

2 thoughts on “Christmas Cookies

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