Christmas is over..but the baking has just begun!



Every Christmas I embark on a journey to bake treats, package them attractively and present them as gifts (mostly to the guys in my world.) This year was no exception, but with the new job afoot I had to limit the offering to 10 items instead of the overwhelming 20 that graced the gift boxes last year.

Timing is never a good thing for me, I start out with the best of intentions, planning to order my packaging supplies well in advance of the holiday season and getting as much dough making done in ahead of time…never happens! I am always the mad scrambler trying to find good packaging at the last minute and spending an entire weekend baking.

This year the hits were:
Swedish Ginger Thins

This is just one of Gourmet’s Favorite Cookies: 1941-2008. Although we’ve retested the recipes, in the interest of authenticity we’ve left them unchanged: The instructions below are still exactly as they were originally printed. Learn how to roll out thin cookie dough—with no mess and no extra flour.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup well-chilled heavy cream
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup

·Garnish:

sliced almonds

  • Into a large bowl sift together flour, baking soda, and spices. In a medium bowl with an electric mixer beat cream until it just holds stiff peaks. In another large bowl beat butter and sugar until mixture is light and fluffy and on low speed beat in corn syrup and whipped cream, beating until cream is just combined. Add flour mixture and beat until combined well. Form dough into a disk. Chill disk, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 2 hours, and up to 2 days.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Cut dough into quarters and work with 1 quarter at a time, keeping remaining dough covered and chilled. Using a rolling pin with cover dusted with flour, roll out dough into a round on a floured pastry cloth, rolling dough as thin as possible (less than 1/8 inch thick and about 14 inches in diameter) and with assorted 2- to 3-inch cutters cut out cookies. Carefully transfer cookies as cut to ungreased baking sheets with a metal spatula, arranging them about 1/2 inch apart, and top each with an almond slice. Reroll scraps and cut out more cookies in same manner.
  • Bake cookies in batches in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until cookies puff and then collapse slightly, about 6 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets 1 minute and transfer with metal spatula to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies with remaining dough in same manner. Cookies keep in airtight containers at room temperature 1 week. Makes about 150 cookies.

Maraschino Cherry Butter Cookies

It’s not unusual to see holiday cookies topped with a colorful bit of maraschino cherry. But in this crisp, light, very buttery cookie, a goodly quantity of cherries are pureed and incorporated into the dough, which gives the cookies a pink hue and lovely almond flavor.

  • 2 1/4 cups King Arthur’s unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup drained maraschino cherries (20 cherries)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh unsalted butter, at cool room temperature (3 sticks)
  • 1 tablespoon maraschino cherry syrup
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cold water, approximately
  • luster or fine sanding sugar, optional

  1. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Reserve.
  2. In a processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse the cherries and sugar until the cherries are pureed.
  3. Add the butter, cherry syrup and almond extract. Puree until creamy, under 1 minute.
  4. Add the flour mixture and pulse very briefly, just until a dough forms.
  5. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions and flatten each portion to a 1/2-inch thick disk on a sheet of plastic wrap. Seal the plastic wrap around each portion of the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (The sealed dough can be refrigerated for 2-3 days if necessary.)
  6. On a lightly floured pastry cloth, using a covered and floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to a ?-inch thickness. Use a little flour to keep the dough from sticking if necessary, but try not to work too much additional flour into the dough.
  7. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter (or cutter of your choice), cut out the cookies.
  8. Coat a baking sheet lightly with vegetable spray. Arrange cookies slightly apart on the cookie sheets.
  9. Bake each sheet of cookies at 350° for 12-14 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway point to ensure even browning. (If you have a convection oven or setting on your regular oven, by all means use it. Your cookies will be more evenly browned.)
  10. When the cookies are lightly browned on the edges, remove from the oven, loosen each cookie with a thin spatula and let cool for 3-4 minutes on the pan. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet and place on a wire rack and cool completely.
  11. To stencil a design on top of each cookie, first practice your stenciling technique on a sheet of parchment paper. Lay the stencil on the paper, scoop a small amount of icing onto the stencil with a small offset spatula, and with the same spatula, firmly drag the icing across the stencil. Carefully lift the stencil and check your design. If the impression is crisp, your icing is the right consistency. If the impression is blurred, your icing is likely too thin. If your impression is blotchy, your icing is likely too thick. Adjust the consistency of the icing and try again. Don’t begin to stencil the cookies until you have perfected your icing and technique.
  12. Sprinkle icing with luster if desired and set cookies on a wire rack to allow the icing to set.
  13. When icing is set, store airtight in a cookie tint, in layers separated by wax paper rounds, in a cool, dry place. These cookies improve with age. They keep for 3-4 weeks. Cookies may also be frozen.

Makes 4-5 dozen cookies, depending on size of cookie cutter.

Strawberry Tart Cookies

Like tiny strawberry pies with sugar cookie crusts, these are a bite of summer that’s very welcome this time of year.

This is just one of Gourmet’s Favorite Cookies: 1941-2008.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten lightly
  • 1 cup strained strawberry jam

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, the sugar, and the salt, add the butter, and blend the mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in the egg yolks, blend the mixture until it forms a dough, and chill the dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, for at least 2 hours or overnight.

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. Let the dough soften slightly, roll level teaspoons of it into balls, and arrange the balls about 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheets. Using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each ball, being careful not to crack the dough around the edges. (If the dough cracks, reroll it and try again.) Fill each indentation with about 1/4 teaspoon of the jam and bake the cookies in batches in the middle of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are pale golden. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, transfer them to racks, and let them cool completely. The cookies may be made 1 month in advance and kept frozen in airtight containers. Makes about 100 cookies.

These were the new editions this year and all were hits. There were a couple misses, namely some god awful thing that sounded good but was gross “Eggnog Sparkle Cookies” and a delicious but too moist to package persimmon cookie. It was a shame, but they were sent off with the boyfriend to his work (under cloak of anonymity) and left in a break room. All were consumed, so at best they were edible.

Yesterday was my birthday, January 12..it rolls around every year without much warning and generally with a great deal of self promoted fan fare. I got the party started with the Spring Celebration Cake that I made back in June. Much to my delight, it turned out as delicious as remembered and was immensely well received.

The evening was rounded out by a great dinner hosted by friends from work and a few rounds of Guitar Hero. This Friday will be the finale! Bowling, drinking, karaoke! Shinanigans and no baking. Well – I just ventured to the kitchen and it appears I have some bananas that need to be converted into banana bread..I have an amazing recipe..that will be the next post!

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