Merry Christmas, Friends!
I know the actual day is over, but I like to celebrate to the fullest; and I can technically stretch out any remaining festivities until the 6th of January. Which gives me plenty of time to finish up any holiday baking. Keeping the spirit alive!
Over the years I’ve simplified my cookie baking significantly. I come from a family where Christmas cookie baking is a serious event and its participants are almost certifiably insane. I remember my Grandma’s guest bed would be covered with tins and containers filled with thumbprints, sugar cookies, and the always unique potato candy. My mother will spend most of the month of December putting together trays of spritz cookies, red and green cream-filled sandwich cookies, homemade Reese’s peanut butter bars and toffees for our neighbors, our local postman, our local fire department… even the garbage collectors got a bag of treats. This year she told me she was cutting down the list just to family favorites; which made me laugh as it is still at least 12 dozen cookies!
With apartment sized kitchens and no magical trees filled with cookie-baking elves, I have broken from tradition. I keep it simple and often take the opportunity to test out new recipes on my family and friends. Then with all the spare time, I treat myself to a mani, pedi, and maybe a cup of coffee…
This year’s list consisted of Hubby’s ultimate favorite, the peanut butter blossoms (recipe here). I opted out of decorating sugar cookies this year and instead made an festive-colored sugar-coated versions (An old co-worker gave me the recipe. I believe it is from Cook’s Illustrated. Find it below.) Then, I decided to vary up my personal favorite, the cookie with multiple aliases: Russian Tea Cookie, Snowballs, Mexican Wedding Cookie, Viennese Sugar Balls – essentially a shortbread-like ball studded with pecans and rolled in powdered sugar until it has reached perfection. I saw this recipe from Bon Appetit, where cardamom and cinnamon add a refreshing twist. I also whipped up some gluten free Almond Macaroons for K (Saveur‘s recipe here), but have no pictures.
Chewy Sugar Cookies – Cooks Illustrated (I think!)
Makes 2 dozen
2 ¼ C. flour
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ C. sugar, plus some extra for rolling*
2 oz. cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces**
6 TB. butter, melted and still warm
1/3 C. canola oil
1 lg. egg
1 TB. milk
2 tsp. vanilla
Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, set aside. In a large bowl, pour melted butter over sugar and cream cheese. Whisk together. Add oil and whisk. Add egg, milk, and vanilla, whisk again until smooth. Add flour mixture to the cream cheese and egg mixture, incorporating until the dough is smooth.
Roll dough into 1” balls and roll in extra sugar. Place dough balls on a parchment lined cookie sheet, 1” apart. Flatten each ball into a disk with the bottom of a drinking glass.
Bake in a preheated 350 °F oven for 11 – 13 minutes, rotating once during baking. Edges should be set and barely beginning to brown. Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.
*I used red and green colored sugars to add a Christmas twist.
**I let the cream cheese soften just a bit before mixing.