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Christmas Holiday Cookies

2005 Christmas cookie report - reeeally long


Home Cooking 49

2005 Christmas cookie report - reeeally long

Sir Gawain | Dec 22, 2005 11:12 PM

Thanks to the transit strike I had a bit more time for baking cookies... and here's what I made & how it worked.

By way of introduction I have to say that I don't make the same cookies ear after year, but there are certain favorites which certain people demand, so I feel obligated to deliver them. This year's batch has some novelties, not all were 100% successful but overall I am pleased.

By the way, where I'm from the nine kinds of cookies I've made so far is considered rather unimpressive. When I was growing up my mom and grandma typically made in excess of 20 kinds (and it really was 20 different kinds of dough, not "variations on a theme"); this year, after protesting that she is NOT going to bake "at all, or almost at all", my mom made 12 kinds in 1 weekend. That was two weeks ago and she's added more since then.

1. Honey gingerbread cookies (no molasses). This is a Czech recipe I used for the first time, but similar to dozens of others. They have just flour, eggs, butter, spices, and honey, plus baking soda and baking powder (no nuts). They turned out good but not great - I doubled the spices but they are still not very spicy - Czechs just kind of love bland food, I guess. (They do smell nice.) However, I spend FOREVER decorating these little suckers, so they are really for looking as much as for eating, and they *are* quite good; I still have to decorate half.

2. "Cibébky" - again, a traditional Czech recipe I learned to make when I was about 7 (the recipe is very very old; no baking powder or soda); essentially ground walnuts, egg, sugar, minced raisins, and flour. All the oil comes from the nuts. NO spices! These are always delicious, toasty, nutty and subtly sweet but HARD - they need to sit in a tin to soften, but they never soften much. Since that's what I expect and my dentures are still holding up (hehe), I don't see the need to alter the recipe to make them softer. It's the crescent-shaped cookie.

3. Speculoos - well, sorta. I have these darling little cookie molds/stamps, bought from www.houseonthehill.net, and for years have been trying to identify a recipe for a tasty cookie that would hold its relief while baking - the ones from the recipe booklet I got weren't very good. This is the tastiest recipe yet, but unfortunately the shapes don't hold brilliantly. They are still discernible, but much of the lovely detail is lost. The molds I have were probably intended for springerle, the white anisey cookies that hold their shape outstandingly, but I don't like them - they are so deathly white, not nicely golden or brown like REAL cookies. Anyway, the speculoos recipe is from Martha Stewart, and on my own initiative I've added a bit of almond paste. The (improvised) spicing is good this time - used a whole bunch of Chinese five-spice powder, plus extra ginger, a bit of orange oil (good idea), and a dash of allspice - it's delicious. Too bad the design is much less distinct than it was before baking.

4. The Gourmet magazine (Dec. issue) spoon cookies with brown butter. They are good, but I can't honestly say I am as taken with them as the author of the article. I used little circular molds instead of the spoon method, and am happy I did - the cookies look like cute little buttons. They are tasty but frankly I thought the dough tasted better raw. But then again I often feel that way. It's the small round buttony one.

5. Cream cheese dough sandwich cookies. My mom makes sandwiched linzer cookies but I prefer these, with their clean tang, sandwiched with raspberry preserves. Delicious, not too sweet, a little tangy. Joy of cooking recipe for cream cheeses refrigerator cookies. I make these every year.

6. Chocolate sandwich cookies with butterscotch cream. A recipe from the Food & Wine archives. Delicious! This was a new recipe, and I love it. The cookies are very chocolatey, crisp, thin disks, and the butterscotch filling (with a shot of bourbon) is fantastic. Highly recommended. I can paraphrase the recipe if you're still interested. This is the dark brown cookie.

7. The poofy crackled chocolate cookies from Clauda Fleming's The Last Course. I believe the recipe is on Epicurious. A pain to make (I don't have a stand mixer and holding a hand mixer going at top speed for 15 minutes is NOT fun. However, the cookies ara amazing. I always screw up about half due to my oven's inconsistent temperature, but damnmit, they are still worth the effort.

8. My favorite, simplest Slovak recipe, donno how traditional it is, but it's EASY and good, ideal for people who don't have much of a sweet tooth. I'll paraphrase:
1/2 lb all purpose flour, cool room temp
1/2 lb butter, at cool room temp (not soft but not straight out of the fridge
)5 spoonfuls white wine

Mix all ingredients at once and work until a dough comes together; it will be very sticky at first but will come together eventually. (Add a bit of flour if necessary.)
Roll out, cut diamond shapes and bake in a well preheated oven (359) untill puffed and pink around the edges. Toss in vanilla-scented powedered sugar while still warm. After a few days, a delicious buttery taste will come through; this cookie is very subtle and to me, "adult". This is the diamond-shaped one.

9. Vanilla crescents. A traditional Central European cookie with ground nuts, rolled in vanilla sugar (called Vanillenkipferln in Austria). A family recipe, delicious, rich and simple, though time-consuming due to the necessity to shape the crescents by hand and toss them in he sugar VERY CAREFULLY. This is the sugared flat crescent cookie.

I'm still toying with the idea of making either florentines tomorrow (have ton of beautiful dried fruit, including delicious sour cherries), or a citrusy shortbread... or rugelach. I've never made rugelach but LOVE it, and the dough contains cream cheese, of which I have a ton in the fridge.

Anyhoo, good luck with your baking, if you're still doing any! & do post if you have some AMAZING recipe utilizing dried fruit - but the resulting cookie has to look nice, not sloppy or messy. (Sorry - I am that way. Controlling & obsessive.)

Image: http://static.flickr.com/42/76472365_...

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