Posts Tagged 'Christmas Cookie Recipes'

Coconut-Apricot Macaroons

Coconut lovers, this one’s for you.

I’ve had Coconut-Apricot Macaroons from the April 2008 issue of Everyday Food on my holiday cookie radar for a few weeks now, but I had extra motivation to try them last night.  The dinner party I had to cancel a few weeks ago due to The Sickness is finally happening, and while we’re still having the Almond Torte as planned, I thought it would be fun to have a plate of macaroons on the side.  (They keep for a week in an airtight container, so yay for make-ahead recipes.)  Also, I have a dear friend who needed some dairy-free cookie exchange recipe ideas, but I felt kind of silly recommending a recipe I hadn’t tried.  Thankfully, the macaroons were super easy and they turned out beautifully.

To make them, I started by separating three large eggs.  (You’ll only need the whites, but you can reserve the yolks for later use if you want.)  I prefer to bake with room-temperature ingredients, so I let the whites sit (covered) in a small container on the counter for 30 minutes.

When the time was up, I whisked together the egg whites, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract (optional, and I reduced it from 3/4 teaspoon), and 1/4 teaspoon of table salt in a large bowl until it was frothy (about 1 minute).  I added 1 package (14 ounces) of sweetened flaked coconut and 1/2 cup of finely chopped soft dried apricots, stirring until everything was well combined.

After I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper, I used my clean hands to form the mixture into mounds equal to about 2 level tablespoons.  (I have a 1/8-cup measuring cup, so that helped.)  I placed the mounds on the baking sheet about 1/2-inch apart (they won’t spread) and baked them at 325F until they were lightly golden, rotating the baking sheet from front to back halfway through the baking time.  My baking time was 32 minutes at 5900 feet; the recipe suggested 35 – 40 minutes.  (I did use an oven thermometer to verify that my oven temperature was indeed 325F.)  Just keep an eye on them near the end of the baking time to ensure they don’t burn.  Once they came out of the oven, I used a spatula to carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Coconut-Apricot Macaroons

Oh, coconut heaven.   The result was a tasty cookie with a perfectly light, crisp exterior and a moist, chewy interior.  I’m used to macaroons without dried fruit, so the apricot bits added a hint of unexpected sweetness here and there.  What’s funny is that these reminded me quite a bit of the Coconut Macaroon Pancakes I despised so much.  The difference is that here, I was expecting a chewy cookie; I’m not sure I’ll ever warm up to chewy pancakes. 😉  Anyway, if you’re looking for a macaroon recipe, I’d say these are a safe bet.  They’re super easy, very elegant, and definitely delicious.

NOTE:  Here’s a summary of my recipe deviations: 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract instead of 3/4 teaspoon, finely chopped apricots instead of coarsely chopped, and 32 minutes of baking time instead of 35 – 40.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, they keep for a week in an airtight container.  They weren’t as crisp on the outside after a night in Tupperware, but they still had great taste and texture.

Recipe link: Coconut-Apricot Macaroons

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Holiday Oreo Balls

Normally, I’m not a fan of foods made entirely from other processed foods.  However, for Oreo Balls, I make an exception.  I first tasted them last year when my friend Christopher made them.  Since Oreo cookies are one of my vices, I deemed them nothing short of heavenly.

I wanted to make my own this year, but I decided to use the classic recipe with only three ingredients: Oreos, cream cheese, and bark coating.  (Christopher’s recipe had butter in it as well, which made a firmer candy.)  To put a holiday twist on my Oreo Balls, I decided to use Oreos with mint creme filling and to sprinkle the candies with peppermint powder.  Here’s how I made them.

First, I piled an entire package of mint creme Oreos (17 ounces) and an 8-ounce package of softened cream cheese into the largest bowl of my food processor.  I pulsed the cookies and the cream cheese until they were completely blended.  (The mixture resembled a thick brownie batter.)  On a baking sheet lined with wax paper, I spooned out 1/2-tablespoon scoops of the mixture, repeating the process with an additional baking sheet to accommodate all of the candies.  I transferred the baking sheets to the refrigerator and chilled the candies for 1 hour.

While the candies chilled, I put Dr. O to work on the peppermint powder.  He put four candy canes inside a freezer bag and then put that bag inside another freezer bag.  He placed the bag of candy canes on a cutting board (to absorb the impact) and then pounded them with the flat side of our meat mallet.  When he had them pretty well pulverized, he placed a fine-mesh sieve over a small bowl, dumped the crushed candies into the sieve, and then sifted out the powder.

Once the candies had chilled for an hour, I took them out of the refrigerator, used my clean hands to roll them into balls, and then tucked them back into the refrigerator.  Next, I melted a package of white bark coating (24 ounces) in the microwave according to package instructions.  I took the candies back out of the refrigerator, dipped one in the melted bark, spooned the bark over the top, and then lifted the coated candy out with a fork.  I let the excess bark run through the fork tines for a few seconds and then transferred the candy to a sheet of wax paper.  I immediately sprinkled the candy with a bit of the peppermint dust and then repeated the process for the remaining candies.  Once the bark had set (about 15 minutes), I trimmed any excess bark from the base of the candies with a paring knife.  (Feel free to skip this step – I’m a lunatic!)  I should have counted them before we started eating them, but the recipe yields around 5 dozen with 1/2-tablespoon scoops.

Holiday Oreo Balls

If you like Oreos, you’ll find these irresistible.  The chocolate center is soft like a truffle (even when chilled) and it most definitely tastes like Oreos.  One thing it doesn’t taste like is cream cheese…  I was surprised, but you can hardly taste the cream cheese at all.  I think it functions more as a textural element to create the creamy center than it does to flavor the candy.  Besides the creamy center, you get a bit of a crisp snap from the bark, and the peppermint dust on top is crunchy like sanding sugar.  So. So. Yummy.

TIPS:  I chose to use peppermint powder instead of peppermint candy bits because the Oreo Balls need to be stored in the refrigerator.  When you put hard candy in the refrigerator, the moisture from the refrigerator causes it to soften, ruining its texture.  (It’s fine to leave the Oreo Balls out for a few hours, of course, but I think the cream cheese necessitates refrigerator storage for longer periods.  You can freeze them as well.)

Also, and this is kind of a biggie, I would strongly recommend putting the uncoated candy in the freezer for 15 minutes or so after you roll them into balls.  That way, it’s less likely that you’ll have many cookie crumbs end up in your bark and the candy will be less likely to stick to your dipping fork.  These problems weren’t major, but I’ll definitely incorporate freezer time for best results the next time I make this candy.

Recipe link: Oreo Balls

Cinnamon Stars

It’s time for my first Christmas cookie post of the season!  I’m having a few friends over for dinner next weekend, and I can’t wait to serve up some Christmas goodies.  Today’s recipe – Cinnamon Stars from Robin on Allrecipes.com – is a special project because one of my friends doesn’t eat wheat or dairy.  She would never ask anyone to plan around her dietary restrictions, but I enjoy the challenge of coming up with something tasty that *everyone* at the party can enjoy.  I made these Cinnamon Stars last night and then brought some to her over lunch today…  They most certainly passed the test.  (And she asked for the recipe!)

First, I processed approximately 2 2/3 cups of raw almonds in the food processor until they were finely ground.  (I was able to get a finer grind by processing them in small batches, about 1 – 2 handfuls at a time.)  I say “approximately” because I didn’t actually measure the whole almonds; I just kept processing handfuls until I had 2 2/3 cups of *ground* almonds.

Once I had the almonds ground, I placed them in a medium bowl and whisked in 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest.

In the bowl of my electric mixer, I beat 1/3 cup of egg whites and 1/8 teaspoon of salt until soft peaks formed.  With the mixer running, I gradually added 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, continuing to beat until the mixture was stiff.  (It probably took 3 – 4 minutes on high speed to achieve the consistency I wanted.)  I set aside 1/3 cup of the egg white mixture for the glaze and then folded my almond mixture into the rest of the egg white mixture.

I lined 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Working with about 1/3 of the dough at a time, I rolled it out to 1/4-inch thickness between two sheets of parchment paper.  (I dusted the bottom one with powdered sugar to help prevent sticking.)  Using a 2 1/2-inch star cookie cutter, I cut the cookies, re-rolled the scraps, and kept cutting until I had a dozen cookies on each baking sheet.

To make the glaze, I added 1 3/4 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice to the reserved egg white mixture and stirred until the mixture was smooth.  (My glaze dried out just a bit as time passed, so I ended up adding another 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon after a few minutes.)  I used a pastry brush to lightly coat the cookies with the glaze.  Glazing took a few minutes, so I actually put the first batch in once it was glazed and then moved on to glazing the other cookies.

The recipe said to bake the cookies at 325F for 20 – 25 minutes…  No way.  I took my first batch out after 12 minutes and the bottoms were really misshapen.  It was like the centers exploded and oozed out or something.  I got perfect results – a light-brown, soft, yet completely-cooked-through cookie – with only 8 minutes in the oven.  I let the cookies rest on the baking sheets for 5 minutes and then cooled them completely on cooling racks.

Cinnamon Stars

I’ll admit the wheat and dairy eater in me prefers a nice butter-and-flour-laden traditional sugar cookie, but these are pretty tasty.  They have a really nice texture…  They’re not “bendable soft,” but they’re not crispy either.  I think “tender” is the right word.  The lemon and cinnamon flavors really sing.  I also *loved* that they held their shape beautifully.  No butter = no spreading.

My friend really seemed to enjoy them, so I’m going to put them on my “best bets” list for anyone looking for a good gluten-free and dairy-free Christmas treat.  They’ll be on my table again next weekend!

TIPS: I used packaged, pasteurized egg whites for this recipe because it’s a heck of a lot easier to pour 1/3 cup of egg whites out of a carton than it is to measure fresh egg whites.  Just make sure whatever you buy is 100% egg whites.  (Ham and cheese Egg Beaters won’t cut it!)

Recipe link: Cinnamon Stars

Almond-Orange Shortbread

I keep telling myself that I’m going to try making one new dessert per week (Sweet Sundays, maybe?), but I’ve just been too darn busy. Too busy for dessert = no good. I did manage to squeak out some cookies (Almond-Orange Shortbread from the July/August 2006 issue of Everyday Food) before we ran off to Houston for the Radiohead concert this past weekend, though. They’re delish *and* they’re freezer friendly!

To make the dough, I beat 2 sticks of unsalted butter (room temperature), 1 cup of powdered sugar, 3/4 teaspoon of almond extract, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt together in a medium bowl. With the mixer on low speed, I added 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons of orange zest and mixed just until a dough formed. I used my hands to incorporate 3/4 cup of sliced almonds.

I laid out a sheet of waxed paper, formed the dough into a log (12 inches long, 2 1/2 inches wide, and 1 inch thick), and wrapped the log in the paper. The dough has to freeze for at least 1 hour to firm up, though you can leave it in the freezer for up to 3 months if you want to slice and bake as needed. (If you’re going to leave the dough in the freezer for an extended period of time, add a layer of plastic wrap over the waxed paper.)

When an hour had passed, I removed the dough from the freezer and placed it on a cutting board. I cut the dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices and placed about 18 on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving at least 1 inch between cookies. I baked the cookies at 325F until the edges just began to turn golden (15 minutes, though the recipe said it would take 20 – 25). I cooled them for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then transferred them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Almond-Orange Shortbread

Mmmm. These cookies got the stamp of approval from Dr. O, the fabulous ladies in his office, and my brother-in-law. I can’t decide how I like them best, though – baked or as dough slices straight from the freezer. You have to love a delicious egg-free dough!

Like most shortbread, these cookies are crisp and very buttery. The almond and orange zest added wonderful flavor and took the sophistication factor up a notch. These would be absolutely perfect for a baby shower, wedding shower, or other party.

TIPS: If the dough is too cold when you take it out of the freezer, it may crumble. If it’s misbehaving, wait 20 – 30 minutes and try slicing again.

I didn’t rotate my first batch of cookies and a few in the back ended up browning a bit more than I would’ve liked. The second batch turned out much better with a front-to-back rotation after half of the baking time had passed. Also, my edges weren’t quite as nice as the edges in the recipe photo, and I’m wondering if it’s because I lined my baking sheet with parchment. I’m going to try baking them directly on the sheet next time.

Recipe link: Almond-Orange Shortbread

Update: Peanut Butter Oatmeal Monster Cookies

I absolutely loved these cookies when I posted them originally, and I think I love them even more now. We went to a pig roast/crawfish boil last night and I turned out a full batch to bring to the party. When I made them last time, they were amazing, but they were pretty flat. Yesterday, they were puffy, gorgeous, AND delicious.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Monster Cookies

I think my butter was colder this time around, which meant the cookies didn’t spread as quickly as they did last time. The recipe calls for room temperature butter; instead, I pulled a stick out of the fridge and microwaved it for 10 seconds on each of the 4 sides of the stick using the lowest power setting possible (that’s level 1 on my microwave). I slightly tweaked the baking time as well… I rotated my sheets at 4 minutes and 30 seconds and then baked the cookies for 4 minutes and 15 seconds more.

I used my small ice cream scoop again, and I ended up with 53 cookies. (*All* the batter made it to the baking sheet this time… I’m not sure I can say that for last time!) They were disappearing at an amazing rate last night at the party, so this recipe is definitely a crowd pleaser. I can’t wait to have an excuse to make these cookies again!

Recipe link: Peanut Butter Oatmeal Monster Cookies

Sugar Cookies

I took a sugar cookie workshop at my local Sur La Table earlier this month, and I came out with an absolutely fantastic sugar cookie recipe. The workshop teacher said the recipe is all over the Internet as “No Fail Sugar Cookies” and she’s right – a Google search turned up multiple copies of the recipe. I wish I had found it sooner because these cookies are *exactly* what I’ve been looking for – soft and dense with great flavor.

I started by creaming 2 cups of room-temperature butter with 2 cups of sugar. I added 2 room-temperature eggs, one at a time, followed by 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, I mixed together 6 cups of flour, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt. I gradually beat the dry ingredients (about 1 cup at a time) into the wet ingredients until just combined.

My teacher chilled her dough in one large piece, but I divided mine into 4 pieces so it would chill faster. I formed each piece into a ball, flattened it a bit, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and put it in a zipper bag. I let it chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.

When I was ready to roll the cookies, I put down a piece of parchment paper (no flour!). I squeezed the dough a bit to soften it, then laid it on top of the parchment. I put another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough and then used my rolling pin over the parchment. This way, nothing sticks. I rolled the dough to 1/4 inch thickness, peeled off the top piece of parchment and cut my shapes, dipping my cookie cutters in flour between each cut so they wouldn’t stick.

I placed the cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets and baked them, one sheet at a time, for about 11 minutes at 350 F. My cookies were a bit large, so smaller cookies would have a shorter baking time. Check them frequently and take them out just when the edges start to color.

Once the cookies had cooled, I iced mine with a modified royal icing. You could use powdered sugar-milk glaze or even store-bought frosting, too.

christmas_tree_cookie1.jpgsnowman_cookie2.jpg

These are soft but sturdy cookies with a terrific shortbread-like taste. They make great gifts, too. I’m just learning to ice and decorate, so I look forward to having more fun with these in the future. Let me know if you want to come over and practice! 🙂

TIPS: The very best thing I learned during the cookie workshop is how to roll your dough evenly. The instructor placed two 1/4-inch-diameter wooden dowels on each side of the dough before rolling it. The dowels are placed vertically and the dough is rolled horizontally so the rolling pin is perpendicular to the dowels. This way, your rolling pin can never go lower than the 1/4-inch dowel. It seems so simple, but it’s amazing! You could use EvenDough bands instead, but a $0.60 dowel cut in half works for me.

Update 2/1/10: You can keep baked, unfrosted cookies in the freezer for up to a month.  If you want to eat them soft, just bring them to room temperature.  My recent (naughty) habit is eating them crispy, straight from the freezer.

Recipe link: No Fail Sugar Cookies

Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps

Let the Christmas cookie experiments begin! I plan to make several cookie recipes over the next couple of weeks in my quest for the very best. My first recipe choice was Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps from the December 2003 issue of Everyday Food. (The recipe can also be found in the Holiday 2006 issue.)

I started by making the dough. The recipe calls for 4 ounces of chocolate, melted and cooled, so that was my first step. I microwaved the chocolate in stages until it was smooth, and then allowed it to cool 20 minutes. While it cooled, I whisked together some flour, baking cocoa, instant espresso powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, I beat half a stick of butter and some brown sugar until light and fluffy using a hand mixer. I beat in 1 egg, and then mixed in the cooled chocolate.

Next, I gradually mixed in the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, etc.) with my mixer on low speed. When everything was just combined, I beat in 1 tablespoon of milk. At this point, the dough was finished, and it needed to be transferred to the freezer to firm up. The dough had a consistency like chocolate buttercream frosting, so I spooned it onto some plastic wrap, formed it into a disk, and wrapped it up.

I pulled the dough out 45 minutes later and formed it into 18 1-inch balls. I put the cookies on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Each dough ball had to be rolled in powdered sugar twice. At this point, you can’t even tell these will be chocolate cookies!

chocolate_espresso_snowcaps1.jpg

I put my oven racks in the two center notches and baked the cookies for 12 minutes at 350 F, rotating the baking sheets (top to bottom, front to back) halfway through the baking time. I transferred them to a wire rack to cool completely.

chocolate_espresso_snowcaps.jpg

These cookies were really good. They’re slightly crisp at the edges and soft and fudge-y in the middle. They took some time, but a large part of that was letting the chocolate cool and freezing the dough. I’ll make these again.

TIPS: Stay on the small side when making your dough balls. If they’re too big, they spread out quite a bit and the cracked top isn’t as pretty. Also, I found this to be another really sticky dough. I tried Pam, butter, and moist hands, but I still ended up wearing quite a bit.

Recipe link: Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps




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