Posts Tagged 'Christmas Cookies'

Cream Cheese-Lemon Rings

Let the holiday baking begin!  I certainly started mine off on the wrong foot yesterday evening when I got (really!) distracted and left the flour, baking powder, and salt out of today’s recipe…  As you can imagine, my cookies melted into a puddle in the oven.  I’m always one to try, try again, though, so I gave the recipe another shot this morning.  Success!

Cream Cheese-Lemon Rings (originally Cream Cheese-Lemon Bows)
Makes about 6 dozen 2-inch rings

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (light – not nonfat – is fine if that’s what you have)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely chopped (mine was grated with a microplane grater)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder (I used a scant teaspoon as a high-altitude adjustment)
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling

Method:
Put butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until creamy.  Mix in granulated sugar.  Add egg, lemon zest, and lemon juice; mix well.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; mix into butter mixture on low speed.

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place a small amount of the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.  Holding tip very close to the surface, pipe 2-inch rings onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper; space 1 inch apart.  Gently push down any peaks in the piped dough.  Refill pastry bag as needed with remaining dough.  Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom, about 10 minutes.  Let cool on sheets on wire racks, and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.  Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Source: Martha Stewart’s Holiday Cookies 2005 (My version is slightly modified for technique and baking time.)

Cream Cheese-Lemon Rings

What a great cookie!  I’m especially excited that the recipe worked at high altitude with only one minor modification (the scant teaspoon of baking powder instead of a whole, and I’m not sure the change was even necessary).  The dough really doesn’t expand much.  The flavor of the cookie is wonderful; it isn’t too sweet, even with the confectioners’ sugar sprinkling, and you definitely get the citrus from the lemon (though it isn’t overpowering).  The texture is somewhere between a sugar cookie and shortbread – crisp, but not dry – and I think these cookies would stand up well when transported (perfect for a cookie exchange).

The only downside to the recipe is that it does take some time and effort to pipe the cookies; the dough is pretty firm, so it’s a bit of a workout.  I tried putting the dough in a cookie press after reading a comment on the original recipe, but that was a grand failure.  The upside to piping is you can do pretty much whatever shape you want.  I tried bows (per the original recipe), rings, squiggles, hearts, and spirals, but liked the rings the best.  If you try a different shape or size, just be sure to watch them in the oven.  I burnt the heck out of my first batch because I left my 2-inch cookies in for the 12 minutes recommended in the original recipe; that baking time was intended for 3 1/2-inch cookies.

Recipe link: Cream Cheese-Lemon Bows

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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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