the cookies of christmas

December 22, 2010

Christmas brings out the cookie-lover in all of us. There is great appeal in creaming butter and sugar, adding flour, salt, egg, and baking powder, together with a variety of other ingredients, to create something bite-size, warm, and memorable. This year, my sister, brother and I made the lemon cookie that Dad loves, Mother’s favorite molasses cookie, and we tried a new recipe: mexican chocolate butter cookies, in addition to the classic decorate-able sugar cookie. It is a time when everyone gathers around the hearth of the oven to enjoy a sweet treat and celebrate the season. (Note: If you are not familiar with the Cook’s Illustrated recipes, they seem a bit more complicated than usual. Read through a few times before you make it. Every step is tested by their kitchens and worth following.)

Mexican Chocolate Butter Cookies

Adding cinnamon, a touch of cayenne, and almonds gives this simple chocolate butter cookie a bit of bite, and it is not too sweet. So good.

adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Ingredients:
20 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks), softened to cool room temperature (about 65 degrees)
1/2 cup cocoa powder (about 2 ounces)
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 cup sugar (7 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (11 1/4 ounces)

Instructions:
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and espresso powder; stir until mixture forms smooth paste. Set aside to cool, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. In skillet set to medium heat, toast 1/2 c. sliced almonds, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.

3. In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix remaining 16 tablespoons butter, sugar, salt, and cooled cocoa mixture on high speed until well combined and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping sides of mixing bowl once or twice with rubber spatula. Add yolks and vanilla and mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl. Mix flour and spice/almond mixture. With mixer running on low, add flour mixture in three additions, waiting until each addition is incorporated before adding next and scraping bowl after each addition. Continue to mix until dough forms cohesive ball, about 5 seconds. Turn dough onto counter; divide into three 4-inch disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate until dough is firm yet malleable, 45 to 60 minutes. (Alternatively, shape dough log, 2 inches in diameter and about 12 inches long; use parchment paper or plastic wrap to roll into neat cylinder. Chill until very firm and cold, at least 1 hour.)

4. Roll out 1 dough disk between 2 large sheets parchment paper to even thickness of 3/16 inch. (If dough becomes soft and sticky, slide rolled dough on parchment onto baking sheet and rechill until firm, about 10 minutes.) Peel parchment from one side of dough and cut into desired shapes using cookie cutter(s); using thin metal spatula, place shapes on parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Gather dough scraps and chill. (For cylinder-shaped dough, simply slice cookies 1/4 inch thick and place on parchment-lined baking sheets.)

5. Bake until cookies show slight resistance to touch (see photo below), 10 to 12 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time; if cookies begin to darken on edges, they have overbaked. Cool for 5 minutes, then, using spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack; cool completely.

6. To make glaze, combine 1 bar dark chocolate, 2 tablespoons butter, 1/4 cup heavy cream in a microwave save bowl and melt slowly. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, and stir. Spoon on top cooled cookies.

Lemon Glaze Cookies

This is a cookie for serious lemon lovers. It is quite tart.

adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Lemon Cookies
¾ cup (5 1/4 oz.) granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. grated zest plus 2 Tbsp. juice from two lemons
1 ¾ cups (8 1/4 oz.) all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
12 Tbsp. ( 1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes
1 lg. egg yolk
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Lemon Glaze

1 Tbsp. softened cream cheese
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 ½ cups (6 oz.) powdered sugar

1. For the cookies: Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions; heat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In the bowl of food processor, process granulated sugar and zest until it looks damp and zest is thoroughly incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Add flour, salt, and baking powder; pulse to combine, about 10 one-second pulses. Scatter butter chunks over. Pulse until mixture resembles fine cornmeal, about 15 one-second pulses.

3. In a measuring cup or small bowl, beat lemon juice, yolk, and vanilla until combined. With machine running, add juice/yolk mixture in slow, steady stream (process should take about 10 seconds); continue processing until dough begins to form ball, 10 to 15 seconds longer.

4. Turn dough and any dry bits out onto counter (or board); working quickly, gently knead the dough together to ensure no dry bits remain and dough is homogeneous. Roll dough into cylinder approximately 10 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Center dough on piece of parchment (waxed paper or plastic wrap will work in a pinch ). Fold paper over dough.

Grasp one end of parchment. With other hand, use bench scarper to firmly press parchment against dough to form uniform cylinder. Roll parchment and twist ends together to form tight seal. Chill dough until firm and cold, about 45 minutes in freezer or 2 hours in refrigerator.

5. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough log from wrapping and, using a sharp chef’s knife, slice dough into rounds 3/8-inch thick. Place on prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart.

Bake until centers of cookies just begin to color and edges are golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking time.

6. Cool cookies on baking sheet about 5 minutes, using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature before glazing.

Lemon Glaze:

1. Whisk cream cheese and lemon juice in a medium nonreactive bowl until no lumps remain. Add powdered sugar and whisk until smooth.

2. When cookies have cooled, working one at a time, spoon scant teaspoon glaze onto each cookie and spread evenly with the back of spoon. Let cookies stand on a wire rack until glaze is set and dry, about 1 hour.

Soft Molasses Cookies

Ingredients:

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (see note below)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Cream together shortening and brown sugar.
2. Stir in egg and molasses and mix well.
3. Fold in dry ingredients and stir.
4. Cover and chill till firm (1-2 hours).
5. Preheat oven to 350°.
6. Roll dough into small balls and roll in white sugar.
7. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet.
8. Bake at 350° for 9-10 minutes.
9. Leave on sheet one minute until set.
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One Response to “the cookies of christmas”

  1. K. said

    wish i could have made it over – looks delightful!

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