Christmas Cookies

I am the baker in my family. Have been since about middle school or so. For years I’ve been the one to make the sugar cookies for cut outs at Christmas, loaf after loaf of zucchini bread in the summer, and birthday cakes year-round. As a newlywed I made extra money for gifts by selling my Christmas cutouts to co-workers! Now, I’m the one to provide the sugar at our family Christmas gatherings.

I have some tried-and-true recipes that I make year in and year out but I every year I also try something new. After a consultation with twitter, added 2 new recipes to the mix this year and both were fantastic. On Saturday and Sunday I made 6 different types of cookies, most of which are hanging out in the freezer until the celebrations begin. Here’s what I made…

Peanut Butter Blossoms. These are my husband’s favorite and a must every year. I use a recipe from a family friend but it’s similar to the one I linked to. I makes a ton so it’s good for a cookie exchange. If you want to up the ante like I do use mini Reese’s cups instead of the Kisses. They will melt so I usually pop the finished cookies into the freezer for 5-10 min after they cool to room temperature which will harden the Reese’s cups.

Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yes, this is the recipe that’s been floating around since email was invented. Yes they are delicious. My recipe is double what I linked to and makes a TON of cookies and even my trusty Kitchen Aid can’t handle that much dough. So I halved it and the linked recipe is the smaller version. I got to use my new Vitamix to make oat flour and to chop the chocolate this year so it went much faster. Make sure you use really good chocolate (this is not the place for Hershey’s bars). I baked 1 dozen of these then scooped the rest of the dough into balls and froze them so I can easily make fresh cookies when I need them.

Mexican Wedding Cookies. These are new this year – I don’t know why I’ve never made them before becuause they are super easy. I made them on the recommendation of Crystal via Twitter. I used the Smitten Kitchen recipe because I always have good luck with recipes she posts. And, I got to use my new Vitamix again! These are so yummy, I will be making them again.

Sugar Cookie Cut Outs – This is what started it all. I took over making the cut-outs in high school, I think. True story: my dad used to take us kids out of the house when my mom made cut-outs because of all of the cursing. At some point she switched to making them with the pre-made dough in a tube you can get at the grocery store and I thought homemade were better so I took over and have been making them ever since. I’ve tired dozens of recipes but I find the simpler the better (again, I linked not to my recipe but to a similar one). I like to roll them thin to get the maximum frosting:cookie ratio. These are frozen, undecorated and will be frosted at another time. This year, given Matilda’s sensitivity to red dye I’ll be trying out some natural (and expensive!) food coloring. And please, no royal icing… only buttercream in this house!

Orange Sugar Cookies – This was one of my “trial” recipes that made it into regular rotation. I love these cookies with or without the chocolate. I linked to the recipe I use but I up the orange zest to 3 tablespoons, increase the orange extract to 1.5 teaspoons and add 1/2 teaspoon of orange extract to the glaze. Sometimes instead of dipping the cookies I drizzle them with the glaze because I’m lazy. These are great in the summer if you use lemon instead of orange.

Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies – These were a trial cookie that hit it out of the park. They are insanely good – sweet with just a hint of heat. I read through the comments and decided to add the cinnamon and chili to the dry mix and rolled the cookies in plain white sugar. Next time (there will be a next time) I’ll add half a bag of chocolate chips. I’m not exactly sure how I heard about hot chocolate cookies but I looked at probably 8 other recipes before discovering Martha’s, but all the others had bad reviews in comments except for this one. I highly recommend.

I still plan on making America’s Test Kitchen’s Gingerbread Cake for our Christmas dinner dessert. That will also be a new recipe so I’ll have to report back later.

Here are a few tips if you want to make 6 kinds of cookies in a single weekend (I didn’t count, but I think when I was done there were  around 21 dozen cookies).

1) A Silpat is your saving grace (0r any other silicone baking mat). As are heavy half-sheet pans (I got mine for cheap at a restaurant supply store). Having these mean no washing cookie sheets between batches and nothing sticks. Plus the big pans can mean more cookies per batch.

2) A cookie scoop (again, I got this for cheap at a restaurant supply store). Makes scooping cookies super easy and uniform.

3) Parchment paper. I lay this out when rolling dough so I can get away with less flour which makes for a better cookie. I lay out a sheet and put pre-scooped dough balls on it while waiting for the oven. That way I can empty my mixing bowl, wash it and move on to the next dough even if all of the first kind of cookies aren’t done baking.

4) Read through all your recipes. Know what order you’re going to make them. Does it need chilled? Great – make it, throw it in the fridge then make and bake your next recipe while that one chills.

5) Mise-en-place – I know that might sound too “Iron Chef” for some but it makes all the difference. On day one I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked. So that night I got all my dry ingredients mixed, my wets mixed (where I could) and laid it all out. On Sunday morning I was able to have 3 kinds of cookies (nearly 10 dozen!) DONE before 10:30 AM (I started around 7:15 thanks to the Madman alarm). I was shocked at how much time it saved.

6) A spouse who will keep the kids out of the kitchen while you work. I love to have my kids in the kitchen with me but I was in cookie-mode and just needed them out of my hair for several hours. At kitchen with doors (like ours) so you can close everyone out is also a nice thing to have.

What are your holiday baking traditions? What recipe should I try next year?

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4 thoughts on “Christmas Cookies

  1. Grandma says:

    Yes, Kate, cut out cookie and I did not get along. But I do make a pretty good buttercream icing! And your cookies are the BEST.

  2. Bookmarking this post for my busy little bee of a daughter. Thanks for taking the time to write this – because it’s going to fill up at least one full day of winter break for us!

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