Thursday, December 18, 2014

Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: peanut butter

Welcome to our Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies link up! For the next two weeks, join us every day and add your favorite cookie recipe for that day’s theme. Please follow Lisa and I and check out some new blogs! Happy baking!

I have always loved peanut butter cookies, and really I don't think there is a wrong way to make them... except that they must be made with smooth peanut butter, because having crunchy bits in there just isn't right.

A few years ago, I discovered what might be the world's easiest peanut butter cookie recipe. It has just 4 ingredients, and you can have a batch baked in under 15 minutes. Trust me! This is a flourless cookie, and, I'll admit, I was skeptical when I first saw it. It doesn't seem like there are enough ingredients whatsoever to actually create cookies, but I gave it a try and was (very) pleasantly surprised by the results. One tip though: let the cookies cool almost completely on the baking sheet before you try to move them! Otherwise, they will completely fall apart on you.

[photo credit]
Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
From Clare Robinson & Food Network
Makes 18 cookies

Ingredients 
  • 1 cup peanut butter 
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten 
  • Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling 
Directions 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven. 
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the peanut butter, sugar, vanilla and egg until well combined. 
  3. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the mixture about 1 inch apart onto ungreased baking sheets. 
  4. Flatten the mounds with the tines of a fork, making a crosshatch pattern on the cookies. 
  5. Sprinkle coarse salt on top of the cookies. 
  6. Bake until golden around the edges, about 10 minutes, switching the position of the sheets halfway through baking. 
  7. Transfer to racks to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough.



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: chocolate

Hi there! Coming at you a little late today, but with the best of intentions - the whole world feels like one giant whirlwind the week before Christmas - amiright?! Hardly enough time to slow down and breathe.

Today's Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies post is all about CHOCOLATE - is there anything better in the world?! Possibly red wine... but possibly not.


Last year, I made a big batch of Hot Chocolate Cookies, which is an idea I got from Hungry Runner Girl's blog. She is a humongous fan of these cookies, and there is nothing better that C likes than a good, old fashioned chocolate chip cookie, so I thought he might appreciate these. I was definitely right - they were his favorite out of all the kinds we made. They are super simple to put together and bake, and the melty marshmallows on top take them to a crazy new level.

If you make one kind of Christmas cookie this year, make these!!

Hot Chocolate Cookies 
from Seeded at the Table
Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies

[photo credit]
Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 4 packages (or 1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons) Hot Chocolate Mix (store-bought or homemade) 
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips 
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mat. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then blend in the vanilla. 
  3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, hot chocolate mix, and baking soda and salt. 
  4. Slowly add to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Fold in the chocolate chips. 
  5. Drop dough balls onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 7 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven. 
  6. Working quickly, carefully add about 5 to 7 miniature marshmallows to the top of each cookie, and gently press. Return to the oven and bake an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until the marshmallows start to puff. 
  7. Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheets for 10 minutes before removing. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Come back tomorrow for PEANUT BUTTER cookies!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Twelve Day of Christmas Cookies: traditional

Welcome to our Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies link up! For the next two weeks, join us every day and add your favorite cookie recipe for that day’s theme. Please follow Lisa and Lindsay and check out some new blogs! Happy baking!



My parents were both stationed in Germany with the Army for a few years before my sister and I were born, and we lived there until I was three years old. Subsequently, we have adopted several German Christmas traditions and customs that are very special parts of the holidays for us.

German gingerbread cookies, known as lebkuchen, are one of my favorite parts of the holidays. I've never actually made them, but I make sure to buy some from the Commissary whenever I get a chance to go around the holidays with my mama. There are lots of brands and types, but in my head, the best ones are a very specific kind that come in a pretty blue bag, from a company called Bahlsen. Seeing those will always mean Christmas to me!


If you want to try to make your own lebkuchen, try one of these recipes:
What is your favorite traditional or ethnic cookie around the holidays??


Monday, December 15, 2014

Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: nuts

Welcome to our Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies link up! For the next two weeks, join us every day and add your favorite cookie recipe for that day’s theme. Please follow Lisa and Lindsay and check out some new blogs! Happy baking!



We recently discovered that C has a minor tree-nut allergy, so suddenly my ability to bake with nuts is quite limited! Unless, of course, I am baking something that I don't want to eat... then I can load it up with walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts, and keep it all for myself. Not that I would ever do that...!!

In looking for a tree-nut-free recipe to use last year, my mom and I came across Pistachio-Cherry-Chocolate Cookies in an America's Test Kitchen: Christmas Cookies cookbook that my mom had stashed away. What a delightful combination of flavors! We adored these cookies last year, and knew we had to make them again this year. I had co-workers asking me months ago if I planned to bake these again - they are definitely a hit!

We have adapted the original recipe just slightly in order to make the production a little simpler. Other than that, we just followed the recipe!

Pistachio-Cherry-Chocolate Cookies
from America's Test Kitchen
Makes about 40 cookies

Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened
  • 1 1/4 cups shelled pistachios, toasted and chopped fine
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped fine
  • 1 ounce cream cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Directions
  1. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, mix flour, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined. Add butter and stir until mixture is crumbly.
  2. Stir in pistachios, cherries, cream cheese, and vanilla, and mix until well incorporated, but do not over mix - just until dough starts to come together in large chunks.
  3. Place dough on a piece of plastic wrap and knead by hand until it starts to come together and all mix-ins are well-incorporated.
  4. Split dough into two equal chunks, form into discs, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour.
  5. Once dough is chilled, preheat oven to 375*.
  6. Take dough out of fridge and form balls using approximately 1 tablespoon of dough per cookie. Flatten balls into cookie shapes and place on parchment-paper-lined cookie sheets - do not overcrowd cookie sheets!
  7. Bake one cookie sheet at a time on the middle rack in the oven, for 9-10 minutes per tray, rotating tray halfway through baking.
  8. Once cookies are cooled, melt chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Use a spoon to lightly drizzle chocolate over cookies, or dip cookies halfway into chocolate to coat. (The drizzle method is much faster and easier, but doesn't give the same visual appeal.)

 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: decorated cookies

Welcome to our Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies link up! For the next two weeks, join us every day and add your favorite cookie recipe for that day’s theme. Please follow Lisa and I and check out some new blogs! Happy baking!



The best kind of decorated cookie, in my opinion, is traditional sugar cookies (see my post from yesterday for a great recipe!) with thick buttercream icing. I know that lots of people use a thinner glaze on sugar cookies, but we've always gone for a creamy, substantial buttercream with lots of sprinkles. I have so many memories from childhood of sticking my knife into a big bowl of icing and schmearing it all over a cookie. Many hours were spent creating beautiful, edible masterpieces!

I stick with a simple buttercream recipe that is quick and easy to make. It's almost impossible to screw it up! Once again, my girl Betty (Crocker) doesn't let me down.

Traditional Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Inspired by Betty Crocker

Ingredients
  • 3 cups powdered sugar 
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla 
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk 
  • Food coloring (I go with red and green for the holidays, of course!)
Directions
  1. In medium bowl, mix powdered sugar and butter with spoon or electric mixer on low speed. Stir in vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk.  Add food coloring to reach desired color.
  2. Gradually beat in just enough remaining milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable. 
  3. If frosting is too thick, beat in more milk, a few drops at a time. If frosting becomes too thin, beat in a small amount of powdered sugar.