Tidewater Kitchen - December 2009

 

Cookie Exchange

by

Pamela Meredith-Doyle

For many of us, the holidays are synonymous with all kinds of baking. Batch after marvelous batch, we bake wonderful treats to share with family and friends. Baking cookies is a way to bring your children into the kitchen with you. I love to bake cookies with my son and his friends.
It can be so much fun during the holidays to coordinate with some friends and have a cookie exchange. Have each friend bake their own favorite kind and bring to your house. You can either have them bring containers or you can supply them. That way everyone leaves with an assortment of yummy treats!

COOKIE BAKING TIPS
· Always use sweet cream, unsalted butter.
· The butter should be room temperature, unless the recipe specifically calls for it to be chilled. This will help the butter to cream better into the dough.
· Use Grade AA large eggs, unless otherwise specified by the recipe.
· The eggs should always be room temperature.
· Use fresh baking soda and baking powder. I don’t keep these things around for more than 6 months because I want my cookies to have the freshest leavening agent.
· Use good quality all-purpose flour.
· Use Nielson Massey vanilla for the best vanilla flavor. It is a high-quality Madagascar vanilla.
· When a recipe calls for nuts, toast them in a dry skillet just until you can smell them, before using them in cookies. Allow them to cool and then add to your dough. Nuts are usually raw, so toasting them gives them added flavor.
· If you need butter and sugar to cream together, use a mixer to do the job. Do not, however, finish the dough in the mixer. Add the other ingredients and mix the dough by hand with a wooden spoon.
· Make sure the temperature of the kitchen is under 75° when baking cookies. The dough gets too warm if the kitchen temperature is higher, and the cookies will not bake properly.
· Make sure that your cookie dough is well chilled before you roll it. This will ensure precise cutouts of your cookies.
· Roll out your cookie dough on a cold surface such as marble or tile.
· Do not over-flour your dough while you are rolling it out. This will cause a tough cookie. Brush off all excess flour with a pastry brush.
· Reroll the dough as little as possible. The more the dough is worked, the tougher it will become.
· To prepare cookies as ornaments, simply use a toothpick to keep a hole in the uncooked dough while it is baking. After baking you can remove the toothpick.

CLASSIC SUGAR COOKIES
1¼ cups sugar
¾ cup butter
1 egg and 1 yolk
1 t. vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
¼ t. salt

Sift flour with salt and set aside. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and yolk, one at a time, and then add the vanilla. Stir the flour in gradually with a wooden spoon until well blended.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces and flatten each into a disk. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter a large baking sheet. On a lightly floured board, roll out one disk of the dough to ¼-inch thickness.
Cut out the cookies with your favorite holiday cutouts and transfer to the baking sheet, then brush the tops with beaten egg white. Sprinkle with sugar and bake until the edges turn golden brown - about 8 minutes.
Cool the cookies on wire cooling racks and then put them in airtight containers. They will keep at room temperature for 1 week or can be frozen for up to 1 month.

MARBLED COOKIES
Line your cookie sheet with foil. Ice the tops of your sugar cookies with white icing (or whatever color you select). Drop dabs of red, green or whatever food coloring on cookies and use a wooden toothpick to swirl the colors. Refrigerate until the coating is set - about 10 minutes.

STAINED GLASS SUGAR COOKIES
Cut raw cookies with your favorite cutout. Line your cookie sheet with foil and place the cookies on the sheet. Cut holes in the dough with a smaller cookie cutter. Place a colored hard candy in the center of each cookie. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the cookies are just beginning to brown on the edges and the candy is melted. Slide the foil off the cookie sheet onto a cooling rack and cool completely. Once the cookies are cooled you can peel them off the foil.

DECORATING GLAZE
This glaze is great for decorating cookies quickly and simply. Bake the cookies several days ahead. Also make sure that cookies have time to thoroughly dry before you store them.

3 T. whole milk
½ t. vanilla
3½ cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
Food coloring, if desired

Combine the milk and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl.
Slowly stir in the sugar until the glaze becomes thick and creamy. The longer you beat this the glossier it will become.
Divide the glaze into separate bowls and add different colors if you desire.

ROYAL ICING
Smooth and glossy, this icing is perfect for decorating cookies. A thinner consistency will help it spread easier, but having it thicker will be easier to pipe through a pastry bag. You can control this by adding more or less powdered sugar. Glossy icing can be achieved with a few drops of glycerin from the pharmacy.

2 large egg whites, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 t. lemon juice
3 drops glycerin

Beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry, in the mixer. Add the sugar, lemon juice and glycerin. Beat this for one more minute. If the icing is too thick, add more egg whites. If it is too thin, add more sugar.

GREAT OATMEAL COOKIES
With Craisins these are a definite favorite.

2 sticks margarine
1¼ cups firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 T. milk
2 T. vanilla
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
½ t. salt
2½ cups old fashioned, uncooked oats
1 cup chopped nuts or Craisins

Heat oven to 375°.
Beat together the margarine and sugars until creamy. Add the eggs, milk and vanilla and beat well.
Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix dough by hand with a wooden spoon.
Stir in oats, Craisins and nuts and mix well.
Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
This recipe makes about 5 dozen cookies.

YUMMY PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
1 cup super chunky peanut butter
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 t. vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ t. baking soda
1½ t. baking powder
½ t. sea salt
2 cups chocolate chips or peanut butter chips
¼ cup white sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 375°. Cream the peanut butter, butter and sugars together with a wooden spoon in a large bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue to incorporate these ingredients.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Add this mixture to the creamed ingredients in thirds.
Fold in the chocolate chips, working the dough as little as possible. Measure the dough in tablespoons, rolling each ball into the remaining sugar.
Place the dough balls on a cookie sheet and then press each across with a fork to flatten it out. Make one press horizontally and one vertically. Dip the fork in flour if necessary to keep it from sticking.
Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, or until they begin to puff and get lightly golden. Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. This yields about 36 cookies.

GINGERBREAD COOKIES
This cookie recipe is versatile and can be used for many different things. If you are going to make ornaments out of them, make the shapes at least a week ahead so the gingerbread has time to harden.

3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 t. baking soda
½ t. baking powder
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 t. ground ginger
2 t. ground cinnamon
¾ t. ground cloves
½ t. finely ground pepper
¾ t. sea salt
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup molasses
One recipe royal icing

Sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder together in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until it is fluffy. Add the spices and salt, then the egg and molasses. Finally, add the flour mixture to the mixer at low speed. Divide the dough and chill for at least 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 350°. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to a 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Brush off any excess flour and transfer the shapes to a baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, about 10 minutes.
Bake for 8 minutes, or until they are crisp but not dark. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack, then decorate as desired.

PEANUT BUTTER KISSES
Christmas would not be the same without making one of my favorites. The kids love to get involved, and everyone loves them.

1¾ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 t. baking soda
½ t. sea salt
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup smooth peanut butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 T. whole milk
1 T. vanilla
1 pkg. Hershey Kisses
¼ cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 375°. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl. Combine the butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar together in a large bowl until creamed. Add the egg, milk and vanilla to the creamed mixture and stir until just combined.
Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and stir until just combined. Repeat until all of the dry ingredients are combined and the dough is smooth.
Place the ¼ cup sugar on a plate. Roll 1 t. of the dough into the sugar before placing the dough ball on the cookie sheet.
Bake the cookies for 8 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and place a chocolate kiss in the middle of each hot cookie, pressing it until it cracks on the edges. Return the cookies to the oven and bake for five minutes more until the cookies are golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool them on a wire rack.
You can make these cookies up to 5 days ahead. Makes 36 cookies.

CURRANT COOKIES
1 cup butter, plus 2 T.
1-2/3 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
½ t. baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
½ t. nutmeg
1 cup currants
Powdered sugar for sprinkling

Mix all ingredients together and put on an ungreased cookie sheet. Make sure the cookie sheet isn’t too dark or the cookies will burn. Bake at 350° for 7 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. When they cool you can slice into bars and sprinkle with the powdered sugar. Makes 24 cookies.

SCOTCH SHORTBREADS
1 cup softened butter
½ cup sugar
2½ cups all-purpose flour

Mix the butter and sugar together well in a large bowl. Add the flour and mix thoroughly with your hands until blended. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for about 1 hour. Roll the disk out to about ½-inch thickness. Cut into fancy shapes or into 1-inch by 4-inch bars. Put fork pricks on the top.
Place shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 325° for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 24 cookies.

HIKE COOKIES
1 cup butter
1 cup canola oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup white sugar
3½ cups flour
1 cup Quaker oats
1 t. vanilla
1 t. cream of tartar
½ cup chopped nuts
1 t. salt
1 cup coconut
1 t. baking soda
1 cup Rice Krispies

Cream together the first 5 ingredients. Sift and add the rest of the ingredients. Drop the dough by teaspoons onto a greased cookie sheet. Flatten each cookie with a fork. Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes.

APPLESAUCE COOKIES
¾ cup butter
1 t. baking soda
¾ cup raisins
1 t. cinnamon
¼ t. cloves
1 cup sugar
1 cup warm applesauce
2½ cups flour
1 t. nutmeg
1 cup walnuts, optional

Cream the butter and gradually add the sugar. Dissolve the baking soda in the applesauce. Add all this to the butter mixture. Add the flour and spices, which have been sifted together. Drop by spoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until golden brown. These cookies do not spread.

SPICED SUGAR COOKIES
I always make several different types of sugar cookies during the holidays. The same old plain sugar cookies get boring sometimes, so I like to add a little spice.

1½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 t. vanilla
1 t. ground cinnamon
½ t. ground ginger
½ t. nutmeg
¼ t. allspice
¼ t. ground cloves
¼ t. sea salt
4 cups all-purpose flour

In the mixer bowl beat the butter and sugar at medium speed. Beat the mixture until fluffy and then add the egg, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and salt. Beat until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the flour by hand with a wooden spoon. Add the flour, one cup at a time, until it is all incorporated.
Shape the dough into three disks and wrap them in plastic wrap. Chill the disks in the refrigerator until firm, about 1½ hours.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator at a time and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the disk to ¼-inch thickness. Cut out the desired shapes and place them on a cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden. Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
These can be made up to one week ahead or frozen for up to 2 months. The recipe yields about 48 cookies.