Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Cookies

Despite the fact that this year's Christmas is a bit unorthodox (you know, I'm on the French Riviera and the palm trees have Christmas lights on them...) and the fact that I don't actually celebrate Christmas, I was determined to make Christmas cookies as usual. And by usual, I mean the last two years. I don't know what it is about this time of year, but it puts me in super-intense baking mode!

I invited the other students from my university to come over to my apartment last week and have a baking day. We planned to make enough so that everyone could take some home. The morning of, after having bought all the ingredients, it suddenly dawned on me that we only had one cookie sheet. While that didn't seem like the fin du monde at the time, it meant we could only bake 12 cookies at a time. That might not seem so bad to you, but now would be the time to share that we were stirring and swapping cookies out of the oven from noon until...(wait for it)...9 PM! I'm telling you, without the extra excitement that the Christmas season instils in me, I would have given up earlier or ended up on the floor crying. Fortunately, neither happened and everyone went home with their own little bunch of delicious Chistmas cookies to share!

I was a little torn on which cookies to make, but finally settled on sugar cookies (not pictures because they're so boring!), snickerdoodles, chocolate gingerbread cookies, and cranberry white chocolate oatmeal bunches. Oh, the deliciousness that ensued!


These snickerdoodles were my favorite from the day. I'm not sure what was so different, but they turned out so much more delicious than last year. I got this recipe from the FoodNetwork site because they were rated 5/5 stars by 111 people! I'm telling you, those people were SO right! These were soft, chewy, and were subtly cinammony. Plus, they sparkled!

from Gale Gand
makes 35-40 cookies

For the topping:
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the cookie dough:
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (I didn't use these and they were still delicious)
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

To make the cookie dough, stir together the dry ingredients.

In a bowl with a paddle attachment, cream the butter. Add the sugar and continue to mix, then add the eggs, corn syrup, and vanilla, and mix thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients and mix until blended. Chill dough 1 hour if it's sticky or difficult to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll balls of dough about the size of a walnut then roll them in the cinnamon sugar to coat. Place on an un-greased sheet pan 2 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until puffed up and the surface is slightly cracked. Let cool on the sheet pan a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.

Martha Stewart's Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

These cookies were a close second to the snickerdoodles. They were super spicy, which I particularly like for Christmas cookies. I couldn't find molasses here, so I substituted it with a mixture of honey and maple syrup. I couldn't taste anything particularly off about them, but they were INCREDIBLY moist which made them difficult to pack up. Nonetheless, they were delicious. I haven't really enjoyed working with the dough of gingerbread in the past (something I avoided last year with the gingerbread cupcakes), so this year I decided to add chocolate and see how that would work. I also changed the recipe a little, using more cocoa instead of chocolate chunks, so the cookies would not really be chunky (I'm not sure why, but the idea of chunky gingerbread didn't appeal to me in the least). For all the changing around I did, they turned out pretty darn good!

Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
from Martha Stewart
makes 2 dozen

7 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Line two baking sheets with parchment. Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.

In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking-soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2- inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Martha Stewart's White Chocolate Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

These cookies were an incredible flavor combination, but a little too chunky for my taste. Although, I imagine they would be wonderful with a warm drink, because they would be perfect for dunking. I added white chocolate chunks into the cookie batter because I love the combination of cranberry and white chocolate, particularly around the Christmas time.

(White Chocolate) Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

from Martha Stewart
makes 3 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk
2 large eggs
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup dried cranberries
(I added in a chopped white chocolate bar at the end)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the vanilla, milk, and eggs. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars, and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low, gradually add milk mixture, and beat well. Add the flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Remove bowl from the electric mixer, and stir in the oats and cranberries. Place dough in the refrigerator until firm, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside. Shape 2 tablespoons of dough into a ball; place on one of the prepared sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing 3 inches apart. Press with the bottom of a glass to flatten dough into 2-inch-diameter rounds.

Bake until golden but still soft in center, 16 to 18 minutes, rotating halfway through. Remove from oven; transfer with parchment to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.


Manggy said...

I love how you documented their transformation from uniform balls to uniform circles! They all look good, but I am partial to the first two. Gingerbread... (Drool)

How can sugar cookies be boring?! Gasp! Don't tell me you didn't decorate them!

How lucky that your apartment has a working oven :)

Anonymous said...

sara cakes!

this is a wonderful spread! i can always count on you to make amazing snickerdoodles, and im dying to try the chocolate ginger bread! I may be trying out one of these recipes with fatima later on...! :-) i miss you, have fun in florence!!

Sara said...

These all look really yummy! I like seeing them both pre and post baking!

Michelle said...

I love snickerdoodles and haven't made them in a long time. Am definitely going to try this recipe. Thanks!

Dora said...

This post is so visually appealing! Excellent documentation skills.