Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thursday Cookbook Series--Christmas Cookies

This week, in lieu of another printed cookbook, I am sharing my two favorite Christmas cookies (that share a single icing recipe).

The first are called Cookie Monster Cookies. The recipe orginated in a Sesame Street activity book when I was a very very small child. Our family has been making and decorating these every Christmas (and many Easters and other cookie-worthy occasions) for nearly 30 years now. We always mix up several colors of icing and cover these with sprinkles or redhots. Note that the batter is quite heavy and well-suited to a stand mixer (or else, to strong biceps!)

Cookie Monster Cookies
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time until well blended. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter/sugar mixture until fully incorporated.

Chill at least one hour.

Roll dough out 1/4" thick on a floured surface and cut with cookie cutters.

Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes.

Cool and decorate.

Icing (also used for Gingerbread Cookies, below)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
(optional) few drops food coloring

Use less milk or more sugar for thicker icing.

The next recipe is a rich, spicy gingerbread cookie recipe. It's not quite as traditional in my family, but Charlotte and I have been making these together for several years now. She especially likes the step where you add the baking soda. It reacts with the molasses to produce bubbles, like a sticky, spicy homemade volcano :)

Gingerbread Cookies
2/3 cup full flavor molasses (not black strap)
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp baking soda
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 2 tbsp pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 3/4-4 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt

In a large (at least 4-5 quart) sauce pan, bring molasses, brown sugar, and spices to a boil.

Remove from heat and stir in baking soda (this will puff up, so make sure your pan has extra space!).

Stir in butter 3 pieces at a time until melted. Add egg

Add 3 3/4 cup of flour and salt.

Preheat the oven to 325 and butter cookie sheets.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough, adding enough remaining flour until it is soft (30 sec to 1 minute).

Roll half the dough at a time 1/8-1/4" thick. Keep the other half wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature. Note you may want to wait until the dough cools to almost room temperature before cutting your first batch, or they will be very hard to move to the cookie sheets.

Cut out cookies and bake on buttered sheets 10 to 12 minutes.

Cool on rack and ice with the recipe above (I like to leave the icing white on such a dark colored cookie).

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