I am happy to be participating in Eat Christmas Cookies 2 being hosted by Food Blogga. As you all know, this is the time of year when I pull out my collection of cookie cookbooks and plot the ruin of other peoples' diets. Yes - I am the evil little Christmas baker! I hide behind the bright smile of an chubby, middle-aged matron but, deep within my heart, I am plotting the expansion of your waistline. Muhahahhahhahahahhahaha!
Other than that, I just really like baking cookies. They are little packages of flavor with happiness and love hiding on the inside. (As far as you know!)
One thing that sets Christmas apart from the rest of the year is the opportunity to make lots of "fancy" cookies. The rest of the year it seems like you are making everyone else's favorites - usually involving chocolate chips, oatmeal and/or peanut butter. Not that I have anything against those types of cookies, but occasionally it just nice to stretch your culinary wings and make something else.
In past years, I've shared some of my "fancy" cookies. I tend to lean towards spice, nuts and fruit when I make my cookies.
Here are some of my past entries -
Pecan Tassies and Spiced Cranberry Apricot refrigerator cookies
Stroopwaffles - which I am preparing to make this afternoon
Lebkuken - from Gail's Heirloom recipe
This year I would like to feature a cookie I found in Great Cookies: Secrets to Sensational Sweets by Carole Walter . A quick word about this book - I love it. Not only do the recipes produce great cookies, Carole also spends the time classifying each cookie by type, but also by their characteristics - such as versatility or fragility. Plus - and a big plus for me - she gives you a shelf life for each recipe. An immense help when plotting the diet downfall of some distant relation.
Now introducing - Chocolate Snowcaps! Everyone wants chocolate chocolate chip - so this appeases both my family and friends' desire PLUS I get to make a really pretty cookie. This will be the second year I am making these - the hard part has been finding the nonpareils. I eventually located a brand called Bazzini at my local Pepperidge Farm outlet store. (Yes there is one in Columbus - and they carry large boxes of puff pastry at a great price as well!) The outlet store only carries the Bazzini brand during the holidays - so if you want to beat me to them, you better hurry.
The other secret to this cookie is that you have to use the best ingredients. It's a simply cookie. If you use poor quality ingredients, it shows in the finished product. I once again indulged in a high fat cocoa powder - Ghiridelli this time. Be aware that high fat cocoa powder is likely to go rancid quickly - so store it in a cool dry place and test it before you use it. Even a "new" can from the store can be rancid if it has sat too long on the shelf or been mishandled in transit. The same is true of things like butter - please taste your butter before you use it. If it tastes of anything other than sweet creaminess - get another pound for this recipe.
Oh - and just in case you wanted to know - there cookies were deemed by Carole to be versatile, have a long shelf life and are temperature sensitive.
from Great Cookies: Secrets to Sensational Sweets by Carole Walter
These chocolate shortbread cookies are topped with disks of semisweet chocolate nonpareil candies. While nonpareils are available in most supermarkets, those purchased from a specialty candy store will be well worth the investment. Not only are these candies available in assorted flavors of semisweet, milk, and bittersweet chocolate, but some are covered with rainbow nonpareils.
Because these cookies are made with a shortbread-style dough, take care not to overwork the mixture, otherwise the dough will become too soft to handle.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons seedless raspberry preserves
48 semisweet chocolate nonpareil candies
MAKE THE DOUGH
2. In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on low speed until smooth. Add the confectioners' sugar with the vanilla and mix just until blended.
1. Strain together the flour, cocoa, and salt. Set aside.
3. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix briefly to incorporate. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the remaining dry ingredients by hand, working the mixture just until the dough is smooth. Do not overmix.
4. Scrape the dough onto a strip of plastic wrap, then shape it into a 6 x 8-inch rectangle. Wrap the dough in the plastic and refrigerate until firm, 45 to 60 minutes.
BAKE THE COOKIES
5. Position the racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven. Heat the oven to 350°. Butter the cookie sheets well.
7. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until the cookies feel set on top. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back toward the end of baking time. Remove the cookies from the oven and let stand for I to 2 minutes before loosening with a metal spatula. They will harden as they cool. When firm enough to handle, transfer the cookies to cooling racks.
6. Using a pastry scraper, divide the dough into 48 I-inch squares. Roll each square into a ball and arrange about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets. Place the granulated sugar in a shallow dish. Dip a flat-bottomed glass into the sugar, then press down on each ball to form a 2-inch disk. Using a small spatula, spread a dab of preserves on the bottom of a nonpareil and lightly press the candy, topside up, into the center of each disk.
STORAGE Store in an airtight container, layered between strips of wax paper, for up to 3 weeks. These cookies may be frozen.
One last note - if you really want to see some other folks fantastic cookies, then check out the Eat Christmas Cookies round page. Don't forget - if you don't have enough time before the holidays to try them all, you can always come up with other excuses!