One of the many things I love about the Christmas season is the excuse to spend a lot of time baking. Every year my gift to family and close friends is an array of yummy homemade treats. I pretty much have my staples, but am also willing to try new things as well. I adopted some orange-cranberry cookies a few years ago that I love, but actually didn’t have time to make this year. Last year I also tried my hand at making homemade chocolate covered cherries, which I really would have liked to do again, but they are super time-consuming as it involves a multi-day process so again I didn’t have time to try them out again this year. This Christmas season for some reason I just felt completely pressed for time, so I wasn’t as expansive in my baking efforts as I’ve often been. I did manage to whip up a few of my staples though.
The most time consuming cookies I make, and the ones I tend to make the most of are your classic cookie cutter sugar cookies. I probably made about 20 dozen of these this year. Since they involve rolling out the dough, cutting out the cookies, and then frosting them once they’re baked I definitely spent a lot of time baking these.
Here’s the recipe, though the librarian in me feels really horrible about posting it since I don’t think it’s old enough to be out of copyright and I don’t know where it came from other than that it’s out of some old cookbook my mother had.
Cookie Cutter Sugar Cookies
4 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 T. milk
Mix together flour, baking powder and salt.
Cream together butter and sugar; add egg and beat until smooth and fluffy.
Stir in vanilla.
Add flour mixture and milk alternately.
Chill cook dough until easy to handle.
Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut with cookie cutter.
Bake at 400 degrees for 6 to 10 minutes.
I don’t have an official recipe for the frosting, but it’s a combination of powdered sugar, a little bit of milk, and a splash of vanilla mixed together until it’s the proper consistency for frosting a cookie.
Betty Crocker’s Ultimate Spritz Cookies
I also make cookie press cookies every year as well. I use Betty Crocker’s Ultimate Spritz Cookie Recipe, which you can find online here.
Russian Tea Cakes
I also use good old Betty Crocker’s recipe for Russian Tea Cakes.
The last thing I make every year are chocolate nut caramels, which come from a recipe that has been in my family so long that it actually refers to removing your kettle from the fire. Not only have these been one of my favorite Christmas treats since I was a small child, I also just love the fact that this recipe has been passed down in my family through the years. I learned to make these the old fashioned way without using a candy thermometer and was much more successful doing it that way than I have in the past two years when I’ve tried to be more scientific about it and actually used a candy thermometer I bought to make pralines. Part of my problem I think was that I had the temperature wrong and so the candy was coming out too hard. I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be cooked to a temperature of 250 degrees, so if you want to make these that’s the temperature I’m telling you to use.
Chocolate Nut Caramels
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups white corn syrup
2 cups cream
3 squares bitter chocolate
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup butter (not margarine)
2 teaspoons vanilla
Directions: Put sugar, syrup, butter and one cup cream in a kettle and bring to a boil. When it is boiling briskly, add the other cup of cream a little at a time so mixture keeps boiling. Boil until a thread of the mixture is brittle in cold water. Take from the fire and add chocolate pieces and nuts. Beat until chocolate is all melted. Stir in vanilla. Pour into a shallow, buttered pan to cool (I use a fully sided cookie sheet). After cooling, remove from pan and cut into one-inch squares.
Making all these yummy treats every Christmas makes me very happy. Hopefully if you’re lucky enough to know me in person eating some of them has made you happy, and if not I hope you make some of them for yourself to enjoy.