Christmastime Is Cookie Time

Posted: December 5, 2012

Home Cooking

Editor’s Note: After many years writing for the DN-R, Esther Shank says “farewell” with this, her final installment of the “Home Cooking” column.
 
Christmas is one of the most special celebrations of the year, and we surely want to focus on its true meaning. The birth of Jesus was the greatest gift ever given and we are privileged to be able to celebrate and worship Him in special ways.
 
An important part of these celebrations is food, so it is helpful to start Christmas baking early. Aren’t we thankful for freezers, which make it easy to plan ahead for that busy time?
 
Christmas cookies have always been a major part of holiday preparations. To share plates of your family favorites promotes the spirit of the season, giving to others and goodwill.
 
I’ve added this recipe to my list for this year. It can be made ahead, freezes well and is delicious.
 
Cranberry White-Chocolate Christmas Cookies
 
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond flavoring
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups quick oats
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped slightly
1 cup white chocolate baking chips or chunks
Pecan halves to garnish (optional)
 
Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and flavorings and beat well. Combine flour, oats, salt and soda and blend into mixture. Stir in cranberries and chocolate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (or by rounded cookie scoop) onto a greased baking sheet.
 
Place a pecan half in the center of each cookie to garnish. (If preferred, ¾ cup of chopped pecans may be added to dough in place of garnish.)
 
Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes until just beginning to brown around edges. For soft cookies, do not over bake.
 
Yields 4 ½ to 5 dozen cookies.
 
Tips for baking cookies:
 
For best results, use bright, shiny aluminum bake ware. Many foods have been ruined by using dark, dingy bake ware. The bottom or edges of cookies may be almost burned by the time the center is baked. A good grade of bake ware is worth the investment — it will last a lifetime.
 
Cookies should not be placed on a hot baking sheet, which causes them to spread out too much. If you only have one baking sheet, you can use a large piece of foil to prepare the second batch for the oven when the first one comes out. After removing the first batch of cookies, simply scoot the cookie sheet under the foil and transfer the second batch to the oven. You can dish out the next batch on foil again to keep the process moving along.
 
Chilling the dough usually results in better-shaped cookies — this keeps the dough from spreading out too much.
 
If you prefer soft, chewy cookies, be careful not to over bake them, which dries them out and makes them hard and crunchy.
 
To make a clever design on children’s cookies, press animal cookie cutters lightly into the dough (or into the soft icing if you ice them after baking) making a slight imprint. Remove cutter and outline indentation with brightly colored sugar.
 
For quick toppings on basic cookies, place a chocolate-covered mint, small peanut butter cup, or a chocolate kiss, on top of hot cookies immediately upon removing them from the oven, so they will melt just enough to adhere to the cookies. (You may need to return the cookies to the oven for just one or two minutes — but do not melt candy too much as it will spoil the appearance.)
 
For refrigerator cookies, pack dough in empty juice cans or other cans. If you don’t have the lid, cover the open end with plastic wrap, secured with a rubber band. To remove dough for easy slicing, use a can opener to cut bottom end and push dough through can with lid, slicing as you push.
 
Use tuna cans or other small cans for cookie cutters when you need unusual shapes or sizes. Cans may be bent into various shapes as desired. Or, tear the metal edge off discarded boxes of waxed paper and plastic wrap and bend into any desired shape.
 
To avoid damage to icing or toppings, especially on soft cookies which you may wish to stack for storage, place the tray of cookies in the freezer a short time to harden. Then pack in containers with plastic wrap between layers.
 
In a hurry? Sprinkle a little brightly colored sugar on sugar cookies before baking to avoid having to ice. This saves a few calories as well.
 

Contact Esther Shank at skyline@dnronline.com.


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