Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Cookies 2011 - Part 2 - Gingerbread Boys, Sugar Cookies, Cherry Date Balls & More

Today I finished up baking the majority of my Christmas cookies, I have sent boxes out the door and have a few more to deliver.



I'll start with Cherry Date Balls, a delicious Christmas treat.  My mother found this recipe when I was a child and made them every year. Originally they were called Date Nut Balls, because of my tree nut allergies, I have omitted the nuts from this recipe, use butter instead of margarine and I doubled the original recipe (because they are so good you need more) and have renamed them Cherry Date Balls.

Here is the recipe:

1 cup butter
3 cups chopped dates
1 cup drained and chopped maraschino cherries
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 cups Crispy Rice Cereal
(If you are not allergic to tree nuts you could also add 2 cups of chopped pecans as the original recipe included add to the recipe along with the cereal)

Directions:
In a large saucepan, combine butter, dates, cherries and sugar.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture becomes a smooth, soft paste.  Remove from heat and mix in crispy rice cereal.  Mix Thoroughly.

Portion using a cookie scooper (slightly smaller than an ice cream scooper) or rounded tablespoon onto wax paper or pan spray coated baking sheet.  Like below-


Then comes the tricky part, turning them all into nice round balls, while they are still warm without burning your hands- careful sugar gets HOT!  I spray cooking spray onto my hands, and a spoon, I scoop up a pile into the spoon and turn it around in the spoon pressing it into a ball shape, that way, if it is too hot the spoon can hold it.  For the most part they cool pretty quickly to a temperature that is easy to work with, but you do have to work quickly so they don't cool too much before you get them all shaped into balls.  I let them cool on the wax paper completely before packing them in their container.


I put them in mini cupcake papers on the cookie trays, these would also be a real treat to serve at a Christmas buffet.

Every year I make Spritz- these are an easy cookie as long as you have a cookie press.  I just use the recipe that came with my Cookie Press that I bought at a Pampered Chef party years ago.

Classic Spritz
1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks) softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
Color sugar sprinkles

Mix Butter and sugar until creamy, then mix in egg and vanilla, beat well, then mix in flour one cup at a time.  Put this soft dough into your cookie press and press the dough onto baking parchment lined cookie sheets, sprinkle with sugar, then bake at 375 F. for about 10 minutes until firm but not brown.  I use food color to dye mine pink and green, they add nice color to the cookie trays, and are a nice simple butter cookie.


Next I finally got to my cookie doughs that had been chilling in the fridge.  Roll out cookies are the most time consuming cookies, but they are well worth the effort, because they taste so great, and we all have fun frosting them.

For my Christmas Sugar Cookies I use a recipe passed down to me from my mother, these are the same cookies I enjoyed as a child, and a little different than the standard sugar cookie, they are called Soft Sugar Cookies.  Here is the recipe:

Soft Sugar Cookies

Mix:
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream

Add to the thoroughly mixed wet ingredients:
5 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

Mix until thoroughly combined.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or at least half a day.  I sometimes make mine an entire day in advance.

Then prepare a surface to roll out your cookies with flour, and roll out about 1/8- 1/4 of an inch thick, and cut with your favorite cookie cutters.  I bake mine on baking parchment lined cookie sheets at 400 F. for 7-8 minutes until lightly browned on bottom and slightly browned on edges.


Here they are cooling on racks.

When they are all baked and cooled I make up bowls of frosting from powdered sugar a few tablespoons of shortening and milk until it reaches a nice spreading consistency, and divide it into four bowls and dye it with food coloring.  Then I set out sprinkles with our bowls of frosting on the table and we all have fun frosting our very yummy sugar cookies.


Our next must have cookies are our Gingerbread cutouts- I love Gingerbread, it is one of my favorite flavors.  Again this is a recipe straight from my childhood, passed down from my mother, who, by the way, made these so beautifully, she perfectly crafted her gingerbread people to the delight of our friends and family who received plates of her cookies every Christmas.

Here is our old fashioned Gingerbread Cookies recipe-

1/3 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup molasses
2/3 cups cold water
6 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix shortening, sugar & Molasses, stir in water.  Blend all dry ingredients, mix into wet ingredients.  When thoroughly mixed, wrap dough in plastic and chill overnight.  Roll dough out thick (recipe says 1/2 inch, I make mine a little thinner like a tiny thicker than 1/4 inch) on a lightly floured surface.  Cut with cookie cutters, place on greased cookie sheet ( I use baking parchment).  Bake at 350 F.  for about 14 minutes or until no imprint remains when toughed lightly.

Here are my cookies all rolled out and cut ready to bake.


When they are done baking I put them in a container with a few slices of white bread to soften over night- these cookies taste better with age, so if you can leave them for a couple days before frosting, even better, the spices tend to blossom more.  I can never wait that long, so I give them overnight, then, I make up an icing, again with powdered sugar (2 lbs), a few tablespoons of shortening, and milk I make this a little thicker than a spreadable icing, then separate it to four different bowls to add food color.  Some years I get out frosting tips, but this year, I went the quicker route, and spooned each color of frosting into a gallon sized freezer bag, down into one corner, seal up the bag after getting out the air, then make a tiny tiny snip out of the corner, and  it works great to ice cookies, and of course is so easy to clean up.  Again, I set out the frosting and gather the family, and have fun decorating out gingerbread cutouts.



One of my hubby's favorite cookies are these lemon bars, so I make a pan every year.  I found this recipe from a Pillsbury Cookbook awhile back- here is the link to the recipe at Pillsbury.  Sunburst Lemon Bars Recipe.  Easy, and very lemony lemon bars with a wonderful buttery crust!


The last cookie I made were Meringues- my kids enjoy these, and they are nice and light.  I use the Martha Stewart recipe - here is the link- Martha Stewart Meringue Recipe.  The recipe link says a pinch of cream of tartar but the recipe I originally had from a Martha Stewart Magazine says 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, I also add vanilla flavoring.  I also don't bother with the star tip, although I have in the past, I just put the meringue into a plastic Ziploc bag and cut out the corner and pipe onto baking parchment.  I also piped on flat mushroom tops and mushroom stems to make mushrooms for my Buche De Noel Cake.  Here are my Meringues.


I had grand plans to make my first rolled cake, Buche De Noel, to have an early Christmas treat and celebrate the first day of Winter.  I'm not quite sure what I did wrong, it may be because I used a boxed mix, it may be because I forgot to add one of the eggs to the cake, I found it when I was cleaning up my mixing bowl after the cake was already in the oven.  I rolled up the cake to cool in a towel like the directions said, but when I unrolled it to fill it with the wonderful Mocha Chocolate frosting I made, it just fell apart.  I attempted to frost it back together, then rolled it up, and transferred it to my serving platter to frost the outside, but me and my daughter, who was watching this crazy experiment of mine, had to start laughing, as I was frosting it it kept flattening and cracking and spreading apart.  I frosted it anyway, and it is a very flat and crazy looking log, I still put on my Mushroom meringues which turned out just fine, and dusted it with powdered sugar for snow.

Here is my sad little Buche De Noel, I will have to go back to the drawing board and try again next year, despite its look, it is very tasty.


I will leave you with a picture of my new little ornament I found on eBay, I love this little wooden mini Santa & House Cutout, such a cute little ornament to add to our shelf.


Tomorrow I will spend the day finishing up last minute Christmas Preparations, and watching more Christmas specials with the kids.  Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas!!

Here is the link to my Christmas Cookies 2011 - Part 1 Post.


11 comments:

  1. Oh boy! Do those cookies ever look good, April! Especially the date ones and those lemon squares look worthy of any French patisserie! Have a jolly good Christmas!

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  2. All your cookies look awesome!

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  3. All of your treats look so beautiful and delicious! Thank you for sharing :) Merry Christmas!
    -Jaime

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  4. Thank You Jane, Mami Dearest, and Jamie!! I have a lot of fun baking! Wishing you all a Merry Christmas as well!!

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  5. What a patient woman you are... look at all of these lovely cookies!!
    Have a wonderful Christmas!

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  6. Yum, April! Thank you for sharing all theses delicious cookies at Sharing Saturday. I will definitely give your sugar cookies a try--I never have luck with them for some reason when I try to make them. I hope you had a very Merry Christmas!

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  7. Sweet post! I mean, it is jam packed with a whole whack of yummy. And, this may seem random, but I LOVE that horse cookie cutter. Must find myself one of those :-)

    Blessings...

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  8. Thanks everyone for all of your wonderful comments!

    W-S Wanderings- I found the horse cookie cutter on eBay from a seller of Scandinavian Christmas items, it is a Swedish Dala Horse cookie cutter, and you can find them for a very good price at eBay. Thanks for stopping by!

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  9. April, how many cookies about does the sugar cookie recipe make? I need to make cookies for church's coffee hour on Sunday and these look like they would be perfect. Thank you!

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  10. Carrie, I have also left a message on your blog, the sugar cookie recipe makes quite a lot, I suppose it depends on the size of cookie cutter you are using. I use a bunch of different sizes at Christmas so it is hard to say exactly but with a moderately sized cookie cutter I pretty sure you would get about 3-4 dozen and possible more. Hope this helps. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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  11. Thanks, April!! They came out wonderfully. I think this is the first sugar cookie recipe I had success with! All the cookies were eaten and it was close to 8 dozen. I just blogged about it and linked back here for the recipe. Thanks again!!

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