Bake Your Best Christmas Cookies Ever

By Jessica Lymberopoulos December 15, 2012 No Comments

Bringing the best Christmas cookies to a party isn’t as much of an unobtainable goal as it may seem. With a few basic skills, quality ingredients, and tried and true recipes, you’ll have more cookie swap party invites than you know how to handle.

Skills: Here are a few cookie-specific baking tips.

  • Treat your recipe like a science experiment. Precision is key. Measure everything, stay organized, and take notes when things turn out perfectly. My mom, a former microbiologist and new product developer for M&M Mars and Nabisco, taught me how to bake. Sometimes my friends make fun of my meticulous, mad scientist-like habits in the kitchen, but they also never turn down my cookies.
  • Use light colored cookie sheets. Darker ones tend to lead to burnt cookies.
  • Err on the side of undercooking. I usually set my timer at or a minute or two below the minimum baking time. Gooey cookies can be eaten or salvaged. Burnt cookies just make me sad.
  • How can you tell if they’re done? Besides looking for a perfect golden color, you can use the fingerprint test. Carefully open the oven and press a finger into one of your cookies. If the imprint stays when you lift your finger, give them another couple of minutes. If it springs back into shape, they’re ready to come out!
  • Use real cooling racks. Don’t have a fancy mixer? No problem. Skip the cooling racks? Uh-oh. When you pull cookies out of the oven, put the sheets on your stovetop and let them be for one minute. Then, with a good spatula, transfer them quickly to wire cooling racks to keep them from continuing to cook (and burn) on the sheets.
  • Another neat heat-related trick I learned just a year or so ago — rinse the back of your cookie sheets with cool water in-between batches. This process cools the pan in an instant. (Hot cookie sheets will cause the bottoms of your cookies to overbake and they will also cause your cookies to spread flat.)

Ingredients: Use real, unsalted butter. Fresh eggs. Buy a new bag of brown sugar. Invest in some legit vanilla extract. You get the idea — quality ingredients will make you proud of the outcome.

Recipes: I have been making the following three cookie recipes for years, and they never fail me. I love all three kinds, and hopefully they offer enough flavor variety to please everyone at your next holiday gathering. Please feel free to e-mail me (jlymbo@fooducopia.com) or leave a comment below if you have any baking questions. Merry Christmas!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

(Based on a recipe from Quaker oats, with my own spice blend applied.)

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup raisins

Method: Preheat the oven to 375-degrees Fahrenheit. Beat the butter and sugar until creamy with an electric mixer. Add the egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Add the dry ingredients in a few small batches to the wet ingredients and mix until well blended. Gently mix in the oats and raisins. Drop by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-9 minutes until golden. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute. Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

Snickerdoodles

(From my mom’s copy of Lee Bailey’s Country Desserts.)

Ingredients

  • 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar (This is what makes them crackle on the top.)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups, plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tbs cinnamon

Method: Combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and dash of salt in a bowl. In another, cream the butter and 1-1/2 cups sugar for 3 minutes with an electric mixer. Add two large eggs to the butter/sugar mix. Then, add the flour mixture in four parts until well combined. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl or dish, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon. Roll the dough into balls and then roll each in the cinnamon-sugar until well covered. If you’re in a rush, you can also just sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar once on the cookie sheet, but go all the way if you can. Place the dough balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until golden. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute. Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

(From A Passion for Chocolate.)

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 ounces white baking bar, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup chopped black walnuts or pecans (optional, but recommended)

Method: Preheat the oven to 375-degrees Fahrenheit. Place unsweetened chocolate in a heavy small saucepan. Cook and stir over very low heat until chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, and cooled chocolate. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Gradually beat in flour. Stir in the white baking bar and chocolate, and, if desired, nuts.

Drop by rounded tablespoons 3 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375-degree oven 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute. Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user Bunches and Bits {Karina}.

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