December 13: Nate’s Eggnogg Cookies

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Note: I got behind because of illness.. Now that I can at least sit upright for more than a few hours, I am catching up. But with that, these are going to be more bare-bones than in the past.

Nate’s Eggnog Cookies

(adapted from Cooking Classy)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg , plus more for topping
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter , at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp rum extract
  • 1/2 cup eggnog

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter , at room temperature (I used 1/4 cup salted and 1/4 cup unsalted butter)
  • 3 – 5 Tbsp eggnog
  • 1/2 tsp rum extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon for 30 seconds, set aside. 
  2. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. 
  3. Mix in egg yolks one at a time, blending just until combined after each addition. Mix in vanilla extract, rum extract and egg nog. With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix just until combined. 
  4. Scoop dough out by the heaping tablespoonfuls and drop onto Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 2-inches apart. 
  5. Bake in preheated oven 11 – 13 minutes. Allow to rest on baking sheet several minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely then frost with Eggnog Frosting and sprinkle tops lightly with nutmeg.

For the Eggnog Frosting:

  1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter until very pale and fluffy. Add in rum extract and 3 Tbsp eggnog and mix in powdered sugar. Add additional eggnog to reach desired consistency.
  2. Recipe Source: slightly adapted from allrecipes.com and inspired by Parent Pretty

Many years ago, my precious first-born came to me at 7 o’clock at night on a school night, and said, “Mom, I read a cookbook for my book report, and I have to bake cookies for it. Oh, and it’s due tomorrow.”

Ahhh…here’s that sweet boy, and how that turned out. That’s right, I was the meanest mom in the world and made him make his own cookies.

And in the seven years since this fateful night, it turns out I have not gotten any nicer and he hasn’t gotten any better and forethought.

Nate had a cookie exchange at school in his AP Chemistry class. He told me the night before, and I said cool, get a recipe and go at it.

He acted like he was annoyed, but I could tell he was into it. Well, until the mixer turned on for the first time. There might have been a jump and a scream. And by might, I mean there was.

This is the cookie he found for me last year, that properly demonstrates his love of eggnog. I brought the eggnog home and the other two kids were so excited! Until they found out Nate would be making cookies with it. I’m the mom in these parts, so I’m sure I’m not privy to all that happens here, but I’m pretty sure the other two made credible threats to their brother for not sharing the eggnog.

I think he did a pretty good job. I said I’d frost them if he mixed up the frosting for me, which he did.

And I hear the cookies were a hit at school, too.

December 12: Kolaczki

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Note: I got behind because of illness.. Now that I can at least sit upright for more than a few hours, I am catching up. But with that, these are going to be more bare-bones than in the past.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb. margarine or butter
  • 3 1/2 c. flour
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • pinch of salt
  • Solo filling of your choice, like Raspberry, Cherry, Almond, or Apricot

Directions:

Allow shortening and cream cheese to soften before beginning. Mix cream cheese and butter; gradually add flour and salt. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours. Set out 1 hour before rolling out. Roll very thin (1/4″), cut, fill, and press seams closed. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

I’ve never made kolaczki before, because as I’ve said before, my family has about as much cultural heritage as a piece of loose leaf paper. Though I have enjoyed these through the years. Fruit filling? Powdered sugar? Yes and yes.

Man Friend’s mother had this recipe, typed, that she would make at Christmas. She was nice enough to share it with me a few weeks ago.

I consider myself pretty good at the cookie baking. Every now and then, one challenges me. And these were challenging for me.

Here’s why–I have no sweet Polish or Hungarian or Czech grandmother to show me how to make these. I had two grandmothers, both lived a 1000 miles away, and while one definitely could bake, the only thing I ever saw the other make was a reservation. And I don’t remember really being around Granny (the baking grandmother) before Christmas. (Not that she made kolaczki…but she would make delish southern things.)

Anyway.

I had a heck of a time getting these to stay closed. After two trays and many words I wouldn’t want my children to say, I finally looked up a video on how to fold these. There’s water involved to have them stick together, and way less filling than I was hoping for.

And no, I took no pictures of my failures. But they were delicious just the same.

Now, one word on filling. Jam and preserves still seep out the cookie, so use the Solo filling. Also, as much as I love almond things, almond filling — at least in this cookie — tasted the way play-doh smells. And no one wants that!

December 9: Deconstructed Cherry Macarons

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French Macarons

(from The Tasty)

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup almond flour, finely ground
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the powdered sugar, almond flour, and ½ teaspoon of salt, and process on low speed, until extra fine. Sift the almond flour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl.
  2. In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt with an electric hand mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the granulated sugar until fully incorporated. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form (you should be able to turn the bowl upside down without anything falling out).
  3. Add the vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add the food coloring and beat until just combined.
  4. Add about ⅓ of the sifted almond flour mixture at a time to the beaten egg whites and use a spatula to gently fold until combined. After the last addition of almond flour, continue to fold slowly until the batter falls into ribbons and you can make a figure 8 while holding the spatula up.
  5. Transfer the macaron batter into a piping bag fitted with a round tip.
  6. Place 4 dots of the batter in each corner of a rimmed baking sheet, and place a piece of parchment paper over it, using the batter to help adhere the parchment to the baking sheet.
  7. Pipe the macarons onto the parchment paper in 1½-inch (3-cm) circles, spacing at least 1-inch (2-cm) apart.
  8. Tap the baking sheet on a flat surface 5 times to release any air bubbles.
  9. Let the macarons sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until dry to the touch.
  10. Preheat the oven to 300˚F (150˚C).
  11. Bake the macarons for 17 minutes, until the feet are well-risen and the macarons don’t stick to the parchment paper.
  12. Transfer the macarons to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

So I like to keep it real with all of you. I’m not a professional baker. I’m a writer. And since I’m not a professional baker, sometimes, a little batter must fall.

Yes, there was a baking fail. And that’s okay. Because one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. And a variety of other cliches about things not going right.

I made the exact same recipe from last year, the exact same way, and the results were not the same. Here’s a pictorial account of my cookie for the day:

And after doing everything right, this is what I got:

Macarons with feet that were too big. They still tasted great, but looked hideous.

Which is when I invented the Deconstructed Macaron. I tell ya, if this was a real thing before I coined it, you’d be paying double for one at your local bakery. It’s like when the Cronut was invented. Or penicillin.

Instead of going into the center of my misshaped macarons, the buttercream I made (butter, powdered sugar, cherry juice, cherry butter) got ladled (yes, ladled) on top.

And though they are ugly–and they are–they are still delicious. But make no mistake; they are ugly. Not even this Spode Christmas plate could pretty them up.

But that’s okay. You heard it here first. Deconstructed Macarons were invented in 2019 by a writer in Chicagoland!

December 4: Buttery Jam Thumbprint Cookies

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Buttery Jam Thumbprint Cookies

(from http://www.chewoutloud.com)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • ½ cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar, plus ¼ cup more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp table salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup fruit preserves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, blend butter and sugar until fluffy and light, 2 minutes. Add vanilla and salt, scraping down bowl as needed. Switch to low and gently mix in flour, just until combined. Don’t over mix.
  3. Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into 1-inch balls. Place dough balls on parchment lined baking sheets. Press down the center of each ball with a spoon (or your thumb!) making a slight depression.
  4. Fill cookie centers with a teaspoonful of preserves. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and puffy, but take care not to overbake. Let cool a few minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to finish cooling on wire rack.
  5. When cookies are completely cooled, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Cookies can be kept in airtight container at room temp for a few days.

When I was a kid, the kind of cookie I always reached for had something in the middle. Whether it was a maraschino cherry, or some sort of custard filling, I liked sweets that had something going on in the center. So when I make these, I think about kids that also like cookies with center pizazz.

It’s a pretty simple recipe, and at the end, you can use whatever kind of jam or preserves you want. (Don’t use jelly. I made that mistake one year. It looks like a crime scene.)

Well, I like to push the envelope a little. Remember a few days ago when I said I went to the cool international grocery store near my house? I picked up something cool.

This.

I’d never seen it before, nor do I actually know why one needs rose preserves, but I had a cookie in mind.

In my first batch, I had half apricot preserves and then half rose preserves. They baked as expected. When they cooled, I put powdered sugar on them and tried one of my rose-flavored specimen.

The lighter colored ones near the top are the rose ones.

Have you ever been to Crabtree and Evelyn? My grandmother liked to go, as did my aunt, and they’d have all sorts of fancy soaps at their houses from here. Truth be told, I like that store too (and if anyone out there wants to get me some Gardner’s Hand Therapy, I’d be a happy little baker). However, while I like that store and can reminisce about times with Grandma and Aunt Barbara with their soaps and lotions, I draw the line at eating cookies that taste like fancy soaps smell. And unfortunately, like most things in my life, I learned that one the hard way.

But once that lesson was learned, my apricot — and then later — strawberry jam thumbprint cookies did not disappoint.

I’ll leave the flower flavors to other dishes. Though I’m still not sure what!

(But seriously, if you know what rose preserves are used for, please comment and let me know!)

December 19: Pecan Sandies

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I’m at the tail-end of a writing deadline, but I did take time out to bake. My mom came by to watch my daughter cheer at a basketball and she asked if I’d make her favorite cookies. Who can say no to that?

She even stopped off and bought me vanilla extract because as I started, I realized I was out of vanilla. (I’m now on bottle #3 since the month started.)

Now that I live in the area, things like this can happen…her going to my kids’ activities, me baking cookies, and her going to the grocery store for me. It’s kinda cool.

My mom’s favorite cookies, well at least the ones I make, are Pecan Sandies. I haven’t made them in years, but I figured I could whip these up in a just a little bit and then get back to writing.

It’s just your basic butter shortbread recipe, but with nuts–butter, powdered sugar, flour, and pecans. No fancy ingredients. No chilling in the fridge. Hell, there aren’t even any eggs. Into a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, and then let them cool. When they are cool to the touch, roll in powdered sugar.

These are also known as Mexican Wedding cookies, I hear, but for me, they’re just Mom’s cookies.

(And now, back to the job that pays me.)

Pecan Sandies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter 2 sticks
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar plus more for rolling baked cookies
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 
  2. Cream together butter and sugar with electric mixer. Add in the flour and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly stir in the pecans. 
  3. Scoop a teaspoon of the cookie dough and roll between your palms to form a ball. Place the ball of cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake until lightly golden, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool to the touch. Roll in confectioner’s sugar. 
  4. When ready to serve and once the cookies have completely cooled, roll or dust them with a bit of additional confectioner’s sugar, if you prefer.


December 16: Almond Crescents

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Greetings from 10 o’clock at night. 

Today, I graded most of the morning (only 11 essays left) and this afternoon I took my son for a haircut and then the kids and I went to Jeanne’s birthday party. (For more on Jeanne, see December 14.

We got home and I realized two things: 1.) I have to get these last 11 essays graded so I can put final grades in and 2.) I hadn’t baked any cookies yet. And while I can grade essays from bed, I can’t bake cookies from there (yet…I have hopes for the future generations to figure out something). So I took my remaining energy and whipped up some Almond Crescents. 

Now, if there’s one thing I know about these cookies, it’s that you can’t sneak one and get away with it. These are the delicious little morsels covered with powdered sugar. They are evidence-inducing, and I like that. Bravely show the world you have eaten one (or more) of these cookies. Own it. 

They are kind of a crumbly cookie to make, but as long as you know that going in, you’ll be fine. 

The recipe calls for a cup of butter, 3/4 cup of sugar, and then 3/4 cup of finely chopped almonds. Thanks to a fantastic coupon last week, I have nuts coming out of my ears, so this was not a problem. 

The flour is then added (I used 2 cups and about 2 Tablespoons), and you mix. Like I said. It’s a little crumbly.

I tried several methods for shaping my cookies and what worked best was quickly dashing my hands under the faucet and then rolling snakes on my cutting board. The water keeps it together until the heat from your hands warms the butter and that then keeps it together. 

Once they are out of the oven, they get a gentle dipping in some powdered sugar. You know, the evidence. 

Almond Crescent Cookies

(courtesy of An Italian in my Kitchen)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch salt (if you use unsalted butter add 1/4 teaspoon salt)
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh almonds, walnuts or pecans
  • 2 -2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • powdered sugar 

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°  
  2. In a large bowl beat butter until fluffy, add sugar and beat again until fluffy.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add nuts, flour  (add 2 cups to start and 1 tablespoon at a time and salt.
  4.  Bring dough together with your fingers.  Break off small pieces and form into a crescent shape.  Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for approximately 15 minutes . While cookies are still warm roll in icing/powdered sugar.  Can be frozen.  Enjoy!

December 13: Buttery Jam Thumbprint Cookies

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This week seems to be a weird mix of super busy and “Oh I have plenty of time until Christmas.” Today I decided to use the preserves I purchased a week ago and make Buttery Jam Thumbprint Cookies. 

I made these a few years ago, and learned the important lesson that jelly won’t cut it for these. My classy red currant jelly ended up looking like a murder scene on a cookie sheet. So when I was grocery shopping, I made sure I chose preserves. 

The recipe is a simple one, which I love, and these bake up pretty quickly. I’m still not great at filling the thumbprints, but they didn’t overflow and I dust powdered sugar over them anyway. 

Through the magic of television, I mean the internet, my cookie balls were transformed into thumbprint cookies. I used strawberry preserves and mango-peach preserves. And I filled a few with almond pie filling, but those are just for me. 

When it came to dusting with powdered sugar, I apparently have a heavy hand. 

It reminds me of the scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen sneezes into the cocaine. 

These are a crowd pleaser, and makes your house smell amazing!

Buttery Jam Thumbprint Cookies

(from http://www.chewoutloud.com)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • ½ cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar, plus ¼ cup more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp table salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup fruit preserves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, blend butter and sugar until fluffy and light, 2 minutes. Add vanilla and salt, scraping down bowl as needed. Switch to low and gently mix in flour, just until combined. Don’t over mix.
  3. Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into 1-inch balls. Place dough balls on parchment lined baking sheets. Press down the center of each ball with a spoon (or your thumb!) making a slight depression.
  4. Fill cookie centers with a teaspoonful of preserves. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and puffy, but take care not to overbake. Let cool a few minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to finish cooling on wire rack.
  5. When cookies are completely cooled, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Cookies can be kept in airtight container at room temp for a few days.

December 3: Lime Meltaways

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So I’m trying a new recipe every-other day. Today we have Lime Meltaways, courtesy of Queen Martha Stewart herself. I started looking for a different Martha cookie recipe, but stumbled upon this one. I like different cookies, and when I saw lime, I was intrigued. And, as luck would have it, I had some limes leftover from Thanksgiving. 

What? You don’t bring tequila shots and lime to *your* family Thanksgiving?

(Just kidding. It was for an avocado egg roll appetizer I brought, but the tequila shots isn’t a half-bad idea.)

It’s a lime-ocide!

Aside from the limes, there isn’t really anything too odd in this recipe. Though I still don’t understand how beating butter and sugar “until pale and fluffy” (as Martha says to do) is an actual instruction. Butter is yellow and powdered sugar is white. Unless you are doing something very wrong, it’s always going to turn out pale and fluffy. 

I added all the lime juice and zest, as well as vanilla, and it looked a little weird, to be honest. I didn’t take a picture of it, but I hoped it would come together. And it did, once the corn starch, flour, and salt were incorporated. 

Not quite round, but it still tastes the same.

Marty (what I’m sure her close, personal friends call her) instructs her fandom to wrap the dough in specially-measured parchment paper, and to use a ruler at every turn. I’m my own woman and eyeballed it, and it looked fine. Into the fridge it went. 

After a few hours, I pulled it out and sliced it up. From the oven came little lime coins that I rolled in powdered sugar very carefully (and while they were still hot.)

It’s so weird to have a lime Christmas cookie, but I’m all about this. It’s got a little zing to it while it melts in your mouth. Okay, Marty. You did okay with one. That’s why she’s the queen.

Lime Meltaways 

(from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar 
  • Finely grated zest of 2 limes 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch 
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Directions:

  1.  Put butter and 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add lime zest and juice and vanilla, and mix until fluffy. 
  2. Whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl. Add to butter mixture, and mix on low speed until just combined. 
  3. Divide dough in half. Place each half on an 8-by-12-inch sheet of parchment paper. Roll in parchment to form a log 1 1/4 inches in diameter, pressing a ruler along edge of parchment at each turn to narrow log. Refrigerate logs until cold and firm, at least 1 hour. 
  4.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove parchment from logs; cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Space rounds 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake cookies until barely golden, about 13 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. While still warm, toss cookies with remaining 2/3 cup sugar in a resealable plastic bag. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 weeks.
Little bits of lime-y goodness.