Baking Christmas holiday cookies for family and friends


By Debi Manfre


Christmas cookies as we know them today, trace their roots to Medieval European recipes. Neolithic farmers would bake confections composed of grain and water paste on hot stones. It is believed that the modern day cookie derives from this creation.


Dutch and German settlers introduced cookie cutters, decorative molds, and festive holiday decorations to America. Dutch New Year's cookies were sometimes molded into fancy shapes. German lebkuchen (gingerbread) was probably the first cake/cookie traditionally associated with Christmas.


Sugar cookie type recipes descended from English traditions. Whatever the history is behind the delicious Christmas cookie, it is a treat I look forward to every holiday season. I love baking and packing up our family traditional favorites and sending them to family and friends.


These are a few of my favorites.


BASIC COOKIE DOUGH

I love this recipe because you can use it as a base to make up to eight different cookies. I am sharing two of my favorites.


Ingredients

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1/2 cup softened butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon. Salt


Directions

In a large bowl with mixer at medium speed, cream shortening, butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs and vanilla extract until well mixed.

Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Continue to beat at low speed until well combined, scraping bowl occasionally.

Wrap and refrigerate dough until well chilled. Skip this step if you are using this basic dough for the following cookie recipes.


Holiday sugar cookies on a platter red decorations

Pinwheel Cookies

Makes about 5 dozen cookies


Ingredients

1 recipe of the Basic Cookie Dough

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

2 squares semi sweet chocolate, melted and cooled


Directions:

Prepare Basic Cookie Dough as directed stirring in orange peel with vanilla.

Do not refrigerate.

Cut dough in half. Stir cooled melted chocolate into one half of the dough until well blended.

Wrap and chill both doughs for about 2 hours.

On a sheet of wax paper, roll out vanilla dough into a 14x6 inch rectangle and set aside.

On another sheet of wax paper, roll out the chocolate dough into the same size rectangle.

Invert chocolate dough onto the vanilla dough and peel off the wax paper. Lightly press the doughs together.

Roll jelly-roll fashion from the 14-inch side, peeling off the wax paper as you roll.

Wrap up the roll in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 large cookie sheets.

Remove the chilled cookie dough roll from refrigerator. Cut dough into 1/4 inch slices. Lay slices onto prepared cookie sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.


Viennese Batons

Makes about 6 dozen cookies


Ingredients

1 recipe of the Basic Cookie Dough

4 squares semi sweet chocolate (If you like, you can use milk chocolate or white chocolate instead.)

3/4 cup chopped nuts of your choice. Colored sprinkles are a good option, too.


Directions:

Prepare Basic Cookie Dough as directed. Chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 large cookies sheets.

Divide refrigerated dough into 8 pieces. (Start with one piece at a time. Keep other pieces of dough refrigerated.)

Roll each piece on lightly floured surface into a rope about 1/2 wide. Cut into 2 inch pieces. Place on cookie sheet 1 inch apart.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack. Repeat with remaining cookie dough.

Melt chocolate in a microwave proof bowl in microwave on low. Stir well until smooth.

Add chopped nuts into a small bowl.

Now comes the fun part. Dip one end of the cooled cookie into the chocolate, then into nuts.

Place on parchment paper to harden.


thumbprint cookies grandma christmas sugar decorate santa

Grandma Ruth's Thumbprint Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies


I remember making these cookies with my grandma when I was a little girl. They are a traditional, family favorite at Christmas time.


Ingredients

1 stick softened margarine*

1 stick of softened butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon. vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon. salt

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Your favorite jam. I recommend strawberry, apricot and raspberry.


Directions

In a large bowl, cream margarine, butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add vanilla and egg yolks. Mix until well blended.

Mix in flour and salt until well combined. Chill dough until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 large cookie sheets.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Roll into 1 inch balls and place onto cookie sheet.

Indent each ball with your thumb. Fill indent with about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of jam.

Bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.


*Note: Do not substitute margarine with butter. The cookie dough will be too hard to roll.




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