Category — Christmas Cookies
You can say what you want about Martha Stewart. She might make you feel small, or she might not be the friendliest woman around, but the gal can cook, dammit. Her stuff’s reliable. Martha’s recipes are well written and they work.
This weekend I used two new Martha recipes – one that’s sure to become a staple in our Christmas cookie rotation, and one that I might make again for a crowd, but probably not just for the three of us. I’ll explain that one later in the week. Since we’re on the brink of Christmas, and ya’ll might be noodling around for something else to add to your dessert plates, today we’ll do the sweet stuff! [Read more →]
December 20, 2010 5 Comments
Are you a fan of Semi-Sweet on Facebook and Twitter? If you’re not, you should be – you’ll have access to all manner of “bonus content,” including links to interesting health- and nutrition-related articles, delicious-looking recipes I find, news about goings-on around town, and many days, updates on what I’m eating (you might find something new to try!). A couple of days ago, I posted some tips for making it through the holidays while still fitting into your skinny jeans, and also about baking cookies. And a few people commented – surprised comments like “Hey, idiot! The two are incompatible!”
Well I argue they’re not. [Read more →]
December 2, 2010 5 Comments
One last cookie recipe for you this season – the grand-daddy of them all. This is the most praised cookie in my battalion of cookie recipes. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that people fall all over themselves for these rugelach. Lifetime rugelach-lovers have confided in me that these are better than any they’ve ever tasted before . . . . so if you want to make some friends (maybe influence some people?) this season, whip up a batch or two of these and be generous. And read to the end for a shortcut that might make these less daunting to bake.
Rugelach8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature ½ lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature 1/4 c. granulated sugar plus 9 T. 1/4 t. Kosher salt 1 t. vanilla extract 2 c. all-purpose flour 1/4 c. light brown sugar, packed 1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon 3/4 c. raisins 1 c. walnuts, finely chopped 1/2 c. apricot preserves, pureed in a food processor 1 egg beaten with 1 T. milk, for egg wash
Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light. Add 1/4 c. granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour and mix until just combined. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board or countertop and roll it into a ball. Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
To make the filling, combine 6 T. of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the raisins and the walnuts.
On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle (a nice way to get a neat circle is to place a 9-inch pie plate upside-down over the dough as a stencil, scoring the dough around the edge with a small knife). Spread the dough with 2 T. apricot preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 c. of the filling. Press the filling lightly into the dough. Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges, cutting the whole circle in quarters, then each quarter into thirds. Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge. Place the cookies, points tucked under, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine 3 T. granulated sugar and 1 t. cinnamon in a small bowl. Remove the cookies from the fridge, brush each cookie with the egg wash, and sprinkle each cookie with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and let cool.
Yield: approximately 3 dozen cookies.
Note: the possibilities for fillings are endless. I usually make at least 2 batches of these, half with apricot and half with seedless raspberry preserves. You can use a chocolate spread, like Nutella, or chocolate and raspberry together. I’ve heard of people using fig jam, some just use cinnamon-sugar and nuts. Think of what flavors appeal to you and go from there – the dough is neutral and will showcase whatever’s inside.
Next – these are a lot of work: mixing, rolling, filling, chilling, yada yada yada. If you want to make “lazy-man’s rugelach,” you can roll the dough into a rectangle instead of a circle, insert your fillings, roll it up into a log and cut slices. Then chill them and brush them as you would traditional, crescent-shaped rugelach.
December 22, 2009 1 Comment
Back on the butter train, folks . . . if you’d like to find vegan cookie recipes with whole wheat pastry flour or flax meal . . . please point your browser elsewhere today. ‘Cause for me, the real culinary spirit of Christmas is in a wide array of buttery, sugary treats. But what do I always say? Moderation in everything . . . so during this indulgent season, pick your battles. Don’t eat a sweet roll for breakfast, a heavy mayo-laden sammie for lunch and a rich prime-rib dinner, OK? If you’ve got a gathering in the evening, balance the apps, dinner and cookies with a light, fruit- and veggie-rich breakfast, a high fiber lunch that contains a bit of protein (think big green salad with some chicken, tofu or beans on top) and then have whatever you like later. Consider, however, having only what really looks super delicious and special to you – blindly grazing on all the options is a bigger deal fat- and calorie-wise. But here’s the thing – this is a once-a-year thing and you should ENJOY yourself, too . . . so if that means that if you really love indulging here and there, then I say, have at it. Life is waaay too short to deny yourself all that pleasure.
Today’s recipe evokes warm memories in me. My Grandma Helen’s walnut snowballs are a riff off Mexican Wedding Cakes, Russian/Swedish Tea Cakes, and a Lebanese cookie called mamoul. And while I’ve tweaked her recipe a bit over the years, no one can touch my Grandma in the cookie-baking department. Every Christmas, Grandma whipped up about 8 different kinds of cookies, placing them neatly in between sheets of waxed paper in Currier & Ives tins that she’d collected. Before guests came over, or after a meal, we’d haul out the various tins of goodies and pick and choose our favorites. Going to her house at Christmastime and eating all those different cookies is one of my top-ten childhood memories.
This recipe is my favorite of the lot. Rich and crumbly and not over-the-top sweet, with a great toasty walnut flavor. Best ever is that they also happen to be L.’s favorite Christmas cookie. So the traditions of my Swedish-American grandmother, who married my Lebanese-American grandfather, are living on through her Chinese-American great-granddaughter. Life is good.
Helen’s Walnut Snowballs1 c. (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature 2 c. powdered sugar 2 t. vanilla extract 2 c. all purpose flour 1 c. walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Beat the butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 c. powdered sugar and the vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in the flour, then the walnuts. Divide dough in half; form each half into a ball. Wrap each ball separately in plastic wrap and chill until cold, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the remaining 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar into a pie plate. Set aside.
Working with half of the chilled dough, roll the dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls. Arrange the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment, about 1/2-inch apart. Bake until golden brown on the bottom and just pale golden on the top, about 18 minutes. Cool cookies 5 minutes on the sheet. Gently toss each warm cookie in the powdered sugar to coat completely. Transfer the coated cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat the same procedure with the other half of the dough.
Makes about 4 dozen.
Here’s a little tip – did you know that most Christmas cookies can be baked and then frozen? It’s true! So if you’re a compulsive over-achiever planning type like me, you can start cranking out the goods weeks in advance, then layer them in air-tight containers (parchment or waxed paper in between layers, please) and pop ‘em in there for later. Cookies make welcome gifts and you’ll always have some on hand for company.
December 10, 2009 9 Comments