Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday Cookies!

Yes, Christmas/Hanukkah may be over, but that doesn't mean you have to wait until next year to bake them! These cookies make great presents for Valentine's, Birthdays, Housewarmings, or "Just Because"! Nothing says "I am thinking of you" better than something homemade from your own kitchen! Now, since I did not have a hand mixer until Christmas (thanks again Aunt Beth and Uncle John!), all of these recipes can be made without a mixer! (How great is that!?) They would probably be easier to make with a mixer but they were still delicious with just a regular whisk/fork. The recipes below are the cookies I made for my family and friends as Christmas gifts. I will also include the recipe for the Black and White Cookies that I made for Matt's sister Juli's birthday. I am including a lot of unnecessary pictures I'm sure, but half the fun is in documenting the evidence! Enjoy these simple-to-make delicious heart-felt presents :)

Black and White Cake Cookies: From Cooking Light
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup applesauce
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
3 tbsp 2% reduced-fat milk, divided
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa

1. Preheat oven to 375 Degrees
2. To prepare cookies, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt, stirring with a whisk.
3. Spoon applesauce into a fine sieve over a bowl, let stand 15 minutes. Discard liquid.
4. Combine drained applesauce, granulated sugar, and butter in a large bowl, beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until well blended (or use your arm-strength and a whisk, but it will take longer than 2 minutes). Beat in vanilla and egg whites. Add flour mixture, beat at low speed until blended.
5. Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes or until set (not browned). cool on pans 2 minutes or until firm. Remove from pans, cool completely on wire racks.
6. To prepare frosting, combine 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 tbsp milk, and almond extract in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk until smooth. Working with 1 cookie at a time, hold cookie over bowl, and spread about 1 tsp white frosting over half of cookie (scrape excess frosting from edges). Let stand 10 minutes or until frosting is set.
7. Combine 3/4 cup powdered sugar and cocoa in a bowl. Gradually add 2 tablespoons milk, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Working with 1 cookie at a time, hold cookie over bowl, and spread about 1 tsp chocolate frosting over other half of cookie (scrape excess frosting from edges). Let stand 10 minutes or until frosting is set.

Cocoa Fudge: From Cooking Light
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
5 tbs. butter
7 tbs. unsweetned cocoa
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (I used light brown sugar because it didn't specify to use dark)
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Cooking Spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife. Combine flour, soda, and salt, set aside (I can now set these aside in my new mixing bowls thanks to David Andes and Karen Lewis--boy, I really did get some great stuff for Xmas!). Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa and sugars. Stir in yogurt and vanilla. Add flour mixture, stirring until moist.
Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. *It helps to have a small bowl of water nearby, in case you have to use your fingers to get the dough to come off of the spoon. Wet your fingers and then you can easily slide the dough off of the spoon*

3. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pans 2-3 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pans, cool on wire racks.
Yield: approx. 2 dozen

Molasses: From Cooking Light
1/2 cup applesauce
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
6 tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsps. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
Cooking Spray

1. Spoon applesauce onto several layers of heavy-duty paper towels, spread to 1/20inch thickness. cover with additional paper towels, let stand 5 minutes. Scrape into a bowl using a rubber spatula.
2. Combine applesauce, 1 cup sugar, and butter, beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 3 minutes--or 10 if you are using just your strength hah). Add molasses and egg, beat well.
3. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, level with a knife. Combine flours and next 5 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, beating until blended. Cover and freeze 30 minutes or until firm.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
5. With moist hands, shape dough into 32 (1-inch) balls. Roll balls in 1/4 cup sugar. Place 3 inches apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.
Cool on pans 5 minutes. Remove from pans, cool completely on wire racks.

Snickerdoodles: From Smitten Kitchen

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
16 tbs. (2 stick or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar, plus more if needed
2 tbs. ground cinnamon, plus more if needed
2 large eggs


1. Preheat the oven to 400°, with one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.

2. Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using your muscles and a whisk or fork), combine butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes (longer if by hand). Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine. If dough is too soft to scoop and roll, you can chill it at this point.

3. Once dough has chilled, in a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the ground cinnamon. Use a small ice-cream scoop to form balls of the dough, and roll in cinnamon sugar. Place about two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake until the cookies are set in center and begin to crack (they will not brown), about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after five minutes. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool about five minutes before transferring the cookies to the rack.

Peanut Butter Cookies: Adapted Barely From Smitten Kitchen (meaning I didn't use peanut butter chips because I didn't have any. All the rest is the same)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (I used creamy, but I'm sure it would be delicious as chunky as well)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips

For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the chocolate chips (you could also use peanut butter chips--the same amount as chocolate--I just didn't have any).

3. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a criss-cross pattern, but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

4. Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Wrap the cookies in saran wrap or put them in an air-tight container to keep them fresh until you package them for gifts.

FINAL STEP: Find beautiful wrapping/boxes to wrap your delicious treats in! I used both tins and little boxes with cellophane. Both are good choices...whatever keeps the cookies fresh and looks nice!

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