Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Traditional Cookies of Christmas Past

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, it's time to get busy baking.  Sales on baking supplies have continued this week tempting me to stock up on more than I would possibly use this holiday season.

Baking Christmas cookies was one of my favorite holiday traditions from my childhood.  We baked a variety of cookies, assembled them on trays and delivered them to neighbors and friends.  I continued the tradition with my boys, arranging the cookies on large holiday tin trays or glass plates.  We wrapped them in plastic wrap tied with a bow and topped with a holiday ornament.  The boys were especially anxious to deliver them to their teachers (at least when they were in preschool and grade school) as their Christmas gift.   By the time our oldest was high school in California, volunteers were solicited by the PTA to anonymously bake platters of holiday cookies which were gathered to allow teachers to each choose a platter to take home.  

Some of our family favorites gracing the cookie platters over the years have included:



1        c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
2 egg yolks
1/4     t. almond extract
2 1/2 c. sifted flour

Cream butter in a mixing bowl.  Add sugar and beat until very fluffy.  Add egg yolks and almond and beat until evenly incorporated.  Stir the sifted flour into the butter mixture.  Add food coloring, if desired.   (Holiday favorites included green trees with or without green sugar sprinkled on top and red poinsettias with candied red cherry halves in the center.)  Pack the dough into the cookie press.  Press cookies onto chilled ungreased cookie sheets.  Chill the dough for 30-40 minutes until slightly stiff, but not hard, if it does not go through the press cleanly.  Decorate as desired.  Bake at 375 for 8 minutes.  Makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies.


2 c. sifted flour
1/4 t. cream of tarter
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t.  salt
1 c. sugar
1 c. butter
1 egg, well beaten
1 t.  vanilla extract
1 t. lemon or almond extract

Sift together flour, cream of tarter, baking soda, salt, and sugar.  Add the butter.  Mix like a pie crust with a pastry blender.  Add the beaten egg, vanilla and lemon extracts.  Roll dough into small balls.  Place balls on cookie sheet and flatten with a flat-bottomed glass dipped in flour.  Sprinkle sugar on top.  Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.


1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1    t. vanilla extract
3 c. flour
1/2 t. salt

Cream butter in a large mixing bowl.  Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs.  Gradually mix in flour and salt until well blended.   Divide dough in half.  On a floured surface, roll half the dough at a time to 1/8" thickness.  Cut with cookie cutters dipped in flour.  Place on lightly greased cookie sheets.  Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes or until cookies begin to brown around the edges.

Edible Tempera Paint

2 large egg yolks
liquid food coloring

Lightly beat 2 large egg yolks and divide evenly among small containers.  Add a few drops of liquid food coloring at a time to produce the desired shad of each color.  Apply colors to the cookies with small paintbrushes before baking cookies.

Original Icing

2 egg whites
1/4     t. cream of tarter
1/4 t. vanilla
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar

Mix together ingredients in a small bowl.  Decorate cookies with this icing after baking instead of using tempera paint before baking.


1 c. powdered sugar
2 T. milk
1 t. vanilla

Mix ingredients together in a small bowl.  Tint as desired with food coloring.  Use this icing after baking as an alternative to the original one above with raw egg whites.


1 c. butter
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1       t. vanilla
2 1/4 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. finely chopped nuts
powdered sugar

Cream butter with powdered sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl.  Sift together flour and salt before adding to mixture in the bowl.  Mix in chopped nuts.
Chill dough.  Roll into 1" balls Place 2 1/2" apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes until set, but not brown.  Roll in powdered sugar while still warm.  Cool.  Roll in powdered sugar again.


1/2 lb. margarine
6      oz. cream cheese
2 c. sifted flour
2            eggs
dash      salt
1 1/2 c. light brown sugar
2 T. melted butter
2 t. vanilla
1 c. chopped pecans

Blend margarine and cream cheese until creamy.  Add flour in 4 parts and blend thoroughly.  After each addition, work with fingers until smooth.  Place small pieces of dough in tiny muffin tins and press in to form shells.
Beat eggs.  Add salt, sugar, and vanilla.  Put some nuts in each cup on bottom and then some filling and top with nuts.  Bake at 325 for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool 5 minutes and remove from tray.


1 3/4 c. flour
1/2    c. sugar
1/2    c. firmly packed brown sugar
1        t. baking soda
1/2     t. salt
1/2    c. shortening
1/2    c. peanut butter
2      T. milk
1       t. vanilla
1          egg
48        Hershey's® Kisses® milk chocolates, unwrapped

Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, shortening, peanut butter, milk, vanilla and egg; mix with electric mixer on low speed until stiff dough forms. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375°F. for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately top each cookie with 1 milk chocolate candy, pressing down firmly so cookie cracks around edge; remove from cookie sheets.


4        oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 c.   margarine
1 1/2 c.   sugar
4 eggs
2         t. vanilla
1 t.   salt
2 c. flour
1/2      c. brown sugar
1/4 c. water
3 T. cocoa
1 t. vanilla
2-3 c.  powdered sugar
pecan halves (opt.)

In the top of a double boiler, melt unsweetened chocolate and margarine.  Add sugar, eggs (beat in 1 at a time), vanilla, salt, and flour.  Drop by spoonfuls onto preheated waffle iron.  Bake 2-3 minutes.  Remove to wire rack to cool.  To make frosting, combine brown sugar, water, and cocoa in a pan.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and add butter, and vanilla.  Add powdered sugar until desired consistency for spreading.  Frost each cookie and top with a pecan half, if desired.


2 c. sifted flour
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 c. butter
4 eggs, beaten
2   c. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/4 c. sifted flour
1/4 c. lemon juice & grated rind

Mix 2 c. flour, powdered sugar, and butter as you would a pie crust.  Press into 13x9" pan.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
Mix eggs, sugar, baking powder, 1/4 c. flour, lemon juice and rind and pour over hot crust.  Bake at 350 for another 25 minutes.  Cool and cut into bars.


1          c. butter
1 1/4    c. brown sugar
1          c. toasted pecans (or walnuts), chopped
1          t.  vanilla
12            plain or chocolate graham crackers (about half a 14-ounce box)
1          c. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar and nuts.  Bring to a boil, stirring often until mixture reaches 238 degrees on a candy thermometer (about 2-3 minutes).  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Meanwhile, line a 10"x15" rimmed baking sheet with foil, leaving a slight overhang. Lightly butter the foil. Break the crackers into four sections along the score lines and arrange in a single layer on the sheet. Pour the hot toffee mixture over the crackers, spreading evenly to completely cover the crackers. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle at once with chocolate chips. Let stand 10 minutes.  If desired, spread the chocolate over topping with a spatula.  Makes 48.


1 c. sugar
1 c. butter
1 t. vanilla
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. finely chopped pecans (or walnuts), lightly toasted

Butter a baking sheet with sides. Heat the sugar, butter, and vanilla in a heavy saucepan until the butter melts.  Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and boil for 5 minutes.  Cook to 300 degrees on a candy thermometer, hard-crack stage.  Test by drizzling a string of the candy into a glass of ice water. If the string immediately becomes brittle and cracks, the candy has reached the proper temperature. The color will also start to change from light yellow to a golden brown. Immediately remove from heat and pour on the prepared baking sheet.  Let stand for 20 minutes or until hardened.  
Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave just until melted: stir occasionally. Spread the melted chocolate over the toffee with the back of a spoon or spatula. Immediately sprinkle with the toasted nuts. Let stand until set. Break into bite-sized pieces. Store in an airtight container. The toffee may be frozen for up to 2 weeks. 

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