Christmas cookie baking for our family starts around mid November, when the Downtown Toronto Santa Clause Parade all goes down. To me this signifies the start of the Christmas season. I am trying to create memories and traditions for my young family and one of them is baking gingerbread with my 3 year old for the big day with her cousins. We bake and decorate all day and wrap up our tasty treats in plastic and she proudly shares them with her aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I loved reading some of the essays in this book and the memories each unique cookie played in that person’s life. “Holiday Cookies” is filled with a collection of recipes and essays from the history of the Chicago Tribune’s Holiday Cookie Contest. For the contest, readers submitted a brief essay and a recipe describing what made the cookie special to the writer. The book is divided into the following chapters:
Simple Drop Cookies
Sugar & Spice
Fruit & Nut Treats
Brownies & Bars
Most recipes are accompanied by a picture of the cookie, as well as a photograph of the writer. The recipes are all quite simple to follow and most ingredients are readily available at your local supermarket.
I managed to recreate Dorie’s Dark and Stormies recipe which included chocolate of course. This recipe was used by contest winner Colleen Frankhart to get her through a rough romantic patch..and I can totally see why! Let’s just say they got me through the night with my 3 month old colicky baby! Comment below if you get around to trying the recipe.
Dorie’s Dark and Stormies
Prep time: 25 minutes
Chill time: 1 hour
Bake time: 14 minutes per batch
Yields: 3 dozen cookies
1 ¼ cups flour
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small bits.
Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together in a small bowl; set aside. Beat the butter until smooth in bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed. Add the sugars, vanilla and salt; beat 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add the flour mixture, mixing until incorporated but still crumbly, and being careful not to overload the dough. Stir in the chocolate pieces.
Turn the dough out onto a smooth work surface; squeeze it so that it sticks together in large clumps. (If you need to, it’s OK to lightly flour the work surface.) Gather the dough into a ball; divide in half. Shape each ball into a log 1 ½ inches in diameter. Wrap logs in plastic wrap; chill at least 1 hour.
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Gently slice logs into ½-inch rounds using a serrated knife (some will crumble; simply press broken bits back onto cookie). Place 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.
Bake, one sheet at a time, 14 minutes; cookies will not look done or be firm. Cool on pan 5 minutes; transfer to cooling rack. Cool to room temperature.
NOTE: Dough can be made ahead and frozen. Frozen dough doesn’t need to be defrosted before baking: just slice logs and bake one minute longer. Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature up to 3 days or frozen up to a month.
I received a copy of Holiday Cookies from Agate Publishing. All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. You can purchase Holiday Cookies from Amazon.ca for the current price of $28.43 CAN.
Christmas Cookie Swap! More than 100 Treat to Share this Holiday Season
I’ve never actually organized a cookie swap before but if I do in the future I think I would probably make every single cookie in this book…and eat them all before swapping time!
With over 100 tasty treats packed in this adorable book I don’t even know where to begin! Spritz Cookies, Iced Cookies, Filled Cookies, you name it, it’s in there. The book is divided into the following chapters:
Cookies for Santa
Brownies and Bars
Also included is a small section on Christmas cookie basics, tips on assembling a cookie platter (super cute!) and metric equivalents. The recipes are SUPER easy to follow and directions are short and simple. The ingredients are also very accessible and easy to find at your local superstore. Each recipe begins with a short description of the particular cookie as well as a picture of the cookie (yes! Love it). If you’re a cookie junkie like me, you will love this book to pieces and it’s a must have in your baking library.
Some of my favourite recipes:
Pretzel-Toffee-Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Coconut Macadamia Shortbread
Snickerdoodle Spritz Cookies
Chocolate-Dipped Pecan Shortbread Squares
Hazelnut and Brown Butter Biscotti
Hidden Kiss Cookies
Frosted Mocha Espresso Brownies
German Chocolate Cake Truffles
Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Pretzel Bites
And so many more!!!
I managed to recreate the Pretzel Toffee Blondies and they were deee-licious! Perfectly salty and sweet and they were a huge hit at work. Check out the recipe below and if you make them, let me know how it goes and post below!
PRETZEL-TOFFEE BLONDIES (pic below)
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Makes: 16 Blondies
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
22 small pretzel twists, chopped
12 chocolate-covered small pretzel twists, chopped
4 (1.4oz) bars chocolate-covered English toffee candy, chopped (I used Skor)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. Stir together the butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl with a spoon until blended. Add the vanilla, salt, and egg; stir with a wire whisk until blended. Stir in the flour until blended. Stir in the pretzels and toffee candy. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 24 to 26 minutes or until set and a wooden pick inserted in the centre comes out almost clean. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack (about 1 hour). Cut into 4 rows by 4 rows. Store loosely covered.
All opinions and thoughts in this blog post are 100% my own. A huge thank you to Time Inc Books for generously sending over a copy of Christmas Cookie Swap! in exchange for an honest review. Christmas Cookie Swap! is available to Amazon.ca for the current price of $23.68 CAD.
I am a self-confessed Nutella nut. I love everything Nutella. I have Nutella in my latte every single morning. Any time I see a recipe with Nutella in it, I have to put it to the test immediately. I first saw this recipe for Nutella truffles in a special issue of America’s Test Kitchen, Christmas Cookies 2013. I never toss collectors issues of desserts and always refer to them even years later as there are so many great recipes, but of course not always a lot of time to get through them all!
I first made these truffles 2 years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter. I went on a baking binge, baking as many treats as I possibly could before giving birth (which turned out to be mid December). My goal was to create tasty treats that were freezer friendly so that once she was born, and people came to visit I could just bust them out of the freezer. It turned out these truffles froze exceptionally well. I only froze them for about a month, so I didn’t test beyond that. You can defrost them in the fridge if planning to have a little later or on the counter if you would like them sooner. These truffles are also perfect for Holiday events and gift giving. Pop them into mini paper cups and your good to go! Check out the recipe below:
(makes 24 truffles)
2 cups (2 oz) cornflakes
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted & skinned, plus 24 hazelnuts, toasted & skinned. *Note: I buy hazelnuts pre-skinned. I find skinning them messy and a pain in the butt.
½ cup (3 ½ oz) sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ cup whole milk
1 tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¾ cup Nutella
Make foil sling for 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Spray aluminum foil with vegetable oil spray. (or just rub vegetable oil on it)
Pulse cornflakes in food processor until finely ground, about 10 pulses; transfer to bowl. Process ½ cup hazelnuts in food processor to fine crumbs, about 15 seconds. Spread processed hazelnuts in shallow dish and set aside.
Microwave sugar and butter in bowl, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth, about 45 seconds. Whisk in milk and cocoa until combined. Whisk in Nutella until fully incorporated. Stir in finely ground cornflakes. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and press firmly into even layer with greased spatula. Freeze, uncovered, until firm, about 10 minutes.
Using foil overhang, lift chilled Nutella mixture out of pan and transfer to cutting board. Cut 24 pieces, then mold each 1 whole hazelnut to encase completely. Roll truffles in processed hazelnuts to coat and transfer to platter. Freeze, uncovered, until firm, about 10 minutes. Serve, or store in refrigerator until serving time.
How to skin hazelnuts: Transfer the hot, toasted hazelnuts to the centre of a dish towel. Fold the towel around the hazelnuts to seal them inside: then rub them together in the towel to scrape off as much brown skin as possible. Once you open the towel, you will see that the skins have come away from the hazelnuts. Its fine if some small patches of skin still remain.
Recipe excerpt, Americas Test Kitchen “Christmas Cookies, 64 Foolproof Recipes, from Classics to New Favourites”, 2013.