Christmas | December 25

gingerbreadcookie3A holiday cookie plate is the jewel of Christmas time. Bring them out for a sweet ending to any holiday gathering, give some as an impromptu gift in a decorative tin, or just curl up with a plate of cookies, a steaming hot drink, and your favorite book. ‘Tis the season. Here are three of our favorites.

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Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

My friend and lifelong crafter Jodi Levine introduced me to these cookies many years ago while she was working at Martha Stewart Living and I have been obsessed with them ever since. The addition of fresh ginger gives them some extra zing. Warning: these are so good they rarely stick around long enough to make it to the Christmas table.

7 ounces of good semisweet chocolate (we like Scharffenberger)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

½ cup packed dark brown sugar

½ cup unsulfured molasses

1 tsp baking soda

¼ cup granulated sugar for rolling

Chop chocolate roughly into ¼ inch chunks. (You may also use semisweet chocolate chips). In a medium sized bowl sift together the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cocoa powder.

In a separate bowl, beat the softened butter and fresh grated ginger together for about 3 minutes. Add brown sugar and molasses and beat until combined.

In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in 1 ½ tsp boiling water. Then beat half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Add baking soda, then rest of flour mixture. Mix in the chopped chocolate. Place dough on a piece of plastic wrap, flatten dough to about 1-inch thick, seal tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours until firm.

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Heat oven to 325℉. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and roll in granulated sugar. Bake for 12 minutes or until the tops start to crack.

Makes around 3 dozen cookies

cranberry-turtle-bars-2

Cranberry Turtle Bars

From The Gourmet Cookie Book (one of the very best books out there)

Some cookies are cookies to their core, while others skate a fine line between baked goods and candy. These ones fall definitively into the latter category. They are irresistible: chewy, crumbly, chocolatey, buttery and tart all in one beautiful package. You cannot go wrong with them. We swear.

For base:

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup packed light brown sugar

½ tsp salt

1½ sticks (¾ cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes, plus more for buttering pan

For topping:

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter

1⅔ cups granulated sugar

¼ cup light corn syrup

½ tsp salt

1½ cups fresh or frozen (not thawed) cranberries, coarsely chopped

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups (12 oz) pecans, toasted and cooled, coarsely chopped

1½ oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

Special equipment: a candy thermometer

Make base: Preheat oven to 350℉. Line a 15”x10” shallow baking pan (must have sides) with tin foil, leaving an overhang of two inches on each of the short sides. Butter sides generously.

Combine flour, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until blended. Add butter cubes and pulse until mixture begins to form pea-sized lump. Sprinkle evenly into pan and gently but firmly press down evenly with a spatula until it forms an even layer (it will be quite thin). Bake on center rack until golden brown and firm to touch, about 15-17 minutes. Cool on a rack while you proceed.

Make topping: Melt butter in a heavy 3- or 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, then stir in sugar, corn syrup and salt. Boil until temperature reaches 245℉ (about 8 minutes), then carefully stir in cranberries–mixture will bubble–and continue to boil until temperature reaches 245℉ again. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and pecans until well coated, then quickly and carefully pour into topping. Use spatula to distribute fruit, nuts and caramel as evenly as possible over crust. Cool completely.

Cut and decorate: Remove from pan using foil, place on a cutting board, and with a long, sharp knife, cut into 36 bars. Melt chocolate using either microwave method (use 50% power and stir every 30 seconds so it doesn’t overheat) or over simmering water in a heatproof bowl, then transfer to a small plastic bag and seal. Cut a tiny hole in one corner of bag, then squeeze ribbons of chocolate over bars, using a lattice or double lattice pattern. Let stand at room temperature until chocolate sets. Bars keep in airtight container, between layers of wax paper, for 1 week

Makes 36 bars, or more if you cut them smaller

ricottacookies

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Adapted from the New York Times

These are a take on the classic Italian ricotta cookies typically flavored with anise. Here we use lemon zest and a lemony glaze to brighten them up for the holidays.

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

8 oz ricotta cheese

Zest of 1 lemon

1½  tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

For glaze:

1 tbsp butter

2 cups confectioners sugar

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp milk (or as needed)

Decorative sugar (optional)

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add ricotta, lemon zest and vanilla extract and beat well. Beat in the egg, then add flour, baking soda and salt. Scrape sides of bowl and beat until combined. Cover dough and chill for at least 2 hours or longer.

Heat oven to 350℉ and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake until golden on bottom, about 13-15 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.

Make glaze:

Melt butter and whisk together with confectioners sugar. Add lemon juice, vanilla and milk. Mix together to make a thick glaze. Spread glaze on cooled cookies and sprinkle with decorative sugar.

Makes around 3 dozen cookies

 

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