There’s loads of things I love about Christmas; from wrapping the presents, decorating the tree and the house, to sending out cards and visiting friends and family. But one of my main pleasures is still cooking, and I’m talking about the type of cooking that fills the house with Christmassy smells and really makes you think that Christmas is on its way. A great way to celebrate Christmas is to have a tin of home made cookies, ready at hand to present to guests that have just popped in to say hello over the festive season. So here are four of the best:
Raspberry – Almond Cookies
This cookie is an all-around hit because of its nutty, not-too-sweet base, combined with a tart and fruity center.
- 2 ½ cups flour
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup almond paste
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tsp almond extract
- ½ raspberry preserves
Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, sugar, and baking powder.
Using your fingers, crumble almond paste into the flour mixture.
Melt butter and pour into dough. This will help the almond paste break apart more.
Whisk until well combined.
Add extract and egg yolk, and mix in.
Use your hands to form the dough into one piece.
Pull off large chunks of dough and form into balls (a little bigger than a golf ball), and lay onto a lined or greased baking sheet.
Using a teaspoon, press indentations into the center of each ball. Note: The edges will crack, but if they crack too much, bake the cookies for 10 minutes, then press the indentations in.
Decant preserves into a small plastic bag, and snip one corner off.
Squeeze jam into the middle of each cookie.
Bake for 10-15 minutes (less if you prebaked), removing when the bottom edges are slightly browned.
The chopped almonds in the middle of these cookies add a different type of crunch to the crisp egg whites, and anyone who tries them will be surprised by this unusual textural addition!
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 cup sugar (many recipes suggest caster sugar; we got by just fine with granulated)
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/3 cup chopped almonds
- Parchment paper
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. These cookies take a while to cook, so be sure you have at least three hours at home to supervise the baking.
Chop up almonds into small pieces and set aside.
Separate egg whites and combine with sugar and baking soda.
Beat mixture using an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks.
Add almond extract.
Transfer some of the mixture into a bag and snip off the corner.
Gently squeeze a first layer of meringue onto the parchment paper, applying light downward pressure to keep the cookie relatively flat.
Sprinkle chopped almonds over the first layer.
Add a second layer of meringue over the almonds. This time, if you want a taller, more sculptured final product, you can allow it to pile up by not applying downward pressure as you squeeze.
Bake meringues for at least 1 1/2 hours. Feel them periodically — once they can be removed from the parchment paper with ease, they are done. If you’re uncertain, remove one, allow it to cool and harden, and try it. A little gooey spot in the middle never hurt anyone; in fact, it’s delicious!
Chocolate – Peppermint Sugar Cookies
These peppermint cookies have been dipped in chocolate and had some candy-cane crunch to add a bit of Christmas to them.
- 2 ¾ cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted or softened
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup chocolate chips of your choice
- ½ cup crushed candy canes
Preheat oven to 375. Combine all dry ingredients and whisk well.
Add butter, egg and vanilla.
Stir well, and if necessary, use your hands to form a large dough ball.
Form cookies into balls, and line up on a baking sheet.
Bake for eight-10 minutes, until the surface just begins to brown and the top cracks a bit.
Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool entirely.
Using the back of a wooden spoon (a soup can works great, too!), crush candy canes in a small plastic bag, and pour minty bits onto a small plate.
Melt chocolate and, tilting at an angle to create depth, dip in a cookie half way.
Let excess chocolate drip off, and quickly press into the candy cane bits. Lay face up on a plate to cool completely.
These are a Dutch or German cookie that are ideal at Christmas as they are flavoured with cinnamon or nutmeg. For an extra special touch you can dip the bottoms in dark chocolate.
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
- 1 cup butter at room temperature
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp anise seeds or extract
- 2 tbs maple or brown rice syrup
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix flour and baking soda and set aside. In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This can be done without an electric mixer, but it’s a lot harder (though a great arm workout).
Beat in egg, then all the spices, the anise seeds, and the syrup.
Stir in the flour in parts, mixing with the electric mixer or with a fork, eventually forming into a ball of dough with your hands. If, after adding all the flour, the mixture is too dry to form a solid ball, add a splash of hot water.
Wrap the dough ball and refrigerate for at least one hour. If you plan to save some of the dough for use in a later batch, this is the time to divide it.
Remove the dough and divide into eight balls (or four, if you’re using half of the original quantity). Carefully shape each ball into a long roll. Don’t get discouraged if it crumbles — this is a fairly dry dough, just push it back together with your fingers as you roll it out to prevent cracking.
Slice the roll into small pieces and form each piece into a ball.
Place about one inch apart on parchment paper. Bake for seven-10 minutes, until cookies are golden brown and come up from paper easily. Test with your finger to make sure cookies don’t deform under pressure before removing from the oven.
Remove cookies from oven and let cool slightly. While still warm, roll the cookies in a bowl of powdered sugar.