Countdown to Christmas with cookies
VAIL, Colorado Fa la la la crunch! Lets be honest. Some of our favorite holiday sounds are not carols but the crackle and chew of Christmas cookies. My working mother of five would spend hours baking around the holidays, sometimes well into the night and early morning. Sleep deprived, flour in her hair, batter smeared across countertops, it was her seasonal mission to bake a variety of sweets.
As we grew older and went off to college, these cookies became even more important to us. A relic of childhood, perhaps, but these cookies grew to symbolize the Pence Family Christmas, home and happiness. The lemon bars, Mexican wedding cakes, marshmallow-fluff fudge, Hershey Kiss cookies and toffee bars are the holidays. These sugar-bombs are our tradition.My mother had her baking obstacles, the most persistent being my father. He would sneak into the freezer and gobble up plenty of the cookies she was saving for the kids. When it came time to open the Tupperware and display the cookies on the three-tiered, pink-ruffled lazy susan, almost half would be missing, and my mother would scream bloody murder. It nearly killed the marriage, but my dad was plump and happy.Unless youre neurotic like Mama Pence or you truly love to bake, making five different batches of holiday cookies is out of the question. Its already a stressful time, but there is a solution throw a cookie exchange party.
Last week, members of the local Slow Food chapter got together to swap holiday cookies. The party is simple. Each person brings two dozen cookies and copies of their recipe. Our hostess prepared a beautiful, festive table and set platters out for each guests cookie. She served dips, cheeses and nuts, along with some bubbly and wine. The host gave a brief demonstration on how to make biscotti, a crispy cookie perfect for coffee dipping.Being Slow Food members, we all chatted about our cookies, where the recipe came from, how our new convection oven works or snafus that happened during the baking process. Slow Food is an international organization that believes the enjoyment of wholesome food is essential to the pursuit of happiness. The groups mission is to protect and promote food tradition, food culture and the environment. Its many members feel the same way, and they practice the Slow Food philosophy not only at home, but during different social events both private and public.At the end of the party, we gathered around the table and filled our tins with two dozen different cookies. The sweets will wind up on our own platter as a holiday centerpiece or given away to coworkers and friends. A cookie exchange party gives you the supply Mama Pence strived for without all the baking fuss. And the time together with friends gives a much needed reprieve before the holidays kick into full gear.Here is the selection of recipes that appeared at Slow Food Vail Valleys first cookie exchange. We hope to make it an annual tradition.
IngredientsCrust:2 cups all purpose flour3/4 cup butter3/4 cup sugarFilling:4 eggs2 cups sugar2 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel/zest 1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice1/4 cup flour1 teaspoon baking powderGlaze:1 cup confectioners sugar1 Tablespoon butter, softened2 Tablespoon lemon juice1/2 teaspoon vanillaTo make glaze: Mix all ingredients together.Directions1.Preheat oven to 350-degrees. 2.In 3 quart mixer bowl, combine crust ingredients. Mix at medium speed for about 2 to 3 minutes until well mixed and particles are fine. 3.Pat into ungreased 13-by-9-by-2 pan. (TIP: After you place dough in pan, cover with wax paper and roll out with a glass or rolling pin.)4.Bake in center of oven for 18 to 22 minutes or until light golden brown at edges.5.Meanwhile, in same bowl, combine eggs, sugar, lemon peel, salt and lemon juice. Blend on medium speed 1 to 2 minutes or until well blended. 6.Add flour and baking powder. Blend well.7.Pour filling onto hot crust. Return to oven and bake 23 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Glaze when completely cool.
Ingredients1/2 cup egg whites, room temp.1 teaspoon pure vanilla1 box Almond Paste2 cups powered sugar14 oz. sweetened flaked coconutOpt: melted chocolate to drizzle over cookiesDirectionsBake in a 325-degree oven for about 20 minutes. Line cookie sheets with foil. In a large bowl, beat egg whites and vanilla until firm, but not dry. In a separate bowl, beat together almond paste (I shredded it first), sugar and coconut. Gently fold mixtures together. Drop tablespoons full onto cookie sheets, one inch apart. Bake for 18 minutes or so, until bottom and tops are lightly browned. Cool on foil on rack and peel off when completely cool. Leave plain or drizzle with chocolate.
Ingredients1/2 cup raspberry jam or jelly1 Tablespoon Chambord or kirsch2 1/4 cups all purpose flour1 teaspoon baking powder1/4 teaspoon salt2 sticks butter (1 cup) at room temperature1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice1 teaspoon pure vanilla extractDirections1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter two large baking sheets.2. In small bowl, combine the jam and Chambord. Stir to combine.3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk to blend.4. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in two additions and beat just until moist clumps form. Gather the dough together into a ball.5. Pinch off the dough to form 1-inch balls. Place on prepared baking sheets, spacing 1-inch apart. Use your floured index finger or 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon to create depressions in the center of each ball. Fill each indentation with nearly 1/2 teaspoon of the jam mixture. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.6. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.
Ingredients3/4 cup whole almonds3 eggs1 teaspoon vanilla1/4 teaspoon almond extract2 cups unbleached or all purpose flour1/2 cup sugar1 teaspoon baking sodadash of saltDirections1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.2. Place nuts in a shallow pan and bake for 8 to10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool.3. In a small bowl, beat eggs, vanilla and almond extract with a wire whisk. 4. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.5. Add egg mixture and mix until blended about 1 minute.6. Cut nuts into halves or thirds and mix in. Divide dough in half. 7. On a greased and floured baking sheet, pat out dough into two logs about 1/2 inch thick, 11/2 inches wide and 12 inches long, spacing them at least 2 inches a part.8. Bake in the middle of a preheated 300-degree oven for 50 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer from the baking sheet to a rack. Let cool five minutes.9. Place on a cutting board. With a serrated knife slice diagonally at a 45 degree angle about 1/2 inch thick. Lay the slices flat on the baking sheet and return to a 275-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until toasted, turning them over once to dry the other side. Store in a tightly covered container.
Ingredients1 cup unsalted butter3/4 cup sugar1 egg3 cups sifted flour1/2 teaspoon salt2 egg whites, lightly beaten1/2 cup finely chopped blanched almonds or unblanched walnuts1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar1/4 cup red currant jellyDirections1. Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. 2. Beat in egg. 3. Sift flour with salt and resift into butter mixture. Mix throughly.4. Chill for one hour.5. Divide dough in half and roll one portion out to 1/8 inch thickness on a lightly floured board. Cut with round cookie cutter about 21/2 inches in diameter. 6. Roll out second portion of dough and cut with scalloped round cookie cutter that is 2 inches diameter.7. Using a very small cutter or a thimble, cut a small circle out of the center of the smaller rounds. Brush tops of smaller cookies with lightly beaten egg white and sprinkle with chopped nuts and sugar.8. Bake all cookies on buttered cookie sheets in preheated 375 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely.9. Place a spoonful of jelly in the center of large cookies. Top with smaller cookies and press together gently.