Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Cookie Recipe (2)

This year, I've been more workmanlike about my Christmas cookies. I'm bringing cookies to the family Christmas dinner for 30 people (down seven from last year), so that's about 100 cookies right off the top. I've set up a few batches in the freezer and will make more on Christmas Eve. I've also had a supply for around the holiday, and will give a plate to my sister-in-law Amy to take to her in-laws on Christmas Eve.

I've made three kinds, which I like for various reasons. First, the butter cookie recipe I have from the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts is amazing. But it's also really not good for you: sugar, flour, three sticks of butter and egg yolks. I made one batch and have been sort of doling them out particularly, because I don't want to make more.

Then there are  the 110th Street Walnut Crescents, from the same cookbook. I shared this recipe on the blog last year. These are not much better for you: powdered sugar, flour, two sticks of butter, vanilla and ground walnuts, but a batch makes a lot more cookies, and they're amazingly delicious as well. They feel a little more grown up than the basic butter cookie.

What I've really gotten into, however, are the Gingerbread Trees. The recipe is from an old bon appetit magazine, at least three years old. It calls for the addition of a juniper berry glaze, which I'm sure would be amazing, but I like them just fine without frosting, just a few decorative sprinkles and some red hots pressed into them before baking. And I don't know why, but I always make them as just tree cut-outs. The dough is amazing to work with, really supple and can get warmer than the heavily butter-based ones above and still be manageable. I've already made three batches, but they've gone quickly, so I'll be making at least one more. Here's the recipe:

Gingerbread Trees

2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup mild-flavored molasses

Mix the first six ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in molasses. Beat in dry ingredients (keep beating until it's a really nice, moist dough). Gather dough; divide into 2-4 pieces. Wrap and chill at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets. Roll out dough between two sheets of wax paper. Cut out with cookie cutter. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool on racks.

If you want to go the extra mile and make the glaze, here's how that works:

Bring 3/4 cup half and half and 1/3 cup of lightly crushed juniper berries to simmer. Cover and chill 5 hours (this is definitely where you lose me). Strain. Place 1 pound powdered sugar in bowl. Whisk in half and half by spoonfuls until glaze is spreadable. Frost cookies and decorate with assorted decorations.

I've found myself as I baked this year being grateful about two things: that my father liked Ramsey Lewis' Christmas album when I was a kid, and that my mother taught us the joy of smearing the butter on the cookie sheets with our fingers...

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