Baking, especially during the holidays is one of my most favorite things.
Christmas time is partially for baking, right?
One of the best parts of this time of year is it is perfectly acceptable to have Tupperware and plates full of baked goods and cookies at home and on the counter. I once had a secret Santa come drop off a bunch of candies and cookies and Andrew and I took on the tradition next year and did the same for family and friends…it was so fun and allowed me to bake more! There’s nothing like sharing baked goods during the holiday season and having a fresh cookie warm from the oven. I have my family favorites….heath cookies, oatmeal lace, old fashioned sugar cookies, turtles, and many more. I always love trying a few new Christmas cookies every year and this year…I found some keepers! I always wonder what “my family” Christmas recipes will be. I grew up on heath cookies and oatmeal lace cookies for sure. I was introduced to Gobs and nut roll and pizelles when I met my husband’s family. I think a Christmas cookie platter or gift box should be full of tons of different types of cookies…a few of each! It’s the season for a little bit of indulgence and an overabundance of love. I hope these cookie recipes bring as much joy to your homes as they did to ours!
This year, like most, we’ve started decorating and baking early to most people, but I think it helps us fully enjoy the season. Time goes fast enough as is and if we can sneak in a whole weekend to bake and decorate before everything gets crazy busy, I’d say it’s perfect! This year was especially fun because we went all out decorating…our newest addition…..the bird snow luge on the banister!
Spiced Brown Butter Muscovado Sugar Cookies
Makes 24 cookies
24 tablespoons (344 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (210 g) dark muscovado sugar, packed
½ cup (96 g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon (15 ml) real vanilla extract
3 cups (408 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (136 g) bread flour
2 teaspoons (5 g) cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon cardamom
2 cups (260 g) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) real maple syrup
½ teaspoon maple extract, optional
4 tablespoons (60 ml) milk, or more to thin
- To make the cookies, place the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt over medium heat.
- Once melted, crank up the heat to medium high, stirring constantly. Small golden bits will start to settle on the bottom of the pan, and it will start to have a nutty aroma. This should take around 3 to 5 minutes. Once this happens, take the pan off of the heat and pour the butter into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Once cooled slightly, add the muscovado and granulated sugar and mix on medium until blended. The mixture will be thick. Add in the eggs, one at a time, making sure to blend completely before adding in the next. Add in the vanilla and mix for 1 minute more. Be sure to break up any large muscovado lumps.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, bread flour, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, sea salt and cardamom. Add this to the brown butter mixture and mix on low until the mixture comes together and is no longer crumbs. Separate into two equal halves and pat each mound of dough into a disc. Typically sugar cookie dough needs a light hand. Not this dough. You’ll need to almost knead it to get it to adhere together.
- Press any cracks or fissures together.
- Place a dough disc between two layers of parchment paper. If you have a silicone baking mat, place it underneath the parchment to keep it from sliding on the counter. Roll the dough to ½-inch (1.3-cm) thickness. Pull the dough with the parchment onto a baking sheet and chill in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes or in the fridge for 10 to 20 minutes, max. The dough should chill quickly. If at any point the dough starts sticking to the floured cookie stamps, put it back in the freezer for 5 minutes or in the fridge for 10 minutes.
- Conversely, if it’s too chilled, let it come closer to room temperature to stamp, or it will be too hard.
- Cover several baking sheets with parchment paper.
- If using cookie stamps, dip the cookie stamps in some flour and dust off the excess. Evenly press the cookie stamp onto the dough, making sure to press firmly to get the detailed imprint, and then use a fluted, round cutter to cut the cookie from the dough. Grab a spatula to move the cut-out cookie to your prepared baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining cookies.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and make sure a rack is in the top third of the oven at least 6 inches (15 cm) from the heat source.
- Place the cookies in the freezer for 30 minutes and then take them directly from the freezer to the top rack of the oven and bake for 9 minutes. It’s crucial not to overbake these. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a rack to finish cooling.
- To make the glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, maple syrup, maple extract, if using, and milk until you have a thin glaze. Place a baking sheet underneath the cooling rack. Dip the cooled cookies into the glaze, letting the excess drip back into the bowl…you want the glaze to be thin enough that you can see the detail from the cookie stamps. Set the cookies back on the cooling rack to dry completely and serve!
Gingerbread Chai Cookies
113 grams unsalted butter, softened (1/2 cup)
150 grams granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
85 grams molasses
281 grams AP flour
1 1/2 tsp chai spice
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
200 grams sparkling sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and molasses.
- In a medium bowl, whisk chai spice, flour, ginger, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture slowly to the butter until well combined. With a 1/4 cup scoop, create 2 inch round balls and place on parchment after rolling in sugar. Place 2 1/2 inches apart on pan.
- Bake 15-16 minutes.
Makes 1/2 cup
32 grams cardamom (1/2 cup)
15 grams cinnamon (2 1/2 tbl)
8 grams ginger (4 tsp)
4 grams cloves (2 tsp)
2 tsp (4 grams black pepper)
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir.
Cardamom Cut-out cookies
113 grams unsalted butter, softened
67 grams granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
42 grams honey
3/4 tsp vanilla (3 grams)
188 grams AP flour
3/4 tsp (1.5 grams) ground cardamom
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
Vanilla-Almond Royal Icing (recipe follows)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add egg yolk, honey, and vanilla, beating until well combined.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cardamom, salt, and baking soda. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating until combined. Divide dough in half, and shape into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Working with one disk at a time, roll dough to ¼-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using desired 2½-inch holiday cutters, cut dough, rerolling scraps as necessary. Place on prepared pans. Freeze for 15 minutes.
- Bake until lightly golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on pans for 3 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks. Decorate as desired with Vanilla-Almond Royal Icing. Garnish with nonpareils, if desired. Let dry completely. Store in airtight containers for up to 1 week.
Vanilla-Almond Royal Icing
4½ cups (540 grams) confectioners’ sugar, divided
2 large egg whites (60 grams)
2 teaspoons (8 grams) almond extract
1½ teaspoons (6 grams) clear vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon (2.25 grams) kosher salt
½ teaspoon (1 gram) cream of tartar
3 tablespoons (45 grams) heavy whipping cream
Gel food coloring
- In the top of a double boiler, stir together 4 cups (480 grams) confectioners’ sugar, egg whites, extracts, salt, and cream of tartar. Cook over simmering water, stirring occasionally, until mixture registers 140°F (60°C) on a candy thermometer. Pour mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- With mixer on low speed, add remaining ½ cup (60 grams) confectioners’ sugar, beating until well combined and cooled to room temperature. Add cream, 1 tablespoon (15 grams) at a time, beating until desired consistency is reached. To test consistency, dip a spoon in frosting and lift, moving it in a figure-8 pattern over bowl as icing drizzles down. The figure-8 shape should disappear in 8 seconds for a cookie glaze and in 10 seconds for a thicker icing used for detail work. Color as desired with food coloring. Use immediately, or refrigerate with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly onto surface for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature, and stir before using.
I’ve said it before and said it again….one shouldn’t bake multiple things at the same time or in between rising times on making bread because it’s inevitable….GLORIOUS MISTAKES ENSUE. I decided to half this recipe. I have never made biscotti before and I also didn’t have quite enough hazelnuts for a full recipe. I needed to half the sugar….half of 212 g….so I used 606 grams. I have no idea what I was thinking. I realized when the recipe said “the dough will be really sticky” and mine was like sand. So I sat there and pulled out all my hazelnuts….because I didn’t have any more! Then, I remade the dough with what I figured had to be correct….66 g sugar. Yeah. Just think about that. But, it really was some of the best biscotti I’ve ever had!
2 tablespoons (28 grams/1 ounce) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (212 grams/7.48 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 plus 2 tablespoons (170 grams/6 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons (52 grams/1.83 ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 3/4 cups (227 grams/8 ounces) hazelnuts, whole, toasted
3/4 cup (130 grams/4.59 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 large egg for egg wash
- Position one rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- In a bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar for 1 minute or until a sandy mixture forms. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until fluffy and lighter in color, about 1 minute more.
- In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour, cocoa powder, coffee powder, baking soda, and cinnamon and whisk together. Add to the butter-and-egg mixture in 2 additions, and mix only until combined.
- Fold the hazelnuts and chocolate chips into the dough, and mix until evenly distributed. The dough will be thick and hard to stir. If it is too sticky, chill briefly.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces, about 454 grams/16 ounces each. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a log about 2 inches wide by 14 inches long by 1 1/2 inches high. Place the logs on the prepared sheet pan with several inches between them.
- In a small bowl, mix 1 egg with 1 teaspoon of water to make an egg wash. Brush each log with egg wash, coating them evenly on the top and sides.
- Bake for 27 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet from front to back halfway through baking, until very lightly browned and somewhat firm. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 300ºF.
- Cool the logs for 20 minutes, then place them on a cutting board. With a serrated knife, slice each log on a slight angle into 3/4-inch-thick pieces, keeping them in a row. Slide the row of biscotti together, lift and place back on the cookie sheet, then separate the slices, leave 1/2 inch of space between each one.
- Bake again for 9 to 12 minutes, rotating once during baking, until the biscotti feel slightly firm.