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How did it get to be December already? I’m just getting over Thanksgiving.
Did you know December is both National Eggnog and Fruitcake Month?
If you’ve been to the local Walmart or Belk, you’ll know that the holiday season is in full swing and that means it’s time for baking cookies. So many recipes, so little time…
For cookie freaks, this really is the most wonderful time of the year. Whether you dig through a stack of yellowed recipe cards or check out your cookie database on your computer, it’s time to dust off those cookie sheets and preheat the oven.
This is the season of home baking, and no other holiday brings out the glitz of homemade cookies than the Christmas holiday. What aroma better captures the fragrance of the season, be it from cutouts, bars, slice-and-bake, spritz or drop cookies? Real butter, fine chocolate, fresh nuts and every kind of flavoring, fruit and jam all converge to produce some of our best memories.
Tips for baking better cookies
Always use large-size eggs, unsalted butter and nuts, and pure extracts of vanilla or almond.
Chill dough for cutout cookies. Soften up at room temperature before rolling out.
Be sure to measure accurately. Successful baking relies on the correct ratio of ingredients.
For best results, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife. Do not sift unless the recipe specifically says so.
Leave at least 2 inches of space between cookies so they don’t spread into each other.
Use parchment paper for stick-free baking and easy cleanup.
Adjust baking times to achieve cookie texture. Less time produces chewier cookies; a little more time makes them crispy.
Cool cookies completely before decorating
Cheesecake Cookie Cups
1 pkg. (16.5 oz.) Nestle Toll House refrigerated chocolate chip cookie bar dough
2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, room temperature
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
2 tsps. Vanilla extract
1 can (21 oz.) cherry pie filling
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Paper-line 24 muffin cups. Place one piece of cookie dough in each muffin cup. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookie has spread to edge of cup. Beat cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, eggs and vanilla extract in medium bowl until smooth. Pour about 3 tablespoons of mixture over each cookie in cup.
Bake an additional 15 minutes or until set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Top each with level tablespoon of pie filling. Refrigerate for one hour. Makes 24 servings.
Black Forest Cookies
1 (11.5-oz) pkg. milk chocolate morsels
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 (6-oz) pkg. Ocean Spray Cherry Flavor Sweetened Dried Cranberries
1 cup pecans, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Microwave 3/4 cup chocolate morsels in an uncovered large microwave-safe bowl for 2 minutes on High; stir until chocolate is smooth. Stir in brown sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla. Add flour and baking powder, mixing until combined. Stir in remaining morsels, cherry flavor sweetened dried cranberries and pecans.
Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until cookies are puffed up and set to the touch. For a firmer cookie, bake 2 minutes longer. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Makes about 30 cookies.
Always a favorite and very low in fat.
3 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup shredded coconut
2 Tbsps. condensed milk
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Add the sugar and lemon juice and beat until blended. Stir in the coconut and milk. Spoon the dough by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets, lightly sprayed with cooking oil. Let the dough stand several hours to dry out. Bake the macaroons at 350 degrees for 15- 20 minutes. Makes 48 cookies.
Butterscotch Gingerbread Cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps. baking soda
1-1/2 tsps. ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsps. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1/3 cup mild molasses
1 large egg
1-2/3 cups butterscotch morsels
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt in small bowl. Beat sugar, butter, molasses and egg in large mixer bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in flour mixture until well blended. Stir in morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 10 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 24 cookies.
Nestlé Crunch Snowball Cookies
If you love the crunch of a Nestle Crunch candy bar, these cookies are for you.
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
5 (1.55 oz. each) Nestle Crunch candy bars, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter, 3/4 cup powdered sugar and salt in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in vanilla extract; gradually beat in flour. Stir in chopped candy bars. Shape dough into 1-1/2-inch balls (about the size of a golf ball). Place on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are set and bottoms are lightly browned.
Sift 1/4 cup powdered sugar over hot cookies on baking sheet; cool for 10 minutes. Carefully remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar, if desired. Store in airtight containers. Makes 40-45 cookies.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at email@example.com.