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Tuesday, December 12, 2017, 4:35 a.m.

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Sweet treats: Recipes for holiday cookies and candy that can make the occasions special

By Kelly Brant

This article was published December 6, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

mounds-of-joy

Mounds of Joy

Cranberry-Almond Oatmeal Cookies With White Chocolate

Sorghum Spice Cookies

Chocolate Mint Truffles

Cinnamon-Orange Sugar Cookies

There are certain flavors associated with winter holiday cookies: cinnamon, citrus, cranberry, chocolate, coconut and mint top the list. But for the most part, any cookie is an appropriate holiday cookie.

For many the season wouldn't be complete without the ritual of baking cookies whether as gifts, for a cookie swap, to leave out for Santa or simply to enjoy with a mug of cocoa or glass of milk.

Getting the perfect cookie texture is a complicated affair. Sometimes it can be achieved by slightly under- or overbaking. But the easiest way to ensure the desired texture is to make sure you're using the right ingredients for the job.

America's Test Kitchen offers the following tips in its book, The Perfect Cookie.

• For chewy cookies, opt for a combination of unsaturated fat like vegetable shortening and saturated fat like butter, be sure to include brown sugar and/or liquid sweetener such as corn syrup or molasses and leaven the cookies with a combination of baking soda and baking powder. Larger cookies tend to be chewier than small cookies. In recipes where brown sugar would alter the color, such as sugar cookies, an extra egg yolk will help keep cookies chewy.

• For crispy cookies use all butter, all granulated white sugar and add a wee bit extra baking soda. Adding a small amount of liquid, say 2 tablespoons of milk, will loosen the dough so that it spreads, resulting in a crispy cookie.

Cake mix cookies: 1 (15- to 18-ounce) box cake mix any flavor, ½ cup oil and 2 eggs. Mix and spoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes. Do not brown. Recipe from Irene Wooley.

These spiced sorghum cookies get a double dose of ginger along with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper. If tender chewy cookies are desired, be careful not to overbake them.

Sorghum Spice Cookies

¾ cup butter or shortening, at room temperature

1 ¼ cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup sorghum syrup

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

½ cup granulated sugar, for coating

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend butter on low for about 15 seconds. Add brown sugar and beat on medium until well creamed, about 5 minutes, scraping sides of bowl and beating about halfway through. Add the egg, vanilla and sorghum and mix well, scraping bowl as needed.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, gingers, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and pepper. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in one addition. Beat on low until dough comes together. Scrape dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap tightly. Refrigerate 8 hours to 1 week.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 or 3 half sheet pans with parchment paper. Place the granulated sugar in a wide bowl. Using a small cookie scoop or your fingers, pinch off small balls of dough; roll balls in sugar. Place balls at least 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake about 10 minutes (1 to 2 minutes more for crisp cookies), rotating pans halfway through, or until cookies are set and tops are crinkled. Let cool on pans for 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for about 3 days.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Recipe adapted from Cookie Love by Mindy Segal with Kate Leahy

For milder, more traditional ginger snaps that kids will enjoy, this version uses the more readily available blackstrap molasses.

Sabrina Bowersett's Ginger Snaps

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

¾ cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/3 cup blackstrap molasses

Cinnamon-sugar, for coating

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and baking soda.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add egg and beat until fluffy. Add molasses and mix for 1 minute. Add flour mixture and mix on low until blended.

Roll dough into walnut size balls then roll in the cinnamon-sugar mix.

Place 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Chocolate Mint Truffles

14 Oreo Mint Creme cookies, broken into pieces

3 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks, at room temperature

1 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips

1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil

In a food processor, combine cookies and cream cheese and process until mixture is uniform. Shape mixture into small balls and arrange balls on a parchment or wax paper lined cookie sheet. Freeze 30 minutes or until firm.

Melt chocolate with vegetable oil in a double boiler or in microwave. Dip each ball in chocolate, letting the excess drip off. Return dipped balls to parchment lined sheet. Once all of the balls are coated in chocolate return them to the freezer until chocolate is set. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Yield varies depending on size of balls.

Variation: For Lemon Truffles, substitute Lemon Oreos for the mint and white chocolate for the dark chocolate chips.

Recipe adapted from The Perfect Cookie from the editors of America's Test Kitchen.

These subtly flavored sugar cookies can be cut into any shape desired.

Cinnamon-Orange Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons loosely packed finely grated orange zest (we used a Microplane brand zester)

¾ cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

Pinch salt

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons coarse sugar such as sparkling sugar or sanding sugar

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and orange zest with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add confectioners' sugar and beat until well blended.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture. Dough will be crumbly. Continue mixing until the mixture holds together when you pinch it with your fingers. Divide dough in half and press each portion into a disc. Roll each portion between two sheets of wax paper to ¼-inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet and refrigerate 1 hour to 24 hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Working with 1 portion of dough at a time, cut dough into desired shapes using a cookie cutter or a sharp knife. Re-roll scraps once. Sprinkle cookies evenly with the coarse sugar.

Bake 12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Cool on baking sheets for several minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 3 dozen (2-inch) cookies.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living

Cranberry-Almond Oatmeal Cookies With White Chocolate

1 cup whole almonds, skin on

1 small orange

1 cup dried cranberries

½ cup butter, softened

6 tablespoons shortening

¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch salt

3 cup old fashioned oats, uncooked

1 pound white chocolate, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange almonds on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Meanwhile, zest and juice orange to yield 1 tablespoon finely grated zest (we used a Microplane brand zester) and 2 tablespoons juice. Set zest aside.

In a small bowl, combine cranberries and the 2 tablespoons juice; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, shortening and sugars on medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the orange zest, eggs and vanilla; beat well.

In a food processor, pulse the almonds until finely chopped with a few larger pieces remaining.

In a medium bowl, combine the almonds, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the flour-nut mixture to the creamed butter mixture and mix well. On low speed, stir in oats and cranberries; mix well.

Line several baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

Drop dough by rounded 2 tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. (Reserve parchment-lined pans.)

In a double boiler, melt white chocolate. Spread white chocolate on the bottom of each cooled cookie and return to parchment-lined pans. Refrigerate until chocolate sets, about 30 minutes.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Recipe inspired by a recipe in Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh

Mounds of Joy

½ cup butter

3 tablespoons coconut oil, divided use

2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

1 ½ cups sweetened flaked coconut

1 ½ cups unsweetened flaked coconut

1 ¼ cups semisweet or dark chocolate chips

Whole almonds, optional

In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter and 2 tablespoons coconut oil; remove from heat. Stir in confectioners' sugar and flaked coconut. Shape mixture into small oval mounds and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.

In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate chips and remaining coconut oil in 30 second increments, stirring after each, until smooth.

Dip or drizzle each coconut mound in melted chocolate, letting the excess drip back into the bowl. Return to parchment-lined baking sheet. Top each with an almond, if desired. Return to refrigerator until chocolate is set.

For best texture, serve at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers.

Makes about 36 candies.

Food on 12/06/2017

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