Christmas and cookies can not be separated. You simply can’t have one without the other. Some cookies are traditional while others have become part of our repertoire. Commercial cookies are large due to handling and oven costs, but a truly perfect homemade Christmas cookie is small, delicate, and beautiful. When considering what cookies you would like to bake this year select cookies that will complement each other in texture and flavor. Use ingredients economically. Select cookies of varying shapes that will look attractive on serving trays. You could add names or Christmas messages on frosted cookies. I frequently mix some of my simple cookie recipes in advance, name and date a freezer bag and freeze the cookie dough until I am ready to bake the cookies.
This way you can have a “mixing day” and a “baking day”. It also enables me to bake a portion of my cookie dough without necessarily making all of them at once. I consider baking a beautiful cookie an art form and I work to enhance and expand my platter every year.
Three types of cookies with which you are familiar are the drop cookie like a chocolate chip cookie, the shaped cookie like a sugar cookie, and the bar cookie like apricot bars. When mixing cookies keep in mind some guidelines that will help ensure success. First, make sure all of your ingredients are room temperature unless otherwise indicated on the recipe. Generally it is easier to mix your dry ingredients and set aside. Next, butter will offer a more flavorful, tender cookie than other fats, so always try to use butter and if necessary use butter combined with another fat as a compromise. Mix the butter until creamy, add the sugar until they are a light texture – over mixing here will leave you with a greasy looking, curdled mess. Add eggs one at a time and mix after each addition. Add the vanilla or other extract. At this point you have incorporate air into the butter mixture which is exactly what you want. You are now ready to incorporate half of the dry ingredients that you have set aside. At this point you would one half of any liquid the recipe might list, follow with the second half of dry ingredients and then end with the last half of liquid ingredients. Do not over mix as this will produce a tougher cookie. Cover your cookie dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Preheat your oven when you are ready to bake your cookies, and center your rack. If you plan to bake more than one rack at time, center them both as much as possible. If you are baking two cookie sheets at once, then center both racks as close to the center as possible. cake bars disposable Plan to rotate your baking sheets mid-way through the baking process, front to back and top to bottom. Light colored baking sheets will produce a cookie lighter in color. So when purchasing baking sheets lean to the light colored sheets. Grease your cookie sheets if the recipe states or do as I do and line them with parchment paper. It can be used over and over and there is no need to cut a new parchment sheet for each tray you bake. Cookies will simply peel off. I love parchment paper! Always use cold cookie sheets so your cookies don’t start to spread on the pan before you get them in the oven. A good point to remember is that a badly shaped cookie going into the oven will come out of the oven badly shaped. With that in mind, perfect your cookie shape prior to baking. When your cookies have finished baking, let them rest on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer them to a rack until cool.
Bar cookies are probably the easiest cookie to mix and bake. Observe the pan size listed on the recipe as the texture and baking time are affected by the thickness of the bar. This type of cookie lends itself to adding optional ingredients like nuts, M & Ms, peanut butter, toffee, or frosting. One way to give your bar cookie a more professional presentation is to cut it into a square and then cut it again on the diagonal for a triangle shape. Cookies that are shaped like a sugar cookie allow you to use your creative side.
You can use royal icing and decorate any number of ways adding sprinkles, candies or decorative sugars. Drop cookies are usually very kid friendly. They are low maintenance and you can have children pour in the ingredients or drop spoonfuls of batter onto the baking sheets. It’s a good way to start a holiday tradition. Take pictures of your kids baking cookies from year to year and you’ll be reminded of some very happy times.
I know you are out there…people like me who are Christmas cookie crazy. We stock pile ingredients that are on sale at the store, tear recipes out of magazines and buy platters for no other reason than to show off our creations. I can almost always find the time to make enough Christmas cookies [http://www.homecookingconnection.com/?cat=23] to give an assortment of cookies to family, friends and neighbors.