The holiday season is almost over (I think the couple days after the new year still count seeing as many of us won't return to work until January 5th), and so I wanted to review the holiday baking that I have done over the past couple of weeks.
There is nothing better than baking cookies to get one in the holiday spirit. A couple of weeks ago I was visiting AJ in Boston and wanted to bake some cookies for our annual viewing of the movie "Elf" starring Will Ferrell. If you have not seen this movie yet, please do! It is a cute, heart-warming film that is best viewed in the company of friends while enjoying hot cocoa and cookies.
I had seen a recipe for chocolate peppermint cookies in the December issue of Martha Stewart Living. With Malia's help, we set out to bake these, some Mexican Wedding cookies, and some classic sugar cookies.
Wedding Cookies in adorable, but ridiculous sugar cookie sleigh (we did not make that).
Putting together the dough was rather simple, but the rolling the dough and cutting the cookies out, proved to be a lot trickier. The dough is very sticky and requires ample time in the refrigerator before being rolled out. I would recommend an hour in the fridge. Once you have rolled out the dough, I would recommend sticking it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. This makes cutting the cookies out much easier. Malia and I also found that shot glasses were the perfect size for cookie cutters.
Once the cookies have baked, we melted white and dark chocolate in separate double boilers. We dipped some in the dark, some in the white. We crushed candy canes (the minis work the best) and sprinkled those on as the melted chocolate cooled (using the dark and the white proved genius as we were abled to drizzle different kinds of chocolate on top, creating some beautiful and not so beautiful patterns). It is important to put these cookies in the fridge so they can set up. But you don't want to leave them in overnight, as they will start to soften.
The Mexican Wedding cookies were much easier to work with, although you should expect to become completely covered in powdered sugar by the end of the process.
These cookies were a hit. Malia and I slightly preferred the buttery, nutty taste of the wedding cookies. Although the chocolate peppermint were a huge hit with the crew in Boston. As I said earlier, I think the best way to enjoy these is with a homemade batch of hot chocolate (none of that swiss miss stuff please)! AJ and I have added this to our Elf viewing tradition. I make the hot chocolate and he adds a touch of Bailey's. Delicious!
Hot Chocolate with Bailey's.
Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
Makes approximately 40 cookies
1 cup all purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa (JAM Note: I couldn't find dutch processed, so I used Hershey's Dark Chocolate blend of natural and dutch-processed cocoas)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 oz (5 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/ tsp pure peppermint extract
10 miniature candy canes
1 lb white chocolate morsels
1 lb semi-sweet chocolate morsels
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in bowl. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed for 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium low and add egg, then yolk, beating well after each addition. Beat in peppermint extract. Slowly add four mixture and beat until just incorporated. Shape dough into 2 disks, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate (1 hour, up to 2 days).
Roll out one disk on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Return dough to freezer for 15-20 minutes. Using a 2-in cutter (JAM Note: used shot glasses), cut out circles and place on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Combine scraps and roll out. Freeze for 15 minutes before cutting. Repeat with second disk.
Bake cookies until they are dry to the touch, about 12 minutes (ours took approx 10 minutes). Transfer to rack to cool. (Undecorated cookies will keep for up to 3 days.)
Melt chocolate in heatproof bowl over a pot of gently boiling water. Remove from heat and dunk cookies into melted chocolate (JAM Note: spoons worked the best for turning cookies over). Place on parchment paper and sprinkle with crushed candy canes or drizzle with white or dark chocolate. Refrigerate until set, up to 3 hours.
2 out of 3 JAMs
Heather Chittum's Wedding Cookies
Note: The secret to these cookies, known as snowballs or mexican wedding cookies, is the beating of the butter and the confectioner's sugar. A full 7 minutes is required. The dough must be refrigerated for 30 minutes before being rolled into balls. Once sugared these will last up to one week. Makes approx 36 cookies.
2 sticks (16 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (almost ground)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp honey
Combine the butter and 1/2 cup of the confectioner's sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed for 7 minutes, until the mixer is pale white and fluffy.
Meanwhile, combine the flour, nuts and salt on a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper.
Stop to scrap down the sides of the bowl, then, with the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla and honey; beat to mix well. With the mixer on low-speed, add the flour-nut mixture and beat until just combined. Transfer the dough to a container with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon liners. Use a mellon baller to make walnut sized pieces of dough, then roll them into balls and place them 2 in apart on baking sheet. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are just pale golden. While cookies are in the oven place confectioners sugar in a large bowl. Begin coating the cookies as soon as they are removed from the oven. Gently roll in confectioners' sugar until evenly coated. Let them cool completely before storing. Store in airtight container that has confectioners' sugar sprinkled on the bottom.
2.5 out of 3 JAMs
Hot Chocolate w. Bailey's
3 (3.5 oz) bars Green&Black organic chocolate (70% cacao)
1 gallon organic milk
2 tbsp cinnamon
12 shots of Bailey's Irish Creme
1/2 cup honey (or to taste)
Pour milk into saucepan and heat over medium heat until brought to a simmer. Coursely chop chocolate and place in a heat proof bowl. Place bowl over pot of boiling water until melted. Pour milk into melted chocolate mixture and continue to heat. Add honey and cinnamon. We waited to add the Bailey's until each mug had been poured. (You can add the Bailey's before if you like). Once the mixture is steaming, but yet at a boil, pour into mugs. Marshmallows are optional. Enjoy!
3 out of 3 JAMs
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!