Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Christmas cookie recap

Back in Colorado this week for a visit with my family, I thought this was an appropriate, if out-of-season, time to review the Christmas baking I did this year with my mom.

Every year at Christmas, my mom (from whom I inherited my love of baking) and I spend days in the kitchen making Christmas cookies.

We have a few favorites that we make year after year, but a big part of the baking fun is trying new recipes.

Here are a few of cookies baked this year:

Vanilla-cherry chocolate chip cookies

These are definitely a new favorite, although I only got to sample a couple before the rest disappeared. I made these cookies again to take to work and one of my co-workers said they were the best cookies he's every tasted. Talk about high praise!

I don't know if I'd go as far as to say best ever, but I definitely loved them. Here's the original recipe from Epicurious, and our version:


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (We used mixture of sorghum, rice and tapioca flour and corn starch)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (6 ounces) dried cherries
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (the recipe calls for 1/2 cup each of chocolate chips and white chocolate chips. To accommodate my mom's lactose intolerance, we just went with a full cup of semisweet).
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts

Preheat to 350°F. Line two large baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, xantham gum and salt.

In a small sauce pan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the dried cherries and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Let stand 5 minutes then drain.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, and brown sugar and beat on medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and beat on medium until combined, about 1 minute.

With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in 3 batches, stirring until just combined. Add the cherries, chocolate chips and hazelnuts and stir until just incorporated.

Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. Bake until light golden brown and just set, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool the cookies on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


Shortbread thumbprint cookies
 I love thumbprint cookies -- the combination of a crunchy cookie and gooey jam filling, plus I think they look nice on a plate of Christmas cookies.

This cookie ended up with crumbly texture, similar to shortbread, hence the name I gave them. They're different than other thumbprint cookies I've had, but I thought they were pretty good.

Here's the original recipe from Epicurious. We pretty much stuck to it, with the exception of using a gluten-free flour mixture. For jam filling, we used huckleberry jam, and a cherry sauce that my mom found in her pantry. Both were delicious.


Gluten-free sugar cookies

Ever since I went gluten-free, cut-out cookies have seemed pretty daunting (along with layer cakes, yeast breads and anything rolled, folded or stacked).

I love baking, decorating and eating frosted cookies, but the past few years, I've kept them off the Christmas menu.

This year, one of my goals was to try gluten-free cut-out cookies. My mom did some research and found a great recipe on about.com.

I'll admit I had a near breakdown while trying to roll these out, but once a switched to a better mat and got more flour on my rolling pin, it was smooth sailing. The best part was decorating them with my mom and sister, sipping eggnog and watching "The Help."


1 1/2 cups amaranth flour
1/2 cup arrowroot starch (the recipe says cornstarch will also work)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon guar gum
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of sale
1 cup cold butter, cut in small pieces
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk (you may need a little more)

Preheat oven to 350.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper or baking mats.

Place all dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse until thoroughly blended.

Add butter and pulse about 10 times.

Add egg and 1 tablespoon milk. Pulse until the mixture forms a sticky, stiff dough. Add more milk if it's too dry. (Ours was actually a little too sticky, but the flour added while rolling it out brought it to the right consistency).

Wrap dough in waxed paper and refrigerate at least one hour.

I used a large, plastic rolling mat (I think it's Tupperware brand) to roll out the dough. Flour the mat and rolling pin with rice flour, or another type of gluten-free flour. Roll the dough to about the thickness of a pie crust.

I found that it helped to dip the cookie cutters in flour as well. Cut out cookies and place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake about 12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies turn golden-brown.

Cool completely before frosting.


Several cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
4 tablespoons butter, softened
Milk (we used almond milk)

Place powdered sugar in a mixing bowl. Add extract, butter and about 3 tablespoons of milk. Mix. Add more milk in very small quantities (a little milk will go a long way) until the frosting reaches the right consistency. The frosting should be smooth but not runny.

Add food coloring as desired.

Frost cookies and decorate with sprinkles.

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