Here come the Christmas cookies...

christmas_cookies

BUTTERSCOTCH SHORTBREADS Substituting brown sugar for white adds a subtle butterscotch flavor to shortbreads. About 30 cookies, depending on the size of the cutter you use.

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

2 or 3 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment or foil

  1. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer.
  3. Beat with the paddle on medium speed until soft and light, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a large rubber spatula to stir in the flour by hand.
  5. Scrape the dough to a floured surface and press it into a rough rectangle.
  6. Cut off a quarter of the dough and flour on and under it.  Gently roll to a 1/4-inch thick.  Use a plain round cutter about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter to cut out cookies, placing them on one of the prepared pans about an inch apart all around.
  7. Remember to incorporate the scraps from the first piece of dough under the next piece before rolling it.  Repeat until all the dough and the final scraps have been used.
  8. Bake the cookies until they are very pale golden, about 15 to 30 minutes.  If your oven gives strong bottom heat, bake the pan of cookies on the lower rack stacked on another pan for insulation.
  9. Slide the papers from the pans to racks to cool. Keep in a tin or wrap and freeze for longer storage.

 

SWISS CHOCOLATE SANDWICH COOKIES

Without exaggeration, these are among the 10 best cookies I have ever made, especially because they are so simple to prepare.  Two factors are very important:  make sure the butter is very soft, the consistency of mayonnaise, or it won’t mix smoothly with the chocolate.  Also, be careful to use a semisweet, not a bittersweet chocolate, or the cookie bases will lack sweetness, since the only sugar in them comes from what is in the chocolate.

Makes about 20 sandwich cookies

COOKIE DOUGH

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

FILLING

3 ounces milk chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

Confectioners’ sugar for finishing

Two cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment or foil

  1. For the dough, use a large rubber spatula to stir the butter smooth in a mixing bowl.  Stir in the chocolate, then the flour.  Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, press it flat, and cover.  Chill until firm, about an hour.
  2. When you are ready to bake the cookies, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  3. Unwrap the dough and divide it in half. Place on a floured surface and use a rolling pin to gently pound the dough to soften.  Roll the dough a little less than 1/4-inch thick and use a fluted round 2-inch cutter for the cookies.  Arrange the cookie bases on one of the prepared pans about an inch apart in all directions.  Incorporate scraps from rolling the dough into the remaining dough and continue rolling and cutting the cookie bases until all the dough is used.
  4. Bake the cookies until they look dull and are slightly firm, about 12 to 15 minutes.  Cool on the pans on racks.
  5. To fill the cookies, turn half the cookie bases over and pipe or spread a dab of filling on the flat side.  Top with remaining bases, pressing them together.  Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar.  Store in a tin but they won't last long...

 

MINCEMEAT COOKIES These have an especially festive holiday flavor, plus they are really easy to make.

Makes about 40 cookies

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup prepared mincemeat

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

2 or 3 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment or foil

  1. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar until soft and light, then beat in the egg and yolk, continuing to beat until smooth.
  3. Beat in a half cup of the flour, then the mincemeat.
  4. Combine the remaining flour with the salt, spices, baking soda, and nutmeats and incorporate by hand using a large rubber spatula.
  5. Drop teaspoons of the batter in the prepared pans, keeping them a couple of inches apart.
  6. Bake until they are well risen, golden and still a bit moist, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Cool on pans on a rack and store in a tin or other container with a tight-fitting cover.