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Holiday cookies for the masses

If you are planning on baking as a holiday gift, there are a few things you should know to prevent your cookies from crumbling. Susan Westmoreland, food director for “Good Housekeeping” magazine, shares recipes for Christmas cookies.
/ Source: msnbc.com

If you are planning on baking as a holiday gift, there are a few things you should know to prevent your cookies from crumbling. Susan Westmoreland, food director for “Good Housekeeping” magazine, shares recipes for Christmas cookies that can withstand unsettling packing and shipping.

ALMOND SHORTBREAD BROWNIES

Prep: 1 Hour Plus Cooling

Bake: 40-50 Minutes

INGREDIENTS

1 cup whole natural almonds (4 ounces), toasted

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

1 ¾ cups butter or margarine (3 ½ sticks), softened

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

» teaspoon almond extract

5 squares (5 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, chopped

3 large eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

» teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 squares (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1/3 cup heavy or whipping cream

½ cup sliced almonds, toasted

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 15 ½ ” by 10 ½ ” jelly-roll pan with foil, extending foil over rim.

In blender or in food processor with knife blade attached, process whole almonds with » cup confectioners’ sugar until nuts are finely ground.

In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat ¾ cup butter and remaining ½ cup confectioners’ sugar until blended. Increase speed to high and beat mixture until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; beat in ground-almond mixture, 1 ¾ cups flour, and almond extract just until blended (dough will be stiff). With hands, pat dough onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Meanwhile, in heavy 2-quart saucepan, melt unsweetened chocolate and remaining 1 cup butter over low heat, stirring frequently, until smooth. Remove from heat. Cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

In large bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat eggs, granulated sugar, salt, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until ribbon forms when beaters are lifted, 5 to 10 minutes. Beat in cooled chocolate mixture until blended. With wooden spoon, stir in remaining 1 cup flour. Pour chocolate-flour mixture over shortbread crust. Bake until toothpick inserted 1 inch from edge comes out almost clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack.

In heavy 2-quart saucepan, melt semisweet chocolate with cream over low heat, stirring frequently until smooth. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla. Lift foil with brownie out of pan; peel foil away from sides. With small metal spatula, spread chocolate glaze over brownie. Sprinkle almond slices over top. Let stand at room temperature until set, about 2 hours, or refrigerate 30 minutes.

When set, cut lengthwise into 6 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 12 pieces. Makes 72 brownies.

JUMBO GINGERSNAPS

Prep: 20 minutes

Bake: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

» teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)

¾ cup vegetable shortening

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 large egg

½ cup dark molasses

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In medium bowl, combine flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and pepper if using.

In a large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat shortening and ½ cup sugar until light and fluffy. Best in egg until blended; beat in molasses. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture just until blended.

Place remaining 2 tablespoons sugar on waxed paper. Roll » cup dough into ball; roll in sugar to coat evenly. Repeat with remaining dough to make 10 balls in all. Place balls, 3 inches apart, on ungreased large cookie sheet. Or, for small cookies, roll dough into balls by slightly rounded tablespoons and place 2 inches apart on two ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake until set, about 15 minutes for large cookies, or 9 to 11 minutes for smaller cookies, rotating cookie sheets between upper and lower oven racks halfway through baking. Cookies will be very soft and may appear moist in cracks. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets on wire racks; with wide spatula, transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 10 giant cookies or about 30 small cookies.

LEMON ICEBOX COOKIES

Prep: 20 minutes plus chilling

Bake: 10 minutes per batch

INGREDIENTS

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

» teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 lemons

½ cup butter or margarine (1 stick), softened

¾ cup sugar

1 large egg yolk

DIRECTIONS

In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. From lemons, grate 1 tablespoon peel and squeeze 2 tablespoons juice.

In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolk and lemon peel and juice until combined. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture just until blended.

Divide dough in half. On waxed paper, form one piece of dough into 12-inch log. Repeat with remaining dough. Wrap each log and refrigerate overnight, or freeze until very firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two large cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper or foil. Cut one log crosswise into »-inch-think slices. Place slices, 1 inch apart, on prepared cookie sheets.

Bake until set and golden brown around edge, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating cookie sheets between upper and lower oven racks halfway through baking. With wide spatula, transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Repeat with remaining dough. Makes about 96 cookies.