Best Ever Cookie Connection Newsletter
December 22, 2008
It's that most delicious time of year again for cookie lovers everywhere. With Christmas quickly approaching, I am here to offer last minute advice and recipes.
The nice thing about cookies is that most of them can be made in stages. You can make up your dough one day and let it sit in the refrigerator for a day or two or three. Then, you can bake your cookies on another day.
Most types of cookie dough and baked cookies freeze well too.
Cookie baking doesn't have to be stressful once you know the secrets!
Baking cookies is aromatherapy at its best. The sweet smell of vanilla has been shown to be calming and soothing to the nervous system while spices like cinnamon have been linked to improved concentration and mental functioning!
There are lot more benefits to cookie baking than meet the eye. It is a meaningful way to create connection and build lasting memories - something more important than anything money can buy.
And if you just don't get to baking a batch of cookies before Christmas, don't worry - you can always make up a batch for New Years!
Cookie Baking Tips and Tricks
Here are some favorite tips and tricks for cookie baking success:
- Always let hot cookie sheets cool between batches.
- For even baking, bake one sheet at a time on the middle oven rack.
- To toast nuts or coconut, place in a single layer in a shallow baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. For even toasting, stir once or twice during baking.
More Help with Cookie Baking Tips and Ingredients
Before we get baking, here is a little Christmas Cookie History and trivia to get you in the spirit of the season.
Did you know...
- Christmas cookies date back to Medieval Europe?
- Dutch and German settlers first introduced cookie cutters to America?
- German gingerbread (lebkuchen) was probably the first cookie/cake associated with Christmas?
- Sugar cookie recipes descended from the English?
- Animal crackers began as edible ornaments?
- Nabisco introduced Animal Crackers to the American public in 1902 as a seasonal item and its brightly colored boxes were promoted as Christmas tree ornaments (that's what the string was for!)?
- The Wellesley Cookie Exchange, a most famous American cookie exchange, began in 1971 as a way to relieve holiday stress?
More on the History of Cookies
Some Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes:
Since gingerbread was probably the first Christmas cookie, it seems appropriate to include it in our inaugural Cookie Connection Newsletter. I love gingerbread and this is a great recipe for a soft, not crispy, gingerbread cookies. This gingerbread cookies dough requires time in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly, before it can be rolled and baked.
Gingerbread Cookies Recipe
- 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
- In a large bowl combine the flour, spices, salt, baking powder, and baking soda with a whisk until well blended.
- In another large bowl beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is well blended and creamy.
- Add half the flour mixture and beat until blended, stopping to scrape down the bowl.
- Beat in the molasses, scraping the bowl again to get everything well blended.
- Stir in the remaining flour, just until incorporated.
- Place about 2 cups of dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and press into a rectangle a little more than 1/4-inch thick. Repeat with remaining dough until you have several packets of dough.
- Chill the dough for at least one hour and up to several days.
- When you are ready to cut and bake your gingerbread cookies, set the oven racks in the middle and upper third of your oven and preheat the oven to 350F degrees.
- Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick foil.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator, one package at a time.
- Unwrap the dough and place it on a floured surface.
- Lightly flour the dough and roll it out to make it even and just 1/4 inch thick.
- Cut with floured cookie cutters and arrange on the prepared cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.
- If you want to be able to hang your gingerbread cookies, pierce a whole large enough to thread a string or ribbon in them. I like to use a chopstick for this.
- Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until firm when pressed with your fingertip.
- Remove from the oven and cool the cookies on the cookie sheets for a minute or two and then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.
- Re-roll scraps immediately or press together, chill and re-roll later.
- Repeat with remaining dough.
- Once cool you can either decorate them immediately or store them in an airtight container for a day or two until you are ready to decorate.
Yield: The number of cookies will totally depend on the size of the cookie cutters you use.
Source: This gingerbread cookies recipe is adapted from Recipezaar
Royal Icing for Decorating your Gingerbread Cookies
This sweet icing is perfect for decorating your gingerbread men. Meringue powder or powdered egg whites are a quick, easy, and healthy solution to raw egg whites usually called for. You can divide the icing into separate portions and color each with food coloring for more decorating options. This icing hardens quickly when exposed to air, which is great for the decorated cookies but not so great for the unused icing so be sure to cover any icing you don't plan on using right away with plastic wrap pressed right down on top of it.
Royal Icing Recipe
- 2 tablespoons meringue powder or powdered egg whites
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar
- In a medium size bowl combine the meringue powder and water with an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or hand held mixer.
- Beat on high speed until soft peaks form.
- Add the confectioners' sugar and beat until the icing is shiny and smooth. This should take about 3 to 5 minutes.
- To adjust the consistency of your icing you can add a little more water to make it thinner or a little more sugar to make it thicker.
- Place the icing in a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip to decorate your cookies or spread the icing on with a small offset spatula or small clean paintbrushes used only for this purpose. Let your creative cookie decorating juices run wild!
Additional Favorite Holiday Cookie Recipes
Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies
Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Pecan Crusted Pumpkin Squares
Best Wishes For a Happy Holiday Cookie Baking Season. We look forward to continuing our fun connection through all things cookies in 2009.