Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Cookies - Part 1 (of 5....yup, there is 5 parts to this...!)

For me, cookies inspire warm Christmas memories.  There is nothing like snuggling up beside a Christmas tree with a buttery shortbread and a hot cup of tea while watching 'The Sound of Music' to give me that 'festive' feeling. 

My love of Christmas cookies is how 'National Day of Baking' was founded in my world.  This is a day (usually close to Christmas day) where I bake until there is no butter left in the grocery store and my feet are throbbing and the entire house smells of warm-buttery-vanilla goodness.  These cookies are then given to family and friends so they too can share in the simple joys of the season.     

This year was no exception....the following was the result of my '2011 National Day of Baking'...

-Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookies
-Candy Cane Hershey's Kiss Chocolate Cookies
-Cookies ‘n' Cream Hershey's Kiss Chocolate cookies
-Basic Shortbread
-Whipped Shortbread

This was my first attempt at making sugar cookies.  I didn't love them at first, but the day after they were decorated, I think all the flavours set in and I couldn't stop eating them....

(I've adapted the recipe below from one I found on the Food Network for Chewy Sugar Cookies...

Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookies
(4 dozen medium sized cookies)

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 sticks (salted) butter (1 cup), room temperature
1 egg
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp pure almond extract

(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees
(2) In a small bowl, mix together flour and baking powder
(3) In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth (about 3 minutes)
(4) Beat in egg, vanilla and almond extract until combined
(5) Gradually blend in dry ingredients until combined
(6) Remove dough from mixing bowl;  On a floured surface, knead dough together with hands as it will be crumbly; press into a disk to prepare it for rolling
(7) Roll dough with rolling pin to about 1/4" thickness and cut into desired shapes (note: if dough is sticking to rolling pin, sprinkle dough with flour and continue rolling)
(8) Bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes, to golden brown
(9) Remove from oven and let sit on cookie tray for a few minutes before transferring to a drying rack
(10) Allow to cool completely before decorating
(11) Decorate (Cream Cheese Icing Recipe below) and allow to dry overnight before packaging....this is the time to have fun with different nonpareils (as I clearly did from the picture below...haha!).

Cream Cheese Icing for Decorating
(A basic royal icing will work too...I personally like the flavour of cream cheese icing...)

1 pound 9 ounces powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup butter
8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)

In large bowl, with an electric mixer, cream together butter and cream cheese. Mix in vanilla until combined. By hand, mix in powdered sugar.. 
***If icing is not stiff enough to decorate with, place in fridge for 1/2 hour or add more powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. 
***Alternately, if icing is too stiff, add a tiny touch of water until desired consistency is reached. 

Next up....To continue my new found love affair with different types of Hershey's kisses...Candy Cane Hershey's Kiss Chocolate Cookies....

Happy Cooking!

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