Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Christmas Cookies – Get Ready

It doesn’t have to be so hard. Yes, you are working. Yes, you have children. Yes, you have a million obligations, and the presents to buy and the presents to wrap and the presents to mail, and the cards to write.

Take a deep breath.

There’s an old joke. How do you eat an elephant? The answer? One bite at a time. Let that be your mantra. When you start breathing in short gasps, when you think you will never get it done, think “one bite at a time”.

Think about how much time is wasted at work. In those meetings, when the pompous so-and-so who is always bragging about her project, or the jerk is going on and on about what he has done, and it is pathetic, YOU can be organizing.

Here is the cool thing. When you write things down, you also get to check them off. Once you have written a bunch of things down, you also can see more clearly what comes first, what has more importance, what you can actually let go, and you can give them some sort of priority, on paper. You will be amazed how good it feels to be able to cross things off your list. Use notecards – you can quickly revise them. Save the used ones to savor after Christmas, to see how much you really did get done. You will be surprised – and proud.

So what are YOUR must-dos? Once you know what the must do’s are, you can draw a little time line . . .do today, do next week, do just before Christmas . . .write in when all the cookies are due. You know, your child’s Christmas party, the Lessons and Carols service, your husband’s office party, your office party. . .and you will be able to see when you need to get the majority of your baking done. Or the majority of your Christmas-goody buying. Who says you need to provide home baked cookies? Sometimes, you throw money at the problem.

But IF you are going to bake cookies – and it is a cool, easy thing to do if you have been making notes – let’s get it out of the way.

Advent starts next Sunday – so let’s plan to start the baking this coming Saturday.

What will you need? For sure you will need fine, white flour, and fine white sugar. For you in the US, that is a given, you don’t even think twice about it. For people in other parts of the world, sugar is not always so incredibly fine, or so white.

If you are facing that sugar problem, get a blender. Blenders make so many things so easy, they are cheap and they are a Godsend to the busy person trying to put together Christmas.

Pour that large grained sugar, a cup at a time, into the blender, and turn the blender on. It won’t give you the refined sugar of back home, but a good whirl will cut some of those larger lumps down into a sugar usable in cookie recipes like Spritz, where it has to be able to come through the press, and large lumps of sugar cause annoying hold-ups while you clean them out of the mold every time. it’s worth a few extra minutes, and you can just set aside a half hour one evening to whirl sugar. That’s it – you’re done.

As well as the flour and the sugar, you will need butter – lots of butter. Some people use other solid shortening, but folks – it’s Christmas. Nothing tastes like real butter. When you cook with real butter, they taste better, and you only eat one or two, because they satisfy you, instead of gobbling the whole bunch and having to start all over again!

You will need flavoring – vanilla for sure, almond flavoring and lemon flavoring if you are doind different kinds of cookies. Walnuts if you are doing Mexican Wedding Cakes/Russian Tea Cakes, which are where we will start because they are SO SO easy. You will need red food coloring and green food coloring. You will need confectioner’s sugar, lots of it. A little evaporated milk.

And you will need Tupperware containers. Well, not necessarily Tupperware, but some large containers, air-tight, for storing dough in the refrigerator and then for storing cookies you have made.

See, we are eating this elephant one bite at a time. On the way home from (work, picking up the kids, soccer practice, choir practice) you stop at the store and get the flour and sugar and walnuts and flavorings – you know what you need because you have your LIST! Wooo Hoooo! In and out of the supermarket in a flash, and on your way back home.

Leave a couple sticks of butter out (in the microwave if you have a cat – cats will lick the butter if you leave it out) to soften while you fix dinner. Feed the kids, get the dishes out of the way and quick – before you fall down in exhaustion! – mix up a batch of cookie dough!

Here’s what I suggest:

Russian Tea Cakes
Spritz Cookies
Sugar Cookies
Candy Cane Cookies

That is all. Russian Tea Cakes are so so easy, especially with a food processor. Mix the dough one night, roll the cookies and bake another night – see? One bite at a time. Here’s the trick – the Russian Tea Cakes will all be snowy white, from the confectioner’s sugar on the outside.

Make two different kinds of Spritz cookies – yes, you can. The cookie presses are CHEAP and they last for years. You will need to get the feel of it, but that just takes a little practice. You can do it. The secret is keeping the dough in the refrigerator and popping it through the press is it is cool enough to stick together.

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So you make a triple batch of Spritz cookie dough, and divide it into two portions. Color one portion green – and use a lot of green food coloring so the color will be strong and you can make trees. The other portion can be used for wreaths, or whatever you want to choose. You will be surprised how quickly you can make a variety of cookies with the Spritz cookier maker. (yes, I will post these cookie recipes – right now, we are still making lists. We won’t bake until this weekend.)

Now come the sugar cookies. Again, double the recipe, make it one night so it will be all ready to go when YOU have the time. If you have children and want them to have Christmas Cooky experience, sugar cookies are where you want them to spend their time. Let them roll out the dough and cut a cookie or two – most kids will lose interest in a very short time, but they will remember that they helped! 😉

Again, key to the PERCEPTION that you have done a lot of baking is that we will glaze these cookies with three colors of icing, one set white (like stars) one set green (like trees) and one set red (like reindeer). Sugar cookies are a pain to make, lots of fiddly work, but they are big and showy, and worth the morning it takes to get them done. They go a long way.

Candy Cane Cookies – the dough is a lot like sugar cookie dough, you divide the recipe in half, color one half red, twist lengths of these together, form into candy cane form and bake. Voila!

You’ve baked four kinds of cookies in three different colors.

You buy sturdy paper plates (and raid the post-Christmas sales at the party supply stores this year to stock up on these) so that you don’t have to worry about getting your plate back, and you put a few of each of these cookies on the plate. You will be amazed at how good it looks, with the different cookies on the plate, and how easy it was.

Above recipes will follow. I will even include one special recipe for extra credit – Swedish Rosettes. You will need to find a Rosette Iron, which usually comes with two disks, always one lacy round one, and often one for a shell that can be filled. It takes a couple hours, but the results are amazing. You get to do that one because you made your lists, did a little bit of prep here and there, got the cookies baked and even have a little extra time to dance for joy. Go for it!

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The cookie press and the rosette iron are both from Amazon.com, only because I couldn’t get any other photos to print. There are other sources – cooking.com, maid of scandinavia, etc. These are tools worth the small investment – you use them year after year.

But remember, this is extra credit, not required. You can do it next year!

November 27, 2006 - Posted by | Christmas, Cooking, ExPat Life

6 Comments »

  1. i’ve always wondered what elephant would taste like 😛

    after reading that i might actually try makin cookies this xmas, gotta find sugar free recipes tho other wise the parents will bitch an moan about their sugar levels……

    Comment by skunk | November 27, 2006 | Reply

  2. Christmas baking in our house meant angels’ kisses cookies. so much more work, and they never lasted long enough to be given away, but they are SO good.

    I don’t have my mother’s recipe to hand, but I found a similar one on the web. It lacks the cup of chocolate chips we added, though, so I will include another one, with a different ‘baking’ process, below it.

    Angels’ Kisses Recipe 1:

    Ingredients
    4 egg whites, at room temperature
    1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1/4 teaspoon peppermint or mint extract or desired fruit-flavored flavoring
    Few drops red or green food coloring
    Sprinkles or colored sugar (optional)

    Preparation
    1) Preheat oven to 250°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil; set aside.
    2) Beat egg whites in large bowl with electric mixer at high speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and salt; beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Beat in extract and food coloring.
    3) Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of egg white mixture onto prepared baking sheets; decorate with sprinkles, if desired.
    4) Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until cookies are firm to the touch and just beginning to brown around edges. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

    (http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/sweet-as-angels-kisses-recipe.htm)

    Angels’ Kisses Recipe 2:

    3 large egg whites
    3/4 c granulated sugar
    1/4 tsp cream of tartar
    1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
    1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

    1. pre-heat oven to 325 F (160 C).
    2. In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, a little at a time; add cream of tartar and peppermint extract. Beat mixture until stiff peaks form.
    3. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls [ours are usually tablespoon-fuls] onto an ungreased baking sheet. Turn off the oven and place the baking sheet inside for two hours with door closed. (If kisses are not dry, reheat oven and dry for 30 minutes more, with oven off and door closed.) [But be careful not to over-dry – the best part of the kisses is the soft center.]

    (http://www.cooksrecipes.com/candy/angel_kisses_recipe.html, with a few editorial changes made by me while retyping!)

    Comment by adiamondinsunlight | November 27, 2006 | Reply

  3. Hi SKNK – hmmmmm, low sugar Christmas cookies . . . oh my friend, I don’t know! I would think the meringues given my Little Diamond just above might be light enough, but they do have sugar . . . . I’ll keep my eyes open. Your parents are so blessed to have a son who will treat them to cookies!

    My theory is, if you use really good ingredients, your tastebuds are satiated sooner, so you actually eat less bad stuff. I don’t know if that is really true.

    Little Diamond! Sorry I missed your call last night, we were at church. Glad you added the meringues; I had planned to put them in the extra credit section, and you saved me the effort – many thanks, dear one! 🙂

    You CAN find parchment paper here, but you can also cut up a brown paper bag in a pinch, and use it.

    Comment by intlxpatr | November 27, 2006 | Reply

  4. […] In the comment section of Christmas Cookies: Get Ready Little Diamond gave two recipes for her favorite cookies, which she calls Angel Kisses. Since we are related, it is no great surprise that I like them, too, and you will want to take a look at her recipes. […]

    Pingback by Christmas Cookies: Extra Credit Meringue Cookies « Here There and Everywhere | December 4, 2006 | Reply

  5. Wow! She’s right folks. The mexican wedding cakes are soooo easy and everyone loved them. I finally made cookies for the first time and the only complaint I have is they seemed much too dry. I remember them as a child being more moist/melt-in-your-mouth. What did I do wrong? I want to make them again, but I don’t know what to change.
    HELP!

    Comment by Josie | December 4, 2006 | Reply

  6. I think they ARE a little dry; it’s their nature. Try making smaller balls. . . Maybe cook 1 minute less. Now that you have tried them, you can play a little. Thanks for your feedback, Josie! (Now try the meringues or macaroons!)

    Comment by intlxpatr | December 5, 2006 | Reply


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