The 12 Days of Holiday Cookies: Day Eight

Decadent Chocolate Chunk Cookies 
with a Latte for Dunking

Sometimes during the holiday season, the cookie baker needs a treat, too.

For maximum pick-me-up and minimal fuss, I vote for this chocolate chip cookie that is fortified by chopped walnuts and tastes fabulous dunked in a latte. 

Even better if the latte has a holiday ornament/apple/pomegranate artfully inscribed in the foam!

There's something positively therapeutic about warm, oozy chocolate and a milky, espresso-dark latte.

I feel better just thinking about that combination.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies
(Adapted from Judith Fertig's Bake Happy, to debut in May 2015)
Erin Brown of Dolce Bakery in Prairie Village, Kansas, welcomes the relaxed pace of baking in her home kitchen. Brown’s husband, a professional athlete, “trains like a beast,” she says, but he saves room for her Chocolate Chunk Cookies, adapted here, dipped in an Affogato . For these cookies, bigger is better to achieve a gooey interior and a crispy exterior. If you want to work ahead, mix and place the cookies on a baking sheet. Freeze, then remove the unbaked cookies from the baking sheet and freeze them in a sealable plastic bag for up to 3 months. Bake from frozen about 8 to 12 minutes  longer.
Makes 24 (2-ounce) cookies
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (265 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
11/2 cups (270 g) semisweet chocolate chunks
1 cup (180 g) large bittersweet chocolate chips
11/2 cups (180 g) cups finely chopped walnuts
1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 packed cup (220 g) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste)
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a second bowl, combine the chocolate chips, chunks, and walnuts.
Place the butter and sugars in a large bowl and cream together with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy , about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating and scraping after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Beat in the dry ingredients on low speed, a fourth at a time, adding the chocolate chip and nut mixture with the last of the flour. 
Scoop 2 tablespoons of the dough at a time onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each cookie.
Bake, one pan at a time, until browned and crispy at the edges and soft in the middle, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months. To warm, microwave a frozen cookie on high for 15 to 20 seconds or until warm and gooey.

So Happy Together:
Chocolate Chunk Cookies + Affogato
A warm Chocolate Chunk Cookie dunked in an affogato can elevate a wonderful experience into the unforgettable—if you love coffee.  To make an affogato, Italian for “drowned,” simply put a scoop of ice cream or gelato in a coffee cup and pour a shot or two of hot espresso over it. Let the ice cream melt just a little, then dunk a still-warm Chocolate Chunk Cookie.

The 12 Days of Holiday Cookies: Day Seven

Shimmer Cookies

When I'm in the midst of a baking project, I have King Arthur Flour Company on speed dial. (And no, this is not a sponsored post. It's simply a fact.)

Whatever it is that I need--a special type of flour, unique flavorings, the right pan, or unique cupcake wrappers--I can find in their online or paper catalogue.

What's even better  is their treasure trove of baking recipes on their web site, kitchen-tested and approved by many readers.

That's where I found this recipe for Shimmer Cookies, flavored with Fiori di Sicilia (Flowers of Sicily), a unique blend of vanilla, citrus, and flower essences.  

Shimmer Cookies, photo courtesy of King Arthur Flour Company
These cookies sparkle just like snow. With their mellow, creamy citrus flavor, they're a refreshing complement to the usual spicy, decadent cookie selection at holiday time.

Recipe courtesy of King Arthur Flour

Makes  24 to 26 filled cookies

            1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
            3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
            1/4 teaspoon salt
            1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia (or vanilla)
            2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

            coarse white sparkling sugar, for coating
            1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
            6 tablespoons unsalted butter
            1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
            1 to 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
            colored sparkling sugar or sprinkles, for coating

            1) Preheat the oven to 350°F, and grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment paper.
            2) To make the cookies: Beat together the butter, sugar, salt, and Fiori until creamy.
            3) Add the flour, and mix just until incorporated.
            4) Shape teaspoon-sized balls of dough, and roll them in sparkling sugar.
            5) Place the cookies 1" apart on the prepared baking sheets.
            6) Bake the cookies until they're just beginning to brown along the edges, 16 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven, and cool completely.
            7) To make the filling: Beat all the ingredients together until light and fluffy.
            8) To assemble the cookies: Sandwich a 1/4"-thick layer of filling between two cookies, and roll the filling edge in the colored sugar or sprinkles.


The 12 Days of Holiday Cookies: Day Six

Swedish Wishing Cookies

Today's cookie post involves a bit of a travelogue.

We're going to Lindsborg, Kansas, a wheat-farming college town founded by Swedish settlers in the 1860s and proud of its Swedish heritage.

Nick Fertig eating an ice cream cone at Lindsborg Town Hall.

Throughout the year, the community holds ethnic celebrations. 

Today marks St. Lucia Fest (follow the link to a 6-minute video), held on the Saturday closest to the traditional December 13 Saint Lucia Day.

Lindsborg celebrates both its wheat-farming and Swedish identities with holiday decorations.

Christmas trees, indoors and out, are decked with red-ribboned wheat sheaves and tiny white lights.

Instead of greenery, bundles of prairie grains, also tied with red ribbon, really give you a sense of place. 

You start off the day with a Swedish Bake Sale

but you better get there early or all the best Swedish specialties will be gone. 

Then, the Swedish folk dancers in traditional costume

start their procession down the main street to the Lutheran church. Its architecture is part Swedish, part small town America.

The Swedish dancers pass out pepparkakor or crisp ginger cookies, sometimes called Swedish Wishing Cookies, to those savvy enough to line the streets.

Inside the church, the St. Lucia pageant participants gather.

There is a Star Boy.

And lots of little Saint Lucias (with battery-operated candles in the crowns!).

After the Saint Lucia pageant at the church, you might wander downtown again and come across a demonstration of sweet yeast rolls known as Lucia Buns, flavored with saffron, formed into traditional shapes, and decorated with currants or raisins before baking.

After all that, you're hungry again.

Good thing you can go home and bake a batch of Swedish Wishing Cookies to remember your day.

Swedish Wishing Cookies

Adapted from All-American Desserts by Judith M. Fertig

For St. Lucia Day in the homes of families of Swedish descent, the eldest daughter wears a white gown with a red sash and crown of tiny white lights. In the darkness of a December 13 morning, she brings a tray of saffron-flavored Lucia buns or cookies like these in to her parents’ bedroom.  In public celebrations, a teenage girl playing the role of St. Lucia offers pepparkakor or these cookies to both adults and children who attend the festivities that might include Swedish folk dancing and the St. Lucia and Star Boy pageant. When these spice cookies are rolled very thinly and cut out in heart shapes, they become “wishing cookies,” a charming holiday tradition. St. Lucia gives a child a cookie to hold in the palm of one hand and tells the child to make a wish. With the index finger of the other hand bent, the child strikes the cookie with a knuckle. If the cookie breaks into three pieces, the wish will be granted. If not, there are still those delicious cookie pieces to gobble up. 
Makes 5 dozen
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup light molasses
2 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated orange rind
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. Beat in the egg, molasses, and orange rind. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the egg mixture, a cup at a time, beating well with each addition. Cover and refrigerate the dough for several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. 
Roll out the dough, a portion at a time, on a floured surface to a 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out with heart-shaped cookie cutters or the shape of your choice. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets. 
Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until browned at the edges. Cool on wire racks. Store in airtight containers.

The 12 Days of Holiday Cookies: Day Five

Ugly Sweater Sugar Cookies

A good sugar cookie recipe and a collection of cookie cutters can take you through any occasion. 

Snowflakes and mittens, flowers and ducks , baseballs and flags, autumn leaves and squirrels, Christmas trees and the Star of David.

Making and decorating sugar cookies can be a lengthy and messy process, especially if you do it with kids. 

I can do something about the lengthy and messy process business--a sugar cookie dough you can make, roll out without a mess in batches, and even freeze.

But you're on your own with the kids. Chaos is just part of the whole experience.

When I came across these Ugly Sweater Cookies from Cookie Jar Bakery in Lee's Summit, Missouri, I thought Perfect!

Photo from Cookie Jar Bakery

They also have a way with traditional shapes, as in these Christmas trees. Great idea for a new twist on a classic theme.

Photo from Cookie Jar Bakery
Cookie Jar Bakery has also done Pumpkin Pie Slice Cookies and Turkey Leg Cookies for Thanksgiving.

What I'm leading up to is adding a little humor to some of your holiday baking.

Look for a sweater cookie cutter and a squeeze bottle or two or three (for outlining and filling in cookie decoration with royal icing), make up batches of sugar cookie dough and royal icing, put some holiday music on, and bake something that will make someone smile. Or chuckle. Or snort. You know who you are.

Ugly Sweater Sugar Cookies
(The shape was inspired by Cookie Jar Bakery, but the recipe is mine.)

A standout sugar cookie starts with a dough that tastes good and performs well under adverse conditions (like a pack of preschoolers in a small kitchen). This one definitely does. The dough has a buttery, vanilla-scented flavor; is easy to roll out; and doesn’t spread during baking. The dough can also be frozen for up to three months, then can be rolled out, cut out, and baked into cookies. Once the dough is made, the process of cutting out the sugar cookies is a great opportunity for nostalgia and collecting. In our family, making holiday sugar cookies with the kids has always been fun—and messy.  For the best results, sift the flour first, then measure it. Rolling out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper keeps the mess to a minimum and results in more tender cookies without that extra flour. Paint the cookies with Cookie Paint (royal icing). You can find meringue powder at hobby, craft, and cake supply stores or online.
Makes 30 (3-inch) cookies
Classic Sugar Cookie Dough:
3 cups (285 g) sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla, almond, or lemon extract
Cookie Paint:
2 tablespoons meringue powder
1/4 cup (50 ml) cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla, almond, lemon, or raspberry extract
2 cups (240 g) confectioners’ sugar
Food coloring
For the Classic Sugar Cookie Dough, sift (again) the flour with the baking powder and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until very pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and extract. Beat in the dry ingredients, a third at a time, until the dough just comes together. Gather the dough into a ball and knead for 1 minute. Cut it in half and form each half into a flattened disc. Use right away or wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Let the dough come to room temperature before rolling out.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Have ready two large (11 by 17 inches) sheets of parchment paper or two silicon baking mats. Place one on a flat surface. Place one disc of dough in the center and cover with the second piece of parchment or silicon baking mat. Roll out the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out the cookie shapes and place close to each other on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
Bake the cookies until the edges are golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

For the Cookie Paint, whisk the meringue powder, water, extract, and confectioners’ sugar together in a medium bowl until smooth and of a paint-like consistency. If you like, divide the paint among separate bowls and tint each bowl a different color. Using a clean, large watercolor, paint, or pastry brush (or a squeeze bottle) paint the cookies and leave to dry for at least 1 hour. Serve right away or store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.