Gingerbread Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves until well blended and set aside.

In a mixing bowl (e.g. KitchenAid) beat butter and brown sugar until creamy, then add egg and mix at medium speed until well blended. Add molasses, vanilla, and lemon zest and continue to mix until well blended, scraping down the bowl if needed. Gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth.

Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
(Dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, but in this case it should be refrigerated and then returned to room temperature if you plan to roll it out for cut cookies.)

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease or line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll dough into balls and place on cookie sheet 2-3 inches apart. Flatten the balls for a thin crisp cookie, or leave them as they are for a cookie that is crunchy on the outside with a softer center.

-OR-

Place 1 portion of the dough on a lightly floured surface, and sprinkle flour over dough. Roll dough to a scant 1/4-inch thick, dusting rolling pin or keeping the dough between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper. Use additional flour as needed to avoid sticking.

Cut out cookies and space them 1 1/2-inches apart on the cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes for flat cookies or ~12 minutes for round cookies. Cool on a rack and then decorate (or not) as desired.

Citrus Glaze Icing

From the zest and juice of citrus fruits, the glaze can then be made in an amount that will ice about 30 cookies by combining:

Thin Glaze

1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 T. juice
1 t. extract
~1/4 – 1/2 t. of the zest

Combine the powdered sugar and juice in a small bowl and stir until well mixed.  Stir in the extract.  Stir in the zest.  The icing should be of a consistency that will spread slightly when applied to the cookies so that it forms a thin, smooth glaze.  If the icing is too thick, add  juice in small amounts to correct.

Thick Glaze

3/8 c. powdered sugar
1/2 – 1 T. juice
1/4 t. citrus oil

Place the powdered sugar in a small bowl and work in the juice in small amounts until there is just enough to dissolve all the sugar. Add the citrus oil and stir. Food coloring may be added at this stage, but do this very carefully as adding just one drop directly from the bottle may produce a color that is too intense (try using a toothpick instead).

Notes:

A.  When you remove the zest from the fruit, you want to just skin the surface, without taking the white pith.  Using a microplane with a light touch works well for this.

B.  It may seem like you are adding a lot of extract or oil, but you will need this to allow the citrus flavor to emerge over the sweetness of the sugar.

C.  This citrus-flavored glaze works well on sugar cookies or gingerbread cookies.

D. This glaze sets up quickly, so if you want to use sprinkles for additional decoration, shake onto each cookie right after spreading on the glaze.

Sugar Cookies

These are less sugary than most, so they can be decorated with icing or chocolate without becoming overly sweet. Alternatively, you can add 1/4 cup of brown sugar to the recipe and leave undecorated.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until all ingredients are well combined. In another container, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to the mixing bowl, mixing until well blended. Cover bowl or wrap the dough and chill for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Form dough into ~1 inch balls and flatten on parchment paper to about 1/8 – 1/4 inch thickness -OR- on a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into about 1/8 – 1/4 inch thickness and cut use cookie cutters. Arrange the cookies ~2-inches apart and bake 14-16 minutes until moderately browned all over. After the cookies have been cooled, apply cookie icing or chocolate.

NOTE: If you bake these cookies just until the edges start to turn brown, they will taste mealy. These turn out best when the are rolled thin and baked until crispy.

Butter Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
2 cups all-purpose flour

Beat the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla together until smooth and creamy. Mix in the egg yolk until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl at least once. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Scrape onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times to smooth out the dough, taking care not to overwork. Turn onto a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a log, wrap up and refrigerate for several hours.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. 7 Line baking sheets with parchment. Slice the dough into slices about 1/8″ thick or roll the dough out and cut with cookie cutters. Place cookies on sheet about an inch apart. Bake until JUST beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 16-17 minutes.

Mom’s Cocoa Fudge

I got this recipe from my mother back when I was still a student. The first time Dan and I made this fudge, we let it boil too long and thus destroyed an enameled saucepan at the home of a former president of Yale University (where we were house sitting while the family vacationed at Martha’s Vineyard.) So I recommend using a candy thermometer.

2/3 c. powdered cocoa
1 3/4 c. sugar
1/8 t. salt
1 1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. butter
1 t. vanilla

Combine the cocoa powder, sugar, and salt. Place these in a heavy saucepan, and slowly stir in the milk. Using medium heat and stirring continually, bring the mixture to a boil. Keep the mixture at a slow boil, without stirring, until is reaches the soft ball stage (235° F) Remove from heat, then add butter and vanilla without stirring. Cool at room temperature to about 110° F. Beat by hand until the fudge just begins to lose some of its gloss. Spread quickly into a lightly buttered 8-inch square pan. When it has completely cooled and set, cut into squares.

Notes:

  1. I like this fudge for the intensity of its chocolate flavor and for its texture, in which you can detect the crystallization of the sugar.
  2. As you beat the fudge, it will begin to thicken. Once the fudge begins to lose its gloss, you need to get it into a pan quickly before it becomes too stiff to work with.

Caggionetti

There are many variations of filling for caggionetti, though the base seems to nearly always be ceci beans, chestnuts, or — most traditionally — a combination of the two. These are soft-cooked and then mashed together with the other ingredients. Most recipes also include cocoa powder, grated chocolate, or melted chocolate. Sweetness is provided by sugar, honey, or grape must. Other common ingredients are chopped nuts, candied citron, orange zest, and cinnamon.

After looking at various recipes and doing some experimentation, I’ve come up with my own version of caggionetti:

PASTRY INGREDIENTS
4 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. olive oil
2/3 c. white wine
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
cold water as needed

FILLING INGREDIENTS
5 oz. cooked ceci beans
2 Tbs. cocoa powder
1 tsp. instant espresso coffee powder
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. powdered sugar
3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, grated or melted
2-3 oz. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. candied citron
1/2 – 1 c. chopped walnuts (2-3 oz.)
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. orange oil
zest from one orange

Purée the ceci beans in a food processor, then add the other filling ingredients, processing as needed to evenly distribute. Set the filling aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the oil and wine, then knead, adding the cold water as needed to get a dough that holds together. Knead he dough for several more minutes to make sure the ingredients are well blended. On a lightly floured cutting board, roll out the dough as thin as you can get it. Cut out circles, place about 1/2 t. of filling on each circle, then fold over and seal the edges as you would a ravioli. Fry the cookies in hot Canola oil, turning once, until both sides are lightly browned. Remove to a plate or tray lined with paper towels for draining. Sprinkle with sugar while still hot.

Jam Dots

While these are sometimes referred to as “thumbprint” cookies, I call them “jam dots” because I use something other than a thumb to make the indentation that the jam goes into.

3/4 c softened butter
1/2 c sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c flour
1/4 t salt
1 c finely chopped nuts (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Mix together the flour and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla.
  4. Mix in flour a little bit at a time, then (optionally) add the chopped nuts.  Mix until the ingredients are distributed and a soft dough has formed.  Do not overmix.
  5. Refrigerate the dough 15-30 minutes to firm it up.
  6. Roll dough into 3/4 inch balls.
  7. Place balls 2 inches apart on an air-cushion cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  8. Use a round instrument to make a deep well in the center of each cookie and fill with ~1/4 teaspoon of preserves.
  9. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cookies just begin to brown.
  10. Transfer from cookie sheets to rack for cooling.

Notes: 

A.  Adding chopped nuts results in a shorter and more tender crumb.  Without the nuts, the cookies are tasty and sturdy.  Making some dough with nuts and keeping some plain vanilla will add to the variety of a holiday tray.

B.  I use the rounded end of a plastic honey server to make the jam wells.  Making an even indentation helps to keep the jam from running over the edges. 

C.  I use air-cushion cookie sheets for these cookies because its difficult otherwise to bake the cookie through to the center without over browning the bottoms.

D.  Even after setting up, the jam centers can be a bit sticky.  Drizzling chocolate in thin stripes across the cookie tops will help to keep them from sticking together, as well as giving decorative flair.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
½ to ¾ cup sugar (the lesser amount is necessary for crunchy peanut butter)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine peanut butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla until well blended. Shape into 1” balls (or use 2 tsp scoop) onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten balls in a crisscross pattern with a fork, or to make thumb-print cookies to fill with ganache.

Bake 8-14 minutes at 350º or until golden. Makes about 24 cookies.

NOTES

A. Use a mixer to combine the ingredients, but take care not to mix too long – the dough becomes stiffer as it is mixed.

B. Air-cushion baking sheets work well for these. They allow more even browning without the bottoms overbaking. Using these, allow 12-14 minutes for baking.

Powdered Sugar Icing

This flavorful, smooth, slightly translucent, shiny glaze is great for decorating sugar cookies or drizzling over other desserts.

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
food color, if desired

Combine powdered sugar, water, 1 tablespoon butter, corn syrup and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in small mixer bowl; mix until powdered sugar is moistened. Beat at medium speed until smooth, adding additional water if necessary, to reach desired glazing consistency. Tint with food color, if desired.

Note: Originally found on the website of Better Homes and Gardens. I posted it here because it has disappeared from their website, and it’s a great recipe.