Baking up delicious Christmas favorites

KEARNEYSVILLE – Sugar cookies. Oatmeal-and-raisin. Snicker doodles. Peanut butter. Chocolate chip. So many delicious cookie recipes passed down the generations!

While you can buy wonderful cookies at local bakeries and markets or go with an easy purchased mix, there’s something terrific about finding just the right recipe, measuring all your ingredients and heading to the kitchen to make a bit of a mess. Get some flour on the floor – and your shirt, pants and face – and your loved ones will know you’ve toiled to create something special for them.

And baking this time of year is especially heart-warming. I spoke with Penni Houser of Kearneysville, who told me that growing up in the late 1950s, her favorite part of getting ready for Christmas was making Snappy Turtle Cookies with her aunt. Years later, after her aunt’s death, Houser lost the recipe until she was lucky enough to finally find one online.

Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt and set aside. In another bowl, cream 1/4 cup butter and gradually add 1/2 cup brown sugar, beating until creamed. Into the mix, add one egg and one egg yolk. (Set aside the egg white to use later.) Beat well to incorporate the egg mixture, then blend in ¼ teaspoon vanilla and 1/8 teaspoon maple-flavored extract. Now add the dry ingredients gradually, mixing well. To make dough easier to handle, chill to slightly firm dough.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange pecan halves (round side up) in groups of five on greased baking sheet so that each set resembles the head and legs of a turtle. Shape cookie dough into balls, using a rounded teaspoon for each. Dip bottom into unbeaten egg white and press lightly onto pecans. You want the tips of the nuts to show once the cookies are baked.

Bake for 10 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 15 minutes or until completely cool.

Now for the chocolate frosting that you’ll use to top your cookies. Use purchased frosting or make your own with one one-ounce square of unsweetened chocolate (or 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces), ¼ cup milk and 1 tablespoon butter. Place chocolate, milk and butter in top of double boiler. Heat over boiling water until chocolate melts; blend until smooth. Remove from heat; add one cup sifted confectioners sugar until the desired consistency.

How about baking some Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies? With holiday cookie cutters and your imagination, you can make so many lovely designs.

For the cookies, mix 3¼ cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt; set aside. Beat ¾ cup butter (1½ sticks) with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Gradually add 1½ cups granulated sugar, beating until well blended. Add two eggs, one at a time, beating until well blended. Blend in one tablespoon milk and 1½ teaspoon vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well after each addition.

To make it easier to cut out your cookies, refrigerate dough for at least four hours or overnight.

When you’re ready to start baking, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness on lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes with floured 3-inch cookie cutters. Sprinkle with colored sugar, if desired. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 5 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely on wire racks.

Did you know cookies can be decorated with Jell-O Gelatin instead of sugar? Bake cookies as directed. While cookies are still warm, brush lightly with light corn syrup or honey. Sprinkle with any flavor dry gelatin.

To make a snowman cookie, spread white icing over the cookie. Take long red licorice and curve to form a hat and place two gummy Lifesavers candies for ear muffs. Use chocolate chips to make eyes and create a bow with tube icing.

If time gets away from you during the holidays, you can still make treats from scratch. I found a quick No Bake Cookie Truffle recipe you can prepare in around 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine one 8-ounce package Oreo cookies with white filling, finely crushed. (You can place cookies in a zip-lock bag and use a rolling pin to crush.) Add one 8-ounce package softened cream cheese. Beat with a mixer until well blended. Form 1 inch balls by hand. Melt a pound of white chocolate pieces in a glass bowl in the microwave and dip each ball to coat. Place on waxed paper to cool, then refrigerate around 1 hour or until firm. To store, cover and refrigerate.

A favorite cookie that your favorite children or grandchildren can help you make are Holly Crackles. These bite-sized wreath-shaped cookies look as good as they taste and disappear in a flash. In a medium saucepan, melt ½ cup (1 stick) butter and 30 large marshmallows over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the marshmallows melted, remove from heat and stir in 1 to 1½ teaspoon green food color and 1½ teaspoon vanilla. Add more green color if needed; stir in 4 cups cornflakes cereal and blend well. Drop mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time onto wax paper. For holly berries, decorate with Red Hots or any red small candies. Let stand 30 minutes or until cool. Yummy!

If baking Christmas cookies is a highlight at your home, I’d love to hear your recipes and ideas. Write to me at pwelsh@shepherd.edu.

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