Showing posts with label Christmas cookies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas cookies. Show all posts

Friday, December 18, 2015

And More Christmas Cookies

by Sheila Connolly

You might have noticed that we at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen like cookies. My philosophy is, you can’t have enough cookies—and they’re all wonderful. 

We always made cookies for Christmas at my house—the same standard Fanny Farmer sugar cookie recipe, every year. Since then I’ve tried a variety of ginger cookie recipes, but I still haven’t gotten that recipe quite right. Never fear: I’ll keep trying.

I inherited most of my mother’s cookie cutters, and I keep adding to that collection because I can’t stop myself. I might have stopped, but not after I found Stock, the amazing cookware store in Dublin, where I keep picking up more. They’re unusual, well made, and easy to slip into a suitcase.

And there were always sprinkles.

Earlier this year I discovered that simple cookie recipe that has a bare minimum of ingredients (lots of butter, confectioner’s sugar, flour and vanilla) and that you roll it out in a plastic bag, which makes life so easy. I’ve already given it to you in both sweet and savory varieties. But now it’s the holidays, and I’ve been hoarding really cool sprinkles for the past year, and I have some new cookie cutters (again), and I really want to see if I can push the envelope with the recipe. Chocolate! Candy canes! Red and green coloring! And lots of sprinkles!!!

Remember the basic recipe?

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Warning: the batter has to chill for at least two hours before you cut out the cookies, so either allow plenty of time, or refrigerate overnight.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium for about 3 minutes or until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and the salt and beat.

With the mixer on low, beat in the flour until it just disappears into the butter mixture (do not overbeat, or the cookies will be tough!).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Cover your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Cut out your cookies (whatever shapes you choose) and place on the covered sheets. Decorate to your heart’s content, then bake for 18-20 minutes, turning the pan once so the cookies bake evenly. (They won’t brown.)

That’s the basic recipe. Then I started experimenting:

Peppermint Stockings: take maybe six small peppermint-flavored candy canes (I suppose you could use any other flavor, but I like tradition), break them into another handy plastic bag, and whack them until they’re reduced to small pieces—not powder, but if the pieces are too big they’re hard to cut out. Swap out the vanilla for peppermint extract, decorate as you like (look! I had candy cane sprinkles!) and bake as above.

Chocolate Snowflakes: Okay, I know it’s not logical that snowflakes be dark, but I wanted to show off the pretty snowflake sprinkles. For this recipe, I substituted 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa for the same amount of flour. You can use whatever cocoa you like, although I think this works best with the less sugary varieties. Then follow the rest of the recipe.

Green trees and red bells: I bought the tree cutters at Stock last month. I like them because they’re irregular, like a real tree. Plus I had these nice large multi-colored nonpareils (okay, big round sprinkles) that kind of look like tree ornaments. I added 1 Tblsp of green food coloring to the mix, and added a bit more flour (remember that the original recipe didn’t include any liquid, and I didn’t want them to be too gooey).

For the red bells, I used 1 Tblsp red food coloring instead of the green. [I had plenty of the red for Red Velvet Cake; why I have a pint bottle of green coloring mystifies me.] Then I added some mixed red and green sprinkles, and baked.

And there you have it! Three flavors, two different colors, and lots of decorations. Enjoy! And feel free to experiment yourselves—there are plenty of options to try.

To celebrate the holiday season, I’m holding a giveaway: a copy of A Gala Event, which includes a December wedding, plus a framed picture (not a print!) of (surprise) apples, in honor of the Orchard Mysteries. Just leave a comment—cookie- related if you like, but anything that says “Christmas” to you will be fine.

You’ll have until Sunday to respond (I know a lot of you wait until Saturday to look at the blog).

Monday, December 14, 2015


Once upon a time, I used to bake a lot of Christmas cookies. These days I think I'm doing well if I make four or five different kinds. One of my personal traditions is to try a new (to me) cookie recipe every year. I'm posting that cookie recipe for Christmas week because even people who don't do a lot of entertaining often bake a batch of cookies.

I actually made two batches of new to me cookies this year. The first were good, but they didn't knock my socks off. In case you don't know, while the cookies are still hot, you can sprinkle them with crushed candy canes. It's adorably festive!

But it's this plain Jane gingersnap recipe that's a keeper. Melted butter keeps them soft and the flavor just can't be beat. I had every intention of dipping them in chocolate or drizzling them with chocolate but honest to goodness, they're so good the way they are that I decided not to mess with a good thing! Sometimes simple is better.

This dough will feel super soft in your hand. It holds together, so don't worry or add more flour. At the stage of rolling the dough in sugar I started with about 1/4 of a cup of sugar and added more as I needed it. That way I didn't waste a lot of sugar. The cookies spread into amazingly perfect circles when they bake, so don't worry about rolling the dough into perfect balls.


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar + extra for rolling
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Melt the butter and set aside to cool. Use a fork or a whisk to mix together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl, and set aside. Beat 1 cup of sugar with the melted butter. Beat in the egg. Beat in the molasses. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour about 1/2 cup at a time, beating after each addition. 

Add about 1/4 cup of sugar to a small bowl. Roll the dough into balls about 1-inch in diameter, then roll the dough in the sugar and place each ball about three inches apart on the parchment paper. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Roll balls of dough in sugar.

Fresh from the oven. Soft and so yummy when warm!

We're giving away books here this week, so today I'm offering the choice of MURDER MOST HOWL or THE DIVA STEALS A CHOCOLATE KISS. Leave a comment with your email address to enter. Good luck and Happy Cookie Baking!  

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hazelnut Cookies

This Christmas cookie recipe is one that my mother made every year when I was growing up.  In German, they're called Spritzgebäck. You might know them as Spritz Cookies.

They aren't difficult to make but you do need to have a large star tip and a pastry bag or a cookie press. They're most commonly seen in S-shapes or crescents. This recipe also includes finely ground hazelnuts, which is why you need the large star tip. Even if the nuts are very fine, they could clog anything smaller. While the original recipe does mention grinding them with a mortar and pestle, I find my handy dandy food processor or blender much faster and easier.

The chocolate dip isn't required at all. I dip about half of them because I like the chocolate. I think the chocolate also makes for a nice presentation. The original chocolate for dipping was made with cocoa powder and was a bit of a mess. I prefer simply melting chocolate chips. It's easier and tastes great!

Hazelnut Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter (8 ounces), softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup hazelnuts, finely ground

2/3 - 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time, beating in between. Add the hazelnuts and beat.

Attach a large star tip to a cookie press or pastry bag. Load with the dough and press into crescents or S-shapes about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until the cookies are light golden brown.

Move to a cooling rack immediately.  When cool, microwave the chocolate chips in 40 second bursts, stirring in between. Dip half the cookie in the chocolate. Dry on a rack with plastic wrap, aluminum foil or wax paper underneath to catch drips.

Grind the hazelnuts.

The dough will be a little stiff.

Cool on a rack.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of our readers! May your holiday be full of joy, special moments, and the warmth and love of family and friends.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

ICED GINGERBREAD COOKIE STICKS (Edible #Coffee Stirrers) from ONCE UPON A GRIND by Cleo Coyle

Here's a slightly more sophisticated take on the classic gingerbread cookie, letting you serve with style and dunk and crunch with joy. 

It's a fun idea for dessert trays, holiday parties, or that cozy evening by your roaring fireplace DVD (and, yes, we have one). I have a little decorating tip for your holiday tables, too, but first the recipe...

Cleo Coyle has a partner in 
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here or here.

Cleo Coyle's
Gingerbread Cookie Sticks

(Edible Coffee, Tea, or Cocoa Stirrers)

My readers will recognize this cookie 
from Once Upon a Grind, my brand new Coffeehouse Mystery.

During the book's Fairy Tale
Festival in Central Park, where the first crime scene occurs, 
my amateur sleuth uses this recipe to create "beanstalk" cookie sticks for her landmark shop's coffee truck. 

Clare's merry band of baristas give the vehicle a Jack-in-the-Beanstalk makeover for the children's festival, so the cookies seem appropriate. Unfortunately for Clare, her coffee hunter ex-husband Matt brings his own "magic beans"coffee beans sourced from a legendary and very real area of Africa. And boy will they bring Giant trouble. 

These cookies, on the other hand, are designed to bring joy. Drizzle them with melted white chocolate or make your own vanilla glaze (recipe included). A final sprinkling of coarse finishing sugar will create a treat as pretty as a winter snowfall. May you bake them with love and eat with holiday joy!

~ Cleo

Click here for free
recipe PDF.

To download this recipe in a free PDF document with additional step-by-step photos, click here. Print, save, or share it.

Makes about 4-5 dozen cookie sticks, depending on size

For cookies:

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (or 1⁄8 teaspoon ground cloves)
10 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature*
2⁄3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup molasses (unsulphured, not blackstrap)
1⁄3 whole milk (or brewed coffee)*

To finish:

Vanilla Glaze (see recipe below) and
Coarse finishing sugar (about 1/4 cup)

*Note: To make this recipe dairy free replace butter with non-dairy margarine and the whole milk with coffee or almond milk.

Step 1— Assemble the dry ingredients. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and allspice (or cloves). Set aside.

Step 2—Make the dough. Using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter and dark brown sugar; add the molasses and milk (or coffee) and blend again. While continuing to beat at a low speed, slowly add in your dry ingredients, blending to make a smooth dough. Do not overbeat, but be sure all of the flour mixture is incorporated. 

Troubleshooting note: The dough should be sticky and in the next step you will chill it to harden up the butter, but you may need to adjust the dough slightly, depending on your climate, brand of flour, and vagaries in measurements. All this to say: If your dough seems particularly wet, beat in a bit more flour. Just don't overdo it because too much flour will toughen up your cookie.

Step 3—Wrap and chill. Form the sticky dough into 2 balls and flatten into disks. Wrap the two disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour; overnight is fine, too. (If you’re in a hurry, place the dough discs in the freezer for 20 minutes instead.) The chilling will harden up the butter and make the dough easier to work with for the next step.

Step 4—Roll the dough. First, preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the chilled dough disks from the fridge and (if too hard) allow to warm just enough to become pliable. Place the dough between two sheets of lightly flour-dusted parchment paper. (This is a great method for rolling cookies because you will only need the lightest dusting of flour, which will keep the cookies from toughening up.) Roll your dough thin, about the thickness of a pie crust (around 1/8 inch). 

Troubleshooting: The biggest issue you may have in rolling this dough will be the dough’s stickiness. This will depend on your climate and the weather. If the dough becomes too warm as you roll it and it sticks too much to the parchment paper, simply slip the whole thing onto a pan and place the pan in the fridge for 15 minutes or freezer for 10. Once the rolled-out dough is chilled, it will firm up and easily separate from the paper.

Step 5—Cut the cookies. Remove the top layer of parchment paper. Use a pizza cutter to clean up the edges of your rectangle and slice into sticks. Do not move the sticks off the bottom parchment layer. Simply slip the entire sheet of parchment onto a cookie sheet.

Step 6—Bake. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes. When the cookies are finished baking, you will need to recut them and you must do this while the cookies are still warm. Gently slide the entire sheet of parchment paper onto a cutting board or a sturdy counter surface and use your original slicing lines as a guide. The pizza cutter will make quick work of it, roll from the top down, as you see in my photo below, so you can easily follow your lines. 

Step 7COOL: You must allow the cookie sticks to cool completely before handling. If you try to move them while they are warm, they are very likely to crack and break (ask me how I know).

Step 8—Drizzle with glaze. Once cool, you can make the glaze (recipe below) or melt white chocolate and drizzle it on the sticks. Finish with a sprinkling of coarse sugar. 

Cleo's Vanilla Glaze

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 tablespoon milk or cream (or almond milk)
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (for a whiter glaze, use clear vanilla)

Directions: In a small saucepan, over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add milk and whisk in the powdered sugar, a little at a time. When all the sugar is melted into the butter and milk, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. TOO THICK? whisk in a bit more milk. TOO THIN? Add a bit more powdered sugar and continue to cook it down until it’s thick enough. TEST: Before drizzling on your cookie sticks, use a fork and drizzle a bit on a plate. If you’re having trouble drizzling it nicely, then it’s too thick. On the other hand, if the glaze doesn’t harden fairly quickly after cooling, then it’s too thin. Finally, if the glaze hardens in the pan or becomes crusty, whisk it over heat and add a bit more milk, and you will be able to return it to drizzling consistency again, and...

Click here to download
this recipe in a
free PDF document.

Eat with holiday joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Friend me on facebook here. * Follow me on twitter here
Learn about our books here

Sign up for my Coffeehouse Newsletter here.
(Recipes, contests, videos, fun info)

Now a National
Bestseller in Hardcover!

Join coffeehouse manager
Clare Cosi as she solves the crime
against "Sleeping Beauty," opens
secret doors (uptown and down),
and investigates a cold case that's
been unsolved since the Cold War.

"Fresh and fun...clever" ~ Booklist
"Charming, vivid, memorable" ~ RT Book Reviews
"Wicked good" ~ Library Journal

Wonderful recipes are also featured in Cleo's 14th 
culinary mystery, Once Upon a Grind, including...

* Black Forest Brownies 
* Cappuccino Blondies 
* Shrimp Kiev (new photo!)

Shrimp Kiev from the recipe section
of Once Upon a Grind

* Dr Pepper Glazed Chicken
* Silver Dollar Chocolate Chip Cookies
* "Fryer Tuck's" Ale-Battered Onion Rings
* Poor Man's Caviar 
* Caramel-Dipped Meltaways (new photo!)

Caramel-Dipped Meltaways from
the recipe section of Once Upon a Grind

...and many more recipes, including
a guide to reading coffee grinds...

See the book's
Recipe Guide (free PDF)

* * * 

Cleo also writes
The Haunted Bookshop

Get a free title checklist,
with mini plot summaries, by clicking here.
Or learn more here. 

* * * 

Quickie Decorating Tip

A little reminder of a common way you can make your tables appear more festive and romantic during the holiday season. (Do you do this, too?) Find pretty glassware, making sure it's thick, sturdy glass. Fill or partially fill the containers with water and float tea candles in them. 

We use plain and scented tea candles: apple-cinnamon, berry, and French vanilla are all beautiful aromas for the holidays. Marc and I always have fun searching thrift stores for retro glassware of all shapes and sizes.

May your own holidays be bright! 

~ Cleo

Win Books and More!

If you are a subscriber to our Coffeehouse Mystery
newsletter, then you may have entered our
holiday giveaway by answering the
special question that we asked in our newsletter...

What is one of your most
treasured holiday memories?

The randomly drawn
winner of the
comment contest was...

Jessie S.
of Rio Rancho,
New Mexico


Thanks to everyone for participating
in our holiday memories contest.
Don't miss our next contest,
coming up soon.
If you would like to subscribe to our
ewsletter, click here

~ Cleo