Sunday, December 25, 2011

2 For the Price of 1

Merry Christmas! In the spirit of the holiday and the notion that it's better to give than it is to receive, I'm giving you my final 2 Christmas cookie recipes to finish off what has been my Christmas cookie extravaganza. Hope you've enjoyed your holiday and the cookies that I've made to go along with it. First up...
Gingerbread Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1 large egg
decorating sugar or sprinkles (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses and egg. With mixer on low, add dry ingredients; mix just until dough forms. Divide dough in half; place each half on a piece of lightly floured plastic wrap; pat each half into a 4-inch square. Wrap well; chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Working with one half at a time (keeping other half wrapped and refrigerated), place dough on lightly floured parchment or waxed paper; roll out 1/4-inch thick, turning, lifting and lightly flouring dough (and rolling pin) as necessary. Using paper, lift dough onto a baking sheet; freeze (on paper) until firm, about 20 minutes.

3. Remove from baking sheet. Using a long offset spatula, loosen dough from paper. Cut out shapes and transfer to baking sheets. Brush off any excess flour. Decorate with sugar or sprinkles, as desired (I decorated mine with white chocolate that I piped on).

4. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until firm and edges just begin to darken, 10 to 18 minutes (depending on size of cookies). Cool completely on sheets.

I saved the best, and my personal favorite, for last...
Soft Christmas Cutouts

5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda

1. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Chill dough for 1 hour.

2. Roll dough 1/4-inch thick and cut out.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Do not overbake so cookies stay soft. Once cooled, frost and decorate cookies as desired.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Butter Pecan Cookies

Another new addition to this year's Christmas cookie collection, Butter Pecan Cookies. Also found in my little Martha Stewart cookbook. I really revamped this year, throwing in a couple new additions with the old tried and true cookies that have been around for years. I chose these because I wanted another "plain" cookie to the mix to offset the chocolate, peanut butter, molasses and gingerbread (you'll meet them soon) flavors that I already had. Again, I like a nice variety, it's the spice of life.

As far as making these cookies is concerned I followed the recipe, but changed a few things along the way which I'll mention in the recipe below (for starters, I doubled the recipe to make enough cookies). I've said before I'm not a big fan of nuts, and don't usually include them when I make cookies, but I do like Butter Pecan Cookies. Plus, these wouldn't really be butter pecan cookies if I didn't include the pecans. They'd just be butter cookies. While tasty, what fun is that really?

Butter Pecan Cookies

3/4 cup pecans
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for coating and sprinkling
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toast pecans until fragrant and crisp, about 6 minutes. Remove from sheet; let cool completely. Finely chop.

2. With an electric mixer, beat butter and 1/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla, salt and flour, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary, just until dough comes together. Fold in pecans.

3. Separate dough into 12 equal pieces (I didn't do this because I wanted more than 12 cookies so I rolled the dough into 1-inch balls and then rolled them into sugar and placed them on cookie sheet). Squeeze dough into balls; roll in sugar. Place balls on baking sheet, 3 inches apart. Gently flatten with the bottom of a glass (reshape sides if necessary). Sprinkle with more sugar.

4. Bake until cookies are golden brown, about 15 minutes (because my cookies were smaller than what the recipe said I started with less baking time, 10 minutes, but increased it to about 13 minutes per batch when all was said and done). Sprinkle with more sugar. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps

These Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps are making their debut in my Christmas cookie collection this year. I haven't really ever made a chocolate cookie for Christmas before, and I definitely haven't ever made a chocolate-coffee cookie before. As previously disclosed I'm not a fan of coffee and most coffee-flavored things but these weren't too bad. Whether you love coffee or hate it like I do, I think (and hope) you'll enjoy these.

Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tsp instant espresso powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 Tbsp milk
1/2 confectioners' sugar, for coating

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder and salt. With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until well combined; mix in cooled chocolate. With mixer on low speed, gradually add dry ingredients; beat in milk just until combined. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place confectioners' sugar into a medium bowl; working in batches, roll balls in sugar twice.

3. Place balls on prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies have spread and coating is cracked, 12 to 14 minutes; cookies will still be soft to the touch. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chewy Molasses-Spice Cookies

These cookies are one of the newest additions to my Christmas cookie cast (yep, just made that up on the fly). I made these for the first time last year and enjoyed them myself, and also received a good response from family and friends so I decided they could make a repeat appearance this year. I like to try to get a good variety of flavors, I don't want everything to taste the same, and these have a nice little kick to them. A little bolder than a gingerbread cookie, which is also part of the Christmas cast. You'll meet them soon. Don't worry.

My recipe for these Chewy Molasses-Spice Cookies comes from, you guessed it, Martha. There is no holiday she doesn't touch. This recipe is in the same little book where my Snickerdoodles recipe can be found. I've used that little cookbook quite a bit and all thanks to my college roommate who got it for me when she was interning for Martha's show. I know, I wasn't that jealous of her at the time, but looking back, I should have had her get me a lot more swag and maybe a job. Hindsight.

There isn't much to this recipe, the worst part is the time it takes to roll the dough. A majority of the cookies I made this year required the dough being rolled into balls and then rolled in sugar. It's a lot of rolling that can get quite old after you've baked several dozen cookies. I'd much rather be rolling in dough than just rolling it. Get it? Just me? Fair enough. Hope you enjoy.

Chewy Molasses-Spice Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In a shallow bowl, place 1/2 cup sugar; set aside.

2. With an electric mixer, beat butter and remaining cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and then molasses. Reduce speed to low; gradually add dry ingredients, beating just until dough forms.

3. Using 1 level tablespoon per cookie, roll dough into balls. Then roll each ball in reserved 1/2 cup sugar to coat.

4. Place balls on baking sheets, about 3 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time, until edges of cookies are just firm, 10 to 15 minutes (cookies can be baked 2 sheets at a time, but they will not crackle uniformly). Cool 1 minute on baking sheets; transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ritz (Tag-A-Longs)

Don't they look delicious? That's because they are! Ritz, as my family calls them, have been part of the Pavlock family cookie tray since I can remember having Christmas cookies. It wasn't until I had moved away from home and made these that my friend said, "they're like Tag-A-Longs," the delicious peanut buttery cookie the Girl Scouts tempt you with every year. She was right, I had just never called them that, and I still don't. To me, they will always be Ritz, but they can be whatever you want to call them.

These "cookies" are extremely easy to make, they take less than an hour from start to finish. Enjoy!

Ritz (Tag-A-Longs)

60 Ritz crackers
2 1-lb bags milk chocolate Make 'N Mold candy coating (available at A.C. Moore and Michaels)
Creamy peanut butter

1. Line 2 cookie sheets with wax paper. This will make it easier to peel the "cookies" off the sheets once they are set.

2. Spread peanut butter on Ritz crackers. Use enough peanut butter to cover the crackers but not too much or they will be difficult to cover with chocolate.

3. Melt candy coating according to directions on package.

4. One at a time drop each peanut butter covered cracker in chocolate, turning until completely covered. Place covered cracker on cookie sheet to set. Repeat until all crackers are covered and let them set. To speed up the process crackers can be placed in the refrigerator or freezer until chocolate coating is firm.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Snickerdoodles have been a part of my Christmases for as long as I can remember. I made them as a kid with my mom and still make them today. The recipe I use now is different from the one I used to use with my mom. When I first moved away from home I didn't have my mom's recipes at my disposal so I had to find my own and I stumbled across Martha Stewart's recipe (she even manages to make an appearance when we're not talking about cupcakes!) for Cinnamon-Sugar Cookies (known to me as Snickerdoodles) that I tried, and liked better... sorry mom. Martha's version are a little thinner and crispier than those I made with my mom, and they just suit my fancy. Enjoy!

Snickerdoodles (Cinnamon-Sugar Cookies)

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (16 Tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature but still slightly firm
1 2/3 cups sugar, plus 1/4 cup for topping
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (I never do this, I just use cooking spray to grease the cookie sheets... don't tell Martha). In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 2/3 cups sugar until light and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add egg and vanilla; beat until combined. Add dry ingredients; beat, scraping bowl as necessary, until dough comes together when squeezed (it will appear dry).

2. Make the cinnamon and sugar: In a small bowl, mix together remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon.

3. Using 1 level tablespoon dough per cookie, squeeze each tightly and roll into balls. Roll each in cinnamon sugar, coating evenly. Place on baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart; flatten with bottom of glass. Sprinkle tops with any remaining cinnamon sugar.

4. Bake, one sheet at a time, until tops are puffed and crackly, and bottoms are golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Cool slightly on sheets; transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Blondies

Officially called Rainbow Blondies per the recipe, but I like to rename things for Christmas and since these use M&Ms and are only green and red, calling them Rainbow Blondies just doesn't quite seem appropriate. While I do always manage to incorporate M&Ms into my Christmas baking in at least one way, in all of my previous years it has been through making cookies with M&Ms. This year I decided it was time for a change. Spice things up a little. So instead of going with an M&M cookie, I went with an M&M blondie. I thought they would look a little prettier and the colors of the M&Ms could stand out a little more. I was right. Go me.

Off the top of my head I can't quite remember where I got this recipe, but part of me thinks it was from the M&Ms website. If you're ever looking for baking recipes involving M&Ms their site has some options for you. Happy baking!

Christmas (or Rainbow) Blondies

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup light-brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 (12 oz) package of M&Ms
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (I chose not to use these)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add egg and vanilla.

3. Combine flour and baking soda; add to creamed mixed just until combined. Dough will be stiff (very stiff in fact).

4. Stir in M&Ms and nuts.

5. Spread dough into greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan (this will be difficult to do with a spoon or rubber spatula due to the stiffness of the dough. In my case is just plopped all the dough into the pan and then spread it out and patted it down with my hands, worked like a charm). Bake 30-35 minutes until wooden toothpick inserted comes out slightly moist with crumbs. Cool completely before cutting.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Here it is... the 1st Christmas cookie of the season! I've been baking fast and furiously for the past few days. There's only so much time before I have to start distributing these scrumptious treats and I can't distribute what I have yet to bake.

I have been baking Christmas cookies since I was a very little kid with my mom. Back then I didn't really help much other than making a mess. But now I make the cookies and the mess all by myself. I've decided to share the recipes for my Christmas cookies rather than what I've been doing with Project Cupcake. Cookies are pretty self explanatory and I've made most of them before so it's not quite as exciting as embarking on new cupcake adventures.

This recipe for Peanut Butter Blossoms I got from my mom. Where it originated before her I haven't the slightest idea, but here it is and I hope you enjoy it.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

48 Hershey's Kisses
1/2 cup shortening (I used butter)
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
extra sugar for rolling

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove foil from Hershey's Kisses.

2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well.

3. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

4. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet (I always grease my cookie sheets).

5. Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into the center of each cookie; cookie will crack around the edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack and allow to cool completely.