Holiday Cookies

Today marked an important milestone in my life – I made my first batch(es) of completely homemade cookies (besides homemade chocolate chip cookies, courtesy of the recipe on the back of Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chips). It was a really rewarding experience – very time consuming, but I only used part of each hunk of dough that I made, so I can make small changes as I finish baking the remainder of the dough on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Anyways, the two cookies I made were Dried Cherry and Almond Cookies (from Everyday Italian, Giada DeLaurentiis) and Rugelach (Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten). I altered both recipes, intentionally and non-intentionally.

Dried Cherry and Almond Cookies with Vanilla Icing
– 1 stick unsalted butter (I used salted butter…forgot about that little tidbit. The cookies taste fine with the pinch of salt and the salted butter, but I need to remember to get unsalted in the future.)
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used 1 teaspoon because I found that both bottles of almond extract were empty…grr)
– 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (see above; I’m not sure how much of a difference the almond extract would have made – perhaps the cookies would have tasted less like sugar cookies?)
– 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
– Pinch of salt
– 1 1/4 cups flour
– 3/4 cup coarsely chopped tart cherries (Because I am a poor college student and a stingy with money, I opted for dried cranberries, which also go with the holidays more, in my opinion.)
– 1/2 cup slivered, toasted almonds
– Icing = Mix of confectioner’s sugar, water, and vanilla extract (I eye balled it all, since I was only using a small portion of the dough. I also added one drop of green food coloring, to make the cookies more Christmas-y.)

The dough for this cookie was easy enough to make – I’m glad I remembered to lay out the butter to soften a bit a room temperature, although I did put it in the microwave for about 5 seconds to speed up the process. Before creaming the wet ingredients, I decided to add about a 1/4 teaspoon of orange zest – I felt pretty snazzy telling my sister about this addition. The rest of the process was easy, although I did burn my first 1/2 cup of almonds, whoops. I had trouble forming my dough into a log, which I feel kind of dumb about. Whatever. The icing was fine, but next time I won’t add the food coloring – the green was ugly on top of the cookies.
Once the cookies finished chilling and baking, I decided to go ahead and try one instead of waiting for my mom. My first impression was how pretty they looked with the cranberry specks – they looked especially Christmas-y. They also tasted very good, although I wish I could have tasted the orange zest more. The dough was like a sugar cookie. I don’t know if it would have tasted different with the almond extract, but I liked the tart bite from the cranberries.

– 1 8 oz. block of cream cheese
– 2 sticks of butter (Oh Ina, so much butter!)
– 1/4 cup granulated sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 2 cups all purpose flour
– 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
– 3/4 cup raisins
– 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
– 1/2 cup apricot preserves (The jar said apricot at the store, but when I got home, it had magically changed to peach…)
– Egg wash

This made a lot of dough, which is fine since you have to divide it into fourths (although it was a lot to handle for my little hand mixer). I decided to make two different versions of this – one following the original recipe (except with peach preserves) and one using raspberry jam and chocolate chunks. The dough was pretty sticky, but some flour for my hands, the marble counter, and my knife made the process of rolling the dough into a ball and dividing it much easier. I only used 1/4 of the dough today, but I have already found mistakes to fix for the next batch. First, I apparently can’t read directions – instead of cutting the dough into 12, I only cut it into 8. I will also add more chocolate to the raspberry ones. The peach preserves tasted fine in place of the apricot, and the dough was DELICIOUS. I wasn’t really sure how it would taste, since the raw dough tasted very cheesy, but the dough is very light and fluffy. The cream cheese doesn’t appear to be a regular part of this dough, though – I’d like to try it without the cream cheese if I make this dough again. An obvious shortcut to this recipe would be too use Pillsbury croissant rolls. Anyways, the rugelach sort of unrolled a bit in the oven, but I can fix that next time. One big thing about preparing these cookies is working fast – once the dough starts to come to room temperature, it becomes very sticky and hard to work with.

On the left is the chocolate raspberry; on the right is the peach, walnut, and raisin.

I felt very rewarded by my first attempt at making “fancy” cookies. I think my next cookie adventure will be biscotti, although that might come after the holidays…maybe for New Year’s??


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