Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Crazy: Baking

Some people go crazy at Christmas time. This craziness can take many forms. Lights! Trees! Decorations galore!

I bake.

I love to bake and Christmastime gives me the perfect excuse to exercise my baking muscles. My Mom always baked at Christmas and it’s a large part of the holiday tradition for me as I have fond memories of baking with my Mom during my childhood. She always had special cookie recipes that she only made once a year at Christmas. Many of them were handed down through generations of the family and speak to my ethnic heritage. I feel connected to my childhood Christmases when I get to perpetuate the tradition. I also love carrying on the tradition with my children.

So, I decided to share with you the recipes that I make every year. Some are family recipes, some are ones that I’ve stumbled across on my own and incorporated into the yearly baking. Many of the recipes call for nuts and Scot has a pretty severe nut allergy. I’ve altered them to leave the nuts out but will include the original recipe here. Please enjoy! We certainly do.

Swedish Chocolate Sheet Cookies
Family Recipe

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 beaten egg
4 tbs. Baker’s Cocoa
1 1/2 cups flour
ground almonds

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, cocoa, and flour. Mix thoroughly. Spread dough 1/4 inch thick on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan (the jelly roll pan is easier). Brush top with egg white (use your fingers - it works better!). Top with unblanched ground almonds. Bakes at 350° for 30 minutes. Cut into oblong pieces while still warm.

You can opt to leave the nuts off and just dust the top with powdered sugar after you bake them.

Dutch Spice Cookies
Family Recipe

This recipe is HUGE so I usually cut it in half.

2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
4 cups flour
4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (my mother always used almonds. I don’t use nuts at all)

Cream butter and sugar. Sift together flour with spices, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter and sugar. Work in the sour cream. Form into 4 long sausage shaped logs, about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each in waxed paper and refrigerate overnight. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°. Cut rolls crosswise into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet until delicately browned - about 12 minutes. Cool on wire wrack.

Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting
Cookie recipe: Wilton
Frosting: Penzeys

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400°. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Mix together in a separate bowl flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Roll out dough on a floured surface to 1/8 inch thick and cut into shapes. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 6 to 7 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.

2 stick of butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
4 TB milk

Cream butter and vanilla together on medium speed with an electric mixer. Alternate adding powdered sugar and milk, mixing well on low speed after each addition. If you feel like getting fancy, add some food coloring to the frosting and sprinkle with colored sugar.

If you let these cookies sit a day or so they get all soft and chewy and, oh my God, they’re good!

Rolled Almond Wafers
Family Recipe

3/4 cup finely ground unblanched almonds
1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 TB flour
2 TBS heavy cream

Mix ingredients in a saucepan and heat, stirring until butter melts. On a baking sheet lined with a silpat, drop 1 tsp 3 inches apart. Bake 6 at a time about 7 minutes or until the edges begin to brown but the centers are still bubbly. WATCH THEM CAREFULLY.

Cool a short time (about 90 seconds) then loosen with a thin knife and wrap each around a wooden spoon handle. Lay joined side down on a rack to cool.

Family recipe

10 ounces butter
7 1/2 ounces sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 ounces blanched, ground almonds
15 ounces flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, mix well. Blanch almonds and grind, then add to mixture. Add flour 5 ounces at a time. Mix well after each addition. Look for the dough to be slightly crumbly.

Use a cookie press to shape dough into the shape of your choice. Bake at 400 ° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown on the edges.

Alternatively, roll out the dough and cut circles and rings. Bake as above. When baked, spread jelly of your choice on the circles and top with the rings. Dust the tops with powdered sugar.

The nuts can be omitted from this recipe to make it a straight butter cookie, which is what I do when I make the jelly versions because Scot loves them but can’t eat the nuts.

Ma Richmond’s Shortbread
This recipe comes down from Scot’s family

14 ounces room temp butter
1/4 c. crisco
1 cup firmly packed confectioner’s sugar
6 cup flour

Preheat oven to 325° and line baking sheets with brown paper.

Cream together butter, crisco, and sugar. Add flour a little bit at a time. Dough should be slightly crumbly. Work dough by hand until it reaches a uniform consistency. Divide dough into sixths. Roll out 1/2 inch thick circles. Using fingertips, press dimples into the edge. Cut 8 wedges per circle. Bake on brown paper until the outside edges begin to get golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.


  1. Shortbread is nothing but sugar and butter? No wonder I love it so much!

  2. My mother-in-law made a batch of Shortbread this year that will make you go weak in the knees. So. Good.