Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I just wanted to share an alternative to this White Chocolate Cranberry cookie. Just follow the recipe the same way, but substitute chopped up dried cherries for the cranberries and semisweet chocolate chunks for the white chocolate. It makes for a really yummy flavor combination!

Food on the Table

To me, white chocolate and cranberry are food soul mates. They just belong together. And they make for perfect Christmas treat bedfellows. You can make just about any dessert white chocolate-cranberry and not only would people love it, but it would look super festive on any table or cookie tray.

These are just a twist on a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe which I usually adapt from Nestle.

Fun Fact: The chocolate chip cookie was invented by a woman named Ruth Graves Wakefield in 1938. She owned a restaurant called the Toll House Inn. During WWII, soldiers from Massachusettes (where the Toll House Inn was located), shared the chocolate chip cookies from their care packages with other soldiers. Soon they were requesting them from their families who then inundated Ms. Wakefield with requests for her recipe! After her recipe became so popular, she contacted Nestle and struck a deal: they…

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Shortbread (Scotland)

Believe it or not, this was my first time making shortbread cookies. I’ve made shortbread-like crusts before, but for some reason I’ve never made the actual cookies. I figured it would be really simple. Basic shortbread is made of a whopping three ingredients: 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, 3 parts flour. You can make additions and adjustments from. How easy is that, right?

My first time making this delectable, buttery cookie absolutely did not go as planned. In fact, it went the opposite. And I was lured into a false sense of security while I was at it. I thought it was going well until the end product came out of the oven in a big ol’ mess. I mean, it still tasted good, but visually? Not so much…

I think I may have put a little too much butter in the dough because the shortbread spread out a lot. I also think I rolled it out a bit too thin. I should have left them on the thicker side so they would have been a bit more biscuit like. As I said, they still tasted good, but they just didn’t come out the way I’d visioned.

Now, a little history:

Shortbread originated in Scotland back in the Medieval times, but the first printed copy of a recipe wasn’t until the early 1700s. It began as more of bread that was twice-baked and coated in sugar and spices until it was hardened into a sweetened biscuit. Eventually, the yeast in the bread was replaced with butter and became closer to what we know it as today. Shortbread was expensive at the time so it was considered a luxury and saved for special occasions such as Christmas and Hogmanay (Scottish New Year’s Eve celebration). Now a days you can get shortbread year-round and all over the world, but it is still very much associated with the holidays.

Even though my didn’t turn out visually like I wanted, I will still share my recipe. I really do think I added too much butter, so I removed the extra half a stick I added at the end, so hopefully that will help. I also made everything in a bowl with a pastry cutter, but I wonder if using a mixer would have been better to incorporate everything a bit more.

Shortbread

½ cup sugar

1 cup butter, cut into pieces

2 cups flour

a splash of vanilla extract

green and red sprinkles

In a bowl, mix together your sugar and flour. Add your butter and vanilla and cut the butter into the flour-sugar mix until it looks like coarse crumbs. Using a stand mixer may make this easier and better combined. I will try that next time.

Dump the dough out onto a surface, add your sprinkles, and begin kneading the dough together. This takes some patience and is a great arm workout.

Once everything is together and formed into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Roll out the disk into a larger piece. I made mine about ½ an inch and I really think I that ended up being way too thin. Aim closer to about an inch thick.

Cut into the shapes you want (small bite-sized squares, longer rectangles, circles, whatever) and put on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake at 325 for about 20 minutes.

Hopefully the minor adjustments I made to the recipe will help the end result, but even if it doesn’t, it still tastes great! Just don’t enter it into a cookie beauty contest!

Spritz Cookies (Germany)

I’ve been making spritz cookies with my mom since I was a kid. They are very similar to a shortbread in that they are very butter and a bit on the fragile side.

The name spritz is actually a shortened version of the German word Spritzgebäck. These cookies originated from Germany and Alasace (which the French region right along the German border) and they are very popular at Christmastime. Many families have their own recipes that get passed down from generation to generation.

Spritzen translates to squirt in English, which describes how these cookies are made. The dough is put into a cookie press and then extruded through the holes in the disk that fits into the press. You can also use a pastry bag fitted with various nozzles. The cookie press my mom gave me comes with a variety of designs to make different shaped spritz cookies.

Full disclosure, when I was making this dough, I lost track of how much flour I had put in, so I accidentally added too much. The dough was a bit hard to extrude through the press and didn’t stick to the baking sheet like it was supposed to when I pressed it out, so I had to do it by hand. The dough should be a bit on the sticky side and a rule of thumb to keep in mind is don’t refrigerate the dough before you use it. It should feel a little wetter than most cookie doughs. That’s just been my experience for a better spritz cookie.

The extra flour didn’t hurt the cookie much. It still tasted great and I was able to keep them all together, but it just made everything a little harder to get out of the press. The moral of the story is don’t get distracted while making cookies!

Spritz Cookies

1 ½ sticks of butter, softened

½ cup sugar

1 egg

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

2 ¼ cups flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

Food coloring (optional)

In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and both extracts. 

In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix into the wet ingredients. Add food coloring here if you want. I made snowflakes and Christmas trees, so I just took out half of the plain dough and made the snowflakes and then added green coloring to the other half for the trees.

Put the dough into a cookie press fitted with whatever shape you want.




Press each cookie onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes.

 

If you don’t have a cookie press, you can use a pastry bag.

I forgot to take a picture of them being pressed onto the baking sheet, but I think you get the idea.

Gingerbread Loaf Cake

When I first set out to make this cake, I knew it was going to be a total experiment. I’m sure there are still some adjustments to be made (like why did it fall in the middle?) but it actually turned out so good! It was fluffy and moist and full of Gingerbread/Christmassy flavor! And the frosting… oh my. Let’s all just take a moment and savor this cream cheese goodness that would be delicious on pretty much ANYTHING.
 

Last year, when I made gingerbread cookies, I gave a little history of the European origin of gingerbread, so I’m not going to get into all that again. Feel free to read up on last year’s post. And maybe make some cookies while you’re at it.

I like making this cake because it is a nice change of pace from the typical cookie you see a lot but you still get that familiar holiday flavor.

Gingerbread Loaf Cake

For the Cake:

1 ½ cups flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon ground cloves

¾ teaspoon ground ginger (you can add more if you want more ginger flavor)

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

½ cup molasses

½ cup buttermilk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the cream cheese icing:

1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

Zest of one orange

Juice of half an orange

½ cup dried cranberries, chopped

In a bowl, mix together your dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt. Set aside.

 

In another bowl, whisk together the softened butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat until combined. Then add the molasses, buttermilk, and vanilla and mix well.

A little bit at a time, add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well.

Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan.

Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool slightly and remove from the pan to cool more.

Meanwhile, for the icing: mix together the cream cheese and powdered sugar until combined. Then stir in the zest, juice, and cranberries.


When the cake is cooled, pour the icing on top. However much or little you want. 

 

Chop up a few extra dried cranberries and save a tiny amount of zest and sprinkle over the top of the frosting just for decoration. Let the icing set before cutting in and enjoying!

 

This is especially good with a cup of coffee!! (but then, what isn’t?)

 

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

To me, white chocolate and cranberry are food soul mates. They just belong together. And they make for perfect Christmas treat bedfellows. You can make just about any dessert white chocolate-cranberry and not only would people love it, but it would look super festive on any table or cookie tray.
 

These are just a twist on a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe which I usually adapt from Nestle.

Fun Fact: The chocolate chip cookie was invented by a woman named Ruth Graves Wakefield in 1938. She owned a restaurant called the Toll House Inn. During WWII, soldiers from Massachusettes (where the Toll House Inn was located), shared the chocolate chip cookies from their care packages with other soldiers. Soon they were requesting them from their families who then inundated Ms. Wakefield with requests for her recipe! After her recipe became so popular, she contacted Nestle and struck a deal: they would print her recipe on the back of all their chocolate bars (she originally used a chopped up bar of chocolate and they used to include a chopping tool with each bar) and she would get a lifetime supply of chocolate. When Nestle started producing chocolate chips for the purpose of cookies in 1941, they printed her recipe on each bag. The recipe you see on the bag now is Wakefield’s original recipe.

Now, on to the recipe:

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

¾ cup brown sugar

¾ cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup dried cranberries

½ bag of white chocolate chips

In a bowl, cream together your butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. One at a time, add your eggs and vanilla.

 

In a separate bowl, combine your dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt. A little at a time, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well combined.

Finally add in your white chocolate chips and cranberries until evenly dispersed in the dough.

 

You can then drop by spoonful onto a lined baking sheet and bake. I, however, love to use an ice cream scoop. It makes for a bigger cookie and they always come out perfectly soft and loaded with whatever mix-ins you are using in your cookie.

Either way, bake at 375 degrees for 9-11 minutes or until done.

 

Let cool as long as you can hold out and then devour.

Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprint Cookies (Poland/Eastern Europe/Sweden)

I had plans to bake this weekend. Big plans! But as usual, other commitments got in the way and I got off to a late start. Tomorrow will be a baking extravaganza, but for today, I got started with my Rocky Road Fudge and these thumbprint cookies. 

Thumbprint cookies may not necessarily be strictly part of a holiday culture, but they don make great holiday cookies because they are so pretty to look at and the flavor combinations can vary greatly. 

There is some dispute about where these cookies actually come from. Some say they originate from Poland, some say they were the creation of Eastern European Jews. Others still say they are a variation of the Swedish cookie Hallongrotta which translates to “raspberry cave” because of the placement of the jam.

Thumbprint cookies are named because you form the dough and use your thumb to create a divot where the filling goes. Fillings are usually jam but can really be anything.

For this particular recipe, I took the easy way out. I don’t know about you, but my schedule tends to get packed around this time of year and making multiple batches of cookies and treats makes me want to take some shortcuts here and there. That’s why these are so perfect.

I simply made a variation on cake mix cookies

I used 1 box of chocolate cake mix, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and an extra 1/4 cup of flour. Mix together until combined. 

Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use your thumb to lightly press the balls down. Since these aren’t normal thumbprint cookies, the indent won’t actually stay, but the slight flattening is what you want anyway.

Bake at 375 degrees for 9-10 minutes.

While they are still warm, press in a peppermint Kiss. They will start to melt, but leave them alone and as they cool, the Kisses will solidify again.

This is a fun job for the kiddos.

I made 2 dozen cookies in about 30 minutes this way and they taste delicious so no one will know that you took a shortcut. But even if they did, no one would care.

They would just ask for more! 

Boozy Pumpkin Pie

I’m sure for most people, when they think of Thanksgiving dessert, they think of pumpkin pie first. In fact, according to the many Pie polls I saw, pumpkin was the number one choice.

Since pumpkin pie is pretty traditional, I decided to shake things up a bit.

Allow me to introduce to you, dear reader, my Boozy Pumpkin Pie.

That’s right. This guy took a shot of whiskey before hitting the oven. And after a taste during the doneness test, I can assure it, that shot of Jack was the right decision!

It is really yummy! It has just a hint of Jack and the alcohol cooks off, so it’s a winner for all ages. 

Boozy Pumpkin Pie

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each: ground cloves, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground allspice 

Pinch of salt

1 can pumpkin (15oz) 

1 can evaporated milk (12oz) 

2 eggs

1-1/2 oz Jack Daniels 

In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, salt, and other spices.

In a larger bowl, combine your eggs, pumpkin, and evaporated milk. Mix well. Add the sugar/spice mix. 

Add the Jack. I used the whole mini bottle.

Pour into an unbaked pie shell and bake at 425 for 15 minutes then 350 for 40-50 minutes.

Next: top with some whipped cream and watch this become a new favorite.