Christmas baking gifts make the holidays more festive

Christmas cookies for gifts, decorations or enjoying at home with a hot beverage are a special part of the Christmas Season.

Baking is perfect to do with the kids. Measuring, mixing, rolling, decorating and packaging are all things little ones can help with.

Fruitcake cookies

These little gems have the holiday spice and candied fruit flavour of a fruitcake but are easier and quicker to make.

They have become a family favourite. Yield: five to six dozen small cookies and three dozen large cookies.

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour 250 mL
  • 1 tsp. baking powder 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda 2 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon 2 mL
  • 1/2 c. butter, room temperature 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed 125 mL
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
  • 1/4 c. milk 60 mL 
  • 2 c. pecans, coarsely chopped 500 mL
  • 1 c. candied cherries, chopped; or maraschino cherries, well drained, chopped 250 mL
  • 1/2 c. deluxe dried mix fruit (papaya, cherries and pineapple) 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. sultana raisins, chopped 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour 125 mL

Icing:

  • 1/2 c. icing sugar 125 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. brandy 2 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 2 mL
  • 2 tsp. milk 10 mL

Preheat oven to 300 F (150 C). Place racks in the upper and lower thirds of oven.

Line two or three cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together one cup flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.

Cream butter and sugar in a separate bowl, until light and fluffy, one to two minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated. Beat in vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add flour mixture alternately with milk, beating just until incorporated, one to two minutes.

Mix pecans, cherries, mixed fruit and raisins in a large bowl, add half cup of flour and mix with fruit and nuts.

Pour batter over fruit mixture, fold fruit and nuts into batter by hand, mixing well.

Drop batter by half tablespoonfuls, for small cookies, or tablespoonfuls, for large cookies, onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes for small cookies and 25 minutes for large cookies, or until golden.

Cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes, remove to racks to cool completely.

Icing:

Whisk together icing sugar, brandy, vanilla, and milk (add an additional teaspoon of milk if glaze is too thick).

Drizzle over cooled cookies. Let sit, at room temperature, until glaze is set, about 30 minutes. Adapted from: countryliving.com

Alice’s ginger crinkles

This is my daughter-in-law’s mom’s recipe for ginger cookies and is a family favourite. I discovered that in addition to crinkle cookies, if you chill the dough it is easy to roll out for cut cookies.

  • 2/3 c. oil 175 mL
  • 1 c. brown sugar 250 mL
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. molasses 60 mL
  • 2 c. sifted flour 500 mL
  • 2 tsp. soda 10 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. ginger 5 mL
  • 1/4 c. white or coloured sugar for dipping 60 L

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).

Beat oil and sugar together thoroughly. Add egg and beat well. Stir in molasses.

Sift dry ingredients together and add to mixture, stir to combine well.

Roll a teaspoonful of dough in a ball, then roll in sugar. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for eight to 10 minutes. Cookies will flatten and crinkle in oven.

For cookie cutter cookies, refrigerate dough for at least two hours or overnight.

Roll dough on parchment paper to about one-quarter inch (six millimetre) thickness. Use cookie cutter to cut out desired shapes and place cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Place cookie sheet in refrigerator to chill for 20 minutes.

Bake cookies for eight to 10 minutes, until just beginning to brown on edges. Cool on cookie sheets before decorating.

Type of molasses

The difference between fancy, cooking and Blackstrap molasses and where to use them are frequent questions.

During the refining process of sugar beets and sugar cane, the juice squeezed from the plants is boiled to a syrupy mixture from which the sugar crystals are extracted. The remaining brownish-black liquid is molasses. Light molasses comes from the first boiling of the sugar syrup and is lighter in flavour and colour. It is often used as a pancake or waffle syrup. In Canada it is sold as “fancy molasses.”

Dark molasses comes from a second boiling and is darker, thicker and less sweet than light molasses. It is generally used in cooking and is sold as “cooking molasses.”

Blackstrap molasses is from the third boiling and is very thick, dark and somewhat bitter. It gives a much stronger flavour when used in cooking.

Royal icing

Royal icing is a sweet, hard, shiny icing that’s made from egg whites and icing sugar. It’s the perfect icing for decorating cookies. To prevent the risk for food-borne illness it is best to use liquid pasteurized egg whites. Yield: two cups.

  • 4 c. icing sugar (about 1 lb. /500 g) 1000 mL
  • 1/2 c. pasteurized liquid egg whites (usually found in the same cooler as fresh eggs) 125 mL
  • or 4 egg whites
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice 5 mL
  • food colourings

In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whip attachment, beat egg whites on high speed until foamy.

Switch to low speed and gradually sift sugar into egg whites until completely incorporated, scrape side of bowl.

Add lemon juice and beat on high speed until icing is very thick and forms stiff peaks, about five to 10 minutes.

Divide into smaller bowls to add food colouring.

A decorating kit with a piping bag and various tips can be used for decorating or a zippered storage bag with a corner cut off.

Use royal icing right away or refrigerate in an airtight container with plastic wrap pressed against the surface of the icing. Royal icing will harden quickly when exposed to air.

Whipped shortbread cookies

These cookies will melt in your mouth and have been a family favourite since I was a child.

  • 1 lb. butter (use only butter, margarine is just not the same) 500 g
  • 1 c. icing sugar 250 mL
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour 750 mL

Whip the butter and icing sugar together with an electric mixer. Beat for three minutes.

Add the flour and continue to beat for another 10 minutes. Consistency will become like very thick whipped cream. (Bosch mixer cookie paddles work great and will whip up in about six minutes.)

Use a spoon to drop small amounts on an ungreased cookie sheet or put the dough in a cookie press to make decorative shaped cookies.

Decorate with a sliver of red or green candied cherry or coloured sugar.

Bake at 300 F (150 C) for seven to 10 minutes or just until lightly browned on the bottom. The tops should not be brown.

Cool and store in airtight containers.

Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.

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