Christmas Cookies

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We live in a time when food is all over the media, from magazines to cooking channels and shows about food constantly airing throughout the day. When I try to recall how I first fell in love with baking and cooking, I can never able pinpoint a specific instance. However, one thing that I am sure of is that the Food Network channel and hand-me-down Gourmet magazines definitely helped cultivate in me a fascination for cooking and baking.

During the wintertime of my sophomore year of high school, I somehow got my hands on a December issue of Gourmet magazine which featured pages and pages of cookie recipes for the holidays with appetizing pictures that really caught my eye. The cookies looked so festive and tasty and I desperately wished to be able to create such beautiful edibles to give away as Christmas presents. I’m not sure what my thought process was, but that winter, I decided to undertake the task of making a bag of (4 or 5) different kinds of cookies for some friends. It was my first significant personal baking “project” and mind you, the recipes in Gourmet magazine are not the easiest! It was the winter when I first bought a rolling pin and acquired my 100 cookie cutters from a set I bought at Bed Bath & Beyond. I’ve since forgotten all the cookies I made that winter but it included raspberry linzer cookies, spoon cookies with brown butter (I’m so thankful to have discovered brown butter so early in life!), sugar cookies with royal icing and black and white cookies. Okay maybe I just can’t remember one of them. I stayed up until 5am baking on a school night, decorating and packaging cookies for the next day. I was so exhausted, but it was so worth it! I went on to do it for the rest of high school and gradually incorporated mini cheesecakes and other cookies. But once I got to college, I just…stopped doing it completely. It was a bit harder for me to manage my time in college, with finals procrastination, planning winter events, etc. BUT this winter, I am no longer in school and had a fair amount of time to plan and execute my Christmas cookie plates!

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This year’s cookies included: gingerbread snowflakes, saltine caramel chocolate almond bark, lemon crinkles, raspberry thumbprints and mocha chocolate chip. I wanted a combination of chocolate, caramel, fruity and buttery and I think I successfully accomplished that!

Gingerbread Snowflakes
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This was the same cookie recipe that I used for my gingerbread men cookies because I loved it and everyone else did too! It’s not too sweet and is just the right texture. The batter looks like poo though.

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Thankfully I still had leftover spices! I don’t know what else I would use these spices on.

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Ta da! Aren’t they pretty? Each one of them is totally unique too :) You can find the recipe here

Lemon Crinkles
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This was probably the recipe I was most disappointed with. It didn’t have enough of a lemon flavor for me, even though I doubled the lemon juice and zest contents because I was trying to get rid of my lemons. It was still soft and good though! Recipe here.

Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies
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Thumbprint cookies will forever remind me (and probably many others who devoured these cookies) of the summer before senior year of college when I worked at INNA Jam, a local artisan jam company that makes jam from locally grown, seasonal fruit. I used to be a jam maker! It was a fun summer job that paid well and though I might be biased, they make the best jams that highlight the natural flavors and sweetness of the fruit. A little pricey per jar, but if you have the cash, it’s totally worth it! Anyways, that summer I frequently made these thumbprint cookies that are extra buttery and tasted good with the sweet and sometimes tart jam. I tried using both INNA Jam jam and store bought jam and found that the store bought jam tended not to explode all over the cookie but the INNA Jam jam did. Perhaps it’s because there’s so much preservatives in the store bought jam that it held together better. I’m not sure what I’d rather have. But this time I just used some organic raspberry jam from Sprouts and it was fine! Recipe here. Do not fear the butter content! It’s what makes these cookies!

Saltine Bark (w/ Caramel, Chocolate and Almonds)
I’m not even sure what this bark is really supposed to be called, but all it has is saltines, caramel, chocolate and almonds! My friend gave these away during fall finals season of senior year and I loved them so much that I had to get the recipe! It’s VERY easy!

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Lay out some saltine crackers on a pan like so. Then make caramel by heating one cup of butter and one cup of brown sugar in a small pot until the sugar starts to brown a little and it thickens a bit. Pour this over the saltine crackers and bake at 350F for 15 minutes or less.

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Pull it out of the oven and spread chocolate chips on top (you can use any but I prefer semi-sweet or dark) and spread it evenly.

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Then sprinkle some chopped almonds on top (you can roast the almonds too if you’d like!) and let it cool and harden. And voila! Easy, right? Plus, doesn’t it kind of look like a Pollock piece? hehe

Mocha Chocolate Chip
This recipe was interesting because it had no eggs. But while I was mixing the batter, I couldn’t help but add an egg because it just wasn’t combining well (in my opinion). It was a decent recipe but not as good as when someone else I know made it (hers tasted wayyyy sweeter!) so I’ll probably tweak it until I like it because I love coffe flavored things and I want to perfect this! Recipe here.

These recipes are all pretty simple and I wanted to keep it that way! I also wanted cookies that would last for a while, in case I wasn’t able to deliver them to people right away. Overall, it was a pretty successful cookie plate :)

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Until next Christmas!

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