I love to bake, especially at Christmas. For many years it was my tradition to bake and decorate many trays of cookies before Christmas and then to make up trays of cookie assortments to give to family and friends to enjoy.
I don't bake quite as many cookies as I did in the past because now daughters and nieces, are now adults, and daughter's-in-law have been added to the extended family. They all contribute their own wonderful selection of cookies to holiday gatherings, but I still make a few of our favorites each season.
One recipe that a few people have asked me for recently is for an Italian Fig cookie which you can see in the middle left of my photo above. These are my husband's favorite!
Sicilian Fig Cookies
4 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups dried figs, stems cut off
2 cups dried dates, pitted
1 1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1 1/4 cup (10 oz) walnuts coarsely chopped
1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash, colored nonpareil sprinkles.
1) Stir flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add sugar and mix. Cut in shortening with a fork and work until it looks like oatmeal.
2) In a bowl beat the egg, milk, and vanilla together. Add to the flour mixture and work the ingredients with your hands until a rough dough forms. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead 5 minutes until smooth. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces, wrap each in plastic wrap and chill 45 minutes in the refrigerator.
3) Meanwhile preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets. Grind figs, dates and raisins in food processor or grinder until coarse. Place in a bowl and add remaining ingredient's and mix well.
4) On a floured surface roll out one piece of the dough at a time into 12 inch squares. Cut the dough in 4x3 rectangles. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the filling down the center of each rectangle. Carefully fold the dough large side over, pinch the seam, and turn cookies seam side down and seal short ends by folding under, and shape cookie into a crescent. Repeat until all dough and filling is used.
5) Make 2-3 slits in crescent with sharp knife or clean scissor. Brush egg white mixture and shake on sprinkles. Bake 25 minutes until golden. Cool on a rack. Should make around 4 dozen cookies.
My mother-in-law usually made her cookies in more of a star shape, which I duplicate by cutting the dough in a large circle with a cutter, placing the filling in the center, and then pinching up the four corners. I've also seen these cookies also made into rolls, and in many other fanciful shapes.
Another family favorite that you can see in the photo above, in the front upper left, is the Neapolitan ribbon cookies. The recipe has many steps and takes two days to make, but it is easier than it sounds and they are absolutely bakery quality delicious!
When I make this recipe I double all the ingredients, as we like the cookies to be very thick. I use the same size pans but increase the cooking times.
These are my daughter and daughter-in-law's favorite cookies!
Makes 6 dozen
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ( 7-8 oz) tube or can of almond paste
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 drops red food coloring
6 drops green food coloring
6 drops yellow food coloring
1/4 cup seedless red raspberry jam
1/4 cup apricot jam
1 6 oz semi sweet chocolate chips, melted
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 3, 3x13 inch baking pans with nonstick spray. Line the pans with parchment paper (or wax paper) and lightly spray the paper with non stick spray also.
2) Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium size bowl, set aside.
3) With electric mixer on high speed beat almond paste, softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond extract.
4) With electric mixer on low speed stir in the flour mixture until blended. Divide the dough ( it will be very soft) into thirds ( about 1 1/2 cups each) and transfer to 3 medium bowls. Tint one batch of dough red, one green, and one yellow with the food coloring. Add as much coloring until you get the shade of color you like.
5) Scrape the yellow dough into the prepared baking pan, the red dough into another. and the green into a third --spreading the dough until smooth and until it completely covers the pan bottom evenly. Bake until edges begin to turn golden, about 12 minutes. Cool completely in the pans on racks.
6) invert the layers onto a work surface and remove the parchment paper. Spread the raspberry jam over the green layer, then add the green layer on top evenly, spread apricot jam over the yellow layer, then add red layer on top. Wrap plastic over and place a heavy cutting board ( or two) on top to weigh it all down. Refrigerate overnight.
7) the next day remove the plastic wrap. Spread melted chocolate over the top layer and let cool and set slightly. With a large sharp knife trim edges, then cut lengthwise into strips ad then across to make individual squares.
The next photo will show you how long I've used my gingerbread cookie recipe! My son was in kindergarten and I baked gingerbread men for his entire class! It became a tradition which I did for both him and and my daughter all through their elementary school grades, for almost every holiday. We made pumpkin dough cookies shaped as pumpkins for Halloween, sugar cookie turkeys for Thanksgiving, sugar cookie bunnies for Easter, etc.
When they were old enough my children use to help roll the dough. cut out the shapes and decorate.
Yes, this little boy on the right is now grown, and a just became a Daddy himself recently!
Makes two dozen 5 inch cookies
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1)Sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger into a medium bowl.
2) cream butter and brown sugar in large bowl until fluffy and light. Beat in molasses and egg until well mixed.
3) Stir in flour mixture, a part at a time, until well blended and dough is stiff. Wrap tightly and chill at least an hour until firm enough to roll.
4) Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Roll out dough using lightly floured rolling pin to prevent sticking, one quarter at a time, about 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured pastry cloth or board.
5) using floured cookie cutters cut into gingerbread shapes and place on lightly greased cookie sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake about 8 minutes until edges firm and remove immediately from the pans and cool on wire racks.
6)Decorate as desired with your favorite confectioners sugar icing piped with a pastry bag.
This past weekend I baked with my daughter and her friend. The little three year old in the photo above is now a busy professional, and I'm not quite the young mother I was back then, yet we still like to make, and eat Christmas cookies!
It wouldn't feel like Christmas without these traditions like these, and I'm glad we are still able to enjoy doing them each year.
I wonder if Vee of A Haven For Vee recognizes her handmade apron that I won in her give away some time ago? I'm wearing it in these photos while my daughter and I were making butter Spritz Cookies. I love it Vee, and wear it all the time! Thanks again!
ETA: I linked to Darlene's cookie exchange going on at her blog today -- please check out "Our Creative Life" for her delicious cookie recipe and links to many more cookie recipes on her Mr. Linky. Thank you, Melissa, for telling me about the exchange!
A photo of my Christmas tree from a few years ago. I don't have much room in my long and narrow house, so it gets squeezed into a corner between my dining room and living room, but that is nice because we can see it from almost every room on the ground level.
One last weekend to go!