Thursday, December 18, 2008

Some Favorite Christmas Cookies

I love to bake, especially for 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 daughters-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 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 for 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 the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets. Grind figs, dates, and raisins in a food processor or grinder until coarse. Place in a bowl and add remaining ingredients 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 into 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 a crescent with a sharp knife or clean scissors. 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  Italian Rainbow 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!

Italian Rainbow 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 of sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
10 drops red food coloring
6 drops green food coloring
6 drops yellow food coloring, or leave middle layer plain
1/4 cup seedless red raspberry jam--or as needed
1/4 cup apricot jam--or as needed
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 nonstick spray also.
2) Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium-size bowl, set aside.
3) With an electric mixer on high-speed beat almond paste, soften 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 an 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, or leave plain. Add as much coloring until you get the shade of color you like.
5) Scrape the yellow (plain) 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 yellow (or plain) layer on top evenly, spread apricot jam over the yellow layer, then add the 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 and 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 that I did for both him and my daughter all through their elementary school grades, for almost every holiday. We made pumpkin dough cookies shaped like 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!

Gingerbread Cookies
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 egg

1) Sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a medium bowl.
2) Cream butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until fluffy and light. Beat in molasses and egg until well mixed.
3) Stir in flour mixture, a little at a time, until well blended and the dough is stiff. Wrap tightly and chill at least an hour until firm enough to roll.
4) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out dough using a 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 for about 8 minutes until edges are 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, and I'm glad we are still able to enjoy doing them each year.

I wonder if Vee of A Haven For Vee recognizes the handmade apron that I won in her giveaway 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!

A photo of my Christmas tree from a few years ago. I don't have much room in my long and narrow Brooklyn, NY, 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.
Can you see my cat sitting amongst the gifts? He likes to chew on the bows!

I hope everyone is enjoying the last few days of preparations for Christmas --

One last weekend to go!

In the meantime, you can also find me on

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Unknown said...

Hi Pat,
I love the pictures of your children when they where adorable. I know you treasure your photos as much as I do.

Looks like you and your daughter really enjoyed your time together baking cookies!

The tree looks great!


Lisa's RetroStyle said...

It's so nice to be able to carry on traditions. So many wonderful memories! Thanks for sharing the recipes. The Neapolitan ones sound especially good to me too!!

Lorrie said...

Thank you for sharing your favorite recipes. Like Diane, I love seeing the photos of your children when they were young. Soon you'll be making gingerbread men with little Leo!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I LOVE those recipes you just shared---and the wonderful memories that go with making them. You and your daughter look so cute making Christmas cookies--and I just LOVE that kitty amongst the gifts!!!Your tree looks wonderful!!
Hope you have your bags nearly packed for that trip West!!! L, Dana

Anonymous said...

I love to bake too! I'm going to be copying out your recipes today! Thanks for visiting my blog, and I'm glad you enjoyed your day on the Antrim Coast!

Judy said...

What a priceless pic of your two children! My gingerbread recipe looks much the same...also well-used for thirty-plus years.

I still like to bake for the holidays as well...but somehow haven't passed that along to my daughter. She could find many other things she would rather do than spend time in the kitchen! How special for you to bake together. And I like your apron...a lot!

Vee said...

Sure do recognize it! LOL! Looking much better on you than on John, too.

Your cookies are amazing! I only wish that I had planned ahead and could take an entire day to bake. Perhaps I'll keep my fingers crossed. I'd love it if my daughter would join me, but she's not a kitchen gal.

What handsome little boys you have, too!

You must be nearly ready to head West...

Vee said...

Those aren't two little boys! Good heavens! That's a sweet little girl with all kinds of curls. Hope that your daughter will forgive me!

I'm here showing John all the cookies and the apron. He's noticing your hair. I've been threatening to cut mine all off. He'd prefer that I not.

Kathy said...

The Fig cookies look delicious, they all do Pat and what a wonderful photo of your children when younger, Stephen arrives tomorrow oh I wish I had another 3 weeks, still so much to do!!. I love your tree, happy baking, hugs Kathy.

Nola said...

Those recipes look soooo yummy! Gingerbread (pernicky) is one of my favorites!

Melissa Miller said...

Hi Pat,

I love fig! The little seeds when they pop are so good to me. MMM. :0

I have posted a cookie recipe today for a "cookie exchange". You should link in as well since you already have cookie recipes posted. It's at "OUR CREATIVE LIFE" Darlene's blog.

Hope all is going well with the new little man.

~Warmly, Melissa ;)

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Okay, it's official! I'm coming to YOUR house, not just for Christmas, but to live!!! ;-)

Oh, Pat, they would have to get one of those cranes to haul me around if I lived near you! I could go through that table like a hungry fox! Oh, such delicious goodness!

And I love your tree, too.



Anonymous said...

Hia Pat, what a lovely selection of recipes. thanks for sharing. what a special Christmas this will be!

PAT said...

Enjoyed this post so much, Pat. I don't bake like I did when my children were small.

I love the photos!

Kathy said...

Thanks Pat, I know Christmas will be wonderful for you all with little Leo, Happy New Year Too. hugs, Kathy xoxo.

aliceinparis said...

Thanks for the recipes. Those fig cookies would be my fave of the bunch. They look and sound delicious!
Cheers, Shelagh

Camille said...

The photo of your children is precious! And, all your cookie recipes look very yummy. I just took a break from baking and love to get in the kitchen during the holidays.

Happy Baking!

Donna said...

Wonderful photos of your family, Pat. Thanks for sharing the recipes.

Have a wonderful holiday!


Tara said...

Pat What a nice tradition...we baked last weekend also and I was thinking the whole time and wondering if my girls will still want to do it wehn they are older, you give me much hope...and I am sure a buinch of those cookies are on the way to Leo, well, maybe his parent for this year!


Sue said...

Hi Pat...thank you for the cookie son-in-law would love the fig cookies...I have to do something to stay in his good graces...

Just A Girl said...

Hi Pat,
Wow! How many different recipes did you make? These all look so wonderful. I haven't even started my baking, but I think you've inspired me. I better start tomorrow night. That'll be my birthday bash :)!
I have to check out you post about the church below.
Have you started packing yet?

xo Cori

Willow said...

Pat, The cookies all look sweet, wonderful, fattening and scrumptious!

I can tell how much you love baking with your daughter!

Bo said...

Oh my goodness Pat...You are a baker extraorinaire! Those cookies all look bakery quality...and I'll just bet they taste even better!
;-) Bo

Deb said...

Thank you for sharing your favourite cookie recipes - they sound wonderful. I loved the gingerbread man photo of your children when they were little :-) A snow storm began this morning with an expected 8-10 inches so today is going to be a Christmas baking day at our home too :-)

Anonymous said...

Pat, this is such a wonderful post. I love the tradition of baking cookies with your children and loved ones.

And, I wish I was there because I want a cookie.

steviewren said...

Pat, I love getting to know more about your family and your Christmas traditions. Your pictures bring back memories and make me want to make gingerbread men cookies. I made them instead of cake one year for my son's birthday. Thanks for the recipes. I know if you bake it, it must be delicious.

Love seeing your tree too. I took a few photos of mine which I will probably post in the next couple of days.

Jojo said...

Thank you for sharing the cookie recipes. Everything in the photo looks scrumptious!!!

I heard that you have snow today so I guess you are dreaming of a white Christmas,

Proud Italian Cook said...

Wow look at that table! cookies everywhere. I love it! You and I were on the same wave length, I just made fig cookies too. I bet you're so excited to hold your little Leo. Have a wonderful xmas Pat!

Gina said...

Hi Pat..I so wish I could pop around for a cuppa, chat and one or two of your delicious treats!! They look so good, thanks for sharing your recipes. I love the photo of your children next to the gingerbread men.
I have a little award for you on my blog next time you visit Gx

Paula said...

I found your blog via a comment you left on Marie's Proud Italian Cook. You mentioned that your hubby is from Calabria ... that's the birth home of my mom and all of her family. My Italian relatives and many of their friends immigrated to the US when my mom was younger, yet their Italian heritage GREATLY influenced my entire life. Anyway, it's so very rare that I learn someone else has roots from that area! We are the Arlia's, Magnone's, Pelligrino's, and more. Love your cookies, by the way. Have a wonderful holiday!

Linda Lou said...

I absolutely love the Neopolitans - had to have them when we would go to the bakery , those are hard to do, I admire all your cookie recipes, as for me, I go with easy ones, so I don't screw it up...your son is so cute, and it must be great to be able to bake with your daughter, all grown up.
Merry Christmas!

Alexandra MacVean said...

Good morning, Pat. Love your family pictures. Thank you for the recipes. I am SO going to try the ginerbread cookies. Me and my father LOVE gingerbread! :)


Marg said...

Looks like a busy woman in a busy kitchen. it's always interesting to see the different traditional cookies that we all love to make over and over.
That's the fun of traditions.

Laura @ the shorehouse. said...

I'd love to give those rainbow cookies a try some day...I just saw a recipe today on a baker blog. I'll just have to clear a few days to get them going...and who knows when that will happen!! But I will make it my own little Daring Bakers challenge. :-)

Thanks for the great recipes!


CatHerder said...

I havent had fig cookies in YEARS..Im ashamed to say that although i have vats of limoncello made, i havent made ONE going to try to make struffoli tomorrow. We used to start baking the day after Thanksgiving, and kept going filling tins and tins and tins..i havent done that in years.

Betsy Brock said...

How festive! Those fig cookies look especially yummy to me! Have a wonderful Christmas, Pat! That new grandbaby is adorable!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

The old recipes are the best, aren't they?? Thanks for sharing yours!

Donna said...

Oh, I see Bo sitting there looking adorable! Beautiful tree - and isn't it amazing how quickly our kids grow up?... Donna @ An Enchanted Cottage

GratefulPrayerThankfulHeart said...

Found your recipe! Sweet photo of your little ones :)

CityMom2 said...

Popped over from P Dub's. Love your photos. My oldest was born in 1985 so the picture of your cuties warms my heart.
Great recipes and nice to meet you.