Cooks Exchange

Holiday cookies make good gifts and sweet memories

Bakers or wannabe bakers, start your ovens. Christmas cookie time is here.

While some cooks already have started their baking, those wanting to prepare homemade treats need to get started. December is zooming by.

If cooks like to bake, then Christmas cookies are delightful from traditional cutout sugar cookies to fancier ones. Getting the whole family involved in cookie baking is a fun time, especially for the little ones.

My daughter started making cookies with me when she was 3. I have pictures of her in her hooded red coat making, and, yes, eating cookies at the kitchen table. The hooded coat was one of her clothes that she never liked to take off, so it was coated in powdered sugar and flour by day’s end.

Now, she and my granddaughter join me in making cookies for teachers and friends. Lilly loves to sample the cookie dough. Yes, I know, it isn’t healthy, but it’s Christmas. We not only make cookies, but we make homemade gift containers for those cookies. Again, it’s fun and not the least bit stressful.

When my daughter was in fifth grade, we made cookies at one of her slumber parties. I was surprised at how many of the girls hadn’t made cutout cookies, but they had fun doing it. Yes, the kitchen was a mess, but who cared?

Most of my cooking skills I learned from my grandmother, except for cookies. She could make wonderful cakes and pies, but cookies were too time-consuming for her. However, she did make wonderful tea cakes that I still make today.

Besides the tea cakes, we also make red and white striped candy cane cookies and Mexican wedding cookies, which are my granddaughter’s favorite. Christmas cutout cookies are a must even if the thinned icing drips all over the floor. These are the cookies we share.

This year our containers are going to be metal coffee cans decorated with red and white ribbon and a gold buckle like Santa and round potato chip containers decked out in colorful wrapping paper. Two ideas I swiped from “The Kitchen” on Food Network. Both ideas are easy enough for kids to do, and possibly Grandma.

Don’t think I am a total purist when it comes to baking cookies. There are special cookies that I buy, including Greek pastries and pusharatas. These treats are made by ladies who do a better job at making them than I could. They have been perfecting these cookies and pastries since childhood. Again, grandparents teach their children and their grandchildren. It’s called tradition.

Today enjoy some of these cookie ideas. They are easy to do. Some are made from scratch, but the one from Pillsbury uses rolled sugar cookie dough, melted semisweet chips and red and green candy disks, also melted. What could be easier? I am so making these this year.

HOLIDAY SWIRL BARS

1 roll (16.5 ounces) Pillsbury refrigerated sugar cookies

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

1/4 cup red candy melts or coating wafers

1/4 cup white candy melts or coating wafers

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 13-by-9-inch pan with foil, leaving enough to hang over edges of pan. Spray bottom and sides of foil with cooking spray. Press cookies dough evenly in bottom of pan. Bake 14 to 16 minutes or until edges and center are set and light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips uncovered in high 45 seconds; stirring every 15 seconds until smooth. Stir in peppermint extract. Spread on top of warm cookie base, spread to within 1/4-inch of edges.

In two separate small microwavable bowls, microwave candy melts uncovered on medium (50 percent power) 1 minute; stirring every 20 seconds, until smooth; transfer to 2 separate small resealable food-storage plastic bags. Cut small corner off each bag and squeeze teaspoonfuls of alternating colors onto melted chocolate layer. Using knife or metal spatula, cut through melted chocolate and candy melts to create swirled marble design. Firmly tap pan on counter to create a smooth surface.

Allow bars to cool completely, about 2 hours or until chocolate topping is set. To serve, remove bars from pan and cut into 4 rows by 4 rows.

– From Pillsbury

MEXICAN WEDDING COOKIES

1 cup butter, softened

1/3 cup confectioners sugar

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup finely chopped pecans

Confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat butter and 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar at medium speed with a mixer until creamy. Add egg yolks and vanilla, beating until combined. Add flour and cinnamon, beating until combined. Stir in pecans. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, and place on prepared pans.

Bake for 17 to 20 minutes or until edges of cookies are golden brown. Sift confectioners sugar over hot cookies and let cool on pans for 3 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool completely on wire racks.

Sift confectioners sugar over cooled cookies. Store in airtight containers for up to 1 week.

– From Paula Deen

Andrea Yeager can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and Cooks Exchange, 205 DeBuys Road, Gulfport, MS 39507.
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