“I’ve decided. I’m having stuffing for breakfast.” – Mom (Boxing Day, 10:34am)
These are the kinds of assertions that make Christmas the beautiful thing that it is. A nip of bourbon in your morning coffee; shortbread cookies for breakfast. It’s unrestricted, backwards-eating at it’s best. Because really, who’s going to say that you can’t? There’s a unspoken understanding that from December 24th to January 6th, it’s the Wild West of eating and imbibing – there are no rules, and each is left to their own devices with the cornucopia of leftovers in the fridge. (And, yes, your head’s always in the fridge, because you’re constantly hungry. Even though you just ate.) For some reason, you also find yourself wanting to drink filtered coffee all day…or at least before you hit the mimosas, cocktails, red wine and hot toddies (usually in that order, but not always).
Christmas cookies are an important part of the no-rules, bacchanal feasting that goes on in our house at this time of year. Highly versatile, they can be eaten as an pre-breakfast “appetite-opener”, a “light” dessert after a holiday meal, or as a post-nap snack. They are glad to be whatever you want them to be, whenever you want them.
Like every year, I began amassing Christmas cookie recipes in mid-November, with the unrealistic hope that I’d be able to make all two dozen of them. Then, by the time December 23rd rolled around, I had widdled the list down to a more reasonable five or six, in addition to the “untouchables” (i.e. the ones firmly cemented in the italo-anglo traditions of my family, and which we do not mess with – anise pizzelle, fennel-seed doughnuts, chocolate chichinotti, shortbread cut-outs and ginger snaps).
This year, I locked down three new favourites, one with molasses, one with chocolate and one dusted with powdered sugar. They are each very different, but all equally addictive. Dunk them in a hot cup of coffee after a long walk in the snow. Or while sipping champagne in the bathtub. Whichever scenario suits you best.
Warmest of holidays to you and yours ♥
Smoky Ginger-Molasses Cookies – from Reclaiming Provincial
(makes around 2 dozen cookies)
- 5 black cardamom pods
- 1 cup of sugar + 1/2 cup of sugar, divided
- 3/4 cup of unsalted butter (12 tbsp / 1.5 sticks)
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 egg
- 1 cup of bread flour
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
3 days in advance:
Combine whole cardamom pods and 1/2 cup of sugar in a jar. Cover and let sit.
To make the cookies:
Remove cardamom pods from the rolling sugar. Crack open pods, remove seeds and crush them with a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the cardamom pods and let simmer until the butter begins to foam. Remove from heat and let rest for 15 minutes, then remove pods and discard. Let butter cool to room temperature.
Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, spices, crushed cardamom seeds, and pepper.
In another bowl, cream together butter and the cup of sugar. Beat in molasses, then the egg. Gradually beat in dry ingredients until just combined. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat.
Form heaping tablespoons of batter into balls; roll in the 1/2 cup of infused sugar. Place on a baking sheet two inches apart.
Bake cookies for 8–10 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
(makes about 2 dozen)
- 1/2 lb unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 egg yolks, well beaten
- 1 cup ground almonds (blanched)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups flour
Beat the egg yolks at high speed until light in colour.
Cream butter in a bowl; add sugar and beat with electric beaters for 1 minute. Add egg yolks, beating to blend. Add almonds and vanilla, then mix with a wooden spoon. Fold in flour a little at a time with the wooden spoon until just blended.
Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes (and up to 2 days)
Divide dough into 4 potions and roll out each portion on a floured work surface into a log shape. Cut segments (about the length of your index finger)and shape them into crescents.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 7-10 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then roll in powdered sugar while warm.
Chocolate Crackle Cookies – from Martha Stewart
(makes about 3 dozen)
- 8 ounces dark chocolate (such as 70 percent cacao), finely chopped
- 1 cup blanched almonds, toasted
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring. Let cool. Pulse almonds in a food processor until very finely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl, and stir in flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Beat butter and brown sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Mix in chocolate. Reduce speed to low, and mix in almond-flour mixture. Refrigerate dough until firm, about 1 hour (note: the batter will not seem like a regular cookie dough, but more like a cross between cake batter and ganache to make truffles. It’s ok – roll with it. After some time in the fridge, it’ll firm up and you’ll be able to scoop it out).
Preheat oven to 350°F. Form dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar to coat, then in confectioners’ sugar to coat. Arrange on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until surfaces crack, about 14 minutes. Transfer sheets to wire racks; let cool.