Beyond the basic holiday cookies
I started some holiday baking last week and added a few new cookies to the list of favorites. While I planned to do some of the old standbys, including chocolate chip cookies, white chocolate macadamia nut cookies and butterscotch chip cookies, I always like to find a couple new recipes to try each year. This year, I found a cookbook magazine that was devoted to holiday treats. I picked out two recipes that have unique ingredients. These aren’t the typical peppermint, peanut butter or sugar cookies that are associated with the holidays.
I wanted to try more than a dozen recipes in the cookbook, but limited myself to just a couple with plans to try a few more down the road. One of the cookies adds in a lot of texture with polenta, or cornmeal. The cookie is thin, almost like a cracker, but it has the sweet flavor of cranberries, citrus zest and almond extract.
In addition to the traditional chocolate chip cookies, I also tried out a twist on chocolate chip cookies that uses a Guinness beer cooked down into sweet syrup. It took a while to get the beer and brown sugar to cook down into the consistency of molasses, but the cookies turned out chewy and tender. The chocolate-based cookie has white and semi-sweet chips in it and the flavor hints at the suggestion of the stout flavor.
The last cookie I made is still a work in progress. A friend of mine wanted to make a gingerbread house from scratch so I promised that I would make some large pieces of gingerbread that could be trimmed into different-size pieces. The dough had to chill for three to four hours so after baking all the other cookies, we didn’t get around to decorating it yet. It should be a fun challenge in the coming weeks, though. We will be tackling royal icing for the gingerbread house next week, and planning what kids of treats to use for decorations.
Guinness chocolate cookies
Recipes courtesy of “Cuisine Holiday Cooking’
2 bottles Guinness extra stout, 12 oz. each
½ c. packed brown sugar
2 ¾ c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. table salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened (8 tbsp.)
½ c. shortening
1 c. granulated sugar
½ c. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. white chocolate chunks
1 c. semisweet chocolate chunks
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Reduce beer with ½ c. brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until syrupy and measures 1/3 c. (about 30 to 45 minutes.) Remove syrup from heat; set aside to cool slightly.
Whisk together flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Cream butter, shortening, the granulated sugar and ½ c. brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed, until fluffy, about three minutes. Add beer syrup, eggs and vanilla; mix to combine.
Stir flour-cocoa mixture into creamed mixture until flour is no longer visible. Fold in white and semisweet chocolate chunks until distributed evenly. Drop dough in 2 tbsp. balls onto a prepared baking sheet. Bake cookies until edges are set, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cookies cool two minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Cranberry polenta cookies
Makes 32 cookies
Total time: 45 minutes, plus time for chilling
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/3 c. sugar
¼ tsp. pure almond extract
1 ½ tsp. each chopped orange and lemon zest
¾ c. polenta or cornmeal
¾ c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. table salt
1/3 c. chopped dried cranberries
Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes.
Whisk together egg and almond extract, then add to butter mixture along with zests; beat with a mixer on high speed until combined. Combine polenta, flour, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in cranberries.
Roll dough into an 8×2-inch log, wrap in waxed paper and chill until firm. Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment. Slice dough into ¼-inch thick cookies; bake until firm to the touch, 10-12 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to a cooling rack, five to 10 minutes.