Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Spice Cookies

If you don't bake any other time of the year, when December rolls around, it seems like there's a need for cookies - for Santa snacks, a cookie exchange, for guests, or as a simple treat for yourself after a hard day of shopping or decorating.

While these cookies have familiar holiday spices, they aren't quite like gingerbread. In fact, I've known some gingerbread-haters who have loved them. They're perfect with a cup of coffee, some hot chai tea, or even a mug of hot chocolate.

These are refrigerator cookies - make them one day and let them chill. Perfect when you want to be prepped and ready to bake on another day.

You can get carried away with decorating, if that's your style, or use something simple, like sugar pearls. You can find sugar pearls in a huge variety of colors to match the holiday - or just pick your favorite colors.

I got a big bag of assorted red, green and white pearls from King Arthur Flour - enough to decorate cookies, cakes, and anything else that gets in my way.

If you're using a Christmas tree cookie cutter like I did (or even wreath), the little pearls make perfect ornaments. Just press them into the unbaked dough, and your decorating is done.

Or let pretty cookie cutters do all the work for you and leave the cookies plain. Whatever you decide, you can rest assured that they'll be a tasty addition to the cookie platter, and not quite like anything else on the plate.

The honey you use can have an impact on the flavor, with light honey giving a more subtle flavor, and dark honey making more of an impact. Same with the brown sugar. The dark brown will have more flavor and the cookies will be a little darker. There are no wrong choices - make these cookies your way.

Holiday Spice Cookies

2 cups (9 ounces) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, allspice, mace, and nutmeg. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and brown sugar using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer. Add the honey and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue beating until the egg is completely incorporated, then add the vanilla and continue beating until it is incorporated.

Add the flour mixture and beat on low just until it is all combined.

This mixture need to be refrigerated for at least several hours; overnight is best. You can transfer it to a smaller bowl for storage, or wrap it in plastic wrap - whichever is easier for you.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough in half and put the unused half into the refrigerator while you work with the first. Lightly sprinkle your work surface with flour and roll the first half to about 1/4 inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut the cookies into your desired shapes. Transfer the cookies to the parchment. If the dough gets to soft to work with, return it to the refrigerator to firm it up again.

Add decorations, if desired. Bake at 350 degrees until the cookies are firm on top and are just beginning to brown on the edges, about 8-12 minutes depending on the size of your cookies. Remove the cookies from the baking sheet and cool completely on a rack.

You can work on rolling and cutting the second half of the dough while the first bakes.

Save all the unused scraps from both batches. You can re-roll it and make more cookies. Instead of cookie-cutter shapes, you can roll them into balls and flatten them, so you won't end up with even more scraps to re-roll.

Update: This recipe just won a cookie contest at Culinary School of the Rockies. Read about it here.


TKW said...

Those are beautiful and, blessedly NOT spackled with icing and sprinkles. My girls are little and thing that excess is key when it comes to adorning cookies. Just looking at some of the ones they crank out give me sugar shock.

Allison@KingArthurFlour said...

I love the trees with the little sugar-pearl ornaments! Think I'll grab a bag to help simplify some of the annual cookie-making marathon with my sister. Thanks for the idea!

Anonymous said...

These are so cute! i love how evenly spaced the pearls are!

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