I have started baking. It’s a much slower process this year as I am hampered by my formerly “good” knee. Actually everything Christmas is hampered by it, so this morning to be honest, I was mopey.
What I was thinking about this morning is I never had children of my own. So I’m a stepparent of a son￼. When he was little I tried to get him interested in making Christmas cookies but he was into it for about 20 minutes and then would evaporate. He likes to eat them, but he’s not really into cooking . And there are no girls.
Well I do have a niece but she’s a big city girl. They order things like cookies, not bake them. Fashion, make-up, and selfies are where it’s at now. Maybe that will change as she grows up, but I don’t think so. And that’s ok, I am happy to bake them.
It’s just when you are growing up female, or at least for me, there was always this little day dream of when I was grown up and had my own kids I would bake Christmas cookies with them. Like my mother did with us. When we were little my mother did this. Gingerbread men, chocolate chip cookies, cut out cookies with bright sugar sprinkles, Russian tea cookies, and these amazing things called Florentines with bittersweet chocolate and candied orange peel. I still don’t know how to make the Florentines.
So this morning I was all down about this whole wondering who would eventually want the recipes I had collected and written over the years? They fill three 3-ring binders. And then there are my cookbooks.
Then I realized sometimes family extends to friends. And I do have friends with daughters. And one is already a baker at 13.
And I also realized I do share my recipes with my readers too. So hopefully down the road, as the years progress people will find my recipes and use them. Of course I could actually write a cookbook if I would just get down to the writing of it part. I have the recipes and I have the photos. I just haven’t done it. It’s on a “I will get to it list.”￼
Then I also remembered I had shared a collection of recipes last year with my readers, friends, and members of my cooking group.
So….sharing again: Fa la la la la. No cookie grinches here! Follow this link and see embedded below a curated collection of cookie recipes from ALL over the Internet
Also included?A few of my own personal cookie recipes. For web-based recipes at the bottom of each page is the link to the originating sites. Gathered here to make my life easier! Yes a lot of them are in landscape – I do that when I print – easier for me.
So maybe some of you out there have baked with mint chocolate baking chips and my new recipe is not so revolutionary. But I never have and I think I have come up with a cookie that can be described as if a peppermint pattie had a cousin. And truthfully, if you had the patience you could chop up little peppermint patties I am sure, but hey I have a lot of baking to do, so thanks, but no.
You will notice I am for the most part a drop cookie baker. Can I roll and decorate with royal icing? Sure, but I am more about the flavor profiles of the humble drop cookie or biscotti.
Here is the recipe:
Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
1/2 cup sweet butter softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 package chocolate mint baking chips (mine was 10 ounces I think Ghiradelli , Hershey, and Nestle Make them seasonally and you can find them at wholesale nut folks like Nuts.com or Edwards Freeman Nut Company in Conshohocken)
1 cup mini white chocolate chips (mine are the Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value)
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur and if your flour is more than 2 or 3 months old, spring for fresh.)
1/3 Cup of Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder
Glittery baking sugar – today I used Christmas green from Wiltons
So How Did I Do it? Here are the mixing steps:
So ……cream butter and BOTH sugars until smooth. Beat in peppermint and vanilla extract. (Buy good baking extracts, imitation extracts leave an after taste you will not like in your baking.)
Add eggs, mix until blended. Add cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Do this slowly and not all at once or you and your kitchen will be cocoa coated.
Add flour in three or four doses – don’t know how else to describe it. Again, blend sort of on a lower blender speed or flour will fly.
When your dough is smooth and well blended, blend in your chips, cover your cookie dough and refrigerate an hour or two.
When dough is chilled pull out of refrigerator and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. And FYI if you chill cookie dough before you bake it will keep cookies from doing the super spread and will also mean you get softer and more firm cookies. Or at least that has been my experience.
I use jelly roll sheet pans and silicone baking sheets. I use the aluminum (silver-colored NOT dark coated they make your cookies BURN). Mine are Chicago Metallic Commercial Baker’s pans and the Nordic Ware Commercial Baker’s Pans are also good. These are the pans that have a raised edge of about an inch and are rectangular – they are the size of regular cookie sheets more or less. I use Velesco Premium Silicone Baking Mats. They are 11 5/8” x 16 ½”. They are best price hands down on Amazon but like the baking pans I mentioned sometimes you will find them at Home Sense or Home Goods.
In any event, silver NON-coated baking pans lined with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets are truly the way to go. Buy good pans. They last longer and the end result is preferable. Some of my friends swear by the insulated baking sheets (“air-bake” or something)
O.k. back to the baking of these cookies.
Break off bits of dough and form 1 ½” round balls. Dip top in glittery baking sugar, and put on cookie sheets 2” apart.
Bake 8 – 10 minutes depending on your oven . Tonight I started out at 10 minutes a batch for two batches and then went to 9 minutes for the final two batches.
Cool on baking pans a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. I store my cookies in old school metal tins.
I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. ~ Charles Dickens
We live in a crazy world. Angry politicians are running our country, and overseas in one of the most beautiful places in Europe, Strasbourg, a fanatical radical shot up a Christmas Market, and was later shot dead by police. Strasbourg is a place special to my sister and I. We both spent time there many years ago. We are still connected to the families we grew to love.
When you think of Christmas, you try to think of happy things but truthfully many people have a difficult time emotionally during the holiday season. They either can’t find a reason to look for joy or are unable to find a reason. There are so many who sadly feel so alone at Christmas. Or they are just so wrapped in their heads they lash out at people.
And if you read what Vinny Vella wrote you will learn about the neighbors and friends of this missing man who have gone out searching repeatedly. I am blessed to have them as friends as well. Those people? They are the Christmas spirit. They are what friendship and love and community are all about. And I know they won’t give up.
Just like the friends and family of Anna Maciejewska Gould of Charlestown, Malvern also won’t give up. I never knew Anna, but I have Polish born friends and I know how much they and their families love Christmas. And how close they all are. I thought about Anna the other day, because she leaves her little son behind. I wonder if she was still alive if she would make Chruściki (also known as Polish Angel Wings) for her young son? I wonder if he has any memory of his beloved mother at this point?
Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
~ Calvin Coolidge
Now, back to things like Christmas traditions. Maybe I am a closet Pollyanna, but I think tradition is important. I think it keeps the season alive in our hearts and brings people together. Take Malvern Victorian Christmas. I loved that event, and I wasn’t alone. It was truly magical much like the Dickens Festival in Narberth, PA and the West Chester Christmas Parade (which is sponsored so generously by QVC.)
This year Malvern Victorian Christmas was replaced by Christmas on King. It was December 1st. I couldn’t attend as we were elsewhere that Saturday. I honestly didn’t hear a thing about it one way or the other. I hope it was a huge success for the beloved local merchants, but next year? Maybe next year they can do both events? Maybe make Malvern Victorian Christmas one night and Christmas on King the next day? I get we have to have new traditions sometimes, but we also need to keep old traditions alive.
Like baking Christmas cookies. That is a Christmas tradition families should keep. Sure you can buy your Christmas cookies, but there is nothing like the happy zone I find myself in baking for friends and family. As a matter of fact, this year I put together a PDF of recipes I collected and a few of my own recipes.
So yes…Fa la la la la. No cookie grinches here! Follow this link ( xmas cookies ) to this collection of cookie recipes from ALL over the Internet and a few of my own personal cookie recipes (which I think I have published here on the blog before, truthfully.). For web-based recipes at the bottom of each page is the link to the originating sites (check out those various sites for MORE recipes.). I gathered them to make my life easier!
Yes a lot of them are in landscape – I do that when I print – easier for me. (I stick the recipes on the edge of the cupboard above my stove to follow when I am baking. If I am using one of my cookbooks, I use my cookbook holder, but for web-printed recipes I hang them right in front of me.)
Another Christmas tradition are Christmas cards. I remember we used to get and give so many more when I was growing up. But once the Internet evolved and with the changing world, this is a tradition I think that sometimes flickers versus burning bright.
I am guilty of not doing cards for a couple of years and today I was reminded by my friends Lynn and James who moved to Maine about why they are such a beautiful tradition which also must endure. Lynn included a letter catching all of us up on what their year had been like. We heard all about their wonderful children as well. As I was reading the letter I could almost see Lynn typing away in my mind’s eye. On a gloomy rainy day it was the perfect gift to open. Cards and letter-writing take time, but the result? The result is a beautiful thing that is such a gift to receive.
My last Christmas tradition is decorating your home. Not paying someone to come in and make your home burp Christmas but doing it yourself. Collecting ornaments and displaying family ornaments and even the simplicity of the green and red paper chains we used to make as children, along with cutting out snowflakes. Yes I am a little Christmas crazy when it comes to decorating, but I come by it honestly. My parents loved decorating for Christmas.
I have not lived here in Chester County long enough to know about all the celebrations continue today or are purely from the past. Parades, festivals, things that speak of the season and community.
So if you have memories of Christmas past and photos you would like to share. Please contact this blog via the blog’s Facebook page. Please tell me about the photos you’re sending and how you would like them attributed. I can attribute them simply “reader submitted” or put an entire name and so on. If you are sending things in for celebrations that still continue today and it something that requires public participation and donations, tell me who it is they are supposed to contact and when the event will occur.
We have 10 days until Christmas, so maybe some of you will consider this? I can only do this if you my readers participate. My idea is to create not just one post about these traditions and Christmas history, but to be able to create several posts throughout the month of December leading up to Christmas. If it doesn’t work this year, I will ask again next year.
Here is hoping the missing find their way home for Christmas.
Here is hoping those who have lost their Christmas joy find it.
Here is hoping for some old-fashioned peace on earth, good will to man.
“It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.” ~W.T. Ellis
2 3/4 cups of almond flour – I find this at Wegmans or Kimberton Whole Foods if you live locally.
1 1/4 cup of superfine sugar – you can take regular granulated sugar and put it through spice grinder to get this if you can’t find superfine in the grocery store. Some people use confectioners sugar I prefer this. And I use organic white cane sugar that I put through the spice grinder – or coffee grinder take your pick.
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract and – not imitation real almond extract
Beat the egg whites until you get soft peaks. Beat in cream of tartar, don’t over-beat.
Add sugar followed by almond extract and then little by little the almond flour until mixed.
Your dough will be smooth but it will be sort of sticky because it’s almond flour sugar and egg whites.
Transfer your dough to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.
The next day preheat your oven to 325°
I use silicone baking sheets on my cookie sheets – otherwise use parchment paper.
Drop by teaspoons full a couple inches apart on the cookie sheet – I get about 12 cookies per sheet.
Before you put your cookies into the oven to bake I dust them with festive Christmas sugar – this year I used red last year I used green sugar.
You bake 14 to 17 minutes. You’ll just sort of know when they’re done they’re sort of brownish on top and they crack a little.
Take out of the oven and cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes before moving to a cookie rack to completely cool.
I have always loved chocolate chip cookies. I have spent the last 25 years tweaking this recipe, which is mine and not anyone else’s.
My friend Ann asked me to share my recipe. So I thought I would.
It has been a terrific pre-Christmas day I have been baking most of the day, and I also had a visit with my childhood friend and former neighbor Alexandra. We sat and drank coffee and caught up as I baked. She lives in upstate New York now, and comes down periodically to visit her family who live locally.
Truly it was a perfect afternoon. I just love days like this.
Here’s the recipe:
Deluxe Chocolate Chip Cookies
Pre-heat oven to 375° F
2 cups flour
1/2 cup miller’s bran (coarse wheat bran – fluffy and adds fiber)
1 level teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (not sea salt )
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 sticks or half pound sweet butter room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 12 oz bag semi sweet chocolate chips
1 6 oz bag milk or white or extra dark chocolate chips (your choice)
1 cup chopped or crushed pecans (I make my own out of pecan halves – the trick is not big pieces but not ground)
2 crushed Heath bars or Hersheys Skor bars (optional)
Measure out your nuts, chocolate chips, and Heath bars (if you are using them) in a bowl by themselves and set aside.
Measure out all your OTHER dry ingredients EXCEPT the bran and mix together in a bowl and set aside.
Get out another bowl for the wet ingredients.
Using your mixer cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and almond extract at low-speed and mix well. Add eggs one at the time at low speed.
Add bran by itself to the creamed mixture
When everything looks creamed not curdled, slowly add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt about a half a cup at a time, mixing it low-speed. You will end up possibly having to mix this with a wooden spoon it may get too heavy for the mixer.
Stir/fold in the nuts, candy, chocolate chips.
Refrigerate dough at least one hour covered so it doesn’t dry out.
Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Doughballs should be approximately 2 inches apart on the sheet. That means for each cookie sheet you will get 12 cookies.
Bake at 375° for 10 to 11 minutes. Check on your cookies so they don’t over brown on the bottom. If your oven is uneven you may have to rotate your cookie sheets halfway through baking.
When the cookies look slightly brown on the edges but golden and perfect in the center after 10 or 11 minutes, pull them out and allow them to cool for approximately five minutes before removing from the cookie sheet. Put the cookies on a wire rack to cool before putting in a tin.
You must cool cookies properly before placing in a tin because otherwise they will break before they are cool.