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3 Classic Christmas Cookies

3 Classic Christmas Cookies

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Elizabeth Baird has been in the Canadian Living Test Kitchen long enough to know a thing or two about cookies - and the best cookies for a cookie exchange! She came by the show to give us the recipes for three classic Christmas cookies from 'Canadian Living: The Complete Christmas Book', perfect for exchange or for keeping!

Baking Better Cookies:
1) Bring all ingredients to room temperature before starting
2) Make cookies the same size and shape for even baking and browning.
3) Use rimless baking sheets with slightly slanted lips so that heat can circulate around cookies. Rimmed sheets are less suitable, but if they are all you have in your cupboard, use them. You can turn them over and use the flat bottoms. Heavy, shiny sheets are best. They bake cookies evenly, prevent bottoms from browning too quickly and do not warp.
4) Line baking sheet with parchment paper, silicone baking liners, non-stick foil or prepare as directed in recipe.
5) Bake one sheet at a time on rack positioned in middle of oven. However, to bake more than one sheet of cookies at a time, position racks at top and bottom thirds of oven and rotate sheets from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through baking time.
6) If you have only 2 baking sheets, let the sheets cool completely between baking the batches. Hot baking sheets will melt cookie dough, resulting in changes to the texture and shape of cookies.
7) Always check cookies for doneness at the earliest time called for.
8) Let cookies cool completely on a rack to prevent soggy bottoms.
9) Store crisp and soft cookies separately in airtight containers.

On Cookie Exchanges:
Hosting a cookie exchange is an effortless way to collect a variety of cookies without baking them all yourself. Plus, there's the added bonus of enjoying a fun visit with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues.

1) Keep the guest list manageable. Six to eight is a good starting point. More guests will ensure a wide variety of cookies, but too many spells an excess of baked goods.
2) Avoid duplication by asking guests to RSVP with the kind of cookie they plan to bring.
3) Ask each guest to plan on baking one dozen cookies per guest. Suggest that guests avoid anything fragile or sticky.
4) Remind guests to bring their own containers to transport cookies home. Or have guests pack their cookies in inexpensive airtight containers to avoid re-packing. Have plenty of waxed paper on hand for layering and packing.
5) Have guests bring along enough copies of their cookie recipe for everyone.
6) Provide a decorated table to display all of the cookies.
7) Provide beverages and snacks for guests to enjoy as they ooh and aah over the cookies.
8) Have a good time!

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RECIPES:

BROWN SUGAR SHORTBREAD FINGERS

Brown sugar adds a caramel flavour to these buttery shortbread cookies

1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened 300 mL
2/3 cup packed brown sugar 150 mL
1 tsp vanilla 5 mL
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 675 mL
1/4 cup cornstarch 50 mL
1/4 tsp salt 1 mL

Line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper or leave ungreased, set aside.

In large bowl, beat together butter, brown sugar and vanilla until fluffy. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch and salt; stir into butter mixture in 2 additions.

Knead gently to make smooth dough. Divide in half; shape into rectangles. Wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

On lightly floured surface or between waxed paper, roll our dough to generous 1/4 inch (5mm) thickness. Cut into 1-x2 1/2 inch (2.5 x 6 cm) fingers, rerolling scraps. Prick each shortbread twice with fork. Place, 2 inches (5 cm) apart, on prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes until firm.

Bake, 1 sheet at a time, in centre of 300°F (150°C) oven until slightly darker on bottoms, about 20 minutes. Let cool on pans on racks until firm, about 3 minutes.

Transfer to racks; let cool.

(Make ahead: Layer between waxed paper in airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month).

Makes about 42 cookies.

VARIATION

Brown Sugar Shortbread Thistles: Spray 3 1/2 -inch (9 cm) traditional Scottish thistle mould lightly with cooking spray or grease with unsalted butter; dust with flour. Tap out loose flour. Press 3 tbsp (50 mL) dough at a time into mould, smoothing top. Tap mould smartly on prepared baking sheet to release moulded dough. Turn thistle-design-side up. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing cookies 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Chill until firm, about 1 hour. Bake as directed.

GINGERBREAD DOUGH

1/2 cup butter, softened 125 mL
1/2 cup granulated sugar 125 mL
1 egg
1/4 fancy molasses 50 mL
1/4 cup cooking or blackstrap molasses 50 mL
3 cups all-purpose flour 750 mL
1 tsp ground ginger 5 mL
1/2 tsp salt 2 mL
1/2 tsp each ground cloves and cinnamon 2 mL
1/4 tsp baking soda 1 mL

In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy, then beat in egg. Beat in fancy and cooking molasses.

In separate bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, salt, cloves, cinnamon and baking soda; stir into molasses mixture in 3 additions, mixing well and blending with hands, if necessary.

Divide into thirds. Form 1 of the thirds into small flat disc; form remaining dough into large flat disc. Wrap each and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned and firm to touch. Cool on rack. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

(Make ahead: Refrigerate for up to 1 week or overwrap in heavy-duty foil and freeze for up to 2 weeks).

Makes 1 batch, enough for one Snowflake Forest Wreath and Gingerbread Cookie Decorations.

ROYAL ICING

Meringue powder is available at bulk or cake decorating stores.

3 tbsp meringue powder 50 mL
3 2/3 cups icing sugar 900 mL

In bowl, beat meringue with 1/3 cup (75 mL) water until foamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar; beat until stiff, about 6 minutes. Cover with damp cloth to prevent drying out.

Makes about 11/2 cups (375 mL).


ROYAL ICING PAINT

To make icing you can use to paint on sugar cookies or gingerbread cookie decorations. Star with about 1 tbsp (15 mL) water per cup (250 mL) Royal Icing, adding more until icing is brushable.

GINGERBREAD COOKIE DECORATIONS

Roll out gingerbread dough scraps as decorated. Using 2 3/4-inch (7 cm) snowflake and/or tree cookie cutter, cut out desired shapes. Or use other holiday cutters. Gingerbread girls and boys, candy canes and stars are always fun.

For tree ornaments, use straw to cut out hole at top of cookie cutout. Freeze and bake as directed. Using Royal Icing, decorate cookies; add candies while icing is still wet. Thread ribbon through holes to hang on tree.

For gift cards or place cards, freeze and bake as directed. Using Royal Icing, pipe desired names onto cookies.

CHURCH WINDOWS

This is a Christmas no-bake classic from the kitchen of Emily Batey of London, Ontario.

3/4 cup each butterscotch and chocolate chips 175 mL
1/2 cup butter 125 mL
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter 125 mL
2 cups coloured miniature marshmallows 500 mL
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut 250 mL

In large saucepan, stir together butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, butter and peanut butter over medium-low heat until melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Stir in marshmallows and coconut. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Divide mixture into thirds. On 10x6 inch (25 x15 cm) piece of waxed paper, roll one-third into log 6 inches (15 cm) long and 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Enclose in waxed paper, twisting ends to seal. Repeat with remaining mixture to make 2 more logs. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

(Make ahead: Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or overwrap with heavy-duty foil and freeze for up to 1 month.)

Cut logs into 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick slices.

Makes 45 slices.

For more recipes and tips, visit:
www.canadianliving.com

 

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