If you like holiday cookies but think you lack the time to make them, it is possible in a single day to create a variety of treats good enough to tempt Santa – and without resorting to dough from the supermarket refrigerator case.
For a one-day cookie-baking marathon, authors of cookie cookbooks say that planning is crucial, as is selecting the right recipes well in advance.
“The goal in setting aside a day is to be efficient,” says Dede Wilson, author of 14 cookbooks, including “A Baker’s Field Guide to Christmas Cookies” (Harvard Common Press, 2011). “Work with tried and true recipes. Maybe do one you’ve never made before as long as it’s from a reputable source, but don’t choose six you’ve never made before.”
Think of traditional holiday flavors, such as spice, classic sugar or shortbread, and chocolate. Then pick three or four recipes that will ring those holiday chimes.
Then make sure you have all the ingredients you need for all the recipes – nothing slows things down faster than an emergency run to the grocery store.
Drop cookies will make up faster than roll-and-cut cookies, says Nancy Baggett, author of 18 cookbooks including three cookie books, the latest of which is “Simply Sensational Cookies” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012). But most people want to make at least one kind of rolled cookie to decorate. She suggests selecting recipes for doughs that can be made ahead and frozen or refrigerated. Some cookie doughs require chilling anyway, so preparing those the night before will hasten the prep time on marathon day.
Preparing the dough in advance will also avoid delays to stop and wash bowls.
Baggett says it’s easy to turn a simple cookie into a festive holiday treat by stirring crushed peppermint candy canes, which offer more intense flavor than peppermint extract, into a sugar cookie or chocolate cookie batter.
“Smash the candies between two plastic chopping mats with a hammer,” she says. “It’s an easy garnish, too. If you want peppermint on top, don’t put it on before you bake, or it will burn. Right before you take out the cookies, put some of the fine sprinkles on top and slide them back in and let the shards melt.”
The same practice might work with cinnamon red-hot candies, too.
Before baking the cookies, Wilson advises lining cookie sheets with parchment paper to eliminate the need to wash the sheets between uses.
“Also, the number-one thing people do wrong with cookies is overbake them.” Wilson says. “They’re small, so 30 seconds extra can make the difference between chewy and crisp. If they’re left to cool on the pan, they will continue to cook. You can slide the cookies off onto a cooling rack on the parchment.”
But, she warns, allow the baking sheets to cool before placing more cookies on them or the dough may melt. Try sitting them on overturned cardboard (not foam, which might melt) egg cartons to speed cooling and to save cooling rack space for cookies.
If your family likes cutout Christmas cookies, WIlson suggests borrowing cutters from friends to freshen your collection.
In fact, if you have room in the kitchen, you could turn your marathon baking day into a group event.
“A friend and I sometimes get together and spend the day baking, and we divide up everything we baked,” Baggett says. “There are also cookie parties, where part of the entertainment is to make cookies and take them home.”
One Bowl White Chocolate-
Cranberry Drop Cookies
One-bowl cookie recipes are quick and easy enough for kids to make. Nancy Baggett has several in her “Simply Sensational Cookies” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012). Frozen cranberries will work as well as fresh, making it possible to enjoy these year-round.
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup dried, sweetened cranberries
1 large egg
Grated zest of 1 small orange
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and ground ginger
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups unbleached or all-purpose white flour
2 cups (about 11 ounces) white chocolate morsels
2/3 cup chopped fresh or frozen (partially thawed) cranberries
POSITION a rack in the middle of the oven; heat to 350 degrees. Grease several baking sheets, or coat them with nonstick spray, or line with baking parchment.
IN a large, microwave-safe bowl with the microwave on 50 percent power, melt the butter just until mostly melted, about 1 minute. Vigorously stir in the sugar until the butter completely melts; mash out any lumps as necessary. Stir in the dried cranberries. Let cool to warm. Stir in the egg, orange zest, vanilla, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt until the mixture is well blended and smooth. Stir in the flour and morsels just until evenly incorporated. Gently fold in the fresh cranberries until evenly incorporated.
USING a small (1 1/2-inch) ice cream scoop or heaping soup spoon drop the dough into mounds about 2 1/2 inches apart on the sheets. Bake (middle rack) one sheet at a time, for 11 to 13 minutes or until the cookies are tinged with brown and feel almost firm when pressed in the middle.
REMOVE from the oven; let stand until the cookies firm up just slightly, about 2 minutes. Using a wide spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks. Cool completely. Cool the baking sheets between batches or the cookies may spread too much.
NOTE: Store airtight for up to 1 week. Or freeze airtight, for 3 or 4 weeks.
YIELD: About 35 2 1/2-inch cookies.