Monday, January 3, 2011

The Christmas Cookie Chronicles, Part II

Now for Part II of the the Christmas Cookie Chronicles. These three recipes were by far my favorites of the season. These three were so remarkable given how simple they are and yet oh so delicious! These three are proof that the right combination of flour and sugar in the right circumstances can make something wholly irresistible (words to "bake" by). I loved these holiday classics, and I hope you do to! Ps. Did I mention we had a white Christmas this year in Georgia? It was the first time Georgia has seen snow for Christmas since 1882!!! 
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The first recipe here was a first for me: Mexican Wedding Cakes. My mother had told me about these delectable “cakes,” and I knew I just had to take a shot at baking a batch. If asked what my favorite cookie was from the season, this would undoubtedly be it! The family loved these treasures to! Especially my stepdad (see the end of the recipe) 
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Adapted via Bon App├ętit
Yields: 4 dozen 

Ingredients:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely ground
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions: 
Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then pecans. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and cinnamon in pie dish to blend. Set cinnamon sugar aside.

Working with half of chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls. Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 18 minutes. Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon sugar to coat completely. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely. 

Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. (Cookies can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature; reserve remaining cinnamon sugar.) Sift remaining cinnamon sugar over cookies and serve. 
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This second recipe are little treasures that are a true holiday classic: Rum Balls. They are enjoyed in a number of cultures and a number of ways! These cookies are different from other "cookies with booze" considering they are unbaked (meaning the alcohol's flavor and kick isn't cooked off). The following recipe is my way of making rum balls. I used Emeril's recipe, but made quite a few changes - these turned out great! 
Rum Balls, My Way!
Adapted via Emeril Lagasse
Yields: about 5 dozen 

Ingredients: 
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup Myer’s® dark rum
- 2 to 3 tablespoons Kahlua® liqueur
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 2 1/2 cups finely crushed cinnamon graham crackers
- 1 cup finely chopped, toasted pecans

Directions:
Into a large bowl, sift together 1 cup of the confectioners' sugar, the cocoa powder and allspice. Stir in the rum, coffee liqueur and corn syrup. Stir in the cinnamon graham cracker crumbs and pecans, and mix well. Place in the refrigerator to firm up slightly, about 30 minutes. (The mixture may appear crumbly and dry; this is O.K.)

Place the remaining 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar in a shallow bowl or dish. Using a tablespoon, scoop out portions of the chocolate mixture and press into 1-inch balls. Using your hands, roll the balls in the confectioners' sugar, coating evenly.

Place on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, placing waxed paper between the layers to prevent sticking
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This last recipe is a Lund tradition: Raspberry Thumbprints. Straight from good ol’ Betty Crocker herself, my mom has made these year after year with amazing success. Thumbprints, whether filled with fruity jam or silky chocolate, are a gorgeous presentation and a must at any Christmas gathering. 
Raspberry Thumbprints
Adapted via BettyCrocker Cookbook 
Yields: about 3 dozen cookies 

Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 1 tsp vanilla 
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
- raspberry jelly or preserves 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix thoroughly the butter, shortening, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla. Work in the flour and salt until dough holds together, Shape in 1-inch balls.

Whisk egg whites slightly with whisk or fork. Place the egg whites into one bowl and the chopped nuts into another. Dip each ball into egg whites, then roll it into the chopped nuts. 

Place the balls on an ungreased baking sheet. Make "thumbprints" in the center of each dough round. Bake 10 minutes or until light brown. Remove from the baking sheet and let cool. Once cooled, fill the "thumbprints" with jelly or preserves.

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