Holiday Cookies

Holiday Cookies by Cowbell Kitchen full story here. 

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THUMBPRINT COOKIES

This classic thumbprint cookie features jam from Quaker Valley Orchard, one of Cowbell Kitchen’s neighbors at the Dupont Circle farmers market. Make sure to make a deep impression in the dough with your thumb, and don’t overfill the hole with jam, as these cookies will flatten and spread in the oven. Also, be sure to leave plenty of room between the dough balls on the baking sheet. Use a doily as a stencil to dust the confectioners’ sugar in a festive pattern.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup jam, such as raspberry, strawberry or apricot
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Special Equipment:

2 large baking sheets; parchment paper; small pestle

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and a second rack in the lower third then preheat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar and beat on medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated, about 1 minute. With mixer on low, add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic and chill at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and arrange on baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between cookies. Using your thumb or the round end of a small pestle, make a well in the center of each cookie. Using a teaspoon, fill each well with jam, being careful not to overfill. Bake, switching the sheets between the upper and lower racks about halfway through baking, until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool the cookies on baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Continue baking cookies on cooled baking sheets.

DO AHEAD: The cookies can be baked ahead and stored, in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days.

COWBELL OREOS

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

This is the Cowbell Kitchen version of the classic. Wait until you taste what a fresh, homemade Oreo tastes like—this will be an instant hit.

Cookie:

  • 1 pound butter
  • 3¼ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 ½  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups cocoa
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

Cookie Filling:

  • 1 pound butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 teaspoons milk

Melt butter and chocolate slowly over very low heat. Add the sugar, and then whisk in the eggs. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl, and whisk together. Stir into the wet, forming a dough.

Let the dough set at room temperature for about an hour to firm up, then roll the dough into logs about 2 inches wide. Wrap them and refrigerate them for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 325°. Slice the logs into cookies that are about ¼ inch thick and bake them 15 minutes, until they are firm to the touch. Let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the cookie filling by slowly melting the butter over a low heat. Slowly stir in the powdered sugar, salt and vanilla. The consistency is important; use milk to make a thick icing that make a stable sandwich for the homemade Oreo. Assemble the cookies and store in an airtight container. 

 

GRANDMA BERTHA’S SUGAR COOKIES

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Strasser’s next door neighbor, Bertha, was like a grandmother to her growing up. “She was an amazing baker,” Strasser says. Bertha passed on her recipe for old-school sugar cookies, and Strasser still makes them every year.

  • 2 pounds cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pound butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°F. Sift together the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Cream softened butter in a deep mixing bowl. Add the sugar, scraping down the bowl as you go. Beat until it is well mixed. Beat the eggs and add to the butter and sugar mix. Incorporate well until the batter is light and fluffy, making sure to scrape down the bowl. Add the extracts, and then add the dry mix until it is incorporated into a smooth cookie dough.

Chill for 1 hour. You can roll out the dough and use a cutter, or make a log and slice it or make drop cookies. Bake at 325° for 6–8 minutes.

 

SOFT GLAZED GINGERBREAD

Strasser is a big fan of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, and this recipe adapted from their cookbook is a favorite. She loves how rolled-on designs give the cookie a German look.

Some notes before you begin: Sift the confectioners’ sugar before combining it with the water to ensure a smooth glaze. If you are using a rolling pin or cookie forms with carved designs, make sure to flour the top of the dough so that it doesn’t stick to the crevices. Look for patterned rolling pins and cookie plaques as springerle molds or pins at kitchen shops or online..

Yields 12–20 cookies, depending on size of cookie cutters.

Cookie Dough:

  • 3¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup blackstrap or other dark molasses
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

Stir together flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed until creamy. Slowly add the sugar and mix on medium speed until the mixture is completely smooth and soft. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg and mix well.

Add the molasses and corn syrup and beat until incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture slowly and beat on low speed until a dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl and all the ingredients are well incorporated. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it on a large piece of plastic wrap into a rectangle about 1 inch thick, cover the dough with the plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick liner.

Unwrap the dough and place on a floured work surface. If using a design, roll out the dough ⅓ inch thick, lightly dust the top with flour, press cookie molds over the dough and then cut out the shapes with a small knife and place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Alternatively, using the mold as a guide, cut around it with a small knife, flip the mold over so the design is facing you, and place the dough over it, pressing it into the design. Unmold the shapes onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between them.

If using a patterned rolling pin, lightly dust the lined baking sheet with flour and transfer the dough to the pan. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and roll it in a rectangle about ⅓ inch thick with a plain pin. Using the patterned pin, roll over the dough with enough pressure to ensure a clear impression of the design. Even the sides by trimming with a small knife. You can cut them into smaller sizes after baking.

Bake the cookies until lightly golden along the sides but still soft to the touch in the centers, 7 to 15 minutes..

While the cookies are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and water until smooth.

When the cookies are ready, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then, while the cookies are still warm, using even strokes, brush a light coat of glaze on the top of each cookie, evenly covering it. Let the cookies cool completely. When the glaze dries, it should leave a shiny, opaque finish. If you have used a patterned rolling pin and made a single large plaque, cut into your desired sizes with a very sharp knife. The cookies keep in an airtight container in a cool place for about 2 weeks. (Note that they do not freeze well, as glaze becomes watery when thawed.)