Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Off The Shelf: Cookie Cookbooks

One of the first things I did as a newly married bride was to being the search for Christmas cookie recipes I wanted to bake. Having grown up only with sugar cookies and shortbread, I was like a taut rubber band waiting to spring into the world of Christmas cookie variety.

One thing I discovered is that you won't necessarily find all your favorite cookies in one cookbook. You have to search them out over time, gathering them from cookbooks and friends. And even once you have a nice little collection, don't stop there. You never know when you just may discover your next winner.

Have a look at some of today's cookbooks and perhaps you'll find something new to inspire you this Christmas season.

Taste of Home Cookies -- Of all the cookbooks that I reviewed, this book has the most options (623 to be precise). It is a user-friendly book with pictures of at least two-thirds of the cookie options. The book is divided into 12 cookie sections such as: drop cookies, chip cookies, slice & bake, cookie cutter cookies, bars, brownies, big batch and Christmas. I'm sharing Taste of Home's recipe for Candy Cane Cookies because these cookies are my latest addition to my favorites and have climbed quickly to the top to be my favorite holiday cookie overall.

(Taste of Home Cookies)

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. shortening (I use butter)
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. confectioners' sugar
1/2 c. milk
1 egg
1 tsp. peppermint extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 1/2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
red food coloring

crushed candy canes (my addition)

In a large bowl, cream butter, shortening, and sugars. Beat in milk, egg and extracts. Gradually add flour and salt. Divide dough in half; add red food coloring to one half of the dough. Wrap each dough separately in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour or until easy to handle.

Roll 1/2 teaspoonfuls of each color of dough into 3-inch ropes. Place each red rope next to a white rope; press together gently and twist.

Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets (I line my cookie sheets with parchment paper). Curve one end, forming a cane. Bake at 350 for 11-13 minutes or until set. Immediately sprinkle hot cookies with chopped candy cane and cool on wire racks.

Makes about 6 dozen (if you make them small).

The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Book put out by Good Housekeeping is a brand new cookie cookbook on the market and it is specifically designed to give you recipes, tips and instructions on how to make large-batch recipes and share them at a cookie swap. I enjoyed flipping through the small-sized, three-ring binder-style book, noting that each recipe does indeed average 10 or more dozen!

You will find bar cookies, drop cookies, rolled & cut-out cookies, and shaped & refrigerator cookies. I chose a beautiful little cookie called Spumoni Icebox Cookies to try. They went together easily and baked up beautifully and will be a colorful addition to any holiday cookie plate.

(The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook)

5 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. almond extract
2/3 c. shelled pistachios, finely chopped
green paste food coloring
2/3 c. red candied cherries, finely chopped
red paste food coloring

Line two 9" by 5" loaf pans with plastic wrap, extending wrap over all four sides. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt until blended.

In a large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs and almond extract and beat until well blended. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture just until blended.

Transfer two rounded cups plain dough to a medium bowl; with spoon, stir in pistachios and enough green food coloring to tint dough bright green. In another bowl, place 2 rounded cups plain dough; stir in cherries and enough red food coloring to tint dough bright red.

Divide pistachio dough in half. Pat one half into bottom of each prepared loaf pan; freeze 10 minutes. Pat half of remaining plain dough on top of each pistachio layer; freeze 10 minutes. Pat half of cherry dough on top of each plain layer. Cover pans with plastic wrap and refrigerate until dough is firm enough to slice, 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F. Remove dough from pan. With serated knife, cut dough crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices, then cut each slice crosswise into 3 cookies. Place cookies, 2 inches apart, on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake cookies until firm and edges are golden, 10-12 minutes. Cool cookies on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. With wide spatula, carefully transfer cookies to rack to cool completely.

Makes 180 cookies.

Cookies for Christmas by Jennifer Dorland Darling was one of the very first cookie books I checked out of the library after my marriage. In it I found a number of appealing recipes to try, and some I have kept to this day.

The recipes are in easy-to-read format with lots of pictures. And, with 224 pages, you are bound to find something you want to try.

This year I chose to make Coffee Bean Cookies. If you like Breyers Coffee ice-cream, you will love these cookies. The taste is the same even if the texture is different!

(Cookies for Christmas)

2 tsp. instant coffee crystals
2 Tbsp. milk
3/4 c. butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour

Combine the coffee crystals and milk. Stir until the coffee crystals are dissolved; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, vanilla, and milk-coffee mixture. Beat until mixture is combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour.

Cover and chill about 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Shape each ball into an oval. Press the thin edge of a wooden spoon lengthwise into the top of each oval so they resemble coffee beans. Place one inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake in a 350F oven for 9-11 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Makes about 4 dozen.

Another book I enjoyed perusing this year is Christmas Cookies by Kaye Hansen and Liv Hansen. It is not a large book, but, taking after its origin (the Whimsical Bakehouse), it is very whimsical and pleasing to look at. I tried the Walnut Acorns for an event I hosted this fall and the cookies turned out beautifully.


  1. Hey, you may want to check out my new book, Cookie Swap: Creative Treats to Share Throughout the Year (2009, Gibbs Smith). It's got some great cookie recipes and cookie swap ideas (if I do say so myself!) - and not just for Christmas, but for all times of year! It can be viewed and purchased through my site:

    Thanks for the consideration!

    Julia M. Usher

  2. ooo, those candy cane cookies look very yummy! These are great ideas as I make cookie baskets to give away as gifts. yum! :)

  3. YUMMY!!! Must make these for Christmas this year...but... maybe.... those coffee bean cookies will find their way...into my oven (obviously, without my knowledge!!) LONG before that!! :-)