Holiday Cookie Madness!



So, I might have gone a little bit over the top with my Christmas cookies this year. I have three different kinds to post here today, almond and chocolate checkerboard and swirl sables, glazed butter cookies, and cornmeal thumbprint cookies.

Almond And Chocolate Checkerboard and Swirl Sables
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

I'm not going to lie, these cookies were extremely difficult to make. If you want to do these fun patterns (instead of just plain cookie discs) I don't recommend you use the ground almonds in the dough, it made the dough very hard to work with and very crumbly. So either make checkerboard or swirls with regular vanilla dough, or don't try these patterns. Don't say I didn't warn you!!  Also, a note: this recipe has a hard-boiled egg yolk in them. Don't question it, just do it. Trust me.

Ingredients
2 large eggs

Almond/Vanilla Dough
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter , softened
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (2 3/4 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1/3 cup finely ground sliced almonds (leave this out if you are making a patterned dough!)

Chocolate Dough
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter , softened
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (2¾ ounces)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 2/3 ounces)
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (1 ounce)


Instructions
1. Place eggs in small saucepan, cover with 1 inch of water, and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fill small bowl with ice water (or snow, which I did). Using slotted spoon, transfer eggs to ice water bath and let stand 5 minutes. Separate yolks from whites; discard whites. Press 1 yolk through fine-mesh strainer into small bowl; set aside. Repeat with remaining yolk, pressing into separate small bowl (keep yolks separate).


2. For Vanilla Dough: In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, granulated sugar, salt, and 1 cooked egg yolk on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl and beater with rubber spatula as needed. Turn mixer to low, add almond extract, and mix until incorporated. Stop mixer; add flour and ground almonds and mix on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, press dough into cohesive mass. Transfer dough to large plate and set aside while preparing chocolate dough.



3. For Chocolate Dough: In now-empty bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, granulated sugar, salt, and remaining 1 cooked egg yolk on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl and beater with rubber spatula as needed. Turn mixer to low, add vanilla, and mix until incorporated. Stop mixer; add flour and cocoa; mix on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, press dough into cohesive mass.

4. To form Checkerboards: Divide vanilla and chocolate doughs in half. Roll each portion (4 pieces total) into 3- by 5-inch rectangle. Place sheets of vanilla dough on top of sheets chocolate dough and gently press to seal. (You should have 2 sandwiched masses of dough.) Chill dough for 30 minutes.
5. To Form Spiral Cookies: 3. Halve each batch of dough. Roll out each portion on parchment paper into 6- by 8-inch rectangle, 1/4 inch thick. Briefly chill dough until firm enough to handle. Using bench scraper, place 1 plain cookie dough rectangle on top of 1 chocolate dough rectangle. Repeat to make 2 double rectangles. Roll out each double rectangle on parchment into 6- by 9-inch rectangle (if too firm, let rest until malleable). Starting at long end, roll each into tight log. Twist ends of parchment to seal and chill logs 1 hour.


6. Slice each sandwiched dough lengthwise into 4 equal strips. Turn one strip onto its side, so vanilla and chocolate is side by side. Turn second strip over and place on top of first strip, creating a checkerboard pattern; press gently to adhere. Wrap gently in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour. Repeat with remaining strips (you should have 4 logs total).

7. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Using sharp chef’s knife, cut 2 dough logs into ¼-inch thick slices, rotating dough so it won’t become misshapen from weight of knife. Place cookies 1 inch apart on baking sheets.
8. Bake until center of cookies are pale golden brown, with edges slightly darker, about 15 minutes, rotating baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature. Repeat steps 6 and 7 with remaining 2 logs of dough. Store cooled cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in airtight container for up to 1 week

Cornmeal Thumbprint Cookies
Adapted from Epicurious


Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
Jams or craisins for filling


Instructions
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine all purpose flour, cornmeal, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat unsalted butter and brown sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Mix in egg yolk and vanilla extract. Mix in dry ingredients.



Form dough into 1-inch balls. Arrange on ungreased baking sheet, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. Make depression in center of each using thumb or handle of wooden spoon. Fill depressions with jelly. I tried apricot jam, raspberry jam, maraschino cherries, and craisins. The apricot jam ones were by far the best, even though that is my least favorite jam. The craisins were also very good. I don't recommend the cherries, they were way too sweet.

Continue baking until bottoms of cookies are brown, about 10 minutes. Cool on rack. (Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Refrigerate in airtight container.)

Glazed Butter Cookies
from Cooks Illustrated


I'm not going to repeat the recipe here because I really didn't change it, and Cooks is giving it away for free right now. Honestly, I was skeptical of these cookies, but I read Chris Kimball's long article about his quest for the perfect cookie, so I tried it. And they were really delicious... but.... I chose to go back to my old standby Joan Nathan recipe from the Jewish The Children's Jewish Holiday Kitchen cookbook that I have been using forever (literally, I got it as a gift when I was 8). The main reason? I couldn't find super-fine sugar at the supermarket and I didn't feel like pulsing regular sugar in the Cuisinart. I also thought they were slightly  harder to roll out, although they were definitely less brittle and didn't break as easily.

However, I made another batch of the Joan Nathan recipe today for Christmas cookies this time, but I substituted one tablespoon of butter for a tablespoon of cream cheese, so we'll see how that turns out!

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