The winter holidays are upon us, and for many, nothing says the holidays like a batch of home-made cookies. Most of us have a favorite, depending on our memories of years past, and we trot out our favorite recipes year in and year out, passing our favorites down to the next generations. Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hannukkah, Kwanzaa or Festivus, this is your time to get your bake-on. Here we have a look at four of our favorite holiday treats.
Traditional Rugelach are ubiquitous around Hannukkah, similar to a French croissant, but most often jazzed up with a filling of nuts, fruit jellies and or chocolate.
Makes 4 dozen
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of coarse salt
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough
4 ounces walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
12 ounces apricot jelly, melted
2 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips, or currants or a combination
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup fine sanding sugar
Make the dough: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and cream cheese at medium speed. Add sugar, and beat until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition. Add vanilla and salt, and beat to combine. Reduce speed to low, and beat in flour. Remove from bowl, and divide into 3 pieces on a lightly floured surface. Pat into disks, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and up to overnight.
Make the filling: In a food processor, combine walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse until fine.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with Silpats (French nonstick baking mats). On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough into a 12-inch round, less than 1/8 inch thick. Brush evenly with jelly. Sprinkle with one-third of the walnut mixture and one-third of the chocolate chips. Using the rolling pin, gently roll over filling to press ingredients into dough.
Cut the round into 16 equal-sized wedges. Beginning at the base of each wedge, roll to enclose filling, forming crescent shapes. Pinch to seal. Place on prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough and filling ingredients. Brush tops with beaten egg, and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.
Kwanzaa was created by Maulana Karenga, the African-American scholar and activist, and first celebrated in 1966. The word Kwanzaa comes from the expression “Matunda ya Kwanzaa”- first fruits of the harvest.
Here is a recipe for a Kwanzaa cookie often served during Kwanzaa. “Benne” means sesame seeds, and these are deliciously crispy little cookies. They originate in Africa, and are common in Arab and Muslim cultures.
Delicious Benne cookies
1 cup sesame seeds, toasted
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
Preheat oven to 375º F. Mix the brown sugar, melted butter, egg, vanilla extract, flour, salt, baking powder, and toasted sesame seeds together until well combined in a large mixing bowl. Drop cookie dough by half-teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheet at least two inches apart; they tend to spread.
Bake for about six minutes or until edges begin to brown. They will be a little puffy when you take them out, but after about three minutes will flatten like a wafer. Remove them to a wire rack and allow to cool. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container, and serve with spiced hot tea and milk
In Britain, and much of Canada, Christmas treats means mincemeat. Whether you make a pie or bite size tarts is up to you. Here is a very quick and delicious recipe we posted last year for mincemeat tarts, especially great if you are pressed for time. We received so many requests for it, here it is back by popular demand!
This year we have “tarted up” the mincemeat by providing a recipe for Brandy Butter, a traditional British accompaniment to mincemeat. Pop a few of these beauties before you head into the madding crowds on Boxing Day.
4 oz/ 100g soft, unsalted butter
8 oz/ 225g icing sugar
3 – 5 tbsp brandy or Cognac
Place the soft butter into a large baking bowl. Beat with an electric hand whisk until light and creamy.
Add the icing sugar and beat again until all the sugar is incorporated.
Add the brandy or Cognac to taste and stir well. If you add too much brandy the mixture may curdle. If it does, don’t worry, just add more icing sugar until the mixture binds back together.
Spoon the butter into a serving dish, cover and store in the fridge until required.
There are many of us out there who do not celebrate the traditional Big Three Holidays this time of year. Thankfully, Cosmo Kramer and Frank Costanza introduced us to Festivus, a merry way to get in on the holiday spirit.
We have found that persimmons, which are ripe and ready for action this time of year can be made into a delicious cookie that will wow your family and give you energy to prance around the Festivus Pole. Festivus for the rest of us.
Festivus Persimmon bars
3 very ripe persimmons (1 1/4 lb total)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 large egg
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup loosely packed dried pitted dates (5 oz), finely chopped
1 cup walnuts or pecans (3 1/2 oz), finely chopped
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 15- by 10-inch shallow baking pan (1 inch deep), knocking out excess flour.
Discard dried green or brown calyx (stem and leaves) from each persimmon, then force persimmons 1 at a time through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl, using a rubber spatula to press hard on solids (discard solids). Transfer 1 cup purée to a small bowl (discard remainder) and stir in lemon juice and baking soda. (Mixture will become foamy, then jell slightly.)
Sift together flour, salt, and spices in another small bowl.
Whisk together egg, sugar, oil, and dates in a large bowl until just combined. Add flour mixture and persimmon mixture alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and stirring until just combined. Stir in nuts.
Spread batter evenly in baking pan and bake until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack.
Glaze and cut bars: